First Warhammer Tournament - Success!

April 28, 2012

As I've been talking about in some of my recent blog posts, I recently decided to attend my first Warhammer tournament (and really, my first serious/large wargaming tournament...period!).  The tournament in question is called Onslaught - it takes place in Edmonton twice a year (at the moment) usually in April and October. It is primarily run by Ward Karpach, a super nice guy who I've known for years through the local GW store(s).

First thing in the morning, people arriving and starting to set up. The tables were all full during the event.

I'm not sure what prompted this sudden urge to attend a tournament like this. I've never been a really competitive guy (exception: first person shooters!) and as you can tell from this blog, my main interest is in the hobby side of things (read: painting).  I guess mainly it was a desire to get some games in - I think Warhammer Fantasy is probably my favorite wargame, and I haven't been able to get a game going in probably over a year. The prospect of playing 4 games in one day was a little daunting but also appealing, especially given that these would be fully painted armies which always makes the game more fun imo.

I flip-flopped a lot on whether to attend or not. I'm not really sure what I was so worried about...I mean, the armies were certainly very competitive, but in the end everyone I met was extremely friendly and fun to play against. I also got approached by a number of people who knew me from facebook (the Edmonton Warhammer page) and even just this blog.

Now that I've finally gotten a taste of the tournament scene, I'm eager for more - more tournaments, and more Warhammer Fantasy!  Ward ran a great event, it was tons of fun and it ran very smoothly. I had a long chat with Dan Byer at the end of the day, and we discussed the nature of the event and the types of players you run into. I think it may be the case that Edmonton has a more laid back Fantasy crowd, and perhaps in larger events or other cities, things might be a little more aggro :)  Then again, reading some of the coverage from Adepticon - which is massive - it sounds like in general you can mostly expect to encounter pretty cool players at these things. 

A few notes before I get into the games and armies etc:

- My feet are freaking killing me. It's a long day on your feet at these things! Even with some time just sitting in my car to have a bite at lunch wasn't quite enough - I'm tempted to bring a folding chair or stool next time!

- Ditto my lower back - the tables aren't very high, so you end up kinda leaning 45 degrees over the battle for many hours.  By the end of the day, that was painful. I'm getting old. One trick is to take some extra strength Tylenol at the start of the day. I probably coulda used some at mid-day too :)

- There wasn't much time to get away from the venue, so bringing some Tim Horton's in a Thermos was very beneficial. Same goes for a few bottles of water and a few granola bars.

- There are some very good painters in the local scene - I saw some great armies on display (photos below).

- Generally players - even in a competitive atmosphere - are a pretty patient bunch. For the most part, my opponents were cool with the fact that I was really (REALLY) rusty with the rules.

- Because I will always be a little rusty with the rules, it might make sense for me to run a more elite army with less guys (Empire? High Elves? Ogres?) and not a horde army, which takes me a long time to play.

- I should probably base some of my clanrants in groups of 4-5 so I can remove casualties faster!

- I went into this event wanting to be competitive but not cheesy. I didn't take huge blocks of broken Slaves (nor could I - I don't have any painted) and I never took the 13th spell. I think maybe I'm a little too soft - maybe a little more ruthlessness woulda seen me doing better in my 4 games.

So let's do a run down of the 4 games I played:

Game 1: George Fleming, Vampire Counts

George had the dubious honor of being my first opponent in months :)  He was very patient with my sorta slow setup and overall pace of play, although I did try my best to keep things moving along. This was a really solid game, but because we are both horde armies, in a way it felt like we crashed together and then our armies just grinded on each other. I couldn't kill enough zombies and skeletons (they would raise back in droves) and I think it was similarly hard for George to break my large blocks of clanrats, especially the Screaming Bell unit. In the end, it was a draw, but a very fun game. George was a really nice guy and had a really nice looking army - favoring purple tones, which if you've seen my Vampire Counts army in the past, is a color I really like for Undead :)

(sorry, the photos aren't the greatest).

Game 2: Russel Fawcett, Empire

This was a tougher game - Russel clearly knew his stuff cold. He ran a force of mostly mounted Empire (plus a Steam Tank). It was very nicely painted (he was way too modest about it in my opinion!) and hit me like a ton of bricks. Here my rusty-ness started to show as I was having trouble keeping up with the pace - Russel knew his rules and his army so well, it was just bang-bang-bang with the dice and what needed to be rolled, combat resolution etc etc. Actually it's good he was so sharp, because he helped keep things moving quickly (games were only allotted about 2 hours each).

One thing I did right in this game - which I actually pride myself on doing in most games - was keep an eye on the actual objectives. In this case, you got points for every turn you controlled either of two areas on the board. I had my Rat Ogres parked in one of those areas for most of the game, which wracked me up a lot of points. Russel didn't really try to capture the second area. That said, it didn't matter - he still won by a massacre (literally - that's what it's called) :)  I think my Rat Ogres could have been put to much better use. In fact I learned a lot about my Skaven today which I'll sum up at the end...

Here's Russel's force with a really nice display backdrop!


Game 3: Dwight Evans, Dwarves

Wow - talk about a classic match-up: the stalwart Dwarves vs my loathsome, slinking Skaven hordes.  This was the first time I've ever faced off against Dwarves, and although I'd heard about the effectiveness of their war-machines and anti-magic, I don't think I was quite prepared for it...

OUCH - in the first turn alone, Dwight's cannons and organ guns began to tear my army apart, starting with taking out my Hellpit Abomination. Then I tried to cast Crack's Call (my list is fairly magic-heavy) and Dwight tells me "you can't cast that anymore for the rest of the game". GAH! That was my best spell!

So there I am, hurting badly from being just peppered with cannon and organ-gun fire and having my spells ripped out of my creepy little paws. In turn two, I said (really, I said it out loud) - "ok, RING that darn Bell!". And I gotta say, the rat ogre who rings the Screaming Bell delivered! The result was Deafening Peals (I think I have that name right?) - the one where everything T7 or higher on the battlefield takes an automatic D3 wounds. In any case, that result really, REALLY hurt Dwight's force. But you know what hurt more?

When I rang the SAME result in the next turn!  In effect, the Bell destroyed ...what...80-90% of his army?

So there I am thinking (a) yeesh do I feel like a bastard now and (b) I guess I'll win this game! I'm pretty sure Dwight thought the same thing...I think he said "well, I guess that's that!".

But the Horned Rat is fickle, friends, and I am as green as it gets. At this point, I made a major tactical error - I figure it's what cost me the game. I charged my Bell unit into a block of Dwarves.  And those Dwarves, over the subsequent few turns, tore that unit apart!

In the end....I lost. In fact, because we were playing Blood or Glory and based on the tournament scenario, Dwight scored a massacre against me. This was SO fail on my part.

I think I forgot to take a picture of this game.

But let me close by saying: Dwight was an incredibly nice guy, very very gracious and fun to play against. He was tough, and didn't hold back by any means, and he was shockingly cool about it when the Bell wrecked his machines. Definitely one of the nicest guys I've ever played against, and the back and forth nature of the game we had made it a real standout for the day.

Game 4: Jordan Nail, Brettonians

Brettonians, you say? My, how splendid they look - so colorful, so honorable and full of righteous holy glory! They made my rats look utterly drab by comparison.

They also dismantled me worse than any other army for the day....

Jordan was probably my favorite opponent for the day - just a really friendly guy, very patient (again, very necessary against me today) and just didn't take the game too seriously. He also offered me a lot of tips that I was really grateful for. Like "Is there a reason you are throwing 6 dice at all your spells?"  LOL - he explained to me why that was maybe not such a great idea. Which I guess I should have started realizing when I miscast and nuked most of the unit pushing my Screaming Bell for example. In any case, because Jordan gave me so many tips and insights into my army and my game play, and was just generally a very personable guy,  I ended up giving him my top Sportsman score - narrowly edging out Dwight, who I was close to giving it to after being so incredibly cool about the loss of like 8 warmachines...Man, counting George and Russel -  what a great group of players I got matched with today!

Now, Jordan I think would be the first to tell you my luck and dice were really bad in this final game. I think most of my warmachines misfired and blew up. My Hellpit wandered around doing ...not much. My doomrocket did squat. As mentioned, my Grey Seer did more damage to my own army than the Bretts did. But that's not to take away from Jordan's victory - he charged two units of Brettonian Knights into my Bell unit and it was like the hammer of God coming down on them. Holy hell did that hurt.

In the end, Jordan's army tore me apart. I think I had maybe a Hellpit left on the board. Here's a photo. Notice the lack of rats.



Here's Jordan's army - really gorgeous. I love all the variety in it!  Again, sorry about the far-away shots. Next time I'll do better with these.

So - after those 4 a friend of mine likes to joke at work: "What did we learn?"  Specifically, what did I learn about my Skaven?

- I let the Bell unit get into combat every game. I'm pretty sure that's NOT what I should be doing, and I should have screened that unit from charges.

- I did basically nothing with my rat ogres in any game. That sorta goes for the two other large blocks of Clanrats I was running. Honestly it felt like half my army just kinda wandered around.

- I think I have too many heroes and none of them are equipped well enough. Like my Chieften BSB, who has no magic items. Ditto my Plague Priest. Although, I do love this guy - his Plague spell did terrible damage to George's undead horde for example.

- I have this one-trick idea of Skitterleaping my non-wizard engineer into place and Doomrocketing the opponent. I don't think this has EVER paid off. Feels like a waste of points and effort.

- I might be running too many weapon teams (1 Warpfire Thrower, 2 Plague Mortars). They didn't feel that effective. The WFT was certainly the best of the three.

- I suck at hitting with the Warp Lightning Cannon. I know it's supposed to be awesome, but I'm terrible with it.

- Did I mention I shouldn't get the Bell unit into combat? Sure it's unbreakable...but ultimately it just seems to put my Seer and Bell at great risk, and makes it harder to get spells off against enemy units.

- I was too passive with the Hellpit, and just never seemed to have a good plan for him. He just kinda wandered around sucking.

- I think a Doomwheel would have been quite useful. I have one partially painted...

So some list re-tooling (and more painting) may be in order. 

Whew - this was a much longer post than I expected to be. Net take-aways:

- I'm glad I went, and had an awesome time

- Local Edmonton Warhammer players are a great bunch of people

- Tournament game play probably necessitates being a LITTLE more ruthless in my approach

- There are some awesome painters around these parts

- I suck with Skaven at the moment, but I see where the room is for improvement. That said, I may shift to a non-horde army

With that, I will leave you with this last bit of info: I did manage to achieve the one major goal I set for myself with this event - I won Best Presentation (read: best painted) for Fantasy! That was a great feeling, especially after putting the time and effort into painting the army, making a board etc etc.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading and please leave a comment if you are so inclined!

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