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My First Warhammer Tournament, An Autobiography

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09 Feb 2019 18:26 #292005 by GorillaGrody

BaronDonut wrote: For whatever reason miniatures gaming just never tickled the right part of my brain, but I could read these reports forever...

Also, I bet Stevens was garbage at minis so you kick his ass on that front too (something tells me Pound woulda loved them though, and probably would have played 40K Ultramarines).


The question in my mind is what faction H.G. Wells would have played. My instinct is to say Adeptus Mechanicus.

Also, I am garbage at minis, at least at the dice parts.

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09 Feb 2019 18:53 #292006 by Sevej
And those are the exact reason why I would never play a 40k or AoS game! The movement irks me, the non standard minis & terrain bugs me, and then... those imprecise things are used in a very competitive environment! Props to those who enjoy it.

I'd rather have some casual games of indie minis game like Dragon Rampant, Squad Hammer or Mutants & Death Ray Guns with GW minis.

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09 Feb 2019 19:12 #292007 by GorillaGrody
Totally, yeah. I love indie stuff, but it’s hard to find opponents. I’ll have more to say on that near the end.
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13 Feb 2019 11:11 - 13 Feb 2019 11:14 #292158 by GorillaGrody

My defeat against the Daughters of Khaine was decidedly not a situation where I found myself with a newfound challenge and a rising determination to face it down. No, once I heard there was going to be a tournament, perversity guided my hand. I understood instinctively that this was something I was not going to win, and I wanted to know what that was going to feel like.

I bought a couple more pieces to flesh out my Nighthaunt army and signed up for a message board particular to the tournament. I was just putting the finishing touches on my new Dreadblade Harrows when the message board started dinging with pitched irregularity. “So,” asked the organizer, “who here isn’t playing Nighthaunt?” Nighthaunt was a recent, hot army, and the locus of a recent boxed set which made them economically sound to collect. They’re also very easy to paint. It turns out that roughly half of those who signed up for the tournament were bringing Nighthaunt models. I very quickly elected to bring Nurgle, the aforementioned army of blighted chaos. This decision was met with no special enthusiasm.

I set aside my Harrows and began an inventory of my models. I had many Nurgles and Nurglings from a burst of enthusiasm for the line a summer before. I owned a collection of Plaguebearers from the days when they had 25mm bases mixed with a collection of Plaguebearers when their basses switched to 32mm. I had a few rotund Putrid Blightkings, some of which had bells secured within the cavernous walls of their hollowed-out stomachs. I had a Rotigus Rainfather, painted in a sickening swathe of greenish white, a natural general for my army. I owned a Horticulous Slimux, an individual leader among Plaguebearers, chewing on an old nail and riding a massive snail into battle. I easily threw together 2000 points.

My next order of business was to Google search “how do you win at Warhammer Age of Sigmar?” The resulting cascade was perfectly in keeping with internet culture.

Natalie Wynn, a YouTube celebrity otherwise known as ContraPoints, first made me aware of a slur on the internet known as the “Hon.” In her best-known video, a devastatingly honest and smart take on the subject of incels , she takes a cognitive shift three quarters of the way through, revealing in intimate detail her surgical and chemical transition from man to woman. She describes a world unknown to me, but strangely familiar, a “painful, awkward, humiliating” online universe in which transitioning women upload pictures of themselves in order to be judged by their transitioning peers, the cruelest of whom berate them for their “mannish head size” and “pronounced bone structure”. “Both groups upload selfies, knowing they’ll get brutal, unconstructive feedback,” she says, “and both groups have a weird vocabulary with which to express their anxiety.” The “Hon,” as described above, should be seen within the mean maternalism embedded in the phrase “Hon, you’ll never pass.” It incorporates the special sort of passive aggressiveness universal nearly all online relationships, but especially among the young.


In pockets of the internet I’ve searched where the stakes are much lower, and where the valences are murkier, than those described above--on the official Warhammer forums, on Reddit and 4Chan (of course) and on places like DakkaDakka--one can witness young men “hon” one another over their armies. New players with a legitimate urge to learn an unlearnable game asking urgently for a quick assessment of the competitiveness of their armies, inexperienced painters hoping to learn new techniques; each individual is met by two or four people with the transplanted souls of dying middle-aged Burger King managers, ready to tell them what exactly is wrong with them while offering an almost artful lack of anything approaching constructive criticism. Neither are they cruel, which would require the barest hint of wit. No they’re just technical in the way that all robots, good or bad, are technically robots. They would never call one another hon. Most frequently, the begin their posts with that most mirthless and autocratic of interjections: “lol”. They lol each other. As in “lol I think you need mortar teams in multiples 2 wont do any significant damage I tend to run them at maximum in teams of two and I also think this list will struggle against flyers and if someone can deepstrike into your back line they’ll tear you apart” etc etc. The cruelty is not in the language, which might as well be pictographic, but in that each suggestion casually deletes half a week’s pay worth of units and models from a minimum wage salary, and just as casually inserts a week and a half’s pay to get the army up to snuff, at which point there’s no guarantee that some other problem within the “meta” might arise.

Nevertheless, I found a few tips worth retaining. Someone had discovered a very nice way of covering gaps in bases using potato chip wrappers. Another person pointed out that armies were much easier to run if you didn’t field everything in the line. Still another, assisting a young lad who, being new to the game, found himself unable to keep all the Hero Phase powers in order. The elder of the two pointed out that he liked to bring a script with him, detailing all of the important powers that arose within each phase of play. This, I thought, was a brilliant idea.

Writing up my own script took the better part of two hours, and required three books to hand, laid flat on their open fronts. I needed to secure Start of Round abilities, Start of Hero Phase abilities, Command Abilities, Wizard Spells, Faction Artifacts. I needed to know about Contagion Points, how I could earn them and what I could buy with them (within my list there was a shopping list). I needed to know what I could do in my Movement and Charge Phases. The Nurgle list of Battle Phase abilities was stupendous. They had several neat tricks in the Battleshock Phase, including one which allowed several new Plaguebearers to enter the board with a fortuitous blink of the dice, a rolled one.

My intention was to fit as many important rules on a sheet of paper as possible. I kept reducing the font smaller and smaller, and finally gave up at 8pt font. It still didn’t fit on a single page.


--
Once again into the breach. The Daughters of Kaine were now swollen to 2000 points and dragging with them Morathi, their queen, a powerful sorceress capable of transforming from a human woman with a 40mm base to a massive, writhing, winged naga of 100 millimeters’ width. (Some amount of time was spent in an explanation of what kind of movement could or could not be gained by such a transformation, information that would have sounded like so much nonsense to me a week before, but which now sounded like a recipe for slipping out of combat, the loss of one of my turns. I kept my mouth shut).
I arrived early and started setting up the board. My opponent arrived on time and decided we needed a little more terrain. Okay, terrain. When Age of Sigmar first started in 2015 as a means of (in the parlance of publicly traded companies) “reinvigorating” the Warhammer Fantasy line, it started with an attitude that rules were an embarrassment. To be fair, by 2015 Games Workshop rules were an embarrassment, a morass of thirty year’s work, an intimidating palimpsest of fan service and patchwork resembling nothing so much as the tax code for shuffling around offshore accounts. I never played it for this reason (and, as mentioned, for the reason of my impecuniosity relative to owning an army of Fantasy Men I Didn’t Need). This reboot had problems, including “fun” rules like “you can re-roll any failed hit rolls when attacking with the Runefang so long as you have a bigger and more impressive moustache than your opponent.” Since then, the rules have been not so much improved as given two or three palimpsest layers. Nevertheless, the non-rule for placing terrain is unchanged from 2015—"place 5-10 pieces.” Owning a melee-centric army, my opponent did what he’d be naturally inclined to do. He dropped a few large 2 x 2 buildings on the battlesite. Having done this, of course, we rolled for the special effects of each terrain piece and, for my part, I preceded to completely ignore them.

He’d had a week to paint at least part of his army, but hadn’t. Still grey plastic, just more of it. I wasn’t sure how he was going to meet the three-color standard in time for the game.

We faced off the long way down a 6’ by 4’ space, with three valuable artifacts evenly spaced in the center of the board. Our Realm was Ghyran, the Realm of Life, which rolled up as an ability to better succeed at Battleshock tests. We rolled for all the terrain, and I rolled for the first set up. Both seemed roughly equal, so I chose the space with more room for my body. I had a number of different units, while my opponent brought just a few numerous single units, including 30 Witch Aelves; as he finished setting up his models first, the first turn went to him. He whipped up all of his spells and abilities from memory, and I recognized, in this go around, that he was able to do so much during his Hero Phase because he had underpowered his team by 50 points, allowing him an extra “command point” at the start of each round. There was no fighting in this first turn—it was all about positioning--and he was able, with some effort, to get to all three objectives, netting him a whopping five points right away, and a good defensive position.

I checked my list. It did almost nothing to help me get organized. I tried to cast a few spells, but Morathi was very good at canceling them. Next, my Nurgle soldiers lumbered into position. I brought a unit of Nurglings, mounds of the happy, scampering child-daemons I’d mentioned earlier, and was happy to note their ability to enter the board anywhere within a piece of terrain at the end of their movement phase. Nothing about my army seemed to vex my opponent so much as this one weak “deep strike” unit, and so he kept a small unit of Witch Elves in his back line, strung like Christmas lights in order to evoke the rule that says that units introduced to the board must enter 9” away from enemy units.

Only my rank-and-file unit of 20 Plaguebearers were able to charge to meet his unit of 30 Witch Aelves in the center. Plaguebearers have a natural extra save called “Disgustingly Resilient,” and are well-known for being a survivable army. “I’m glad these aren’t your Putrid Blightkings,” said my opponent. “They could have done some significant damage.” I noted that. As I moved my Plaguebearers in the Combat Phase, my opponent snapped to attention, noting the inability of my 32mm bases to “pile in” during the combat phase, and mentioning each instance in which they were getting in one another’s way, or were breaking the 3” rule for piling in. Consequently, due to terrain and profile limitations, I was only able to get 7 of my troops in front, and rolled 7 dice for them, which did not make a dent in the Witch Aelves’ line. Next, my opponent “piled in” with his 25mm bases, somehow able to get a substantial quorum within hitting range. He expressed disappointment at not getting all of his assassins in; he wouldn’t be able to roll his entire compliment of 90 dice, and was limited to a mere 78.

Here we pause to note the bizarre physics of a melee exchange in the world of Sigmar. Minutest attention must be paid by the attacker to get within a half-inch of a defender, at which point any number of ranges may be evoked by a melee weapon, from 1-6 inches away, but only after the half-inch rule is recognized. You may only attack with as many models as are within range so long as one model, representing the unit as a whole, is within a half-inch. The defending models, once attacked, are attacked as a whole, and casualties may be taken from anywhere in the unit, even from the back ranks. If you have become confused by what is a model and what is a unit, don’t worry, that’s common, and only really confusing at first, or when a single model constitutes an entire unit, or when offenders up front begin magically plucking models from the back lines in a lazy simulacra of abstraction.

If I wanted, there’s nothing in the rules (as far as I can tell) that says I couldn’t force each attack to happen one at a time instead of simultaneously, in each instance plucking a front row soldier away and leaving a back row soldier out of reach, until such time as there were no longer attacks to be made (though it occurs to me that there may be some sort of timing issue involved with that reasoning, an issue I’m sure I could not resolve for myself with a quick perusal of the rules) . But that would quadruple the time it took, and I would never do that.

At that moment, two things occurred to me.

Firstly, that it was undignified to roll this many dice to achieve a certain outcome. We have been living through decades of the automation of such processes, and to have to roll, like, thirty five dice--counting them up, commit them to memory, rolling them again--seemed beneath the dignity of the human soul. With 90 dice rolling to hit on a 3+, or 2 out of every three times, that’s 60 hits on average. This average is mentioned like a certitude among “Mathhammer” wizards, figuring the long arc of theoretical time into the calculation. Yet if the point was to achieve an average result with a variance, why not just roll a single die for the variance applied to a static result, instead of 78 for the result itself?

Secondly, I asked my opponent if there were rules for concession. He looked crestfallen. “In a tournament game, you count all the points you get cumulatively, win or lose. You really shouldn’t concede, and I don’t think there are any rules for it.”

We played on. In a turn and a half he razored through my Rotigus figure (turns out that “named” figures, while impressive and naturally general like, are excluded from adding a general’s command ability to their roster, which is why my opponent had not named Morathi, the Queen of all Witches, as his general, but rather some scrub in his back ranks). He killed Morbidex handily, and all the little Nurglings in the back ranks. I dutifully saved against his onslaught of hits, my 32mm bases stumbling into each other, my Disgusting Resilience reduced to merely Disgusting. I discovered that Morathi had an insane rule that stated that she could never take more than three damage per turn. Roll 90 dice at her or three, that was her limit.

He won with something like 20 points to my zero. The game took four and a half hours. Tournament games were only supposed to go two and a half.

“You’re a shoe-in to win the painting competition,” said my opponent, shaking my hand.
I stumbled away numbly, a few phrases echoing in my head. Deep strike. Putrid Blightkings. Play faster.

Two weeks to tournament time.
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Last edit: 13 Feb 2019 11:14 by GorillaGrody.
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13 Feb 2019 11:25 - 13 Feb 2019 11:26 #292160 by Gary Sax
You are still describing every single nightmare I've ever had about gaming.

Games workshop officials and stores should get a copy of this to study regarding the barriers to growing the hobby. I'm not joking.
Last edit: 13 Feb 2019 11:26 by Gary Sax.
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13 Feb 2019 11:30 #292161 by repoman
These recountings are fascinating but I don't think you could put together a more compelling piece to deter me from every wanting to play this game.
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13 Feb 2019 12:21 #292164 by Jackwraith
Piling on: these are brilliant and I'm looking forward to every post you make. That said, I've never been so happy to have dropped out of the GW scene as I am now. Fantasy, especially, was loaded with those little loopholes (string a unit out to prevent your opponent from doing something, make what is obviously your general not your general, etc.) and 8th Ed. had removed a lot of them, despite returning things like lvl4 casters to every list. It sounds like AoS basically reverted everything back to where a knowledgeable player can exploit whatever he wants to make the experience for his opponent as awful as possible.

It also sounds like Dark Elves are as min-maxy as ever. That Morathi rule reminds me of the ring that the last Dark Elves book had where the 4+ ward save would increase based on the strength of the attack relative to the save. So an S3 attack against a Dark Elf High Sorceress' T3 would be a 4+ chance to wound and a 4+ save. But an S5 attack would be a 2+ chance to wound and a 2+ save. It made it worse to attack her with better armed/more elite troops and the ring was inordinately frustrating to a lot of armies, especially on a 3 wound model. As a Skaven player, I was fine with it. I just sent one unit of Frenzied Plague Monks after any High Sorceress on the table. I was wounding on a 4+ but usually attacking a dozen times in each combat. Oh, and using a one-time banner to reroll hits and wounds. Law of averages, yo. Pretty soon, that ring stopped appearing on my opponents' lists, or at least on their general, which the highest ranking character (like, say, Morathi) HAD to be.

Ugh. Gary is right. This really should be a case example.
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13 Feb 2019 12:55 #292166 by JonathanVolk

This reboot had problems, including “fun” rules like “you can re-roll any failed hit rolls when attacking with the Runefang so long as you have a bigger and more impressive moustache than your opponent.”


I'm curious to get together a loose compendium of rules that re-trace the exclusionary lines of this hobby. Do you know of any others offhand, Gorilla? My first thought was "First Player" rules generally suck along the lines of ageism/classism, but ~somehow~ designers avoid bringing in race, sexuality, etc.

Anyway, you keep adding dice to these recaps, and I keep feeling sicker and stupider reading about them. MORE!!!
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13 Feb 2019 13:13 #292169 by Jackwraith

JonathanVolk wrote: I'm curious to get together a loose compendium of rules that re-trace the exclusionary lines of this hobby. Do you know of any others offhand, Gorilla? My first thought was "First Player" rules generally suck along the lines of ageism/classism, but ~somehow~ designers avoid bringing in race, sexuality, etc.


In my experience, there aren't really any particular to GW. I played nearly every minis game they ever produced and first turn rules ran the gamut (roll of a die, whoever had fewer points in their army, assigned faction numbers (Space Marines have the initiative over Orks in Epic), etc.) but never had any connection to the player in question. That's a far more recent phenomenon, in which I regularly see first player status given to the youngest player or the player most recently in Europe or the player with the most recent birthday or whatever.

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13 Feb 2019 14:11 - 13 Feb 2019 14:12 #292175 by GorillaGrody

JonathanVolk wrote:

This reboot had problems, including “fun” rules like “you can re-roll any failed hit rolls when attacking with the Runefang so long as you have a bigger and more impressive moustache than your opponent.”


I'm curious to get together a loose compendium of rules that re-trace the exclusionary lines of this hobby. Do you know of any others offhand, Gorilla? My first thought was "First Player" rules generally suck along the lines of ageism/classism, but ~somehow~ designers avoid bringing in race, sexuality, etc.

Anyway, you keep adding dice to these recaps, and I keep feeling sicker and stupider reading about them. MORE!!!


A lot of Eurogames have cute rules like these, and often I’m reminded of how broke I am when I read a rule like “last one to have gone to Paris will be the start player.” Then, of course, I’m reminded that these games are developed in Europe, where people make living wages and get more than two weeks of vacation time a year.
Last edit: 13 Feb 2019 14:12 by GorillaGrody.
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13 Feb 2019 14:17 #292176 by GorillaGrody

Jackwraith wrote:
It also sounds like Dark Elves are as min-maxy as ever. That Morathi rule reminds me of the ring that the last Dark Elves book had where the 4+ ward save would increase based on the strength of the attack relative to the save. So an S3 attack against a Dark Elf High Sorceress' T3 would be a 4+ chance to wound and a 4+ save. But an S5 attack would be a 2+ chance to wound and a 2+ save. It made it worse to attack her with better armed/more elite troops and the ring was inordinately frustrating to a lot of armies, especially on a 3 wound model. As a Skaven player, I was fine with it. I just sent one unit of Frenzied Plague Monks after any High Sorceress on the table. I was wounding on a 4+ but usually attacking a dozen times in each combat. Oh, and using a one-time banner to reroll hits and wounds. Law of averages, yo. Pretty soon, that ring stopped appearing on my opponents' lists, or at least on their general, which the highest ranking character (like, say, Morathi) HAD to be.

That sounds very much par for the course.

So, how much better is Kings of War? Have you tried it?

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13 Feb 2019 14:39 #292178 by charlest
I'm the resident Kings of War hater I guess, but it's far too bland IMO. It lacks special rules for units and everything feels very milquetoast. The world doesn't come alive and it feels very much as if you're going through the motions.
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13 Feb 2019 14:52 #292179 by Jackwraith
Haven't tried it. Wouldn't even know it existed until someone tossed it into a trade a couple weeks ago as kind of an extra (I'd traded a full game for an expansion; enthusiastically, mind you.) I flipped through it, didn't see anything particularly inspiring, and put it on a shelf. Unless someone offers me a full-on game of 7th or 8th Ed WHFB, the closest i'm coming to minis games these days are things like The Others and Blood Rage.

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13 Feb 2019 15:32 #292184 by GorillaGrody

charlest wrote: I'm the resident Kings of War hater I guess, but it's far too bland IMO. It lacks special rules for units and everything feels very milquetoast. The world doesn't come alive and it feels very much as if you're going through the motions.


That was my impression, too, though right now I could do with a few less flavorful units.
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13 Feb 2019 15:56 #292191 by charlest
The middle ground can only be found in those indie games. Havoc: Tactical Miniature Warfare is my go to fantasy game, although I haven't played it in awhile. It was designed by Brent Spivey, the man behind the excellent football game Techno Bowl.
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