Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Building Terrain - and ... THE BLACK LIBRARY / GAV THORPE

We'll have more on how they'll be involved, BUT The Black Library will be at the NOVA Open 2011, along with advance copies of Gav Thorpe's new book!  Plus, if that wasn't enough, Gav will be there all weekend long hanging out with us.  True to form with the NOVA's style, they'll be involved with us socially as well, from evening hang-outs like the Whiskey Challenge to our planned DC Bar Crawl.

The 2nd 40k preparatory newsletter for the NOVA Open will go out either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

We had a terrain build day on Sunday, this one focused mostly on cutting assembling and sand flocking pink foam hills.

These suckers will all be classified as 4+ cover area terrain, and are pretty effective LOS blockers, built out of variable level assemblies of 2" pink foam.

Beer, good company, barbecue, a pool, and hot wire cutters.  Good times!

Doesn't it look like they're having all kinds of fun?

WIP on a very tiny # of zee hills

Tim Williamson, of the Tau of War, and Heroes of Armageddon project ... and my beautiful Highlander shinin' in the sun behind him ... why did I put it so close to a painting project?  Bullet dodged through luck alone!

I'm incapable of looking non-goofy, so I fully commit to it ... thumbs up and all

Long ways to go on the terrain we're working through; this year one of our terrain/table loaners had to drop out due to personal struggles, so our budget had to "flex" (/sigh) to handle a massive surge in what needs to be self-provided ... we've got it totally covered, and the long-term net benefit is that we will have all of the terrain and tables we need in future years self-provided and ready for yearly refurbishment and upgrade by the time 2011 wraps up.

Sorry for the slow updates, but the NOVA 2011 is a ton of work!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Throne of Skulls $.02, Differences in Formats, Competitiveness, Evaluativeness, Fairness ... Getting Along

This is a bit of an extension of a post I made on Dakka Dakka, in a discussion about the recently held Throne of Skulls championship/finals in Las Vegas, which by all accounts were extremely competitive, very well run, and a ton of fun for those involved.

Any tournament can be competitive, regardless of format. People often mix up the notions of evaluative and competitive. I.E. a tournament's competitive SIDE should in a vacuum fairly evaluate the best player in THAT tournament for THAT weekend, and the path to achieve best player should be appropriately predictable ... perceivable consequences is a phrase often bandied about.

Long story short, for the competitive side, a player should be able to say "If X, then Y." If I Massacre every game, I win, for instance.

In a NOVA, AdeptiCon, Bay Area, etc., type event - you're going into it knowing flatly that if you win every one of your games, you'll win the event's competitive track, period.

In a Battle Points and Margin of Victory type event, you're going into it knowing that the more you win BY, the better your chances of winning, unless someone beats people even MORE than you ... this is in the VACUUM sense of tournament theory LESS ideal than the first set, but still - you only will lose because someone else flat out did BETTER; that's to say, your final placement is not impacted by those who performed worse than you, only by those who performed better.

In the Throne of Skulls format, the water gets muddied even more because your final placement is not necessarily at all related to who does BETTER than you, but to how well your peers BELOW you did. Hence, you're getting quite far away from the simple notions of perceivable consequences, self-determination, and the ability to win by ... winning.

As I said earlier, I think Throne of Skulls sounds like a resounding success for those who attended, but it is not very accurate or appropriate to throw up the hands and lump ALL tournaments in together as equally evaluative or "fair" in giving players control over their own destinies.

Such control is not necessarily valuable - to the originator of the Throne of Skulls format, it was not valuable at all; generally, it was irrelevant whether players had much control over their own fates. That's OK, because it's openly stated that's the case - the format blatantly makes clear that your final placement in the overall competitive track will be in many ways divorced from your own personal success .... winning all your games helps you, but guarantees you nothing. Too bad so sad, yatta yatta.

Competitiveness is determined by the closeness of the field; if Michael Jordan in his prime were to compete against me in the most FAIR field possible at Basketball, he'd murder me so horribly it wouldn't even be funny - the fact that the format in which we played was fair and even and balanced and evaluative is irrelevant to COMPETITIVENESS ... such a match would not be competitive at all, despite the fairness of the format.

Similarly, if everyone playing in Throne of Skulls was a highly competitive player with a strong list and a lot of skills, the event was like to be EXTREMELY competitive, whether or not the final placement of the winner was his fault or the fault of his peers.

It's important, I think, that when these types of discussions start to heat up, we all take a step back and realize that there's a) a big difference between competitive and evaluative, and b) TOs are the ones with the rights to choose what is and isn't a valued function of their format, and as long as they are very clear well ahead of time about how things will pan out ... well, more power to them and try not to jump their case so much; it's not as if they've deceived or harmed you in any way.

This is most especially the case when evaluating Throne of Skulls ... the field was certainly competitive, and the event was extremely well advertised and clear in how it would play out. Beyond that, Ed and co threw an amazing time by the feedback of all who participated, and mostly great players won awards. I think it's a good point for all of us to call it a success, shake hands on differences, and look ahead to the next big events

Monday, June 20, 2011

Terrain to Expect at the NOVA Open - 40K; Thoughts on Terrain in Tournaments in General

To begin any discussion about tournament terrain, the first and most important thing to do is read Games Workshop’s own commentary on terrain for Warhammer 40,000. You may or may not always like what GW does with its company or rules, but we love and play this game for a reason … so let’s see what they say about the game.

As a general rule in Warhammer 40,000, the more terrain, the better the gaming experience. If you use too little terrain, games will be short and not very satisfactory, with too much advantage going to the player who gets to shoot first. For a balanced game, where close combat troops have a chance to get into contact with the enemy without being completely blown away in a couple of turns, we expect that about a quarter of the total playing surface should have terrain on it. The assumption here is that if terrain pieces are roughly 12” by 12”, then six or seven pieces are needed to fulfill the 25% recommendation on a standard 6’x4’ table (of course these dimensions are approximate and terrain features like woods should not be square, as irregular features look much better!).

In your terrain collection there should be a good mixture of types. An equal division between terrain which interferes with line of sight and provides cover (Such as woods or ruins), terrain which provides cover, but does not block line of sight (such as barricades, craters, scrubland and low rubble), and terrain which blocks line of sight completely (such as hills, rocky outcrops, buildings, etc.) makes for good tactical play. It is best to build your terrain collection with this in mind, otherwise the game balance could be seriously affected. Terrain that completely blocks line of sight is particularly important. Too much of it and your ranged firepower will be seriously impaired favoring assault troops; too little and the game will turn into a shooting match, with very little movement or tactical choices.

Alright … so we have a couple of things to work with here; terrain that obscures line of sight, terrain that doesn’t obscure line of sight, and terrain that completely blocks line of sight. We also know special attention should be paid to terrain that does block line of sight completely – not too much, not too little.

I actually would put your TYPICAL tournament terrain as “trees” and “low hills” covering the same category as barricades, craters, etc., with ruins and dense trees and taller hills covering the “interferes with line of sight” component, and true LOS blocking buildings and much taller hills being true line of sight blockers. Contrary to what some people will say, if your rhinos and chimeras and such cannot hide behind a piece of terrain, it is not line of sight blocking terrain for purposes of Warhammer 40,000 5th edition (A very vehicle heavy edition, as we all know). The same applies to monstrous creatures. I’m not sure if every LOS blocker should shield over-sized vehicles like Land Raiders and Vendettas, but you should at least be able to hide your transports and/or smaller vehicles to some point on the board.

Games Workshop hits on it themselves somewhat, but the biggest issue with tournament balance and gameplay is the viability of alpha strike armies … armies that by reserving when going 2nd, or deploying when going 1st …. Are simply built to overpower an enemy starting with the first turn of shooting. When you do not play with enough terrain as a general rule, you find more and more players that talk about these sorts of armies as “overpowered” and in other ways inappropriate. Good examples of this are pure missile and razorback spamming “Razorwolf” Space Wolf armies, typical “leafblower” styled long-ranged Imperial Guard armies, Darklight and/or Venom spamming DE armies, and the like. It should be no wonder that when you encounter players who use a full GW-suggested quantity of terrain in every game, they’re a little flabbergasted that these lists alone seem to garner so much ire from the internet. Now, do not mistake the notions of MSU and redundancy as being where we are going here – there are plenty of lists that leverage the tried and true strategy notions of redundancy and MSU, but do not rely entirely on long range fire and alpha striking.

The caution goes in both directions here, however – you as much do not want to encourage gunline alpha strikes BEYOND their intended balance, as you do not want to encourage pure assault armies to go beyond their intended balance.

What is the intended balance? Well, GW with its beautiful 2 paragraphs on terrain tell us more about their intent for the game and their desire to actually have balance than they do almost anywhere else. The general point here is they WANT balance.

So how do we assist this in a tournament setting?

First thing’s first – we need to minimize the differences from table to table. While it is impossible for every table at a tournament to be identical and equally fair (At least at a larger event) resource-wise … and frankly excitement-wise … it IS possible for every table to have the same basic terrain format. For the NOVA, we’ve extensively playtested and tournament-run with an “x” formation of larger terrain pieces, and a couple of smaller items. We want the terrain itself to cover about 25% of the board, and be a good mix of types. Here’s a sample chucked into a board quarter marker on Vassal.

We need at least one piece that completely blocks line of sight … and if one is where we’re going with that, it needs to probably go in the center of the table. “Centering” your main line of sight blocking terrain accomplishes a couple of things very quickly. First, an alpha striking army needs to make the difficult decision of deploying “split” into corners if it wants clear fire to all parts of an opposing army; if it chooses to castle or deploy centered, it’s going to have to contend with line of sight blockage. This single piece of terrain alone is the first BIG step in balancing out alpha strike long range vs. close combat and/or short range styled army builds. You do not want to go too far here – if you place your large LOS-blocking or partially los-blocking piece in the center, you need to leave the areas to the left and right to it more wide open; this presents the tactical challenge to both players of how to address crossing / preventing the crossing of the board – center with cover and LOS blockage, or sides with openness but division of forces / sacrifice of the mobility advantages the center offers. If you put los blocking pieces ACROSS the center at even intervals, you’ve instantly harmed the balance of the game TOO much in one direction – close combat armies, jump armies, etc., can all cross the board in whatever capacity they wish … all choices are equally safe.

The next thing we need to do is place the remainder of our terrain for TOURNAMENT BALANCE purposes. It is reality that in a larger setting, people rarely have the willingness to run around a long row of tables by choosing the OTHER side of where they randomly wound up upon arriving at their table assignment. You do not want the entire flow and balance of the game to fall upon the comfort or feasibility of where players are in a row of tables, and their ability to lug their army all the way around it. For this reason, you want the terrain to generally be fair for both players REGARDLESS of table side or deployment style. Dawn of War is less important to factor in here than Spearhead and Pitched Battle. To keep things square here, our 4 remaining larger pieces that provide at least some LOS obscuring is to place one in each quarter of the board, nominally around the center of the quarter. This is the final piece of the puzzle in encouraging games to be tactical, and balanced regardless of pure firepower, in that it enables a player to deploy covered if he/she so chooses. This protects the player with foresight from getting blown off the board or forced into unwilling reserves simply off the “who goes first” dice roll, or the initiative seize. We’ve also offset them away from “lining up” with the larger LOS Blocker in center, so if a closer range army wants to heavily utilize these offset pieces for cover on deployment, they are going to have a more difficult path across the board if they want to stay covered. Choices, and the freedom to play without the terrain inhibiting or helping you to an unfair degree, are what we’re going for here.

Finally, we’ve got a couple of small pieces to round out the 25% and give the board tactical depth … the “safe” bet is to place them centered along the long table edges, and aligned with the centerpiece. You don’t want these particular pieces to be too LOS-blockish … some is ok, but mainly they should be lighter area terrain type items.

The result is a board that looks something like this for either Quarters or Pitched Battle deployments:

The most important catch with all this is to do what you can to accomplish the MINIMUM first on all boards. Acquiring and providing roughly equivalent terrain across the length and breadth of a large tournament is one of the most difficult and expensive prospects facing a tournament organizer, but it is also one of the most important things to the success of a Warhammer 40,000 event. Even at the 2010 NOVA Open, we had some boards that did not match the format above, and those were often the cases where you heard about it from players … they felt the boards in some capacity let down their playing experience. While the majority were quite good, our hope and plan this year is to ensure ALL of our tables are up to the standards we set forth.

One way or another, the point here is the same point one really applies anywhere in tournament preparation – analyze, think, playtest, and litmus test all of the various components and notions of a tournament if you are going to run one. Do not hamfistedly throw together random missions, do not simply scatter terrain randomly about every board, do not print out your scoresheets the night before and flick a few copies around the tables and suggest people “share.” Apply attention to detail, and an honest willingness to accept critique and use what you can of it to make your event better (without sacrificing your vision or fun).

Sallow me to add yet anotherREMINDER for the NOVA Open 2011 ( At this point, we still have about 35 spots left for our Warhammer 40,000 256-player 8-rounds-for-all GT. Thousands in prizes and even cash, nice little swag bags, and gamers from literally around the world await the intrepid attendee, plus social outings and events in the heart of the capital of the United States of America. For questions or input, you can reach me at or through the NOVA’s website (again, … hopefully this was a helpful guide to setting up your terrain at home, or in a tournament setting, to the betterment of the game and a more fun experience.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Grey Knights "Core" Shenanigans, How Far Can You Stretch It?

Before I start - RESERVE YOUR HOTEL ROOMS FOR THE NOVA, DARNIT!   They are selling pretty quickly, and those of you who I know to simply be waiting to perform a FREE reservation are costing yourselves nothing but possible room rate, and raffle tickets for the $2,000 cash raffle.  Seriously, it's not complicated, go click: HERE

Trust me, it's in your best interests to reserve your hotel room (and doing so is FREE) now. :)


I've found that you can do a lot with a GK list if you make the "mandatory" core as follows (and this is "duh" to some people by now) ...

Coteaz - 100
5 Acolytes w/ Storm Bolters, Psyback - 85
5 Acolytes w/ Storm Bolters, Psyback - 85
5 Acolytes w/ Storm Bolters, Psyback - 85
5 Acolytes w/ Storm Bolters, Psyback - 85
5 Acolytes w/ Storm Bolters, Psyback - 85
5 Acolytes w/ Storm Bolters, Psyback - 85
Psyfleman - 135
Psyfleman - 135
Psyfleman - 135

That's 1,015 points, and gets you 18 twin-linked S6 shots, 60 s4 storm bolter shots, and 12 twin-linked s8 ac shots, and it's 9 vehicles and 31 infantry models.  This is actually quite sufficient to "tangle" with most armies, and it's difficult to table, but more importantly - you have 985 points to burn.

You can also "save" 120 points total by dropping each aco squad to 3 guys w/ bolters ... and I'd never go lower than that; you'd be surprised how little they get focused on with any real effect, and how effectively they are chucking 15 bolter shots at marine squads or the like ... every kill is a bonus.

Nominally, you do not want to supplement this core with something fruity or silly or over the top, but ... could you?  Would it really hurt your capacity to compete ALL that much if you threw in an absurd deathstar or something similar?  Fiddle about with it yourselves, if you're of a mind ... and you might be surprised.  Even 10 paladins w/ apothecary and Karamazov doesn't actually ... "Fail" when combined with this, and ... well, it can be.

A lot of people are "hesitant" to do a Coteaz list b/c they don't want to be following the crowd or whatever, but the simple fact is that a Coteaz list doesn't HAVE to be a "Coteaz" list ... you see a lot of those, with each henchman squad backed up by meltaguns and death cult assassins, trying desperately to pull off what a simple mech meltavet straken build does better for IG (aka mobility, shorter range firepower advantages backed up by long range reliable firepower, and ability for every squad to charge and dust off opposing squads w/out requiring FF support from other units).

This type of list is actually spending as little as 895 points on your "mandatories" and having between 1105 and 985 points to spend on ... well, whatever the heck you WANT your list to really be.

Food for thought, though I know a lot of folks are already "here" with their build processes.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

NOVA Open Volunteers - Judges, General Staff

Afternoon all,

If you at any point volunteered to staff all or portions of the NOVA Open this year, please send me an e-mail reminding me.

If you are attending the NOVA Open, but do not wish to participate in the 40k Trios Team Tournament, and potentially have interest in helping us rules judge on FRIDAY, AUGUST 26, 2011, please send me an e-mail to discuss.

If you are a wargamer or are interested in wargaming and would like to or are attending the Open, but are not sure about participating in any of the actual tournaments, let me know - we can always find a use for players or interested parties who are looking for something to do!

Volunteers gain whatever special perks we can shuffle their way, including extra disconts on certain wargaming products / websites, annually unique staff shirts, free swag bags, and a free weekend badge.

We're starting to get into staff scheduling, so now's the time to volunteer if you're interested in helping out.  We could use every hand possible!  It's hard work running a major GT/convention!

My e-mail address is

 - Mike

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Sorts of Lists Are You Planning for the NOVA Open 2011?

Where are some of you at in your list development process?  Share in the comments ... you know, if you aren't one of those who plays it all close to the vest.

In the meantime, here's a list I've been fiddling about with in proxy games ... on the GK front:

Inquisitor Coteaz - 100
Malleus Inquisitor w/ Psycannon, TDA/Hammer - 80

5 x Purifiers w/ 2 Psycannons, Razorback w/ Psybolt Ammo (Psyback) - 190
5 x Purifiers w/ 2 Psycannons, Psyback - 190
5 x Purifiers w/ 2 Psycannons, Psyback - 190

3 x Acolytes w/ Bolters, Psyback - 65
3 x Acolytes w/ Bolters, Psyback - 65
3 x Acolytes w/ Bolters, Psyback - 65
3 x Acolytes w/ Bolters, Psyback - 65
3 x Acolytes w/ Bolters, Psyback - 65
5 x Acolytes w/ Laspistol, Close Combat Weapon; 2 x Death Cult Assassin; Psyback - 100

5 x Interceptors w/ Psycannon - 140
10 x Interceptors w/ 2 Psycannons - 280

Psyfleman Dreadnought - 135
Psyfleman Dreadnought - 135
Psyfleman Dreadnought - 135

Acolytes very frequently sit in cover and actually shoot bolters at things, when you know your opponent isn't going to be able to afford bothering to shoot at them.

Land raiders you say?  If one, spam w/ psycannons ... you have plenty of other crap to kill everything else; if more than 1, block and focus fire, you can afford to sacrifice psybacks blocking it b/c his army won't have enough otherwise to compensate.

What are YOUR lists looking like these days?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Malifaux Players Packs!!!

Greetings readers and NOVA Open Attendees!!! As promised, we have more news on the NOVA Open Malifaux tournaments and events. Two of the tournament players packs have been uploaded to the NOVA Open site and can be grabbed below in this post.

Through the Breach
First we have Through the Breach. This is is the "Classic Malifaux Tournament", which we expect will have the highest attendence. “Through the Breach” is intended for Malifaux players of all ability and experience levels. This means that players of all skill levels will be facing off with their crews. Please be understanding of this when it comes to playing your game. High levels of sportsmanship are expected from all players.

So what have we done to encourage newer players to participate in this tournament? More importantly, what makes this welcoming for players of all levels? First, we have expanded the time-limits of each round to allow new players to feel un-rushed and enjoy the game. There is 15 minutes at the start of each round allowed for choosing your crew and setting up the game. Players who are ready to play during that 15 minutes can start their games when they are ready. The tournament rounds will each be 85 minutes long. That's right, 1 hour 15 minutes per round to play. This should allow for a steady pace for both players, and give space for all players to make choices during the games. 10 minutes before the end of each round the TO's will announce the end of the round coming. When this announcement is made, players should do everything possible to complete the round they are on and not begin another round.

Lastly, NOVA Open Malifaux judges and Wyrd Miniatures Henchmen will be roaming the tournament tables to answer questions and help out new players. The Henchmen and Judges will not interfere in games, but will be able to provide quick answers should questions arise or players look a bit confused.

Players pack available here.

Midnight Madness
There are some of you out there who know your the best players in your local scene when it comes to Malifaux. Your opponents are constantly asking you to bring "Easier" crews and stop stomping on their throats. Midnight Madness is the event for you. “Malifaux Midnight Madness” is intended as a highly competitive, single elimination Malifaux tournament. This tournament is intended for highly skilled Malifaux players who bring their highest level of tactics, skills, and sportsmanship.

Overall, Midnight Madness is sure to be a joy to watch, as 8 of the best Malifaux players at the NOVA Open 2011 pit themselves against each-other to determine the best of the best. We plan to have larger prizes here, but you should bring your best and play your hardest. We welcome all players, but this is not safe for newbies.

Players pack available here.

All NOVA Open events can be registered for here. The weekend Malifaux pass provides access to all Malifaux events during the weekend. Please also register on the forums and post in the Malifaux section for those who will be attending events. This will help add you to the Malifaux Updates that will begin coming out soon.

More updates will be incoming as the time draws closer. We are working out some final details for "Bad Things Happen" (Our Daily Achievement Event) and "Bayou Five Card" (Our multi-player scrap). Some of you may also have seen the following on the Wyrd forums:
Messages through the Aethervox indicate that there may be a confluence of Wyrd Developers at the NOVA Open 2011. Keep your 'voxes on and stay tuned for updates