So now I’ve had more than 5 minutes’ sleep and the experience has at least begun to digest, what do I think of the tournament? Well I think it was clearly a success from Mantic’s point of view. Their aim was to road test the game system under tournament conditions (using live gamers), and especially to get some feedback on the use of timed games using chess clocks, like this one:
The Kings of War rules showed that they are generally robust and play quickly, though they are still a work in progress (as Ronnie explains) with a couple of very broken units who were very exploited by veteran tourney players. Masters of Death (assassins) were the most egregious of these and the human captain that could give Vanguard to everyone (you get to advance units after both sides deploy) the next. Vanguard was nerfed after a couple of games so that chap came 4th overall, but the assassins remained as written throughout, and the 3 armies that focussed on them came in 1st, 2nd & 3rd place. No real surprise there as they were very, very broken.
A third aspect that Alessio considered overdone were the vampire units. I had used these as the focus of my army, but after 6 games I thought rather less of them and am not personally convinced they need toning down. They are powerful, to be sure, but have their vulnerabilities too and can be killed once you understand this. As they stand I now think (having actually played the game a bit) that I probably wouldn’t take them if I was being really competitive. I can get more punch for my points with other selections (even ignoring the aforementioned broken bits). There were also issues with nasty flying things, especially when they had the Nimble rule (extra turns during movement); allies probably won’t be allowed in “real” tournaments, and so on.
What this tournament allowed Mantic to do was to see the really horrible bits before they have a room full of a hundred paying customers. The tournament pack will be updated accordingly. So a big win for Mantic on that front.
The chess clocks will probably stay too. There was a bit of a technical hitch with several of the ones we had to hand being broken. However, we muddled by and played games at several different lengths to see what was easy and what was pressured. First game was 90 minutes each, the next was 60, then 45. On sunday we started with 30 minutes each and then went back to 45 each for the last two games. Alessio’s aim here was to try and introduce another element to manage in game: time. This was perhaps less successful, and I’m not convinced it really encourages the kind of armies Mantic want to see. For me, if I was picking another tourney army for a timed tournament I would think small numbers of units as the only people that had issues with the time were those with big armies to move. This seems to go against the grain of Mantic’s whole ethos, but it’s their call. Chess clocks work fine in chess tournaments as both sides have fixed and equal “armies”. When the armies are flexible then simply moving them in your turn becomes an issue, and impacts on your selection. Whilst this isn’t a problem as such, it seems to be an emergent result rather than a planned aim, and not one that entirely fits IMO. Couple this with what seems to be overpowered characters and the trend could be to smaller, more character-heavy armies – not so much the “Big armies, Huge battles” aim Mantic have as a by-line.
So that’s what it did for Mantic; how about me? Well I confess that I’m not really a tournament player. I find the whole atmosphere both artificial and overly competitive (I know – it’s supposed to be). Or something: it’s hard to define exactly why I don’t get on with them. I like the idea in some ways, but usually end up feeling rather ill by the end of the sunday. The fact that the venue was rather stuffy didn’t help – they have loads of fans, but not windows that opens so you get to push the gamer funk about rather than replace it. Anyway, I went along regardless to help out as they’d had loads of cancellations.
The players were a great bunch, and I’d happily play any of my opponents again. That in itself is an accolade, as that has not been true of a fair number of the people I have played against at tournaments in the past. If you’ve been following this you may recall that I mentioned Blood Bowl tournaments as being my favourite. This was, as expected, near that end of the spectrum, which is a real accolade. The “vibe” was very good.
Unfortunately the rather broken nature of many of the armies (my own included if you don’t know how to deal with vampires) didn’t make for very fun games. Note here that I mean the games themselves. They weren’t unpleasant to play, even when I was being obliterated (as it was hardly a surprise), and I hope it wasn’t too awful for the folks I killed on day 1. But all told, the games were all landslides, and these are not as fun as close games. I think I mentioned this yesterday. At other conventions I have had similar whitewashes some of the time, and in early rounds you might expect this as players of wildly different abilities meet in random draws. However, once the levels settle a bit in later rounds you would increasingly expect to get more balanced games between opponents of similar skill. Some of the other games in the tournament were balanced in this way, but not any of mine. You can get a vague idea which ones were by looking at the results here. The numbers in brackets at the end of each result are the points killed by each side – a crude guide to the closeness of the fight.
One of the things I do like about tournaments is the large selection of armies on show. Again, due to the rather rushed and experimental nature of this tourney there were less nice armies and a great many proxies. Among others we had Romans and even at once stage a Napoleonic army standing in for something. Many folk had some or all GW figures in their armies, and the werewolf army was a mixture of Rackham and Otherworld, which was cool. When I was considering taking a werewolf unit myself it was the Rackham Wolfen I was going to use.
There were some Mantic figures on show too. The first army I fought was Mantic Undead, the second Mantic Orcs and the third Mantic Elves (who were particularly nice), so it wasn’t all proxied by any means. GW used to be very strict about using only their models in their events, which is fine, but I rather liked the mixture of Mantic and not, especially as it allowed a deal of invention and a chance for players to see models they’d not come across before. Whilst Mantic is a business I hope they continue this line, which is good for the hobby in a wider sense IMO (as well as being more fun).
Would I go again? Probably not myself. As I said, I’m not really a tournament player. If I was? Well if I was into KOW I’d definitely consider it. The Mantic crew aren’t half bad at thinking of extra interesting things to do, bringing along some unreleased Warpath models to show off and having numerous Q&A sessions with Ronnie and Alessio. I’d expect full tourneys to have this sort of thing and more. If they can retain and build on the existing community spirit then that in itself is a good thing. Community spirit is of inestimable value for a company, and Mantic have some very enthusiastic, loyal and cheery fans. If KOW is part of your hobby then it’ll be worth trying at least once, and you never know – you may be bitten by the tournament bug.
Finally, I’ve just noticed that Mantic’s own blog has some more pictures of the event and the winners, plus news of the revised tournament pack going online soon, so you might want to check that out too!
PS: judging by the site stats not all of you have found the earlier posts with more commentary plus all the photos 🙂