A Warhammer Question

I have a quick little question for your ranting pleasure ;P

Have Warhammer tournaments died?

I know that GW now prefers the term “events”, but what about the real world? 10 or 15 years ago there was a thriving scene with a number of different event types, though Swiss style competitive tournaments were by far the most common. I have heard that some of the big event organisers are dropping the game from their multi-system events because of lack of interest. Does anyone know more?

I’m intrigued as this reflects on a number of issues, possibly that the system style or ethos has changed, and equally possibly that it has been broken for tournament play. One could read a lot into this if it is true.

So, is it?

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35 Responses to A Warhammer Question

  1. Minitrol says:

    I played in our national tournie last year, numbers were the highest I had seen at a Warhammer tournament – ever. Numbers have remained fairly high in NZ trailed a little in the south as gamers were affected by natural disasters.

    Fieldsofblood.com has some pretty good analysis of this as does RHQ-Rankings

  2. Andrew says:

    Yeah, Warhammer tournaments are still going pretty strong here in NZ, sometimes even stronger than 40k. They do often come with army list restrictions, however, so it’s not just straight bring-and-battle. You can see the restrictions for the upcoming NatCon 2012 here: http://hamiltonimmortals.wikispaces.com/NATCON+2012
    They’re not huge limitations (unless you’re a Vampire Counts player), but they’re there. I’ve heard on Podhammer that there are limitations in Aussie and European tournaments as well. Jervis may err on the side of having fun, but it seems tournament organisers would much rather have more strict guidelines.

  3. Phil says:

    I left playing GW a few years ago, and went playing DBM DBMM. Since then I moved house and the local club was welded to GW. So back I came. I dislike Warhammer because It now appears to be “big characters and even bigger monsters”. There is also the question of a certain company always trying to get its hand into my pocket. In the past Warhammer to 40K was about 1: 2 but this seems to now be closer to 1:3. However there is a rumor that a new game (Kings of War) is coming, perhaps it will segment the market or better will replace it.
    There is also the air of fear put out bu some companies that you better use my figs. or else, however since Gw do not sponsor events most organizers will allow any figs. within reason, but still the fear remains. Now Alessio extract a digit and get this game finished.
    On that note I have a list of House Rules for Kings of War which are there not to change the game but to tighten it up and relieve the burden of cheese-makers.
    Send me an E-Mail address for a copy, and pass it on to Alessio as I cannot find a way to contact him.

  4. Nope, not as far as I know. People still play tournaments where I live, there are still talk about travelling to other big tournaments and we still arrange one big tournament a year (Quest for Atlantis). We had 60-ish participants, about the same as every year.

    I don’t know how much the comp-rules had to change to accomodate eighth edition though. At least in Sweden you get bonus or penalty points depending on your army list, the purpose is to avoid the no-brainer extra-cheese-on-the-side lists and fix things that are broken and/or ambigious in the army lists. As I didn’t play in the tournament I can’t really say what the major issue was this year. However, there always seems to be something each year that needs fixing.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I think there always is, and not just with GW tournaments. At the end of the day, tournament payers as a group spend their time breaking games, and finding any loopholes. Despite the best efforts of some good designers, I’ve yet to come across a game with a major tournament scene which hasn’t got the auto-includes and the army nobody takes.

  5. Blackhawk says:

    According to our stats which are mainly based on the European tournament scene, it’s a bit more quiet around WHFB tournaments since the release of the latest edition. Some bigger events have vanished, cause they are harder to fill, but there are still a stable number of them:


    Checking the absolute numbers, we’ve got

    2009: 513
    2010: 535
    2011: 449

    WHFB tournaments in our database.


    • Really interesting, because I’d have said 2010 was a mini peak towards the end of 7th ed. But the drop off of people I know who used to go on a quite regular basis has been startling. In my group of gaming chums I’d say there were a good 15 to 20 regular tournament attendees who went to at least 1 tournament a month for WFB. Now we have two who still go to tournaments but not as much as 1 per month anymore. They’re playing other games and still spending the same sort of cash though, just not on attending tournaments but starting new games.

      • Blackhawk says:

        I could dig more into our database and compare the WHFB numbers with the overall number of tournaments to compare general tendencies, but taking into account that other tabletops don’t have such a big tournament scene in general…. nah… wouldn’t be able to really tell something usefull.

        It would be a lot of number crunching.. could be quite interesting, but I sadly lack the time for it at the moment. 😐

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks Matthias, that’s really interesting. Not a complete drop off, but a significant reduction. It’s still a big number of tournaments though, and hardly supports the idea that they’re dying out.

      If you ever had the time there is another thing you could look at: this same calculation, but number of places rather than just number of tournaments. If what André says below is correct, the drop off would be more marked if you looked at numbers of attendees instead of actual events.

      • Yep that would be interesting. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence out there from people. But as a researcher I prefer number and actual verifiable trends as opposed to ‘I think’ statements. It frustrates me that I can’t get at this data anywhere. All I have is feedback from a very small number of event organisers that I know! Although what they’re telling me seems like a pattern, without a bigger data set its just conjecture. I’d be really interested in getting my hands of the raw data.

        • My data stems from looking at the number of WHFB events and the number of their slots in southern Germany. Since we are organizing KoW-tournaments we have an eye out for the “competition” and I was a little bit shocked when I realized how within a year the number of slots went done considerably and even some quite established tournaments closed doors. 40K was more or less level, but also some tournaments shave off some slots.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          There is an obvious economic issue here, in the wider sense that tournaments are generally not cheap to attend (travel, food, accommodation as well as attendance fees, etc). I can see there being a slight drop just because people are tightening their belts slightly. This would agree with 40k being level apart from that factor. It’s being able to compare WH and 40K that makes it look like WH is suffering.

        • That Jake and the fact that I’m seeing other game systems, most notably HoMachine having well attended tournaments start up. Also Malifaux isn’t doing too bad of late. But having said all that the perception I have is that the drop off in WFB isn’t being picked up in total by other systems. But I know plenty of people who’d find the money to go to tournaments if they wanted to. just seems to me they don’t.

      • Blackhawk says:

        Sure… some more quick numbers over all tnts:

        2009 1360 40917 30.0860
        2010 1497 43010 28.7308
        2011 1406 38933 27.6906

        and for WHFB only:
        2009 513 18172 35.4230
        2010 535 18757 35.0598
        2011 449 14702 32.7439

        and for 40K only:
        2009 456 13083 28.6908
        2010 537 14898 27.7430
        2011 546 15974 29.2564

        WHFB is with 60% our 2nd most “played” game [1] behind 40K with 63%. I’m sure that WHFB was #1 with around 70% last time I checked.Taking that and the general numbers into account you can guess, that people left WHFB and went to other tnts which aren’t (that) active in the tnt scene (in general, too new, whatever) whilst 40K is developing really fine.

        You have to be aware that those numbers are linked to the usage of our website. So if a LGS starts to use our site for his local tnts this has a corresponding impact on

        [1] http://www.tabletoptournaments.net/games?order=popularity


  6. Talking for southern Germany:

    WHFB tournaments are on the retreat and though quite some still exist, most of them have scaled down the slots and are nowhere where they where a few years ago. 40K is still strong but they also had to scale down slots, but to a lesser amount.

    • pancake says:

      The WH tournaments held at mealstrom games are allwsys full. They have many through the year and tickets sell fast. Say what you like, its still very popular.

      • That’s one site though. And no matter what people say about the Maelstrom it is arguably the best venue for Tournaments and has built a good reputation. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that their tournaments are still well attended considering they’re so well run and organised. Others aren’t fairing so well in the UK and some tournaments I used to attend have slipped off of the calender altogether next year.

  7. andymeechan says:

    The UK scene is thriving. There are now more 60+ and 100+ 2-day tournaments than ever. You can almost attend a 1 or 2 day event every weekend within a reasonable drive – or a 5-minute drive if you’re in the Nottingham area! The Heelanhammer, Bad Dice, and The Black Sun podcasts contest to this.

    Unseen Lerker magazine (yes, that is the ‘correct’ spelling) has become larger with a wider circulation each issue.

    Some people ‘rage quit’ when 8th was released. I reckon some would have quit if Orcs were no longer green. Unsurprisingly these are probably a vocal minority. I never posted that I found the game to be fresher, but then praise isn’t often shouted as high – or for as long.

    Talking of long, many nae-sayers are still posting their ‘internet hate’ which to me says thay heven’t quit the hobby after all. No, they have simply changed the focus of their attention from playing the game to moaning about it. After all if they had properly quit they wouldn’t be hanging about on Warhammer forums, eh? 😉

    From my observations it is *tournaments* more than GW that have increased the size of the game. In 7th the vogue was 2250 while GW stuck with 2000. More recently tournaments have increased to 2400 or 2600 while the Throne of Skulls is, well, 2000. (I will concede there was a recent ToS at 2400, but I hear it’s moving back to 2000.) Sure WD has the large armies on show, but really it is the group you play with that dictates where you go.

    Talking of dictating, the tournament scene also willfully sticks with a 0-20 sliding scale of points when 8th isn’t terribly good for that (see the ‘Fled or Dead’ rule). Is this possibly why some gamers want to go back to scoring for half-units? Even the aforementioned ToS misses a trick with the 3-1-0 system as 8th scores for a win, draw, loss AND a massacre… Potentially use a 4/3/1/0?

    Two games then: the ‘take it off’ style from the rulebook; and the ‘comp’d’ tournament.

    Me? I’m at a phase ni my gaming where the large explosions are back to amusing me.


    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’m really hoovering up your generously supplied data here, so haven’t much to add. However, I thought you might be amused to hear that people ‘rage quit’ when Orcs became green in the first place too. It’s true – they were not always so 🙂

  8. lb says:

    Hello everybody,
    just adding my 2 cents
    I live in a big city in north Italy, since a couple of years ago there were lots of warhammer fantasy tournaments (almost as much as wh40k ones). In the last couple of years the scenario dramatically changed, while 40K is still very strong it is very difficult to find wh fantasy tournaments besides the ones organized by GW. I usually play in a gaming club, in 2011 we were involved in at least 10 wh40K tournaments while we played in just 2 wh fantasy events…

    The feeling so far is that the wh fantasy army books are broken and people thinks that the army lists are not balanced so they don’t want to be involved in any competitive match. In some tornaments it was even necessary to add some changes to the army lists limiting the number of unit choices or changing some items or spells rules in order to balance things (!)


  9. Nazrat says:

    There are still plenty of GW tournaments here in NC. I haven’t noticed any reduction in their numbers at all, but then I play mainly Historical games now. I do miss the Grand Tournaments, though. I even won one with the Dwarves back in ’99 (or was it ’98?).

    • Quirkworthy says:

      It does seem to be patchy, but in all of this patchiness it seems to be either the same or fewer Warhammer tourneys, never more. Someone will naturally gainsay me now 🙂

  10. Allan Traise says:


    I love the question you have cast out to gamers.

    My first miniatures game was Rogue Trader when I was very young and I always remember how much fun it was for both players.

    I think Warhammer Fantasy Battles had the same beginning and has has come full circle. Locally we still have WHFB tournaments however it seems the very competitive players who took playing WHFB too seriously have moved on to other games like Warmachine.

    For me personally this is a great thing for the hobby. WHFB still rewards making good choices with unit selection, deployment and having a “plan”. It is also a great deal of fun with the potential for charges to fail or magic to go haywire. We are now spoiled for choice when it comes to army and unit selection. I tend to pick balanced armies with a few fun units thrown in. The hobby is expensive so why play if you do not enjoy it?

    At the end of the day we have fun playing WHFB locally both for pick up games and tournaments.

    Whatever your choice, happy gaming!


  11. Von says:

    Bearing in mind that my only recent experience of WFB tournaments has been vicarious, I have to ask a question: were Warhammer tournaments dying anyway?

    Many of the tournament reports on TWF, for instance, bear reference to stagnation, a sort of deny-points shake-hands-and-go-home ethos that prevailed toward the end of seventh edition. Many of the composition sets and rules packs I’ve seen appear to be about preserving the way things were pre-eighth rather than adapting to the challenges that eighth edition offers.

    I do think that there’s a definite difference ‘twixt armies that can do eighth edition reliably (thus competively) and armies that are more at its mercy (thus not so competitively). Factor in the usual ‘some armies do not contribute in all phases of the game’, ‘some armies are overdependent on one phase to compensate for broad weaknesses’ and ‘some armies are hamstrung or overclocked by novelty rules’ factors that have been a part of Warhammer since at least fifth edition (I didn’t play fourth under its core rules, although I did own and use many of the books in fifth).

    Considering all that, you get a slightly unnatural lurching beast of a tournament circuit. It’s alive, but it needs regular bolts of lightning and you could see the stitches from the start. Didn’t the very first Grand Pageant have comped and uncomped tournaments? Doesn’t that indicate something about Warhammer-as-written’s viability as a tournament game, when even its developers felt the need to ‘fanhammer’ it into being one?

    I sort of prefer ‘events’. It’s more honest.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Was it already stagnating? I have no idea, but it’s an intriguing angle and thanks for bringing it up.

      Is Warhammer a tournament system? Not really. Certainly not when you get to the top end and delve into the detail. Whether 8th is more or less of one is debatable. I was wondering whether the state of tournaments would illuminate that very question.

      Are any tabletop wargames really tournament friendly? Even those that do not have a set of tournament specific rules and restrictions tend to have armies that are more or less competitive, auto-include or exclude units, and so on (as agreed by consensus of players). In the area of tabletop wargaming, are there any truly tournament rules?

    • Minitrol says:

      You may be right. You’re spot on abut 7th edition and articulated it much better than I did! It was such a turn off for many already, I saw so many tournament games where they calculated, “nope I can get 50% of that unit but can only contest that table quarter – game to you by 630 points by turn 4?” AND IT WOULD BE

      I swear they only rolled dice to make sure they used their two hours up.

  12. Given it’s history I think Chess is the best tournament war game ever designed and I use Yahtzee as a personal example of the worst tournament game ever and a game I dislike intensely. I think how good a game is for tournaments is a factor of how close they are to either end of this spectrum. The growth of people’s expenses as a percentage of their income could also be a factor in how much they can spend to go to a tournament so some of the change in the tournament scene might not be related to changes in game systems but the relative personal cost of attending a tournament.

    Having just a one year history of purchasing figures it is interesting to see many comments about the cost of GW. I decided that I wanted to do skirmish gaming before I started purchasing figures so I did not end up paying extra for GW figures based on their points value from their rule books. If you are buying basic troop figures from GW I think they are a good value with reasonable cost per figure and excellent quality. Because I prefer to work with plastic and I found them to be good value and at the moment most of my figures are GW plastic. Before I ran across DHK I was looking at using LOTR GW rules and purchased the hard bound LOTR rule book from GW. I was disappointed that they would release a hard bound book at that price level and put so little or no effort into integrating the source material from the prior individual source books and did feel ripped off by their lack of effort. From a business perspective I think it is obvious finecast was not handled well and I have not purchased any yet.

    I am seeing new war game stores starting up in my area and the wealth of new war gaming product coming on line. It seems to me that war gaming might have factors aligned for a “golden period” of quality and choice. Compared to other hobby activities that I am interested in war gaming can provide many hours of hobby activity at relatively low cost and thus might see growth during harder economic times when people can not afford to do other more expensive things with their time. What ever the reasons for the expansion of the hobby I intend to enjoy it. 🙂

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