Smogcon 2015… In conclusion

Posted: February 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

A week has passed since I arrived at the Radisson, not really knowing how I’d react to Smogcon. I expected to play a handful of games, chill out and take it all in. Which I did. All along I wanted to know how close an experience it was to an American con, something I’ve never experienced in the UK events I’ve attended.

Every one that I asked that had been to an American con said that Smogcon was bang on, and I loved it.

Had I wanted to go mad and game non-stop from Friday morning through to Sunday afternoon I could have, I’d be dead most likely but it was an option! Had I wanted to just amble about and watch games, chat and take in the staff panels I could have, and I’ve not have thought I’d wasted my entry fee despite never taking a model out of my case. The convention gave me the opportunity to make of it what I wanted.

I will say that all the above is from the point of view of a more casual gamer. I know there were teething issues with event sign up before the con, with some players maybe not getting exactly the event they wanted. However many of the events ran at less than full capacity, something that players may not have known at the time. This probably wasn’t helped by some of the rooms being away form the main info desk, the hotel had said they had a loop that would have allowed announcements to be broadcast to all the rooms, however this didn’t seem to be the case on the weekend, maybe next year!

Overall I’m more energised for WM/H than I have been for quite a while. Even the announcement of more gargantuans doesn’t put me off! To this point there have only been two events that are set in stone on my gaming calendar, Britcon and the Epic-UK GT. Smogcon is now firmly on that list, and I’d be disappointed if I were to miss out on a ticket for 2016.

Big thanks to Jon, the Smogcon team and all the Press ganger’s for giving up their time to put on the convention, the PP staff for adding that star sparkle, and everyone I played or chatted to over the weekend.

Bring on 2016 already!

So with the overall feel of the con covered I guess it’s time to get down to the reason most of the people paid their money to attend Smogcon, and that’s gaming!

Game tables

Smogcon had a whole heap of tables in use pretty much none stop from Friday morning to Sunday! Some were covered in rather spiffy gaming mats of the ‘mouse mat’ material and these were super. These tables were mainly located in areas that had competitive games scheduled, while the purely casual spaces had various green cloths with tape marking the boundaries of tables. As ever with tape some of the tables weren’t exactly 4’x 4′, but it was easy enough to move zones etc. to the correct positions allowing for the odd inch here or there. Terrain was of the functional nature, which is fine for WM/H, and priority was given to the competition areas meaning some of the casual play tables may have been a little light. Overall given the sheer number of tables on offer, easily 100+, I have no complaints about the battlefields available to players.

Painted Models

Gamers that don’t play WM/H often mock the game for allowing unpainted miniatures on the table. At Smogcon I think well in excess of 75% of the games I saw featured either fully painted, or nearly so, armies on both sides. I managed to fit in eight games, and only two had forces with no paint on them, and five were fully painted both sides.

With Smogcon now an official PP event the store had limited number of pre-release models available for purchase, and late Friday, early Saturday these models started to appear on the tables as players had rushed off and built them. No other UK gaming event has had this option, and I actually like it. Allowing people to get the newest models on the table literally hours after purchase is really cool, and a fun thing to add to the gaming mix.

My Games
Well I played eight games, less than most, more than some. I really went into Smogcon with no real expectation of gaming till I dropped. Those people that powered through and gamed for twenty four hours or more have my respect, but that’s not for me. All my games were fun, played in the right spirit, and competitive without being cut throat. The day’s of the infamous page five are a thing of the past, something PP set straight in the Mark II page five some years ago now. So here are my thoughts/highlights from the games I did play.

Doubles with Conrad, v Des and Nigel
So game one was an all Tanelorn WGC affair. With 100 points a side on the table I think we all expected this game to drag on a bit, but it was all over in around two hours.

The game wasn’t won so much by good or bad dice, or tactics, or planning… but much more on which side produced the superior banter!! Nigel managed to kill box his caster two turns running which allowed Conrad and I to complete a scenario victory. Nigel later claimed to have missed the offers of take backs to fix his kill box errors :D

Staff Scramble
The only game related activity I’d signed up for was to play in Saturdays morning staff scramble. These were sixteen man events with two PP staffers in the field. Will Shick and Ed Bourelle took part in the one I played in. To keep things moving we played one list, thirty five points with a simple one circular zone in the middle scenario.

Game One – Dan – Trolls.

I decided to take a pretty vanilla pThags list with Carni, Scythean, Angel, Legionaries, full pot, shepherd and foresaken, I think! Dan had Jarl. Mulg was his only beast as he had the heavy cav and solo, fenn blades and the stones.

The game seemed to be going ok until it turned out that models in the zone couldn’t roll good dice! My scythean charged into four fenn blades, and after buying four extra attacks had killed… one! Thags missed on a boosted attempt to bad blood Mulg too! The game was called for time and I gave the game to Dan as I had next to nothing left. Brutal game but lots of fun.

Game Two – Ed Bourelle – Cryx.

So game two I’m paired up with one of the PP staff and a faction I normally dread playing, cryx. Not sure why but I kinda have a mental block against cryx, losing way more than I ever win. Ed’s list wasn’t an all out list though, with four jacks, no banes and eSkarre leading.

This game also ground on quite long, though I guess that’s how pThags plays really so no surprise. Ed had committed pretty hard and had lost two jacks getting Thags down to only 5 wounds left, but by now I’d applied a harrier to Skarre’s face and she wasn’t feeling too good wounds wise either. The final turn saw me spawn another harrier, animus and charge it into Skarre, only to leave her on one wound! The only thing left of mine ot activate was a Foresaken with no fury on her. She walked in to avoid a free strike, needed and eleven to hit, which she got! Then a five on the damage roll did the final point to win me the game!

Game Three – Chris – Ret

If my other two games had been long, this one was really, really quick. Chris army came across the board at an amazing pace and deleted the legionaries and pot with ease. Then I learnt exactly what the spell Crusaders Call does… it applies a colossal to Thags face from across the zone! Needless to say it was curtain for Thags at that point.

So 1-2 overall, but a really fun morning. Great to get to play one of the staff, and see some Skorne models that aren’t release yet in the flesh as Will Shick was running an Ardus Sentinel and Ardus Soldier in his winning list.

Rich – Circle – 35pts – eKaya – Fire Support
I’d challenged Rich to a game at Smogcon over twitter and we found ourselves with time on the Saturday afternoon. I stuck with pThags, but swapped out some bits to put a seraph and the succubus in the list. I’d used the succubus in games before Smogcon, and getting spiny growth out three times for two fury is too good to miss out on. Add in slipstream and even Thags can get about the board enough to make a difference.

Rich had eKaya, three wolves a gorax and min wolf riders and a couple of solos from memory. We both advanced semi fast turn one, and turn two Rich spent a bit of time working out if he was in charge range of the scythean with a primal pure blood. He decided he was probably in, even after missing with Hunters mark. Turns out he was about quarter of an inch short! In my turn I got a harrier out of the pot and deleted Victor Pendrake before he got to do much, but couldn’t kill off the pure blood. I charged the Carni into Ghetorix to slow him up, missing Kaya with the assault spray. Rich then removed the Carni, but not much else died. In return I spawned another harrier, charged it into Kaya and did some damage. I feated back the Carni and basically put it back in melee with Ghetorix. Kaya tried to kill the harrier but couldn’t, so just made sure the carni would die for the second time. I then spawned another harrier, and between the two on Kaya they finished her off.

Great game with a true gent of the WM/H community.

Nick – Menoth – 35 – eFerrora – Incursion
Nick had dropped before the last round of the Road to Masters C competition, and we decided to get a game in before we had dinner. Nick was limited in his choices as he’d put a fair few of his beautifully painted models into the P3 competition before we played our game. I decided I’d had enough of Thags and it was time for the twins. But which one?

I settled on Rhyas as I figured after two days of competition games Nick didn’t really want to face off against one of legions perceived best casters! I had Striders + UA, Min Hex hunters, Typhon, Seraph, Raek, Shredder and a Foresaken. Nick had two heavies, a light, temple flameguard plus the usual support pieces for menoth! I managed to steal an early CP by running the Raek onto the flag to my right, and the following turn Ferrora moved laterally behind the temple flameguard to spray at the striders and hex hunters. It turns out Nick didn’t know Rhyas had acrobatics… or crit decapitation! So five fury spent latter and Ferrora was no more!

There were some muttering about casual gaming and such things after the game ;) But was all settled over a nice curry and a few beers :D

James – Ret – 50 – Rahn – Outflank

I played James in the Guardians of Tyr event in Feb and we’d agreed we would play again at Smogcon. I went back to playing pThags as I didn’t really have the bits I want for a fifty point Rhyas list painted yet.

This game can be summed up in very few words – Mistakes were made! James forgot to allocate focus at least once, we both didn’t feat on turns when we both had planned too, my succubus ran away from Thags after getting to close and more besides. The game ground down to the point that had virtually nothing left, but there was an outside chance for Thags to live the mutagenesis assassination dream! The fist step was for him to survive a free strike form a ret heavy, which he didn’t and James won the game. We did play out the assassination anyway, and Rahn would have survived.

Fun game and I’ll get you next time James!

Stu – Cyrx – 50 – Gaspy3 – Destruction

It was now Sunday lunchtime and I felt I had the energy for one final game before I braved the motorways home. Rich’s local gamer friend Stu was also looking for a game.

Stu went first and his Raiders mobbed the zone, bane knights moved up behind his objective and bane cav moved forward ready to face off against the legionaries. I moved up, shot a couple of raiders and basically got ready to take a few chargers. The cav came in and killed three legionaries, the raiders filled the zone and Gaspy moved up. In my turn the legionnaires vengeance killed one cav! My angel one shot the objective and I put more shots into the raiders. Stu moved up the Banes but couldn’t kill the Angel, the cav killed a few more legionaries and the rest of the Cryx sat still. I think Stu meant to feat this turn but hadn’t, leaving him camping seven focus. At this point I start looking at another risky mutagenesiss assassination. While I ponder this my eye moves along my battle line, coming to rest on a foresaken with 5 fury… just out the zone my side… with gaspy just outside the zone his side… So I activate the seraph, slip stream the foresaken forward, shoot some Tartarus off the table because he could. Foresaken wanders forward, blight shrouds and with nine dice at minus sixteen gaspy bites the dust. To be fair Stu has spotted this about thirty seconds before I did so knew it was coming.

So overall I played eight games, won four, lost four. With the points I earned in the Iron Arena I snagged myself a nice concept art print of Zuriel.

More importantly every game was played in the correct spirit, and I had fun against all my opponents.

Smogcon 2015 – Part one.

Posted: February 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

The weekend just gone was a long one as it started on Friday at 06:30 when I headed out the door to attend my fist ever Smogcon.

Smogcon is the UK’s largest Warmachine/Hordes (WM/H) event, attracting 400 gamers from all around the world to the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel at Heathrow. Massive growth from its inception four years ago with 80 ish players at Firestorm games in Cardiff. The growth of the convention in the past three years obviously drew the attention of Privateer Press (PP) as they gave the con official recognition this year. PP’s commitment meant that the painting competition was the fist official P3 painting comp outside the USA, and that four members of staff from PP travelled across the Atlantic to attend the con.

I’m going to break things down into sections but I’ll be upfront and say I had a blast at Smogcon. I gamed, chatted and sat in on some staff panels over the weekend, the only thing missing was more sleep! But who really needs sleep when at a gaming event?

The Venue.

Well the Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow is a four star hotel just outside Heathrow airport, so it was always going to be a bit posher than your average gaming location!

atriumbedroom

Now this does come at a price, but not an unreasonable one considering both the location and facilities that the hotel provides. Breakfast was included for both days I stayed, and there was plenty of choice and variety available. I didn’t eat lunch in the hotel, but the one evening I had curry I thought it was reasonably priced when taking in the location. Beer wasn’t cheap, but with 20% discount available it was in the expensive but ok range, and in truth I didn’t indulge to excess.

The rooms the games were held in were both large, and when the air conditioning was on, not too hot. The larger rooms when full were on the noisy side, but I didn’t have any real problems hearing what my opponent was saying, and it was normally possible to find a space in a smaller room if it did become too noisy. That’s the massive winning point of having an event on-campus so to speak, there are plenty of places available to play games, and still other areas where you can chill out and chat.

Overall I give a big thumbs up to the venue. As gamers we often complain about the cost of events and accommodation, but are willing to invest huge amounts in lead piles that many leave sitting in drawers and cupboards. I would have no qualms about booking in for another Smogcon at this hotel.

Privateer Press’s Involvement

Smogcon 2014 was a multi system convention held at two hotels in Guildford, so when it was announced that Smogcon 2015 would be PP only games it did cause a little bit of concern in the less tournament focused players. Personally I was unsure quite what the impact of having PP directly involved would be, I shouldn’t have been worried at all. PP’s support went far beyond simple branding and providing extra ‘goodies’ that some other companies may have done.

Every year PP have produced a keynote video teasing what is next for the game, and this has been shown at Templecon, a large convention run in late Jan / early Feb in the US. This year they unexpectedly ended that presentation on a cliff hanger, announcing the conclusions would be shown at Smogcon, something they hadn’t told the organiser of Smogcon ahead of time. In and of itself that may seem like a small thing, but I think it does show that PP have a more world wide focus than in previous years, and the EU players have shown that they have both the desire and interest to warrant such a viewpoint. I’ll post my thoughts on the contents of the keynotes a bit later.

The four staff members that came across spent a lot of time sharing any and all information they could. They ran four panels on both Friday and Saturday covering both the IKRPG and WM/H. I attended two, the first an introduction to the IK RPG unleashed game. From what I heard an saw I think this game looks really good. Even in the hour or so spent talking about it I could see lots of potential for role playing in the environment they have created. I can see another RPG book adorning my rules shelf once it is released. The second was a run down of how PP take a concept and turn it into a product on store shelves. This was also interesting, if not exactly earth shattering. What it did show is how immersed all the staff are in the game and company. They also fielded questions, with the thorny question of how and when do you decided an errata is needed. For me Will Shick’s answer to the veiled question of “why did you nerf my Circle” was both professional and honest, with a twist of humour thrown in.

When the staff weren’t talking in seminars, they were in and around the gaming rooms. They were always happy to stop and answer questions where they could. I played in one staff scramble where both Will Shick and Ed Bourelle rocked up to in an eight man, three game mini tournament. I was drawn v Ed in round two and had a really fun game, more of which later. Even as the convention was winding down on Sunday afternoon they were in the Iron Arena playing games. Couldn’t ask more from the representatives of the game if you ask me.

The Keynote video

The main gaming room at Smogcon was very full at 20:30 on Friday evening as everyone was ready to see what PP had in store for hordes in the coming year. Ok, after the news from Templecon that all the Warmachine factions were getting an new Colossal, I think most of us were expecting that the big news for Hordes would be new Gargantuans, and we were right!

The presentation itself was pretty cool, and it was fun to be amongst the first gamers to see the new models, and the Skorne Hydra is a very sexy model, nearly up there with the Arch Angel! The excitement in the room certainly seemed to say that most of the PP fans were excited for the next release of the big boys.

For those that kinda read the but in the above here it is, the whole idea of more huge based models does leave me a bit cold, especially in Hordes. Don’t get me wrong I think they are very impressive models, and they certainly catch the eye on the table. It’s just that I don’t think they fit into the way I play the game, or that well into the whole fury mechanic within Hordes.

Most of my WM/H gaming is either casual, or in local events that run at thirty five points. This means that a gargantuan is likely to be your only heavy warbeast, and that can spell trouble for you in certain match ups. The new legion beast looks interesting, but the art wasn’t as jaw dropping as the Arch Angel so it will all come down to it’s rules, though in truth I don’t think I’ll really get value out of a gargantuan if I did purchase one.

Well this has got pretty long, think I’ll save talking about my games for another post, brief though they may be.