There has been a lot of talk about narrative vs tournament gaming recently in blog-land and though nothing has or even can be "resolved", I've been trying to come up with ways to make tournaments more fun for casual players and for narrative events in a convention type setting to be more involving and that really push the limits of our hobby skills. These are some of the ideas I've had over the last year.
This is an idea I haven't put much thought into the nuts and bolts mechanics of it, but since so many people are collating data these days on the major tournaments it seems like it would be feasible to rank the codexes themselves and implement a handicap system similar to in bowling. The idea being that if we perceived each codex as our team mate, and some team mates perform better than others, we can rate the quality of our team mate (i.e codex) and give a marginal benefit to those who willingly bring a weaker codex to the tournament. By giving good players a bonus for going into a tournament with an inferior codex it might increase diversity. Sure, it might just expand the pool of net lists as people scramble to exploit every advantage, but you might see some of those top rung competitive players taking a chance on a weaker codex rather than selecting the power codex of the week. It'd have to be fleshed out and it wouldn't take into account the nuances of different builds but I think the idea has merit. If in 2009 I hadn't born witness to 5 tables in a row at Adepticon where every player was playing leaf blowers except me I might have actually played in one of the tournaments at Adepticon 2010.
I've mentioned before in a previous article that the most fun I've ever had at a tournament was playing in a Cities of Death tournament several years back in Kenosha, WI (KWars: The Consuming Darkness run by Equinox). I liked how using a variant rule set turned things upside down. Suddenly the 3rd Edition Ork Codex was viable again and no one had all of their tricks and strategies all worked out. This tournament also sticks out in my mind because it had a narrative that linked each battle to the last and the scenarios were all really unique with random elements - the sort of thing the hardened tournament player often dislikes unfortunately.
All the way back in 2nd Edition I ran a tournament at a gaming store in Buffalo, NY that used the Arid Terrain Rules written by J. Michael Tisdel (Citadel Journal 16). Some people were irritated that they weren't well versed in the unique rules and had a hard time with how little cover was used, but the games I played in 2nd Edition using those rules were some of the most memorable games I played. I actually revamped these rules for the current edition but have yet to give them a whirl. Variations like these can really refresh a stale gaming environment in my opinion.
I would love to play in tournament that used alternate FOC's, used Attacker/Defender scenarios, or that used other restrictions, sidebars, or unique special rules. Some would argue that these types of alterations tamper with 40K, the tournament dynamic, and army balance making things too unpredictable. I think they make them more interesting and force you to adapt to a host of environments and tactical challenges. To each their own I guess but its these sorts of changes that really keep you on your toes.
The Narrative "Play"/Historical Re-enactment
After Adepticon 2010 I realized that since I wasn't happy with the tournament events taking place and the environment they created, I needed to step up and start running events that correspond with what I would like to play in. Originally I was going to just run a tournament akin to what I described above. I had worked out a lot of the ideas in my head and thought I had a winner of an idea, but it was still just another tournament to have its restrictions exploited for the sole purpose of victory. I decided to look into what types of narrative events other conventions like WargamesCon were doing, but it seemed like they were basically just huge Apocalypse games that featured any hodge podge of armies. I wanted something with more depth and attention to detail.
There are close to 1000 40K players who will converge in Chicagoland for Adepticon, maybe with an event of that size its possible to re-enact an entire campaign in a day and do it in the most lavish way possible? No proxy armies, no counts as stand ins, and no competition - at least not in the traditional sense. What if we ran a campaign and treated it much like a play where each person has a named character and their forces to control; where each person tries to emulate the story in the most spectacular way possible with their best painting and conversion work to most accurately capture the most minute details? Would that appeal to others the same way that it appeals to me? This is often too difficult to pull off in a game store or at a small convention in grand scale, but the sheer size of Adepticon could make it possible and with enough interest could really put a spotlight on a different aspect of our hobby that stays in our houses or appears on Dave Taylor's blog. (He has done fantastic work capturing the forces of the Gaunt's Ghosts books if you've never looked there.)
I pitched this idea to Matt Weeks, one of the Adepticon organizers and I'm going to try and pull it off this year with a well known and recently resurrected tale. I've spent the last month dissecting the 2nd Edition Storm of Vengeance campaign pack and The Purging of Kadillus by Gav Thorpe to find the best way to break up the scenarios and characters so that participants can select a role and spend the next 5 months painting and converting 750 points of models to represent the Dark Angels, Piscina Free Militia, Goffs, or Bad Moon Orks that took part in this classic conflict. The details still need to be worked out but rewards will be given for painting, accurate detail, and spirit. Each person would play 4 games of various sizes and pairings utilizing adaptions of the original scenarios as well as others developed from other areas of the novel and color text from the original campaign. This is all assuming people respond to this sort of uncharacteristic event. Hopefully there are enough people interested in re-enacting this conflict, because if it goes well I'd love to try and flesh out other novels and classic conflicts to really challenge people's hobby abilities (as well as my own!) and really promote narrative play.
I think all of these ideas have merit but its really up to everyone who wants to see something different let your organizers of your regional events know what sorts of things you'd like to see or volunteer to run something yourself that embodies the kind of gaming experiences you crave.
On a final note: This post breaks our personal record for the most posts in a single year of blogging. Way back in January I set the goal for 50 this year t0 clearly crush our previous 46. This is post number 47. Congrats to us!