Tag Archives: Tournaments

Is the Internet and Tournament Mindset the Destruction of the GW Hobby?

I’ve had this buzzing around in my head for a while, thinking of all the nuances and subtleties so that I can try to put across my point of view with this post. I’ll be the first to admit that in general I believe the Internet to be a good thing. However, as with many things in life that which can be used to benefit mankind can also be used for the exact opposite. Just as there are places that you can visit out in the real world that will bring enlightenment and joy, so too are there places where one can place their life in mortal danger.

While gaming generally doesn’t result in the fatality of either party (there are games in ancient civilisations where the captain of the winning team was offered as a sacrifice – this was considered an honour!) I think that sometimes having our community be so large can actually be a detriment to it.

While we benefit greatly from the vast melting pot that is the wargaming community and its online smorgasbord of thought I do believe that a lot of this, not all but a lot, tends to push most gamers into a single direction. The reason that I have titled this post the way I have is because I feel this affects the Warhammer Fantasy and 40k populations more so than any other. My belief here may be just down to the fact that Games Workshop reaches a larger portion of the gaming world than any other company’s offerings, even with an ever larger number of people deserting it for reasons I won’t go into here. It is also worth bearing in mind that a lot of the competition owes a lot to the Sherriff and his band, as without them breaking through into the mainstream it’s likely that none of them would be here now to make the market as saturated as it is.

Warhammer of both varieties has developed over a long period of time, more so than any other game, therefore the other rule sets have evolved to the current environment in which GW found itself; namely the tournament scene. I don’t think I’ll end up with a huge number of dissenting voices when I say that GW’s competitors generally have much tighter rule sets that lend themselves nicely to the tournament mindset. I’ve read a lot of articles that decry GW for their rules being badly written, for the games we hold around a dining room table this generally isn’t a problem as we can work things out and get the game going. Yet, when one adds in the competitive nature that is present at a tournament; that interpretation of a badly written rule becomes all the more important. I’m sure we’ve all seem mammoth threads that have popped up on forums the world over when someone has asked others to chime in on how something should be interpreted.

I’ve heard stories of people refusing to play games because they were trying to optimise their list and prepare for a tournament while another gamer was wanting a pick up game so he could just play the game he loved. To be honest that one post was the spark that got me thinking about things and led to this blog post.

Every forum you go to that allows the posting of army lists generally consists of advice for how competitive that list would be in a tournament setting. If people even bother to specify their list as “friendly” they will still get some advice that will try to “optimise” that list. One could argue that if a list is for a friendly game then getting advice on that list is rather moot anyway but I digress.

Somehow the Internet has transformed our appreciation of the hobby into a maelstrom of extracting every ounce of power out of our lists and weighing up the choices between character/unit selection, magic lores and item options. As soon as a new book is released it is stripped down to its bare bones and assessed against how well it would perform in that all-pervading competitive setting.

I’m aware that there are large numbers of tournaments running the world over, perhaps GW caused this themselves when they held their own tournaments, it may be that they’ve encouraged this, whether intentionally or not. I’ve also read a number of times that people have decried that the rules for Fantasy and 40k are not fit for tournaments, they are too random to necessarily be a true reflection of one’s generalship. This criticism is normally levelled at the random terrain generation and its effects for 8th Edition Fantasy.

I happen to have a lot of fun playing Warhammer Fantasy, even with the lack of opponents within my gaming circle. I’d say we play friendly games but we do like to play hard too so one could say we’re at a happy medium. Are we really playing a game that was meant for tournaments? If you consider the amount of players that use Comp systems to change the way the game is played (I’m not a fan of these systems myself) that try to “improve” things for tournaments then one could easily argue the games are not in a fit state for such. Then there is the perceived balance issues between various army books which also can tip the scales in one player’s favour just because of which army they bought.

I wonder whether these conditions on their own would be a non-issue, but having them all brought together into the ever-present online world we’ve created some kind of homunculus similar I suppose to the birth of Slaanesh from the Eldar fluff. All our thoughts and emotions have coalesced into this being that we are now all bound to.

Personally I’m happy with my “beer and pretzels” gaming with my friends. Despite some people’s arguments that they go to tournaments just to have fun and play some games I don’t think that really holds water. A tournament is about winning and I can’t rationalise someone who would go into that environment just to “have fun” and them actually having fun if they got their butt whooped by all the more competitive players. If that same person tuned their list to a tournament level to stop that from happening, well, you’re not just there to have fun then are you?

Considering what GW have put into 8th it seems they have really gone against the tournament mindset and created a game they just want you to have fun with. We’ll have to see what this year’s impending 6th Edition 40k release does with those rules (although I’m expecting the rulebook will be £50 after the latest round of price hikes) and if they move to a more tournament like set. I will congratulate GW on the fact that so far the Fantasy books for this current edition do seem to be nicely balanced and fair, we’ll see if they can keep that up once we get to some of the more popular and currently powerful armies out there.

I do think this tourney thinking might not be a bad thing though. While the GW offerings might be far from perfect for these things, WarmaHordes, Infinity and Malifaux for example work far better, in my opinion, because they can be played for fun but also have a robust enough rules system that a transfer to a more competitive environment works with no extra effort needed. Is the fact that these other companies do it better going to get to the point where GW either has to tighten up its own rules writing or make way for the other games that are snapping at its proverbial heels?

I’m interested to hear what anyone else things about this and how we might see this work for new offerings such as the current 6 Inch Move anticipation generator Drop Zone Commander.

Playing Nice

That’s right Internet, I’m heading up a post today using a picture of a miniature that I myself have painted! It’s still not finished mind, I’ve been painting other stuff but as I want to spend some time talking about 40k today, I wanted to add a little touch of something personal.

In my last post I touched on the Internet and the impact it has on our gaming. It seems like you can’t hit up a forum without finding a veritable panoply of threads dealing with how to make a list capable of winning tournaments and your average fluff list is buried under all the WAAC-ness.

Now, if one were so inclined when it comes to picking up 40k they could choose their Codex and then just hit up the web for a list that can rock the proverbial kazbar. These lists do tend to be “point and click” but there are certain armies where this kind of list building can prove very effective even in the hands on a novice player. I would imagine that most players want to have fun in their games but there is also an inherent part of a player that wants to win.

I’m pretty positive that there will be people out there that will decry my opinion as heresy, no doubt trotting out some abhorrent fluff list composed of nothing but Gretchin or something. Now, obviously we want to have fun, if we’re not having fun then there is no real point in playing. However, what I am interested in is how groups of players balance what they take in their respective environments. I’ve already stated on this blog that I am not a tournament player. Nor and I ever likely to be, most of these events last over two days and Sunday is not a day I feel comfortable spending gaming, it being the Sabbath and all. There may be one day tournaments but we’re then into the territory of me actually having a fully painted army to attend!

So, I am more than happy to be playing with my buds over a cool glass of DPZ and some salt-encrusted snack products. With easy access to the Internet these days you;d be mad not to have an idea about your army list gathered from players far and wide. There is normally a general consensus of what is and is not viable from a particular Codex. While I am not a fan of list tailoring there are those who are proponents of this idea. While I don’t write a list to win a tournament I do write it so that it has a chance of winning.

What do you do then, when a player brings a tournament army into a casual play environment? I am not speaking from personal experience here, we do have some strong lists though and I see myself changing my lists so that I can compete (Dark Eldar and Grey Knights dripping with S7 weapons don’t mix well). We’ve been trying to encourage the “all-comers” list mentality on the newest player we have around these parts. I think it’s a valuable skill to learn and helps you when you are against such a broad range of opponents. It’s how I’ve always written my lists although they do adapt to my local meta.

I’ve recently changed a squad or two in my Dark Eldar, I’ve added more shooting to it and removed a few things that have been hit and miss for me. The new list might not work but then that’s half the fun for me, finding stuff that works for the way that I play the game. Sometimes I get hammered, sometimes I am the one doing the hammering, I hope that good times are had by all.

To be honest I find that this is where 40k can fall down a little. Someone can bring a tourney list and destroy all that come before it and no one has fun except for maybe the chap that brought the FOTM list. We had a game of Warmachine Mk2 in our regular Wednesday play session last week too. I took Siege, a Sentinel, Lancer and Defender in a 15pt game against nBreaker with Sorscha, a Destroyer and a Juggernaught. The Sentinel got his arms hacked off by the Destroyer and the Lancer was pounded into scrap by the Juggernaught. Things were looking good for nBreaker before I got a clear LOS to his Warcaster through dropping a Foxhole on the Juggernaught, a Ground Pounder and boosted Defender Heavy Barrel later and Sorscha was a pair of smoking boots. Things were not looking great for me but I pulled off the win. I like Warmachine for this reason, there are no really cheesy combos of stuff. The whole game is based around a threat vector and exploiting it. You’re guaranteed to get it off once but then your opponent will know what to look for. I know that the game is regarded as having a steep learning curve but it’s a fast paced game that plays ruthlessly. This appeals to me against rolling up and finding that you are almost certainly going to lose against what is deployed against you at the start of the game.

Do you have an internal balance meter? How do you judge what is competitive enough to take to challenge you and your opponents? Do you even care? Has the Internet written your lists for you? Are you happy with this?

Are these issues endemic of the games system themselves, poor rules or poor Codices? Should Mat Ward be allowed near an army book ever again?

I think these are the questions I’d like to see answers on.

Warhammer 8th Edition – New Terrain Rules Investigated

I am about to open up yet another post stating my own personal opinion about something. Regular readers are no doubt aware that we do this from time to time, I mean, what else is the Internet for if not expressing one’s self? This is also the reason why the 6 Inch Move citadel is a floating one, kind of like Dalaran from Warcraft. In order to avoid the vitriol of close-minded nerds who seem unable to grasp the concept that other people might think differently than they do, we magically airlifted the bunker in which the writing team were hiding themselves. Since doing this we’ve, thankfully, stayed out of range of the majority of nerd rage.

As is inevitable with a new set of rules there is the potential to divide a community into camps who like the changes and those who do not. This isn’t quite as polarised as it may seem though as many people will like certain changes that others do not and dislike some changes that another party may find works well for them. Now, no rule set is ever going to be perfect, humans are imperfect creatures and GW has a long history of ambiguity and unclear writing. This then lends itself to division between players, in general this division does not result in a clash of sabers but there are camps out there in Internetland that will defend their particular standpoint with the full force of a cabinet minister being caught on a night out with some ladies of ill-repute. Normally this is reserved for the various power levels of individual armies, yet this preamble is getting towards what I would like to discuss today; the new terrain rules.

This is probably (next to the introduction of True Line of Sight) the cause of the majority of discussions regarding the new rules. I bought the issue of White Dwarf that heralded the arrival of 8th Edition and it provided some insights there. For every scenario in the rulebook there is a guide telling you how to set up terrain for a game, this panel normally refers you to page 142 which says for you to place D6+4 pieces of terrain on the table. Normally this is done by rolling on a table and looking up what that roll represents, some terrain pieces are then rolled for to see which particular type you get. For instance, you could roll for a building, you then roll again on another chart to see what kind of building that is. Sometimes you will get just a normal building, however, in the majority you are going to get a piece of terrain which can have an impact on units nearby. These rules range from a modifier to certain dice rolls (i.e. a minor buff) to the potential to cause significant damage across a unit.

GW have explained that the Warhammer world isn’t just a fantasy medieval version of our world, it is something wholly different where the very land is as much a threat as the inhabitants. This in turn raises the argument about what do you want from a game? Do you want a test of generalship one person to another?, or do you want a narrative whereby you are just playing a game and the battlefield is as much an enemy as the army you are facing off against? Historically Warhammer has been a game where one person faces another to see who marshals their forces better to complete an objective (normally kill everyone, take names and maybe try to hold table quarters in turn 6). With the addition of scenarios there is now a range of battles you can fight without having to make stuff up yourself and I commend GW for this. However, when the terrain has the potential to kill off your dudes, I believe the game loses focus. Sure, there is as much a chance for your opponent to fall foul of the things that you do and it does ask you to make decisions that you would otherwise not have to make during the game, however, you are not there to fight against the board, you are supposed to be having fun with a friend. I’ve only played a few games of 8th so far and am looking forward to more, however, in one game terrain did virtually nothing, in the second game it had a much more profound effect. We rolled a Haunted Mansion and dropped it in the middle of the table. If units are nearby it does a random number of Strength 1 hits to every unit in range. Now, strength 1 might not seem like much, but rolls of a 6 always wound in the new edition, you can imagine where this is going. Even with armour and ward saves I was losing troops every turn I was near it, we used a proper mansion to represent it as well so the building was quite large. To be honest I almost lost more models to the Mansion than I did to the enemy!

Considering you are also going to have a minimum of 5 pieces of terrain on the battlefield chances are that only one of those is not going to be something out of the ordinary, thereby you are either going to be flicking through the rulebook to find out what they are, have to remember, or write down what each terrain element actually represents. I don’t think that this helps the flow of the game. While it can provide for some comical moments (Daemons getting nailed by S1 ghosts…) I’m not sure that it fits within a wargame where the general MO is to crush your opponent into dust. I’m still going to play a few more games with these terrain rules before our group makes a decision on whether to use them or not. However, another thing it brings up is the tournament scene.

Now, I am not a tournament player, never have been and more than likely never will be, yet I don’t think the new terrain rules fit in with the tournament crowd. They want a straight fight over a battlefield and to see who comes out on top using competitively built armies. There are enough spells and magic items out there to counter or survive without stumbling into a stream and suddenly finding your expensive unit of elite troops has just got splattered due to some bad dice rolling. I know that these inclusions in the rules doesn’t mean that you have to use them, but it does give an insight into the minds of the games developers. If these rules are included and from that you assume that you are being encouraged to use them, does that mean that Warhammer is not being developed with tournament players in mind? They are certainly a very vocal bunch, especially on the matter of whether their army got borked by the changes in the new rules. If GW are trying to create a game that represents the world as much as the inhabitants of it then are they trying to take us down the route of narrative games and moving away from the “gamer vs gamer who plays better” principles that have existed since I have been into the hobby (almost 20 years). Are future tournaments going to be more around having fun with others that you haven’t faced before rather than trying to come out on top as the only incentive?

I just think we won’t see many tournaments using these terrain rules. It’ll certainly slow down the games as you have to stop for certain features to do their thing. How do you feel about the new terrain rules?

Wargaming – Negativity and You

Good morning Intarwebz, how are you doing?

I am sure that you, like me, are aware of just how awesome a resource the Internet can be. Not just a repository for media of the female of the species in various states of undress doing unusual things with various food groups, but a fount of information and communities of like-minded individuals. Normally a hobby that is stereotypical filled with either pre-pubescent youths or sweaty, bearded old men locked away in their parents dungeon comes into the (normally shunned) bright lights of socialism and we find many places where we can engage with others, finding (shockingly) that the majority of gamers are just normal folks with a liking for half-naked elves, or whatever.

However, there is also a feature of Internet communities that are not so positive. While this medium has, in a way, brought the hobby to a more mainstream audience there has been an effect born of forums that does not just take place within our favoured pastime. This follows on from my post earlier in the week regarding the eagerness and excitement you can feel when a project clicks for you and I feel that this behaviour is increasingly prevalent. I’m willing to admit that we see perhaps a subset of the community who are active participants online and this may skew the results but we can deal with that.

What I am talking about is the negativity that seems pervasive sometimes when discussions of armies come up. Taking for an example the newest Fantasy army, the Skaven, I have read discussions that on some occasions are downright damning of various units and their abilities. I’ll also admit that these discussions seem to revolve purely around what will be viable for a tournaments and while I commend the fact that tournaments are more frequent and better established these days I would hazard that this is not the preferred way of gaming for the vast majority of gamers. I have read threads posted that could completely crush enthusiasm if you were planning something that is being discussed and these discussions rarely touch on those things that are positive. This isn’t purely the case with the latest armies, this can be anything at all, it really does seem that the more negative the person the more vocal they are when the Internet beckons.

Luckily for most of this I can try to ignore what is being said. I’m not a tourney player, I enjoy the quiet competition between friends gathered around a suitably transformed dining table. I’d also like to point out that this isn’t something only linked to Games Workshop’s games but is present among other companies as well. Any game involving an army list obviously will have some units that are seen as sub-par and others perform way beyond their points cost, however, I’m a keen believer that the game is what you make of it and all this negativity is unnecessary. We should enjoy trying things out and experimenting, not merely talking about which unit are auto-includes or that you should never take unit X because player Y reckons it sucks donkey wang without having ever actually used it.