The other weekend I was lucky enough to attend BLACKOUT 2017 held in Firestorm Games in Cardiff and run by the infamous Chris Tomlin. It was also the first tournament in the UK that was run using the Generals Handbook 2017, so it was a bit of a gamble as to what to expect as most of us had only had the book for a week at the most.
So, to start off with my usual procrastination 🙂
This event was the third tournament I’ve attended this year (and one of those was a one-day event). It was also the first tournament that my brother has ever done – I didn’t actually give him much choice!
I’m not going to lie, but I wasn’t really feeling the love for tournaments. I class myself as a middling (and learning) general but have felt at the handful of competitive events I’ve played, my army has struggled with their inherent weaknesses and not really performed that well. With me it’s genuinely not about winning but having an enjoyable game and with the exception of a few, most competitive games I’d had just didn’t rank as highly in the fun level as ones I could have locally.
I picked BLACKOUT 2017 because Chris is really well known for soft-scoring (and I like to consider my army is painted to a decent standard) and thought it would be nice to experience a different type of tournament. From last year’s reviews, I also thought it would be a good one for my brother to cut his teeth on and encourage him to finish off his Nurgle army.
The first hiccup appeared when it was revealed the new handbook was being released the weekend before the event which resulted in Chris taking the decision to play straight out of the handbook without any soft-scores. I will very quickly say that though I was a bit disappointed I completely and utterly agree with this decision! Our handbooks still have that “freshly printed” smell and to give it a proper run for its money you really need to play it verbatim. I know that Chris was really reluctant to do this as it’s something he feels is really important to the hobby.
The next hiccup occurred when I discovered that the new handbook had increased the price of my Smash army list by some 260 points largely due to a massive increase in battalion points. This immediately threw me in a quandary as it basically meant The Goretide with my awesome movement shenanigans was largely priced out of the field. So, at the last minute I grabbed my six Mighty Skullcrushers and started a rapid paint job on them (this ultimately dropped to just three).
The final item was when the draws were pulled and I got the Lord of Khorne himself, Pano and my brother got Terry Pike! Both players I’d put in the top 20 within the UK, so I knew that neither of us were likely to win our first games.
As the event approached I really wasn’t feeling the love – it was too late to cancel as the hotel was booked so I had to tell myself that it was a good excuse to roll some dice and catch up with people. Things started to look up a little bit when a Kickstarter arrived for my A+Case (which is amazing and I will do a review on). The Friday arrived and me and my brother got to Cardiff (which wasn’t exactly stress free) and booked into the hotel room and then wandered over to Firestorm (me managing to lose two limited edition pin badges off my bag strap on the way). Thankfully a pint, chicken burger and couple of turns of one of the new battleplans did go a little way to ease things.
And then the day of reckoning arrived…
Game One – Blades of Khorne
Although I tend to keep people’s names out of my reviews, Pano is so well known it would be a disservice not to. He is the undisputed Lord of Khorne, but as I discovered an absolutely top bloke with it. He was running an army centred around Gore Pilgrims and although I (not entirely surprisingly) lost, I came away with a much better understanding of how a Bloodbound army can work and some ideas to try out. It was a massive eye opener to see an army very similar to your own being played by somebody with as much experience as he has.
Game Two – Duality of Death – Chaos
This was a bit of an odd game, my opponent’s army was composed of Bloodletters, a couple of warp lightening cannons and some skyfires (with shaman, bloodletter on juggernaut and Bloodsecrator).
All of the Bloodletters were on the long MDF movement trays (with a 1″ gap between) which resulted in my opponent needing to move fences and other bits of scenery so they could move across the board. I’m not a fan – a fence needs to be climbed over in order to traverse it, adding at least an inch onto the move and those long movement trays are simply unwieldy and designed to provide maximum board control. There was also one point where I asked him to put some trees back because I’d deliberately put my Skullcrushers beside them to minimise the number of Bloodletters he could charge me with – only for him to admit he’d moved them earlier to put another model where they were. The game ended as a major loss for me as they insisted on rushing through a fifth turn in (it would have been a minor loss otherwise).
I’ve just read through that and realised I’ve probably come across saltier than I intended to. It was an odd game, it wouldn’t rate as one of my best, but certainly not one of my worst.
Game Three – Battle for the Pass – Ironjawz
As with the other tournaments I’ve done, I find the third/last game pretty taxing as largely my brain has given up by that point. I was playing an Ironjawz army using its new spangly allegiance abilities and will be honest and say it was gloriously painted (it picked up best painted). The game was a bit more challenging than normal as I kept having to peg it round to the other side of the board. I got given the first turn, moved up to the half way line (I’m so glad I had Skullcrushers) and then prepared to receive the greenskin charge!
The charge came… and then stopped as it hit a wall of Khornate armour. The Goregruntas and Skullcrushers faced off and largely traded blow for blow, but the ultimate luck was when the Mawcrusha charged my Wrathmongers, killing a number of them which promptly made the Megaboss next to him attack the Mawcrusher and the Mawcrusher attack himself – removing the model in one turn. I’m not going to lie – I was lucky and I felt really sorry for my opponent who took that massive gamble and it didn’t work out (though it would seem it was the most damage the Mawcrusher did all weekend)
The last time I faced Orruk Brutes I got smashed, Skullreapers and Blood Warriors were able to hold them up and slowly whittle them down which is certainly something to remember for the future.
It was a lucky win for me and hats off to my opponent for being such a good sport and allowing me to have a punt at removing the last unit of Moonclan (who appropriately scootled away). It was a really enjoyable game and oddly has made me even more enthused to play a destruction army.
So that brought me to the half way point at Blackout 2017, with two major losses and one major win.
Game Four – Flesh-eater Courts
I knew this was going to be a tough challenge when my opponent rolled up with four behemoths in the form of abyssal terrors, zombie dragons and a mortis engine. Now I do have a bit of an issue when I see over 50% of an army fielded as massive monsters as I feel you need a fairly tailored army to deal with it, however I will admit that I didn’t actually feel like it was over powered – yes it was powerful, but not to the same level as ones I’ve fought in the past (i.e. two great unclean ones in 1000 points).
I didn’t deploy my army very well, made some school boy errors and had some shoddy dice rolls (combined with my opponent having some brilliant ward save rolls). It was a deserved win but one that I feel if I did again I could make much closer. This game has certainly highlighted me needing to have some more appropriate objective holders – 400 points on two corner objectives is stupid. It was however the first time I’d fought against that type of army so I did gain a lot of knowledge for the future.
Game Five – Scorched Earth – Skaven
I count myself really fortunate that my last game was an absolute delight, it was my opponents first tournament and it was really chilled and I’m hoping that he went away enjoying the event. This game saw me pitted against a Hell Pit Abomination, two Warp Cannons and Thanquol, Bonesplitter and a unit of six Stormvermin. Because the Stormvermin were placed under ground it meant that I largely was able to nip forward and begin to deal with the big stuff and for a change I rolled pretty decently, making fairly short work of the Hell Pit Abomination followed by Thanquol, although I did lose quite a few models whilst doing that!
One meteor landed amongst my unit of five Blood Warriors and the other two were at one end of the board. I grabbed one with a unit of ten Blood Warriors and my opponent popped his Stormvermin up on the other. I was very fortunate in that rather than attempting a charge, they shot the Blood Warriors off which meant they weren’t able to contest the objective. I used my Blood Tithe to rocket my Skullcrusher over and then a move onto the objective which gave me enough victory points that regardless of what my opponent did, I would be above them. I do feel slightly bad that I didn’t point this out (didn’t realise until after the Stormvermin started shooting) but I’m fairly confident that I would have had the win anyway as most of my army was heading over to deal with the remains of the Skaven.
Summary of BLACKOUT 2017
I’m happy to say that BLACKOUT 2017 was an amazing event. Despite an awful build up, all of the games I played were enjoyable, educational and brilliant fun. I was very fortunate in that I was matched against armies with little to no shooting so was able to get into combat pretty quickly and felt that I actually played a game (rather than it being one sided). I think the only negative I would say is that there wasn’t very much terrain, largely being a large structure with a few hills/trees and some fences. Against melee armies as I faced, it wasn’t too bad, but I can imagine a ranged army would have been a bit of a mare.
As with most things there are changes I’d like to make to the army. The Skullcrushers I believe will be a permanent addition, though they don’t entirely replace The Goretide movement, it gives me a very mobile unit to grab objectives fairly rapidly – I do need to remember the horn gives me +1″ to run and charge. On the subject of memory, I need to also remember to record the number of wounds my Skullreapers inflict as it provides me with re-roll hits and re-roll wounds as they inflict enough damage. Units of Khorgoraths are amazing, with their damage 2 and points reduction they are monumentally good!
Although I’m not a fan of bare torso models, I do think I need to add in a unit of Bloodreavers. This would provide me with some cheap objective holders and also allow me to field the Gore Pilgrims battalion, which is one of the few that I feel is still viable with its increased points. Dropping the unit of five Blood Warriors would give me enough to add in two units of Bloodreavers and round me up to dead on 2000 points.
The ultimate upshot is that both my brother and I are seriously looking at BLACKOUT as a permanent addition to the gaming calendar – next year especially as my brother got the “Thrills not Skills” award!