Monday, June 29, 2009

Aftermath: Rockhead's Tournament

As I write my entry about the tournament at Rockhead’s, I am conflicted on how honest and blunt I should be about the event. To begin with, I went 1-2 for the day with my IG/DH combo list. After I recap my games, I think I will write my thoughts about the event and the general atmosphere of it.

My first game on Saturday was against a wonderful guy named John (Jonathan). He was a WFB player at heart who was picking up 40k. The game started with some awesome casual conversation about the game and our views on tournaments. For people taking notes, this is how to start off a game in a tournament when you don’t know the other person. John was truly a nice guy that was there to have a fun time and become comfortable with the rules.

The game was the two objectives mission with a Dawn of War set-up. John was playing a nicely balanced Tau list with some fun to see units like kroot and an ethereal. The board was very heavy on terrain, which meant that getting to the opponent’s objective was going to be difficult. I began the game with my grey knights, melta squad veterans and primaris on the board. I placed the LR, callidus, and Marbo in reserves, and everything else prepped for the first round hotfoot into position. The first two rounds of the game were very evenly matched.

The tide didn’t change until the third round when my russ rolled onto the board. With all of the terrain, there were not a lot of lanes for long range weapons. I would have written off the russ except that I got really lucky on the third turn with the position of John’s ethereal/firewarrior unit. They were making a bee line to defend their objective and were in the process of crossing the street when I deployed the tank. The luck was even more stacked in my favor as I rolled the scatter dice. A hit! I proceeded to wipe out the squad with the exception of the ethereal and a pair of firewarriors. Again, I am stacking this hit to luck on many fronts and not some great tactical genius on my part. With the squad decimated, it allowed my advancing units and assassin to focus on what was remaining around the objective.

After the game, we talked some more about WFB and various tactics we like to use in the game. I really hated that the game was decided by such a lucky strike as John really was a fun guy to play and get to know. Hopefully him and I can hook up for a couple casual games sometime in the future.

With regards to the second game, I am going to be blunt and just state that I felt like it was a waste of my time. I am pretty casual, but I do have a few things that can really set me off and quickly drain the fun from a game. As a practice, don’t touch other people’s stuff unless you ask if it okay. I don’t care if the model is painted or not, common courtesy is to ask before touching. Plain and simple. Second, I made a few rules mistakes, which I am happy to correct and admit, but there is a proper way to handle such situations. Sarcasm and attitude are not the proper method. Finally, be respectful of your opponent. This guy broke all three of my rules within the first few minutes of the game.

The game was a kill point mission with the 12” deployment deal. My opponent was fielding a daemon prince with lash, a chaos lord with a lash, two minimum size squads of marines in rhinos and three units of obliterators. The game can really be summarized as him hiding the two rhino units and deep striking the obliterators and HQ choices. After three turns, I had my fill of my opponent and told him that I was not having any fun and that he can have the win. The guy was clearly there to win, so I figured I would rather use the time to chat with friends than continue a game with a stranger.

The third game was against another opponent playing tau. His army was two hammerheads, two crisis suits with plasma and missiles, and two firewarrior squads in devilfish. The game was the multiple objectives in a spearhead deployment. This game was another wash for me. I could feel myself still annoyed from the second game, so I shamefully admit that I brought that attitude with me to the last game. I was more interested in wrapping up the game and going to dinner with my family than actually playing. To this end, by the fourth turn I felt like it was too much of a long shot to win and called it.

With the third game over, I called it a day and headed for the door. The organizer stopped me on the way out to get my contact information for future events. I gave him a flyer for my blog, so hopefully he saw the site and email address in the flyer.

Like I said at the start of this blog, I am going to be blunt about the event. Overall, I had fun at the event, but this is because of my first opponent and the fact that Ernie and I got to hangout. When it comes to all the negatives, I should start with myself as that is only right. I brought three armies that day. The unpainted IG/DH and the painted necrons and painted chaos daemons. My intention was to play the IG/Dh unless painting was going to be scored, in which case I was going to play the army that was the least represented of the two. Upon reflection, I wish I would have played with a painted army. There was no advantage in the tournament for playing one, but I felt like I wasn’t representing myself properly by not fielding one. I guess that makes me a snob, but if I am going to walk into a room of mostly strangers, I should make a good first impression.

The second mistake that I made was setting the wrong expectations for the tournament. I was really expecting a lot of guys who were going to be thinking like me (i.e. casual armies, slow play, more conversation, less drama). My army had its spots of cheese, but I certainly would not have called it optimized. In comparison to what I saw being brought by a lot of players, I would call my army soft. It never dawned on me that a free tournament with no prize support was going to bring out the hardcore armies like it did. I was really expecting this tournament to be a lot like the N.I.M.G.C. tournament from a few months back in terms of atmosphere and players.

I think the problem I had with the tournament was the atmosphere of it. There were some really nice guys like my first opponent, but in general, it felt like the majority of players were attending purely to win. There were two monolith armies, land raider spam, obliterator spam, and a lot of the other most common hardcore armies. While I am not opposed to any individual fielding such an army, when the room has an abundance of them, I think it does hurt the atmosphere.

I really think the root cause of this problem was the general promotion of the event. As best as I can tell, the event was pretty much plugged with very little information or detail. I am sure that it was this lack of detail that caused most players to build their armies off the word tournament. Again, I read 1000 points with no painting as meaning that this would be a casual afternoon of fun and interesting list design. Guess I don’t know how to read.

The lack of detail in the original advertising of the event also made me dislike some of the things that the TO did during the event. The missions for each round were pulled straight from the book and rolled by the TO at the start of the round. I hate this approach for a couple of reasons. First, with nothing in writing, if you were not close to the TO when he announced the mission, it was a bit confusing at the start of each tournament round. It may seem minor, but the paper helps players get started in a noisy room. Second, it makes for a boring game and promotes players bringing lists that are optimized for the missions.

Along the line of the missions, all that counted was who won the game and whether it was a slaughter. Scenarios are fun and interesting. They help to lighten the tension of a tournament by making it more than three faceless games. The way this event was scored, if you lost the first game, there was really no reason to continue playing with regards to the tournament. As I write this, I wonder if the intention of this tournament was to be a primer for the ’ard Boyz tournament being held there in a couple of weeks. It almost seemed that way. Still though, I should have asked before signing up, so I can’t blame the TO without also blaming myself. TOs that want to run this style of format should make it clear. They should also set up the event so that once players are eliminated; they are free to match-up against whomever the want. If done this way, it makes less work for the TO and gives more options to the players.

The next change that happened was the TO decided that a fourth round was going to be done. When I talked with the owner, the tournament was supposed to be three rounds. This may be fine for the true local guys that don’t have anywhere else to be, but guys like myself that have families need to schedule things. Getting out early is great, as it usually means brownie points with the wife and the likelihood that I will get to attend another tournament. Dropping a fourth round on people in the middle of the tournament just makes people look like jerks for having to leave on time.

I really wish there had been a painting requirement of some sort, or at least a contest. I wouldn’t have won either way, Ernie’s stuff is amazing, but I do believe that requiring painted armies changes the atmosphere and general makes for a better time. Again, I cannot point a finger without first pointing at myself, but still, it is nice to see painted armies, especially in smaller point tournaments.

In conclusion, I had a good time, but I feel that there is a need for some improvements before I will attend another 40K tournament at Rockhead’s. The TO seemed like a decent guy and I fully support him running the events the way he likes. My only real suggestion would be to organize and communicate the event better so players can make a more informed decision on whether or not they want to attend.


Note: If anyone that attended would like to reach out to me for feedback, information sharing, or to set-up a game, please send me an email at or feel free to post a comment in the blog.

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