As I said earlier, there are a couple of problems with running a tournament in a GW store. First off, you can’t have people playing in the store when the store is closed. There isn’t a lot of flexibility in terms of hours, so the tournament ends when the store closes, period. Next, GW stores are chronically understaffed for the purposes of running events. The staff on hand have lots of other jobs to do, such as making sales, doing demos, and talking to customers. On this particular day, there was also an Academy being taught (their new hobbyist training program), plus as assessment center for new potential hires. Whee.
So as a result they didn’t have any staff member available to run the tournament. This is more common than you’d really like to know. The standard answer for GW is “get a hobby champion to run it!” aka find a customer who will run the event for you for free just because they love you so much. Well, to seriously run a tournament, you need to be prepared, you need to be focused, and you need to be neutral. You rarely get all of these things in a “hobby champion”. In this case, they found a guy who would run the event if he could play in it. Pretty much all three requirements out the window.
To be fair to the guy and the staff, the scenarios were already printed out and two of the players (myself and my carpool buddy, David) were very knowledgeable on the rules. The staff apparently did help out enough to judge painting (though I’m not sure when they did it – not that it would have been too hard with three bare armies and three painted armies), but for everything else we were on our own. I ended up keeping track of time myself.
Round 1 – To The Death (sort of)
I’ll give the staff credit – they did plan out some scenarios that were fairly quick, particularly when you had some inexperienced players in the tournament. Round 1 was a To the Death kind of scenario that required a forward deployment from the corners. There was an objective in the middle that gave the possessor 5 extra battle points if they controlled it at the end by having twice as many models as their opponent there. One other fun part of it was that all of the tables were split 6x4s, so the tables were actually 3x4s that we were playing on. This concentrated forces to an extreme degree.
I played a new player named Matt who was putting together his list while I was gluing my static grass on. Due to an extreme shortage of models, he ran with three fully tricked out Nazgul – the Witch King, Khamul, and a generic wraith. To this he added 18 Easterlings for a total model count of 21. I outnumbered him over 2 to 1.
The table was narrow, and I had a barrier and a hill that further concentrated forces. The battle would be fought in the open center. Matt deployed along the front edge of his deployment zone, and I deployed near the back edge in a shield wall/archery formation with Gandalf in the center and cavalry on the flanks.
There isn’t a lot to write about. I actually gave the fellow suggestions on how to more effectively use what he had throughout the game, but it didn’t do much good. I gunned down about a third of his force as he walked in between the archery and Gandalf. When he started to close, I surrounded his entire force and demolished the troops then set about playing piñata with the wraiths. I finally managed to kill Khamul, but I couldn’t manage to finish off the other two Nazgul. Time was called with me having lost six models to his nineteen and me in possession of the objective.
Result – Major Victory plus bonus points (one note – due to an error in result sheets and an odd ruling by the judge/player, we counted Major Victories as Victories and Minor Victories as Draws. Go figure.)
My game ended up running the longest – David’s 73 goblin horde annihilated an all troll Mordor army, and the other game saw both forces broken, which resulted in a draw.
Round 2 – Storm the Camp (sort of)
This scenario was kind of like Storm the Camp, but you couldn’t win unless you also destroyed the opponent’s objective and you had to outnumber your opponent’s army by 2 to 1 in their deployment zone. I was matched up against David. Great. Can someone tell me how in the name of all that is holy I can outnumber (or even outmaneuver) a 73 model goblin horde list on a 3x4 table? To make matters even better, one of those models was a shade.
The terrain was fairly balanced with a hill on one side with lots of monument/ruins, and trees scattered about the field. We actually played on one of the new GW plastic gaming tables, and it was nice. I don’t know if it was $300 worth of nice, but it was nice. Apparently the things weigh 30 lbs with their carrying case.
I decided to try to hold a line between two groves of trees and send Eomer to do his worst to the goblin archers that I knew would be setting up on the other side. Silly me, David deploys and puts his objective inside a forest. Well, crap. There goes that idea. In the mean time, the goblins stretch from one end of the table to the other.
David rushes his goblins forward into fairly accurate bowfire. He takes one Rider down to volley fire, and I decide to try to run them up a flank anyway, but use the side with all the cover. I also try to send some foot models up the other flank. David ignores them other than shooting them when he gets a chance.
He slams into my force about a foot from my objective. The shade is just brutal. I manage to blast him back with Gandalf, but I don’t wound. I am managing to kill a few goblins, but he’s giving back at least as good due to the -1 I am rolling and the multiple attacks he’s getting from all of the spear goblins. He also shoots down a horse and Rider with volley fire. Damn! I finally just decide to play for the draw and send my flankers into his main force. Eomer starts doing bad things, but the other riders get killed once I start losing priority. I do manage to kill a shaman though, which makes me feel happy.
The game ends when my force hits a quarter of starting models but David still hasn’t destroyed the objective. He did get 5 bonus victory points for breaking my force. Really this should have been a Major Win for David.
Result – Draw, no bonus points
Round 3 – Contest of Champions (modified)
At this point, two of the other players have left and I’m put up against Nate (I think that was his name) with a quality Dwarf list. He has some 25 Iron Guard and Khazad Guard, a few warriors, 13 Rangers with dwarf longbows, a ballista, and a Dwarven Captain. Oh, and Malbeth the Seer thrown in for pure cheese factor. 42 models total.
This Contest of Champions scenario gives a major victory if your champion kills twice what your opponent does, a minor if you kill more but less than double, and a draw for a draw. You also get bonus points for breaking your opponent. I decide to go with Gandalf as my champion, because with the archery Nate’s got, he’ll gun Eomer off his horse in no time. I figure I’m better off with S5 blasts and Glamdring.
With only two games going, we all agree to go to full 4x4 tables. Ah, breathing room! We arrange the terrain – I try to limit the lines of sight for his ballista, but there isn’t a lot I can do. I deploy first into the standard castle type formation, hiding my cavalry behind a barricade. Nate puts his rangers on a hill in his center with the ballista on a lower spur. His main force is clustered around Malbeth with a few flankers to one side.
The game starts typically, with Gandalf firing off Blinding Light and volley firing for all. I now learn that my opponent must be very unwelcome in Vegas when he hits the legal gambling age, because he is insanely lucky. Despite Blinding Light, his ballista hits 3 of 6 rounds it can fire, including one direct hit on his target. He also gets enough volley hits to put a round on Gandalf each time, and manages to get three wounds in four rounds! To make matters worse, I fail two of my 75% chance Fate rolls!!!
OK, now I’m scared. I’ve got one wound and no fate left on Gandalf, it’s time to get him some kills. I abandon the volley firing and rush my force forward. Gandalf does manage to get some sweet Sorcerous Blasts off, taking a Fate off of Malbeth and killing two dwarves. Cool, things are starting to look up.
The lines clash and I send Eomer with several Riders into one Iron Guard, then slingshot them around to his rear via a Heroic Combat. The cavalry slams into Malbeth’s bodyguard and starts butchering them. I also Immobilize Nate’s captain to prevent him from getting any kills this round and throw Gandalf, spear supported with two other friends, into a fight with a lone Iron Guard. Cool, 4 to 2 attacks with the upper hand in Fight. No problem. I roll a 2 and three 1s. Iron Guard rolls a 5 and puts an axe into Gandalf’s head. Well, that just sucks.
OK, now I need to kill off his captain without my greatest anti-hero weapon before he can get two kills. I do make myself feel a little better the next turn when Eomer turns Malbeth into a quivering pile of hamburger. Long story short, I start losing ordinary troops to his captain, manage to pile Eomer into his captain through a Heroic Combat (blowing the last point of Might I have on the table in the process), but can’t kill him. He wins priority the next turn, and scores his third kill with the captain. Time is called, and both of our forces are broken.
Result – Draw Really, this should have been a Minor Victory for Nate.
We wrap up the tournament, and the hobby champion ends up winning the tournament (his last game was against David: Treebeard vs. Goblin Captain. You make the call), while David won Best General. I won Best Sportsman, and they didn’t announce Best Painted, apparently because they didn’t want any one person to win more than one award. OK, fair enough. I’m pretty confident I had the best painted army out there, though there was a case to be made for the hobby champion’s Minas Tirith/Grey Company/Treebeard list. However, I did manage to pull a box of Warriors of Minas Tirith out of the deal! Sweet! I now don’t have to do conversions to get my ideal force, though I will certainly do so if I have enough time.
I’m not really sure what lessons to take from this tournament. The force was a compromise, with deliberately lower numbers than I’d ordinarily have taken. With no model painting considerations, I would have mounted Ecthelion and given him a lance and three Knights of Minas Tirith with shields, dropping one warrior and adding some spears for 47 models. I don’t know how much of a difference it would have made, but the slightly higher numbers and higher defense would have been nice. I also might have been able to kill more Dwarves and maybe even the Captain with a lance armed Ecthelion. Clearly the way to kill Gandalf seems to be with volley fire (that was unbelievable) – I need to avoid getting into any kind of volley fire match-up. I need to advance full bore to direct fire range unless they don’t have any archers.
Well, next step I think is going to be getting the models I’ve painted so far up to the standard of the others – shading and highlighting plus light detailing. After that, I’ll finish the “must do” models and take a look at my next step. It will probably be converting Ecthelion followed by detailing the Citadel Guard.