As many of you may know, I played in the Team Tournament with Goatboy; if you’re interested, there’s a rather funny video of us drunkenly playing the first game. That’s right: Friday morning and we’re high on life and a bit toasty on whiskey and Coke! Good stuff.
(Me and Goat's display board. You'll notice I brought the Storm Buster, the Dyson Pattern Storm Raven, to sit on my display board... 'cause screw 'em, that's why!)
But this report comes from Saturday so it’s time to get serious. I was playing a dude named Kenny. I’d met him and his buddy Mike in Game 3 of the Team event, when they’d put an end to our hopes and dreams.
I considered this a good draw in the sense of knowing the guy and a bad draw because I knew he could play the game. Turns out, that was prophetic.
(Kenny and Mike)
What does this have to do with Stelek and the Nova, which is what I promised to write about? Okay, I’ll tell you: straight up, I didn’t like what Stelek was building for the Nova. I thought it was a list designed not to lose, versus a list designed to win. I thought it drawish. I actually had some good conversations on the subject with some Internet notables… if you’re all nice boys and mythical Unicorns, I’ll let you in on the fun, but the point is I’ve changed my mind (at the risk of looking stupid)and I want to illustrate why.
Moving on, Kenny was playing a small, elite Blood Angels list, consisting of Mephiston, the Sanguinor, 4 Rhinos with assorted 5-man Assault Squads, a big Assault squad and a big Honor Guard. Naturally he had a few Sanguinary Priests to keep all these Marines in fighting shape.
(This picture isn't from our game but it is Kenny's army!)
I was playing my Daemons army, which is 4 Tzeentch Heralds and 3 Daemon Princes of Tzeentch all with Bolt-Breath-Gaze, 3 units of Fiends full-sized for the fight, 2 Plaguebearers, and 2 Horrors with Bolt. Some of you may know this is as a variation on the army Stelek built for me last October. The differences come from my having played it for almost a year, primarily adding Breath of Chaos, which I love. The other change was switching some ‘Bearers for some Horrors… and I’m not sure the change is worthwhile, but it wasn’t terribad.
(My Bolt 'n' Beast Daemons.)
There was an objective in the middle, two in my deployment zone, and one in his. Kenny is unfamiliar with my brand of Daemons and chooses to full reserve. I think it was a smart decision, though I know he went back and forth on it as the game progressed. I was fine enough with it, since it allowed me to Deep Strike unmolested and spread out my forces. I don’t generally try to stack my drops, believing in general that my army plays just fine without risking it. Still, I actually prefer when an opponent has everything on the table, as it allows me to focus my attack and relieves me of the later-turn surprise of units showing up where I don’t want them.
I’d had the first turn, so by the time Kenny rolled for his reserves most of my army was on the table and ready to pounce. Kenny rolled in with two Rhinos, the Sanguinor, and Mephiston. He wisely hugged an edge, cutting a goodly chunk of my army out of the fight, but I’ve got the speed to succeed and was all over him like Tasty on a cheater.
I pretty quickly destoy a Rhino, pinning the occupants, and laying wounds on both the heavies. Still, my opponent is a canny player and manages to squeeze his Marines in a corner, denying me an assault that would probably have cost him the game completely.
Turn 3 Kenny draws the Honor Guard and the Assault Squad. He sets up and charges one of my Heralds, which is why it was there, of course. I think he knew that, but the key to a good disruptor unit is being a threat that can’t be ignored. Assaulting my Herald was what I wanted, but it was still the best move available. Mephiston charges the Daemon Prince, killing him, while the Sanguinor charges my Fiends. And bites it! He made all of his Armor saves and failed the 3 Rending wounds he was called on to make. It was a blow.
In this picture, I was comfortably in the lead, but Kenny never gave up. He continued to maneuver for small gains, forcing me to commit units I didn’t really want to commit. At this point the Green Blowfly, Steve himself, walks up to the table. He looks over at me, rattling off a, “Hey Buddy!” before tucking in to watch the game.
He starts talking to Kenny and I realize they know each other. “Is this one of yours?” I ask. “Yup,” he replies. “This is WCKenny, like the president of the Wrecking Crew.”
I’ll admit, I didn’t know that, and I was a bit shocked. I’d had a bad experience playing one of their members once and I couldn’t reconcile that with Steve, Kenny, and Mike. These guys were competitive dudes but they were also sportsmen. “He’s my boy!” Steve finished saying.
“Well, I’m about to lay a beating on your boy, my man!”
That’s a strong statement to make, not because I didn’t mean it but because it could very easily be misunderstood. Still, by that point I figured I had Kenny’s measure and didn’t think he’d be offended, nor was he. He was a solid competitor with a good self-esteem, so we could appreciate trying to kick the shit out of each other. As I recall, both of them laughed and we got back to the business of finishing the game.
I’m going to end the Battle Report here. Suffice it to say, Kenny played magnificently, hoarding his resources where he could, tying me up where he was able, and blitzing for my objectives at exactly the right time.
My army suffers from being stalled out, and Kenny managed to make sure his Priests were always in the best position to give his troops Feel No Pain.
He might not have felt the pain, but I did! Ultimately, we scratched and clawed until the very last dice roll, and literally drew right down the center.
It was a great game played at a high level and we were both proud of our effort. Taking a draw in Round 1 isn’t great but it isn’t the worst thing that can happen either… for me, that came next. That’s another story though. What I want you to remember here is that while Kenny lost on Victory Points, he was playing Marines. He still had enough in the tank to fight until the bitter end. The Rhinos were key, of course. I only destroyed one before I had my hands full with the battle. I never managed to marshal the forces necessary to stop his mobility. And Kenny only had 4 tanks.
I hope you enjoyed the Battle Report, but let’s get on with the business of dissecting tournaments. Remember, I started this saying I disagreed with Stelek’s approach – and I did – but I believe I understand it better now.
Let’s break it down in three areas.
The Draw. The Terrain. The Push.
The Draw: One simply can’t count on an easy draw. The difference between WarGames Con last year and this year is simple… there were no easy games. Oh sure, for some the first round was a breeze, but not for me. I ended up drawing a Veteran player and we denied each other much needed points. I hate the Paper/Rock/Scissors analogy, but certainly you want to limit the possibility of a bad matchup.
The Terrain: It ain’t like your store. It will never be like your store. It can’t be like your store. Why? Because the TO’s will need enough terrain to cover approximately the same amount of space in the same way over many dozens of tables. If the tables are too different, the draw for tables becomes almost as important as the draw against players – and that can’t really happen, can it? So in most cases I’ve seen, the terrain is Area Terrain with plenty of cover saves but very little Line of Sight blocking. The table I played on in Round 1 wasn’t typical. Most tables had 5 pieces of forests, rocks, or hills.
The Push: The missions offer a variety of ways to earn points and getting to the top tables means maximizing those points. Typically that means being in many places at once, repositioning quickly. Turn 5 and 6 becomes a contest for points. Ask yourself this: does your army have the resources to fight bitterly for 4 turns and then still have what it takes to race to the objective? Against any army?
Okay, I’ve already hit 1500 words and I’ve barely scratched the surface of my thoughts. I’ve got more to say, including the idea of regionalism in events, but I’ve got to wrap this up and I’ll do so now.
Stelek has been dropping army variations on an almost daily basis and many of those have been variations on a theme. I think, given the three areas he’ll have to exploit, that he’s been seeing things a bit more clearly than I thought. There are many and varied strategies that a veteran gamer brings to the table, including sacking a unit to stall out a push or seizing the initiative by multiple strikes in different areas of the board. MSU Marines can do that, but they’ll also have enough left at the end to climb into their battered Rhinos and make for the sweet spots.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that we saw decent, solid Marines – nothing flashy, nothing fancy – at the top of the heap at the end of the day. I think what I was missing is that the army does many things, but ultimately it has to give the general the tools to apply to the mission at hand, regardless of what that might be.
We sometimes forget, as we craft armies, that lists don’t win games. An army is the tool a player uses to beat other players. If Stelek wins the Nova, we ain’t going to be saying Space Wolves (or Blood Angels, whichever wins out) won the Nova… we’ll be saying Stelek won it.
Just like I won Best General at the RTT on Sunday! I’m the Best of the Worst, baby!
Oh… and Kenny? He’s the president of the Wrecking Crew and an absolute beast of a dude. I had a blast playing him; he and his boys represented the best of tournament players. He won Best Overall on the Sunday RTT.
Have at it boys!