Saturday, December 20, 2008

2005 UK GT Heat One - Emperor's Children

GW events around the world use different structures for their Grand Tournament scoring. During August 2005, I was lucky enough to coincide a UK holiday with the UK Grand Tournament Heat One. The event was held at Warhammer World at GW HQ in Nottingham….and what a venue! The gaming hall has as a backdrop, the castle that you see in White Dwarf battle reports and space for up to 150 gamers. Attached to the hall are a GW shop and Bugman’s Bar serving food and drinks through the day.

The UKGT attracts gamers from across Europe and speaking to Brian Aderson (GWUK’s Events Manager) has been shaped by the feedback that they have had from participants in previous events. As such, it is billed as a “gaming” rather than “hobby” event and that is reflected in how the tournament is scored.


First and foremost is Gameplay. Six games over the weekend scored on a scale of 0-20. The games use victory points as their sole determinant and the differential between opponents at the end of the game generates the score. Three levels of victory giving 20, 17 and 13 points, draw at 10 points and three scores for defeat 7, 3 and 0. There are no bonus points.

The missions are drawn from the book and played at Gamma or Omega level. This means all games have Infiltrate and Deep Strike in them. Rather than play each mission, a random roll for mission is made prior to the game.

Presentation is a simple checkbox system. There are five boxes to tick – “Three Colour Minimum”, “Based”, “WYSIWYG”, “Detailed” and “Theme”. “Detailed” refers to unit markings while “Theme” is the obligatory 200 words of fluff. The judges also mark two categories giving a mark out of 40.

Sportsmanship is handled very simply. Each participant starts with 20 marks. There are two possible game grades – “Good” or “Poor”. If you have three “Poor” games over the weekend you lose 5 points, four 10 points, five 15 points and should all six games be “Poor” then you lose all your points.

There is no Composition scoring.

The final category is the Quiz. A mix of twenty questions based on GW fluff, rules knowledge etc.


Looking at the system it doesn’t seem too far from that used in Australasia….but in practice it is.

The “Sports” and “Painting” scoring were meant to be done in secret however the reality was that they were all done in front of your opponent. This led to an outcome whereby there were no “Poor Games” over the weekend (out of 300+ games) and so each participant retained their 20 points. I may be a little cynical but I think this outcome may have been influenced by the public nature of the scoring.

With painting, a checkbox system with clear minimum requirements meant that 98% of the participants received the top mark.

As a result of this system, Sports and Painting provided little differentiation. This meant that any variation between participants came from two categories – Gameplay and Quiz. Effectively Gameplay made up 6/7th of this variable score and the Quiz 1/7th.

The emphasis on Gameplay, combined with no Composition scoring result in a field of armies that are far “harder” than evident at most Australian competitions. I was aware of this when I put together my list, however my opponents viewed my army as softer than they would expect to face.

By way of illustration, there were 20 Eldar armies in the tournament. Between them they had 59 Wraithlords (I joked with my Iyanden opponent who was the only player to have two as to whether his fluff was “the other Craftworlds stole my Wraithlord). Marine squads were typically 5-6 strong to shoehorn in as many heavy weapons as possible while virtually every Havoc squad I saw had infiltrate (no to get forward but to deploy last.

This in itself is not a bad thing but I do believe that the lack of Composition scoring tended to restrict variety as players when for a pattern “efficient” army in each race.

I spent the tournament on the top tables winning four, drawing one and losing one game. My highlight was beating Simone di Tomasu, the UKGT Champ of the past two years in the second round. I felt that I got quite a good gauge of playing ability and believe that the top Australasian players such as David Millar, David Atkins, Alan Borthwick, Nathan Baney, Troy Forster and Hagen Kerr would be disputing the prizes if they tailored their armies to the environment.

By adopting open Sports scoring I believe it was relegated to the sidelines. I observed some tense and testy games but as I said none were recorded as “Poor Games”. The emphasis on Gameplay and de-emphasis on Sports also meant that the atmosphere was a little less relaxed. Opponents were prepared to dispute every 50/50 call whereas I see a less combative atmosphere in Australasian competitions.

The biggest disappointment was the presentation standard of the armies there. Certainly no more than 2-3 out of a field of over a hundred would be competitive for the “Best Painted” prize at an Australasian GT. Maybe I just saw a bad crop but there was nothing of the showcase standard that I had seen in White Dwarf in recent years. I am firmly of the belief that this is a reflection of the tickbox scheme used which fails to reward excellence in presentation.

The event itself was very well run with plenty of GW staff on hand to assist the participants. My only criticism of the organisation was the non-vetting of lists prior to the event. As a result we had the situation whereby a player was expelled in Round 5 and previous results amended to reflect an illegal list. I feel checking lists before the event rather than during it could solve a lot of potential problems.

Comparison with Australasia

First and foremost they are different types of event. One is aimed purely at the gamer (with minimal hobby hurdles) while the second is at the “hobbyist”. Certainly the UKGT reminded me of the “no holds barred” approach evident with a lot of historical gaming e.g. DBM. That doesn’t make it bad – just different.

I am a big fan of the Australasian system with its emphasis on all aspects of the hobby. In particular, I believe both Army Presentation and Sportsmanship should be recognised and use to differentiate players. This doesn’t mean that those that can’t paint should lose points but I do think extra effort should be rewarded. The inclusion of Sportsmanship goes without saying for me. Regardless of what some people think this is a hobby and I believe that you need a system that recognises both good and bad Sportsmanship. This to me was the biggest failing of the UK system.

Composition. I am really split on this. First and foremost I don’t believe that maths comp works. There are armies that are disadvantaged by rigorous adherence to percentages. I like Peer-based Comp but it relies on the premise that participants have a working knowledge of all codices and have a similar values system. In a lot of tournaments this may be a big presumption.

I believe that without Comp scoring of some kind, you would see a reduction in variety. Gamers are generally smart people and soon find units/weapons/structures that they believe are undercosted. Very soon you would find lists in each race gravitating to its most “efficient” iteration. Don’t believe it? I think 59 out of a potential 60 Wraithlords supports that view. With no requirement to take Wraithguard squads (a la Iyanden) why would you not put three into an Eldar army. Similar logic for Landspeeder Tornados.

To wrap this up, I think Australasia is well served by hobby events. Is there a place for the UK-like gamer events? I think so. However I think that there needs to be an understanding that they are different types of events and your army and perhaps style needs to be tailored accordingly.

Finally, I heartily recommend any gamer venturing to the UK to try and tie their visit to one of the UKGTs. Like Australia and New Zealand, I found the gamers friendly and good company. The opportunity to have a different gaming experience is one you should not miss.

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