Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Warhammer World Series - Did it work?

Well the weekend is now well past and I've had time to recover from the frenzy of gaming that was the Warhammer World Series. I've already talked about the unique format out the event and my concerns leading into it. Now it's time to look back and see what worked, and what could have been done differently.

What went right
My primary concern going into the event was time. Our schedule was brutally tight, with 1 hour and 45 minutes per round, and no gaps between rounds except for the lunch break. In truth, I was worried it wouldn't work - especially when many players would be using armies they were completely unfamiliar with. I did my best to convey my concerns to the participants, and issued regular warnings as the time ticked down. I also setup a large countdown clock on the TV sitting on the stage, and I think all of these things combined to keep people moving. In the end the event ran almost exactly to schedule, and I believe only 1 or 2 games over the whole tournament had to be cut short. This is an amazing result, and testament to how quickly 1500pt games can be played, especially when people are conscious of the time.

A major danger in this unique event was potential army mismatches. One of the great strengths of the format was that each table could be setup with armies that were more or less on a par in terms of power, allowing for relatively even games across the board. However, if the matches were done poorly, this strength would instead become a pronounced weakness - the mismatches would be locked in and games would suffer each round as a different pair of players arrived on the unbalanced table. We ended up setting up 16 tables, although in the end we had only 22 players. Having 5 extra tables was not a problem, and just allowed for a bit more variety for the players. Over the course of the event, I only heard a few concerns about match-ups, which I will cover later. In general people seemed to be happy with what they were using and facing, and as a whole I would consider this aspect of the tournament a success. 
The tables are setup and the armies come out - more preparation than usual for this event

The atmosphere at the event was excellent. This could be attributed to the mix of players we had on the day, but I think things were slightly more relaxed than they might normally be, given that people knew that their fate was somewhat out of their hands in terms of what game they would be playing, and with what army. I suspect this loss of control relaxed a few people and led to a slightly more happy-go-lucky approach to some of the battles. Regardless of what the ultimate cause was, the tournament was played in a relaxed and happy atmosphere, and I think this contributed to the positive feedback from everyone after the fact.

What went wrong
As you might have gathered from the section above, not a lot really went wrong. You can take everything I say with a pinch of salt, knowing that whatever issues we had, they were largely eclipsed by the overall success of the event.

The match-ups were not perfect. This is not surprising, as for all that we did our best to pair up relatively equal-strengthed forces, the armies were not actually created specifically to fight each other. Instead the lists were written up in isolation (often by me - I think I wrote well over 20 of the lists), and then we sorted through and found a rough match. Whilst this seemed to avoid any chronic mismatches, there were a couple of games that were going consistently one way, and a few tables that people were looking askance at. I've listed all of the match-ups already, but I will highlight for you the tables that caused the most angst. You can go back and look at the specific army lists if you wish.

Ogre Kingdoms vs Orcs and Goblins
The general opinion when looking at this table was that the Ogres had the upper hand. Ogre Kingdoms have come to be regarded as a very solid list, and with units like Mournfangs and an Ironblaster, this list was pretty competitive for 1500pts. The Orcs possessed enough worthwhile targets that we felt the Ironblaster would struggle to cover them all, and had a big block of Orcs with a lot of supporting units. Overall it seemed like an interesting match, however I believe the Ogres did come out on top each time, although some of the games were close. Maybe the Orcs needed slightly more spine against a pretty well optimised opponent.

Ogre Kingdoms vs Orcs and Goblins
Nominally the same match-up, however the armies were completely different. The all-Goblin army had a lot of strings to its bow, however it was potentially hamstrung by its inherent lack of reliability. I saw at least one game fall apart when the Goblins failed a critical Animosity test and guaranteed a fatal flank charge from the main Ogre bus. I believe the Ogres came out on top each time in this game too. Poor Goblins.

Wood Elves vs High Elves
Here the thing that caused the most consternation was the scenario. Most players seemed to feel that the Wood Elves lacked the units to take and hold the tower. I know that the Wood Elves did come out on top at least once, however there was a definite vibe that most players would opt for the High Elves, given the choice. 
Nick vs Dave on the Wood Elf vs High Elf Watchtower table. A game Dave had been waiting over a year for... and lost.
Daemons of Chaos vs Dwarfs
When we paired these two armies up, I think we all looked at the Dwarfs with all their potential diverting and holding units, and decided that it could be an interesting fight. We also figured the Daemon Prince would be an expensive liability. None of this was necessarily untrue, however what we hadn't factored in was the fact that the Dwarfs would require a bit of luck and a lot of finesse to get the job done, whereas the Daemons just rushed across the table. We fell into the trap of looking at the Dwarfs and thinking "it can be done", without considering how difficult it might be, and how uneven that was with the simple approach for the other force. Of all the tables, this probably ended up being our biggest mis-step. There was an 11-9 win to the Daemons, but that was the closest the Dwarfs came to carrying a game.

There was at least one other table where the same army won repeatedly, however the games were not generally one-sided. 

What needs to change
I think if we had our time over, we might make an effort to write lists designed to play each other. This is far more difficult and time-consuming than the approach we took this time, but it should lead to the fairest matches possible. We also need to be conscious of matching armies with similar complexities of play as well as strength - it's not fair having a simple and a very demanding army facing off, as if you assume the players are of similar ability, this leads to an advantage for one party.

We might also look to expand the sources of the armies used next time around. I ended up supplying 15 armies from 6 different races. This included 4 Empire and 4 Orc and Goblin armies, which was a disproportionate number of the total of 32 armies overall. Because they all came from one person, it also meant certain resources were stretched, and it affected army composition. The cavalry-heavy bent of my Empire showed through in a couple of the armies, and it probably shifted the balance of the games in question. It would have been better to have more resources to play with, in order to ensure as good a spread as possible, and not leave certain races fighting over scraps.
For having to waste time re-packing my armies into "only" 8 cases, I received a certificate!
As a whole the Warhammer World Series was definitely a success, and with a few minor tweaks it will hopefully be back bigger and better next year. It was certainly something worth repeating.


  1. The negatives seem far worse than they actualy were. I played on table 11, as wood elves, and I got very close to a win with the Wood Elves.
    I don't think we should create specific match-ups from scratch. Trying to co-ordinate two sets of models, from multiple players, into two evenly-matched forces would be a nightmare! Instead possibly tweak the lists after they have been paired (eg, removing scrolls if the opposing army has no magic).

    Good job running it!

    1. I agree that things went pretty well, even if they were not perfect. And you're right that trying to build armies to face each other sounds a lot harder than our approach. We might try tweaking instead if we find customised matches to be too complicated.

  2. I played that Daemons vs. Dwarfs match up, and ended up getting the Dwarfs and losing 1-19 so I'm probably pretty biased, but I felt outnumbered and out gunned from the outset. Didn't help that my grudge thrower couldn't hit a target to save itself.

    The other table I played on that felt poorly balanced was table 1, Beastmen vs Vampires. I got the Beastmen and all that was destroyed of mine was some chaff I redirected with. I don't think this was due to any skill on my part, it just felt like I had the tools to deal with everything fairly easily. The result was beyond doubt by about turn 3 and ended up in a tabling.

    1. The only other game on that table that I really saw also had the grudge thrower being really useless. The runes on the thing could have been better suited to the opposition, where accuracy would have been better than strength. Never mind.

      As for the Vampire vs Beastmen table, not all the games were as one-sided there, and you may have been preying upon the self-proclaimed "worst warhammer player in melbourne" below, which may have skewed the result a little. The Beastmen may have been the better army, but I don't think the balance was as bad as you're suggesting.

    2. My incompetence was certainly part of it, yeah.

  3. You must remember that one of the orcs vs ogre match ups featured me on the orcs, and as i have so brilliantly defended my title of worst warhammer playr in melbourne at the tournament, they were bound to fail.

    However you have a certificate riddled with hippos looking in awe at your mighty name. Mighty.

    1. I don't think the Orcs managed to pull out a win for the tournament on that table, although I think they only played 3 games due to the extra tables available. Regardless, you were not alone.

      And I thank you for the hippo-riddled certificate, sir. A fine piece of memorabilia.

    2. It should be explained that Nick, who instigated the tournament, find the hippo to be 'creepy' and demanded hippo free certificated. I mentioned this to Greg, who demanded his own custom hippo-riddled certificate...

  4. Greg,

    Possible change to the mechanics of the tournament. Tangentially related to what you have already mentioned.

    Get players to bring their own armies as per a normal tournament set up, but with the change being, that they swap armies with their opponent every round. It's similar to WWS.

    Solves the issue of having army resources stretched thin.

    1. Hi Hieu,

      That would make for a very different tournament to the one we had. It also introduces the problem of people deliberately constructing monstrously under-powered lists, because they know they will be fighting them each round. A variant of this that has been suggested is introducing a mechanic where the armies MIGHT be swapped, with the odds increasing as your comp score gets worse.

      Either way you still have the problem that not everyone wants other people using their models, which is one of the fundamental hurdles to this style of event.