Monday, June 20, 2011

"Throne of Skulls" Thoughts

Well, having attended my first GW "event", I have some observations and thoughts on my experiance.

Things I liked:

  • Seeing and talking with players I've gotten to know at Gathering in the Desert

  • Facing tough opponents

  • The food; good catering

  • Winning a random door prize of 3 Lord of the Rings "command" boxes

  • The venue (Vegas!)

Things I didn't like:

  • The fact that some guys played against each other in 2 out of the first 3 games and got a bonus point for it; there were enough armies (24) in the tournament to allow for no rematches on the first day of the tournament.

  • Not having good vs. evil for the first round; again, there were almost enough armies from each "side" to allow for that in the first round. Instead it was Gondor vs. Gondor, Isengard vs. Isengard and Moria vs. Moria for some of the first round match-ups.

  • The format. There were only wins, losses and draws; there were no "minor" or "major" category for either wins or losses. I guess I've been spoiled by the effort that Tim K goes through at GITD and other organizers that I've heard about at other Independant tournaments have taken to give players interesting yet challenging scenarios for LOTR.

  • The scoring. It seemed kind of mysterious to sportsmanship (just a single vote for the "favorite game" which was just weird IMO).

  • The results/awards. Besides taking so long to give out the awards, I think that for being a "core" game, LOTR got shorted. For WHFB and 40k, each distinct army present that has an official codex had a best general award, even if there was only 1 or 2 armies from that faction participating. This didn't happen for LOTR with only a best "good" and a best "evil" general and a best overall given. It just doesn't seem consistent to me; the LOTR players traveled just like players from those other systems and should have been given the same consideration.

Things I'm undecided about:

  • The terrain. The battle boards were nice as were the ruins, but I didn't like the tree bases or all of the fences...apparently there are abandoned farms throughout Middle Earth with random fences everywhere. Now I understand trying to make the terrain consistent for a tournament setting such as this, but again I guess I'm spoiled by the themed terrain Tim K puts out for GITD and that I know others also put a lot of effort into.

  • The paint scoring. Two of the three armies that won awards for painting in LOTR were nice, but I felt there were a couple of others that were clearly nicer. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess.

Other thoughts:

  • If I qualify for next year's TOS, will I go to Memphis? If I had to decide right now, no I wouldn't go. The event wasn't bad, but I expected something more...this just was "eh"...ok. Now, when the time comes and if I had an opportunity to go, I probably would just to catch up with everyone and hope to get in some challenging games, but only time will tell on that.

  • I'm not sure if I like 700 point games. Until this tournament I've only played at 350, 500 and 600 points. Out of those I honestly like 350 point games the best. I saw some of the games at 700 points end in draws because both players were at max model count and it took so long to deploy, move, shoot and fight that those armies couldn't hope to break an opponent in the alloted time. This point level also gives some players additional leeway to take even odder, more strangely configured (IMO) armies than at lower point levels. LOTR is a skirmish game and I've always felt that the forces on the table should reflect lower level battles from the books and not turn into min-max combinations where players cherry pick certain troop types and ally them with another certain troop type from another army just to win. I mean, why can't people try to win with common troops or troops from just one list? Isn't that more of a measure of how good of a player you are instead of spending hours figuring out great combinations from various lists that will be ultra-competative? Of course, this doesn't apply to all of the armies that were there...there were some very solidly themed armies, but there were several others that left me scratching my head.


ChrisLS said...

Totally agree with your comments on the format, and the fact that we're all spoiled with how Tim K runs things. GitD has become THE model for how to run a LOTR GT, and while I like some of the ideas (such as basing Overall Winner on relative performance), I'd prefer to see LOTR scored the way it should be.

jlong05 said...


Also agree with you. I had a nice additional day to think about the ToS and what I thought the chances of a repeat for myself were. I doubt that will occur. I would rather spend my money and vacation time to attend other Indy events since I enjoy those more.

I was very discouraged with the outcome. I actually spoke to Ed the next morning on the way out and we discussed thoughts, what I liked and didn't. I did explain that while 40k and WFB support a base Win/Lose/Draw format, LotR SBG is designed around Majors and Minors and to be effective the ToS format should allow that for LotR to remain consistant with the actual game.

I also addressed softscores(theme, paint etc...) however Ed clearly said ToS isn't about the softscores, in fact they removed them to hopefully make the games more fun, and less about competition(his words, not mine). I explained without theme etc, there are less controls to prevent the min/max mentality, but the format is that and I understand.

I do find it interesting though that the attempt to remove 'soft scores' because they are subjective(again Ed's words, not mine) ended up being the major swing factor for the event.

Tom O said...

Chris & John,
Yes, we have been spoiled. And I agree that attempting to remove the "soft scores" yet including that "favorite game" really messed up the results IMO. If they truly didn't want the soft scores in, then why the "favorite game"? By merits of your 4 wins Chris, you should have won IMO.
John, you make an excellent point about traveling to support other Indy events instead of the TOS; who knows maybe next year I'll get to Adepticon along with Gathering.
Thanks guys,
Tom O

Jerry said...

Both nice write ups, Tom. I agree that I like the 350pt games better than the 700pt games. In fact, this so-called "skirmish game" can end up with more models on the table than my 40K Ultramarines or Tau at 1500pts! I'm actually beginning to burn out on those big points games (500+ pts for LotR).

Anyway, it's sad to see that LotR appears to have got short changed somewhat. It really is my favorite game system and would like to see it supported equally with the other two games.

Tom O said...


I find the 350 pt games more about maneuver and tactics than a lot of the larger games I've played of LOTR. Yes, it's nice to get a bunch of models on the table but it reaches a point of where it's almost a dice rolling exercise...almost. Anyway, I still like the game and won't be shelving it anytime soon, that's for sure...

Tom O

Mike G. said...

Tom and Jerry (heh), I agree with you on the 350 points. I've lost interest in the higher point games (600+ points) as I think the game seriously breaks down. Maneuver becomes less important and rolling 6s is what wins games. That being said, the system is intriguing and I would gladly play smaller games like 350 points or less any time.

Anonymous said...

I very much liked what you had to say at the end of your blogpost, and I'm very much in agreement! (I just posted the other day on my blog, intimating similar thoughts before even coming by here to see what was new!)

For the longest while, I've always found it more thrilling to watch as the common soldiers saw my army's way to victory, as opposed to some special uber character stepping in and just doing...everything. (I remember when "hero-hammer" was a pejorative's not quite so much these days.)

For what it's worth, I had a group of friends (all from Calgary/Canada) who went to the ToS tournament as well but playing on the 40k side of the tournament; after the tournament was done, not one of them was thrilled enough to be willing to say they'd go again next year (assuming they got the invite).

As for the points values, I know what you mean about the burnout! I have some friends from out of town who make it over to my place a couple times each year to play LotR SBG, and last time we got four of us together and played 900 points per side (so, 450 per player). By the end of the night, everyone involved agreed that we were using too many points.

It's too bad the GW guys don't quite grasp that the LotR SBG is a skirmish game first and foremost...and that the word skirmish generally means SMALLER battles. Sadly, I think GW has decided that they need to always be pushing events that they're directly involved in to higher and higher points limits--perhaps so that the games ostensibly feel more...epic?

I dunno....