Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gauntlet 2008 Aftermath

To be perfectly honest, there were a lot of things about this tournament that I didn't enjoy.

Having said that, because I'm a fairly polite chap, and I was taught to accentuate the positive rather than dwelling on the negative, I'll explain the things I did enjoy first.

I missed out on the 40k Grand Tournament heats due to work commitments, football and Liz and Simon's wedding (I hope you're enjoying Cuba!). So I was overjoyed when I heard about The Gauntlet Tournament. It was an event I'd enjoyed and done well in over the years. I'd been three times previously and won best painted army twice and overall once. The tournament was held on an unusual Thursday rather than a weekend (due to the fact the Warhammer World was booked solid on weekends right through to February) so many people couldn't attend, but this was perfect for me because I have the hardest time getting weekends off. Booking a single weekday off was relatively straightforward.

Another upside to The Gauntlet is that it is a one day competition meaning that it is cheap because no overnight accommodation is required. Games Workshop also organise coach travel to and from the venue, reducing costs further, and they even throw in a meal at the venue. The total cost for me on the day was a bargain £25.

Warhammer World is a great setting in which to play games and the ready access to Specialist Games products and Forge World models is a real bonus. I didn't go mad this year as I was purposely reigning in my model purchases, but I did pick up the Imperial Armour Modelling Masterclass book to read on the coach ride back.

Then of course there are the other benefits to playing in any tournament; playing against a range of different players with unique tactics and armies that you've never encountered before, seeing imaginative conversions and well executed paint schemes. The whole social side of tournaments is great as you check up on how your regular gaming buddies are getting on, how your opponents have fared and chew the fat on the hardest armies, the cheesy lists and the unlucky dice rolls.

But there were problems.

The first was of my own making. I had just committed to painting up my Blood Angels a couple of months before I found out about the tournament and stupidly I decided to take them instead of one of my already fully painted armies. I could have taken my Chaos Space Marines, Imperial Guard or even Daemon Hunters, but no, I stuck with the Blood Angels.

So I ended up playing an army which was severely restricted in the models I could choose from, with a new codex I hadn't used before and with a set of main rules I hadn't really read. I tried to get in as many practice games as I could but they were always at the expense of painting time. In the end I think I played five or six games at most before the tournament. Not good preparation.

Painting was it's own problem. I had a very hectic schedule with work and other social engagements and I was already committed to the Warseer Tale of 40k Painters (TO40kP) painting pledge. If I had relaxed my painting standards I might have been able to add more models, particularly the Troops choices I was severely lacking, but I was already set on painting to my highest quality. I was also wary of painting too much and skewing my schedule for the TO40kP. In the end I had to settle for finishing five Tactical marines, five Death Company and a Chaplain. Although this kept my painting on track it did hamper my army list.

The Chaplain was a bone of contention too. A week and a half before the tournament I had decided that the above would be all I would be able to paint so I wanted to have Lemartes as my Chaplain model. The one I already had was armed with a plasma pistol and cost 10 points more than the special character despite having one less wound and fewer abilities. I went into my local Games Workshop to discover there was no Lemartes on the shelf. No problem the staff said, just order it online and it will be delivered to the store in the next few days. I used the in-store computer but my registration details kept crashing on the brand new UK website and I eventually had to phone the order in (it later turned out that the GW web staff were tweaking the web store while I was trying to access it). In the event Lemartes didn't arrive in the store until two weeks after the tournament was over! I had to go with my overcosted stand in.

I've mentioned this before in my main lone pilgrim blog, but I'll briefly mention it here too. I varnished my models to protect them for the tournament and they got all frosted. I managed to salvage the models to a certain degree but it is still evident on many of them. Aaaaaaarrrrggghhh!

Games Workshop broke one of the golden rules of tournament organisation with the Gauntlet; they didn't produce a rules pack in advance. In fact, having participated in the tournament, I'm still not sure what the tournament rules were, what armies were permitted, if there were any house rules and if there were any 'soft' scores like painting, sportsmanship or army background.

Things came to a head when registration started. Players were handed a sheet which stated which missions would be played - a mix of all mission types and deployment. However, the attached scoring sheet only had space to mark down kill points, not the objectives captured. When we asked what to do we were told that kill points would be used in all missions and to ignore objectives!

Obviously this made no sense whatsoever, and the Imperial Guard player I was standing next to at the time was ready to punch someone. We resolved to just play the missions as they were in the book and write down the objectives we controlled at the end of the game, rather than kill points. It later turned out that other people had been told to record kill points as well as objectives controlled to help with separating drawn players. This made much more sense but I didn't find it out until the end of my second game. I subsequently ended up a few places lower in the rankings than I should have done as I I hadn't recorded my kill points in the first game.

Another rumour that went around the hall was that bonus points were at stake for handing in a page of army background. This absolutely incensed me as I take great pride in writing up battle reports, coming up with character and army backgrounds - for the Emperor's sake I've even created an entire Sector in which my armies fight! If I'd known in advance I could have brought any amount of army background to the tournament. To this day I still don't know whether army background was actually taken into account or not.

Bad feeling continued into the games across the whole day. One guy I was playing next to complained bitterly about his opponent using Mephiston as he thought special characters weren't allowed. Other players complained that many players were using the Space Marine codex as it had only just been released a couple of weeks before. The players themselves didn't know how to play their own armies so their opponents didn't have a chance. I found out after the tournament that my first opponent got two rules for Vulkan, the Salamanders Chapter Master, wrong - in his favour of course.

All this confusion really upset a lot of the players and started everything off on a bad footing. The most frustrating thing was that it was so preventable. A nice early rules pack distributed to all of the participating stores would have solved most of the problems in advance.

All in all then, I'd give the event a disappointing 6 out of 10.

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