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Onslaught 2011

As many of you in the Edmonton area are probably aware, Onslaught 2011 went down on Saturday. This event has been running for a few years now, and is the pet project of my good buddy Ward Kapach (from Pachwork Studios).

What’s this event all about, you say? It’s yet another large scale tournament here in the city that emphasizes many of the aspects of the hobby. Painting, sportsmanship, etc. are all weighted approximately the same as battle points. There were many bonus points as well, covering items such as submitting your list in advance, preparing written fluff, having painted objective markers and a display board for your army. This last bit is equal parts aesthetics and practicality, as packing up and unpacking your models in between games is just a huge pain in the butt.

Steve Lind's Eldar (3rd best painted, Best Sportsman)

Some armies, such as Steve’s Eldar shown above, had some really cool boards to match the detail on the models themselves. Steve’s a great painter (he does work for Pachwork Studios as well), and his beloved Eldar are now covered in some pretty sweet freehand murals. You can see The Great Wave off Kanagawa recreated on the side of the Banshees’ Wave Serpent. Very cool piece of ancient Japanese art, and it really looks awesome in person. Kinda strangely topical, due to the recent events in Japan… which actually reminds me, there is still time to enter Jaded Gamercast’s Blood for the Blood God challenge. Donate blood or donate $25 to the Red Cross for disaster relief, and they will enter you in a raffle to win a Forgeworld Khorne Demon Prince. Hence the clever name 😉

Random details about Steve’s display board, just to inspire you a bit more:

  • Everything is magnetized. Including the vehicles. So you can carry this sucker around with little fear of soul-crushing accidents.
  • The warp gate actually lights up with blue LED’s embedded around the edges, and also has Steve’s army list built into it.
  • There’s even a trapdoor in the back of the base that has plenty of room for books, templates, dice, etc.

Crazy display board for an Empire army. Sorry don't have the owner's name!

There were plenty of other great army displays, including the ginormous Empire display (above) and Ultramarines (below).

Ultramarines, 2nd best painted. Very clean and precise. Again, lacking the owner's name...

Overall impression of the event? It was a massive success in some ways, including the turnout. There were some last minute cancellations, some legit (being rear-ended on the highway on the way into town) and some random unexplained absences of veteran guys we have known for years. But I do believe that there were 65 40k players and 29 Fantasy players signed up a few days before the event. Actual numbers were probably more like 58/26, but that’s an educated guess. Not too shabby! If any more people showed up we would have had some serious issues just fitting more tables into the venue… That’s a very nice problem to have as an organizer.

Paul La Rue's Blood Angels, appropriately guarding the old Firebase scenery kit from 2nd edition. If only there was a purple Tyranid army set up opposite his during the Best Painted voting... that would have been perfect!

The event went smooth, with very few issues to speak of. Some instances where opponents didn’t get along, but no big fiasco about army lists, cheating, or anything like that.

Once again, my hat is off to Ward for putting together a great event largely single-handedly. Mike and I were on hand to help out, act as referees, and be ringers if necessary. Marty helped run the computers and threaten to beat people up, mostly because he was bored and not because they deserved it 😉 Setup and tear-down was a breeze with the help of many willing and enthusiastic gamers as well, so thanks to everyone for pitching in. Boxing up 50 tables worth of scenery and mats, followed by hauling 100 of the tables outside to a waiting truck is always easier when you have help.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’re eagerly awaiting the next Onslaught. Currently plans are to have the follow-up event in October, so in a few months do keep an eye out for some previews of what’s to come.

The only “downside” of the tournament was the revival of the old Composition debate. Fantasy was by and large an excellent mix of competitive and fun. Nobody took anything ridiculously un-fun to play against. No A-bomb spam or anything like that. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if anyone played Skaven. I definitely don’t remember seeing any… which sorta blows my mind. On the 40k side, however, the BOLS-approved mech lists were in full force. 8 Chimeras and 3 Vendettas was fairly common, one Blood Angels army consisted of 6 Predators and 30 Assault Marines, most Space Wolf armies were packing a half dozen or so Thunderwolves, etc.

The new question that came up this time around: is there any point to clinging to army comp in 40k when most people are fine with the metagame being this competitive? Tons of us vets cringe at the army lists that are becoming more and more common, but at the end of the day, there’s still a boatload of players who have fun playing with and against this type of list.

Despite the efforts of TO’s to “fix” the game by including composition, people tend to either ignore it completely or simply find a way to break the comp system. I still believe that composition is an important part of tournaments, by encouraging a level of competitiveness that is appropriate for the event, but I don’t know if it’s really all that effective. When composition influences Best General rankings, it can be effective. But that just makes people think that much harder about giving away vital points to their opponents. The last thing you want to do is make comp such a big deal that zero bombing is even more tempting than it already is. When you lost to a guy who is close to you in the rankings, dinging his army composition will make his win over you mean that much less at the end of the day. I still have a lot of soul-searching to do on this issue, and I’m glad our club’s tourney isn’t until July so we have lots of time to consider options!

Tim for example, one of the guys who has been involved in heated discussions on the Jaded Gamercast Facebook page recently, brought one of the 8 Chimera + 3 Vendetta lists. He’s not a bad guy at all, in fact he’s really super nice and many of the people who get murdered by his army have a great time in the process. Many people like him will gladly take a comp hit because they can’t wrap their head around why you’d willingly bring a “weaker” army to a tournament. Many of the players who take the fluffy/balanced armies do it because they want to, not because of the points bonus. Comp is a nice bonus for those who get it and still win games, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting the way people build their armies.

It’s something I’ve said recently and something I will say again, maybe competitive 40k just isn’t for some gamers (myself included). I don’t see why there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. If I want to play a fun game of 40k with old school army lists and scenarios, then there is nothing stopping me. In fact, I’m probably going to be having some guys over on the weekend and we were thinking of playing some 1200pt games of 40k on shiny new custom scenery, playing shiny new scenarios that I have been writing lately, and using our really old (read: terribly soft 3rd and 4th edition) armies. I think it will be a blast, because this is exactly the environment that we are missing. Why should I feel the need to force 75% of the tournament attendees to play the game my way, when I can simply let them have their fun and play Fantasy in tournaments and 40k at home?

I’m not trying to say that everyone played these incredibly creative Ardboyz style Mathhammer lists. There was definitely a decent number of players with balanced, old school lists. Even Mark managed to win some games with his Necrons, which consisted of a pile of Warriors supported by a seemingly random smattering of Wraiths, Pariahs and Destroyers. No Monoliths, no C’tan, just one Destroyer Lord running around harassing people. That’s the kind of list you take because you love the army and want to just chill out and roll dice, not because you define your self-worth on your win/loss record.

Anyway, I think that’s enough about Comp for now. Plenty of opportunity to argue about it in the comments section below!

If you take goofy pictures on my camera when I leave it unattended at the bar, I will post them on the web. Just sayin' 🙂

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3 comments on “Onslaught 2011

  1. The worst thing about that guard list, and again no insult to Tim, great game and i wouldn’t mind rematching him, was the fact that it was 100% legit as far as comp went Except perhaps the ‘theme’ point.

    The worst thing about playing against a list like this is the pure mental assault it puts out pregame when i saw all of those Chimera’s i was like neat, Steel legion and when i saw the army list i was a little disapointed that i was going to lose. An army like that out shoots you, it’s resiliant Av12 and carapace armor all around, it out numbers you, and with the includance of Stracken it can hold it’s own in close combat, and now i’m not in anyway insulting Tim, it was a good game and i would face him again.

    But the question is now raised, how can we make a comp system that rewards Themed and Fluffy lists and punishes harder lists, i think as a club we are all going to agree to some extent about what’s over powered and what is not.

    -Now is it fair that we say perhaps Organizers Rate your list based on it’s power level and give you a comp score accordingly,
    -Do we stick with the subjective/objective current system that seems to just give people some way to zero bomb each other.
    -Do we say turn the entire system to subjective, rate a list based on what we feel belongs and what does not and then give them a score and where there are large fluctuations between the score we awarded and what these people are getting and adjust accordingly?

  2. It’s like Nathan and Lange said; it takes a lot of time and effort to institute composition. The T.O. needs all the lists and from there to analyze the nature of the tournament. Once an overall competitive spread has been determined, the T.O. can then apply modifiers as need be. The amount of time that would take results in T.O.’s doing a checklist. Which simply does not work.

    It is just as ignorant to bring “themed/fluffy” lists that are deliberately underpowered when someone brings a power list. You cannot punish one without punishing the other. Neither one has the other person’s fun in mind.

    The other person’s fun. That’s what composition is all about, isn’t it? I was always under the impression that the measure of how fun the game was fell under the sportsmanship category. So, why are we passing two judgements for one criteria?

    I agree that each tournament finds it’s balance. But make your sports scores count. If they took a selfish list punish them for it. But it makes the tournament lopsided if you do it twice.

  3. Hi Dan — I’m the creater of the crazy Empire display board (Russ Fawcett) — It’s currently sitting at RedClaw Gaming in the North end….better on display than getting dusty in a basement.

    Had a good time at the Out of the Basement tourney — good job Brian and crew!

    Looking forward to October Onslaught, hope it happens. RF

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