Sunday, 31 March 2013

NATCON 13 Review: A Guest Post by Mike King

Good Evening All - Mike has written up the following to provide us with the Umpire's point of view on how Natcon went and his thoughts on the player's pack used. He's keen to get your input so please comment.

So Natcon has come and gone, here are my thoughts on what worked and what I’d do differently if I ever umpire something in future. The last event I umpired was Natcon 2005 in Christchurch, which was 6th Ed from memory.

I wrote the players pack way back in October, 5 months prior to event and tried to tailor it for maximum appeal as I wanted to attract more than 12 entrants that Natcon 2012 attracted.

2500 points
2500 points rather than the prevalent 2400 points. Personally I would have liked to use 2000 points, as Natcon 2012 did, but this was widely criticised on the blogosphere and given as reason for vast numbers of people not going to 2012 event, so I discarded 2000 points as likely to give people an excuse not to attend and went with 2500 points basically just to be a little be different, as was still playing 2.5 hour games couldn’t increase the points used too much or games would not get finished.

Special Characters
Allowed Special Characters, at the time I wrote the pack most events didn’t allow them, so again was really just something different.

Only 2 Special Characters were taken, Ramhotep The Visionary (Tomb Kings) and Bugman (Dwarfs).

Monstrous Arcanum
Allowing Monstrous Arcanum Magic Items and Bound Monsters to be taken as long as they were in Kinship with army race, I allowed this for 2 reason, first was just to be different and second was if Chaos Dwarf’s can use a Warhammer Forge list, why shouldn’t other races also have the option of using Warhammer Forge units.
Only 2 Monstrous Arcanum monsters were taken, Dread Saurian (Lizardmen) and Nightmare Colossus (Vampire Counts).
Didn’t seem overly powerful, but would need to think about allowing Monstrous Arcanum monsters with either of these two rules in the future.

1. Largest of Monsters (can Thunderstomp anything without this rule)
2. Colossal Beast (can only be wounded by attacks with S4 and above, regardless of attacks Strength can never be wounded on better than a 3+, any spell or attack that would slay outright, does D6 wounds instead, and has 2D6   

The Vampire Player allowed Poison S3 hits to auto-wound the Nightmare Colossus, my reading of the Colossal Beast rule would be that that is not the case, which would make monsters with this rule a real handful for armies without warmachines.

I would also look at allowing Storm of Magic Monsters to be used in future, with some restrictions.  I have no issue with someone running a Choas War Mammoth for example, but would not allow the using of a unit of un-ridden mounts (such as Cold Ones) as this is just silly IMO.

War Machines and Template Weapons
Both were capped at 4, with 2 for 1 Warmachines counting as 1.

Would certainly not up the Template weapon cap, but would increase the War Machine cap to 5 or maybe even 6 to encourage the use of Bolt Throwers, my only concern with this is what it allows Dwarfs to take, another option maybe to exempt Bolt Throwers form the War Machine cap.

Lack of Race Specific Restrictions and use of Veto
I looked at the commonly used race specific restrictions in place at most events last October and could see the point of most of them, and once I dropped the ones I didn’t believe were necessary, I was left with a short list and just figured to was easier to drop them all and use a Veto to block lists with combinations that were over powered.

As I was allowing Monstrous Arcanum, and really had no idea how this would work out and would need to create restrictions based on theoryhammer, figured I needed a Veto mechanism was easier all round.

As it turned out no list came close to getting a veto, and other than an Ethereal Dread Saurian don’t know what else I would have veto’d, certainly any list with Teclis and Thorek any maybe some other special characters would have got an examination.

Scenarios and Battle Points
Played all Scenarios in the Rule Book. Playing Battleline twice and Battle for the Marbles to make up 8 games.

Would have liked to find another scenario to avoid the duplication of Battleline.

Played Watchtower, Blood and Glory and Battle for Marbles using 0-10 Battle Point Table, with other 10 points being achieved by holding the WatchTower, Breaking opponent first and holding Marbles. I did this as I wanted the scenarios to mean something. When I wrote the pack most event gave 600 VP for Holding the Watchtower and Breaking Opponent First, this lead to a lot of players (myself included) often playing then as Battleline for the most part.

I thought this worked well, in 2 of 9 games of Blood and Glory neither player broke, which resulted in 2 low scoring games, both being 6-4 from memory as other 10 VP were left on the table. The other theoretical issue with Blood and Glory is both players could break simultaneously, which would give both players the bonus 10 VP.

Painting Scores
I copied the painting scores checklist form another tournament pack and didn’t really think about it much. I think it was harsh in hindsight, everyone got half the available points for having a fully painted army, but the rest of points where based on basing scheme, display board and conversions and this criteria was somewhat harsh to a few armies.

As painting only made up 10% of Overall Score it didn’t make much difference in end, acted as tied break between 3rd and 4th and shuffled some placings lower down, but no moved more than 1 place as a result.

If I could do it over, I would probably remove the basing scheme bit all together and include it in Overall Impression criteria, where everyone got full marks and reduce the painting points display boards and conversions provided.

Be keen to hear other players thoughts?


  1. I was arguably the person most affected by the altered scenarios (I won Blood+Glory 6-4) so am a bit biased against the use of an out of 10 table in favour of bonus points but I definitely see what you were trying to achieve. I guess the question is how great does the incentive have to be to make players play the scenario and what is reasonable given the possible match-ups? I wouldn't say I have the experience to say for sure.

    As for painting I thought it was quite harsh due to the emphasis given on having a display board ( up to 5 points) and conversions (up to 10 points). I'm personally a big fan of max points for having a tidy good looking army and saving best army for the people who have put in the crazy work into the hobby elements (which they should be rewarded for).

    I also liked the oddball prizes given out at the end.

  2. I think a harsh painting score is warranted. It does reward the player who spends his time painting and preparing his army when he could otherwise be playing practise games! For example, at Equinox I thought the painting scores were fucked, your average run-of-the-mill painter should not be getting the same scores (20/20) as folks like Graeme Fry and David Hart. Players like Dun Butler (I know Dan wont be offended by this) got 12/20 for just having black undercoat on all his mini's! To be honest 3 or 4 neat colours dipped in a wash, with basing is still (my mini's!) pretty lazy IMO, I think Mike you should be congratulated in making the paint scores actually mean something and rewarding the hobby, I mean we are playing Warhammer after all, not chess!

  3. Id prefer it if the painting score was simply removed altogether. Make 3 colours the minimum for entering an army but leave the determination of who wins entirely up to battle points.

    As for painting run it the same way as FOW do or the way Neil did at Vermintide last year. Set out all the armies on the 2nd morning and the TO with 1-2 3rd party volunteers then go around and pick the best army. To have someone with more BP finish lower than someone with less because their painting isnt as good isnt the ideal result.

    Special characters I'm not a fan off as these are the one aspect of the source books that are not balanced. Banning some e.g. Thorek and Teclis doesnt help but then I'm a bit biased there. The reason I played FOW rather than WHFB at NATCON was because of the inclusion of Special Characters and units from the MOnstrous Arcanum. In regard to Chaos Dwarfs I personally dont think they should be allowed at events period. They are not, despite their acceptance, an official GW army and should be kept out.

    There are plenty of scenarios around in White Dwarf - how about running a competition and get people to design one. Or make one game a 3 way battle alah the Karak 8 Peaks event Pete Dunn ran last year.

    1. Thanks Mike for running a great event. I thought it was very well run and the judging was pretty fair.

      I do agree with the painting being judged and scored serperate from the award as best voted by all players. I do feel I would be put out if someone ended up beating me with somebody else having painted their army.

      I liked the scenarios. They forced people into taking more balanced armies. In my game against skaven there was no way he was going to get rid of my bloodletters once they holed up in the watchtower. Blood and glory also forces you to take some more balanced units with standards and the others as well. I really liked how the scenarios worked out as I dislike playing the same old battle line every single game.

      To be honest the special characters and monsters didn't make much of a difference and as Mike said he was vetoing the harsher lists, which he didn't end up needing to do.

      Other than the tournament, I realise Mike that it wasn't your fault, but it was a bit funny on the whole food is contraband thing. It was rather brutal and could have been handled a more diplomatic matter. My wife was told because the men were using the ladies toilet's and that she had to use the disabled ones. She was ok with this, but not in the way she was approached about it. And when she went to use the disabled toilets she walked in on somebody using them because there was no locks on the door. As she says if she had a problem sharing toilet facilities with guys, she wouldn't be in a tournament anyways.

    2. Surely the fact that they were allowed on mass, yet only 2/18 thought they had a SC worth taking in their army tells you how crap the vast majority actually are? I think fantasy wargamers need to move past this... Tbh honest I'm almost at the point of saying allow Teclis and Thorek in too (though I guess Teclis will likely be fixed soon anyway)

      Re painting scores, having seen the effect of no painting scores in the UK, and the generally shit armies that were showing up on mass, versus the far more impressive armies on display in NZ on average... Yeah painting scores Included matters.

    3. Yeah I don't really see the issue with 95% of Special Characters as they are all generally sub-par or tie the army to a very narrow build to be competitive. Monstrous Arcanum though is a whole different ballgame in my opinion. The issue is that Forge World likes to make big nasty monsters and then give them cheap upgrades which remove the ways 90% of armies are able to kill big monsters. When these options are taken there is no way they are balanced for tourney play. I think you can bring them, but it will require good vigilance from the TO (which Mike provided when he ruled the colossus could be poisoned down).

      As for painting, I absolutely want to see nicely painted armies on the table, but like Neil below I felt the scoring system was too harsh and that too much emphasis was placed on a display board (not part of an army imo) and conversions.

  4. Just like to say a big thank you to you Mike for putting up your hand to run the tournament. I was worried that the event might not be run as the host club couldn’t seem to find a TO for a long time.
    My comments on the player pack are as follows:
    2500 points.
    A bit surprised and as I commented on your draft I thought that 2000 points would be better to assure that people could get through their games on time. However it did encourage me to look to do something about my speed of play so I could have more than 4 turns. I thoroughly enjoyed playing Dwarfs and did manage to get through 7 / 8 games on time one game had to end at the end of turn 5. So that was a huge turn around for me. I’m a bit miffed though that there was a prize for the slowest player LOL.
    Special Characters
    With a few exceptions that can be individually named I think allowing special characters at tournaments are fine. It allows armies to be more themed to take advantage of the character’s abilities and so provides more variety. So I’m all in favour of them now with the new army books.
    Monstrous Arcanum
    I didn’t know anything about them but had a quick google to find out about them. I’m fine with them on occasion as again it adds a bit of variety to the lists.
    War Machines
    The cap was fine. If you are worried about Dwarfs you could always add a race specific cap, or cap the points value that could be spent on war machines. In this way players could mix and match their war machines as they like within a separate points limit.
    I’m really not sure about the scenarios. I like them and think they should be included as it forces some flexibility into your builds and play style. I do not do very well at them usually, probably because my focus is wrong. So, thinking about it, I think you have the right approach, even if so far it has worked against me. I see that Runefang has a similar approach with 1000vps for the objective and a lowest score of 11-9 if you win.
    I agree that the system was too harsh. I had read the player pack but decided not to go to the trouble of making a display base for an army I was trying out to see if I liked. So I knew I was sacrificing points. There were no conversions in the army, one dwarf looks pretty much the same as any other dwarf to me no matter how much you swap their heads. I suppose I could have made an anvil but I liked the look of the GW model so went and bought it for the tournament. My movement trays are handmade and are painted, dry brushed with 2 or 3 shades of grey and had painted gravel on them, this also included the base of the tray on which the models sit. The individual models had the same treatment. They were representing the rocks and slates of the mountain domains of the Dwarfs. So I feel disappointed with receiving the lowest painting score. It moved me from equal 9th to 13th. I feel that my individual models were better painted than some other models I saw. A display base, whilst attractive is not what you see on the battlefield, and it’s how the army looks on the battlefield that I feel is important. Conversions also suit some armies more than others. So I would drop the diorama base and conversion parts. It’s more fun playing with and against a nicely presented army against a diorama of good looking terrain. It is also more likely to attract newcomers into the hobby who might have come along to look. John mentions my Vermintide system, yes it’s simple and works well, but it is designed to encourage new people into the hobby and/or people building up new armies. I think for most tournaments you want to have a fully painted requirement.

    Anyway, I had a blast playing, it was well run and the venue was good. I enjoyed playing Dwarfs for the first time and I hope everyone enjoyed their games against me. Most memorable moment – Dwarfs chasing Saurus warriors off the board on turn one from the centre of the table.

    1. Geez, 1 tournament with Dwarf's and already it's grumble grumble.

    2. Just making sure I act in character.
      Oh no, everbody hates me now.

  5. Jeff: I'll be interested in people's views after Runefang which is using a slightly different mechaism to try and make scenarios more meaningful to what people prefer.

    John: Thanks for being up front about your reasons for not playing Fantasy at Natcon, appreciate the frank feedback. Don't believe your alone in wanting the Warhammer Forge Chaos Dwarf's banished from events.

    Like the idea of running an create a scenario competition, or even a blog post where people can point out all those that are out there (hint).

    Neil: Thanks for the feedback on draft pack.

    My thoughts on Painting scores.

    There was a requirement for all armies to be painted to 3 colour minimum standard, I only saw 1 unpainted warmachine in any army so as a whole everyone meet this criteria.

    Because of this, I believe all the fully painted armies should have received a minimum of 75% of the available painting points, with a straight forward checklist for remaining 25% based on overall look of army (does it look cohesive, based consistently). Any army that doesn't meet the fully painted standard, could then be docked points maybe 10-20% of available painting points per unfinished unit.

    As it was, 25% of painting points being dependant on conversions was too much, as an army can look fantastic and have no conversions.

    I wounldn't have allowed anyone to use an army that was just under coated black or base coated one colour, but acknowledge some events aer more about participation than others.