Thursday, 21 June 2012

Time to harden up

It's been a long time since I entered a tournament with a serious intention of doing well. When I first discovered tournaments (probably something like 13 years ago now), the natural approach was to enter the thing intending to try to win every game and finish on the top of the pile. After all, it was a competitive environment and everyone else was there for the same reason, right?

Over time I gradually shifted away from this mentality, and found I enjoyed events more when I didn't have high expectations. I fielded armies that conformed to this new approach - ones that really didn't have the tools to win every game. This meant I could still play properly, but know that the forces at my disposal were not going to see me playing on the top tables every round. It was a good compromise, even if at times I overdid things and fielded something so spineless that it was nothing short of frustrating to try to use it (I talked about this here).

As a general rule, using relatively tame army lists has served me well. The comp systems favoured in our part of the world helps this, and often sees me finish quite high up in the standings, despite being unable to win all my games. It's an approach I fully intend to continue with, but for the next couple of months I will have to put it on hold.

The ETC is coming up in the middle of August, and it promises to be the most competitive event I've ever attended. This is not necessarily because of the opponents I will be facing (it sounds like some approach the event more seriously than others), but because I will be part of a team of 8 players. When you're in a normal event and have nobody's fortunes but your own in your hands, it's easy to resign yourself to your fate, come what may. When there are 7 other people trying to win their games and hoping you don't drag them down, things are a little different. I feel an obligation to try to pull my weight, and that means being competitive.

Of necessity, the ETC is an event with no soft comp scores. When you have hundreds of players representing their countries, it would be impossible to score lists in a way that satisfied everyone. Despite being a strong supporter of comp scores most of the time (I've talked on the topic before), I fully understand the approach that is taken here. In lieu of comp scores, the ETC uses a raft of restrictions in an attempt to level the playing field a bit between the various races. This is again understandable, and whilst people might not agree on whether the restrictions truly make things even, I think most would agree that something is like this is appropriate. The situation is helped by the fact that the 8 players in a team must all use different races - so you can't just decide which race is the strongest within the restrictions and pack the field full of that.

Unfortunately the ETC committee also take it upon themselves (presumably at the behest of the majority of the players attending) to "level" other aspects of the event by tampering with the core rules of the game. This is something I am very strongly against, but that's not the point of this blog post so I will leave it alone. I resolved to attend the event anyway, and to play with whatever system I was given.

The upshot of all this is that the ETC presents players with a set of restrictions and within that framework, anything goes. The worst excesses have been curbed, but beyond that you might as well push the limits as hard as you can - there are no comp scores to reward you for fielding a soft and fluffy army. This means I need to make a tough army.

Given that I have been using an Empire army pretty much exclusively for the last 18 months, it made sense to try to come up with an Empire list for the ETC. I've been fidgeting with things for a long time, without ever really settling on a list that I was satisfied with. Things are coming to a head now, with lists being due in less than a month. Time is running out. As such, I have decided to commit to a list for Convic, which is coming up in 2 weeks (and the lists are due today). I'll see how it goes at Convic, and then I'll have a week or so to tweak it before I have to lock it in for the ETC itself.

As you might expect from me, my list is very cavalry-heavy. This approach was pretty much guaranteed when the ETC capped units at 40 models. I don't feel that a unit of 40 State Troops can do the job, so any plan to use infantry pretty much stalled. I've been coming to terms with the new Empire book (even as I tried to break it) and have come to the conclusion that the army list is very solid. Unlike many whingers on the internet I feel it's perfectly adequate, however most of the avenues for making something harsh have been removed. Normally I'd be delighted, but right now I'm somehow disappointed. I finally decide to take the shackles off, and find myself with a list not a lot harder than one I might make anyway.

Arch Lector on Barded Steed with Heavy Armour, Shield, Dragonhelm, Dawn Stone, Sword of Antiheroes

Wizard Lord (Level 4, Lore of Heavens) on Warhorse with Talisman of Preservation, Dispel Scroll

Captain of the Empire on Barded Steed with Battle Standard, Full Plate Armour, Shield, Talisman of Endurance, Biting Blade

Master Engineer

13 Knights of the Inner Circle with Lances and Shields, Full Command, Standard of Discipline

5 Knightly Orders with Lances and Shields, Musician

5 Knightly Orders with Lances and Shields, Musician

4 Demigryph Knights with Lances and Shields, Musician

4 Demigryph Knights with Lances and Shields

Great Cannon

Helblaster Volley Gun

Helblaster Volley Gun

Steam Tank 

Total Army Cost: 2398

So this is what I'll be using at Convic. It will be a good opportunity for the Wolfygryphs to stretch their legs, and with any luck I'll find that the list offers what I want for the trip to Poland a month later.

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