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.

Lord of the Rings "Tournament of Skulls" Recap

When I finished second overall at this years Gathering in the Desert Lord of the Rings Tournament, it earned me a spot in this "Throne of Skulls" tournament that Games Workshop was running for the first time in North America. Luckily for me the TOS was in Las Vegas which is only 4+ hours from Phoenix so of course I was willing to make the trip; combine that with the fact that I was married in Elvis of course...and my wife agreed whole-heartedly with me attending the TOS while she gambled and shopped of course! So last Friday, we picked up Tim K who had also been invited and made the drive up. I took my Isengard Raiders list with Mauhur leading 28 scouts, 6 feral Uruk-hai, 8 warg riders and Saruman tagging along with hopes of finishing in the middle of the pack.

I enjoy LOTR and was looking forward to talking with, and hopefully playing against, a lot of the people that have made the journey to GITD over the years. I was also looking forward to seeing how GW ran an event as I had never been to anything "official". Here's a quick rundown of the tournament which I will follow-up with some general comments at the end:

Registration - Though the line seemed long initially on Friday night, I think registration went smoothly. We got little "goody" bags along with our badges and schedules. I got a tape measure, a bag of LOTR blue Gondor dice and a GW water bottle. Not bad.

Saturday morning - Breakfast was provided at the venue in the Tropicana and was scheduled to be from 7am to 8am, but there was apparently a disconnect as the Tropicana staff thought it was to start at 8am. Eventually the hungry gamers prevailed and opened the serving lines up by themselves. Nice continental breakfast.

Game 1 - The first scenario was "Clash of Piquets" and I drew Mike B. who had made the journey from Floriday for TOS. Mike ran a combined Isengard Raider & Goblin list; he had Ugluk, 17 feral Uruk-hai, some scouts and a bunch of goblins including prowlers and maxed out at 75 models. This was a bad match up for me because from experiance I have to be able to concentrate my force and pick my spot; being outnumbered by 31 models pretty much killed me in this scenario and I was doomed from the start. Mike wins.

Lunch - Well, lunch started on time. It was basically build your own sandwich and the food was again good.

Game 2 - The second scenario was "Storm the Camp" and I drew Josh L and his Galadrim elf list. I figured I'd have a chance in this scenario if I could close with Josh before I was shot up by his S3 bowfire. Unfortunately for me, Josh's dice were "hot" and he killed 6 Uruks in his first turn of direct fire (after killing some in volley fire before that)...and when I finally closed with his line preventing him from firing at me it seemed every time I rolled a 6 in melee he would match it and win due to FV5. Another loss (see a trend developing?)

Game 3 - Well the last game of the day was "Domination" and because of my excellent performance in the first two games I played the "Ringer" army in the third game. The "ringer" was being run by Price who had made the trip from Memphis with the other GW staff. It was Easterlings with Khamul on a fellbeast along with some Khandish mercenary cavalry. This was a game where fate was against me. I left my archers securing one objective, sent a small force after the 6 archers Price moved toward the objective on my left and sent my wargs off to the right against the Khandish mercs and Khamul while Mauhur and Saruman drove up the center of the table toward the far objective. It was close initially, but my 7" move for the scouts came in handy in this game and I got the Easterling army to break when I had secured 2 objectives; now I just needed the game to continue a couple of turns and watch as some of the Easterlings failed their Stand Fast rolls so I could get one more objective; unfortunately the scenario has a variable end and Price rolled a "2" at the end of the turn he broke and the game ended in a draw...I needed one more turn for the win...oh, well...

Dinner - My wife was done with her day at the spa, shopping and gambling so she joined me for dinner at the venue. It was very good and we both really liked it. There was plenty of food and I don't think anyone went hungry.

Day 2, Game 4 - Well I was doing really poorly and hoped to get at least one win on the second day. I knew that it would be a challenge when I saw I was facing Gary L in the "Seize the Prize" scenario. I had faced Gary a couple of years ago at GITD and he is a tough, friendly, player that doesn't make mistakes and plays to win. Gary ran a "White Company" list with the upgraded Faramir, Eowyn and Beregond leading a bunch of Osgiliath veterans and rangers. The modified scenario required the artifact be exited off of the opponents edge to win. With my speed and Gary only having one mounted model (Faramir) I hoped that I could work some magic. It really turned into a meat grinder for both of us and the re-roll from Faramir won Gary quite a few combats. The key turning point, for me at least, was actually fairly early in the game. I had a clear line of sight to Faramir with Saruman and I tried to Sorcerous Blast him to get him off of his horse; he ended up using all of his will and might to resist. After that Gary thought about moving him, but left him in place which gave me an opportunity. Gary appeared to be lining Faramir up for a charge and had left a gap in his line through which Faramir could move; well on the next turn I caste Compel using 2 dice knowing that he couldn't resist and I was positioned to be able to surround Faramir and hopefully do some damage to him. No such luck as I rolled snake eyes and Faramir thumbed his nose at Saruman. I did manage to dig up the artifact and hand it off to Saruman and tried to break through on the far left only to die to a man. Good, challenging game that I could have won...

The last game of the tournament left me matched up with Eric Roof's Dwarf army. Eric runs Conquest Miniatures and produces wonderful figures. The scenario was standard "Meeting Engagement". We traded casualties for the first part of the game, but I think I peeled off too much of my strength to my left in an effort to surround 4-6 dwarfs Eric had moved there to shield his ballista. I had an opportunity for glory when I managed to get Sorcerous blast off at the start of my move that took down his King's Champion, the 2 accompanying banners and Dain! I immediately swamped all of those figures hoping to get some wounds in on them and keep them on the ground...sadly, my dice failed me because eventhough I won all 4 combats, I didn't do a single wound...and that's with rolling double dice with multiple attacks from ferals and Mauhur on each figure!!!! Ugh...sadly for me...after that the dwarfs stood up and just went to work. Eric broke me and though I had him close to break I reached 25% pretty quickly after I was broken. Good game against a good opponent.

After the last game ended at 330pm they did a quick Q&A session without many answers and though the schedule said awards were supposed to be given out at 430pm we were told to be back at 515pm for the awards. I didn't like the delay because we were leaving right after the awards to drive home. Well 515pm came and went and they finally started on the awards just before 6pm, and though they went through them quickly I don't think it made up for the huge delay.

Next post will be on some general thoughts about the TOS...