Sunday, October 31, 2010

3rd Annual New Zealand Masters

On the 4th & 5th December I am running the 3rd Annual NZ Masters here in Wellington. These will be two day six round tournaments for the players ranked highest in the RankingsHQ rankings.

It is also an opportunity for the top ranked tournament players in New Zealand for Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40k and Flames of War to get together over the weekend.

The fields for Fantasy and 40k have been finalised after invites were sent out and accepted. The participants are as follows (current ranking in brackets):


Jack Dunn (2) - Wellington/Auckland
Joe Dixon (5) - Nelson
Rion Roben (6) - Auckland
David Meachen (8) - Wellington
Nikola Jaksic (9) - Auckland
Peter Williamson (13) - Palmerston North
Luke Brimblecombe (14) - Auckland
Mal Patel (16) - Christchurch
Raymond Dick (17) - Wellington
Tom Dunn (18) - Wellington
Locky Reid (19) - Christchurch/Wellington
Ryan Simister (Defending Masters Champion, 25) - Whangarei


Charlie St. Clair (Defending Masters Champion, 1) - Wellington
Mark Buttle (2) - Tauranga
Andrew Bartosh (3) - Auckland
Hayden Korach (4) - Hamilton
David Eagles (9) - Christchurch/Wellington
Hagen Kerr (10) - Wellington
Alan Borthwick (11) - Wellington
Ben Foster (12) - Hamilton
David Foster (13) - Auckland
Glen Burfield (15) - Levin
Wes Barclay (16) - Wellington
Craig Stewart (17) - Wellington

Special mention should go to Nikola Jaksic who placed in the Top 10 of both the Fantasy and 40k rankings.

Orktoberfest Observations

Having had a week now to digest Orktoberfest I've had time to formulate a few observations.

The composition system for Orktoberfest was one where there were a series of hard caps which you weren't allowed to violate. This made it quite difficult to gauge the strength of the list that you should aim for. You are worried that if you don't take some of the harder options then you end up with a knife at a gunfight while if you go too hard then you deny your a challenge.

In general I thought the lists at Ork tended towards the harder end but with more than a smattering of what I'd call weaker lists. I'm not sure whether the players with weaker lists took them as a conscious decision or because they haven't got their heads around 8th Ed yet.

My list was hard in that it had two WLCs. Certainly having seen what was on offer I'd probably drop one in future. That said, my list was appropriate for the match-ups I had;

Round 1 - Bloodthirster, Nails Daemon list

Round 3 - Death Magic Slaan with 2-3 of the main tricks

Round 4 - Strong Daemons, lots of fiends, usual suspects

Round 5 - Two Dragon, avoidance High Elves

Round 6 - Certainty Slaan with Life, lots of sallies

So in five of the six games I had pretty fair matchups. Notwithstanding that I'd drop the second WLC in future as two seemed to act as a flag to opponents. The list had little other shooting - the Doomrocket and 6 Gutter Runners.

Personally I would have preferred a panel comp with in-built Comp-battle (BPs adjusted by differential in Comp) but understand that when pack went up we were in early stages of 8th. Both the OZ and NZ Masters will have Player assessed comp so it will be interesting to see how this goes (I expect there will be some griping).

Leading on from this, scenarios. Orktoberfest used a half-pie scenario system over the weekend. Effectively it was Dawn Attack, 4 Battlelines and a homegrown Messengers scenario. I think that using the rulebook scenarios has a positive influence on list composition and just playing Battleline effectively encourages harder lists - ones that harvest/deny points rather than contest objectives or have to deal with scenario special rules. While people might not like all the scenarios I think that they are a great balancing factor.

Other special rules that were played were infinitely high hills, Look Out Sir on Spells and fleeing troops give up points at the end of the game. None of these added anything positive to the game. I was on both sides in terms of benefit. My Skaven characters got LOS against big spells which is a major boost. As I have said previously while the spells are potentially disastrous they are an incentive to spread the risk. Introducing abstract cover for large creatures I think is wrong. It's a fundamental rules change that is not needed. Big gribblies need to be in danger as it is very hard to get points from them in the limited turns you have before they get into combat. Again fleeing troops giving up points is not a positive rules change. Essentially without it you need to construct your list so that you must finish units off to get points. This means that your list needs to be multidimensional in that you need some form of ranged attack capability so you can get points at the end. You also need to have combat potential as winning combat is the quickest way to get points. However in winning combat you need to commit to harvest the points i.e. pursue rather than reform. This acts as a further tactical decision you must make.

The only special rule that they used that I did like was the 12 die limit on the number of power dice you can use. Without this a Slaan with Focused Rumination and Death Magic for instance would be ridiculous. It is already a very strong combo but at least it has an upper limit.

Overall I had a lot of fun at Orktoberfest - great opponents helps - but I'm unconvinced that moving the game rules away from what is in the book was successful.

I like the game out of the book with the overlay of panel composition scoring around a series of guidelines. To date I think that there is only one thing in the game that is truly broken - the Power Scroll - however there are builds and combos that are stronger than others. This can be dampened by the use of scenarios but true game balance requires a form of composition and the ability of TO to veto certain lists if they are significantly stronger/weaker than the rest of the field.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Orktoberfest Wrap

First of all apologies for the delay in posting this week, real life got in the way.

Last weekend was Orktoberfest in Brisbane and I took my Skaven across. My list (2000 points) was as follows:

Grey Seer
Plague Priest on Furnace
2x Warlock Engineers

2x 25 Clan Rats
2x 40 Slaves
1x 35 Slaves

21 Plague Monks
6 Gutter Runners

Hell Pit Abomination

The tournament was six games and though I made a few mistakes I managed to win five of my six games. All were hard fought, two turning my way in the last couple of turns. The game I lost (Daemons of Chaos - James Moorhouse, I felt hinged on one critical dice roll which did not go my way. The margin of victory in this game should have been greater to James but time ran out and he fully deserved his 16-4 win.

The tournament was dominated by Lizardmen - filling all top four slots and five of the top 10. I was next at 5th (field of 44), 5 BPs behind the winner. I also managed to pick up Players Choice for Best Painted army. Congrats to all the winners.

My opponents did not like the 2 WLCs and in future I'll drop one and restrict myself to two Rare choices to make the army more comp friendly.

I'm hoping that the Lizard lists also show some restraint in future - a Slaan with Life/Death magic, Focused Rumination and Becalming Cogitation is not much fun for their opponents. When this is layered with Focus of Mystery, Cupped Hands and placed in a Stubborn unit it gets very hard to get any points out of the army.

More later today.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Evolution of Magic

I've previously stated how much I like the 8th Edition system for Magic. The Winds of Magic coupled with the requirement to choose your lore at the time of list construction makes Magic a fickle beast.

It is also an evolutionary process. Whether driven by your local meta game or as a result of re-evaluation of lists, three months after the launch of 8th we are starting to see lore choice evolve.

I'll take a local example. One of my regular opponents plays Warriors of Chaos. Under 7th it was the Tzeentch lore choice all the way - Flickering Fire, Pandemonium and Gateway. These spells served him well and complemented his 7th Ed list build. With the advent of 8th he used this lore initially and again it worked very well. The spells were easier to cast in 8th given the +5 to cast a Tz Sorcerer Lord had.

After a few weeks I suggested to him to have a look at Shadow Magic. This lore had a series of augment and hexes that dovetailed with his WoC Combat build. He studied it and started using it - to good effect.

Fast forward two months and the two of us have started to discuss his lore choice again.While Shadow is a very strong lore, it reinforces the strengths of his WoC build i.e. it makes his strong combat troops even stronger (either by buffing or making opponents weaker). What the Lore does lack is a focus on direct damage spells and a magic missile.

This becomes very important in a list that has next to no shooting capability - particularly with the "Dead or Fled" rule and Victory Points. Essentially it restricts his offensive capacity to the Combat Phase. Now this might be more decisive in 8th but a smart opponent can exploit this reliance and likely give up few VPs.

Now we are discussing the use of Death Magic instead. Not only does it contain the dreaded Purple Sun but it also has a signature spell and one other strong direct damage spell. In this instance the choice of lore clearly strengthens the capability of the list rather than reinforcing an area where the build is already strong. He now has a ranged ability to finish off units/characters that are harbouring precious VPs.

And who knows, in three months we might be back at Tzeentch Magic for all the reasons it was originally taken?

Just to show not every is cut from the same cloth and to reinforce the point above. My son Jack uses Dark Elves. He has been using Dark Magic but has recently been considering the switch to Shadow Magic. Why? Well, whereas the WoC player has little ranged capability the Dark Elves have it in droves. That is not an area of weakness for them. Their main susceptibility is survivability in a prolonged combat and - as we have seen above - the Shadow deck has augment and hexes that perfectly provide a solution to this problem.

So in the end I suppose the message is to constantly re-evaluate Lore choice and list build in light of one another. As one changes so might the other.

Or you could just play Skaven where you are totally deprived of choice!!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Orktoberfest This Weekend - How the Valiant Were Ambushed

So this weekend I'm going to Orktoberfest in Brisbane. Fortunately for me, my lovely wife Lynne thinks us having a four day weekend in Brisbane for our wedding anniversary is a fantastic idea! I get two days to play dollies while she shops.

I love the Orktoberfest tournament. I've been the past two years and it is my favourite event of the year. There is a bit of a cloud over the 2010 event due to "The Sundering" brought on by 8th Edition but I'm sure it will still be a great event.

Of course I am taking my Skaven (I'll post up my list tomorrow) and there is the added bite that I have to overcome "The Ambush". In 2006 Brad Morin (of GW US fame) was one of the big stars of the Melbourne 40k scene. We had a first round grudge match at Liber Animus III where is Dark Eldar Wych Cult took on my Craftworld Ulthewe. I'm going to say I slapped him around (but truth be told I think it was a close one) and came out on top. The forfeit was the loser had to grow his hair for six weeks. Now Brad is a nude nut, a total chrome dome, grinning skull, whatever you want. At the end of the time his crown was covered in a blanket of ginger fuzz.

Fast forward four years and little did I know how deep the resentment ran. I suggested that Brad and I play in the first round at Ork so we can catch up and have a natter. "Sure" he says and off I go expecting a nice friendly game.

Well it's not to be. Fresh off winning Conflict in Melbourne Brad is bringing "Nails" to Orktoberfest. For him the ambush has been sprung and I wandered into blissfully unaware.

So what am I facing? well just about the hardest Daemons of Chaos list you can construct at 2000 points.

Bloodthirster? Check

Tzeentch Herald with Master of Sorcery and Lore of Life? Check

Two Khorne Heralds? Check

Two Bloodletter Buses? Check

Block of Horrors? Check

Multiple Single Fiend units? Check

Big unit of Flamers? Check

As I said - NAILS!

And like a Babe in the Woods here I am meandering blissfully unaware towards it when I submitted my list.

Really Brad you shouldn't let such bitterness consume you.

My "friend" now has the temerity to try and claim underdog status.

But still your startled hearts, dear readers - I'll try my best with Seerlord Morskitta's brave, valiant and virtuous sons of Skavenblight.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tricksey Skaven

Listening to the Bad Dice podcast the other evening Ben Johnson gave a runthrough of his games at Throne of Skulls - The UKGT. Ben was pretty honest in that the event was a demonstration of how broken the Power Scroll is - with most armies that could carrying one, documentary proof of the Ulthuan Teclis Cloning Programme etc. However he did play one opponent that made me chuckle.

Clearly thinking outside the square, his Skaven opponent in Round Four had brought along a Warlord with the Folding Fortress (100 pts) and a unit of fourteen jezzails!!! The Fortress was plonked down on his board edge and in went the Skavenblight Rifles.

Pe-ow Pe-ow

In true Skaven fashion it all went pear-shaped because it was a Blood & Glory mission and he stupidly decided to put his Warlord and BSB in with them - though I can understand the Warlord was perhaps a little bit worried about the chances of blue-on-blue. The now-single focus target eventually failed a Panic Test and fled off the board with the Warlord and Chieftain in tow. Game Over.

However, that brain fart aside, I think that the tactic could have some merit......and I think I may know just the right Watch Tower in which to put them......

Monday, October 18, 2010

Call That a Tower? This is a Tower!!!!

For the past three years I have organised the Warhammer 40k New Zealand Grand Tournament FIELDS OF BLOOD. This year a bunch of the guys who attended pitched in to buy me one of Tabletop World's new Guard Towers.

As I've mentioned before this company is based in Croatia and make high quality resin terrain pieces. The new Guard Tower is their most ambitious piece yet.

Over the past two weeks I have been painting it up and here is the end result:

To give you an idea of how big this piece is here are some pictures of a Skaven Slave Musician venturing in to wake everyone up:

The tower stands 43cm tall (around 18")and has five floors. It then sits on a purpose built hill making the whole model just over 20" tall.

Just to make the kit more impressive it has total internal detail in each of the five floors:

Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to get some better pictures but I thought I'd give you all a teaser of what is a fantastic terrain kit.

Some Marshland I've Been Building

Sorry for the lack of updates over the past few days. I didn't get any games in over the weekend but I have been building some terrain.

First up, I've been wanting to do some marshland terrain pieces for my games and this is what I came up with:

The base for these are the Games Workshop Moonscape Craters. This has then been filled with Woodland Scenics' Realistic Water. Whatever you do, do not use Games Workshop's Water Effects - it is crap!

The pieces have had Silfour Tufts added to break it up and then finished with static grass.

I'm happy with the effect.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Truncated Scoring in Tournaments

In just over a week I'm off to Orktoberfest in Brisbane. This has always been my favourite tournament of the year as not only has it attracted gamers from all around Australia but it is the last event of the tournament year. This means it is always hard-fought but immense fun.

In last year's event I won 5 out of my 6 games but only finished 20th. This shows how tough the competition is.

As an aside, the game I lost included one of the most freaky events I've seen happen on a Warhammer table. I was playing Nathan Goodchild's Chaos army and we had reached the last turn. I had the opportunity to fire my Warplightning Cannon but potential targets were limited, As I remember I shot it at a Chaos Knight to try and get the remaining points from the unit. Of course I misfired and rolled the old "Spin Wildly" result. My Skaven Warlord was by himself on my baseline 23" away from the Warmachine. With any of the other 359 degrees open, the scatter dice decided to roll exactly so it put the Str 10 shot through my lone Warlord. He promptly failed his Ward Save and took the necessary 3 wounds to kill him. Oh how we laughed!

Anyway enough digression back to the main topic.

This year at Orktoberfest the organisers have implemented truncated scoring for the first three rounds of the event. This means that for those rounds the most you can get is a 15-5 result (regardless of the VPs you earn). The rationale behind this is to try to ensure that the person who wins the event has to really perform on Day Two of the event. In the later stages of a tournament as the Swiss Chess system of player pairings has had a chance to match players, wins should theoretically get harder.

At the start of the tournament there is greater potential to get mismatches in player skill in the various pairings. There is the opportunity to have what the vets call a "Bunny Run" where you score high points against less skilled players and then have the opportunity to defend a lead against players not so "fortunate".

I am really keen to see how this pans out at Orktoberfest. The games Day One are worth a maximum 45 points while those on Day Two have the usual 60 point maximum. Looking at this prior to the event I can see how this should have the desired effect but the proof is in the dessert as they say.

It will be fascinating to see how it plays out.

Direct/Indirect Fire Revisited

Back in July I highlighted a problem in the rules regarding Direct/Indirect firing of a Stonethrower. You can find the discussion here.

In the latest FAQ GW have resolved the issue.

The rule for Direct Fire has been changed from

"place it anywhere completely within the war machine's line of sight"


"place it anywhere with the central hole within the war machine's line of sight".

That clears the issue up making it easy to ascertain if the shot is direct/indirect.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NEWS FLASH - Warhammer World Rocked By Redundancy

And in other news:

The Warhammer World was today rocked by the release of new FAQs for Army Book and the big 8th Ed rulebook.

These FAQs saw the mass retirement of Chaos Lords as the Standard of Discipline became all the rage for those from the northern wastes. Retirement homes in Kurgan, Hung and Norsca expected to see an influx of battle weary killing machines made redundant in the wake of this year's must have item.

Suddenly all the talk was of downsizing with the Sorceror Lord being the major beneficiary. Recruitment agencies were besieged by people trying to secure proponents of the Dark Arts.

"I thought I had a job for life" said Trajan Nawak, previous leader of the Nemesis Incursion, "however the guys took a vote and plumped for a restructuring."

We understand that the previously little known mage Spotin Thesun will now lead the next invasion.

Comment from other races was quick. "Well if you can't beat them" squeaked Seerlord Morskitta.

"Certainly it opens up other opportunities for me" said the Dark Elf Sorceress Malikant, "first of all I can lose this bloody pegasus."

Other races weren't so happy. "Bloody typical" grumbled Thane Snori Nosebleed.

New FAQs Out

All herald the era of the Standard of Discipline!!!!

Dark Elves
High Elves
Orcs & Goblins
Tomb Kings


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Article That Every Gamer Should Read!

Charles Black is one of the elder statesmen of the Australian Fantasy community and current captain of the Australian ETC team. Back in 2003/04 he wrote an article for the now defunct "Irresistible Force" magazine published by Andrew Galea, entitled "Warhammer Tactica". A copy of the IF issue that contains the article can be downloaded from here

To me this article is one of the best pieces of advice that a gamer (not just Warhammer Fantasy generals) can read. It breaks the thinking about your game down into stages and causes you to really think about your army, your enemies and the tactics you employ.

More than anything it has stood the test of time. Although almost seven years old it transcends the various editions of Warhammer and focuses on core principles. I find myself reading it once or twice a year....and always when I am planning a new army. Charles goes through a series of steps that you should consider and encourages you to plan for your tabletop battles.

Rather than regurgitate the article here I'd encourage all gamers to download the article and read it.

Earlier this year Charles spoke about the article with Ben Curry on the Baddice podcast. This was released as a bonus episode on the Snake Eyes section. For this interview alone I'd encourage people to sign up to the Bens' premium section. Charles presented his thoughts in relation to the current (end of 7th Ed) game in the context of the article. As I mentioned above the article was as relevant today as it was when it was written.

If you really want to improve your game I urge you to download the article and read it. You are probably doing a lot of the things contained already but if it gives you one area where you can improve then it has to be worth it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Skitterleap - What the TO Learned!


Scenarios are the glue that hold 8th Edition together. Importantly, as a suite of games, GW's rulebook scenarios act as a balancing factor on army construction.

At Skitterleap there were groans from the two players who only had Fortitude of 4 when we played Blood and Glory. In this instance the loss of a single standard cost them the game. Guess what? They both lost. Will this inform their list design in future - I hope so. On the flipside it made from some really interesting and tense games where they were on a knife's edge from Turn One.

Only brought a gunline - Watchtower is not your friend.

What I think was critical was keeping the integrity of the scenario. You held the Watchtower, you won. You broke your opponent's fortitude, you won. To do this in a 20-0 scoring system there needs to be some adaption. I did this by making the "objective" worth 1000 points AND by limiting the losing player to 9/20 Battle Points. This worked really well, I thought.

The Meeting engagement scenario was played last round. There were a lot of draws as players held their arms back. This created an opportunity for someone to come through the pack....but they didn't. The top three tables were either 10/10 or 11/9. However I'd suggest that you can't always count on that. Again I see this as a list design factor which mitigates against single big units in your army. Or at least a game plan that relies on certain units always being where you want them.

Game Time

Skitterleap was 2400 points and 2.5 hours a round. When 8th Edition came out there was instant agreement that the game was faster which meant bigger games could be played.

A lot of games had to be called before they finished. This is generally unsatisfactory for the players and is definitely so for the TO.

The fact of the matter is that some players are slow players. As a TO you'd hope they'd realise this themselves and either not take a horde army or come prepared to play fast. That is/was not always the case.

I appreciate it is a new set of rules but there was just too much slow play (all unintentional IMO).

So what is the solution?

Well players need to address this issue themselves. But as a TO the best thing I can do is decrease the points size until players get up to speed (pun intended) with the rules.

For the next six months any tournaments I run will be at the 2000 point level with round time of 2.5 hours.


These worked really well - scroll back through posts to find them. I thought the lists were balanced in the context of the scenarios we played. The top four players scored 70, 70, 69 and 67 out of 100. So in this instance no list swept its opposition. The more extreme lists failed to do well across the breadth of the scenarios.

As a TO I'm pretty happy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Skitterleap III Results

Here are the results for Skitterleap III (just click on the image):

I'll post up my thoughts on the event later today

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Skitterleap Update

At the end of the first day, the top of the Skitterleap table is very tight:

Neil Williamson (WOC) - 44
Gordon McBride (Bretonnians) - 44
Raymond Dick (Beastmen) - 41
Locky Reid (Skaven) - 41
Stu Robinson (Beastmen) - 40
Sam Whitt (WOC) - 39
Tom Dunn (DOC) - 39
Joel van de Ven-Long (Ogres) - 37
Mal Patel (Lizards) - 37
Hugh Dixon (Dwarfs) - 34
Tim Norling (WOC) - 34
Kent Jackson (VC) - 33
Mathew Collett (High Elves) - 26
Tane Woodley (Dwarfs) - 25
Alex Abernethy (DOC) - 22
Keegan Martin (High Elves) - 22
James Millington (Skaven) - 21
Mike King (Lizardmen) - 11
Ben Wadsworth (Orcs & Goblins) - 10

In Round 4, the draw is:

Neil v Locky
Gordon v Raymond
Stu v Sam
Tom v Joel
Mal v Hugh
Tim v Kent
Mathew v Tane
Alex v James
Keegan v Mike
Ben v Bye Buster

The scenario this morning is Watchtower, with the final game being Meeting Engagement.

Skitterleap - More Fun Than Watching Your Team Lose The AFL Grand Final By 9 Goals

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hidden Little Gems

You know how you can read an army book or codex a million times and then one day you spot a little gem that you've never noticed before. I had one of those last night.

I always outfit my Gutter Runners with Poisoned Attacks and Slings. However I never noticed until last night that the slings don't replace the other weapons.

So from now on if you want to charge my Gutter Runners with your fast cavalry and think I can't Stand and Shoot, well think again. My Gutter Runners still have Throwing Stars and they have the Quick to Fire rule. That means there is no minimum distance for the S&S reaction.

I'd never noticed it before.......doh!