Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tavern Talk - Tournaments and Comp

Another subject of hot debate from The Trading Post. This time it's all about comp. There's some pretty definitive comp lists, the ETC springs to mind, and every variation all the way to no comp - bring your filth tournaments such as the Ard Boyz. Your opinion of these rules depends on how you want to play warhammer, but of course, as rules packs are available well before the tournament begins, you should know what you're in for. A fluff player (guilty) might find the kind of mathhammer at the ETC disagreeable, but a hardcore-tournament junkie (I could easily go down this road if I went to more tourneys!) would love it. Personally, I tend toward more scenario-based soft list warhammer, but I still like the odd frenzied competition game. But there's a few pitfalls in comp.

Most games of 8th I've played have had some form of comp. Some of this, at this stage still comes from knee-jerk reaction to a new system, but also as it takes time to get enough feedback to refine comp lists, so I think we have some time to go before a truly balanced comp list (again, the ETC comp is pretty good) is in common usage.

The most common comp I've come across is the no special characters rule. I regard this as almost mandatory, even in friendlies. I hate special characters, they unbalance the game (hello Teclis) terribly, so I'm all for this one. There are the other common comps I can take or leave such as no power scroll, no scenarios, max 12 power dice and so on. Most of this works quite well, as they adjust common mechanics that affect all armies. As most of the army books are 7th ed, I think there is some adjustment needed to allow for 8th ed tourneys. One thing that causes problems is true line of sight (TLOS). I know that the virtual line of sight (VLOS) is gaining momentum, but...I dunno. I have no issues with TLOS, but I can understand how, if you're playing a jackhole it can get unpleasant. The jury is still out on that one.

Where I think it gets more complicated is where you get into allowances for specific armies, like 200 extra points for Beastmen or Wood Elves. Granted Wood Elves are a tough prospect in 8th, but once you start introducing army-specific comp things can get messy. I'm not saying it's a bad idea per se, but I think an organiser needs to have an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the game to start comping in this way to achieve balance.

One thing I do like about comp, especially comp that forces soft or unusual lists (1000pts core minimum, no lvl 4 wizards etc, or special scenario lists) is that it forces you to play in a different way, using units you might not usually field. To me, this is a good thing as it brings something fresh to the game. This appeals to me too as being a vampire counts player, I am tiring of having to play the same list over and over. I'll never give up my dead lads, but being tied to virtually one viable build (plus I miss my skellie blocks) is getting boring, both for me and my opponents, so unusual comp stirs it up a little.

So there you go. A little rumination on the vagaries of comp in 8th edition.


  1. I have no problem with ETC restrictions in a team tournament. The problem is that everyone immediately decides the restrictions must work in every situation because they've come from an esteemed establishment. In the context of the ETC, the rules may work because every team is forced to take 8 different races, meaning you are guaranteed to get some variety and any potential imbalance between the races becomes less of an issue.

    When ETC is applied in an individual tournament, you can end up with a third of the armies looking the same.

    The other problem I have with something like ETC restrictions is they tend to have no comp scoring associated with them. So the idea is you squeeze under the restriction and otherwise abuse the list as hard as possible. Not all of us want to play that way, which is why comp was introduced in the first place.

    It's possible these things will be less of a problem under 8th ed, but I wouldn't count on it.

    Also, I would suggest that anyone granting wood elves and beastmen a points advantage over the other races does *not* have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the armies...

    I prefer to play with TLOS because it's the way the rules are written. I can understand having to adjust the rules to compensate for inadequacies in terrain, but things like "infinitely high" hills is just a statement that the rules are wrong...

  2. On the beastmen/wood elves comment, that's exactly my point, these comps have been put forward based on less than perfect knowledge of ALL the armies.

    I have to agree with you on TLOS at the moment.

  3. As usual, a great article; thanks very much for posting.

    I've never played in a tournament so I can't comment usefully on the pros and cons of 'comp', but I wonder if you could expand on this: 'being tied to virtually one viable build'?

  4. Cheers Mr Bovine. The one viable build for VC is essentially, what you see in 90% of competitive tournament armies is:

    1. A big unit of grave guard with Wight king bsb
    with the Drakenhof banner.
    2. Two big blocks of ghouls.
    3. A caster lord with the helm of commandment in
    a bunker of skeletons with hand weapon and
    4. A unit of Wraiths.
    5. Black coach/double vargulf
    6. Season to taste.

    Nobody uses block of skeletons, spirit hosts, dire wolves etc in any great numbers. Unlike the new 8th ed army books, there isn't a great variety of builds you can pick and compete in a tournament setting. It's shame, and seeing the new TK skeletons at HALF the cost of VC skeletons only rubs salt in the wound. Or garlic, I guess.

  5. Thanks for the explanation Mr Saturday. Is there any benefit in taking something outside the expected normal build for surprise value? Or are the Skeletons, Spirit Hosts etc so bad that the disadvantage of having them on the table is greater than any advantage gained by making one's opponent react to something unexpected?

    Regarding the cost of TK vs VC skeletons, presumably that gives you hope for the future at least. It seems that TK were the poor cousins of the Undead for many years so I suppose that their players will be delighted by the difference in (perceived) power level.

  6. The meta game is always worth considering, especially for VC, as most people expect the same-ish list. I've had success with a vampire combat lord, as a fighty vampire is quite the nasty gent. This, however, is a bit of a one-trick pony, as people will soon realise that you are magically vulnerable, and also you general is open to that sneaky assassin/killing blow etc.

    I'm experimenting with small units of dire wolves and fell bats to fatten deployment and also add some war machine hunting capability. Two units of three fell bats is proving the most successful, and it catches folks out. One of the things I still love about warhammer is the game is always changing, a unit that sucks now (zombies) might find a way back due to some new tactic or change.

    I do yearn for cheap skellies and something to make zombies worth it. With unstable in 8th, it just isn't right now. A unit of skaven slaves has more staying power than zombies these days. Perhaps GW will do something to address the blatant unbalance in points between the two, but I doubt it. TK players deserve their moment in the sun (ta-da!) after such a long wait anyway.


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