If you’re a fan of tabletop gaming, Warhammer 40,000 in particular, then you’ve probably heard of the NOVA Open. With roots as a modestly sized 40k gathering back in 2009, this celebration of tabletop wargames has ballooned to be one of the biggest tabletop Cons on the East Coast. From August 31 to September 3, wargaming enthusiasts from all over the country will drop into the Washington, D.C. area for four days of fun, friendship, games, charity, and lemons. You heard me right (more on lemons later).

Held at the Hyatt Regency, this massive event takes up over 70,000 square feet of space and features free tournaments and events for dozens of both tabletop wargames and board games. But, that’s only a fraction of the events on offer. From seminars to hobby contests to hands-on classes with professional hobbyists, there is something for pretty much anyone to enjoy, and it’s all set against the backdrop of our nation’s capital. Because coming together and having fun with people from all walks of life is truly all-American.

Here’s a primer on just a few highlights of the many things happening at the NOVA Open, to make sure you don’t miss some of the more amazing parts. Strap in!

The Warhammer 40k GT: Do You Have What it Takes?

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The NOVA Open was originally a Warhammer 40k charity event when it debuted back in 2009, so it only makes sense that the game with the biggest imprint on the Con would be Warhammer 40k (and the whole 40k universe). Eighteen different events over three different Warhammer games are taking place, but none so awe-inspiring as the Warhammer 40k Grand Tournament. This event pits up to 256 players against each other over eight rounds of games.

It’s not all strategy and outwitting your opponent that makes you the champion of this tournament. Yes, there’s an award for winning, but there are several more for how your army looks — and how you play. The passion in wargaming is equally in the quality of your army’s appearance as much as it is how it performs. It only makes sense, then, that the top honor of the tournament, the coveted Renaissance Man distinction, requires you to have the most beautiful and bloodthirsty army out there. When it comes to winning at 40k, you gotta do it in style.

Seminars: Living Your Best Hobby Life

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Even though the NOVA Open is a wargaming convention, there are dozens of other things to do there besides play games. There are tons of seminars and workshops, all dedicated to the craft of tabletop gaming. From panels held by industry leaders like Games Workshop (creators of Warhammer and Blood Bowl) to hands-on workshops with professional miniatures painters like James Wappel and Roman Lappat, you can learn from the masters about how to make the most of the games you love. And don’t forget to hit up the Shapeways seminar on Sunday from 2-3:30pm. We have it on good authority that it’s going to be awesome.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s an airbrushing competition sponsored by industry leader Grex, with winners taking home a Grex of their own. There’s also Capital Palette, a juried open forum award miniature art competition that encourages miniatures artists of all skill levels to show off their best work.

The Board Game Room: Free Casual Gaming for All

One of the newer additions, the Board Game Room is just that: a room all on its own that provides a wide array of popular board games from Giant Jenga to Betrayal at House on the Hill, which I’ve covered previously. It’s a place for everyone to relax and chill with some of their favorite board games (with a focus on strategic gameplay, of course). Because sometimes we all need to take a break from deploying armies and such.

Even better, if you’re looking to try a game you’ve never played before, then the BGR has you covered. Every game has a game-master able to walk you through it and help answer any questions. Who knows, you might just come home with a new game for you and your friends to play on family game nights!

X-Wing Miniatures Game: Nationals, Baby

Another big wargame presence is the Star Wars universe of tabletops, in particular the X-Wing Miniatures game. This year, their National Championships are returning to the NOVA Open, with the maximum 256 players participating this year. It’s sure to be a massive event and the winner will be crowned the National X-Wing Champion.

Another event that’s sure to be a blast is the X-Wing Epic Furball Tournament. It’s a premise as crazy as the name implies: a no-holds-barred dogfight with some of the most powerful minis in the game on a 3’x3′ play mat. The battle is epic, the mat is small, so there’s no escape, and the fur will definitely fly.

Make a Week of It

Keep in mind, this entire event happens only minutes away from Washington, D.C. The Hyatt Regency where NOVA Open happens is providing deals including discounts on wi-fi, valet parking, food, and beer to those who reserve a room for the convention. But, once you’ve wrapped up the day’s activities, head into D.C. and see the sights! Or even better, once the Con ends, take a little mini-vacation in our nation’s capital. After celebrating four days of miniature gaming, a mini-vacay sounds like the perfect way to wrap it up.

The Heart of the NOVA Open: Charity

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The NOVA Open started as a charity Warhammer 40k event back in 2009, and charity is still at the heart of this convention. A silent auction has been part of the NOVA Open for years now, with proceeds benefitting the NOVA Open’s sister organization, the NOVA Open Charitable Foundation and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Over the years, the NOCF has raised over $100,000 for its charities, and the BCRF provides funding to breast cancer research. Come in, put your name on some amazing works of art, buy them, and benefit a good cause. What’s not to like?

Last But Not Least, Lemons

On the other side of charity, I did mention lemons at the top of this article. Well, the Lemonade Raffle, going on throughout the Con, provides those unlucky souls who just couldn’t win a match an opportunity to win big. It’s a great way to give consolation to those who could really use it. In other words, taking lemons and making, you guessed it, lemonade.

And there you have it! A quick rundown of just what to look out for at the 2017 NOVA Open. Again, I’m just scratching the surface here. There’s a wealth of things to do and observe at this Con, far more than could actually be done in just the four days we’re given. But hopefully this primer helped you figure some things out. Shapeways is just one of the many proud participants this event has attracted, and we’d love for you to come say hi. In the meantime, we’re going to be putting the finishing touches on our 40k armies — and loading up on energy drinks to make sure we can see as much of the Con as possible.

Safe travels, and see you there!