It has been the best part of two decades since I last attended one of the big events at GW’s HQ in Nottingham but, with Age of Sigmar recently released, I summoned up the gang (Andy, Alan and James) and very early on Saturday morning we embarked on the two hour trip for a weekend of gaming.
The trip up was only slightly marred by a misdirection from Susan (my Sat Nav), and we arrived with time to spare so had a wander around the (very large) complex GW has. A small garage-based firm they are not.
A couple of changes since I was last there – first, the big Space Marine at the front of the building has been replaced by a Stormcast, and the double-headed eagle (which in the past caused locals to call the place Nazi HQ) is now the AoS logo.
They also had a life-size Rhino in the car park – James volunteered to give it some scale.
The interior of the events centre (now Warhammer World) has been greatly changed since my last visit too. The gaming area is now noticeably smaller, but there are separate GW, Forge World and Black Library stores right next to the tables. There is also a new Warhammer World exhibition centre with over 20,000 painted models, but we did not have time to go to those halls.
Registration was over in a flash – just a quick documentation of your name, number and whether you were fighting for Order or Chaos. I had taken my Bloodbound, so was obviously Chaos, while James and Andy, both Wood Aelves, were obviously Order. Alan, with his Undead, chose Order as well.
We then just had a quick wait until our tables flashed up on the big screens, and the first game began!
My first game was a 2 vs. 2 affair, with my Khorne forces siding with another Bloodbound force, commanded by a chap also called Matthew – so things were simple on our side! Opposing us was James with his Wood Aelves and a young gentleman I believe was called Neil who fielded a small Stormcast force. Both James and Neil had under-size forces (the event pack stated we could bring up to a hundred models), so I opted not to put some of my bigger stuff on the table (such as the Bloodthirster and Daemon Prince!).
We were fighting in (and for – GW were watching to see whether Order or Chaos would take which realms throughout the weekend) the Realm of Life, and the Battleplan was a simple one – slay more models than your enemies. The complication came from the battlefield. The marshy areas could suck models down into their depths, while the trees were a deadly form of Deadly, with models twice as likely to disappear if they wandered inside.
We got through four turns, as I recall, though it took me two turns to realise James was using my own Sylvaneth models to support his Wood Aelves! There was utter carnage on the table and, when time was called we totalled up all casualties – the forces of Order had managed to kill just two models more than Chaos!
It was now lunch time, and we had a couple of drinks in Bugman’s Bar (that has not changed since I last went), and lunch in GW’s on-site restaurant. Then, back to the gaming!
As it turned out, I was paired with James. We had travelled a couple of hundred miles just to play one another again! There was always the option of swapping tables (not as if this was a tournament), but we were happy with the match up and started setting up models. Again, I left the nastier elements of my army off the table.
This one took place in the Realm of Light, with the hook being that, at some point, a big beam of light would blast onto the battlefield and then start roaming around (think Vortex), turning everything that was not fast enough to get out of the way into crystal. Predictably, it came down on my side of the table and then proceeded to stay there, but casualties turned out to be light.
The two forces fairly demolished each other, with just a handful of models left on the table but, when casualties were counted, James had just taken the lead again (should be noted that if I had not deployed the 40-odd Bloodreavers, I would likely have claimed victory in both this battle and the last, but there was no way I was going to leave those maniacs behind!).
Incidentally, take a look at this – GW supplied trays for you to carry your models around on. Such a simple idea (all they had to do was run over to the restaurant) but it makes such a difference when you have a large army!
Anyway, my third and final battle on the Saturday was in the Realm of Beasts, and the Battleplan stated that victory would go to the side who achieved the most kills but only kills by Heroes counted for this.
I was facing a Tzeentch Daemon force, and here I ran into my first real problem.
Tzeentch forces are always going to be spell and summoning heavy, and that is fine. What pushed this army over the edge were the Tzeentch Flamers. More specifically, the fact that this guy had 30 of them in one unit.
Now, by this time of the day, everyone had already clocked which players had decided to take the Michael with their forces – everyone knew about Glottkin Guy and Vampire Guy, but my opponent was not exactly that. What he had done though was build himself a bona fide Death Star unit. 30 Flamers are tough to kill; they have 2 wounds each, a 5+ Save that will go down to 4+ due to the number of Shield spells a Tzeentch force can attempt and, due to a Herald on a Chariot being nearby, every time you do kill one there is a chance that two more will appear to take its place.
All that just makes them tough to kill. The issue is with their attacks. With a 9″ move and 18″ range, they can target pretty much whatever they want on the battlefield. Their flaming attacks hit on a 4+ and wound on a 3+. They don’t have any Rend but, you see, that doesn’t matter – because each successful attack does D3 damage, so even well armoured models are going to get smacked by the hits that slip past. And, the kicker, they have 3 Attacks each like this.
So, a unit of 30 kicks out 90 attacks, any one of which does D3 damage.
There is not a unit in the game that can take that (except, perhaps, another unit of Flamers, because of their pop-back rule). With this unit, you just point at something you want dead, and it is gone. Next turn, move to the next thing. If you don’t have a big, scary target, split your attacks down and annihilate two or three average units in one go.
Now, my opponent was not That Guy. He was actually quite personable. But taking 30 Flamers is like taking 30 Bloodcrushers – you just don’t do it. Just have a unit of 5 or 6 and use them for support. Everyone will be happier.
I should also point out at this stage that no one was a complete twit and tried to take the no-battle victory or one-turn victory force. No one tried the Carrion trick, and there were no shenanigans with Kairos. Nothing like that.
I really don’t think this chap was trying to win at all costs. But I do think he knew exactly what he was doing when he put all those Flamers into a single big block.
So, the Bloodbound died in droves. However, those Flamers were not Heroes, and so despite vast swatches of Khorne worshippers disappearing, I was actually winning in turns 1 through 4, and on turn 5 I was still holding onto a draw. In turn 6, a summoned Lord of Change tipped it over the edge and I lost by a single model.
The losses before I did not mind, but this one rankled a bit due to That Unit.
After the game, we kicked back in Bugman’s for a drink and I had the opportunity to wander round the gaming hall and take a few snaps of the rather nice tables GW have set up. This is a huge (12 foot, I think) wasteland of an Imperial fortified position split by a bridge – made for Apocalypse games, I shouldn’t wonder.
And Tau players would likely kill to have this table at home.
This is a view from the other end of the hall – you can see the entrance to Bugman’s at the far end, as well as one of the big screens that showed you which table you were to play on and the countdown to each round’s end.
They also have little details like this scattered all round the hall – some Warhammer posters with adverts for beer, news from the Old World and wanted posters!
That evening, we found a local restaurant (where they were selling something called Smothered Chicken – I am guessing that is a culinary term, but I was wondering if it referred to the nature of the chicken’s death…) and then retired to the Travelodge. It was a bit Alan Partridge, but having been the one who had done the driving that morning, I really did not care…
Come morning, we had breakfast at the same restaurant and then returned to GW HQ.
We quickly noticed that some of the tables had been changed and that all the Battleplans were now different. I was back on the Realm of Beasts table again, but a massive tower had appeared and the Battleplan was all about holding the tower – whoever had the most models within 3″ of it at the end of the game would win. There was also a chance every turn that a random monster would pop up (models provided by GW) and start rampaging about the battlefield.
My opponent? Tzeentch Guy once more. Imagine my joy.
Now, I should explain that on the trip to GW HQ that morning, I had made a decision. In every one of my games the previous day, I had elected not to take my full force and, in every case, had missed victory by ‘this’ much. So, I decided there would be no more Mr Nice Guy, and if there were Flamer armies and Glottkin armies about, I would take the full weight of Khorne, which meant Bloodthirster, Daemon Prince and a few other bits and bobs.
However, I now knew this Tzeentch army well, and I knew there was still no way I could defeat it. None. Not in open battle.
All that said, I won.
Now, some might say that I won by playing the scenario and not the enemy army. And that would be true. I massed my Bloodreavers, Blood Warriors and most of my Heroes in and behind the tower, while sending a few nasty-looking unit (Skulltaker and friends on one side, Bloodthirster on the other) to act as distractions (I spotted in the last battle that my opponent did not focus on scenario objectives, so I figured I could slow some of his units down if I put shiny things in their way).
However, it still felt a bit ‘gamey’ to me. Playing a Khorne force, you want a stand up fight, not to skulk around an objective hoping the enemy does not notice you. Also, I did not intentionally play slowly but I was keeping an eye on the clock for the game’s end, and I hate doing that.
The final game of the event, however, was better.
I got to play with a massive Dreadhold! Specifically, this was the Battleplan from the Quest for Ghal Maraz book where a third of the table splits off during the game, cutting off the defender’s reinforcements.
My opponent was Neil and his Stormcasts from my very first game, and we quickly set up our forces. I went with my full force, as there was so much ground to cover but I could see this battle was a very, very big ask for the Stormcasts – they basically had to travel eight feet to get to my baseline in order to win and, as it turned out, only had six turns in which to do it.
We were playing in the Realm of Shadow and, as one of the GW staffers said to us, this Realm was very much contested between Order and Chaos, and our battle would decide who took control (the results would be ‘canon’). No pressure then!
This was a really good, fun game. We had some skirmishes outside of the fortress as the Stormcasts approached, during which my Daemon Prince thoroughly dishonoured himself (could not hit a Liberator to save his life), and the Bloodcrushers mixed it up with Vandus and the Prosecutors.
I lost this one too – and I know why. It was a) because Neil was a nice young lad, b) because he had a smaller force than most, and c) because I felt sorry for him having to wander all the way across the battlefield. Possibly one of his three Prosecutors could do it, but the chances were slim beyond imagining.
I saw a turn too late how he was going to win. You see, what I should have done (and would have done if I were playing ‘seriously’) was flood my back line with troops so he could not lightning strike down onto the baseline with the Liberators he had kept off table. It was not as if I did not have enough models to do that. Then I would be forcing him to slog it all the way through the fortress. However, for his small force, that might not have been much fun. In fact, it would probably have been impossible (this Battleplan, on the table that had been set up, would have been extremely difficult for any force other than Stormcasts).
So, when you read that the forces of Order have reclaimed the Realm of Shadow, you will know who to blame!
We finished this battle with an hour to go, leaving me free to annoy Andy as his Wood Aelves fought Seraphon…
It also gave me the chance to take a few snaps of some of the other Battleplans that I thought some of you might be interested in.
These were some special rules (think Time of War) that were given to the faction that held the Realm of Death.
While this was the Battleplan used on the ‘Tomb Kings’ table.
When the last game was complete, there was a short wait for the GW staffers to tot up the scores, and announce the winners. In the end, the faction of Order won the day, with more Realms under their control (though there were two, as I recall, that remained contested). Andy, meanwhile, managed to snag a reward for most successful general in his faction!
In the closing down speech, the GW organiser mentioned there were more Age of Sigmar events planned; the first a Doubles event in November and then, before the end of the year, one that would involve hunting monsters and bringing them back in chains!
Everyone seemed to have a good time, and I will be rallying the guys to attend more down the road.
Now to get back to painting…