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On New Editions and 21st Century Changes

Posted: April 22, 2017 by Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard in Events, News, Rules, Scenarios
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And so it begins…

Games Workshop has announced the 8th edition of 40k. Unsurprisingly it draws somewhat on their experiences with their (eventually) successful experiences re-booting Fantasy Battle into Age of Sigmar.

And, of course, a lot of people are losing their minds, preparing to rage-quit etc. etc.

One of the first things I did was read their FAQ on the new edition to get some kind of idea what they were going to do. The second thing I did was think on what this could mean – for our events, for the hobby, for my own efforts etc. The third thing I did was to call Christian – the fellow with whom I run Astro.

So – what does this mean?

Well, let’s take a (capsule) look at what GW has said. The game will be changing. This is a major rules changes that necessitates old Codex books going by the wayside. So – very strong game changes not just ‘tweaks’. GW is also breaking the hobby out into ‘Free Play’ (throw models down and shoot stuff – much like the old unbound, I expect), ‘Narrative play’ (build your forces in themes and campaigns from the 40k universe) and what amounts to Competitive or Tournament play.

I don’t expect Free Play to amount to much. By and large players like some structure. This might be okay for teaching folks, but I wouldn’t expect to see much more of it than that.

Competitive/Tournament style play – this is interesting stuff. GW is taking back the competitive scene from outsiders such as the ETC and ITC crowds. They will have their own lists designed for competitive play, likely limit over the top combos etc. This is very much going to change that side of the hobby. I expect a lot of the ‘broken’ stuff to get taken out. Those playing versus play are likely going to have to really learn how to play their armies. Broken combos will get fixed lickety split. Many very good tourney players will welcome this as it will really emphasize skill. – That is – if it turns out this way. This one – the execution is going to be very important. However GW has promised to look to the community for changes and feedback. It may take them time to get it right – but I think their hearts and minds are in the right place. They will get there – and the hobby will benefit from it.

For Astro, of course, well we’ve always been about Narrative play even while we put the aegis of a ‘tournament’ over it. From the very first Astro the crazy scenarios and the fact that people didn’t all play the same scenario meant that the ‘tourney’ style play we did was a very different experience from more conventional events. I think, at first, even we ourselves didn’t realize how much. Yet a lot of people embraced our vision.

For us – the organizers of Astronomi-con – we have a really unique opportunity. Christian and I are going to go ‘back to the drawing board’ with Astro. We are going to carefully outline our philosophies and, in the light of an entirely new system – we are going to create from Astro – which began as a ‘v3’ tournament long ago – an entirely new creation focused on narrative play, enjoyable times and crazy fun. We will still support our core philosophies of keeping everything above board and out front, crazy fun narrative story based scenarios and having people play armies which are as evocative of the 41st Millennium as we can manage. Within those bounds – we are going to do our best to create something new, cool, and hopefully totally unique – and fun as heck out of the new edition.

Change need not be a bad thing. With all change comes opportunity and this one looks to have a great deal of wonderful opportunity for event organizers like ourselves who have long had a hard time balancing the narrative and competitive aspects of play. With them neatly separated by the rules set, we can focus on what we do best and really try to create new adventures, battles, and wars in the 41st millennium.

Welcome to the New Age. Cadia has fallen. Biel Tan broken. A Primarch has risen and daemon princes stalk the stars. We’re going to take that stage, dress it up and bring your armies to it!

On Narrative events

Posted: June 8, 2016 by Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard in Uncategorized

So – The Imperium Besieged…

Xian and I have been kicking around the idea for this event for well over a year. Once we finally committed to actually DOING it though – the development happened very fast. I guess 16 years of event running gives you at least some kind of skill at quickly knowing what is likely to work and what won’t when working together. It’s been exciting and very very cool.

So finally we consider ourselves ready – we book and confirm the space, people are talking excitedly and then we throw open the Registration.

And – in less than TWENTY FOUR HOURS – the event is half full.

It’s five MONTHS away!

Local folks are talking about potentially flying out to Toronto to play. There may be interest in a Winnipeg version too, which we would really welcome.

For a long time, it’s felt like very competitive events were all that could succeed. Outside of Toronto, Astronomi-con events have been falling off the tree, one by one due to simple lack of attendees. I’ll be honest with you – it’s been pretty heartbreaking. This event has been a big part of our lives for a long time now. In fact half the time I’ve spent doing the Games Workshop Hobby – I’ve been running Astronomi-con. We’ve seen it all, the rise and fall of Armorcast, the creation of Forgeworld, the rise of styrene models and the phasing out of metal models virtually completely. More and new races, new vehicles, the incorporation of flyers, of detachments and of formations.

It’s been quite a ride.

And through it all – the more ‘narrative’ type of events like Astronomi-con have been falling away, replaced by more ‘hardcore’ events. There is nothing wrong with that, mind – it’s not my cup of tea, but not everyone’s choice of how to play is ever going to be the same, but narrative events – there seemed to be less and less and, more importantly less and less interest.

Wow, folks. Wow.

Apparently we could not have been more wrong.

The level of support for The Imperium Besieged, the level of excitement and interest and passion – it’s really exciting. I haven’t been this excited about running an event in some years now. It’s literally THRILLING.

Thank you folks. You’ve made it a great time to be an event organizer and I really can’t thank you enough for your support, your excitement and your passion for the hobby.

On Army Sportsmanship and the gaming Philosophy of Astronomi-con

Posted: April 5, 2015 by Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard in Uncategorized

Okay – something to consider when building Astronomi-con armies etc.

Astro is an event which strongly encourages and supports not just winning games but also painting, army lists, sportsmanship and play which is themed for the 40k universe.

In reality – we can only make just so many rules with the current rules set without making things impossible to understand.

Army Sportsmanship was intended to deal with exactly this issue. What it is asking is ‘Is this army something you would see in the 40k Universe?’ ‘Is it fun to play against or simply something designed to blow the opponent off the table in as little time as possible?’ Etc.

Really – what it’s asking is – is this army fun and appropriate to a game which Forges a Narrative?

At a local Astro some time ago we had a fellow show up with an army which had Necrons allied with Nurgle Daemons. Lots of flying croissants and plague zombies with Helldrakes added in. The player is a good guy but the army? Can you imagine reading about such an army in a piece of 40k fiction? Not only did it take what were, at the time, pretty much the most powerful models from those ‘dexes which would compliment each other, but there was no theme of any kind other than ‘I want to win games’.

And he did win a lot of games. He also got hammered by Army comp sportsmanship and was very upset by it. He seemed to think ‘This army is legal and therefore everyone should be fine with it – people gave me a bad score because they lost.’

No, they didn’t. They did EXACTLY what they were supposed to do with Army Sportsmanship.

The difficulty was that this particular player simply did not agree with the core philosophy of what Army Sportsmanship is about. He expected a good score and was very annoyed that he didn’t get one and truly couldn’t understand it.

This is a difficult thing – and in truth it’s why I’m writing this. The player in question is a good guy – but he has a certain philosophy of gaming that some folks (and I am one of them) don’t share, which is ‘any kind of army is okay as long as the rules say it is and everyone should be okay with that’.

The thing is – while lots of players ARE okay with that, a lot of other players are not, and playing armies of that sort – armies which don’t Forge a Narrative, armies which are simply not fun to have on the other side of the table etc. – these things ruin their enjoyment of the game.

I was chatting recently with this same fellow when I ran into him at the GW store and in that conversation I had a real epiphany about this as he pointed out something I hadn’t realized myself. I’m a family man. I have a partner, an 8 year old daughter, a house which I often need to repair or renovate, 2 cars, a full time job as an Auditor for a multi billion dollar corporation etc. That makes me BUSY. My partner likes to spend time with me. So does my daughter. My work and home and other logistical stuff like my daughter’s school and extra-curricular activities all eat time like nobody’s business.

As such, when I make the (considerable) effort to set aside time for a game I want to ENJOY that game. When I go to a multi-day event that is an even bigger investment of time and resources. If I have a bad game – that is a significant portion of my very limited entertainment/relaxation time squandered, gone and which I won’t be getting back.

Why is that important? Well if I had lots of time and played lots of games, one bad one now and again wouldn’t be a big deal – but I DON’T. EVERY game is precious. Win? Lose? That doesn’t matter. I don’t need to win. What I need to do is HAVE A FUN GAME. Having my army blown off the table without my getting to do much of anything – that isn’t fun. At all. It’s a waste of my very limited entertainment time and I resent it. In fact I resent it a lot MORE than others might, because that time is so much more limited for me.

So – what has all that to do with Army Sportsmanship and selection for Astronomi-con?

Well, we have often said that Astro is ‘the tournament for people who don’t like tournaments’ which is kind of true. But really what that means is ‘it’s the event for people who don’t like certain KINDS of tournaments – namely those which have become increasingly common over the last few years. Ones in which armies are powerful and consist of strange alliances and mixes of troops and the like all designed to win as many games as possible to win.

That’s a fine attitude for those playing games which have very tightly constrained play – like Chess or something. No one is telling a story in a Chess game. Or Go. Or Checkers. Or Poker. No one feels particularly attached to the right hand knight on their chessboard or has written stories about their experiences and the like. No one is going to argue about how a Knight can move or if he’s in range etc. That’s all very well defined.

But in 40k a lot of us do all these things. I have probably a dozen short stories and a novella featuring the exploits of characters in my Imperial Guard Regiment. I have spent hours ripping apart and combining models and figuring out the best rules sets to use in order to reflect those stories on the table top. When I’m playing my IG, I’m telling a story. In a story, sometimes the good guys win, sometimes they lose, but if it’s not a good scrap, it’s a boring story.

Astro draws those kinds of players. A lot of them. Family men, executives in business, doctors, police officers, EMT folks, you name it. People with busy lives who want to enjoy the story of their models. Yes, it brings in a few others too, but the scenarios, terrain scoring systems and philosophy – these things cause a disproportionate representation of these kinds of people at our events.

So – when they arrange their force on the table, they aren’t setting up a game of chess where it’s all about getting a checkmate. They are trying to live a 40k fiction story through their miniatures. THAT’S why folks were so upset by the Nurgle/Necron army of doom.

Funny thing is – I think if the player had done more to ‘sell’ the concept – something like Necrons corrupted by the Dark Mechanicum or some such, the concept would have been a lot more palatable. I’m pretty sure his score would have been better. In fact I’m positive about it. Imagine the modelling opportunities of an army like that! But he didn’t and his opponents didn’t like it and some, sadly, were a bit intolerant about it. I probably would have to admit to feeling a little that way myself, much to my regret.

I wrote all this to give you some idea of what Astro is meant to be and to help folks who are putting together armies realize what might happen with Army Sportsmanship. Remember, your opponent may be a busy guy or gal who cares a lot more about a good game than about a chess match victory. If you do your best to give that to them – even if they lose, they still will appreciate it. In fact, some of the best games can be losses – as long as they are fun.

And when both players have fun, you both win. Regardless of the outcome on the tabletop.

On Victory Point changing items/traits etc.

Posted: March 6, 2014 by Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard in Uncategorized

Another thing that has come up recently has been discussions of things like VP affecting traits etc.

Now, in the old days of ‘win, lose, draw’ etc. we could have just left those alone, but the new system we are using for tournament scoring uses VPs directly as your tournament points with a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 15 per game.

Now imagine what happens if you take a Warlord Trait that gets you 5 extra VPs…

Suddenly our entire scoring system has the potential to break. Not good.

In some cases, it’s appropriate to just ‘flip’ this ability and that works in many cases. For example, if you lose this particular item and your Opponent gets an extra VP – that could break the scoring system. But causing the player who took it to LOSE 1 VP doesn’t. It allows that item to be played and preserves the balance of a penalty for losing it, just in a different way.

The reason we pulled Cypher’s VP rules (rather than just ‘flipping’ them) was that his rules could be used to play a ‘screw your neighbor’ game with your opponent should they happen to have any Dark Angels. “Oh, you have DA? I’ll hide Cypher here in the corner all game and cost you 1d3 VPs because I’m mean…” Not good. Not good at all. So he wasn’t a good candidate for a ‘flip’. Still, we wanted to allow him to be played so we’ll just put him out there without that rule which, fortunately, has pluses and minuses for both sides.

We want people’s games to be fun and the system to work and work well. So there is a very well thought out reason why we do some of these things.

Of Dataslates and Formations…

Posted: March 6, 2014 by Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard in Dataslate, Digital, Events, Expansions, News, Rules

Okay folks – we have been getting a lot of queries about these so it’s time to address it.

Xian and I spent a fair bit of time talking on the phone yesterday as I navigated my way through snow-filled blizzardy streets filled with traffic. It was a productive way to use gridlock time I guess.

So, without further ado – Dataslates and Formations…

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