Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fantasy Tournaments and Fail: Why The Book Missions Aren't Good Enough

8th Edition is great.  I think most people who gave it a fair chance have enjoyed it; at very least they enjoyed it more than 7th Edition.  With the exception of the ETC crew, anyway.  But fuck them.

Right now tournament 40k is undergoing a renaissance with the 5x5/Nova system.  Balanced missions with simple, uniform objectives that still lead to interesting complex games.  And a tournament winner that is decided on the table top rather than on a piece of paper voted on by an arcane formula of judges and player input.  With the success these tournaments are having and the momentum they are gaining it appears we are on the cusp of a golden age of fun, but competitive, 40k tournaments.  
Heck, these guys are even kind enough to run Fantasy tournaments at their events.  Fantasy tournaments without comp, who would have that could be a success?

This is all great.

But we cannot forget that 99% of players, even competitive ones, do not attend GT's or large regional tournaments like NOVAcon.  The overwhelming majority of players play in local tournaments against the same 8-12 guys every week with the same 8-12 armies, with whatever crazy rules or restrictions the TO chooses to put on the tournament that week.  "OK guys, in this tournament the battles will be fought in a lightning storm so on turn 3 there will be a random unit from each army hit by D6 S10 lightning bolts that ignore ward saves."  I wish I could say that was an exaggeration.  I have seen "tournaments" where every turn there is a random weather event rolled from the 40k Rogue Trader book.  I have seen tournaments where the winner is determined simply by the player who gets more of his units off the table by running them off his opponents deployment zone.  These are not balanced scenarios. 

And when they do venture out, it is into the quaqmire of 'Ard Boyz with unbalanced missions and ridiculous point limits that are clearly at a level where the game design breaks down.
So suffice it to say, most players still do not play in awesome, balanced tournaments.  What sort of missions should people be playing?

I think the simplest way to do it, for local tournaments anyway is to use the book missions.  And I think a great many people actually do just that.  But there is a problem.  With the exception of the god-awful Watchtower mission, the rest of the missions have one objective: kill your opponent.  The only real differences are which board edge you line up on.

I think the simplest way to modify this is to add a table quarters/objective element to the victory conditions.  You can do it NOVA style where you use table quarters as a tie breaker, but I think that isn't necessary so much in local Fantasy tournaments where the game uses Victory Points primarily.  The chances of a tie are exceedingly low.  I would run very similarly to 7th edition where controlling a table quarter was worth an additional 100VP.  Except I would modify it that it has to be controlled by a Core unit with a standard.  Whoever has the most VP of Core units with standards in that table quarter at the end of the game gets it and a unit can only claim one quarter at a time to prevent a mega unit from sitting in the middle of the table and claiming all 4.

I think this is a much needed addition to the basic rulebook missions for tournaments, as it creates the same non-linear goals that you have in modern 40k.  "Do I send that unit forward to help fight, or do I keep it back for the 100VP bonus?"  As of right now, there is nothing in the rule book missions that would encourage you not to commit all your resources to combat as quickly as possible.  Plus it makes the other rules such as capturing an enemy standard for an extra 25VP more interesting.

In summary, a 40k tournament player picking up Fantasy for the first time's biggest complaint is going to be how linear the missions are.  They are simple.  At the most basic level its deploy your dudes and get them into combat and win.  There is no thought to seizing ground, no strategic element to withholding forces, and the only pseudo-objective mission has only one objective which is almost always won by the player who goes second.

It's the second layer of strategy that makes you have to make truly difficult tactical decisions.


  1. My only question for you, is what kind of restriction do you put on claiming a table quarter? It used to be US5, but now Unit Strength has no meaning. Do you go with 2 ranks, which would make sense, since that replaced the old US5 for disruption. Or do you just go with scoring unit, which means my single remaining gnoblar can claim or contest a quarter?

    All of those options are possible, and add an element to the game, but which one is the most rewarding to both players.

  2. Oh, and I do not think Watchtower is an immediate fail. The victory condition sucks. The tower should give you a set number of VP, a huge set number of VP, like 1/2 of the points total of the game.

    Ultimately though, the watchtower is excellent because it changes list design and it changes play b/c of the random game length.

  3. Good question. I guess I would say that an unbroken Core unit with a standard would be what I would require for a table quarter. If your last gnoblar is holding a standard, and I don't have anything to contest it, he gets it.

    I like having to use the standard because its an item that has benefits, but it also has drawbacks in that it costs a lot of points and even more if your opponent captures it.

  4. Heh, you're right that Fantasy really does seem too 'easy' to me, but in a way I really like that aspect of it. It's nice to play a chill game of warhammer where I only really have to worry about killing the other guys, and not have to worry about anything else. It's sort of a breath of fresh air.

    That being said, I can understand why you'd want more complexity at a tournament level- more complexity certainly rewards the more skilled players.

    I'm generally an advocate of that, but in this case, as WFB is a 'secondary' game to me, I'm somewhat reluctant to embrace this way of thinking- I guess I just enjoy the simplicy of the current format quite a bit as it is.