Friday, February 26, 2010

Whiskey & 40k Night

This week it's at my place, our usual host has a sick SO.

Malifaux & 40k 1850 prep will be going on.

If you haven't heard of Malifaux before, give it a real check out; I'll include a basic battle report on whatever game tonight was most interesting, and an overview of it. It's probably one of the best "change of pace" games for 40k/dice-based strat games I've played.

Diceless miniatures-based terrain-heavy tabletop strategy game.

Tournament Scenarios - Poll Option #3 Discussed

OK, so people (all ~20 of you so far) have been voting on the above scenario list, and I thought I should better clarify what option #3 is (which has received the most votes so far).

First off, the following "missions" are all hypothetical, and I'm not endorsing them at present. If you have ideas for missions, drop them in the comments.

Let us presume the following missions are in play in EVERY SINGLE ROUND of our 4-round tournament:

1) Victory Points
2) Recon
3) HQ Objectives
4) Loot Counters (4 of them)

So, whatever round you go into, points will be awarded in some capacity for scoring VP off your opponent, for getting units into your opponent's deployment zone (and/or keeping your zone clear), for capturing / holding your "in my deployment zone" objective (i.e. book mission #2) and for capturing standard 12" from board edge and each other loot counter objectives.

In Round 1, "Victory Points" is the primary win condition. Recon, HQ and Loot Counters are in play, but are your tiebreakers/battlepoints basically. In Round 2, "Recon" is the primary win condition, and so on and so forth.

This presents an identical "base" scenario for everyone per round, but shuffles the win condition. This is easily something you could argue takes away from competitiveness vs. having an identical mission every round, but it improves variety and "fun" without having 4 completely different missions with totally whacked and different primary win conditions and battle points.

This will be something that my co-organizer, "staff" and I will toss about a lot as we go forward with planning the tournament. Your input would be most welcome. Props to first one that gets the pic ref.

- Mike

IA Rules in a Tournament Setting

In my post on composition,

Atrotos said...

Ok that clarifies things. It also makes it obvious to me that a comp score really only befits "narrative" or less competitive play.

On the subject of IA I think every tournament organizer should be including these rules. It's not an extra investment because the rules are now free online (
and as long as you inform people ahead of time everyone could be familiar with them if they took the time to read them.

The reason I think these rules are so important is because they update a lot of entries from older, less competitive codecies to bring them in line with newer ones - an important balancing issue for any tournament organizer to consider. Why should Inquisition players pay double for the same chimera the IG use?

It's the habit of most organizers to say "we won't use them because GW events don't use them" but when it comes to being progressive and forward-thinking GW's is the last example I would follow. Just my two cents. Take a look at the rules and let me know what you think.

Oh and sorry for rambling.

There are a couple of things that motivate me or concern me regarding IA rules. First, I don't think they hit all of their marks.

The capacity, for instance, to take Vendettas or Valkyries as dedicated transports for a minor investment of 105 (b/c you'll always take 2 melta) points on a storm trooper squad is over the top in a competitive sense. Why, you ask? The Imperial Guard Fast Attack section is rife with potent choices ... even the basic sentinel with the new outflanking rules and their low cost is a brilliant unit. Vendettas and Valks currently provide much needed competition with those slots. The capacity to take 3 vendettas (for example) and still take hellhounds or devildogs or what-have-you is nuts. Additionally, 5 point autocannons for Chimeras? While the autocannon is statistically similar to the multilaser against most targets, it's far different in its capacity to screw with an opponent's target priority and threat assessment - a problem that guard already presents in spades.

You're correct that some of the IA changes most assuredly bring the older codices into a more competitive place, and it's a problem in the hobby that the older ones have a far more limited spectrum of competitive builds. What you don't want, however, is for the allowance of the rules to make already dominant codices even better. A conundrum.

What this boils down to is that the top finishers at my event will qualify for Vegas, just like the rest. The Vegas tournament is a GW run event, and presumably we would want to qualify the best people for it ... so the kinds of things I ultimately allow will be influenced when more info about THAT event starts showing up on the e-mail list that the nation's circuit qualifying tourney organizers are on.
I'd be curious about peoples' input on IA inclusion, either way. - Mike

What is "Competitive?"

While perusing the following thread at Bell of Lost Souls, I came across:

There are a lot of threads just like this, but the comments by "Melissa" entered the realm of interest for me with this post.

Melissa: competitive players on average care nothing about balance except where their own side is weaker, and they frequently set out to ruin every game they play (example, whining about allowing one to select more than twelve units at a time in Starcraft 2).

and later,

To me, a competitive player is usually one who is hardcore into tournaments, powergaming and takes every single advantage without remorse or regret.

My reply pretty much summarizes a lot of my stance:

Melissa, you're referring to an asshat, not a competitive player. Being competitive is the OPPOSITE of a sin. A tournament by definition is a COMPETITION. If you are not competitive, you should not attend.

Asshats are people who take every advantage at the expense of sportsmanship, good fun, and fair competition.

If you go to a tournament and are not attempting to win your games, why are you going? I have yet to meet someone who has fun when their opponent ****s around all game and doesn't care about the game at all.

Competitive simply = sportingly attempting to win to the best of your ability. This includes understanding and utilizing the rules of the game (notice: not abusing).

Asshat = well, being an asshat.

There's an enormous breadth of people in the hobby, especially the internet, who seem hellbent on changing the definition of the word "Competitive" into something foul and uncouth. It is far from it.

In general, one of my pet peeves - that my friends know all too well - is the branding of various playstyles or army build styles as "bad."

I think this generally falls into it as well.

1) There are players out there who do not care much for painting their armies, or for being sporting beyond playing by the rules of the game fairly. I think they're fine to play this way.

2) There are players out there who barely know the rules, but build and paint gorgeous and perfectly-themed armies. I think they're fine to play this way.

3) There are players out there who enjoy building competitive lists, painting them to a solid standard, having fun while playing, and winning when possible and within the rules of the game and a sporting attitude.

4) There are players out there who enjoy breaking the rules anytime they can, as a result of their opponent's ignorance, and who subsequently enjoy talking total crap about how awful their last victim in a tournament was. I think these people play reprehensibly.

5) There are players out there who bring well-painted armies that follow a very set theme, and then spend half their time bitching about #1 and #3 above. They say that they are just "hardcore competitive" types or that they don't like to have fun, or that they don't know what the hobby is all about. I think these people are reprehensible.

Sensing a theme? EVERYONE should compete who comes to a tournament, and in fact everyone does. They compete for the sake of competing (sportsmanship), they compete to win (best general and overall), they compete via their artistry (painting, conversion), or they compete via their imagination (fluff, theme, creativity).

The onus is on the tournament organizer to make sure it is clear exactly what type of competition is going on - will painting have a bearing on overall, will sportsmanship be judged, etc. - but the onus is on the players to only attend if it is an event that suits their own preferences.

If you attend and behave like #4 or #5 above, the fault lies entirely with you. It is not your opponents' responsibility to play the game the way YOU think it should be played. One of the wonderful things about Warhammer 40,000 is that it is so deep in terms of enjoyment styles and levels. You can play the very best lists and compete to win games, or you can play balanced lists and try to prove that they are better than "netlists," or you can paint gorgeous armies that compete for awards in such a category as painting or conversion scores, or you can bring a really cool and thematic list, compete with it and hope it does well. You can even do all of the above at once, or a combination of some.

What you can do, but should not do, is shit all over the people who do one of the above but simply do it differently from you. I played in a tournament the other day, and in the final round went up against a person using a non-optimized Tzeentch list that he'd done well with all day - made it to the final table. While I beat him, it was barely. What kind of a whore would I have been to pre-game diss on him for not bringing a "perfectly optimized list." Meanwhile, he was nothing but complimentary of my painted (decently) 5vendetta+straken+meltavet guard list. It was a great game, b/tween two players with subtly different means of enjoying a game. I barely won.

More players should be like that. I would love to run into more people who paint and convert BRILLIANT armies (as his was) and yet are able to tolerate other players competing as they wish, than continue to see - across the internet and the hobby - players who angrily exclude and excoriate play styles and preferences different from their own.

As an impending host of a tournament, it will naturally be my intent to create an event that caters to #'s 1-3 above (and all the subsets I'm not referencing), but certainly does NOT cater to the latter two.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beer of the Week

Monk's Blood, 21st Amendment Brewery.

Most recently available on draught at Churchkey in DC, whose Feb 17 update is linked here:

This is a strongish (8.3%), dark, Belgian-style ale brewed with 8 different malts, Belgian candi sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and dried local black mission figs. It's oak aged, and very unique. It's unique in that it has just a slightly sweet edge that increases its appeal for the "average" drinker in a way that the typical Belgian dark ale doesn't really quite pull off.

The brew is by 21st Amendment Brewery,, out of San Francisco. They doggedly stick to serving craft beer in a can, which is a bit unique.

Of note also is their Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, which is actually a not-as-sweet-and-girly-as-it-sounds summery brew I am pretty fond of (and my GF is even more fond of). Careful note on all of their brews, though - it's almost impossible to tell age properly when it's in a can, and if you get a skunky one WATCH OUT, as it is craft beer and doesn't hold age as tolerably as simpler light pilsners. If you can find it on draught somewhere you're in luck!

- Mike

Composition or, How to Have a Not Tournament

Please don't let the title fool you - I don't "hate" Composition, I just feel it is often misrepresented.

Let me elaborate, and as I will in general do, I am talking about Warhammer 40,000.

1) Warhammer 40,000 operates with a published set of rules and codices that are available to anyone who plays the game. More importantly, anyone attending a tournament is probably going to have a rough grasp on this game.

2) People play the game of 40k differently everywhere you go. There's no right way to play it, b/c it is not a professionalized game. This isn't Baseball, or Football, where there are a prescribed set of rules and regulations that apply to the sport anywhere you go.

Or, maybe it is. If you went someplace and watched them play baseball, and runs were worth different points levels depending on how difficult or not the event host considered the scoring play to be, you would be a little perplexed. It might be interesting, it might even be fascinating ... heck, you might even want to grab a glove and a bat and participate. But wait, they don't use gloves and bats. Instead, you have to catch balls with your bare hands the way the original players did. You have to use a railroad crossbar as a bat (seriously). It's a small lead ball that they use, not a Rawlings Baseball.

Upon inquiring about the odd equipment, the event organizers tell you that this is how the game is SUPPOSED to be played, and that it encourages a totally different and unique approach, and it's way more fun. You protest, that you've played baseball the same way your entire life, and how are you supposed to excel at this new version of the game?

You can see where I'm going with this.

It's totally functional and alright to play the game of Warhammer 40,000 differently, but as soon as you diverge materially from the rules of the game, you aren't playing the game anymore. You're playing YOUR version of it. It's not Warhammer 40,000. It's Tourney Organizer X's Warhammer 40k.

Interestingly, you can't actually avoid this. No matter what you do, it's not going to be pure 40k, and probably for the best. Nevertheless, Composition requirements and limitations greatly exacerbate this problem.

If you don't like that 40k allows for a wide variety of army builds, that range greatly in terms of their competitiveness, please consider avoiding the tournament notion of the hobby, and continue to play among friends who believe that you should only build lists a certain way, or rather should never build them a certain way (6 and half dozen as those opinions are).

Warhammer 40,000 is - for better or worse - written by amateurs. The people who craft the game are not graduates of the Oxford School of Wargame Rules Writing. In some (or many) cases, they are not even fully college educated. This isn't a knock on them, but it's a wake-up call to the fact that they aren't pure pros - their rules aren't perfect. Acknowledge that the reason for this isn't that they are stupid. They're just people with jobs. Regardless, all of us tournament organizers nationwide are ... ALSO not professional rules writers. We're also amateurs. We have our opinions about the game. We are not BETTER qualified to regulate a game that we didn't write in the first place. We may prefer it were different, and that's fine, but consider strongly whether that preference - as individual and opinionated as it is - belongs in a COMPETITION.

Wherever possible, I will keep my own opinions about what units or army lists are best or most creative or how it should be done OUT of building a tournament setting. Wherever possible, I will encourage people to play by the rules of the game out there.

The most important "why" behind my stance on this is as follows: A competition should be competitive. Professional sports are competitive b/c their rules are codified and regulated across the depth and breadth of their pursuit. With only subtle variations, the game of baseball is the same for a 13 year old as it is for a 33 year old. You can learn this game via the official rules, which anyone can access. First base is first base, a run is a run, a strike is a strike.

Since everyone who attends a tournament is likely in possession of and is aware of the rules of Warhammer 40k, and the details of at least their own codex, it best supports a competitive and reliable environment on the gaming front to utilize those rules, instead of instilling our own homegrown restrictions.

Will we develop a FAQ to answer questions not addressed by GW? Probably, to as much of a degree as we absolutely must. Will we consider different restrictions for Warhammer Fantasy, where the game is *arguably* far less balanced? Possibly. Will we come up with missions and objectives that are not identical to the ones in the Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook? Again, possibly.

What must be said, though, is that composition will likely NOT play a role in the Warhammer 40k side of our event. It is just too extreme (unless it's mellow to the point of being pointless) an amendment to the BASE game. It is in and of itself unfair to the wide margin of participants, who effectively must attempt to investigate, comprehend and react to a set of entirely new army build restrictions with whatever time the organizers give them for digestion.

What are your thoughts on composition?

The NOVA Open - Hosting a Large Tournament

On August 7 (or August 14, possibly) of this year, we'll be hosting an Independent Circuit Qualifying Tournament for Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy.

This will be a 128 person (64/system), 4 round, single day tournament. Although I've hosted several tournaments, this will be the largest one I've done.

There's a lot left for us to figure out. We're finalizing location (probably the Dulles Expo Center, pending them hitting the right contract mark) and website design before publicizing it too aggressively.

For me, this will be an interesting event to host. My primary focus will be on overall event coordination, and the Warhammer 40k portion, as I am not a Warhammer Fantasy player.

Hosting a 40k event is always a challenge. There's an enormous variety of opinion and personality within the hobby, and it's always important to make sure you address this when you host a large enough event.

This brings up the important question of what a tournament should be, and what standards should be used for it.

So what is a tournament? It's different from event to event, but if we were to take it at its most fundamental level:

A tournament is a competition, involving a relatively large number of competitors, all participating in a sport or game. More specifically, the term may be used in either of two overlapping senses:

1. One or more competitions held at a single venue and concentrated into a relatively short time interval.
2. A competition involving multiple matches, each involving a subset of the competitors, with the overall tournament winner determined based on the combined results of these individual matches.

It is my opinion that #1 most clearly describes the typical 40k tournament, in that there are numerous separate competitions occurring within the event. There are often competitions for best general, sportsmanship, painting, converting, theme, composition, and others. Most often, there's an "Overall" award that factors all of these in to varying degrees, depending on the venue.

These tournaments are almost always also in the category known as a "Group Tournament," which basically means that everyone participates in a fixed number of rounds and/or events, and that the winner is determined based on the overall score they achieve throughout these rounds and events. Nobody gets knocked out, sent home early, etc. Part of the appeal is knowing you'll get 4 games in (although most events settle for only 3).

What is a "real" competitive tournament, in Warhammer 40k?

There's actually no "firm" answer to this question. The only real truth is that for a tournament to be truly competitive, it must be absolutely transparent about what it is evaluating. That is to say, that if Painting is 50% of the score of the OVERALL winner, that needs to be crystal clear well ahead of time. It would be disingenuous not to elaborate upon how things work.

The question for a tournament organizer, then, is "What will YOUR tournament place its competitive emphasis on?" Ah so, therein lies the rub.

It will take evaluation of the subjects of Game Competition, Visual Competition, Soft Scoring, and Composition to come up with an answer, and that's part of what this blog will investigate in the coming bit (presuming there are enough people visiting it to merit that investigation!).

Composition will be first.

What's In a Name?

I play tabletop wargames. I didn't always play them. In fact, there was a point in my life where such an activity never once entered the faintest corners of my imagination. Nevertheless, I do now, and like many things in the life of a young man the story of how I picked it up started with a girl.

During first half of the first decade of the new millennium, I met said girl.

Like 9 out of 10 stories in today's dating world, this one didn't end all that well. Don't worry, though. This isn't a story about a girl.

That said, the departure of this girl led to a consolation party thrown by a friend, which led to making a new friend, which led to a fortuitous Friday night visit to the house of one of THAT fellow's friends. This guy, the homeowner, was named Joe.

Still with me?

There, I was reintroduced to a game I'd played in my teens called Warhammer 40,000, produced by Games Workshop. I was also introduced to Whiskey, which until then had not been one of my beverages of choice. I'd always been a beer guy. I still am a beer guy, actually, but that's not what's important. What's important is that now I'm a whiskey guy too. A Whiskey & 40k guy.

You see, now the title of this post makes sense. So, too, does the title of this blog. I was amazingly subtle about delivering it, no?

Since that fortuitous Friday night, I've made and seen pass many a friend, including the one who threw my long-forgotten consolation party, and including the one who introduced me to Friday nights at Joe's for Whiskey & 40k. Nevertheless, Joe fast became and remains one of my closest friends, and it's because of Friday nights at Joe's that I'm writing this blog. Which, of course, means this blog is very indirectly about a girl.

So, to the meat of things.

This blog will be rambling, and generally unimportant. There will be, however, a few consistent and oft-repeated themes.

1) Warhammer 40,000. It is this subject that I will use to bring you people back from time to time. Rumor amalgamations, links to threads in various forums and blogs that I find interesting on a given day, and of course (as it wouldn't be a blog without it) my thoughts about the game of Warhammer 40k.

2) Alcohol. Note that I am neither a drunk, nor an alcoholic. I do, however, possess an enormous appreciation and palette for some of the world's most revered and ancient beverages, most especially beer. I'll recommend beers on a near-weekly or more than weekly basis, will share my stories of fantastic places to try said beverages, and will ramble about them from time to time if I try something truly fantastic.

3) Tabletop wargaming and hobbying in general. I don't *only* play Warhammer 40k.

4) The NOVA Open - my very own tabletop wargaming tournament. This year will be the first formal year of the Open, it will be a Games Workshop Independent National Circuit Qualifier (aka the top finishers will get invitations to national championships in Las Vegas), and will be a bear to plan. I hope whatever visitors I can rustle up for the site will help me with planning and detailing out some of the components of the event.

5) Ramble ramble. I will no doubt have some other recurring themes, I just don't know what they are yet.

A quick caveat on me; I think that people who utilize Blogs to self-podium their own amazing sense of the game of 40k, or games in general, are kinda douchey. It's not personal, and they probably aren't really douches, but it's a simple, non-professionalized game. It's not a sport, it's not a hobby that people compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars with. I'll no doubt share my own opinions on it frequently, and give advice about how to play it, etc. This is based purely off the fortune of only having lost a couple of games of it over the course of the past thousand or so games. Since it is a dice-based game, and since I don't travel the country playing the best of the best, I'm aware of the fact that my opinion is only that - a simple opinion. So is everybody else's.

I would compare myself to some of the other strong-opinioned "internet tough guys" of the 40k world out there, only less of a condescending asshat. I would, but I won't, b/c that would just make me another condescending asshat.

Anyway, enjoy!