I'll start out by saying that Encounters, overall, was a good experience. There were a few issues along the way, but the level of fun wasn't compromised.
Last week I got the "Halaster's Lost Apprentice" campaign guide and the poster maps from my local comic book store. The guide itself looked good, aside from the D&D logo covering up most of the monster illustration on the front cover, (as an artist, that bugged me.) There were two poster maps, both of which were folded. This didn't bother me until I got home and spread them out. It was like the creases in the map had been ironed in. I set out some minis on the first map area to see how it looked, and my poor halfling mini's starting position was on a small mountain of poster fold. So I put my core handbooks use with their other ability besides containing information: being heavy and flat. I unfolded both maps flattened them with the books for a couple days. I understand the convenience of sending the posters folded, but rolling them is the way to go for a nice visual experience.
As far as reading the campaign guide goes, I would strongly suggest a couple of things. The first is to pay attention to the advice on page 7 of "Halaster's Lost Apprentice" where it talks about adjusting the encounters. If you are playing with a group larger than five, or a fairly experienced group of power gamers, or both for that matter, they will FLY through the encounter. The enemies are designed for 5 level 1 characters and they are also on the easy side (so far) so people with little RPG experience can get in on the game with the pregenerated characters. I DMed one table and the session went almost two and a half hours, the other table was done with the fight in a little less than two hours. One reason is that they had 6 experienced players.
The other reason is that I follow Wizards_DnD on Twitter. Yesterday they tweeted some additional affects and ideas for the game, and while not all of them were implemented, it helped rein in some of the power gamers in the group who would otherwise destroy all the opposition without taking a scratch.
I'd also suggest that you separate "buddies" on the table as much as possible, so the story can take place without having to say "listen up" too many times. We had a couple of easily resolvable issues in that department.
The actual session was really fun. We had a good mix of pregenerated characters and homemade characters. I had to fudge the story a little when the entire party approached Fayne and her hirelings in the first three seconds of their experience in the Yawning Portal Tavern, but when does a little fudging NOT happen as a DM? The party ran outside and half of them fell off the bridge by either getting smacked by the dwarf squire or just falling of their own volition.
Probably the most negative part of the whole session was giving out renown points. Some people felt pretty jipped. Because I knew the point system ahead of time, I would have made a Wilden Seeker with a PHB3 feat on the Character Builder, and I would have done everything I could to deal more than 15 points of damage. The renown points I would have received as a player would have been 12, enough to receive my first reward. On the other hand, say you're new to the game and you use the pregenerated human paladin named Alvenor, and you don't deal more than 15 points of damage. You are looking at a solid 3 Renown points at the end of the first encounter. There were some mad people. Next time we will probably have two more Wilden Seekers in the group with no experience. Yay. Maybe Wizards of the Coast should think about the effects of some of the renown point accomplishments.
The campaign guide instructed me to go to the organizer after the game to "collect my reward." He had no idea what this was alluding to, and we both wondered if this "reward" was different than the standard DM Rewards program. It seems like it, because the instruction to "collect your reward" is under the section "At the end of your first session" in the campaign guide. This is still a mystery to me.
Anyway. It was a little bit of a hassle to get everyone in the groove, but the actual game was a great success. People had fun, and the comic book store got a lot of business. Looking forward to next Wednesday!