Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Leveling the field of play?

I stole Chaoswolf's phrase!

Talk of the week (and year really) is regarding comp(ensation) regulations for tournaments under 8th edition. On Pete Dunn's blog recently, Fields of Blood, he talked about how the presenters of Heelanhammer, and Dan Heelan in particular, are running the South Coast GT in England, and how Battleline will be the only scenario played.

Pete and Dan are among the top ranked players in NZ and the UK, so they know their stuff. Dan was sick of stories of unbalanced games due to scenarios, like the Grave Guard in the watchtower, and about how many games were becoming non-events. On the other hand Pete believes that scenarios aid in 'comping' armies and add the strategic interest. Dan replied on Pete's blog, and the debate is very positive and constructive, well worth the read.

I can certainly see both sides here. It is nigh on impossible to win some scenarios against certain match-ups. Watchtower is the stand out scenario for this. (Listening to his podcast, it is apparent that Dan has a dislike for massive units of troops dominating the game, and he believes it is to WFB's detriment.)

But I think I am more on Pete's page here. In a way this debate has been going on since 8th came in, and the more I play and experience the game the more balanced I believe the game to be. You know that you are going up against nasty death stars and hard magic at some point. So you take bigger units to compensate, and gamble on the points investment, or spread your points out on more smaller units. You know you are going up against big units and death stars so you take some nuke spells or an extra piece of artillery and gamble that nothing explodes.

The same goes for scenarios. You know that at some point you will be playing Blood and Glory, so you take banners on all your units. You know there is a chance that some of your best units will start off the table in Meeting Engagement, so you spread out your points investment through your army. Of course, you can certainly do otherwise, but the odds aren't always going to be in your favour, and when they are not, you are going to suffer more than someone who has accounted for more eventualities, and likely has sacrificed some powerful combo or another to do so.

This is not to say that WFB 8th edition rules are perfect fit for tournament play unmodified. Some special characters and items seem to spring to mind, and probably vary, depending on who you ask. But even then Teclis can be countered - if you know he's out there you have no excuse being unprepared for him. It is a valid argument that these certain items and characters are not conducive to fun play, which is fair enough. But I think it becomes hard to argue for balance or unbalance given all the variables and options available.

The comp rules for FluffyCon are there to encourage people to take 'soft' lists which are fun to play without the looming threat of power items and characters and units. But is it really more fun to play with a weak list? We didn't think so, which was why we didn't attend. But even those who DID attend had cause for gripe.

My personal views on this are swinging towards 'less is more' approach to comp. Tournaments will be kind to those with lists that can adapt to the widest range of situations. Those that are geared to certain situations (holding a watchtower with a single un-killable unit, for example) or against certain opponents might massacre that one game in six, but will probably find it hard to keep it up over the other five games.

And as for unbalanced scenarios, even Battleline leads to unbalanced match-ups with certain armies. Is it a better test of generalship by keeping the scenario a constant factor? I would argue 'no', mixing it up tests the tactical competency far more. Many tournaments I have been hearing about create their own scenarios, so even the BRB ones are not the 'be all and end all'.

At its core, it comes down to lots and lots of dice rolling. If you roll bad, no amount of comp or list loading is going to save you. But neither is playing to statistical averages. Averages do not win you tournaments, they just help form sound strategy and tactics. Being able to think on your feet wins tournaments, and rolling the right number at the right time merely helps.

Of course, I am but a novice, with just a single tournament notch on my newly tanned leather belt; so what do I know, really? Not much, to be sure. I do think a lot about this sort of thing and consider myself widely read on these topics so that's all I got going for me.

But I am interested to hear what you think!