Friday, 14 March 2014

A-Swimming in Bjorn’s Blood.

Still not an article about Dwarfs.
In my defence I thought they had been out years, though it turns out the naked looking Dwarfs are called “Orcs”, and this new 40k army with its guns and planes are called “Dwarfs” (not, on pain of some yet-to-be-determined fate, “Dwarves”). Glad that’s settled.

My time has instead been taken up with the far more interesting pursuits of work, life, Warhammer and, critically, nothing involving short dudes with bad attitude and helicopters. That, and buying random X Wing stuff despite never having played a game of it.

And now, a very short recap of the last event I went to.

A couple of weeks ago now a mighty gathering of wargamers took place in the true jewel of the North of England – Stockport.
The reason, Bjorn Supremacy 3.5 – a 4 player team event.

The Bjorn event series, run by a chap who used to be someone or other called Tom, is the UK’s taste of the (in) famous Swedish comp pack. I went to the last singles event with my drink-fuelled Vlad VC list, and couldn’t help thinking the whole comp would be far more interesting in a team format. Cue some bullying and the team event was born.

Team events have become an established part of the UK scene recently (cure rage at rankings point inflation it brings) but this one was going to be different. The combined comp scores for the 4 armies in each team had to fall between 39 and 43 Swedish Comp Points. If you don’t know what that is…. Google it? Or try this link:

I teamed up with two nice chaps and a fellow from Liverpool for this event - Steve (DoC, 8 comp score), Dr “The Master” Potter (DE, 12 comp score), Raf (that’s me by the way) (LM, 14 comp score) and Matty (VC, 7 comp score). Alas we could not find an Ernest or an Emmanuelle to act as our coach, water boy, mascot or cheerleader, so our team name had to settle with SPRM.

Andy was our Captain, a responsibility I was keen to avoid, having done it far too often before. I really can’t recommend this whole “not being a captain” thing enough. Makes the whole thing far more fun.

Our lists were as follows:

Because of the need to meet the team cap, the keen eyed amongst you will realise that these are not the necessarily lists you would expect to see in a singles event. And that’s why I liked it.

So, after a nice 4am start on the Saturday and a two hour train journey to the aforementioned Northern Jewel, things were ready to kick off.

First up, we were facing the aptly named (or so I am told) SLAGS.

My tasty morsel? A pure Nurgle DoC list ably piloted by Mr Crabtree.


Here is the thing with pure Nurgle lists (and I am talking PURE, none of this “my SkullCannon has puss coming out of it, it counts, right?” nonsense…) they have no real ranged threat and little that NEEDs to be stopped in the magic phase (well, he didn’t roll the vortex, so that helped). This means you can focus on dealing with their infamous combat units whilst trying to and find a way to get the juicy points for the GUO.

Yes. I have a lot of dice. Far more not in this picture.

Aware from experience that one scar vet was not enough to deal with flies (especially a unit of 5 of them!), I ganged up the Vets and all four went (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) fly hunting. They were in one unit for two sound tactical reasons – firstly, one unit of 4 Scar Vets is cool, and secondly (and less importantly) it makes buffing them easier. The side effect of this epic winningness is that they also all fail charges together. Every time.

Where has the Great Unclean One gone? Poor thing!

Pulling his flies back from their certain doom, Dave advanced with his foot troops, and then made probably the only real mistake of the game (4 vets in one unit, as we have established, not being a mistake, but rather an avatar of winningness). He exposed his Great Unclean One (insert joke here) on one turn where I was able to bring enough skinks to bear to take him down. That, on top of the 300pt head start I had from comp, meant he had to push. With magical dominance established, the Slann and his Temple Guard friends got to partying and killed most of the remaining daemons, repelling beasts and plague bearers alike. Nearby the true combat elites of both armies (Nurglings and Skink cohorts) fought to a bitter end.

Repelling the attack of the Daemonic Legions of Poo...

20-0 win, 2439 VPs scored. And SPRM capped the SLAGS. Mission accomplished.

Next up was team Indecisive.
I could make a lumbering playing on Indecisive SPRM, but I won’t.

I got to face one of the chief disciples of the church of the fabled RatStar. But this one was the RatStar2.0 – the return of the Wizarding Hat!

I was ok with this game going in. 200 point head start, no Grey Seer to turn Slann into frogs or anything. We spent some time joking about the stupidity of the Hat. And then he rolled for his Wizarding Hat spells.
And he got Dwellers….

This was bad.
Cure frantic calls to the captain – firstly in an attempt to get Chris kicked out for some reason or other, and, when that didn’t work, to cry.
No scroll and a s3 Slann had me worried. He had more drops, so was not even like I could hide all that well. Add to this the fact he could come at me 10” a turn, and not care if the wizard died.
I honestly had no clue what to do.

Arrgh! Don't know what to do! Quick! Deploy in lines!

Deploying in lines I threw stuff to its death in an attempt to buy time whilst I thought of *something*.
His first turn was ominous. A unit and accompanying Scar Vet Dwellers’d off the table. Things were looking very very bad. I picked up the Doomwheels and decided this whole sitting at the back thing was not going to work at all. I advanced.

Pre Dwellers

Post Dwellers...

And then it happened.
Seeing a classic “8th edition charge” for the RatStar into the Temple Guard, he pulled the trigger – thereby saving me from Dwellers. And then the Wizard Warlord proceeded to blow himself and half his unit up.
The Temple Guard and Old Blood proceeded to utterly rip the unit apart in short order. From there I went all out on the offensive.

2634 VPs scored, 20-0 win. Team capped. Mission accomplished.

The third, fateful game was always likely to happen.

Arguably the current *Super Team* of the UK team events (helped that they go to more than anyone else), Team #FatCraig were the hot favourites going into the event.

I got to face none other than the progenitor (well, some say it was actually Az, but Craig gets upset if you say that) of the RatStar. #FatCraig himself (that name if apparently ok btw, firstly because it makes him pseudo famous, and secondly because he is not close to fat).

Hot off the back of the epic SlannRat game at the Masters, I was looking forward to this.
I think that if he played aggressively against me I would get a big win, and hoped he would (but knew he probably wouldn’t.

The table definitely did not help. 3 buildings and an impassable terrain piece in a vague semi-circle round one corner of the table allowed for perfect defensive play.

The RatStar chills out. And Craig's Bastiladon epically fails to hurt its master...

There is not too much to say about the game itself really (well, some cool tricks Craig pulled off, but I don’t want to spoil them), other than to say it is always a pleasure to play Craig. My one massive regret here is that my team mate Matty was going down BIG vs their DoC, and the news from our DoC was also bad. So I pushed too much, losing a good 300+ points more than I needed/should have.

[SPOILER – this ended up being a very big deal – having an accurate view of the team’s position is vital].

In the end, only 732 points scored, 11-9 win, Team lost 34-46. Bad times.

I then had a great evening involving drink, a drawing lesson and a kebab the size of my head...
I am pretty sure I sold my soul that evening too...

Onto day 2!

We knew we had to cap our last two rounds, and hope that #FatCraig dropped enough points, to stand a chance of winning.

Roll up the Kamikazee Warriors. For me: an 8 scoring DE list piloted by Phil.

I was 600 points up to begin with, so was feeling relatively comfortable, bearing some crazy final transmutation goodness. My cunning plan was to simply ignore the fast cav, giving them some stuff to play with whilst looking to pick up points from the infantry. 

If we all deploy over here, we can pretend there aren't 10 Warlocks on our right flank...

This went largely according to plan, and I managed to deal with the peg riders early doors. I was, however, worried about the massive Black Guard unit and the points it could pick up.

The Pegs commit.

Until I pulled off the trap. As they advanced towards me, the Black Guard and BSB ended a turn in a forest. The mighty Old Blood charged out of his unit into their flank, secure in the knowledge that he would be stubborn and probably not die. That freed up the rest of my army to pick on the rest of his infantry. The Old Blood did eventually kill the Black Guard and BSB to a man, and by that point the game was over.

The trap is sprung!

Lovely game, the matchup was just too in my favour for much to happen.

2750 points to me, 20-0 win. Team capped. Mission still on.

Final showdown!

Last up was Team Middle Earth – an unusually ‘nice’ name for a team full of filth, including no other than occasional contributor Panzer himself.
For me: Slatch and his Monster Mash WoC army coming in at an 8.

I wasn’t sure about this matchup at all. Not one bit, but did think that magic and shooting would soften things up and should be able to get the wind.

I was officially upset I didn't get the side with the buildings...

The magic… well, there was no magic. My winds of magic, from memory, were 2, 3, 3, 4 and eventually a 6 (or something). I was very worried about Wulfrick, and set up traps to pin him in should he arrive. Annoyingly for me he didn’t turn up till very late, by which point the elements I had put in place to stop him had had to be committed to other things (not very clever element – plan was to tie the unit down with Scar Vet).

Galrauch's Party Friends!
Unfortunately phone died after this :-(

In a scene that would do credit to some 300-inspired action film, the whole game boiled down to a last stand by the Temple Guard. First a wave of chariots and Chimera smashed into them (and their accompanying characters). Then Galrauch, Wulfrick and a Chimera smashed into the survivors. Wulfrick said something truly mean to the Slann so that the sleeping frog got all angry and had to accept the challenge. The mighty Slann, destroyer of mountains and general of a thousand victories, was pummelled to death by this random barbarian with a penchant for foreign languages in two rounds of combat. No longer stubborn but clearly filled with some incandescent rage, the Temple Guard (and characters) brought down the evil Dragon, his Chimera sidekick and the accursed Wulfrick. With only two of the regiment left, they charged the marauders, routing them and leaving only the BSB alive in the middle of the table, having finally killed the Scar Vet tasked with holding him up.

In an epic side story of this battle, one unit of Skink Cohorts picked on the mighty Shaggoth, wounding it twice with some shooting. Taking the charge of the fell beast (and wounding it again in their reaction), they held. In the ensuing combat, they shrugged off its blows, wounding it again, and causing it to flee in terror. It rallied, turned around, only to be brought down by the very same skinks.
Skink Cohorts. The. Best. Unit. In. The. Book.

2865 VPs to me, 19-1 win. Team capped.

We had done all we could, but it was not to be. #FatCraig finished a point ahead of us… Thinking back to those 300 odd points I threw away game 3…. Sigh.

But seriously - well done  done them!

Still, we took out second place, which is better than not.
On personal level it went well, 90 TPs, 11420 vps. "Bloodiest" Award. All about me right?

Good times!

Overall, a fantastic event – I can’t recommend the Bjorn series enough. That being said, probably happy there is no more Swedish comp events happening until November. You can have too much of a good thing.

Until next time!


Monday, 10 March 2014

Eulogy to 2011 (or some such time)

It has been said, on many an occasion, on more than one medium (TWF counts as a medium, right?), and by at least three people (including myself), that we are in a Golden Age of Warhammer.

Not being one that likes to contradict myself (ok, who am I kidding?), I obviously have to agree with the general statement.

Almost all (and arguably all the ones that matter) armies have been given a new 8th edition hardback army book in a never-before-seen flurry of release activity. There are FAQs that deal with most of the main issues in the game (sure, they feel like they are from a bygone era, but still, they are there). Paints… well, paints are paints, but there seem to be a lot of those around too.

Game balance continues to improve. An ever increasing number of UK events are, or as close as we are likely to see, ‘no comp’ – or at least, they are when the armies hit the table, the majority of comps focusing on army builds rather than game mechanics. Events of such scale as to be the envy of the international Fantasy world sell out in literally seconds. Clubs appear to be growing all over the place in the former gaming vacuum that is the first city of this fair isle.

I should be dancing through the rain in boundless joy at the state of things (a sentiment robbed of some thrust by unusually nice weather in London today).

At yet, I find myself wistful, longing for what is no more.

Do I think that the early days of 8th were without problems? Not at all. The combination of 8th ed mechanics and latter day 7th ed book power creep was a terrifying thing to behold. Was every book even close to equal? Not even close.
Is this simply a case of me sulking that my two chosen books did not receive exciting revamps, but rather dull (though arguably effective) face paint? Perhaps, this could well be it, but I do not think so.

No – I look at the armies upon the scene now and feel a twinge of despair.

Taken as collective and you would not be surprised to see them all in a bizarre convention that simultaneously attracted Panzer Division reenactors, “Build a Deathstar” Kickstarter pledgees and Orlando Bloom fetishists. Sure, the second one would be rather cool, but I worry about the first and last.

The big draw of 8th edition is that it enables armies to feel more like armies. This is in every single way a good thing. Unfortunately we now appear to be moving away from this.

MSU (for a fortnightly definition of the term, check out The Bad Dice Podcast) armies were unique (or at least, different) and interesting because they were, quite simply, relatively rare. Working out how to deal with them whilst also gearing up to take on several combat units was a fantastic list-building challenge.

Now I look upon the armies at clubs, tournaments and online and the overall theme is apparent:

  • Dark Elf armies are all Curry-esque in their fast cav goodness.
  • High Elf armies are all Swedish-esque (or whoever it is taking credit for that list this week) blocks of stubborn immune to magic gunlines.
  • Empire Elector Counts are frantically lending each other the keys to their Steam Tanks in some Teutonic swingers party somewhere (Jack has that effect on people it seems – I read somewhere GW have sold out of Steam Tanks). Those that lose out on Tank fun console themselves in silky sheets whilst cuddling 1+ armour.
  • Daemon armies delighted everyone with the wane of Nurgle, only to be replaced by an and endless tide of Terry-esque (or Ben or Russ-esque) MSU gunline goodness.
  • Every Warriors of Chaos player seems to have read the book, and taken the obvious stuff, and yes, that is MSU.
  • Every Orc and Goblin army is a Ben-esque gunline that prides itself on being much more effective at doing this than Dwarfs.

Gosh darn it, even VC are getting into the MSU action these days.

Now, I am talking in generalities. I appreciate that not everyone who uses such an army is doing so because someone relatively well known in the world of internet forums/podcasts has done so before. I also fully appreciate that some of these people use them because they enjoy it.


I miss infantry. And not “50 White Lions with Banner of World Dragon and 50 Archers” infantry. I miss infantry armies.
I miss Orc units Waaaghing into combat. I miss WS10 Ghouls. I miss Frenzied Corsairs. I miss (though I shudder to say it) Bloodletters. I miss Black Guard. I miss Skrox units. I miss Grave Guard. I miss magical VC charges. I miss Wood Elves being able to shoot stuff off because it had less armour and moved slower. Hell, I even miss 12 dice Mindrazor.

Most of all though, I miss that short sliver of time when most people did not know what was going on and all sorts of things made the table.

When did all the armies become so homogenous? Can anything be done about it?

A certain Craig person who was briefly famous when there was a rankings system in existence broke the mould of the Skaven book, and then Skaven left the scene, leaving the “RatStar” as the “norm”. That was probably the last great escape attempt we have seen. Maybe Sweeting’s “BigBossStar” would count, but even then, the rest of the list is a gunline. 

Comp may well be the answer. Scenarios too, if they managed to make something truly different, but very few of these alter the basic army builds we see everywhere. Even the potential cure of blonde and handsome Viking comp quickly settles into the norm after one go around. It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, the SCGT comp has on the scene, especially if this year it is borrowed by more events. It does ask the question of how much you want to play the comp roulette. All my lists are in the 0-1 Comp Point mark. I know people only looking at 8+. This implies there will be some notable variation to be seen.
We shall see, and we can only hope.

Do I blame anyone for this? Not really.
We like to compete.
If you create a list and people copy it, that’s  flattering. You have little recourse to complain (unless someone figures out a way to patent any of it…). If you see a cool idea you want to do not doing it because it has been done is stupid on the face of it.
And feel good that, whatever goes on, we are better off than 40k.

In the meantime, I am going to keep it real and go Old Skool.
And take Dwellers.

An aside
Several longer articles are in the works (including a recap of the incredibly fun Bjorn Teams event) – life and work conspiring to prevent their completion. So I thought I would fill time with thoughts as they strike me. Whilst they strike me, before I can censor myself…

Until next time