Gamers. The internet. Moaning. All things that go hand-in-hand, right? Right.
We, as Warmachine & Hordes players, are as accustomed as anyone to the ferocity of the rage directed towards the most powerful/broken/over-represented models in our beloved game. Perhaps the reason it becomes so all consuming at times is because Warmachine & Hordes IS such a tight, well-engineered, complicated pastime that is so satisfying to play competitively; this brings out passion, for worse or better.
That said, there are MANY who do not play the game competitively and can imagine nothing worse than over-tuning their lists to within an inch of total misery… though their voices aren’t often as loud on the digital airwaves a those decrying the latest CID, there are a large number of Warmachine & Hordes players who play for fun, for the pure enjoyment of the hilarious narratives that each and every game has the potential of generating… indeed there are, *whisper it quietly*, entire metas who have NO INTEREST WHATSOEVER of playing to win, rather just putting the things that they want to on the table and rolling dice with friends. I KNOW, I’M AS SHOCKED AS YOU ARE.
…and what of newer players? There is little worse for the development of a fresh-faced, bright-eyed Xekaar player than for them to attend a 75 point Steamroller, only to find themselves playing 3 brutal rounds against experience players running whatever the most powerful lists at the time are and getting their face repeatedly shoved against the angle-grinder of competitive Warmachine.
All of the above is simply a long-winded way of saying: there is more to Warmachine & Hordes than CMPTVE STMRLR. Don’t get me wrong, I like CMPTVE STMRLR but I also like games against people who don’t and I also like getting new players into the game. Crazy, I know.
One of the pleasures of playing in a larger metropolitan area is that there are plenty of games to be hand and, to boot, you are often discovering folks that play the game but haven’t ever linked-up with the ‘group-at-large’. Last year, when an area store found itself under new management, a pocket of players sprung-up in this fertile soil of optimism and has been growing happily ever since in a quasi-vacuum. As somebody who is invested in the success of my favorite hobby and active in running events in the local area, I took it on myself to bring them gently into the fold of the metro group by introducing players to the store while trying to make sure that the equilibrium of the happily growing community wan’t upset by anyone bringing meta lists in to STOMP FACE. Thus, I decided I wanted to run some kind of event at the store but didn’t want that to be the standard 75 point competitive event that would be won by one of the usual suspects.
Michael & Craig, the illustrious owners of the aforementioned store (’The Battleground Cafe’) were ALL TEH WAY onboard and could not have been better partners in crime.
It was around that time that Party Foul put together the ‘Bottom Of The Barrel’ lists of Warlocks & Warcasters and I thought to myself: basing an event on that sort of entertainment might be just the ticket. This, by virtue of being different to what we’d been doing already, was already enticing to many of the veterans but how then to make sure that the newer players could play with experienced hands and still enjoy themselves? I still wanted to have rounds to keep the day moving but setting the points limit at 50 seemed to work as not only was that appropriate for folks with limited collections, it was also ideal for making sure that clock pressure wasn’t too egregious for players with less experience of timed games.
So, we’ve got a roster of Warcasters & Warlocks with ‘limited competitive application’ and a lower points limit but I still wanted to throw a little something more into the pot… no themes? NO THEMES? What is this, Mk.II? Well actually, that proved ideal for this tomfoolery. For the Bottom Of The Barrel I wanted folks the opportunity to really get into the spirit of it, to put things on the table that you just don’t see these days and boy did they deliver. Silver Line Stormguard, Bile Thralls, Ogrun Assault Corps, Karax, Pyg Burrowers, Skinwalkers, Blighted Nyss Archers… my players channeled the spirit of the competition and brought their most maligned units to play. It was glorious. For safety, I only allowed people to bring a single Colossal/Gargantuan or Battle Engine so as not to end-up with double Tridents or Derp Turtles. Likewise I also asked a couple of vets to edit their submitted lists when I saw double Hellmoth (I allowed single Hellmouth) or LOTF (Grayle was on the list, lol) but apart from that, there wasn’t much in the way of restrictions.
Oh, and a raffle! A raffle. How could I forget? In order to further incentivize the performing of ridiculous acts and underline the general ‘fun loving’ vibe of the day, we created bingo cards with crazy stuff on them and getting squares on the bingo cards scored tickets to the prize raffle etc. etc.
As it turned out, the idea was EXTREMELY SUCCESSFUL from the start and we got many people signing-up and submitting lists weeks out. On the day we had 19 attendees with quite a few more players who would have like to come but for existing commitments… which was fortunate as we could only take 20 in the venue. It was a great mix of experienced and newer players, with most notably almost half of the total field playing their first tournament (THE BIGGEST WIN OF THE DAY!).
So, onto the action! I threw down a bunch of tables and we got rolling. There were some VERY CHOICE matchups in Round 1: Madhammer v Jakes, Old Witch v Bad Boy Sturgis… the stuff that dreams are made of! Speaking of Bad Boy Sturgis, one of our regulars brought the perfect BOTB list (Bile Thralls, Bloat Thralls, Moebius etc. ) in a GD TRASH BAG. It was so beautiful to see the spirit of the day so perfectly summed-up 🙂
It was novel for me to play (but at 19 players, I though what the heck, I might as well make-up the numbers!) and I had a blast playing Hexeris 1 with a Mammoth (Yeah, I know that the Mammoth is good now but I’d never played it and… well, I didn’t try too hard to win my games ya know?)
I slew an Archangel, I slew Hyperion, I ran Slingers out of theme, I charged my min unit of Karax into a Carnivean, I charged Hexy into the same Carnivean, Hexy died… it was perfect! I walked around and saw everyone laughing, heard cries of anguish and delight, man, I just tried to soak it in. Is that ridiculous? No, it’s not, it was awesome to see veterans and new players enjoying themselves on a fairly level playing field where nobody really cared about winning the show, rather just having fun.
So many great moments. Old Witch getting to within 1 damage of assassinating Sturgis from DOWNTOWN. Reznik 1 getting blown-up in the most unlikely fashion by a Celestial Fulcrum, one of the most beautiful Mountain Kings I have ever seen rampaging across the board, a duel to the death between Hexeris1 and Vlad3…all the good stuff you could ask for!
We had a sweet prize table set-up and folks loved collecting the raffle tickets, even though we will definitely refine that idea for next year as I screwed-up the mechanics of ticked collecting a little and was forced to improvise.
When it came down to the 3rd and final round, I watched Carver duke-it-out with Kreuger1 on a TRULY RIDICULOUS table of my design, the swine-lord coming out victorious. I thought to myself: that’s not a bad ending to a great day.
I was delighted to give out the winners trophy, a REAL MINIATURE BARREL lovingly crafted by Michael from the store & then I stood up front, read out some raffle prizes and just enjoyed the happiness. Honestly, the day went better than I had hoped it would and I couldn’t be more excited to do the same thing next year.
Next though, it’s onto more planning. Somehow, I am less excited about planning the competitive side of things than I am about coming up with a narrative event for the release of Oblivion. I’m going to craft some ingenious ways to mess with everyone on a grand scale…
SO, to conclude: what are my takeaways from all of this near-nonsense? Well, as it happens, this article has ended-up paraphrasing one of the debates currently raging like a small fire over the Warmachine & Hordes internet; just where is the line between competitive gaming and gaming for fun in this game? It’s well-acknowledged that WMH is one of the best, if not THE BEST currently available miniatures game in a competitive environment but it also has much, much value in its’ narrative. Privateer Press has struggled to find an appropriate way of disseminating the magical flu in the days since they stopped printing books but with the release of Oblivion on the horizon, there are swathes of us fans who hope that this signals a return to form in this area… to PP’s credit, they have never ceased putting out a variety of non-competitive content for the game but it is up to us as players to accept and nurture the growth of the game if we want it.
We, as lovers of our game MUST consider seeking to appeal to gamers of all types in order for the game to flourish. Yes, the loss of the Press Gang stinks in the broad scheme of things but such is the way of things. I realize that many folks really only do want to play Steamroller and even more folks will say that they do but in reality I have found that often, if players give the narrative side of things a try, there is much fun to be had, especially if one loves the world of the Iron Kingdoms. It’s kinda liberating to not be worrying about the efficiency of EVERY DAMN PIECE sometimes.
…for me, the more I organize things for others and find myself unable to put in time to practice being good, the less I care about being competitive and you know what? I’ve having more fun.
Who’d have thought, eh?!