Sorry in advance, I couldn’t resist the title! Okay folks, Brent here, bringing you up to date on the biggest controversy of the recent WarGames Con.

We’re looking at Michael Strange Vs Jon Willingham, Top Tables, Day 2

Strange, as many of you may remember, is last year’s big winner with his incredible Tyranid army.

A few words: there is no shame in Strange’s game. I imagine he was under pressure to perform, given the roasting he took by winning last year.

What’s that, you say? Well, last year he managed to grab and hold top tables and the ultimate victory with what amounts to a Battleforce Army. His performance was kibitzed by all and sundry with the general thought being he lucked out by getting a good draw in the event. Personally, I didn’t buy that for a moment and I believe his skill was borne out by his performance this year.

Enter Michael Strange. I chatted with Strange on Saturday and he seemed a decent enough sort. He wasn’t really interested in talking to me, so that’s got to be a knock on his character, right? Anyway, he’d got to the top tables early and was doing a fine job of representing. As an opinion, I thought his army was much, much better than last year’s. Apply a new Codex with the obvious skills he has with his army and I imagine he was a tough opponent to face. I was also in a good position to hear him discuss the game in question with some friends. No, I wasn’t spying. I was eavesdropping.

(More on that in a moment.)

Enter Jon Willingham. I was lucky enough to run into him and Blackmoor on Sunday, where I was quite happily drinking Shiner Bock in the restaurant with my Indentured Servant. After standing around with Tasty, Jon, and Blackmoor, we all grabbed a seat, the subject came up, and I managed to get the skinny straight from the man himself.

(More on that in a moment… Real Genius is getting antsy, I can just feel it!)

I knew something was up, ‘cause I’d gone to yak with Nick (Darkwynn) but he waved me off. “I’m helping someone right now,” said the hero of the ETC. He was talking to a very, very upset Michael Strange.

“Well,” I said to myself, “what could that possibly be about?” Enquiring minds wanna know, ya dig?

Willingham was happy to talk. A word on this dude: I really liked him. He’s an obviously sharp, very energetic guy. He’s opinionated and perhaps a touch cocky, but he’s got the goods to back it up so I respect that. He wasn’t a bullshitter…

(I am, so I can say so with authority.)

…so he told me what happened with a minimum of embellishment.

The Primary Mission was simple: there is one objective in the center of the table and you gain a point for each round you control it. The game would be won or lost based on how many points you got.

Now, imagine you’re a top player. Go on: many of you think you are, so give it a whirl. What’s the obvious strategy here?

That’s right, boys and girls. Grab it, surround it, and hold it early. If you can get it early and keep it four turns, you’ve won. On the other hand, if you couldn’t do that – say, because you weren’t fast enough – you’d have to assault your opponent off the objective as quickly as possible. It was bound to be an aggressive game.

For an example of how this works, let’s look at my table. I was playing my Daemons against a Loganwing with a few Drop Pods. I knew I had to shift my opponent early, or it was game over, man, GAME OVER! He dropped his Pods, surrounding the objective and on Turn 1, so naturally my Daemons surrounded his Pods which were surrounding the objective. Ultimately I managed to contest the objective on Round 2 and own it by Round 4, giving me a 3 to 1 edge over my opponent. You dig? Let’s move on.

Willingham is playing a Drop Pod Space Wolves list, similar to the one he’s taking to the ETC. He either takes the first turn or is given it. He’s planning on dropping and castling up.

Strange full reserves his army.

I can’t understand that move… I just can’t. Granted, he has Mycetic Spores dropping in, and I’m pretty sure he was playing the Doom of Malantai – which would be a pretty great model to have in that mission – but he’s begging to roll poorly on Reserves. Still, I wasn’t watching the game and I don’t know what his strategy was, so this is simply my ignorant opinion. I really hope he writes it up somewhere; I think it would be illuminating.

Moving on, the game begins and Willingham drops the Alamo around the center. I’m pretty sure he unloaded his troops in the ring, not outside of it; regardless, he’s holding the objective on Round 1. Here comes Strange, spreading out for position, playing his game. I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet the objective is still in the Space Wolves’ control.

Here’s the rub. Willingham’s Drop Pods are modeled with the doors closed, for ease of painting as he told me himself. He told me at lunch that, “…I can’t stand the doors. Models are always being balanced and falling off. People always keep them up and I started seeing people just glue them shut. I liked that idea.”

At some point, Willingham starts drawing line of sight through the pods and Strange was floored. He didn’t realize one could shoot through the pods and his army was out of position. There was an argument, but ultimately the issue was resolved in Willingham’s favor, since the Bell of Lost Souls tournament guide ruled that issues would be resolved as Codex – Rulebook – GW FAQs – and INAT.

Strange was blown out of the water in a big way. Ultimately, his chances of a repeat were put to bed.

Strange was upset Willingham didn’t tell him the pods could be shot through. Willingham’s response was, “I was playing on Table 3 – it never occurred to me my opponent didn’t know that already. I’m still surprised he didn’t.”

On Blood of Kittens, Strange wrote, “I have a feeling from what I’ve been told that he doesn’t say anything and just waits to ambush his opponents with the rules. It’s a gamesmanship tactic I guess, but not a very sporting one. I guess it knocks one or two tough opponents out for him.”

So, for my part I talked to Willingham at lunch, observed some of the story myself, and overheard some conversations Strange had with others on the subject. I don’t know dick, when you get right down to it, but this is what I know and this is what we’re talking about.

So folks: what are we thinking here?

Brent, the Best of the Worst in 2010, signing off.