Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tavern Talk: Tournament play, comp, and what should be

Warhammer is first and foremost designed for a couple of friends to get together and have almost a co-operative experience rather than play a game. This basic concept is often poorly understood and that leads to a huge misunderstanding of what Games Workshop does with their rules sets.

This basic truth is easy to see if you simply read their material as it pervades every aspect of their printed material.  This is easy to see when in the main rule book it states, "You can simply use all the models in your collection, but most players...." (Island of Blood rulebook p. 2)

It is demonstrated by "the most important rule". It is demonstrated by the way battle report after battle report in their flagship magazine points out blatant changes/abuses of the rules in order to play a specific scenario they invent.

This truth also leads to problems when it comes to setting up tournaments. Since the books are designed almost more in terms of a co-operative endeavor than a true test of strategic and tactical skills, the rule set and various army books are full of exploitable holes.

One fine example would be the Dark Elf book. It has long been derided for its "over powered, under priced Pendant of Kaelith, Ring of Hotek, and Hydra" while others blast the Warriors of Chaos book for its "broken Infernal Puppet and H-cannon". Still other hate the Lizardman book for the talents granted a tricked out Slann while for others it is the trebuchets of the brettonians, war machines of the Dwarfs, Book of Hoeth of the High Elf army and so forth.

Virtually every army has exploitable options. This makes forming a balanced army difficult.

Consider the Wood Elf player who brings an army of Dryads, Glade Guard and Treekin, only to see them melt to the guy who brings 2 Hydras at the same point level. The Wood Elf player will be at a sever disadvantage and likely lose.

Many tournaments seek to proactively prevent this by making broad limitations such as "no double rares".

Fair enough. For many gamers, that is a preferred approach. They should have a right to game as they wish. So, however, should those who prefer to bring good units instead of poor units.

These limitations tend to have numerous and unfortunate side effects. For example, one tournament I attended in 7th edition had the "no special character, no dragons, max 6 levels of magic" rule. yet a local Lizardman player showed up with dual Engine of the Gods and a Slann who stole the opponents dice and stored them. Pity the poor Warriors of Chaos player who could not muster enough high strength attacks to deal with all that. And the Wood Elf player was completely hamstrung.

The set of restrictions created a problem.

8th edition tournament restrictions tend to have the same result. Some vocal players dislike magic so eliminate entirely the 6th spell from every lore along with making it so you can never use more than 12 power dice in an entire magic phase nor use the power scroll. Then they complain because death stars are too difficult to deal with.

The irony that the 6th lore spells are a powerful deterrent to death stars escapes them. So does the point that building a variety of army styles leads to minimizing the power of the big spell. Instead they remove a powerful strategy and thus create a powerful new archetype that fundamentally shifts the tournament metagame.

There is room for such modification but there should be more tournaments that actually follow the rules of the game.

I actually have looked at going to a large number of local tournaments but typically choose not to, and it is almost always because the comp restrictions remove my interest in playing.

I happen to like using Wulfrik, as just one example. Unfortunately, he is a 'special character' which almost every tournament specifically disallows. As soon as I see special characters are disallowed, my interest level plummets. The irony is I take him in maybe a quarter of the games I play.

By the same token, when I see "maximum 12 power dice in a magic phase" I am done with that tournament as well. If I am creative enough to build an army that finds ways to build my power dice that high it means I have sacrificed my capabilities in other departments to have a powerful magic phase. Having that strategy pre-emptively removed is something I simply do not find interesting.

As a result, I seldom play in tournaments. I would much rather have a game with my local group where I can take the models I want in the quantities I want and have a good game.

The funny thing is I often build armies that would benefit greatly from playing in a comped environment. With the High Elf army I have yet to take Teclis. With the beastmen I take an army that uses almost all core and no special characters. With the Dwarfs I do not take the Anvil of Doom or set up a gunline.

But I would rather play where my fellow players can take "all their toys" than play in an environment where I could not bring, say...two h-cannons for the Warriors of Chaos if the mood struck me.

I do understand where people are coming from who demand comp. Many people want to build armies susceptible to the 6th spells without needing to fear them, for example. Others want to build armies incapable of dealing with a double Abomination list. They want to build these armies and still have a chance to win. They believe copmp provides them with such a field. They have every right to play in that environment.

However, with few exceptions the existence of comp that I do not care for means my Warhammer playing will continue to be in the comfort of home. Or, more accurately, in my brother's garage.


John M said...

Very well said :)

Darth Weasel said...

Why thank you my good man

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