Friday, 11 October 2013

Is the 40k tournament scene in the UK dying?

I’ve been digesting a number of podcasts and blogs on related subjects around this as well as giving my own position a lot of thought. You only have to look at Warhammer forum to see that tournaments are not getting the players they were 12-18 months ago. There have been several tournaments which have only sold 50% of their tickets recently, these aren’t even new tournaments but established ones too. So what are the reasons? Well here’s my views.

Edition – 6th editions isn’t ideal for tournaments, there’s a lot of random elements to game which means the real die hard waac player are less in control of the outcome of their army, but I don’t think this would really cause a serious drop off in players. The edition has also introduced some timing issues around the points and game lengths. 1750, 1850, 1500pts ? 3hrs, 2hrs30 there’s a lot of change in the scene as TO try to solve the problem with games not running their full course.

Location – Whatever your feelings on the business practises of Maelstrom and how it closed down, the Eye of Storm gaming centre was an excellent location. Facilities wise it was strong with an onsite bar, shop and plenty of gaming tables and good terrain. But location wise in Mansfield it was excellent sited to serve the Midlands, Yorkshire and Manchester /Liverpool areas. We all know the Warhammer World will not hold any indy tournaments in its hall. Stockport gaming centre seems to be picking up a little now, but it’s not ideal for the Midlands. Personally I’m willing to drive up to 3hr to attend a tournament (well if you exclude a 9hr flight to Adepticon), and I’d expect that’s similar for most people, otherwise it means taking Friday and Monday off work to travel. So there’s currently a lot less choice in the North.

Meta – I think this is singularly the biggest cause of the issue. If you look at the sign ups for the tournaments, the ‘hardcore’ tournament players are still travelling, you regularly see the same names in the 25-25 names signed up to tournaments. It’s the mid-table players which are missing (players which I believe I fall into). We don’t have delusions of winning a tournament, but we aspire to maybe finish in the top third of the rankings and at least win some of our games. So why aren’t the mid table player attending in the previous numbers? Well speaking for myself I simply don’t want to play the ‘none games’ the current meta will generate. The big boys on the scene at the moment are Tau, Eldar and Daemons. More specifically the Tau/Eldar combo, Jet Seer and Screamer star builds rule the tournaments, and playing against them is just DULL. If you’ve not taken one of these builds games against them can feel really stale as you can’t respond to their game style and simply don’t play a game but simple participate in helping your opponent have his game. I’m really not sure I want to spend c£100 (ticket, hotel, petrol) to spend 15+ hours not playing 40k.

The ironic thing is this is actually a self-fulfilling issue. If a 100 player tournament only sells 40-50 of its tickets to the hardcore players and a few mid-table players, the mid-table guys suffer a poor experience being beaten down repeatedly by the power builds, and probably decide not to attend another for a while (it happened to me at the GT final at the start of the year). Now if those 50 unsold tickets had gone to the mid-table players then they would likely get at least 3 -4 games against their fellow mid-table players once the swiss system had sorted out the pairings and enjoy the weekend a lot more. So until events can lure back more of the Mid-Table crowds the tournament scene as a whole is going to struggle.

Now this might self-correct; Stockport gaming centre appears to be holding more tournaments and with Caledonia moving their next year it could really launch itself. Caledonia Uprising also appears to be selling well to the Mid-Table crowd as well as the hardcore players, Timmaa (the TO) also appear to be actively adding elements which cater more towards the Mid-Table crowd, the best in race awards, the Highland league and even the Caledonia Open (although that could quite easily be dominated by the power build too).

The meta issue will shift again with more codices being released, Marines are likely to shake the tree especially with their impact on the Monstrous creature builds of Tau and Eldar, but you do run the risk of simply replacing one of the power three with another build which the Mid-Table player will have a poor game against (You only have to have your key elements destroyed a couple of time by 30 scouting grav gun armed bikes whilst 3 thunder cannons rain death from behind a hill onto your troops to know there’s little you can do to respond). So only time will tell on this.

So is the tournament scene dying? I suspect that there might be a number of the mid sized tournaments which struggle to find a place in the next 12 months and may disappear from the calendar, either than or we’ll just see the rise of much smaller 36 player tournament being run by a local club for player from their club and the surrounding cities, that’s where the Yorkshire clubs seem to be going.



  1. Hi,

    I would consider myself mid table, but the biggest factor for me has been time, money, and distance. I don't mind too much being beaten by top builds as long as the player is a nice chap.

    Warhammer world is my local and granted it aint' cheap for Throne of skulls (about £60 a pop) but when a indy tourney is £25/30 and then travel, hotel etc on top its a really hard call for me.

    Another issue I find is the amount of advanced warning some events give - 2 months for a lot of people is not enough time and the GT for the last 2 years has been poor for doing this.

    Caledonian is a great event and hopefully Tim's introduction of rankings and prizes for highlander type lists has bitten me as well as many other mid table guys. Calie was the last serious event I went too, and then just Blog Wars this year at the NWGC, which despite being a bit rustic was a great place to play.


    1. Thanks John, I'm attending Blog Wars again in a few weeks, hoping it won't be quite as dominated by the power lists as some of the more recent lists.

      I agree with the advance warning issue. You'd think that tournament would want to give as much notice as possible, it might be restrictions around getting rooms confirmed?

  2. Some sort of comp system is the solution- as is lower points values (you simply can't fit spam and scoring units into 1000 points). No more than one of any non troop unit, or two of any troop unit works well at 1500.

  3. As a non-40k player I find it amazing that there isn't more uproar about the massive imbalances in the game. GW are clearly not going to address it as power creep is what sells the new releases. Comping does seem like the obvious solution as it's already common in fantasy but it's by no means ideal.