Wednesday, 21 August 2013

RaffazzaTime Presents: Panzer on Good Tournament Gaming

Morning readers!

Well, to day we have... oh wait...

*Sigh* deep breath...

The views, opinions [I generally disapprove of opinions], facts and indeed, anything at all written below is entirely the view, opinion and potential delusional ramblings of its author, and I gladly pass on any and all blame to him, though I am happy to keep an appropriate proportion of any praise... 

Saying that - I fully endorse his opinions on the matter (though perhaps not all of the more... personal ... aspects)


Good afternoon campers, this is your resident lunatic speaking…

Yes indeed, Raf has let me put pen to paper once more and besmirch his blog with actual opinions. Apparently once wasn’t enough and he’s willing to let me regularly attempt to string together coherent sentences whilst abusing half the tournament scene.

This entry is inspired by recent debates, principally on the HeelanHammer podcast, on what makes a good game. Whilst the discussion on the show was quite wide-ranging I wanted to offer my penn’orth on what makes a good tournament game.

In my view the fact that a game takes place at a tournament means that, by default, two main things are different to your average club or garage game.

First and foremost both players will want to win. Even I want to win tournament games (see Panzer Aside 1). Chances are if you’ve paid your money, sat in the car for three hours with people who insist on talking shop despite your loudest pleas, burned a couple of days holiday and cashed in many shoe shopping trips’ worth of wife points, you want something to show for all this apart from a reduced bank balance and Purple Sun poisoning.

Secondly the armies on the table will often reflect this desire to win. Not everyone will be pushing the latest filth but this article assumes that both players are using armies that they expect to be able to win with at some point.

This does not mean that it’s OK to be an utter bell-end from the first dice roll on the Saturday to dice down late Sunday evening. Hopefully this entry will provide some tips that mean you will avoid any comparisons between your gaming style and having one’s genitalia sand-blasted (see Panzer Aside 2).

Top Tip 1 – Engage Your Opponent

The games that tend to stick in my mind are the ones where my opponent has been willing to join in the banter, have a reasoned debate with me if we have a rules disagreement and ultimately accepted that the dice will shaft either of us at any given moment. The result is normally irrelevant – I’ll remember it, but it was how we got there that was the fun part.

A particularly recent example of this was when I played Marcus Lake at this year’s South Coast GT. Overnight I was in the top 30 at a 200-man field with an Ogre list featuring 2 Stonehorns and the Flyrant, because I’d played 3 Warriors of Chaos players and beaten them all. Marcus’ Dark Elves however were a terrible match-up. Ogres do not like L4 Purple Sun and L4 Pit of Shades with L4 Mindrazor if you actually get near the twisted pointy eared scumbags he was pushing, and the game was pretty much one-way traffic. In short I got annihilated and it didn’t really matter what I did; the result would still have been the same.

However, despite it being a Sunday morning whitewash, Marcus was an absolute legend. We made a mini-game out of whether or not my Tyrant on a flying carpet would survive. There were drinks on offer and we even asked the TO what was the current highest margin of victory and whether I could stop him beating that. In short Marcus went out of his way to make it fun for me whilst still doing what he had to.

I’ll compare and contrast this to a game at a Winter Incursion with Jack Armstrong.

Round 3 at a 100-man event and I’m on table 2 having administered some absolute thumpings courtesy of a Bloodthirster to the face, and I’m ‘rewarded’ by getting the Zulu Dawn Lizardmen that Jack has owned the scene with. I expected to lose, and boy did I manage to do so. This game though, in a nutshell, was no fun whatsoever. Jack spoke more to a wandering friend than he did to me and we were supposed to be playing each other. I had more in-depth conversations with his girlfriend and the guys on the next table. Occasionally Jack would turn around, roll a handful of dice and take more of my Daemons off on his way to the inevitable 20-0 win, but it didn’t represent the interactive experience that Warhammer is supposed to be.

That, to me, was the height of disrespect. I’m all too aware that taking all my toys off the table doesn’t present a challenge to the top players. I’m rubbish. I know this and I’ve come to terms with it. But at least talk to me. Don’t turn me off because your mate is walking past and you’d rather talk to him. If I ever did this to someone I’d be genuinely mortified because the routine made me feel about six inches tall.

Now I know Jack is actually a decent bloke. The way he handled the list error at Midlands Open is the stuff of legends. We’ve chatted a bit recently and all was good. I’d play him again tomorrow. But that was one of the worst games I’ve had since coming onto the tournament scene and I offer it by way of example rather than a personal attack.

That’s the point of this tip. If you’re playing someone then talk to them. You’ll see your mates again and you’ll be able to catch up in the bar. But you owe your opponent the courtesy of your attention for the game. Not anyone who happens to be passing or (as has started to creep in recently) your phone / iPad. Warhammer is an interactive experience and to get the most of it, you should treat it as such.

Top Tip 2 – Don’t Download Your Army List

A pet hate for many players is the so-called netlist. Ogres with 12 Mournfang, 2 Ironblasters and a GutStar. Warriors with a Daemon Prince, a car pool of chariots and Skullfuckers. Empire with a light council, Demigryphs and cannons. Armies with no variation and that many people have brought because they hear it’s the latest filth and they should win lots of games with it.

Let me tell you a cautionary tale. My background in gaming is Warhammer 40,000 and during 5th edition of the round base fest, a codex was released for the Grey Knights. This is a particularly elite branch of Space Marines that didn’t require much in the way of models to field a viable army, and the codex was an example of Games Workshop’s finest rules writing at the time. It was, in short, total and utter complete filth that walked all over anything that had been released previously.

Not long after this release I attended a 40K event with well over 100 players. 63 of those had brought Grey Knights. 18 of those players had the exact same army list. I don’t mean similar units, I mean exactly the same. Wargear. Weapons options. Vehicle upgrades. The lists were identical.

This was what finished me with 40K. After Leafblower Imperial Guard lists I was already teetering on the edge but the Grey Kinght fiasco pushed me over. If I wanted to play chess I’d wear jamjar glasses, lose all my friends and spend every waking hour studying gambits and Torygraph puzzles (see Panzer Aside 3).

I don’t want to play chess. I want to play Warhammer and part of that is the freedom the game offers. My plea goes out to the gaming world – write your own army lists! Taking inspiration from someone else is fine. Don’t just mindlessly copy what they take because it’s not fun for anyone. You won’t know how to use it (see Panzer Aside 4) and the poor sods you’re playing will have to spend the entire weekend playing the same thing.


There is a certain school of thought that in order to pick up sportsmanship points, you have to act like Brian Blessed on crack. Lots of jumping up and down and shouting whilst getting trollied.


Let’s be honest. A lot of Warhammer players tend to be the quieter type of person. Behaving like this is likely to be extremely intimidating rather than get you the ‘good guy’ brownie points you so crave.

This is what caused that fateful exchange between Ben Johnson and I. We’re both very large adult men standing less than 5 feet away, but he still spent most of a game shouting at me. I wasn’t intimidated but it did get my back up, and I can easily see someone who doesn’t have my build and strength of conviction backing down when they shouldn’t just for an easy life.

Apologies if this looks like I’m singling Ben out because I’m not, and the fact that he’s picked up sportsmanship trophies in the meantime says that he’s sorted this out. Hell, I was guilty of similar behaviour before someone pointed out to me that I was literally scaring the children, and there are others who need to heed the same lesson us Bens have done.

Being sporting is more about being a nice guy and you don’t have to act like a drunken rhino with a foghorn down your throat to achieve that.

Top Tip 4 – Get On With It

We’ve all had those games. Games where the other guy will spend 20 minutes with his hand on a unit pushing it around the table, before finally deciding what to do with it. He’ll then repeat this on the next unit and keep this up the entire three hours. By the end of it you feel like you’ve had to run a marathon, such is the mental effort required not to force-feed a man like this his laser pointer, arc template and tape measure.

It’s OK to use your opponent’s turn to plan your moves out for your turn. Personally that’s how I do it. I start the game with a rough plan in my mind, tweak it as the game goes on, and make mental adjustments as my opponent makes his moves. By the time it comes to my turn I’m fairly comfortable with what I need to do so I can put my plan in place and crack on. Can’t remember the last time I failed to finish a game. It just doesn’t happen.

Somewhere in the middle of these extremes is the space occupied by most of the gaming community. It isn’t necessary to spend the time needed to construct a Screaming Skull Catapult in order to decide where to fire the thing (see Panzer Aside 5). Skinks are renowned as an impatient race so remember that when you put them in the 15th position that turn.

I get that people with horde armies will need more time to play the game. They have more stuff and there’s the time it takes to physically shift all that gear into the right place. But please. Please, please, please. Think about your opponent when playing such an army. Accept that you have to move a little bit faster with 300 Skaven on the table than 25 Warriors of Chaos. Don’t spend so much time sweating the small stuff in the early turns when it really doesn’t matter. This will mean that you will have the time you need when it does matter.

I’m one of those gamers that’s happy to agree things like arcs of sight and unit facings on a theoretical basis. What I mean is, if it’s clear that a unit can be placed in such a way that it’s out of line of sight of another unit, then I’ll agree this with my opponent, we both make a note of it, and the game can move on rather than him spending the time shoving movement trays around to actually accomplish it. Both of us know what he wants to do and if we’re both happy he can do it, why waste time? Again, little time savings, but it all adds up and means you and your opponent are interacting. This is officially a Good Thing.

Top Tip 5 – Chin Up

It’s a fact of tournament life. You’ve spent hours, days even, of your life on your army. You may have had to go to places you don’t want to be to play people you don’t like in order to hone the list. Loved ones will be making you pay for this weekend long into the next aeon.

And then some cunt smashes you off the table.

If you are the victim it is so easy to let your head drop. As a long-term sufferer from bipolar disorder I am all too familiar with the kind of mood swings that make  pregnant women look at me and say in a loud voice ‘what’s wrong with that guy?’. Getting my back doors smashed in on the tabletop isn’t conducive to being smiley and cheerful. You wouldn’t believe the epic sulks I used to fall into. Then I got talking with someone I was playing and he told me just how awkward it makes it for him if his opponent is looking like he’s just shot their puppy rather than rolled some good dice. I understood where he was coming from and it’s been something I’ve had to work on. Believe it or not I’ve meted out some total thrashings (see Panzer Aside 6) and the shot puppy act is hard to take.

It may be hard but smile through gritted teeth, blame the dice if it makes you feel better, and promise dire revenge next time. Chances are you will get another shot at the same opponent so then you can even the score.

Likewise, if you’re the cunt in this equation, go easy. You don’t need to spend the next two hours telling the world why you’re so great. All that gets you is a punch in the car park (see Panzer Aside 7). Make it interesting for your victim, or at least finish it quickly and give the poor man a pint. One of the things I personally appreciate most is getting a Warhammer lesson afterwards if I’ve been outplayed (OK, OK, when I’ve been outplayed…). If your opponent has done something monumentally, epically stupid that contributed to his own downfall, tell him what it was. Maybe give him some advice on what he could have done next time. It all goes a long way to creating a better impression of the game than the word ‘chumpbashed’.
[Editor's note: The two most important aspects of good gaming/gentlemanliness come into play here. It is vital that you are not a terrible loser. This robs the fun out of the person that smashed you - you are basically calling them rubbish to their face. Sure, have a laugh about the stupid dice, discuss how you think things should have gone etc. The other equally vital aspect is being a good winner. A lot of people aren't. And it can really sour the mood. I have seen it plenty. Do. Not. Be. That. Guy. Its as bad as being a bad loser. Which is a BAD THING.]

Anyway. I should probably do some of this ‘work’ thing that my erstwhile employer is paying me to do. I hope though that this has been of some use to people. If you play me and I’m not practicing what I preach then tell me, because I probably don’t know or haven’t realised. The same goes for everyone else. If you’ve had a bad game, say something. Don’t hide away and have a go later from the safety of your keyboard.

Happy gaming!

Unless you believe the Nurgle Daemon Prince with no Nurgle support units and a default model that’s painted green is ‘fluffy’, at which point please stand in the middle of an abandoned country lane so I can demonstrate the flaws in your logic…



Panzer Aside 1: Yes. I do want to win tournament games. No sniggering at the back. OK, so my army lists are usually terrible. I’ll admit that until fairly recently I believed that tactics were a particularly small brand of breath mint. However my self-delusion knows no bounds and I am usually convinced that the assemblage of sub-par units arrayed in front of me will exploit some weakness that only I’ve seen.

Panzer Aside 2: One of my more infamous Twitter comments concerned big Ben Johnson, when I stated that playing him was about as much fun as getting your cock sandpapered. I thought he knew. Turns out he didn’t.

Panzer Aside 3: It’s arguable that being called Norman, dressing in anoraks all day every day and communicating only in ‘Queen to Bishop 3’ morse code is preferable to being accused of playing 40K. Hell, an accusation of being Craig ‘#fatcraig’ Johnson is preferable to being accused of playing 40K.

Panzer Aside 4: Not entirely sure how he does it but Tom ‘of Borg’ Mawdsley manages to cram his corpulent bulk onto every passing bandwagon and still take trophies away at tournaments on a regular basis. He is the exception. Nobheads like me, possibly the only gamer to have switched to Ogres and tanked their ranking, are the rule.

Panzer Aside 5: Is there a worse model than this in GW’s current catalog? So many identical pieces, mould lines across all the detail, flash everywhere and it’s metal, so won’t stick together. If you have to build one it’s best to have the anti-depressants on hand, make sure the guns are locked up safe and warn the general population not to approach until the fucking thing is done with.

Panzer Aside 6: Sean Gill managed to get 92 points off me during our game at Midlands Open. I got his army. He may have beaten my Bloodthirster list with a Daemon Prince list at Tempest, but that was a close game. This one wasn’t. Gill, you suck.

Then again, the one time I played Steve Wren, he took me off 20-0. I have no explanation for how that happened. I wasn’t even drunk.

Panzer Aside 7: Unless you’re Ben Curry, at which point explaining why you’re so great will get you a podcast with a listener base in the tens of thousands.

Until next time!

Raf (well, mostly Ben... but still)

Monday, 19 August 2013

ETC Results Are In – Defences win Championships.

Well, you are probably aware that the ETC happened recently (if you didn’t, well, it did. I head the coverage was very good this year – from my point of view it wasn't really, lots of youtube coverage (note: hard to subtly check at work) and limited twitter coverage (note: easy to check at work)). The Warhammer World Cup, as I would prefer it to be called (original and inspired, I know), was, by all accounts, a roaring good time. In a shockingly predictable outcome, the ladies of Serbia appear to have been a big hit with the mighty travelling warriors. Some of the wargaming was good too by all accounts.

So, once the dust had settled, one thing was clear: ze Germans are the mightiest wargamers in the world. Its official, rampaging home with first place both in Warhammer and PewPewHammer. The English, being the English, forgot to bring the ETC shield to pass on to them… but I am sure they find our disorganised nature cute - in the same way a puppy chewing your shoes is “cute”…

On the WFB side, the rest of the contenders contending at the top of the table surprised no one with an interest in such things – Italy came agonisingly close to winning it, Denmark and Poland closing out the top 4 spots.

So, I thought I would put up a quick post with some (as ever) half-baked thoughts to have an initial look at something I have been thinking about for a while.

Analysing an event of this style in any detail is a huge task. Easier perhaps to look into the performance of one team, go through their match-ups, try and work out if they got those right, look for weaknesses in their lists etc etc (actually doesn't sound all that easy at all..).  All rather laborious, and not so fun as making general all-encompassing statements, so lets not bother J

What I wanted to do is look at the top performing teams/armies at the event. Now, there is a plethora of caveats that should go without saying, so let us assume they have been said. In the land of the internet warrior a legal education comes in handy (if arguably not worth the financial investment). What should be said though is that the Team-based nature of the ETC play is something few really understand without having played team events. Individual scores really should be ignored as far as “x is better than y” conversations. A player does his job if he fulfils the role his team needs him to fill – often this will mean losing (though admittedly probably by as little as possible – unless the team has some interesting notions).

Every team will have players whose roll will be to sit tight and thing of dear of England whilst Johnny foreigner does unspeakable things to them. Such is the way it has ever been. Limiting the amount of things Mr Foreigner (we are a polite people, after all – unless you find yourself in London at rush hour, but that’s a whole different conversation) is allowed to do to ones posterior is the key here – and in many ways the singular distinctive thing about the top teams. The top teams were not filled to the brim with armies that outperformed their peers by staggering degrees (though having one or two “best in race” performances obviously helped, and each of the top 3 teams had at least one of these), but rather, these teams had star curb-bitters. As is ever the case, the dashing scorers get all the attention, affection, groupies and illegitimate children, but as someone somewhere once said: Defences win Championships.

As the events of ETC 2013 culminated in an almighty climax of activity (unrelated, I understand, from the aforementioned lovely ladies), Germany and Italy ended up on the same points, with Germany winning on count-backs (in this instance, uncapped battle points). How much of an impact did the lower and higher scoring players have on the ETC result in the end? And, conversely, did the headline-grabbing all-conquering performances of the top scorers for each team make the difference in the end?

I thought I would have a look at what the numbers show if you exclude the worse and best performing players from each of the top players of the top 6 countries at the event (why top 6? Because that’s the crazy sort of power I wield around here (yes, Monday mornings are slow at work – ok, maybe they shouldn't be, but I make sure they are)). [Important caveat, because each round is capped at 100 points, total points do not necessarily lead to final positions, as can be seen by Denmark finishing above Poland despite having 10 less points – it is still, I believe, an enlightening factor though).

ETC Standing
Points without 2 worse performing players
Points without 2 best performing players

The starkest difference we see with the numbers is what happens when you remove the lowest performing armies – Italy would have comfortably won the ETC, and England would have repeated their success of last year and finished 3rd. On the flip side, remove the top players and Poland are the big winners, finishing up with 2nd highest points, but there is precious little other movement to be seen (obviously final placings would be affected by when they were scored due to the aforementioned capped rounds).

This is in no way an indictment of those who did get the low scores for their teams. Rather it highlights the importance of these armies and their players. On these fair shores at least, there tends to be a sneery under appreciation of the roll the team’s b***t plays – the consensus appearing to be along the lines that anyone could go to their ETC if their role is simply to lose by as little as possible, and in all likelihood being taken off game after game. As we can see here, their success in (or lack thereof) holding points whilst becoming all too familiar with the underneath of the proverbial bus is one of THE key differentiators between those that to win the event and those who yet again fail to get hold of any hand rolled Cuban goodness.

In conclusion, it is perhaps not surprising that ze Germans, built as they are with Teutonic efficiency in every fibre (clich├ęs are there to be used, right?) won the event with a team that solidly performed across the board. None of their players averaged less than 10 points a game, and this in itself make them an unstoppable juggernaut.

Until next time


Addendum: Obviously, these numbers don’t come close to proving anything at all. The situation a team finds itself at the beginning of a round plays a massive factor on their scores. Going into the last round, for example, Germany knew they just had to not lose too badly to Italy to hold on for the win – cue extremely defensive play (resulting in probably lower scores) and a valiant rear-guard. The quality and composition of teams each team faced also plays an obviously significant role in the scores they get.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Rise and Rise of DenialHammer.

The rise and rise of DenialHammer.

A thought occurred to me whilst listening to some pew pew podcasts (I know, shameful, but everyone has to have a sick vice in their lives… right?). A series of casts that normally disagree on almost everything agreed on one fundamental truth of the 40k game: Assault (apparently what those crazy people call close combat) is currently dead. There are apparently some exceptions – some armies can go so far out on the rock side of the game that they burst through the denial paper (yes, as we all know, GW games are Rock/Paper/Scissors in nature. Not a bad design mechanic per se – it is good that most things in a game should have a hard counter).

What was the thought I had, I hear you absolutely no one ask?

Shift the paradigms of the game, reshape the elements to comply with the reality of the different game, and it appears the same is true of WFB.

Now, some housekeeping to get out of the way first of all:
  • I am referring here purely to the 8th edition Army Books.
  • Nothing in this article is meant to indicate that this norm cannot be subverted – it is simply a look at how a majority of players I have seen use these armies.
  • On the most part, this is also a product of the UK meta, its various comp systems and, for all we know, the infuriatingly unreliable weather on these lovely green isles of ours. The traffic on the M25 probably plays a part too.
  • As in every brain dump of this sort, we are talking generalisations here. Everyone thinks they are unique, some people are, but we are mostly talking about the nameless masses here.

So, what do I mean by DenialHammer? (and has it risen?)

Ummm, not the Denial we are talking about...

Being the astute, charming and ruggedly handsome reader that I have every confidence you are, the primary meaning here is clear. DenialHammer places a disproportionate amount of energy in denying (shocking I know) your opponent what they want (in this case, Victory Points). Obviously, this has always been the case to a degree. Victory points has been the deciding factor between glorious attractiveness-inducing victory and the model-hurling, crushing humiliation of defeat (I’ve said it before, seriously guys, stop taking this game so seriously) for as long as I have played the game (in the mid-90s – yeah yeah I’m old, I know).
Allowing your opponent easy access to Victory Points is therefore a self-evident BAD THING. That’s fine.

What we are talking about (or at least, I am) is the taking of this to a whole other level. And there is good reason for it.

The single most devastating phase of the game is Close Combat. It is here where a swing of a single point of resolution, the slightest swing in favour of Lady Luck (she really is a shameless hussy), the hidden magic item or the precise positioning of a unit champion can gain you hundreds (if not thousands) of Victory Points in one fell swoop.

This leads to two approaches – those who want to engineer this, and those who don’t. Those that do have to back themselves to take out whatever their opponent can throw at them, and come out victorious, to be the last man standing on the corpse-strewn battlefield. As mentioned above, this is epically risky. I did this for a while. My Vampire Counts army was built around engineering the one combat that would win you the game. I backed it to win in combat against anything on the Warhammer battlefields of the time. Lady luck (that b**ch) and the odd little mistake, however, meant that is things did not go according to plan it was not a case of winning by a smaller margin, but of being flung from Mount Olympus into the pits of Hades, without passing Go, collecting any money, and without time to stop for a beverage.

Those too sensible to try and do this give themselves far more leeway to play with. This is good and proper. Taken to extremes it is dull as dishwater. This is not even an incitement of the players going in this direction. This direction appears to be set from none other than our mighty GW overlords (insert appropriate GW is evil, PP is the saviours of war gaming internet rage here if you must).

In my view, the shift in power of the new books has gone so far towards the denial end of the spectrum that to counter it things need to be hyper aggressive to reliably work. And the most effective hyper aggressive armies/units in the game are also; it turns out, denial focused.

Let’s take a whirlwind journey through the new books:

Orcs & Goblins – these boyz, for all of the Waaagh-laden, cockney soaked fluff in the book and in their proud heritage act on the table along the lines of a green Dwarf army with magic. An artillery park hidden behind massively hard to kill blocks, characters protected from sniping. Cheap chaff to stop stuff that could actually take those units on, whilst bombarding opponents with destructive magic. The reason? Most of the army doesn’t fight all that well, killing things at range does not give them satisfaction of killing you back, and they are cheap enough to get maximum benefit from 8th edition’s steadfast rules.

Tomb Kings – a simple army. In the land of 8th edition they have the most devastating magic phase in the game backed up with decent artillery. Constructs and cheap bodies can go into units that get to you in the mid/late game. This is not their fault really, the army’s inability to march severely hampers their aggressive potential. Some comp packs this side of the Atlantic, sometimes giving them buckets of free points, does allow the army to play in different ways, though quite normally players opt for more of the same.

Vampire Counts – sure, they have the most destructive infantry-class combat character in the game. However, as I mentioned before (and fitting with the fluff I guess), they are asking for some bad luck to ruin your day – Vampires find all sorts of incredible ways to die (just ask Chris Legg at the ETC, where his died to 2 plague monks). The natural inclination then, once you have been burnt once too many times, if the obvious choice of the book, the definition of a denial unit - Crypt Horrors. Add in a Terrorgheist or two (almost always screaming from outside of combat, where they can’t be hit back), some stupidly cheap core that can’t do anything (as opposed to the overcosted ghouls who sort of can) and the Vampire Lord guarding his harem of lesser wizards and you have the epitome of a denial list.

The Empire – the birthplace of the 1+ armour save spam. How we all love it so. Now, there are many ways to play this, but the most common, in my experience is to: take as many cannons as you are allowed (and the steam tank, because it has cannon), add in destructive magic (either light magic council with Altar support, or throw in some heavens in there). Guard all this with 1+ armour monstrous cav and 1+ armour save knights (either as denial blocks or chaff). Sometimes, if you are feeling nuts, you take big units of infantry that should never die. Very very few things can rush at this and get there in any shape to take on 1+ armour save combat units.

Daemons of Chaos – these bad boys, in their most popular incarnation, excel at one thing. Surviving. The look like a combat army, but most of it is not that good in combat. Instead, they make their opponents even worse in combat and grind them out. Nurgle’s power is incredible, and as a result there are extremely few things in the game that could hope to get through a sizable Nurgle unit in anything less than a fortnight.

High Elves – there are lot of ways to go with these robe-wearing harp players. You can (and people do) try to get them to work aggressively. And it can work to a point. They suffer from being either low strength or high strength with no rerolls. The easiest way to run them (have a look at the ETC lists if you don’t believe me) is a bucket-full of shooting (core, 4 bolt throwers, more to taste). Add in some counter punch to taste. A more balanced offering from GW this one, and a reason they are so fun to play with.

Lizardmen – the arch priest of denial Warhammer in their previous book (where if you fought a combat you did not want to in a game you felt like you let yourself down), the servants of the Old Ones may have got slightly worse at it, but it is still the obvious way to play the book. The alternative is expensive combat infantry that is in real trouble against stuff that can fight, and/or monsters that are similarly vulnerable, and not all that good against cavalry. You will see these used, and used well, but on initial reading the book is almost crying out for you to take Skink spam.

On the other end of the scale, we have the two champions of aggressive play:

Ogre Kingdoms – these hit the scene like the lumbering juggernaut they are, and single-handedly turned the existing meta on its head. The amount of damage a relatively cheap unit could do to infantry brought the end of a lot of armies relying on the combat infantry horde. The key here was that their strike units (Mournfang) had multiple wounds and heavy armour – they could wade into s3 things with little fear of reprisal. Ogres have other weaknesses that can be exploited (mediocre leadership, low initiative and needing to get into combat to rack up points), and they have, over time, been reined in to sensible levels. Interestingly, the net result of the mailed fist of the Ogres was even more denial. If you could chaff them up/refuse to fight them whilst buying time for magic to do its thing, the game was yours.

Warriors of Chaos – Ogres 2.0 J . I mentioned earlier that in the land of DenialHammer to be successfully aggressive in a denial world you have to go hyper aggressive. And these boys can do that. Fast and hard hitting units in ever slot. Interestingly though, their power comes from their ability to combine their smashing with Denial. They have few weaknesses to exploit initially. Their army often is made up of a series of hand grenades – it takes a lot of effort to bring down one chariot, and the reward is only slightly north of 100pts. Their character selections, the new breed of Chuck Norrises on the scene, are excellent precisely because they are extremely hard to kill (be it 3++ rerolling 1s, needing 6s to hit Daemon Princes or the access of Heroes to 3W T5 and a 1+ armour without using magic items). Their other strike options – notably the Scull Crushers (multiple attack Monstrous Cavalry like the Mournfang, but with better stats and a 1+ armour save (of course)) are also highly useful in expendable sizes – 3 crushers take a lot of effort for most armies to deal with (if you do get a big searing doom off on them you are unlikely to kill the unit) and don’t give up many points when they do die. There is a reason you don’t see warriors much.

So, in summary: 3 armies that normally deploy defensively whilst shelling their opponents with artillery and magic, a shambling horde whose trick is the ability to heal its units and conserve points, a “combat army” that can beat the other combat units by the singular ability of taking few casualties, an avoidance shooting army that would ideally rarely, if ever, fight combat and a nicely balanced army. Of the 2 aggressive armies that have been given to us, one is now really struggling to be effective, and the other relies on its denial quality to be very good.

Rather sombre reading (I assume, I have not read it – guess it rather depends on your definition of sombre). How can this be reversed?

I guess there are a couple of things that occur to me – no idea if they are actually good ideas or not:

More balanced Army Books – High Elves are a great book. Sure, they can do the BS shooting gunline thing, but their combat stuff is also good. I have used and faced armies of every shape and nature with this new book, and few of them scream out as obviously superior. The issue arises when a small number of options in a book are clearly better than others.

Scenarios – a staple of the UK scene is the lack of scenarios (some events do have them, but talking, as ever, in generalities). A well designed scenario pack should be able to take armies out of their comfort zone (in addition of the obvious benefit of not forcing you to play a series of Battlelines). Armies that can deploy the exact same way in every game is not a good thing. I would have to leave it to far wiser heads than I to design scenarios that would work, but it can be doable. A simple “capture the flag” type thing would at least force confrontation in the middle of the board. Sure, a “true test” of ability vs ability is probably best don’t on a Battleline, but it gets dull, and leads to a certain degree of Seventhitis (the horrible condition when you basically know what is going to happen in a game before you play it).

Comp – some love it, some hate it, I don’t care one way or another. But I do respect comp packs that try to make something happen. Someone could set out to reduce the amount of DenialHammer that occurs. How they do this, well, that’s the question! But am sure someone could do something. There are divergent opinions whether comp or no comp leads to more of this style. On the one hand, comp tends to encourage bunkering up safely. On the other, uncomped magic makes it that much more potent, and encourages magic sniping.

Fun - armies designed for fun do not tend to suffer from this. Now, if only we could figure out how to force people to have fun...

I’m sure there are plenty others – I’m open to suggestions!

On (yet another side note), it is important to note that the most successful players often flip these preconceptions on their head. To get the big wins you have to be able to push – as we covered earlier, combat is where the big points are. Being able to push in the age of denial is a skill – a combination of rolling of the dice of fate and grasping of the testicles and just going for it.

Break the mould – only thus are heroes made (am pretty sure the money and ladies follow shortly)

Until next time,