Other Ways to Play…

by | Feb 21, 2018

It has been almost a month since the epic competitive meltdown happened at the Las Vegas Open, and in that time a new focus on what it means to play Warhammer 40k competitively has arose. While the focus has been on sportsmanship, quietly Games Workshop has been putting on Match Play (competitive) events at Warhammer World since the release of 8th edition. One such event just happened a week back, but drew minimal attention.

Now in America the competitive scene is dominated by the ITC which works well in a large country with countless game spaces to hold events. As for the Europe the same can be said about the ETC where all the European teams test there mettle against players in sanctioned events with a goal of making teams and honing skills for the inevitable team championships. These two almost monolithic systems make up most of the environment an average competitive Warhammer player participates in. Beyond that you have various random local and invite only prestige events filling the mostly causal rest.

This is where Games Workshop comes in, at Warhammer World has carved out its own Match Play path. As you can imagine it is combination of ideas from other organizations along with Appearance and Sports scores being an important element. These Matched Play events come in two types one more casual than the other.

You have the Grand Tournaments and the Throne of Skulls. The Throne of Skulls focuses on each Faction and uses different sets of missions each time. Like last October, saw the fantastic Open War deck being used for the event. Then you have the Grand Tournaments which are more traditional and offer an escalation style tournament system, where the top 40 players from each three heats can duke it out at Warhammer Fest to become champion. The Grand Tournaments currently use the Chapter Approved missions.

What is striking for an old timer, is in the long past Games Workshop set the standard for almost every Warhammer 40k tournament, now anyone outside of the Nottingham we barely hear a peep. So what type of meta does these type of events produce? It turns out they produce results both alien and familar. To give you an idea, the Top 10 of last Grand Tournament heat produced Ork players taking 2nd and 3rd place in field that had 4 Chaos Players, 1 Tyranid, 2 Imperial Soup, and 1 Raven Guard.

This is under pretty much the same army composition restrictions the ETC and ITC use and rules for deploying and going first. The soft scores while important and can potentially provide a big swing rarely do change overall outcomes.

If you want to read yourself here is a link to the player packet for the event.

Now while an outside army like Orks performed well it didn’t stop a nasty competitive list from taking 1st place…

Death Guard Super Heavy Auxillary
Alpha Legion Battalion 
Daemon Prince + wings + 2 malefic talons
Sorcerer + jump pack + force sword
40 cultists
10 cultists
10 cultists
3 obliterators
3 obliterators
World Eaters Battalion 
Dark Apostle
Exalted Champion + power sword
8 Berzerkers
5 Berzerkers
5 Berzerkers

So what does this all really say?

First off, I means Games Workshop can run a competitive event and produce what typical competitive players would expect. It also brings in some armies not seen in top tables for months. Hearing from attendees it sounds like the missions created an environment for these results and the “strict” painting requirements Games Workshop demands also played a role.

Others though would say looking at the player pool; Games Workshop held events don’t bring out the best players, as cost of entry, and soft scores turn those people away. More likely, United Kingdom dominated by ETC feeder events make “high level” competitive players conditioned to avoid Games Workshop hosted events, perhaps these elitist tendencies is the secret culprit for why folks avoid Warhammer World.

Even with Games Workshop events not meeting the standards of many, with only minor tweaking you can easily see Games Workshop style events be great for the competitive community. Also what would happen if Games Workshop at some point ask did “nicely” for say the ITC to adopt more of what they are doing? The good thing though is the ITC allows any organizer to use almost any tournament system. If you look at the Chapter Approved missions you can see a fairly balanced, but simple set of missions, unlike the constant monitoring required with the ITC missions or Eternal War-Maelstrom combo events. As a gateway ITC event running from an official Games Workshop book should have a positive outcome.

It is just amazing to see Games Workshop who less than 20 years ago dictated and dominated the competitive scene with events and now control has ceded in the time since, that a Grand Tournament held at Warhammer World barely gets press beyond the Games Workshop’s community pages.

Games Workshop style events should be explored more, if nothing to see if playing closer to the official game rules is actually feasible, because if anything else making Games Workshop the scapegoat for bad things happening at an event is much easier than pointing fingers closer to home.

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