Or “What have I gotten myself into, and who are these crazy people”


Tournaments are scary places for a new gamer. Nothing quite as freaky as biting the bullet, signing up for a tournament and declaring to the world:


A beard hat will allow you to blend in
 at a wargaming tournament
Actually, tournaments can be a lot of fun, and, at least in my experience, the people aren't anywhere near as horrible as I would have expected.

Honestly, I expected the tournament scene to be full of cheesy cheating a@@holes who would do practically anything to win. Your experience may differ, but mine has been positive. I've met some damn nice people and played some very enjoyable games. The positives have outweighed the negatives by some degree.

I’ve played in a whopping three tournaments, so take my advice as you will. I’m no expert.  

For my previous tournament reports check here

Why play in your first tournament?

The first thing to ask yourself is “What do I want to get out of this tournament?”

It’s a simple question on the surface, but a complicated one after you dig down a little.

Do you want to win the tournament? Well, I got news for you, you’re probably gonna get smashed your first time out. Tournament play brings out the competitive lists played by the best players. You might be the number one guy in your gaming group and crush everyone underfoot every game. You probably won’t replicate that at your first tournament because different groups have different play styles. People call this the local meta-game (or local meta).

Note - Winning a Warmachine tournament is roughly nothing like this.

You will face surprises, tactics you haven’t seen before and some seriously good players. If you’re aiming to win, go for it; just don’t place all your heart into being champion, as you might be disappointed.

Do you want to learn?This is probably the best thing your first tournament is good for. Playing against different players, from different clubs in a competitive environment is the best way to improve your play. Try to take it a little seriously and play to win fairly. If you get beat bad, chat with your opponent after the game. Take every opportunity you can to learn, if you die early. Go watch some of the top players having a game.

Or do you want to just have fun? There is nothing wrong with going to a tournament for the sake of playing a bunch of games with new people. It can be a pretty rewarding experience. Just don’t get distraught if you come across people whose idea of having fun is wiping your army off the board in two turns.

Preparing for your first tournament?

Step one: Find out what kind of tournament it is!

This sounds pretty obvious, but the type of tournament does make a massive difference on what armies you can select and how the tournament will be played. So, ask these questions of each tournament.
How to make a tournament poster!
  • What points value is the tournament (25? 50? 33 on day one 47 on day two?)
  • How many lists can I bring? Do I have to play all of them?
  • What character restrictions are there on the lists?
  • What scenarios will be included? (most likely the steamroller ones, see the PP site for the latest steamroller scenario rules)
  • Does the tournament require tiered lists?
  • Is the tournament a team play event
  • What are the painting requirements
  • Any extra rules like Reinforcements or Specialists to consider. 

A good tournament will send out a player pack with all this information in it. Make sure you read it thoroughly so you don’t get any nasty surprises. Pay special attention to the character restriction rules. If you are used to having a certain solo in all your lists, you may find out that you can’t with them in both lists.

All the possible permutations of tournament mean that you normally can’t just make one big bad 50 point list to take on all comers (Unless it’s a 50point, one list tournament of course).

So, have a think about the points values and the rules. Some casters work a lot better at small points values and some a lot better at high points levels. Also, think about the scenarios, if the tournament is assassination only you will probably pick a very different list than one that has victory point scoring. Just ask yourself “How will I win on scenario”?

Step two: Build some lists!

Building multiple lists is a tricky thing; initially you may have to take only one list as you don’t have the models for multiple ones (Consider borrowing some models off a friend if you need to).

If the tournament allows you to play two lists, then you better make them a bit different. If both your lists are very similar, then your opponent will have a big advantage. For example, if your two lists are Caine1 and Caine2 and both contain lots of gun mages (high defence, shooty infantry), then your opponent will pick the list they have best suited to kill high defence shooty infantry.
I've played Siege 17 times out of 21 at tournaments

Check my previous guide on building a list to see an example of what your lists need to take account of. The wonderful thing about two lists is you can specialise with them. If in doubt, make one list to crack Khador/Colossal armour and another to deal with fast moving high defence and stealth units.

Step three: Profit! I mean Practice

Once you have some rough lists together, play some practice games. Play against as many people and lists as you can find during your allocated gaming time. Play bad matchups if you can as well. If you always have trouble with Circle of Orboros, play some games against them. Refine your lists as you go along, don’t be afraid to changes your lists if they don’t seem to be working.

If the tournament has timed turns (minutes per turn) or deathclock (one countdown for all your moves during the game.... scary) you really need to practice with that as well. Timed turns can be very full on when your new to the game, so practice, even if your opponent isn’t using timed turns, use them on your turns. 

What to take to the tournament

Tournament ready!
Here is a handy checklist of things you want to take to a tournament, it might seem dumb, but its amazing how often you will forget something.

  • Multiple copies of your army lists
  • Your models (And a safe secure carry bag)
  • A movement tray (A tray you can place you unpacked models on that you can quickly move from table to table)  example
  • Your models cards, with plastic sleeves, and a marker pen for damage
  • Dice (different colours, rolling one set for hit rolls and one for damage can save a lot of time)
  • Focus/fury tokens, and effect markers for spells (if its not marked, its not on)
  • Tape measure
  • AOE templates (lots if you have units with covering fire, smoke etc)
  • A timer (A smartphone should do the trick)
  • Some flags and Objective markers (if required)
  • A drink bottle and some snack food.
  • Cash! (there may be stalls selling models, second hand goods, and food)
  • A notebook (For your checklist)

Last but not least is a checklist of things you must remember to do. For me, its things like “remember to allocate focus” and “activate Reinholdt first to give Siege an extra shot”.

Add to this checklist during the tournament if you do anything really boneheaded. (like forget to activate Reinholdt to give Siege an extra shot when you have epic haley in your sights on no focus”)

Some tournaments feature awesome scenery and custom tables!

The big day! Things to watch out for

Make sure you get to the venue on time and that your models are safe and didn't smash in transit.
If the draw is up, check out who your playing, what faction they play, and where your table is. Put your gear on the table you will be playing on.

There will most like be a welcome speech from the tournament organiser to kick things off, once that’s over its game on.

PLAY FOR FABULOUS PRIZES (Actual Wellington Call to Arms 2012 prize pool)

Remember, you’re a noob

Take time to read your opponents list, model cards, their casters spells and feat, before picking a list to play. If in doubt, play the list you are most comfortable playing.

Introduce yourself to your opponent and shake hands. A little bit of friendliness goes a long way. You’re playing to win, but you don’t have to be a douche about it, play hard but play fair.

You also don’t get “take backs” at tournaments. If you measure and move a model, you can’t take that activation back. So be careful when you decide your order of activation. I’d recommend not allowing your opponent take backs either, it’s just easier to play the game according to the rules instead of trying to be a nice guy (and chances are, if you stuffed up first your opponent wouldn't allow you to do a take back). This might sound douche, but it’s the best way to play the game fairly for all involved.

Don’t be afraid to ask for rules clarifications during the tournament, and if you think someone is playing a rule differently from how you would interpret it, pushing the rules, or cheating, you don’t have to put up with it. Call over a judge to help clarify the rule. If you’re wrong, accept the fact graciously.

I’d also suggest not touching anyone else’s models without permission. If you want to have a closer look, just ask. Most people are proud of their models and willing to show them off. Just show respect, and you’ll normally get respect in return.

Regardless of the result, shake your opponents hand and tell them it was a good game. Regardless of the result, talk over the game, the critical decisions, and why the result ended up the way it did. The post-game debrief is one of the best opportunities to learn.  Sometimes it turns out you had a perfect counter to the move they just pulled and just didn't realise it.

Regardless of where you finish, set yourself a goal to improve for the next tournament. If you won first time out, have a beer on me!


Go, play games, have fun, play to win, but don’t be a dick about it. And after all everyone's a winner on the day.............................

Well, actually, no..... no they are not

See Also

Part One -  An Introduction to Warmachine and Hordes

Read this to see if the game is for you

Warmachine and Hordes has a lot of options, figure out what one works for you

Some helpful advice on what things to pay attention to during your first few games. Or.... how I learned not to suck so hard. 

A quick highlight of the differences between the two systems, what they have in common and how they differ. 

A quick guide with some advice on how to put together an army list, and some of the common pitfalls new players fall into.