Friday, August 6, 2010

The Infamous Tournament

Back in my high school days me and two friends of mine (whom I'll refer to as G and J) engaged in a Warhammer Tournament.  It pit a bunch of warhammer armies in a single elimination tournament.  We had set it up so that each of us would take multiple armies, and if one person would end up having to play against himself, someone else would take on the role of opposing general.  (the point was supposed to be about the best "army", rather than the best "player".)  Two of the players would play a game, while the third would act as GM.  The victory conditions would not be for any other objective than driving the enemy from the field.  Most of the armies were proxied and unpainted, but back then, we didn't care so much.

It sounds like a decent enough system, and many of the games worked just fine, but others went...not so well.  I think originally we had sixteen different armies lined up to play, but when we started to get into it we realized just how long it would take to play the number of games required, we toned it down significantly.  Eventually things broke down so much we ended up not even finishing the thing.

Back in those days I wasn't very diligent about keeping records, so I don't remember the brackets, or even all the games we ended up playing.  I had some difficult calls to make as GM, some of which didn't go over so well (at least for one of the players, and not always the same one).  Naturally, these moments are the ones I remember the most clearly, despite them happening so long ago.

Here are a couple of the highlights (or lowlights) as I remember them.

Empire (Darkwing) vs. Skaven (G)
A short game that lasted but one turn.  The skaven army advanced on their first turn.  Then the Empire forces fired their battery of seven cannons (3 allowed by the basic army list, +4 mercenary bretonnian cannon--all completely legal).  The cannons wrecked several units, which all routed (back then units didn't "break", they routed), causing a wave of panic along the line, and literally the entire skaven army fled.  We all thought this was pretty funny, and moved on...

Norse (J) vs. Dwarves (G)
This game didn't go over all that well.  It started off with the Dwarf player (G) firing his stone thrower at an innocuous looking infantry unit on the Norse left flank.  Unbeknownst to him (and me as well), it contained the army general and his personal bodyguard.  Both of us assumed he would be in a central position to lead the army, but J was being sneaky and tried to place him out of the way so he'd be less conspicuous, and therefore appear to be less of a threat.  In this case, the plan backfired, and naturally, the stone fell squarely on target, taking three of the general's four wounds, and killing a huge chunk of his housecarls.  J was understandably upset by this turn of events, but took his lumps and kept playing.

Then, as the two armies approached in the center of the battlefield, a unit of G's Dwarves charged J's unit of Ulfwerenar.  Ulfwerenar are a unit of Norsemen that can shapechange into wolfmen.

I duly went to part 224 in the WFB rulebook and found the rules for Weres.

I read the (extensive) rules.  Point 5 states "A player controlling weres may attempt to transmute any unit or character at the beginning of the side's turn."  Point 6 discusses bonuses that the player gets to his transmutation roll.  Point 7 discusses how the unit would become frenzied if charged--provided that they had already transmuted into wolfmen. 

I made the judgment call that Point 5 stated that the the player "may attempt to transmute the unit at the beginning of the side's turn", and since it was the other player's turn, he would not be able to attempt to transmute his unit until it was his turn again (and the first round of combat had already been resolved)

J was upset by this, as he felt very strongly that my interpretation of the rule was incorrect, and was unwilling to budge.  His argument was something to the effect that if the unit was charged, it should automatically trigger a transmutation test.  He also felt Point 7 should apply--that if the unit was charged, it should automatically become frenzied (wolfman or not).  His argument was essentially that his interpretation was correct, or if it wasn't, then the rule as written was made no sense.

In the interests of moving the game along, I suggested the D6 rule, to which G was amenable.  That is, roll a D6, and on a 1-3, one rules interpretation would be used, while on a 4-6, the other would be used.  J refused to accept that rule as a reasonable way to resolve the dispute.    Frustrated, I gave him an ultimatum--either accept D6 roll (or alternatively, my original rules interpretation), or forfeit the game.  He chose to forfeit.

Chaos (J) vs. Dwarves (G)
During this battle there was lots of carnage on both sides.  Towards the end of the game, the Chaos Sorcerer cast a spell called "Summon Total Power" on himself, which is as badass as it sounds.

That in itself wasn't the problem.  The problem was that J wanted to cast it again in a subsequent turn.  As far as I could tell, there was nothing in the rules preventing him from doing so, other than the general rule that no characteristic can be raised by a level beyond 10, which would just limit the spell's power, rather than prevent him from casting it.  I looked over the magic rules again and again, and found no restriction that said he couldn't cast the spell repeatedly.  Perhaps slightly influenced by the events of the the Norse vs. Dwarves game, I decided  to allow him to cast it again.

Now his general was Toughness 8 (4+2+2).  There was only one thing in the entire remaining Dwarven force that could possibly injure him, and that was a cannon at short range (under 12".  If the Chaos Sorcerer moved further away than 12", the cannon wouldn't be able to kill him as the strength of the cannon ball decreased with distance).  The cannon had a perfect shot lined up, but it had been fired the previous turn.  There was a "heat" rule that said if the cannon had fired in a given turn, it would earn a heat point.  This would give it a 1-in-6 chance of blowing up if it fired again in the subsequent turn if it was not allowed to cool down for a full turn.  G didn't want to risk it exploding, but I argued that he should fire it--he'd be taking a risk, but it was literally his only shot at killing the Sorcerer--nothing else in his army could damage it.  If he waited for the cannon to cool off, the Chaos Sorcerer would have moved out of range, rendering the cannon useless.  At that point the Sorcerer would just roam the battlefield, killing all opposition because he was effectively invincible.  Eventually I convinced G to fire despite his misgivings, and he said he would hold me responsible if it exploded.  He promptly rolled the dice and the cannon exploded.  Game over.

*  *  *

One thing that I did learn from the whole tournament thing, that is by making it a "competition", it immediately created a tension that had not previously existed, reducing the fun.  As such it soured me on the whole tournament aspect of playing.  Now I know that not all tournament players.  I just don't even want to deal with the possibility.  That said, I'm older now, as are those I game with, so I might be willing to run another tournament within that group.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Warhammer Townscape

Note: This is a post I did on Arcadia Prime a while back, but since it applies to the fantasy side of things as well, I thought I'd repost it here.

Back in 1988, GW released "Warhammer Townscape", a collection of thirty-nine card buildings. They were pretty simple, but of decent quality, especially for the day. Back then I assembled some of the simpler buildings, as I didn't want to tackle the more complicated ones. Some of my creations did not survive the years, but many of them did.
Rrecently I decided to tackle the rest of the buildings and construct them. They're just card buildings, so I didn't treat them with the utmost loving care, but assembled them using mostly Scotch tape and some white glue for reinforcement.

In the various boxed editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, GW also released some more card buildings, some on stronger stock, which I've also assembled.

Now I've amassed quite a little town. But it's not limited to Warhammer Fantasy--these can be used in Lord of the Rings games as well as Warhammer 40k, representing a town on a low-tech Imperial world.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mighty Empires

Back when the original Mighty Empires came out, I immediately seized upon it.  It had some cool rules, cool miniatures associated with it, and tons of cool possibilities...

I planned a campaign with my two high school friends (the aforementioned GA and JJ).  I would play the Empire, GA would play Dwarves, and JJ wanted to play Wood Elves.  Three players is probably the minimum required to play the game--I just don't see it being all that interesting if you have just two players.  Frankly, the more the better, but like all campaigns, the more players that are in it, the more difficult it is to keep everyone involved.

Like usual when playing things like this, I get deep into it.  I replaced the thin card tiles with a foamboard creation I made and painted myself (long since discarded).  I made a small map that I could study on my own, without having to refer to the main map board I had created (which I still have). 

Anticipating that my Empire would eventually start a war with both the Dwarves and the Wood Elves, I drafted declarations of war, which I would deliver to my opponent at the proper time, all to add to the atmosphere. 

The campaign was off to a great start...we did a few campaign turns, our empires expanded, and our forces approached each others' borders.  War was imminent, and the first actual Warhammer battle would be fought...  And then JJ quit.  I honestly forget why, but all I can think of is that something didn't go his way, and rather than put up with setbacks, he bailed.  Talk about frustration.  Realizing that the campaign was essentially over before it started, GA and I decided to have a massive battle with all the forces at our disposal at that point in the campaign, just for fun.  We made army lists and we ready to go...but it never happened, simply because we never got around to it.  So ends many a campaign, as I'm sure many organizers can attest to.

Still and all, the idea of the campaign was great.  The Mighty Empires rules set has been updated, but the original ones should still work great.  Maybe I'll have to revive them someday.