Lord of the Rings Easter Weekend

SO,

I started writing this entry wanting more to post a few pictures from the game I played of the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle game back on April first. It turns out I had such an awesome time gaming with friends I hadn’t seen in quite a while (across the gaming board, anyway), and I had a revelation from gaming that night: that all my enthusiasm and attention towards GW’s War of the Ring game does not diminish at all the excellence of the Lord of the Rings SBG. I was hoping to keep this entry brief, filling it mostly with photos; but as I went through, choosing which pictures to upload, I realised this deserved to be more of a battle report. So there’s my apology for the lengthiness of today’s entry.

With that said, some back story might be in order: since War of the Ring’s release at the end of spring in 2009, I’ve pretty much written off Games Workshop’s Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. The last twelve months have seen me focusing most of my painting time on my War of the Ring army, my gaming time had me playing 40k more than anything else and my spare time–when life, family and work obligations haven’t preempted it–has been put mostly into planning and running various tournaments and store events.

Therefore, a small amount of trepidation accompanied my agreeing to play Lord of the Rings with my friends who were coming to town on the Easter weekend; I hadn’t played–or even thought about–the game in so long. The big surprise for me was that I totally forgot how much I love the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game!

Witch King of Angmar atop his Fell beast

A couple of days before, I did my best to hobble together some semblance of an Angmar army–I’ll explain: I dug through my 2000-point War of the Ring Angmar army and made up my 800-point Angmar force while consulting my Ruin of Arnor sourcebook. The first thing I noticed was that, unlike most the armies found in both Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game and the War of the Ring Mass Combat game, there’s not a very good crossover for Angmar between the two systems. I was totally banking on using  my Men of Angmar (who, in War of the Ring, have the very handy Berserk skill) and my Spirit Hosts–neither exist in the Lord of the Rings game!

Wight, Spectre and Wargs...and Cave Troll

Orc warriors and spearmen

Orc Archers and Cave Troll

Quickly my War of the Ring army, intentionally built as a representational mish-mash of Angmar’s inhabitants (evil men, wild Wargs, bat swarms, hill trolls, corrupted spirits, Barrow Wights and the ever-ubiquitous orcs), turned into mostly just an Orc army lead by the Witch King and backed up by some wargs, trolls and Burhdur, the troll chieftan. I also worked in a single Spectre just for kicks.

The Witch King's army of Angmar

My friends assembled their joint army composed of Men of Minas Tirith and Elves of Loth Lorien–and actually outnumbered me! It never feels like a good thing when your horde army is outnumbered by your opponent’s elite-skills army; and I started the night very much hoping I would play as well as I needed to, considering my friends also supplied the evening with a generous amount of wine. I knew it was going to be quite a night.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS

Forces of Good deployment

We rolled the “Ill Met by Moonlight” scenario which, as it turns out, does a lot of favours for my army: its rule of low visibility (no shooting at targets more than 12″ away) and its split deployment (half your force in the table center, the other half on your table edge) means my army doesn’t have to walk across the table braving arrow fire like Middle Earth’s best rendition of the first day on the Somme. My being outnumbered suddenly seemed a little less daunting.

Forces of Good table-edge contingent

Forces of Good table-center contingent

Another lucky chance: the Forces of Good won the die roll for choosing table edge…and first deployment. The scenario demands both armies split their forces in two, deploying the lower-model-count contingent in the table center and the remainder on that side’s table edge, so I would be able to really react effectively to my opponents’ set up. After the Forces of Good finished their deployment, I deployed my two contingents–with Buhrdur, the Troll Chieftan, and his two Cave Troll followers setting up at the barrow mound in the table’s center (a scant few inches from the Men and Elves lurking on the other side of the mound). In the War of the Ring game, Buhrdur’s rules let him set up as an ambusher–meaning he’s deployed secretly and revealed in any turn after the first one; though that rules doesn’t exist at all in the SBG, I thought it fitting that he deployed in the center, ready to pounce from behind the cluster of barrow stones.

Forces of Evil lurking around the table center

The Game’s First Half

Turn one saw us hammer out details for the effects of Galadriel’s “Blinding Light” spell in regards to the scenario’s shooting limitations (we decided all within 12″ of her could shoot as though it was daylight without penalty, but it went both ways: I could target anyone within 12″ of her without penalty as well…except, as per the spell’s effects, I would need sixes to hit the spell castor or anyone within 6 inches of her).

Forces of Good caught between a Barrow mound and some woods

While I did manage to draw first blood, the first couple turns saw us jockeying for position and readying for my three trolls to crash into the ranks of men and elves. But by turns three and four, it became apparent that the elf and human archers at the back edge would be better served rushing to the table center and using their hand weapons in favour of their bows.

"By the blood of our people shall we hold the line"

Wargs, Wights, Spectres and Wraiths--oh my!

At the same time, I was coming to the same conclusion about my forces–especially because I had ignored my brain and played my orc archers like a grade ‘A’ moron: each turn I moved them half distance, hoping to use their bows…forgetting (for three turns in a row!) that I was either:

  • out of volley-fire range of Galdriel (who was the only enemy I could see plain as day)
  • beyond the 12-inch maximum night-time-shooting range of the few enemy models I could see
  • or, by turns three and four, I couldn’t draw line of sight to Galadriel for direct fire, and she was too close for me to volley fire.

After finally coming to my senses, I rushed all my archers and all the warriors deployed at my table edge towards the scrum in the center of the board. Also in these two turns, my wine-plying opponents began to realise just how incredibly effective the Paralysis ability of the Barrow Wight could be: I paralyzed a couple of their models in key positions and kept the Forces of Good from being able to use their numbers in the table center to surround my few heavy hitters there. (What makes a Wight’s paralysis so terrible is that it’s an ability, not a spell, and the affected model cannot recover from the paralysis unless other friendlies spend time helping snap him out of it…and “snapping them out of it” is only successful if the model attempting it rolls a six on a single die–while several models can attempt this, the actual paralyzed model cannot.) The fight in the center was in no way a one-sided affair; both our forces were struggling to gain the upper hand, and I felt like it was only a matter of time until I lost the small advantage I had.

Galadriel’s spells were doing a lot to stall progress on my side: my trolls were unable to turn back her dweomers, resulting in one of them being rooted to the spot, merely drooling each turn. I was stuck in a fight of attrition where I had power on my side but no numbers; my opponents had numbers, skill and magic–and the archers that had just decimated my flanking forces of orcs and wargs were now closing in on the fray in the middle! I had no choice but to act more decisively with my army’s heavy hitter: the Witch King of Angmar! I brought him to the forefront with hopes of spurring his army on and casting some spells to speed up the trolls’ slow progress.

Enough Terror for all...

Thanks to some botched rolls, the Witch King did nothing except get shot by Legolas, losing him two Fate points (thanks to some more botched rolls); and thanks to another botched roll, I lost Priority, quickly resulting in the Witch King getting surrounded by Citadel Guard and Lorien Elves. Things suddenly went from me being in a battle of attrition to my army now being on the brink of disaster: I was facing the possibility of losing my army’s strategic lynch-pin…who also happened to be its leader.

The Hunter becomes the hunted

Luck was on my side, however; surprisingly good archery rolls resulted in my killing just enough Lorien Elves to keep the Witch King from being surrounded and trapped in his fight should he lose it. With high hopes and tensions, we resolved this pivotal confrontation…with no discernible effect. Much to my relief (and my opponents’ chagrin), the Witch King survived unscathed. With that, the Nazgul lord made good his escape–as much as he could, anyway–and flew off to the other side of the barrow mound at the center of the table. The escape was narrow: the Nazgul lord was forced to expend Might and call a heroic move to avoid being hemmed into another combat.

Now you see him...

...now you don't!

The Game’s Last Half

Legolas, the Citadel Guards and the Lorien elves, having now acquired the taste for Ring-Wraith blood, pursued the Witch King, following up and across the barrow mound. The center troops still held up the trolls–and even pushed them back! (Though it should be noted that part of my giving up ground was done to create gaps so my orcs could get stuck in to the fight.) My Spectre, now vanquished, succeeded in holding up Good’s advance long enough for my orc warriors to pour into the forest; and my Barrow Wight continued to be a monumental nuisance, having never missed a single dice roll to paralyze an opponent–and not a single enemy model had recovered from its paralysis yet either! I would soon start killing my helpless foes…after I let them burden their armies a little longer.

Wood elves on the hunt for wraith

The Witch King aimed to do what he could to affect the fights in the center area and decided to ignore the pursuing elves for a turn or two. I was trying to slow Good’s reinforcement of their center–or at least dilute their distribution. With my orcs now in the fray and the barrow mound’s difficult terrain status slowing all the elves moving across it, I was now less worried about being outnumbered and more concerned about the Forces of Good getting a string of lucky dice rolls. At the moment, I effectively out-powered and outnumbered the Humans and Elves. I intended to capitalize on that advantage before anything could change.

The last contingent of fresh troops moves to the front line

Tragedy! Before the Witch King could do much of anything, the elves called a heroic shoot and though the rank-and-file archers (if any elf could be called “rank and file”) accomplished nothing, Legolas succeeded in slaying the Witch King with a well-placed Deadly Shot! Instantly the miasma of Terror lifted from the troops in the center–the Witch King, being dead meant that no longer were all enemy models nearby penalized with a -1 Courage. The pendulum swung towards the Forces of Good.

The Witch King of Angmar is banished to the shadows

From here, the Forces of Good poured on the pressure. With the Witch King no longer a threat, Galadriel could focus on Buhrdur, who, with no Will points remaining was an easy target for Galadriel’s Transfix spell (which would now keep him from taking part in the game until its conclusion). Elves were now across the barrow mound, dodging and shrugging off the feeble shots by the Angmarim orc archers. In one turn I went from having the upper hand and outnumbering my enemies to being outnumbered, leaderless and on the verge of being flanked. I had no more tricks up my sleeve–apart from my Barrow Wight….and he was on his last Will point. The only thing going for me was that I had sustained less casualties than the Forces of good had (I was sure that was about to change though).

End of Turn 7: the Forces of Good are still well represented

The end of Turn seven and start of Turn eight painted a bleak picture for my army; certainly with the amount of troops engaging my trolls, I figured I was on the path to defeat. What I had failed to remember was that this is a dice game…and the dice gods were smiling upon what was left of my force. In a dramatic unforeseen turnaround, in that turn’s series of combats I managed to destroy a plethora of  enemy models. What was better for me was that they were now past their breaking point.

Turn 8: Good's Right flankers' numbers are halved

There was still one last hurrah for the Forces of Good. Burdhur was again Transfixed and I was losing my ability to mitigate this by throwing more troops into the fray; my archers were proving ineffectual against the elves on the barrow mound. Also, my Barrow Wight had used the last of his Will points–though true to his performance over the whole game, he successfully paralyzed yet another model.

Buhrdur's last moments

But one combat round of awesome dice rolls didn’t do enough, and my luck continued to slide. By Turn Nine, Buhdur was slain. The troll chieftan didn’t even see it coming: he was finally brought down after being forced to fight whilst (yet again) Transfixed by Galadriel. Added to that were a few more orc casualties; the forces of Angmar had finally been pushed past its breaking point for the start of Turn Ten.

The absense of Buhrdur is keenly felt

Last moments of the standard bearers

No matter which Games Workshop game I play, I seem to stay away from the armies with excellent leadership–the exception being my Eldar army (though, to be fair, a large portion of that army is made up of Guardians). Suffice it to say I’m used to lackluster leadership and courage rolls for my army. So it should come as no surprise that my needing to roll ‘eights’ to pass a Courage test (and thus, now with my army below its breaking point, avoid having orcs flee the field) had no impact on me–I’m used to needing good rolls, and usually, I do pretty okay.

Not this time.

The start of Turn Ten saw almost half my remaining army flee the board (I think it was ten or eleven orcs that fled). The only consolation for me was that the enemy standard bearers and Legolas fled as well. Turn Ten was, according to my opponents, the last chance the Elves and Men had to gain their victory; that my army banner and almost every single orc archer fled made me feel their victory was that much more attainable. At least my cave trolls had decided to stay. The remaining Citadel Guard and Lorien Elves formed up defensively around Galadriel and prepared to sell their lives at a dear cost.  Turn Ten saw only a little carnage. Turn Eleven would prove more telling.

All that remained at the start of Turn Eleven / the end of the game

Turn Eleven saw me win Priority–and saw more orcs flee. Thankfully, the cave trolls and Barrow Wight remained! That said, my numbers were low enough that I was considering just conceding at that point. With my movement done, it was time for the Forces of Good to roll their break tests. As always with this test, heroes roll first, as their success can be applied to all models within six inches of them. So it was that Galadriel, with her Courage value of seven, who could only fail on a roll of double ones, did just that: rolled double ones avoid fleeing the battlefield! What’s worse, with no Might left to influence her dice rolls, Galadriel had to take her snake-eyes roll at face value and leave the table as a casualty.

So with Galadriel’s hasty exit, it was my opponents who conceded the game, believing the most they could hope for was for me to fail more break tests in Turn Twelve. And with that, the game came to a close. The Forces of Angmar claimed a victory over the Free Peoples, but it was a victory with a huge cost.

MVPs

For the Forces of Good: I would have to say that Legolas and Galadriel best earned their keep. At every point Galadriel was casting spells to even Good’s chances–and Legolas did take down te Witch King!

For me, I should say that most valuable Angmar models were the trolls, but really it was the Barrow Wight and the psychological damage he inflicted on my opponents. Yes, the trolls inflicted some real damage; my friends were prepared for that (they weren’t even phased by the prospect of three trolls). But they were totally caught off guard by how effective the Wight turned out to be, and the Spectre helped make it feel like the Wight was that much worse.

I’m sure I had more post-game thoughts and revelations; we certainly talked about the battle for another hour or so after the game–and polished off another bottle of wine doing so! (Probably the reason why I can’t remember much of my post-game thoughts.)

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Railing against ‘Ard Boyz

I read this over at The One Ring forum (for all things Lord of the Rings miniatures gaming); it’s about a list a guy brought to Games Workshop’s ‘Forging of Fates’. I posted a lengthy reply and then thought to post it on my blog, seeing as how my opinion about this reaches past just the War of the Ring game.

The Forging of Fates

This tournament is the War of the Rings version of an ‘Ard Boyz tournament. As  GW says on their website, “[u]nlike the traditional tournament format you may be familiar with, [one] that takes into consideration your painting and sportsmanship, the ‘Ard Boyz Tournaments focus on one thing and one thing only; how well you play the game! These tournaments are the place to field that nasty list you felt guilty about playing, or that massive horde army you couldn’t hope to paint it in time. . . . There are no sportsmanship or painting scores to hide behind, pounding your foes to paste is all that matters.”

Yeeeesh.

Also with these tournaments come considerable prizes; as GW says–again, on its website–for getting past the preliminary round and going on to win a regional semi-final the winning player “will get a 2,000 point army of the race of their choice and the 2nd and 3rd place winners will receive generous online vouchers for our Web Store. These top three Semifinalists will be eligible to attend the Finals. . . .[and] will compete for buckets of prizes”.

Here’s some quick War of the Rings terminology so the next part makes more sense: a ‘formation’ is War of the Ring’s term for a squad or regiment. A formation can be made up of one or several ‘Companies’ of 8 models–each Company is basically 1 movement tray: for infantry models, a movement tray holds 8 guys. No more than half of a single Company/movement tray can be made up of heroes, but other than that there are no restrictions regarding how many heroes can be in a single formation; and there are no restrictions on how many heroes / points worth of heroes can be in a single army. The only real restrictions are: only 25% of your army can be made up of allies, and once a Formation’s last remaining Company (movement tray) is reduced to half its 8 models, the formation instantly dies, regardless of whether its last remaining models are all high-points cost heroes or just rank and file models.

So here’s the run down of what the guy in question brought with my explanation of what it all means:

One Formation of six Companies of High Elf archers (360 pts). Added to that formation is every elven hero that has the Epic Shot ability [Epic Shot: spend 1 Might point to cause D6 automatic casualties to any Formation within 12″], so Thranduil (125 pts), Legolas (200 pts) and Haldir (760 pts) are added to the army. Also add every hero that can cast the ‘Command’ list of  spells: Galadriel (175 pts), Celeborn (175 pts), Elrond (215pts) and Cirdan (75 pts). Added to this mix as allies are Gandalf the White (300 pts) and Radagast the Brown (160 pts), bringing the army total to 1860 points.

Why Gandalf the White and Radagast you ask? Well, Gandalf has  Counselor [Gandalf spends 1 Might point to replenish 1-3 Might points of an ally within 24″] and Overlord [any friendly formation within 24″ can use Gandalf’s Might points]; Radagast has Epic Tranquility [charges may not be made against the formation Radagast is in].  Put these two together with another counselor (Galadriel) and you have an unwieldy amount of Might points that Radagast can use at any time to keep all enemies from assaulting them.

Elrond and anyone with Command spells can bring back the dead [Blessing of the Valar spell can heal D3 or D6 casualties]; also, because four of the heroes have Epic Defense, they can raise the Defense of their formation to 10 (making it very hard to kill them at range). Cirdan’s ‘Gift of Foresight’ ability [essentially a 6+ invulnerable save for every hit made against that formation] makes it even harder for them to be killed–and remember, enemies using their Might points to bump up their dice rolls is not really a  solution when playing a game that is going to go on for ten or more turns: the enemy will run out of Might within the first few turns if using his Might for this purpose.

The three heroes with Epic Shot can kill 3d6 members of an enemy formation each turn and the casters are using the spells of Command and Dismay to stop anything that gets in their way with Light of the Valar [reduce the Courage of target enemy formation] and Transfix [on a failed Courage test, enemy formation cannot move, shoot or charge]. Also available is spells of Wilderness’ Nature’s Wrath spell [does D6+3 instant hits to any one formation within 24″].

With your 2000-point army’s last available 140pts, Arwen can be thrown into the list giving the army a total of 7 spell casters. Yes, this is a one-formation army, but it is SO resilient that this one formation went all three rounds in the Forging of Fates Semi-Final without losing a single company of 8 models!

My Rant

I think the ‘Ard Boyz tourneys are a step in the opposite direction for Games Workshop, a company that describes themselves–and the way they do business–as one who thinks long-term, aims to do what is  right (as opposed to what’s easy), and would rather make regular, constant growth rather than quick rises and sharp declines. This army list above is a symptom of what happens when you offer HUGE prizes, demand no social graces from players and add in the phrase “anything goes.”

It sounds to me like Mr-Elf-Army knew enough rules to decide that if he were to bone up on the game a bit and do plenty of math-hammer, he’d have an excellent chance at getting GW’s soopa’ prize for winning an ‘Ard Boyz tourney. I haven’t met this guy, nor seen him play; I’m not trying to say he’s an all-around terrible guy (really, I’m not…but I bet he is!).  For all I know, he could be a really nice guy, on the table and off. But lists like Mr-Elf-Army’s  are rarely concocted and played by all-around great guys; even if I’m wrong about that statement, I do know what I think about the people who bring point-and-click armies (you know them, even if you haven’t heard the term: armies that practically run themselves, that even drooling post-lobotomy patients could win with; all that’s required is a warm body to roll dice…and possibly move the models forward). I will concede that it does take a certain level of skill to construct lists such as the one above…around as much skill as it does to make a killer deck for Magic the Gathering. I really dislike Magic the Gathering.

Full Disclosure:

I suck at MtG, deck construction and optimized army-list building, so some of my attitude could just be professional jealousy.

It seems to me that the purpose behind tournaments, at their most fundamental level, is to create and nurture a community. Some would argue that tournaments exists solely to sell more miniatures–it isn’t; but sales are the (some might say wonderful) side-effect of having a healthy gaming community. With all I’ve said already, I don’t think it’s surprising that I my opinion is that ‘Ard Boyz  tournaments do nothing to create or nurture a community of  players. Whereas I’m sure ‘Ard Boyz tournaments probably do create some increases in sales, I don’t believe there’s any honest enthusiasm for the hobby driving players’ involvement in ‘Ard Boyz. I get more the feeling that GW is endorsing Cold-War style escalation tactics rather than player excitement: ‘Ard Boyz aims to force people into buying more stuff (so players will feel their armies are competitive enough to win the final prize), and that mindset will do more to harm GW than help them.

Let me explain: there’s an old parable (or what have you) where the sun and the wind are discussing which one of them is stronger and decide to prove themselves by seeing who can remove the coat of a man, walking by below them. The wind blows as hard as he can, trying to blow the jacket off; the man bundles himself against the blowing wind…and the coat stays on. On the sun’s turn, he decides to shine as bright as he can; the man decides to sit down and enjoy the now beautiful weather and takes off his coat to do so. And the moral: persuasion is better than force.

To quote Princess Leia talking to Grand Moff Tarkin upon her arrival to the Death Star, “the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” The more GW “forces” people to buy in order to feel competitive, the more people will decide to get out of the hobby–which is not to say that GW wanting people to buy more stuff is itself bad, it’s the way they’re trying to make people want to buy more stuff that’s bad.

In contrast, creating and nurturing a decent gaming community gets pretty similar end-results (sales and increases) but does so in a different way. The result of assembling a group of like-minded people together to take part in the activity all of them are passionate about is that enthusiasm greater than the sum of its parts is generated. I know I’m saying this pretty wonkily, but it is a truism: despite the fact that television and stereos exist, people still go to hockey games, people still go to rock concerts and people still go to movies instead of just seeing / experiencing them in the comfort of their own homes. And why? Because the social and tribal nature of our psyches relishes the shared experience that all these events give us. This also applies to games: despite the existence of computer games, console games and online MMOs, board games are still played. A lot. Indeed, they’re even enjoying a renaissance right now. The shared experience of a healthy, active player community does the same thing for us gamers, and tournaments are just one facet of a gaming community.

If Games Workshop was trying to do the “right thing” as opposed to the easy thing, they’d encourage as much community construction as they could. Instead of having the vitality and perpetual motion that communities provide, GW has thrown their hat in with their ‘Ard Boyz tournaments. which give the players ONE event, one where they are not asked to contribute or have a hand at creating long-lasting excitement, just to win. “Pounding your opponent to paste is all that matters.” The camaraderie, the excitement for creativity, the good-natured rivalries created by networks of players gaming together regularly are tossed aside in favour of a once-a-year spectacle that stresses only that we think about ourselves and give no consideration to others.

At their best, ‘Ard Boyz tournaments might give us a small taste of community, but that taste–all of us gaming in the same room for a day is fleeting: GAmes Workshop has no intention of going past their win-at-all-costs douche-fest. Is it GW’s responsibility to create a community for us? Not at all. But it’s in their best interest to not undermine healthy gaming habits. Encouraging play styles such as Mr-Elf-Army’s list above does NOTHING to help bring people together, and quite probably does a certain portion of harm to any community that is till fledgling. I know if I faced that player’s army, I’d be wondering why I was still in this hobby….and if maybe it was now time for me to check out. Heck, just seeing that list has had me angry at Games Workshop for FIVE days now and not at all interested in playing any of their games.

So kudos to Games Workshop: this round of ‘Ard Boyz helped them sell ten hero models and a half-a-dozen “Last Alliance of Men and Elves” miniatures boxes.  All for the mere cost of cheesing off several established players-and making me want to throw away 21 years of loyalty to Games Workshop’s games. (And contrary to what they think about ‘veteran’ gamers such as myself, I have not stopped buying product because I have an army for each game). I’m having a hard time seeing how their love of this style of tournament is good in the long run, how this provides for regular, constant growth or how this is the ‘right’ way to promote the hobby, as opposed to the easy way.

Rant over. Sorry, just needed to vent.

OH THE IRONY!

More full disclosure:

It burns! It bites! It stings–did I mention my store will be running a 40k ‘Ard Boyz preliminary on may 15, 2010?

I think part of the reason I’m so upset by the abuse-the-rules-at-all-costs Elf army above is that I’ve realised that by agreeing to host an ‘Ard Boyz preliminary, I’ve agreed to shake hands with the devil. Whereas my motivation back in the first week of January for agreeing to hosting this was just to get the store’s name out there: so people who probably never come to my mall (which is often perceived as being at the far south tip of Calgary–which it may have been back in the late seventies but certainly hasn’t been for some time now), who might not even know of the store’s existence might actually have us register on their radars through GW’s promoting the tournament in White Dwarf and on their website.

After seeing the above War of the Rings list, I’m realising just what level of assholery is inside the realm of possibilities for me to expect on May 15th. Ugh. Already the store has had one of the more…ahem  ” ‘Ard ” players from past tournaments phone us repeatedly trying to be the first to sign up for May 15th. When he was told we’re not yet taking registrations, he demanded we phone him the moment we start accepting players; just last night he phoned the store repeatedly after we were closed–eight times in a row, to be precise (we don’t answer our phones while doing closing procedures)–presumably to, again, be first on the ‘Ard Boyz list. the more I think about this, the closer we get to May 15th, the more I just want to pull out of doing this ‘Ard Boyz preliminary round.

I feel like the price of this tournament is my dignity.

Quick edit: looks like I’m not the only one with disdain for ‘Ard Boyz.

Coming June 2010…

This summer, a couple of friends and myself will be putting on a tournament larger than I have ever done: roughly eighty people or so. (Luckily for me, they have put on a big tournament before, so the learning curve for me should hopefully be more forgiving.)

To balance out the fact that the shoppe I work at is running an ‘Ard Boyz preliminary, I thought it karmic that I involve myself in creating a tournament aimed at making personal ambitions take a back seat. The idea is to have a weekend tournament with a story line behind it (this is not a new idea, I know–but it is new to Calgary), and to have all the players aligned to teams or factions.

The real question is: would 80 people want to partake in a more thematic, (slightly) less ‘ard / competitive tournament?

But that’s as much as I want to say right now, as I’m still spit-balling some ideas and don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver on any of this.

New Painting Contest & Updates!

Well, looks like it’s painting competition time again!

I was striving to get something going for March fifteenth, but with my running the Rolling Thunder tournament for Warhammer 40,000 and with getting prepared for my shop’s attendance at Cal-Con this year, a March painting competition just wasn’t in the books.

Ah well. Mayday has as much ring to it as Ides of March.

This competition will follow the same format as the previous ones I’ve run: two categories determined by model size where models from the three main Games Workshop systems will be judged against each other along with a third category for inexperienced hobbyists. The departure this time will be the addition of a staff-painted models category. All those who enter will be allowed to judge (through voting) the models submitted by the store staff. From the sounds of it, all the staffers want to paint up larger models, so I need to figure out what I have that’s of comparable size to what they’re all talking about; there’s no point in submitting a Sartosan Vampire three contenders are talking about Carnifexes, Steam Tanks and Carnosaurs.

I have a few things in the works:  Buhrdur  (Angmar Troll chieftain from Lord of the Rings). an Eldar Falcon grav tank, a Space Marine Venerable Dreadnought and Gulavhar (again from Angmar-Lord of the Rings). Both Buhrdur and my grav tank are about 25% done, while Gulavhar and my Venerable Dreadnought are just past the gap-filling stage. I’ll have to make up my mind pretty quickly as to which model will be my entry. (And if I really have my  act together, perhaps I’ll even do some work in progress posts!)

Rolling Thunder Results

On the sixth of March, 2010, I ran my fourth tournament put on by Great White. Rolling Thunder was the store’s second Warhammer 40k tourney (and my third one which had custom scenarios whose aim was to give players two challengers in the each game they played: the player opposite them at the table and that scenario’s victory conditions). All in all, things went extremely well: despite being the consummate procrastinator, I’m managing to get more and more organised with each passing tournament (I’ve left the realm of ‘simply embarrassing’ far behind and can now be solidly ranked among those ‘a  tad disorganised’); I’m also still managing to avoid gaining enemies in real life due to the tournament missions I put the players through.

This time through, we had twelve players: eleven registered plus a ringer spot (which was occupied by a couple of friends who helped me once I realised I was in a jam: twelfth player had registered quite early on and then summarily dropped off the face of the earth–and I hadn’t figured it out until a couple of days before the tournament). Still, things went off pretty smoothly, even with the mall stealing some of our tables first thing in the morning!

PLAYER LIST

Player            —      Army

1.   Kevin K.     — White Scars Marines

2 .  Trevor B.   — Space Wolves

3 .  Jason H.     — Eldar

4 .  Rob D.        — Tyranids

5 .  Scott S.       — Space Wolves

6 .  Mike D.       — Tyranids

7 .  Alem A.     — Salamanders Marines

8 .  Nick G.       — Chaos Marines

9 .  Ryan F.       — Necrons

10.  Conor M.  — Khorne Marines

11.  Peter H.     — Ultra Marines

–an okay variety of armies but still a bit too Marine-heavy for my tastes. Despite that, I am pleased that every list was distinctly different from every other list.

Again, I’m very pleased with all the work put into the armies that took part in Rolling Thunder; the players that keep showing up for the tournaments I run are doing a lot to claw back the poor reputation that ( in my experience) a bulk  of 40k players have established: namely that 40k players care more about gaming than they do gaming with good-looking armies.

Let me explain that comment. During my five-year tenure at Games Workshop, from the GW staff down, I had noticed Fantasy players always tended to have their armies fully painted while 40k players’ armies–who, I might add, had less models–tended to be works in progress…or painted only to the barest of minimums. I had even been to a couple of the annual staff tournaments (held for all the Ontario staff and cell managers, plus one staffer from each province);  both years I went, there were one–maybe two–armies that showed up being either bare plastic/metal or primer only–and remember this was a staff tournament during the era of  “you can’t play in a GW store if your army isn’t completely painted–invariably the offending armies were 40k armies. And I’ll reiterate it: this was happening at a tournament attended by those who were supposed to be setting the standard for their customers. (In following years, I had also heard similar accounts of a 40k army or two showing up for the staff tourney sans paint job.)

I’m not trying to crap on 40k players by saying all this; I’m trying to describe the level of pleased I am at the quality of paint jobs brought to the tables at this tournament; not only were all these armies fully painted, but all were painted to a level well above bare minimum. Up until this tournament, I had always lived under the presumption that 40k players were more gaming-minded and Fantasy players were more hobby-minded; it looks like the two may have reached an equilibrium.

Tournament Results

Name Army Battle
Sports Comp Painting Total
Kevin K. White Scars 21 32.5 28 35.5 117
Trevor B. Space Wolves 19 34.5 26 23 112.5
Jason H. Eldar 39 49.5 23 39.5 151
Rob D. Tyranids 24 32 25 25 106
Scott S. Space Wolves 29 34 34 41 138
Mike Davey Tyranids 41 34.5 31 47.5 154
Alem A. Salamanders 31 34.5 29 20 114.5
Nick G. Chaos Marines 42 37 20 24 123
Ryan F. Necrons 21 34.5 31 23 109.5
Conor M. Khorne Marines 31 32 30 30 123
Peter H. Ultramarines 27 25 23 8 83

Best Overall: Mike D.

Best Sportsman: Jason H.

Best Painted: Scott S.

Lessons Learned

Organise! Organise! Organise! The opportunity to do this tournament came at me quickly and unexpectedly, with a local gaming convention organiser approaching me to run a tournament with tickets to the con as prizes. I agreed running a tournament would be  a win-win situation, thus leaving me only a few scant weeks to organise, advertise and create all the missions. It was pretty hectic for me at times because I wasn’t well prepared to get all this up and going in just a few weeks; luckily I have a (very) little bit of a routine with how I put together my tournaments that this was able to fall together with a bit of hard work and late nights–but thankfully not much stress.

The show went off without a hitch (more or less); and what’s better: I had not only new attendees, but three first-time tournament players! I also noticed quite a few players exchanging contact information,which I suspect is a pretty good indicator of a community growing. And I mean, really, that’s the main hope I have behind doing tournaments: grow the gaming community and have a hand at bringing what I love about gaming to the table.