Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Scottish Masters: A Look Behind the Curtain


Hey guys!

We update from me, super busy. Like really busy! Anyway below is an article from one of the organisers of the Scottish Masters & The Captain of the Scottish ETC team, James Esland. James was one of the main writers of the scenarios and pack and he wanted to write down his thoughts on the ethos of the event and nuances of the event. More info can be found here: (http://warhammer.org.uk/phpBB/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=126367). Once again here is the awesome video that Mike Callaghan produced to set the tone....


The UK Masters is the top 16 players in no-holds barred battlelines. Last time out our very own Andy Potter of ETC Team Scotland fame won it with denial dark elves - needing only 100vps or so for a win this style of Warhammer feels to me like the boxing equivalent of 12 rounds of circling your opponent and landing a single jab just before the final bell. Don’t get me wrong, Andy is an epic Warhammer player - but he was responding logically to the incentive structure of this tournament to do what was required to win. When I was speaking with Pash about the Scottish Masters, I thought we could do better.

Looking at the Scottish scene, we have events like forgotten heroes - which had a profound effect on me in past years. Having to name your characters and units and write a bit of fluff about them requires a bit more effort; but it feels like you are controlling an army that you associate with - the models have genuine character and accentuating that leads to more fun that treating them as game counters (otherwise we could all play with bits of card). Having read a fair few of the pulp warhammer books I was also keen to draw players in and view scenarios more as a story unfolding than as unwelcome alterations to game parameters. There is an amazing intro video (done by our own Mike Callaghan) to set the scene for the tournament, and hopefully to set the mood too - I recommend you watch this if you have not already. The prizes have been ordered and are epic. This event, then, is a treat for all those who support the Scottish scene and perhaps an incentive to make next year even more awesome.

Having been to the ETC and English tournaments and played under various comp systems my conclusion is this: changing the comp and changing the scenarios means you try out different units. This engine of change in turn drives list design for future events (i.e. you get out of your rut, try something new and realise that’s awesome too, and it then makes it into your ‘filth’ lists). Likewise the old UKGT used to have secret missions in play and I found these added an extra dimension - balancing out scenarios and making it more of a mental sparring game between players. It also echoes the incentives of a general in a campaign; it’s not simply about smashing the other guys army. Sometimes it’s about securing supplies, taking high ground, capturing or killing a key personality etc. So, the grand plan is to have a tournament pack that puts players squarely ‘into’ the game, make it story driven, while at the same time encouraging different approaches to playing and managing to several sets of constraints and objectives at once - this to me is a far keener test of ‘generalship’ than a sterile battleline where your only objective is killing their models. And most importantly, much more fun than 6 battlelines. Below I discuss each of the scenarios and my thought process when I was writing them:


Escalating engagement:

As the first battle on the island of Karmon Gaeems (a nod to the venue ‘Common Ground Games’) it fit the story well to have it be an unexpected clash of armies. My thoughts here were that meeting engagement as it comes from the rulebook has two drawbacks:

1) A lot of the time, nothing of consequence starts off -> so I made it a 1 or 2 rather than just a 1.

2) and can just move on anyway in T1, so starting off is advantageous for fast things and disadvantageous for warmachines etc -> it now has to roll to come on on T2 onwards. An upside is it can ambush on a 6! This means players have to do some risk management when they set up - and there is more of a genuine response-counter to the way units are kept off and brought on, functioning like actual reserves.

3) because this could hurt people too much if their general and BSB start off, or their only cannon etc one unit can auto start on (or off). This allows for some mitigation/tactics - you can even go for the longshot of trying to ambush your hammer unit behind their army.

The idea here is to incentivise people to take an army that can work in parts rather than a set ‘phalanx’. An army which deploys the same every game does not really lend itself to increasing the enjoyment or skill of either player. You have to roll with the punches! And the player who sets up for this mission and manages risk/opportunity the best should win. You can’t say ‘oh my big unit started off so I lost, so it’s a stupid scenario’ - I think that would just speak more to your inflexibility and overreliance on one element of your army. Hopefully this will encourage redundancy in army design, and a degree of movement and response.


Blood of Heroes:

As the story develops, it becomes clearer that something on the island is forcing you to battle, to ensure only the most worthy progress. As such, Blood and Glory felt appropriate here. Fortitude means people have to take proper armies - it hurts monster mash type lists (which are a prime example of the ‘works in many parts’ type that might do well in the first game, so perhaps need balancing out here). But no one likes an auto-win lose game so it’s a vp bonus instead. And you can clawback if you lose your fortitude so there’s reason to fight on. As a further filip, you get vp bonuses for killing characters in challenges here - this is a bit of fun and felt appropriate to the idea of this scenario being about trying to break the will of the opposition, rather than a ‘capture the flag’ abstraction. It also means there’s a point to killing all characters aside from the general and BSB. This should hurt deathstars as well.


Aetheric Cairn:

Take and Hold! This is another challenge, and should incentivise big proper units (although you can still chaff this up if you have enough…). Warhams is fun when big units smash off each other - this scenario kind of forces the issue. The magic defence you get on the cairn is meant to encourage combat as a means of taking it - but terrorbombing can work too given the psych modifiers on the cairn. The main reason for these is that the strongest combat unit should win - not the cheesey dart of stubborn troops getting ground out slowly over several turns. Likewise DoC and VC are likely to crumble faster here so you can’t just wait it out. I’m hoping the random game length (capped 5-7 turns) makes it more dramatic as you try desperately to claim the cairn. This mission rewards the big blocks of elite troops (with good psych rules, like black guard, phoenix guard, greatswords etc) which in the backghround are epic, but just don’t seem to cut it in battleline as they can be avoided or shazzammed off too easily.. their mental discipline comes into its own here and you’ll be proud of their stubborn/ITP/high leadership or whatever. Too often a general, crown of command, banner of discipline and BSB hold an army of choppy - but mediocre leadership troops together. This scenario should remind people that chasing people away is easily that killing them (if sometimes harder to achieve).


Chill dawn:

Originally intended for Sunday morning (where the tiredness and possible hangovers should make it easy to associate with the story), this is now played on Saturdaynight (4thgame in a row will be rough!). This is another one to discourage table edge play, and encourage a more flowing approach. I’m aware at this stage I’m basically imposing my subjective ideas about ‘proper’ warhams onto the tournament but… I think mixing things up can only improve the player base - any game is to an extent optimising your approach within parameters. Shifting those parameters exercises the ‘gamey’ part of your mind; you can’t just whip out the netlist that other people have developed and point-and-click. War machines/shooting reliant armies and low ld non-ITP troops suffer here - it also encourages players to push their armies towards each other to get out of flee range of the table edge (note that warmachines less likely to fire but panic more likely to happen sort of evens out). I hope this encourages fewer deathstars and maybe the odd mad character (VC lord on zombie dragon? Anyone?). And generally ‘positive play’, as opposed to the typical top table Fabianism. Once again, nails high Ld troops should shine as players are incentivised to move away from table edges, decrease their reliance on LD bubbles, and shooting is toned down.


Valley of Champions:

As the narrative is unfolding to show the island and Moralltach testing the champions that would claim it, this is the final mad test. Probably the ‘most nuts’ scenario here. I want to put players who like to be in control (like me) on the back foot. The chance of someone going all ‘fast-zombie’ with their champions towards you in a mad bid to cut down your characters (who I hope by now the players are properly ‘in the shoes’ of) should be pretty exciting. With a narrow board, it’s going to be hard to get away. The flipside of this is that units with characters can’t vanguard - so if you go haring off with all your champs and fail a frenzy test, your line will approach all higgledly and get picked off one by one. I hope as well as the drama, this can teach people something about charge/counter charge management etc. Should be a good one for beastmen, dwarf infantry etc too - if you can fill 4 foot of board, vanguard forward and crush the opponent against their board edge…. Proper line infantry tactics etc. Awesome.


Battleline:

With the scoring so nuanced I’m hoping this tournament goes to the wire. As such, the last (and hopefully deciding) game is unmolested by my heavy hands… so people can’t moan too hard about their carefully laid plans being upset by stupid scenarios. The last mission will be in play though - so mission management in the earlier games will be key. Just one more thing to think about!


And in case that isn’t enough the Lord of Skulls is a super addition and another dimension here. Basically if you get creamed in G1/2 or are getting beaten in a game you have less incentive to play on in a normal tournament. Here though, you can switch into ‘nutter mode’ and go all out trying to claim skulls for this alternative trophy (I have it in place of the wooden spoon basically). And thus, you become a ravening loon doing the bidding of Moralltach. Do you keep your eye on the prize or get distracted for this other.. prize? And after a game is basically sewn up, its something else to do for the last turn or two. This should mean every player is enfranchised at all times and no one is just going through the motions for G5 and 6.


The missions are intended to help people balance out scenarios which are harder for them, but also play a crucial role in people’s list design:

- Taking only the best specials and rares is a bad idea. Go baws-deep into each section or don’t bother. I expect this to make rares rarer.

- Taking vulnerable scroll caddy wizards is a bad idea - and taking something that can go and kill them and then run off is a good idea.

- A fighty general is a bonus here. L4 general is hit by two missions! And keeping your general alive is important. But he also needs to be able to chop face to claim those challenge VPs. I hope this means the big dogs come out - fighty lords in hard units, like papa warhams intended.

- Claiming woods - more scoring units is a good idea (and likely in for fortitude anyway). But keeping them scoring is harder - and you need to plan how they are going to get into the woods. If you park them there early doors your opponent will probably cotton on (but this is a a great way to double bluff him with distraction units, while picking another mission). This mission should therefore encourage a bit of guesswork/psychology

- Fortitude in their DZ - again, this discourages corner play and rewards people who can ‘go forth’. 3 fortitude makes it hard to achieve - I imagine a general-and-bsb unit will be most people’s approach here. But a flying general with a bannered fast cav unit works too (but is perhaps easier to stop).

Also importantly the missions being secret prevent people from taking their foot off the gas when they have nosed ahead - the mission could put you behind again. The VP scoring table also makes it very hard to achieve a 20-0; so the field should be nicely stratified but also the leader should be catchable so every game counts. As we will be using Pash’s innovative ‘random table’ system, no one will know who the leader is. There can therefore be no secret calculation that you can win overall with a draw in the last game… so you’ll need to find tooth and nail right til the end of game 6 for every inch. “And I'll tell you this: in any fight, it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch.”. So the control player who hopes to secure a small win and play out time may lose to the gunslinger who is prepared to push all his toys in and leave it to the dice.


All in all, I’m really excited to see how people try and solve this list design puzzle, and what ends up working. I’m hoping its ‘proper’ armies and not warriors hero-spam (but the Scotcomp should address a lot of that). I suspect some people may give up trying to solve it and just take something nuts to shove in people’s faces - and lord of skulls it up. There should be something for everyone here - and everyone attending has a shot at a prize (and thus the inclusive nature of the invites is justified). Most importantly, I hope this event means we all have fun (win or lose), we all learn to play a bit better and can take some of the tactics and thought processes from this back to our battlelines, and the Scottish scene moves from strength to strength. It’s going to be really hard to top this event for next year’s masters!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Scottish Masters 2014: The Call Of Moralltach




The Scottish Masters is just round the corner (6th and 7th of December) and it is quite a bit different to other Master Events around the world. The entry requirements for the event is to have attended (and thus supported) 4 Scottish Events in a calendar year. This means there is a much more inclusive (and larger!) list of players (below). On top of this the games played and the event in general is much more story driven (see teaser video above) with unique scenarios and ongoing events. The full tournament pack is below including scenarios, so have a wee read and see what you think! As yet I am unsure if I can make it but I am trying to negotiate and build up a mountain of Brownie Points to make it so!

Personally I think this is an absolutely awesome looking event and something totally different to any other event in Scotland or indeed the world! May the month of practise begin!

You can find out more and sign up (if invited) here: 


Pash      Korniyenko
Jamie    Ferguson
Jon         Pugh
Mike      Callaghan
Tim         Gronneberg
James   Esland
Michael Ross
Hugh     Scarlin
Iain         McGregor
Andy     Currie
Trev       Moffat
Greig     Summers
Dave      Hunter
Fraser   McIntosh
Liam       Watt
Ryan      Savage
Graham Duffy
Calum   Hay
Rich        Payne
Leigh     Martin
Dave      Reid
Gus        McCabe
Graham Hart
Andrew Wilson
Alan       Liddle
Graeme Davidson
Will         Esland
Scott      Smith
John      Craig
Joe         Pirson
Michael Arnott
Gary      Wyper
Liam       Prior
Calum   Todd
Darren  Allwright
Woostie Woostie
Barry     Gray
Neil        Peckett
James   Gilray
Hamish Hepburn
Chris      Murfitt
Dave      Soutar
Christian White
Dan Oldfield

The Scottish Masters; Call Of Moralltach
Rulespack for the hard of sight
The old world is ever a place of struggle and woe. Lives are callously tossed to the winds of hysh as gods both old and new play their fickle games. The brief lives of mortals are their grain and fodder - and the gods are hungry. So it is then that rumours come to you of a lost place, a place old beyond the reckoning of myth, lost once and now found. A place where a mortal may seek to become immortal; to become legend. There await artifacts of terrible power; weapons that can forge nations, magic that can break them.. and talk of a ‘Great Fury’ that will mark the one who can claim it as a peerless victor. Lust filling your heart, you resolve to claim the tools you need to rewrite your destiny. By exhausting your network of contacts and no small amount of gold you learn rumours of the location of this battleground of champions, and the dread prizes that lie in wait for those but bold enough to claim them. The name ‘Moralltach’ is whispered in reverent tones by those unwary enough to spill such fell secrets. But be warned, even now dozens of champions of light and dark alike share your vainglorious purpose... skaven submersibles move unseen beneath the waves, while sleek elven ships clip effortlessly through the raging seas. Dwarf blimps float overhead and the vale of reality flickers and coughs as unpossible forces claw through from realms of ecstasy and nightmare. There will be no swift and easy recovery... if you want to claim this ‘Moralltach’ you must fight. Only by force of will and skill at arms can you claim your prize. The ground of Karmon Gaaems awaits…

The Scottish Masters is gathering of the most loyal and dedicated of Scottish Warhammer gamers. It is designed to test your skill and generalship by encouraging you to bring your best and test your mettle against that of your ambitious peers.  It is created by and for those that give the most to the Scottish scene and for that reason this event is by invitation only.  To earn your place you must have attended at least 4 Scottish Warhammer events in the last year.

This is your call to show what you’re made of.  This is the Call Of Moralltach and there is no turning back..


Location and Tickets
The event will be held at Common Ground Games on the 6th-7th Dec.  Your ticket will include 6 games of warhammer, lunch on both days as well as a selection of goodies.  Tickets are priced at £30 and can be purchased via Paypal (please remember to send as “gift”!) by sending the payment to Cablehype@hotmail.com Deadline for payment is midnight 30th Nov, one week before the event.

Army Lists
This tournament will use an Open List format.  Lists are to be submitted in advance to the above email, the deadline for list submission is midnight 30th Nov.  Open lists will be published in advance on the forum for checking.  Please submit lists in a legible format, Quartermaster summary files being the perfect example.

Timetable
Saturday 6th Dec
9.00am – registration and caffeine injection
9.15am – Game 1, Escalating Engagement
12.00pm – Lunch
12.30pm – Game 2, Blood Of Heroes
3.00pm – Fag break
3.30pm – Game 3, The Aetheric Cairn
6.00pm – Secondary caffeine injection
6.30pm – Game 4, A Chill Dawn
9.00pm – Dinner time

Sunday 7th Dec
9.30am – Game 5,The Valley Of Champions
12.00pm – Lunch
1.00pm – Game 6, The Fateful Tableaux
 3.30pm – Tally up the scores..
4.00pm - ..and give out the awards

Army Selection
Marshal your forces for the trials to come
Armies will be to 2400pts, chosen from any of the current army books. Undead Legions and Chaos Dwarfs may be used, but no special characters are allowed. 50% lords and 50% heroes are allowed per the latest FAQ. Armies must follow the latest ‘Scotcomp’ framework (ignore references to special characters). This will be linked from the tournament post on The Warhammer Forum.  
 
Painting
As the masters of war summon their legions for the trials ahead, the gods watch on and take heed of the petty scrambling of mortals vying for power. Only the worthy may compete here. They see you, they know you. 

As a gathering of the most experienced tournament players in Scotland, it is expected that everyone will bring a fully painted army. To that end, unpainted models will NOT be allowed. Rather than specify a minimum standard, we’d like to encourage players to bring their best, and let their conscience guide them. Hopefully the ruleset allows for you to bring your favourite units and for them to have them have a tactical place in the tournament. Our aim is for 6 games of immersive, narrative driven Warhammer where we have an awesome time, no matter who wins. In order to encourage narrative, every character and unit in your army must be named on your army list. The names should be consistent with the fluff. Please also provide a short background piece describing your general, his force and their reason for questing to Karmon Gaaems. 
Summary:
                -Fully painted and based armies only. Unpainted models may not be used.    
                -Models should be to your best standard (and therefore be consistent). In case anyone is unclear, at a minimum this means      at least three (separate) colours and painted/textured (sand, flock etc) basing.  Note undercoat does not qualify!       
                -Provide background for your army, 150 words or more  
                -Name all your characters and units appropriately, so you may tell deeds of their exploits
If you meet all of the above criteria, you will be awarded the +10pts for painting and background. These will be assessed by the judges. Typed and printed lists and background are preferred. If you want to dip it in tea, ancient scroll style, go for it. Maybe don’t write it in blood though…     

Missions, Scenarios and the Tally of Skulls
The lands of Karmon Gaaems will not yield their treasures without struggle. The old stones of the place are restless with the broken dreams of failed champions. Fetid swamps belch forth great clouds of noxious gases; trees shift uncomfortably and the howling winds scream from the sea, taking the very heat from the bones of those from the comforting bosom of the south. This dark and desolate land will test your command, your adaptability and maybe even your very sanity – for only the insane have strength enough to prosper. 

In order to test the limits of your skill as a battlefield commander, this tournament will use set of 6 scenarios and also use missions. There are six missions you can choose to play. Before each game, after seeing your opponents army but before deployment or generating spells, (secretly) select which you will undertake and put the appropriate card underneath a piece of terrain on the table. You can only use them ONCE each, so you may wish to think about how missions and scenarios interact and plan accordingly! On the results sheet indicate the mission chosen for this game.   
A successful mission earns you +401vps.

 Missions       
1.“No will shall prevail save mine!”  – kill the enemy general while keeping yours alive. The enemy general does not confer the +100vp bonus as normal this game but if at the end of the game you would gain the +100 vps for killing him, while not losing your own general, you complete your mission. An exception to this is if the model becomes a daemon prince, in which case you must kill the prince. Note this means that for a general-and-mount, you only need to kill the general and not the mount to complete this mission.
2.“Slay their elite, the rest offer little enough threat” – Wipe out all the enemies special choices to complete the mission. All of your opponents special choices must be dead to a model or fled off the table entirely
3.“Insufferable abomination! Destroy it!” – Wipe out all the enemies rare choices to complete the mission. All of your opponents rare choices must be dead to a model or fled off the table entirely
4.“An army needs wood and food as surely as it needs soldiers” – score in more forests than the opponent to complete the mission. The following can score: Units of 5 or more infantry or cavalry. Units of 3 or more monstrous infantry, monstrous cavalry or chariots. They must be partially in the forest to claim. If a scoring unit from each side is in a forest, neither claims.
5.“Secure the battlefield, drive the foe before you” – have 3 or more fortitude and at least one scoring unit in opponents deployment zone at the end of the game to complete the mission. The following can score: Units of 5 or more infantry or cavalry. Units of 3 or more monstrous infantry, monstrous cavalry or chariots.
6. “Capture the witch! I would know their secrets” - If this mission is chosen, then when an enemy caster (character who can channel) dies do not remove it, instead use it as a counter from that point on. If it dies in an enemy unit, this unit will start in possession of the counter. Either side may gain possession by moving (but not marching) over it in the remaining moves subphase (or by using a spell that grants such a move), or by winning a round of combat against the enemy unit which has it. If the player who played this mission is in possession of at least one ‘captured caster’ model at the end of the game, the mission is completed. If the opponent, or neither of you are in possession, it is failed. Note that this means you must declare this mission to your opponent once the first eligible enemy caster dies by any means. Note also  that after the first dies, others may still become counters/be captured (but you only need to capture one).

Tally of Skulls
This is a subgame which stretches across all the games played, carrying its own prize. A player can finish last in the tournament proper and still be awarded the ‘Lord of Skulls’ prize. In each scenario, it will specify what to count towards your tally. Note your score on the results sheet at the end of each of games 1-6. Player with the highest total at the end of the tournament will be our Lord of Skulls; he who forsakes victory on the battlefield for the slaughter of champions. Khorne cares not from whence the blood flows!   

Scenarios
Given the tormented waters off the coast you are grateful to make land at all, and yet you feel a sense of unease. Why wasn’t your ship dashed on the jagged teeth of stone jutting angrily from the foamy shore? A tingle on the back of your neck gives you the notion you’re being watched – although scouts report no enemy in the area. Trying to ignore the rising panic and the dark sibilant whispers that speak to your heart, you resolve to head inland immediately. Anything to get off the beach and away from the unseen watchers. Wondering in which direction to travel, you notice a track cutting into a cleft in the tundra. Was that there before? Dismissing your confusion as a flight of fancy, you sound the order to form up and march. Inland then. Onwards, to glory.  

Game one. “Escalating Engagement”
As you trudge inland a single bloodied scout rushes back, wide eyed and breathing hard. He reports contact with another landing party, and barely escaping with his life. Given the size of the island you didn’t expect a fight so soon… a coincidence, surely. Resolving to consider this more if you survive you resolve to waste no more time on it now. With the foe just over the ridge ahead there isn’t time to array the ranks as neatly as you might hope – some of your force may even yet be disembarking the ship! Perhaps if you sent a runner back they could hope to outflank the enemy… Sound loud the trumpets and peal the drums. Battle is upon you! 
This scenario uses the deployment map per the rulebook ‘Meeting Engagement’, with the following changes. Units go into reserve on a 1 or 2, rather than a 1 only. After rolling for all units, one roll may be changed to a 1 or a 6, players choice (i.e. you can put one unit that would have been off on, or vice versa). Reserves must come on turn 2 on a 3+, turn 3 and after on a 2+. If you roll a 6 for their reserves roll, they may ambush (i.e. enter on any table edge in the remaining moves phase, but not march). Characters may deploy in units. Units that already start in reserve and ambush are unaffected.
Tally of Skulls: “For Whom the Bell Tolls” Count each character who cannot channel, killed by any means (including fleeing off the board).  

Game two. “The Blood of Heroes”
After withdrawing from the initial skirmish you plan to head back to make safe your ships, but having retrodden your steps you now can’t even find the coast. After wandering lost for an hour, you think hear muttering from the ranks behind you… when you catch the scent of an army on the air. Time to show those who would mutter that a navigator you may not be, but rather a warrior born. You begin to get a sense that not all here is as it seems… It is as if some greater purpose guides you – as if the land itself cries out for blood and leads armies to battle to slake its terrible thirst. No, gold was not the prize you came for; legends are not bought with gold. They are earned with glory. If this cursed place wants blood, then blood it shall have. Nearby the branch of a gnarled old tree creaks in the wind. It makes a sound like mocking laughter, and sets a murder of crows to flight. As their dark shapes are lost to the brooding thunderheads above you laugh. Win or lose, the crows never go hungry. 
This game is per the ‘Blood and Glory’ scenario save breaking the enemies fortitude does not end the game and instead confers +802vp if you do it first, or +401vp if you do it second. Additionally, characters killed in a challenge confer a +100vp bonus.
Tally of Skulls:  “For Glory Eternal” Count all characters killed in challenges  

Game three. “The Aetheric Cairn”
Wearied from the fight you make inland beneath the torrid skies. You bid your army eat and tend their wounds while you wait for the tally of the slain. You see flickering ghostlights tease across the land to your west. A trick of the eye… just battle-worn nerves playing tricks. Besides – doesn’t the battle prove that the prize is coveted by others? It must be grand indeed. With food in your belly and the bravado that only one who has recently been close to death, only to deny it can know you order the march onwards. Ghostlights mean magic, and where there is magic, there is power. As you approach you see a large cairn rising from a blanket of mist. As you stare, looking for an entrance, the fog writhes dizzyingly around it, and you start imagining you see shapes within it. A lonely maiden. A giant hound. A leering skull. Dread grips tight your heart. You try and dismiss it with a laugh that sounds hollow and flat even to you. It is only mist. Suddenly, a wind whips across the lonely vista in front of you, and the dancing ghostlights reveal dark silhouettes. They’re moving – an army! You will not let them claim the Cairn and the treasures that doubtless lie within.
This game follows the deployment from the ‘Battleline’ scenario and you will find a large hill in the centre of the table – this is the Cairn. Claiming this cairn at the end of the game gives +802vp. Any unit on the cairn gains Magic Resistance 3, spells targeted onto the area of the hill or units at least partially within this area miscast on a double 1 as well as a double 6 (Use Ring of Hotek FAQ if in doubt). However, units on the cairn may never use the ‘Hold your ground’ or ‘Inspiring Presence’ rules – it is suffused with unnatural magicks. The following can claim: Units of 5 or more infantry or cavalry. Units of 3 or more monstrous infantry, monstrous cavalry or chariots. They must be at least partially on the cairn to claim. If each side has a claiming unit on the cairn at the end of the game then each must elect one to fight a round of combat (starting with the player who took the last turn). If one unit breaks, the other claims. If neither break and are both still scoring then neither may claim. The game must last at least 5 turns – and will end after turn 5 on a roll of 5+, after 6 on a roll of 4+, after 7 on a roll of 3+. It may not last more than 7 turns.
Tally of Skulls:  “The Blood is the Magic” Count each enemy character who can ordinarily channel slain (or captured)           


Game four. “A Chill Dawn”
Your tortured dreams give way to wakefulness, finding it still to be dark, and your body is shocked by the chill of this place. You ache from the exertions of battle – but you are glad of it, for it means you survived and the treasures of this terrible land are nearly within your reach. Yesterday was madness; you can never recall feeling such bloodlust, such determination to break the will of an opposing force simply to prove your own was stronger. And yet it now takes all of that will to coax you into motion. In the chill air it feels like hope itself has abandoned you, and your hands are numb from the icy cold. Your herald rushes in to tell you of enemies close at hand. Too close to wait. Curse this land – still hungry after the glutting of blood you gave it yesterday? Steeling yourself against the grim frost you don your battle gear. Rouse the army, pray for dawn.
This game uses the ‘Dawn Attack’ scenario rules but in addition, every unit on the board counts as being affected by ‘Iceshard Blizzard’ from the Lore of Heavens for the first game turn (but the lore attribute does not apply). Characters may deploy in units
Tally of Skulls: “The Cowards’ Lament”  Count all enemy characters killed ‘by means of leadership’ – i.e. fled, crumbled, spirit leeched, instability etc.


Game five. “The Valley of Champions”
The sun is up now, banishing the cold that had so gripped you before. Besides, your hands are still slick with the warm blood of the foe. Turning to survey your host, you see your most skilled champion staring dully ahead, eyes glazed over. His bloodied fingers trace an unknown shape, anointing his face with a sigil of murder. Looking at the serried ranks of your force, you see others do the same. In your heart you know what this means. Entering the mouth of a valley you see an army up ahead. If you want to pass this final gateway and see your path clear to the mountain that dominates the centre of this island, you must offer tribute. Your champions turn to stare at you with mad, hateful eyes. If you balk at the task ahead, you aren’t sure they won’t vent their fury on you. And if you cannot survive the champions of the enemy, you are not worthy to face the final test. Your blade has been tried often since you came here. It will not be found wanting now. 
This game uses the rules for ‘Battle for the pass’ from the rulebook, but any unit with a champion may vanguard if:       
-It first passes a non-rerollable Ld test on the leadership of its champion (who is in no mood to take orders)       
-It contains no other characters (too busy staring each other down)
Make all tests to determine who vanguards, then roll off for the order as normal. All Champions suffer both from frenzy, and from hatred of all opposing characters. Note per the rules this does not make the entire unit ITP, but they still have to take frenzy checks (although they may use the general’s leadership and reroll these as normal), and must overrun (until the champion dies or loses a round of combat). The Underdog bonus is worth +200vps. All non-caster characters (i.e those that may not channel) have +1Ld (to reflect their steely determination), but may not refuse challenges from Champions (although they may decline to fight characters as normal).
Tally of Skulls:  “Fury of the Aspirant” Count all champions killed in challenges 


Game six. “The Fateful Tableaux”
And so it has come to this. You have bested the horrors of this place and stand bloodied but victorious at the very gates of glory. Many have tried and their pitiful lives have been ground to naught but dust. This place has tolled a heavy price for the chance to stand upon the threshold of immortality. As you summit the mountain in the islands centre, you see the top stretches into a vast plateau. Lining the outer perimeter are statues of great warriors who have come before you. The finest battlefield commanders in the known world and beyond have tested their mettle here. Feeling awed at earning a place among them, you step onto the field of battle. Who must die to secure your victory? Who dares oppose your will now? Suspended in the middle of the battlefield by forces unseen, and lit by a shaft of brilliant sunlight – the first you’ve seen in two days – hovers a huge blade. This is Moralltach, ‘The Great Fury’. It will make you a renowned warlord upon your return home, mark you out as a conqueror, as a legend. Now is the time to step forward and claim it! Be stout of heart, and purpose your ambition. Immortality is not for the timid.
 This is a straightforward ‘Battleline’ scenario, with no additions or changes. You have been tested well, but beneath the very eyes of the gods no errant strand of fate will intervene, no whimsy will belay your plans. Make them well – and seize your glory.
Tally of Skulls:  “Draped in Blood”. Count up a tally for every Seized Standard  


Table Of Victory
Please note, this is not the usual table you might be used to.  For this event, we will be  trialling the new Scottish Sliding-Scale system.  The values are below.  Note that a successful mission is worth +401 vps.


You made it. This place did not break you, and by strength of will and force of arms you have completed your quest. Go forth and tell others of the deeds done this day. Let not these moments be lost to time, like tears in rain. For glory must be eternal.              

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Brotherhood of the Bright Blades - Charles Rampant's High Elves



Hey all, 

My name is Charles, and this year I made the move from my beloved (though useless) Tomb Kings into a High Elf army. Rich has invited me to make a blog post, showing off my progress on my army to date, and talking about my thoughts and techniques along the way. I decided for this, rather than a simple presentation of the army, to talk about the path that led me to paint them the way that I did.

Let’s begin by talking about my background. I did the Warhams when I was a kid, and then did the usual “turn 18, panic about girls, sell Warhammer” thing that so many of us do. Then back when I was in first year of University, back in 2010 or so, I found myself slowly drawn back in. First it was Bloodbowl. Then Battlefleet Gothic… and before I knew it, I had some Orks. Then a lot of Orks. So, so many Orks. 



I went through a Space Marine army as well. My painting style, through all of these armies, was one that emphasised clean lines and neatness, with over the top highlighting as standard. 


When I started playing Warhammer Fantasy (aka The Great Game), I very cheaply acquired a lot of Tomb King models, sold to me by players who manifestly couldn’t handle the book’s sheer awfulness. This army had much less complicated painting than my Orks, focusing on drybrushing for many elements, but I kept the heavy metal highlights as I wanted to give it a bronze age feel of spears glinting in the sunlight. (Though spears on skeletons is a terrible choice, so I naturally sold those models on.)




I kept expanding this army, with many of the constructs finding their way in, but I never really won all that many games. I took two Best General in Race prizes with them, and generally had a lot of fun with them, but their rules just drove me insane. I keep getting asked whether I will return to them, now that the Undead Legions rules are available, so perhaps their time will come again.



So this brings us onto the High Elves, the ostensible point of this tract! A friend was kind enough to simply give me the Island of Blood models, which would form the core of my collection. When I set out to start painting them, I first stopped and did some colour theory. Now, explaining the ins and outs of colour theory is a bit beyond the scope of this work, but there is a very good series of articles on it over on this other blog: http://theback40k.blogspot.co.uk/p/color-theory-archive.html .

After reading up on colour theory and comparing it to my models, I had identified an issue with my Tomb Kings: the colours I used were actually a fairly poor choice. In short, the purple didn't provide enough of a contrast with the overall orange/yellow colouring of the models to really make it stand out. So with the High Elves, I decided from the get go that my colours would be ones that would make a solid overall impression. I would use red as my primary, most important colour in the army. When people looked at it, they would see red. I chose orange as the colour that would accompany the red, would be the next colour in the overall effect: in colour theory terms, it is a harmonious colour with red, so they would look natural together. To provide the contrast colour, and give me colours to break up the red and the orange, I would use blue, in a wide variety of hues and saturations: silvery metal, bright blue gems, white cloth. All of these correspond to a blue, especially with the correct base colours. Things like skin and wood don’t stand out to our eyes – they look ‘normal’ and so are ignored – but these colour choices would define the overall look of the army. 



I decided to be particularly daring, and actually use red on the weapons of my models. Instead of holding aloft silver swords, these two Swordmasters – my first test models – hold red ones. This is both fairly surprising to the eye, which is expecting some kind of a metal, and also visually striking from a distance. The intention was to impress viewers who were standing 3 feet above the models. But it wasn't quite striking enough for my taste, not just yet; the finishing touch was when I (upon a friend’s recommendation) added some orange to the tip of the weapon.




Here we see the overall effect of my theorycrafting. We also see why you shouldn't use a gas hob to straighten bent swords! Orange has become the dominant colour instead of red, which is used only on the most impressive part of the model. Here you see red gems, which I later changed to blue in the service of providing more contrast to the gold that always surrounds the gems on my models. White and silver, both painted in ways that don’t distract away from the bright red and oranges, round out the overall look. With the theory satisfied, and some test models completed and approved by my clubmates, I started the slow road of painting the army. 

Thanks for reading this blog post, and next time we will be looking at how I progressed from the simple Swordmasters onto more complex units such as the Dragon Princes, Seaguard and Griffon. You can find me on Twitter, using the handle @Charlesrampant. Until next time!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Empire Test Models: Prototype 2


Hey guys, very quick post to show a couple of Empire test models that I finished. Super happy with how they came out, and I think this will be my scheme going forward. Might drop the light green ribbon as I think this I think there are a bit too many colours. So the scheme will be deep red and cream quartered on any fabric/clothing, dark silver for armour and light blue as spot colours. Im still in limbo on basing for the moment but after spending a few days in autumnal Scottish Highlands I think I might try to replicate that with dark granite/slate rock, browns and tan long grass and deep red and gold leaves. Maybe a bity of (purple) heather too if I feel like infuriating Mike!

Anyway let me know what you think guys, absolutely champing at the bit to get this army built and on the table!




















Sunday, 2 November 2014

An End Times Essay


The End Times are upon us.... But it is certainly not the end of fun times! Quite the opposite in fact. I have never been so over the top pumped for warhammer and excited to see what happens next.

Games workshop are really knocking it out of the park at the moment. The models are just simply incredible with not one being a flop in my opinion. The fluff is just spectacular with more exciting events happening than have happened it past 10 years of black library books. The progression of fluff is a brilliant and a positive step forward  for warhammer, inspiring more and more story based games. Finally the rules and scenarios have also really moved the game forwards without destroying what is frankly the best warhammer fantasy rules set that has been in place.



So to start off im going to talk about warhammer 8th edition and its current state for those who either don't play, dabble or are just curious. I have played since 5th edition and Warhammer has never been better, the rules are well balanced and the individual armies are also mostly fairly balanced. Yes some extreme tournament lists will blow non-honed armies out of the water but in my experience it more comes down to player skill and the mistakes that are made. Above all, it is the most fun it has ever been. 



At the launch of 8th edition it was hailed as a poor ruleset which was very random and too unpredictable due to random charge distances, pre measuring and mental magic phases. Well random is fun and never the same, it's a Dice game after all, and actually if you think and plan your moves the randomness can be mitigated which is what war is all about! Pre measuring was one of the best additions to rules, it utterly removes arguments and speeds the game up no end. Finally the magic phase is simply brilliant, no one phase or situation is the same and there is endless opportunity for new tactics. It is a high stakes poker game which you can spend hours pondering about how best to manage your dice in future games.

I won't go into detail on the story to avoid blurting some awesome spoilers but if you want to get up to speed I can massively recommend the 3 part Garagehammer Nagash review. 12 hours or so of excellent commentary on the biggest thing to happen to warhammer since its inception (in my opinion!). The crux of it all is that the world is in flux and "Legions" of factions are forming allowing you to take proper allied armies in the mainstream. The cynical among you may see this as GW trying to get more of your money (I won't lecture you on supporting a business which provides more £/fun ratio than any other imo!!!) but i will try to explain why this is just so good for the hobby.

By building and telling such a compelling story of change it utterly immerses you in a fantasy world that you want to be part of. Armies and characters thrust together in common cause through their own will or against it gives gravitas to your army list and a solid setting for your games. Models become heroes, units become hardened veterans and monster become dreaded denizens of the battlefield! 

Giving you the option to field two (or more!) parts of your collection gives you endless longevity to your army, the options (competitive or not) will never be exhausted. I am a person who as you know paints quite quickly and as such I go through armies in short order getting bored or hungry for new toys to colour in, so being able to add new units here and there from multiple sources really excites me. My next project is no longer defined and limited to the empire but will instead be "the forces of light" with no definitive end. This is a sea change for me, always I was thinking "what will I do next?" " one day I'll finish playing and painting warhammer" but now I don't see an end to my hobby, only possibilities.

Instead of buying in and painting in bulk, I now intend to slowly add and paint units for my legion. One month it might be a unit of dwarf ironbreakers, the next a high elf dragon, the following a Brettonian knight lance. I can paint whatever I want without feeling like I'm "wasting" my time and not focusing on my army. Sales wise this is great news for GW and will hopefully secure them and sustain their output for the foreseeable future.

Rules wise yes this can lead to some broken combinations but so can the current rules and in my experience an enjoyable game is determined by the spirit of the game and how "arsey" an opponent is with the rules. Luckily I have only ever played a few bad games against a person whom I did not get on with (can only think of one at the moment lol). Yes 50% lords and heroes can lead to some daft hero hammer lists at tournaments but i think there is a simple solution...

This neatly brings me to how I think the tournament scene will have to handle the inevitable march of change, panel comp list submission. The Aussies are famous for it and their scene has really re emerged in a big way since the infamous rage quits. There are some daft combinations possible with 50% characters and legions lists (chaos more than undead) and these really will need curbed to ensure the game is played in the spirit if not letter of the rules. No one will argue that triple nurgle daemon prince with two skull cannons and horror core is a balanced and fun army list but a Khorne Lord in a unit of skull crushers, flesh hounds, skull cannons and Khorne warriors sounds awesomely fluffy but also pretty competitive! 

Legions lists are happening and will be the future so in my opinion we need to establish a "spirit of the game" charter or mission statement to ensure the scene stays as strong as it is without it descending into super power gaming or on the other end of the spectrum preventing competitive players playing close fought games and players migrating away. I would be excited to see tournaments embrace this and have "teams" playing within each faction that cannot play against each other but work together to gain a team and individual win. Dan Quirk has led the pack with his forthcoming end times tournament, major props to him for being brave, hope I can make it! More info here:

So as it stands there are two confirmed legions: 

The undead legions:
Led by Nagash the shambling hordes of the dead combine the vampire counts and tomb king books. Actually pretty balanced and great fun to see played!

The Chaos Legions
An unholy alliance of the ruinous powers led by Archaon the everchosen. This legion combines warriors, daemons and beasts of chaos with the Glotkin book leading the charge with plague ridden hordes. Very early days but have the potential to be ultra powerful. On my opinion single mark or undivided (with comp) may be the best of both worlds to curb the daft lists out there.

In the pipe line and based on my guesses I think the following legions may surface:

The forces of Order in the old world:
Empire, Brettonia, dwarfs, wood elves and high elves (led by Imirk and/or Teclis) unite to defend the old world from chaos and Nagash. Maybe also some mercenary ogres?! Personally this is what I'm super excited about and can see me developing a mighty collection and becoming the "goodie" in my group :)

Cult of Slaanesh
The storm of chaos revitalised list combining dark elves (led by Morathi), Slaanesh (sigvald?!)warriors and slaanesh daemons (n'kai returning?). Awesomely cool and the story build up will be probably one of the best. I wonder how the prophecy for malekith's death (if it happens at all, he is finecast at the moment!) will be played out, dying to a male elf sorcerer. 

The Cult of Khaine
It is my belief that Tyrion will draw the sword of khaine and unite all of the khainite elves from dark, high and wood elves. Each of these factions will also splinter and join either the forces of order or the cult of slaanesh, thus reflecting the 3 major parts of the elf race: Decadence(dark elves), fury(all three) and nobility(high and wood elves). 

Ragnarork
Grimgor and Skarsnik unite warring tribes to form the greatest waaaagh! Ever seen enlisting the aid of the ogres and perhaps the skaven (not sure what else they could do with them legion wise?). Attacking from the south they embattle the dwarfs, the empire and Nagash. 

The great exodus 
I'm really not sure what they will do with the lizardmen... Perhaps help the high elves but the ominous exodus mention I'm the opening of the Nagash book might signify them moving to the island of Albion where the dark shadows campaign was set. Alternatively the Lizardman may go to the southlands to engage Nagash or more interestingly we may see Nippon or Cathay coming into the story more. Business wise I have always wondered if GW would make a big move into China and off the back of a Cathay army release this could work well. 

Chaos Dorfs
Not a real army.

So really in summary it genuinely is the golden age of warhammer. I look forward to my games more and plan my armies in greater detail. My advice: get involved, for the end times are nigh...