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 (clichés 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.


  1. To be honest I struggle to work out what your analysis is actually telling us in this case. Were I to approach the article I'd have possibly tied it back into your previous one on the "Rise of Denial".

    What surprised me was the Daemons appearing at the top of the scoring list on a consistent basis. Sure the Death Papa, beast and PB block really doesn't like to give up points. But what were these players doing to be consistently scoring so highly, or alternatively, what were their opponents doing?!

    I see the list playing is more or less trundle forward, death snipe all characters and then push the sticky stuff into combat and papa comes out to play assuming no WMs are casting their beady eyes their direction. I have no idea if this was the case at the ETC but it's how i see it working.

    But if you face an opponent with a fairly balanced army they should have 2-3 combat threats to square off with the beasts, drones & plaguebearers and not collapse in a heap for couple of turns which means it must be the big boy coming in to do the additional impact or basically nothing is happening.

    The full list of match by match statistics aren't fully out in an excel format yet (and I've been far too busy at work to make it myself) but I'm really intrigued as to what these guys faced off against to ensure such good results.

    And what lists were people using as blockers, the obvious choices to me being Vamps, Empire and Daemons.

    All have teeth which means people can't easily rush them, all can sit back and have a decent magic phase (shooting too for emp) and each can grind in combat (empire have 1+ armour daemons have nurgle with -1 to hit and wards, vc have regrowth, numbers and crypt horrors).

    Dwarfs being one of the more classic blocker lists don't seem to serve that function any more, too many lists can just run over them these days.

    Beasts were the other list I saw as blockers (not sure how successful they were). They all seemed to have magic coming out their ears and large blocks of troops that would last well enough in the grind. Clearly the intent being snipe away with magic and then don't die too quickly.

    So I've spotted 4 armies I'd typically call blockers, guess you could call skaven too with the bell build, these guys jobs are often to be the first ones out in the pairing process and to suck it up against whatever the opposition most fancied playing them in order to grind out a result.

    Something that can't be done as results are laid out but would be really interesting is to know who put out what armies first in all of the pairings. Are there any obvious themes? I've heard a few nations talking about the armies that are sent to the slaughter every round and those players are after a 10-10 being a good result in many instances such that the matchup process allows someone down the line to get a faourable matchup to go smash a 20-0.

    Scotland took a slightly different approach, no army was designed to go out first, no army was designed to play for the draw. Instead we were looking to manage the pairings as everyone gets a decent matchup and a number of small wins gives us the round.

    Obviously results suggest this didn't quite work out but based off our estimations going into each round of the event we actually had a pretty good chance of doing just that.

    I do wonder if there is a way to game the matchup system. What army consistently beats those blockers, if there were two armies which you could place that people consistently squirmed over facing could you shape the matchup process, in fact shape the entire structure of the ETC. All of a sudden your nice safe blocker list is getting horrendously badly beaten, everyone now needs to revise their position and the blocker goes from the game. Can we dream of such a situation?

  2. Well, the point (sort of) being made is relatively simple, and not too deep or nuanced. It was something that struck me whilst looking at the scores/catching whatever coverage I could.
    There is a lot of focus on the top scoring armies. Just today in fact, there was a BDD on the very subject (and it is interested – I have had a look myself). The thing that stands out is not these guys – there is obviously a cap on how much they score in the end anyway.

    No, the interesting thing is the “blocker” idea. Despite it being widely-held wisdom, I am not sure it is a good idea. Taking England as an example of a country that used this very strategy, the underperformance of the blocking army(ies) is a critical factor in not podiuming (and I appreciate in this case some bad bad luck was in play). It’s even starker for Italy in many ways, their one significant scoring blip having a huge impact in the end (one more TP would have won the ETC). Now, I appreciate to do this justice you would have to go round by round, and see if the underperformance came at a time that mattered (ie when the cap was not reached by the team).

    Contrast this to the interview of the German (coach, I believe?) who laid out their strategy as very akin to yours. Have no bad matchups. Interestingly they had no WoC. Focus on trying to get everyone a good/decent matchup, and then rely on the players performing to get the job done. It worked brilliantly for them, it’s probably very hard to emulate.

    In summary, I guess, my view is that the “blocking”-get-your-face-kicked-in armies approach that is popularly used (normally for a basic reason that it’s the easiest approach) is fraught with danger/probably the wrong way to do it. Using England as an example (not to pick on them or any individuals there, but because I recently listened to Heelanhammer so it is fresh in my mind), Dan getting smashed apart in 4/6 games was only beneficial if the matchups it bought (for Russ mostly by the sounds of things) would be profitable enough to score the equivalent of 10 for Dan and whatever win they could have gotten against another army (in practice, an impossibility).

    Now, I have not had the time to analyse if this is a mathematically valid point of view, but was the overriding impression I got from the difference in scores in the top 6 teams. The German team only(!) had one 90+ scorer, everyone else scored above the 10 average. This surely is the aspiration?

    On your wider point – this is actually something I am looking at (and was going to be my next post, but a certain Panzer is letting rip on Wednesday). Trying to work out how some of the armies that scored so highly scored thus is fascinating.

    “but would be really interesting is to know who put out what armies first in all of the pairings”
    I completely agree – this would be fascinating reading, and provide a true insight on the whole thing.

    On the DoC lists – well, I guess overall on average they scored less than a 12 per game – the interesting ones are the ones smashing people. Having used DoC quite a bit now, am not actually that surprised. The rise (and rise!) of DenialHammer has meant armies have fewer combat units generally. The ability of Nurgle DoC to nerf the combat prowess of armies that can fight means that they in practise win any grind. Factor in the nerfing of Death Magic (their major weakness) and its not surprising that they did well. That the Germans scored what they did is a bit nuts, but he has played 150+ games with that list… be interesting to see what they faced though.

  3. Fun fact: the lowest scoring army of team Italy was WoC, with an average 7 points per game. The player was even the captain, but he's probably the most hated guy of Italian warhammer, and his list was just horrible.
    On DoC: it never stops surprising me how all over the world people keep underestimating them. I am starting to think very few people understood the new book. I personally played against the two top demons players of Italy (one of them designed the list used in etc), and trust me, in the right hands they are quite the opposite of a defensive army.

    1. Yeah, and he was directly the reason they did not win the ETC.
      Agreed - DoC are not a defensive army - they would not pick up any points if they were. They have to be used offensively