Friday, 15 November 2013

Journey to a Throne of Skulls

So, after many a year of vowing never to go to the throne of skulls again after they changed the format, I purchased a ticket to the event in January 2014. But why, I here you ask? For someone who enjoys a more competitive tournament is this not completely against the grain?
One of the simple answers is that myself and my mate Simon, who has also been given a permit for the weekend, looked at a variety of events and total costs of travel, accommodation, ticket price and parking and surprisingly throne of skulls, despite a ticket price of almost treble any other event, came out a bit cheaper all things added together. Also it includes lunch on both days and an evening meal on the Saturday. I know it’s not gourmet but we would be unlikely to push the boat much further out than McDonalds, (other burger vendors are available).

The scoring style and everyone’s a winner kind of attitude is not my cup of tea but I’m looking to it as an opportunity to get 5 games in with the core of my army for DOG2. After all I reasoned that myself of several years ago would have just gone to play 5 games, winning was just a rare by product back in the day.  When I got back into the playing side of the hobby in 3rd edition I mainly went to event weekends such as the battle for Armageddon and so forth as well as the GT just to actually play some games. I then started going to the Tolworth first founding club and the annual pilgrimage to the GTs started in earnest. I always saw tournaments as just a way to play a number of games in a day or two although as I got better at the game I was also casting my eye for a win.

I won Heat 3 in 2008, during the war

 A Brief History of the Tournament Scene

 Along time ago, (actually the nineties), in a place far far away, (I think either Leicester or Nottingham university), GW started an annual tournament dubbed the Grand tournament. They developed this into the GT heat format, firstly two heats then three, with a final which became a staple event for many players from all around Britain and Europe to go to which was moved to the purpose built Warhammer world.

This was part of my yearly fixture. Go to either heat one or three in the Autumn then normally the final in March. Most tournaments around the country looked towards this as the template to run events. The scoring system throughout 3rd edition and most of 4th edition was a margin of victory affair out of 20. They changed it to a win, draw, loss format at the end of fourth and then finally after the 2009/10 season scrapped it in favour of the revamped throne of skulls, best in race, everybody wins scenario. Now, throughout this whole metamorphosis more clubs and individuals started running events and used the GT format as it’s template. As GW started to deviate away from this template, (a margin of win out of 20points), the more the independent events started to change and develope their own rule packs which leads us to today when near enough every event in the country is different in some way. Some maybe quite simple win, draw loss format with 30 or 3 points for a win and so forth to the margin of victory theme of the noughties.

It’s now a rich tapestry of events with a tournament going on every weekend somewhere in the UK. In many ways GW did us a favour. A lot has been made in some podcasts and blogs that attendance at some events has been down on recent years but I feel it is more of a buyers’ market these days.With the current economic climate and having a small child finances are not as plentiful as when I was younger. With more events closer to home the need for a weekend away to go to an event is not as necessary. Also if you do not like the rule pack for one event there are plenty other ones to go to which you may find more favourable. I personally decided against going to Caledonian Uprising this year as they were contemplating playing four games on the Saturday, which if you are travelling for about 3 hours plus in the morning of, is not very appealing.

Here in the UK we are probably not going to get an event the size or quality of the old GTs with the region of 130 to 150 players but the number of independent events and player base going to them is staggering. DOG2 sold out in just over a day for 82 players. One weekend in October had 3 40K events going on on the same weekend  around hte country with about 200 or so people at all of them. With the variety of events now, you can pick and choose more freely. So if you prefer one points level and time limit and even number of games or scoring system to another it’s a bit easier to vote with your feet these days rather than just grinning and bearing it just for the sake of playing a few games although not being totally keen on the rule pack.

So I feel that the tournament scene as a whole is stronger, with more events, if not the scale of those of the old GW GTs or current Throne of Skulls, but more of them and more variety. Down here in the South London area we have had the Woking Weirdboyz events and the Death or Glory events populating the calendar in the past year on my doorstep, which combined with Mayhem and Octoberfest is more than enough events for the wife to let me go to. To be fair she is very reasonable and understanding of the hobby and I have at times pointed out Rugby would be more time consuming and expensive if I were to come out of retirement. Beer does n’t grow on trees.

Pros and Cons of a Throne of Skulls


It’s not swiss, (1st plays 2nd, 3rd plays 4th and so on), so every opponent is random. I could be on 4 wins and play someone on 4 losses in round 5 for example. Not necessarily a fair system for everyone going but saves on the clerical work although may not be so enjoyable to be possibly pitted against several opponents who just own you rather than working around to your own level.

The winner is determined by working out the best of the best of each race by cross referencing other people’s results from the same codex. From the horses’ mouth:

We then compare that race’s top scoring player to that average score of all the players of that race. The amount which that player beat the average by is called the Margin of Victory.

EG: John came top of the Space Marine players by scoring 25 Battle Points overall. The other Space Marine players scored 19, 18, 14 and 12 respectively. Thus, the average Space Marine score is 17.6 and John’s Margin of Victory is 7.4.

So all the winners of each race have their margin of victory compared to find out the overall winner. If there is three or less of a race then it is worked against the average of everybody. This does mean that to be overall winner it depends on other people’s results. Now this is still true in other events whether it be margin of victory or even win, lose draw but this is a bit more crucial and random, as the quality of each opponent is random. Winning best in race is probably the best goal to set yourself as outright victory is just a lottery to an extent.

The face ticket price is hilarious although factoring in the food, especially if you are travelling from afar makes it more palpable.

I read a recent review on the sanguine sons blog by someone not familiar with the format and they were put off by it. The more concerning point was that they felt that there was a large number of ‘kids’ in the event who would throw a hissy fit when things did not go their way or got corrected about a rule. The normal tournament scene is in general quite civilised, so does a possible culture shock await?

The Middle:

Allies: You can take allies but the army will be classed by the model count and not the primary detachment. As I pointed out to Simon, if he allies his Orks in with his Tau, (Tau primary), then his army would probably count as an ork army as by just sticking in a warboss and 30 boyz he can outnumber the fish men. Orks for the win, (this is assuming there would be less Ork armies present thus making it easier to get a high score on the theory that orks at 1500 points may struggle).

I'm allowed to have it on display in the living room


Warhammer world is a great venue and I have won two events there, so I have some form there.

Five games of 1500 points with two and a half hours per game is a reasonable amount of time for that level.

In theory it is supposed to be a more relaxed atmosphere and will be a good opportunity to play five new opponents and different armies.

So it begins

The feedback I’ve had from the guys from Woking 1st Founding who have been has all been good. Trying to win best in race may be tricky as space marines are the most popular army in terms of sales and will most likely be quite numerous at this event along with some of the usual suspects like tau and elder. This could swing both ways in terms of the average score in regards to winning overall due to the possible number of marine players. I do not think overall winner is possible but you never know. Keep thinking glass half full.

So I’m actually looking forward to the so called "tournament of non tournaments," as one person had labelled it and will reserve judgement till I have experienced it. Lets face it I have to now as I have bought the ticket. 

Next time I’ll run down my army list for the event.


  1. I wrote the review on Sanguine Sons and although I pretty much slammed the event itself, I did have a lot of fun. If you take it in the spirit it is intended, and go into it knowing you may play some people who deliberately or not, will try and cheat you, you will be fine. Apart from everything else, it is an amazing venue with a great atmosphere. Will be interested in hearing your thoughts afterwards though.

  2. I've changed my motto to "Orks for the beer" it's a more realistic aim.