HATECon One Tournament February 2016

This was a last minute decision, since East London isn’t terribly easy to get to from the West Country but I have a friend living there that I haven’t seen in a long time – the efficient use of time is to visit one and attend the other!

My choice of team was made, as is traditional, on the morning. I chose the Rebels in the end since they are better painted than the Ada-Lorena, and I wanted to show off. As for upgrades, I chose two ranks on each of the Gaelian Jacks (they’re the centaur-type that can run and slam).

This was the first tournament to use the 2016 style rules pack, where Jacks can move up to half of their movement on actions.

Game One – Dale’s Tsudochan

Dale was running this tournament, and he brought his stunningly painted Tsudochan team. As usual, he’s got to the precise requirements of the team and did a great job of keeping the pressure on me. On the other side, my dice completely abandoned me – I don’t normally complain about my dice, but right here they were awful. I failed so many “easy” rolls, to dash, to pass, to catch, and so on… it was a little painful to watch. It wasn’t too bad, as I managed to score 2 kills and 3 4-pt shots but I ended up losing by 3 points. The game had swung quite significantly, I was 5 points down early on and three points up later in the game, before the final score.

Game Two – Leanne’s Veer-myn

If I play Dale in a tournament, I’m probably also going to play Leanne. Her luck was typically excellent, and I was almost completely unable to clear the 3pt zone of rats. In the end, she won with 5 points.

Game Three – George’s Teratons

Teratons are as usual a challenge. George was fairly good at keeping the Strikers away from scoring, but eventually I managed to scrape together 7 points for a landslide win, and my first of the day.

Game Four – Andrew’s Marauders

This game was incredibly close, and it was the first time of the day I hadn’t been the Home player (Andrew had been slightly luckier; this was his fourth Home game). Andrew’s Marauder team had an interesting setup – they ignored guarding the strike zones and instead bunched up near the centre line for an early push. Like George, Andrew’s guards did a fantastic job at managing the Ralarat Strikers. When they were on the pitch, they were too far away usually to do anything. He scored a 2pt lead early, and it was several turns before I managed to equalise – to be immediately bested by another greenskin 2-pointer. The ball moved around a lot without a score, until the very last turn when I finally managed to score a 4-pointer and edged a 2pt lead. That last action was the first time the score had moved into my favour, that was how close the game was.

Conclusion

Two wins and two losses, I feel is a fairly good result. It was great, as always, to see Dale and co again and I got to play against some new people which is always a pleasure. I look forward to seeing some of them at the Bristol tournament.

I was a little too tired to explore the rest of the con, but they had a lot of other wargames events on, demo games, some roleplay stuff and a bring-and-buy sale upstairs. It’s probably for the best that I stay away from shop, I’m sure that many people would understand! The only downside is that I feel the lighting downstairs was a little dingy and dim. Overall though it seemed very well organised, there were plenty of staff checking things were going smoothly and they were easy to identify with their bright yellow t-shirts.

On to the scores! Dale rather embarrassingly took first place with his Tsudochan, Rob failed to take most bloody. I ended up in fourth place myself, and had most 4-pointers. The thing that I was most pleased with however was the Best Painted award, as done by player vote! It’s the first time I’ve won best-painted and it was one of the (distantly hopeful) reasons that I brought the Rebels instead of the Ada-Lorena. They are one of the teams I feel I’ve done the best on, but my opinion is not always matched by that of the world at large. I was disappointed in a previous tournament not to have won for the painting of my Martian team which was, at the time, my best work. I have a nice certificate, and another art print to put with the others (I must get those on the wall some day).

All in all, it was a fantastic day and I will try to go again next year if they run again and I get the opportunity.

2015 Nationals

Here it comes, the big one of the year! Since 2013s final was late (beginning of 2014), and 2014s just didn’t happen for some reason, it’s nice to see the big tournament happening on time and organised. The regional champions all get free tickets, and I am glad to be one of them now. Hopefully we don’t have to show our Blaines at the door…

I figure the team to beat will be the Convicts. The standard strategy of putting three players at the back and blocking big strikes is easy for the convicts to take out. Action one: Sprint a player to sit next to all three defenders. Action two: Shock Collar, undefendable and watch them all get sent off or knocked down. Either way they are no longer a barrier to scoring. The other possibility, of leaving two players on the bonus point lane to threaten three-pointers and prevent four-pointers, isn’t going to work for the same reasons. However you place the players, it’ll be possible to knock them both out with a Shock Collar or else you’re not even threatening some of the three point shots.

By simply inverting the standard three player defence – instead of forming a line on the strike zone itself, you form a line around the strike hex (so two players are not on strike zone hexes), it becomes massively more difficult to take out all three at once. On the other hand, it puts an unthreatened hex front and centre for your bonus lane defender to get Slammed. With my Sphyr team, I will intend this to be a Striker with his back turned, to make it the most favourable match-up that I can.

The other thing that I can do is to move that line forward a hex so that pushing the middle player back does not place them on the Strike Hex (and thus a potential target).

By trying to keep as much threat in the three-point zone as possible, it’ll be essential to remove the Convicts ability to score bonus points at all by removing their Strikers. This is dangerous, since trying to threaten a Striker enough to knock them out bunches my remaining players up enough to be hit by a Shock Collar themselves and the Convicts Guard is pretty nasty regardless. I can’t be sure exactly whether to go for the Strikers and slow their advance or their Guards and keep my offence safe.

As for scoring, it’s going to depend very much on the opponent. If they commit to blocking the three-pointers (as I will be), then I will probably focus on two-pointers. This is also more action efficient, allowing me to Slam their players more as I go. If there is a three-point path open, it’s not too difficult for a Sphyr to go for it and try to eke out a lead.

All that talk about the Sphyr aside, I didn’t end up taking them. I flip-flopped up until the morning of the event (how many times I’ve sat in a hotel room staring at two teams…) and eventually decided upon the Kalyshi.

I think the Kalyshi are the dark horse of Season Five. With the Mutants and Mechanites taking a lot of thought in construction, and the Convicts having such a shocking ability, the Kalyshi are sort of forgotten. I think it helps that they are the less optimal team in Xtreme, where they debuted. However, they have four excellent Strikers that get a 50% chance of a Skill upgrade on the Season One chart, and their Jacks (if used correctly) can get a 7 dice Shove-Backstab-Slam to push people off of the four-point lane. It’s only Strength 5, but they too have a 50% chance of boosting that Strength. And all I need to do is move someone a little, since the Strikers have Jump and can squeeze into tight gaps to drop a few points.

Game One – Mike Clark’s Nameless

Mike is a strong player, and his setup caused me some extra thought. He had two Sticky Guards on the 4-point line, and flanked them with two Strikers. His two Hard Guards were on the 2-point lines. I had no chance of moving both Guards in a single turn, and the Shove can’t remove a player from the pitch so they would only get moved back in the following turn.

Eventually his Strikers moved, but that still placed a lot of threat hexes on the three point zone. Luckily, I was able to score just a little more than he did and kept the game pressed firmly at the far end of the pitch. One memorable moment was the end of a rush where my Striker had the ball but no chance of scoring due to threat hexes – no dice left. So I ran it into the far corner to reduce the chances of having it taken. He chose to pin me in place with a Hard Guard… meaning that I got a chance to use Jump to avoid two Evades and sneak out to score 3 points. The game ended with a three point win.

Game Two – Dan’s Veer-Myn

Dan came up from Bristol separately this time around, and it’s always a pleasure to play him. He had his Veer-myn in the configuration I normally choose (to mixed success in tournaments) – 2 Strikers with two ranks each.

We each scored every single turn. Every. Single. Turn. Every damn one of them. No failed shots, no balls left lying around, just wall-to-wall scores. It was a grind, but the score was moving slowly my way. It ended up on rush 14 as a landslide win to me, although I tend to think of rush 14 landslides as “technically” a landslide.

Game Three – Gareth’s Rebels

After explaining in detail to Gareth earlier in the day why I thought the Kaylshi got underestimated and why they were actually pretty good, I realised that perhaps this was unwise. I have only played against Rebels once before, and won in sudden death. I last played Gareth at the 2013 Nationals, where he had Marauders and killed three of my Veer-myn, contributing to his unexpected leap to Most Violent player (and totally at odds with his friendly, pleasant demeanour!)

Gareth scored four points in his first turn, and I dropped the ball in mine. From there, the score fluctuated between 3 and 6 points against me but somehow, by rush 14, I had pulled it back to a draw (with a few more “easy” catches rolling away across the floor). However, sudden death is pretty easy for the Home player and he picked up a one point win far later than I expected.

Game Four – Richard’s Rebels

Wow, Rebels are hard to play when you don’t have a lot of offensive power. Who am I up against next then? Oh.

I’ve not met Richard before, and he had an amazing custom built pitch with hand-painted floor, transparent acrylic walls, walled-off subs benches and even strike posts cunningly placed between hexes so as not to interfere with the model placement. The hexes were extremely large, since he has played with Nameless teams a lot in the past. It’s always great to meet new people!

This was another close run game, but at least it got to one or two points in my favour a couple of times. I used my Defensive Coach to call Offensive plays a couple of times to make sure that I got my lone Striker all the way back to the ball, up to the three-point zone and score. Again, at the end of the game I managed a final turn equaliser to put us into Sudden Death and again… the Home team advantage put me down a one point loss.

Conclusion

I always try to have fun even when I’m losing. And having such close games that finished much later than I expected, and much better than I expected (I was pretty sure Gareth and I would be commentating other games after a landslide early on) I really didn’t feel like I was losing. I was a little surprised to hear that I had come seventh out of fifteen (I was thinking that fifth was still possible) but on reflection, it makes sense since I really only won two games. If I had beaten Rich by two points, I would have been third place… but if wishes were horses, etc. I was really surprised that Jen came in last place, since that’s normally reserved for someone who lost all their games but the competition was so close this year that everyone (bar the stand-in player) had won at least one of their games.

Gareth was the only player to win all four of his games, beating Leon (South-East Regional Champion, and previous National Champion), Dale (North-West Regional Champion), and me (Southern Regional Champion) to get there. I feel glad that I gave him such a tricky game, hopefully I was the toughest opponent for him to beat! That’s almost an imaginary second place, right? But well done to Gareth, he played an excellent game, was great fun to face across the table and I can’t wait to see him again at the next Nationals, or one of the 2016 Regional events.

The only other thing I was close to was a Fan Favourite award, with a personal best of 39 cheers – I was only beaten by Mike, with 41 cheers.

Outside of the games, we caught up with a lot of people we’ve not seen since the last National tournament. Chris came up from Wales, Dale and his crew from Peterborough (Dale had some terrible luck, and perhaps his Teratons are now going to retire from a successful 2015?) and the more Northern folks like Dan, Charlotte and Gareth who don’t often make it down South far enough to cross our paths. It was really, really great meeting up with everyone and having a good laugh.

Wales and South West Regional Tournament 2015

This year was a huge improvement for the tournament. There were fourteen players overall, coming from Bristol, East Anglia and even Wales! Genuine Welsh people! And just after Mantic added “and South West” to the name, too.

I’d been intending to bring the Asterians, but had screwed up the painting a bit so took the Sphyr instead. I was joined by Jen with her S1 Corporation as usual, Dan with Veer-myn, Stuart with his S2 Corporation and Dai who forgot his team on the day (he borrowed Dan’s S1 Corporation). As for upgrades, I took two coaching dice and a Defensive Coach.

Game 1 – Chris’ Rebels

This was a very, very close game. We went into Sudden Death, which I don’t recall happening in a tournament for me before. I scored a few four-pointers, and my Jack at the back of the pitch was indestructible – as a result of Slambacks, he sent off both Rin Guards and the Gaellian Jacks before he was finally knocked out for a turn.

These guys were knocked out in short order by a single Sphyr Guard...

In the first round of Sudden Death I managed to grab a single point and win the game. Exhausting, nail-biting, thoroughly exciting game!

Note the sin bin and subs bench...

Game 2 – Phil’s Teratons

Phil had travelled from the other side of the country for his first tournament with Dale, a well-known and very strong Teraton player from East Anglia who I’ve seen at many tournaments and hadn’t played competitively (he did come to see us for a DreadBall day in Bristol, where we got a friendly game or two in).

These guys were also knocked out by a lucky Sphyr guard..

Phil has been trained well, and made things very difficult for the fish men. However, the dice were still with me, and I managed to not only move two of the players blocking the three-point zone up – but kill them completely! It wasn’t helped that in the first action of the first turn, he slammed one of my Strikers, who doubled moving onto the ball, evaded out of the threat hex, and scored two points to get the very earliest of early leads. The game ended in a landslide win for me.

Game 3 – Dai’s Corporation

I was coming away from lunch on a bit of a high – I’d bought myself some new toys, I was winning my games (though not in the lead, certainly)  when I came up against Dai – an ex-work colleague who I hadn’t caught up with very recently. He completely dismantled my team and I hope I didn’t come across as a sore loser – there was literally nothing I could do to stop it. There were no glaring errors in his play to exploit, and in the standard approaches I tried my dice disappeared. He kept apologising (I probably had a real frown on by then) but really, I’d just done the same thing to Phil in the round before so it wasn’t a problem. One landslide loss to me.

Game 4 – Dale’s Teratons

Finally, we got to play each other in a tournament! Both a little tired (admittedly, he had driven four times longer than I had and most of the Welsh guys had come further than us too), I made some huge errors. I didn’t calculate the Teraton Teleport properly and kept miscalculating where he would choose to go, then I got into place for a risky throw only to have it pointed out to me that the shot was blocked. Despite the fouling up, I got a three-point victory.

Final Results

Chris’ Rebels came in first place, as well as getting Fan Favourite (most cheers) and Hot Shot (most four pointers). He was only beaten once, and barely at that, so I take some pride in my first game win against him. Stuart had been in the running for first place but the way the final scores shook out, he dropped down to fourth place. I finished in fifth, which I feel is a fairly good place in a fourteen-player tournament.

Looking back, I was much more aggressive than I needed to be in some games, and needed more defence than I put into. A single player to guard the three-point strike zone doesn’t work against all teams, and I need to vary my setup depending on my opponent. I think the upgrade options were right for the team overall, the defensive coach saved me a couple of times (against two Teraton players, and to deny the Rebels a four-point shot, definitely!) and having the coaching dice to boost a high scoring shot early in the game were extremely helpful.

I will probably try taking the Sphyr to another tournament this year, I’m still planning on going to the Southern Regional and the UK Nationals for certain and it’ll either be the Sphyr or the Rebels (because they are probably my best painted team). I know that Dale is aiming to get to every regional this year, who knows if we will face each other again in Brighton or Nottingham…

Finally, here are some of the painted teams from the event! I’ve forgotten who they all belong to, because I am an awful awful person. If you want to correct me on anything, please comment below! It was really difficult to choose my favourite, every time I looked I had two favourites… then I went for another more detailed perusal and came back with two totally different favourites… it was a tough decision and I don’t remember who I voted for in the end. Here’s the few I managed to grab a picture of – enjoy!