Monday, February 11, 2013

Return of "The Dwellers Below" (A New Podcast Episode)

Too bad he is wearing short shorts under that!

In this K’daai sized episode The Dwellers detail some first impressions of the new Warriors of Chaos army book, and cover Australia’s biggest Warhammer tournament: CanCon. Some stupidity sprinkled throughout.

Find us on iTunes and here.


  1. Why do you guys play such heavy comp? On one hand you say you want to play Warhammer out of the book and then you have both
    a) Subjective Comp
    b) Heavy Hand administering it.

    Seems to fly in face of "Warhammer out of the book"

  2. because warhammer isnt designed as a tournament game, it is inherently imbalanced and without comp if you want to do well you will always choose one of the hard armies, there will be no point showing up with anything else and expecting to do well.

    1. Case of degrees. Most parts of the world have found that they get sufficient representation of all races on top tables without resorting to a draconian form of composition and subjective assessment.

      Listening to the podcast it seems to be a liturgy of "I'm going to ban that", "That's not coming to my event", "That's broken" etc

      Personally I think that path is a bit of a cop out and given some investigation of what the other systems there are instead of holding onto a throwback to 7th Ed Oz tournies might be a better way forward.

  3. Before I put down my thoughts as one of the Dwellers I think it is worth mentioning that Chris is a bit of a unique case with the Chaos Dwarfs. He honestly doesn't believe that they should be allowed in any event as an army and thinks that they are pretty much unofficial. After significant cajoling Chris agreed to have CD in his events with the understanding that they would be unreasonably comped. They haven't been treated this way by most TOs, its pretty much a Chris compromise so that they are allowed to play.

    On the first post I don't think the motivation for including soft panel comp is to make the game close to 'out of the book' Warhammer. As a rule events in Victoria play the rules pretty much out of the big red book, up to and sometimes including rolling for scenario each game. What most of the TO's don't want is for people to be able to take what ever they want out of the army books without restriction. I suspect this approach is similar to most other subjective comp systems like the hard caps used in most NZ events I have read about.

    The reason I like soft pannel comp is not to allow each army a chance to play. With a much less restrict comp, with subjective pannel comp or a subjective set of hard restrictions, allow the lower tier armies a chance to play and have a go at the top. What these systems don't allow is a chance for a wide and varied range of army lists, styles and strengths have a similar chance of doing well.

    The most basic objective of soft panel comp is to allow players to take their army, their hobby, to an event and not feel like they are on the back foot because of it. At the moment it is working in fulfilling this objective. There are a very wide range of lists and armies showing up at every level of play. Only a very small range of lists are straight out prohibited from playing at events and I suspect most players are pretty happy not having to turn up against them. As far as top table representation, I understand that it seems to be working well in NZ. On the other hand top table representation in the UK is clearly not working. The mantra of 'rock the hardest thing you can' seems to be followed and as a TO I don't want players to feel that they have to effectively paint a brand new army. Instead I'm happy with players being able to win running their two giants, no-savages, one war machine orcs.

    When I ran a no comp event early last year what we saw was a handful of experienced and victory hungry players turn up with tuned broke as all heck lists. Most players turned up with what they had normally, after all that was generally what they had painted or wanted to use. As a result the players who took broken lists romped face with most of the field then had a top table slap fight for victory. This worked great for the top table players with the lists to run that way. For a lot of other players it involved having their teeth kicked in (ask Brad about his game against Gumby). From the start of 8th in Victoria the bar for an acceptable army has been set to be quite restrictive and people who actually play in the system seem very happy with the results.

    What is the problem with soft panel comp? What is it copping out from? We have had a lot of discussion about other potential systems and haven't seen one that seems as appealing so far.

    Dave (from the Dwellers Below Podcast)

  4. Thanks Dave.

    Yes I concede that there is no reward for opting for softer choices in a hard cap system. However the subjective comp system has it flaws as well.

    One is that you are subject to the unsignalled prejudices of the list marker (contrast with visible prejudice with hard caps). Secondly, there inevitably leads to a "Crimes against Joe" where these prejudices can be based on little or no sound basis.

    The other big one is that it encourages stealth cheese where the whole aim is to sneak a combo or construction past a list marker. You are relying on your list markers having an intimate knowledge of all books. The player however is trying to exploit any knowledge deficit to gain an advantage.

    My point re out of the book Warhammer was that Brad was very vocal that that was what he wanted to play - see his Guest Post on my blog which is always a monthly fav. He said he didn't want to play v7.5 but the game GW envisaged. Yet against that the Vic scene in particular feels a heavy guiding hand is necessary to may the game tournament playable.

    I obviously have a different view seeing a light hand as preferable to a heavy hand (libertarian vs. regulated). NZ hasn't seen the lack of variety in race selection so it is working for us.

    It needs GW input and that is why a VC and WoC book are far better constructed IMO than say Ogres and Empire. The first two books have far more viable selections.

    Fantasy is turning into an enjoyable tournament game as 8th goes on and the number of new books released increases. I don't think it is necessary to heavily regulate what people bring.

    Just my 2c


    1. Hi Pete,

      I do agree that bad judging is a significant problem. The impact of it can be seen at a few big events in Australia over the last year. At the same time hard caps have similar problems. Under South Coast GT comp I cannot run my pretty soft wood elf army because it relies on a large unit of treekin. In the local scene it is very common for some of the softer armies to take very large units, 45 savages for example. At the same time I am able to run a harder Ogre army than I have ever been permitted to run in Australia. Most of these systems also include and rely on house rules as well as composition restrictions to create the set of acceptable lists.
      Based on this I don’t think it is easy enough to say that hard cap systems are more permissive and libertarian on the whole. Instead, it’s just that they are more permissive on the hardest armies. This also gives me the impression that most hard comp systems are more interested in limiting some of the most unpleasant things in the game to play with, rather than levelling the playing field. I think this can also be seen in the results of UK events running SCGT comp. The point I am trying to make by this is that bad comp is an issue for soft and hard systems. That alone isn’t a strong reason to avoid hard or soft comp, just that it is something you need to be aware of when assessing the implementation of comp.
      I also would want to clarify what is being legislated when talking about a permissive vs a restrictive approach to comp. Hard comps tend to be very restrictive on what you are allowed to take, often much more so than soft comp. They are commonly far less restrictive on the power level of hard armies.
      On the issue of stealth cheese, it does occasionally happen but that is pretty rare. Most of the time issues with comp aren’t because the player snuck something through the comp and got a good score, it is because the comp judges have a hard time comping the obvious lists. The only event I can remember where ‘stealth’ was an issue is Cancon 2012 where Ben probably got a few more points than he should have for a soft skaven list. On the whole I think the idea of stealth cheese is a boogie man, a hangover from 7th when it was a problem. If I am missing instances where it has occurred I’m happy to be corrected but so far I haven’t really seen it.
      I’m sure Brad will respond himself in time but from my memory of that time the things he was arguing against were hard comp systems that changed the rules of the game. Most hard comp systems still seem to be changing the rules of the game. Without hard caps on unit sizes or other things like that are the lists in a soft comp event really less in accord with the intention of 8th than a hard cap system that decides to rewrite the rules? I am not really seeing how soft comp is ‘against’ the game that GW envisaged. Especially when it is run with random scenarios, games ending when fortitude is broken etc. Again I would love to hear more on this point as I don’t think I really understand why you feel it is like 7.5 (the armies certainly don’t look like 7th ones).
      Overall I agree with you on one big point. You don’t need heavy soft comp to make a viable tournament scene. The mid-west US scene runs pretty much no comp and it appears to work well for them. I don’t want comp because you have to use it; I want it because it creates more variety and options for players. I also agree on VC and WoC appearing to be pretty balanced, most things are useable at most levels of play. For me, I would just rather have an event that lets people intentionally take a softer army due to theme, aesthetics or whatever else and still be in the running. Not because heavy soft comp is needed but because to encourages a wider variety of army lists and styles.

      I'd be very interested to hear your further thoughts or if I'm missing something important.



    2. Cheers Dave.

      Yes I appreciate that problems are not confined to just soft comp however I think they are more prevalent in subjective comp. Why? Well the goalposts are more likely to move in subjective - in fact they are guaranteed to move. Secondly, that movement isn't always visible.

      I know as a TO that the best thing that I ever did here in NZ was champion the move to hard caps. It removed all the bitching and perceived unbalance that subjective comp had. Even though I think 95% of the times the lists were marked correctly the amount of bitching that used to go on on forums was very demoralising. Someone always thought they were hard done by either because they didn't believe their list rating was correct or they hadn't known that the goalposts had moved. This was especially the case for events drawing from different gaming centres.

      Hard Caps removed that immediately and completely (Caveat: The hard caps can't except for new books be a moving feast. You publish and accept no special pleading).

      As for the issue of Comp itself. Well I see tournament Warhammer as a contest. However just like a boxing match, I don't expect to turn up and have someone save "I find boxing brutal, I want to play hopscotch". If you get enjoyment playing with a soft list that's great. However in a contest I dont think I should necessarily have to accommodate your "need" to play with softer list. And this is where stealth cheese comes in. You either force me to bring a weakened list or you punish me thru comp to accomodate your desire to play with a "perceived" weaker list.

      In the end I expect it is differences on how we see a tournament. I go there with what I perceive is the best list I can create within the Hard Caps given. I play nicely and do my best to ensure that the game is enjoyable. That however doesn't mean I'm not trying to rip your F#$king face off :-)

      Subjective comp changes those criteria for me. You see opponents on forums acting like Comp Obama trying to sell the weaknesses of their lists or the strengths of their opponents to all and sundry.

      I saw it at Oz Masters 2010 (where one seasoned campaigner sent out a list of what he would veto, knowing it would impact on the young and impressionable)and have never played under subjective comp again.

      The inclusion of subjective player panel comp was one reason why I declined my Oz Masters 2012 invitation. It perverts the system.

      This view is 180 degrees from where I was 5-6 years ago when I saw Hard Comp as the death of variety. Once it was adopted here we have never had as much variety on the top tables e.g. NZ Masters 12 players, 11 different armies - No Ogres :-)

  5. Wow... Those are some very well thought out responses (to one another).

    I will be brief as I only have a few minutes at work (lunch break) and my internet is no existent at home at the moment.

    Pete is right that I am a very vocal critic of hard comp systems, particularly those that change the rules of the game as I don't like monkeying with the balance (or lack thereof) that game developers strive to achieve. I do not claim to know better than the company that created the game and I think that to argue that you do... Well, it smacks of hubris. I also believe that some people need to get over prior editions of the game and come to play Warhammer as it is currently written. As I have said previously... Evolve or move on (to Warmachine).

    That said I am a FIRM believer in soft comp systems. I run Book of Grudges with a fairly significant comp swing every year because (just as Dave argues) "I would just rather have an event that lets people intentionally take a softer army due to theme, aesthetics or whatever else and still be in the running. Not because heavy soft comp is needed but because to encourages a wider variety of army lists and styles."

    I find that no comp tends to limit army options and just in my opinion just leads to boring events where you can describe your opponents armies in 5 words or less... Mournfang/Gutstar spam (for example) I think this is on of the reasons that 40K is struggling in Australia at the moment (ok Victoria) and is why I am going out of my way to avoid playing it in events.

    Gotta run...


    P.S. Chris... Chaos Dwarves are GREAT!!!!

    That said I

    1. Thanks Pete, very interesting to hear your thoughts from a NZ perspective.

      You are right that moving the goalposts is going to happen in subjective. That is one of the key objectives of soft comp as I'd see it. Over time I do think that the goalposts become more established and understood by a community of players but the anxious wait for your comp score can be pretty rough.

      The bitching does still happen. But usually only by a small group of players and most of the time the comp scores given to those bitching are justified, they are just angry at something that they thought was tougher getting a better score. Either way I am not to bothered by people who want to complain rather than trying to take it out on the table.

      Though I do see tournament Warahmmer as a contest as well I personally don't prefer the approach of taking the most broken thing you can. That isn't to say this approach is wrong, just that it isn't how I'd prefer to play or play against. If people in the scene wanted to run events in that way then they are free to do it, I wouldn't try to cajole them into running soft comp. I may even turn up. But for event's I'm involved in running I would prefer to set a more restrictive set of goalposts and so far people are voting with their feet and filling events up.

      Again I don't think there is a "need" to play softer lists. It seems that you view the soft comp approach as unnecessarily punitive towards players running hard armies. Unless the list is getting rejected I really haven't felt that to be the case. Though the year I have consistently gotten 1/10 for comp with my ogres and been able to get to the top of the rankings despite that. It just means I have to try and 20-0 most of my opponents. One way or another I think someone is going to be restricted. Either don't bother turning up with a soft list if you want to be in the running, or tell people to keep the cheese in the carry case. I know in hard comp systems you are able to run a soft list, but if you want to be in the running hurry up and buy a skaven/ogre/lizard/DE army.

      I don't think I have ever turned up to an event with the best list I thought I could create and so far there is still very strong social pressure to not try and break comp or take the hardest list you can in VIC. I think that is a good thing, I know others in the scene do not. In the end it seems we may not agree. On the whole though I would be happy if others want to start running no-comp or hard comp. But so far it doesn't seem that any one locally is interested in stepping up and running it, or much demand for one to be created. When soft comp events are pulling large numbers, with a good atmosphere and a wide range of lists winning why would TO's try and fix what isn't broken?

      P.S. I do agree on the bull shit that goes on with trying to sell their 'soft' list. It is a social problem that can be fixed with social pressure and censure. Naming and shaming people for acting like asses is always a good response in my book.


    2. I think there are two issues/areas of variance.

      First is Hard Caps vs. Subjective Comp (as separate from Hard Comp vs. Soft Comp). To me this is a transparency issue and I prefer the former. As they say "Sunlight is a great disinfectant". Listening to the last 30 minutes of the podcast the issues I have were all raised e.g. Orc player felt his list hard done by, all felt Aaron Graham might have got easy ride as judges didn't see strength in list, players had post event boost due to comp added later etc.

      The downside as you identified is that there is no incentive to bring anything other than the hardest list you can under the restrictions - be they hard comp or soft comp caps.

      Second is hard vs. soft comp. You can have this under both systems - hard caps or subjective. Over the past couple of years I've evolved to far more permissive than restrictive. Why? Because that's what the local scene wanted. People - here - generally don't like being told what they can't bring. I found 90% of people wanted less restriction so they could build their list how they wanted. I started putting in place a very light set of restrictions - Pete-Lite Comp - and people liked it (you can see details on if you do a Search). Early last year when I came back from a year off from playing tournies, I looked for a system that was independent of my nuances. Settled on last year's SCGT comp and we have found it has served us well for past year.

      NZ hasn't seen the lack of variety in list - one reason this might be different from UK is we use scenarios and we have no "Get Outs" for the big spells.

      Loving the chat....and would love to get a guest post from you on the Oz comp system for Fields of Blood.


  6. Great to hear your thoughts Pete. I'd be keen to write something on comp for the Fields of Blood in the future, but probably need a little time to think things over. Especially more time to play with the Pete-Lite Comp and see where it stands. From an initial look it prohibits the most common Tomb King, Wood Elf, and Beastmen builds we see in VIC while allowing my ogres to run pretty much 100% uncomped (double ironblasters aside). But I do need more time to think that one over.

    On the not of what is 'subjective.' I think it would be a mistake to call a panel comp system 'subjective without applying the label to hard caps. Hard caps are an entirely subjective set of restrictions, the difference is that they are preordained and rigid. That doesn't make them less subjective, it just means that you know the subjective bias of the system before coming in.

    Maybe qualitative is a better term to use for panel comp? Even then the panel is trying to achieve a quantitative score so I am not sure. Either way I don't think subjective describes one approach better than the other and reminds me a bit of the Leninists in Russia calling themselves the Bolsheviks (majority) and their social democrat opponents Menshevik (minority). A bit to loaded and not necessarily reflective of the difference between the two.

    Thanks for the discussion, it has been very thought provoking.