Monday, August 29, 2011

Dash at the Nova Open: Tournament Review

Hey folks!

I just got back home from the Nova Open...I am one tired mofo. This blog post is for my thoughts on the tournament.

The Whiskey Challenge, Invitational, and Nova Open were all at the Hyatt in D.C. There was a convenient shuttle from the airport to the hotel and check-in was easy. In terms of the tournament area, it was quite spacious and the hotel kept water coolers and cups available constantly. In terms of the left quite something to be desired, and I hope Mike will pick a different hotel (like the Holiday Inn across the street) next year. Rooms had open shower stalls - no doors or curtains, just a half-glass panel, so that when you showered, water splashed out into the bathroom, and exiting the shower was deadly unless you put a towel down on the floor (there were no bath mats). On top of that, the shower-heads were awful. They were top-down "rain only" shower-heads, which is my least favorite shower mode. Rooms didn't have free internet, which is something I expect from any hotel I stay in, and at $10 per day for internet that was slower than dial-up, web-pages would time-out trying to load. My wife and I did watch "X-Men: First Class" Sunday night for the low-price of $17 on T.V. with a strict warning that there was no preview period, no refunds, and if we accidentally changed the channel, experienced a power-outage, or turned the T.V. off, we were out of luck. Room service was $37 for a small, undercooked poor quality steak and a glass of water, and the hotel nickel and dimed patrons EVERYWHERE. No microwaves in the room, no fridge either. The lights in our bathroom were shorted out, and kept flickering in and out, maintenance never made it up to replace them....

Worst of all is how they charge: Four nights in the hotel was $465 in additional to incidentals, which we budgeted for. What we didn't budget for was the "incidental and room damage charge" - checking into the hotel got us charged $700 on the spot as a "pending" charge against our checking account for the room, possible damages, and incidentals. When we checked out, we got charged the actual hotel room checkout in additional to incidentals as well. Within the week, that initial $700 should be refunded...but it is ludicrous that they even engage in this practice. With close to a thousand bucks gone from the checking account as a "pending" charge, we suddenly had to start budgeting our money during the weekend.

Mike, if you read this - please pick a different venue next year.

Thursday Night Whiskey Challenge:
Thursday night I played (Troy Esposito) Grimwulfe's Space Wolves. Troy and I did two drinks per player turn, and it turns out that my bottle of Captain Morgan didn't last the weekend. It was precariously empty by the end of the night! Quite a few people came by the table to tell us that we were the only table drinking and playing in the spirit of the whiskey challenge.

We had a blast. Troy kind of looks like a Space Wolf - albeit shorter, a bit more rotund, and his braided beard wasn't down to his chest. I got a huge kick out of seeing him and especially his beard, which usually has copper dongles in it, but his wife made him leave them out.

We had a tough battle, but Dark Eldar prevailed!

Friday's Nova Invitational:
Friday morning started bright and early with the Nova Invitational. I checked pairings and my first round...pitted my against Stelek from YTTH. I thought to myself "There is NO WAY that this is random pairing." Mike Brandt actually came up to my table as if he was reading my mind and said that they pulled names out of a hat and that it was absolutely random.

At the table itself, Stelek opened with, "Want to bury the hatchet?" I hold no particular avarice for him, although I find that in conversing with him in both real life and the internet to be a chore, and I was annoyed. I said, "Sure - I'm about to bury the hatchet in your army." He said, "Ok Dash...." To which I said, "If you mean between us, we can bury the hatchet if you stop bashing me on your website. Stop talking shit, blowing things out of proportion, and taking pieces of what I write out of perspective to put me in a bad light. Then we'll bury the hatchet."

We played - I took primary, secondary, and tertiary for the win. The one similarity to our game last year was that Stelek's response to any of my questions about powers, unit sizes, etc. is "Dash, you already know that." DUDE! I don't ask pointless questions. I don't read army lists. Most people use army builder these days, and I hate the format. Rather than trying to work my way through it, I tell my opponents that I'm a visual learner, and rather than look at their list, I'd prefer to look at their army and have them tell me what they have. I'll keep the list for battle reports if I'm going to write them, but I'd rather make visual connections between units, models, and abilities.

I realize that I'm opening myself up to being cheated, but I'd like to think that people I play against share a sense of integrity, so I'm not worried about it - I do share that mindset with Hulksmash. If you need to cheat to win, you aren't good enough to win anyway.

My second round paired me against frequent GT player Rich (someone) from the East Coast and his Tau. Tau was my first army, but as he was walking me through his army at the beginning of the game, I realized just how long it's been since I've played as or against Tau - I hardly remember anything from the codex. That was probably readily apparent during the game.

The mission was kill points with a Dawn of War deployment. I won the roll and elected to go first. He had three units of kroot, three crisis teams of missiles, Shas'el commander, two broadside teams of two, a hammerhead, three individual piranhas, a hammerhead, and two devilfish with 6 firewarriors inside each.

I know that kroot can line a board edge with infiltration, so I elected to Dawn of War reserve everything and true reserve the Baron and my Beast unit so that if he did line my board edge, I wouldn't lose my Baron and beast unit. He put out two kroot units and lined my board edge anyway (2" apart) which ended up leaving an 8" gap at one end that I could have gotten the Baron and friends out in.

My first turn, everything but the Baron and beasts rolled onto the board 6" except for the ravagers, which moved on 12" - 6" of movement with a venom facing my own board edge lets me literally be 1" away from kroot flanking it on each side since the front is so narrow. I also staggered my venoms slightly so that my inside units firing out from an open-topped vehicle had clear avenues of fire down the line of his kroot. The end result was that I killed both kroot units on my first turn. Me marched onto the board and acute senses + blacksun filters let him actually range me with a couple of units 36-40" away. I lost a ravager.

From there, we had a tough game. I forgot that broadside SMS ignored intervening terrain and LOS (I lost two trueborn units in the same turn that had disembarked meticulously - while they were in the open, I was confident that they would have cover from any incoming fire - his broadsides lit me up over the top of a hill and over a piece of area terrain and whoosh - a huge chunk of my high strength weaponry was lost.

On the flip side, terrain was symmetrically placed on each table, so that his 6" movement onto the table didn't get his broadsides into cover. He also had mostly gun drones instead of shield drones, so when I *did* get lance shots from good angles into his broadsides, they evaporated.

We had a narrow game, but I pulled the win!

My third game was against Rick Puig(sp?) with a pretty standard Mech IG army. Two Vendettas, two Hydras, two Manticores, a Psyker Battle Squad, and a load of Chimeras. I was a little wary going into the game because a couple folks approached me and told me to watch him, because he will cheat if he can. Extra movement, extra shooting...stuff like that. I tend to reserve judgement for myself, but appreciate the ability to make a mental note to keep an eye out.

Primary was table quarters with spearhead deployment. I won the roll to go first, he didn't seize and we went to it. Every table for the Invitational had a permanent judge on it. Halfway through my first turn shooting, our judge made a LOS/cover call (in my favor) - so I finished the shots, then did my mental checklist (what has fired, what hasn't) - I tend to do it out loud so my opponent can weigh in if they disagree with me. So I did my pointing and verbal "Alright, shot, shot, flat out, flat out...alright, your turn." I didn't finish scanning before I said it because I know how short two hours can be and when I looked at the other side of the table...I hadn't shot. So I said, "Wait! Not done yet - I haven't shot over here." Rick was just getting out of his chair - hadn't even gotten to stand up, go to his models...nothing yet. And he said, "No, you said your turn was done, so it's done." The judge backed him on it, but warned him that he was setting the tone for the game.

This upset me quite a bit. Obviously. He took his turn - a Mech IG parking lot, and despite my positioning and flat out moves, I suffered heavy casualties. He moves a Vendetta 8" then fires all three weapons at me...and I'm like, " moved cruising speed." He's like, "No, I moved it 6 inches." I'm like, "Here's where it started, here's the shots I had lined up that I forgot to take, here's where it is now." He's like, "Too bad. I only moved it 6" and if you thought I moved it 8" then you should have said so during my movement." I'm like, "You can move however far you want during your movement phase, but if you move cruising speed, I expect you to shoot at cruising speed." The judge sort shrugged his shoulders, so I let him shoot.

My second turn....I did it AGAIN! I said "Your turn" before finishing my shooting. At this point, I'm seriously pissed. I survived his second turn relatively unscathed, but by this point, I'm so pissed off that I'm forgetting to move and shoot stuff. I only said a few more words to him the rest of the game....but the judge had a LOT to say to him, because he was on alert at this point. Rick's moving too far, moving units, going on to other units, going back to a unit that already moved and moving them again, shooting units, going back and shooting them again....and the judge is calling him on all of it. Rick isn't getting anything by him because he's watching carefully, but the fact that he HAS to keep interjecting in the game because of this shit is just obscene. Weapon destroyed results are missing from vehicles that took them, shaken vehicles are trying to shoot...

With 30 minutes left out of two hours, Rick starts the bottom of his fourth turn. He asks the judge what will constitute not enough time for another turn and the judge says that the 15 minute mark is it.

Now, after the first turn and the beating I took, I hunkered down. I've got three table quarters; one of his vendettas is down, and he's only shifted two of his chimeras towards my table quarters. Our game mysteriously slows down until we hit the 15 minute mark and are told that we aren't going to get another turn. He's STILL not moved much of anything 10 minutes into his turn...and the moves he did make were not the ones he needed to win. He moved his last vendetta around by his parking lot instead of boosting into one of my quarters, he's only advanced two chimeras - both into table quarters, but neither enough to own them...and I'm so pissed off that I'm planning on leaving the tournament because I don't want to subject anyone else in the tournament to my frame of mind in subsequent games.

So I told him to stop. I picked up his models, and moved them where they needed to be. Vendetta flat out into one of my quarters (since he had slow-played me out of doing anything about it), two chimeras into the one I was hunkered down in, another two into the one the vendetta was in, and said, "There - you've got three to my one. That's game - grats."

He says, "No, Victory points are for standings, so I still need to shoot." ..................

I ask him where he's going to shoot, he tells me, and I just pick up models and say, "Alright, you killed it all. Now we're done." We tally up VP...and he doesn't like my count - so I told him to take whatever VP he wanted and I'd agree with it.

Then I went to talk to Mike - I was hoping someone else had dropped to counterbalance me, and explained to him the game I just had, and that I literally could not stay in the tournament - I've been working hard to repair an undeserved reputation, and I was going to make backwards progress if I kept playing. While we were talking, the head judge came over and told me that our judge came and talked to him and told him that whatever I said Rick did, he did - and he would back me on it, because it was awful. Mike told me that I'd do equal damage to my reputation if I quit the tournament, and either he or someone else told me I should have a few drinks instead.

I went upstairs, got the rest of my Captain Morgan and my bourbon reward from the Whiskey Challenge and drained them both - and my friend Bobby (who travelled to the Nova Open with me) stopped by the liquor store and picked me up a bottle of Captain Morgan's private stock, which I had never had before...and discovered it was absolutely incredible.

My fourth game pitted me against Alex Fennel (The Everliving) from Dakka. I met Alex at the SVDM GT last February, and my wife and I took an instant liking to him. He's an incredible player, has a pink army, and his "Cake or Death" Chaos Daemon/Marine army model gets frequent views, because I took a picture of it. His necrons were the inspiration behind my own Garden of Silence themed Necrons.

I was pleasantly buzzed going into the game, and approaching drunk by the end of it. My Dark Eldar took down his Death Wing with massed lance and splinter cannon fire, but we had a fun time chatting before, during, after the game, and the following couple of days. Alex is awesome. :)

Game Five pitted me against Mark Ferek - the Blood Angel player against whom my Orks took a dive last year at the Nova Open in the semi-finals. I was eagerly looking forward to the rematch! This year, he went completely on foot with tactical and assault marines, sanguinary priests, Mephiston, and a devastator squad or two.

I was swaying in my seat at this point, and the head judge came over and kindly told me that since we weren't in the running, I should go upstairs and get some sleep. I'm not a loud drunk - I tend to get rather quiet - they were concerned that I was going to fall on my models and break stuff, and regret it for the GT the following day. I apologized profusely (hopefully intelligibly) to Mark (and again the following day) and our judge took my models and helped me up to my room.

I crashed for a couple of hours - my wife says that I woke up and threw up - and that I reported the tournament to her (apparently incorrectly, because she says that I told her Mark won the Invitational among other things). I don't remember any of it. I ordered room service, ate it, chugged water, and was then in the bathroom sick for the rest of the night. Literally. My alarm was set for 7:30 AM, and at 6:45 AM I finally left the bathroom and collapsed into bed for 45 minutes.

Nova Open: Day One
Saturday morning was absolutely miserable. Horrible. Terrible. I was still feeling ill - Hulksmash and I went to Starbucks and I got a banana - he told me it would help....stopper up some of what was frequently vacating my body, and I was desperately trying to make a combination of coffee and 5 hour energy keep me alert enough to play because I was desperately exhausted. I didn't have to break from any of my rounds, but I was praying that I'd make it through each of them so that I could run to the bathroom immediately afterwards. Lunch was spent in the bathroom too. >< I picked up a second wind after lunch and my last two games were smooth and I was feeling better.

I wasn't angry about Friday anymore, and it was extremely mollifying that at least a dozen people came up and gave me condolences about my game against Rich. Maybe it was just sympathy, but if I'm to believe what I was told, he has a worse reputation that anything I've ever gotten a rap for. Guys that "don't hate anyone" hated playing against him, and during both the invitational and the GT, he lost amidst some drama.

Game 1: I played against Deep-striking Blood Angels led by Dante, backed up by a Storm Raven with a Furioso Dread and Mephiston. I picked up the win by focusing on killing whatever wasn't under Sanguinary Priest protection (he had two), lancing down his Sanguinary Guard

Game 2: I played against Ultramarines: 2x Demolisher tanks, a land raider with Cassius and Terminators inside, a couple of razorbacks, 2x Rifle dreads, and some devastators. It was spearhead deployment, and he deployed right on the line (as I had). I got a devastating alpha-strike in one the first turn. My beasts were in one forward corner opposite a vindicator, and I got in a first turn assault against it with them (Baron left). My wyches got in a first turn assault against his land raider and exploded it, multi-assaulted two razorbacks and stunned them both. I also wiped out his devastators and wrecked another razorback.

The following turn my wyches got wiped, but my haemonculi tore up his terminators and killed Cassius with the Shattershard (he rolled a 6), and I mopped up from there.

Game 3: Rematch against Rich's Tau - same mission! Killpoints with Dawn of War. He's taken out most of the Blacksun Filters, but I still forgot about his Acute senses. He gave me first turn and I moved flat out onto the board, almost up to the 24" with everyone, and his suits jumped on and wrecked my face. The rest of the game was a desperate attempt to recoup, throwing blasters at point blank range into his broadsides, lancing other broadsides, trying to kill his suits and all those nasty missiles. I believe we tied primary and secondary, and I took tertiary on table quarters (3-1).

Game #4: A really nice guy named Sean (or Shawn) and his drop-pod Vulkan marines. Two thunderfire cannons (and two drop pods) three iron clad dreads (dual heavy flamers on one or two, heavy flamer and melta on the other), razorback with marines, Vulkan, a big bike squad with a Captain on a bike, and three speeder units: One squadron of two, and two single scout speeders.

I won the roll to go first (spearhead) and deployed on my line - his thunderfire cannons went in his back corner with Vulkan and marines, the single scout speeders scouted up flat out into my deployment zone and the rest reserved. Ensue flat-out shenanigans. Basically, my trueborn and ravagers didn't flat out - they were saved for shooting at the scout speeders since the thunderfire cannons were out of range. My wych raider took off 24" towards his thunderfire cannons, and the rest of my venoms (and my beasts) attempted to create "no drop zones" around my ravagers by moving flat out. I kept my ravagers together near a table edge, and surrounded them with flat out troop venoms - even with him dropping exactly 1" away from my venoms, he ended up missing my ravagers by literal millimeters with his heavy flamers. Meltas worked though. Thunderfire cannons both went for my wych raider with the cover ignoring shot, but he didn't get any results through my AV10.

My second turn saw me move my wych raider up 12", disembark 2" and fleet 5" towards his thunderfire cannon in the rear while the haemonculi popped out the other side and threw a shattershard onto the tech marine from the other one, who failed a toughness test. Both thunderfire cannons (and escorts) died that turn while I went to work in the backfield trying to take out the ironclads. Blasters and surviving ravagers let me down, and I didn't kill any of them (although I did shake, stun, immobilize, weapon destroy) galore.

Ensuing turns saw his reserves come out slowly, my venoms die to storm bolters and speeders coming from reserve, and the game came down to this: I had just finished neutralizing all his ironclads and drop pods in my table quarter (objective game), and he deep-struck his other two onto objectives in my deployment zone. I put a ravager, 4 trueborn and a troop choice on one to kill it - barely succeeding (trueborn all whiffed, ravager wrecked it) then running my troops onto it). I held three objectives, four by turn five....and he shot me off one, Vulkan and friends wouldn't die and killed the troops on the one in his deployment zone and his bikes came in turn five in the corner by my quarter. I had put Baron + beasts on that objective in case he tried it, and he went for it - my beasts had been reduced by heavy flamers from an iron clad, and he moved/shot/assaulted his bikes into the Baron and friends.

Sean's club is called "Ordo Ineptus" because of bad dice rolls, and he lost three bikes assaulting into terrain - which gave me a bit of an edge. I rolled poorly, he rolled poorly, and we ended up locked there - until the end of the game, at which point the Baron was alone, surviving through rounds of combat with his Shadowfield and contesting the objective still. I got awarded an "Ordo Ineptus" die during turn five because of my horrible rolling with the beasts to hurt him. Four razorwings, 20 attacks, no rends. Lots of ones.

That ended the first day, and I went to dinner with Hulksmash and his wife, Bobby and his wife, then back to the room and crashed for seven hours until Sunday morning.

Nova Open Day Two:
Sunday morning and I can't stop yawning. Seven hours doesn't make up for the 45 minutes the night before, so the 5-Hour energy drinks come back out to try getting us going.

My first game was against the only Tyranid player in the top bracket, which was a morning blessing. My army naturally does well against Tyranids. He had two tervigons, two Trygons, two genestealer swarms, two gaunt swarms, two hive guard units, 5x Raveners, 3x Zoanthropes, and a warrior prime.

Pitched Battle, table quarters. I deployed centrally and he announced that he was going to reserve everything and didn't want to seize. I showed him that I could line the board edge with my vehicles by turn two (only the genestealers would be safe outflanking) and offered to let him change his mind so he deployed everything and infiltrated both genestealer units - one in the middle, one to my left flank. My first turn saw me bring 4 warrior venoms over to the genestealers on the left, disembark all the warriors in preparation for rapid fire, and then line the venoms up to fire at either them or the hive guard. More venoms and ravagers (and trueborn) lined up shots at raveners and a tervigon, and my wyches moved up 12", disembarked outside the central terrain piece, and prepared to attempt to either assault the genestealers (if I ran poorly) or the zoanthropes and attached warrior prime if I rolled well for my run roll.

The genestealers on the left went to ground at the first shot because he was expecting 4 troop choices and their venoms to light them up - instead, all four troops opened up on them, but the venoms turned on his hive guard and killed a unit of them. My wyches ran before I shot anything else (to help my firing priorities) and rolled a six - letting me get to the zoanthropes, so my splinter cannons went after the central genestealers instead, killing 7/9. Lances and more splinter fire took down one of his tervigons. My assault into his zoanthropes killed all three, the warrior prime took two fearless wounds, and we locked up. I also killed 3/5 raveners with lances/blasters.

During his turn, he spawned gaunts with the last tervigon, killed a venom with hive guard, assaulted a forward trueborn unit with raveners and killed them - and his two unpinned genestealers rolled a one to run, leaving them out of range to assault the warriors they were after. The trygons were in reserve.

My second turn was largely clean-up, and when it became apparent that his trygons would deep-strike into a mostly empty board, he conceded.

Game Two: Hulksmash! Hulk and I have never actually played in a tournament setting, for which I've long been grateful. DE vs. Loganwing, Dawn of War, Killpoints. I'm sure he'll write more about the game, but I went first, boosted on 24" mostly behind the central piece of terrain, and some to the right of it where angles would make it difficult for him to shoot me unless he came on in specific places. He had deployed Logan and his terminators along with another unit. His turn...I don't think he killed anything. The rest of his army moved on.

My turn: Alpha-strike. My wyches had boosted up 24" on the left side of the board where he had deployed a unit (surviving his retaliatory fire) and assaulted into his unit. I had an extra pain token for combat drugs, so put my haemonculi with a trueborn unit. My alpha-strike took out several terminators, most of two squads, a longfang squad, most of of his units ran off the table at the end of the turn, although my haemonculi's shattershard wimped out against his terminators.

From here, we had a brutal game. His lone wolves walked through my army, terminators multi-charged vehicles and warriors. I ate through his hunters with my wyches and went after his other long fangs and grey hunters with them while everything that could rapid-fired into everything that they could. By the end of the game, I had spit a lot of firepower into his lone wolves and not killed them - I should have just left them alone and concentrated on killing other stuff. My beasts ate through his terminators, Baron Sathonyx did heroic things against the remnants of his last troop choice on an objective, and we tied primary, while I picked up secondary and tertiary.

Game 7: I played against Tony Kopack who ended up winning. He won the roll to go first, and my reserve rolls...were poopy. We had an extremely close game, and it was quite enjoyable. I don't have much to comment on the game itself, but the internet spawns some ridiculous ideas.

Out of my eight venoms, five have red-haired warriors with red tribal markings on the ships, two have blue haired warriors with blue tribal markings on the ships, and one has green hair with green tribal markings. There's never confusion about what is in which venom. There was a turn when I had a unit of warriors who had lost their transport get into a trueborn transport; the trueborn were dead.

I see mostly Tomb King from Dakka causing trouble, but he's always been a douche. =p Tony may have been using powers in the wrong phases, or using Tempest wrong....*shrugs* I still had a good game. I think that if I had gone first or had better reserve rolls, the game would have developed quite differently.

The one consistent bit of feedback I got after most of my games against people who hadn't played me before but had heard my name or heard of me was that I was nothing like what they were expecting, and fantastic to play against. I half-jokingly told them that only douches don't like me, so I don't mind. =D

Game Eight: Devin's Grey Knights - Devin is one of the few guys from Jacksonville, FL (an old haunt) that I don't find to be a petty tool. We're not in the running, and both of us are completely exhausted, so we dice off for the game so that we can get to bed early. My wife and I went to dinner, I came back to say goodbyes to old friends and new, and went to bed.

I ended up winning Best Sportsman....which is like a great big "Fuck You!" to those same folks and the Dash-hate that they spawn.

All in all - I had a pretty good weekend. I wish I had been less tired and ill - my third game during the invitational is now tied for worst game/opponent ever in my 40k history.

Highlights of the weekend were taking down Stelek, Alex, and Hulksmash, renewing friendships and making new ones, and winning Best Sportsman was the cherry on the icing.