So a lo-o-o-o-ong time ago, I got into Warmaster. I painted up a starter box worth of troops for the Empire (following in the footsteps of my Warhammer Fantasy army) before I decided I wanted something a bit different and opted to start an Orc Warmaster army.

It was through the Orcs that I discovered the genius behind Warmaster’s rules. Let me explain this as shortly as I can:

Warmaster is a game of command and movement. (Others say it’s a game of elements, which I’m sure they’re correct about; but I’d rather bandy around terms that I’m comfortable bandying around; so I’ll stick with calling it a game of command and movement.)

Armies in Warmaster are driven by the leadership ability of their general more than in other GW games: in Warmaster, the ability of a unit to move is decided by whether or not they pass a Leadership test –in effect, players roll Ld tests for movement to represent whether the troops in question understand their orders / understand what they’re supposed to do at that point of the battle. Orders can be given to the same unit multiple times in one turn (with a negative modifier applied after the first Ld test), meaning that, should a unit roll decently enough on its Leadership tests, it can move across the whole board in a single turn. It should be noted that once a Leadership test is failed (by rolling on 2 dice a number higher than the commanding person’s Leadership score–typically a 7, 8 or 9), that unit cannot do anything else for the turn; and, more significantly, the commanding character can issue no more orders for the rest of the turn either. Once the army’s general flubs a Ld test, his army’s turn is essentially done for that turn.

Orcs, being notoriously unruly and ill led, are at a disadvantage in this game: how can they expect to pass several Leadership tests to get them across the board in one turn and then succeed in one last Leadership test to then charge (and fight) enemy regiments –did I mention that not only does one suffer negative modifiers on the dice rolls for successive Leadership tests in the same turn, one also gets penalized with modifiers according to how far away from the commanding model the regiment is.

With rules like this, Orcs would end up being a slow-moving, non-acting, always-getting-charged army and would not be very fun to play. However, with one small rule, Orcs end up being pretty awesome –all done without having to resort to power creep or other underhanded tricks. The rule, you ask? Once any orc regiment is within a short distance of an enemy unit, it is allowed to charge that unit without first having to pass a Leadership test (ie: receive orders) to do so.

Yes, the rule is helpful…but genius? Yes. Genius. The reason: with one small rule, all orc players suddenly find themselves acting like orc generals, whether they mean to or not; they surge their armies forward, trying –with reckless abandon–to just get the regiments under their command within charge distance of the enemy (because the charges will be automatic).  With that one rule, all orc players play their army in exactly the same way as all Warhammer stories read. Essentially, the rules trick players to act like orcs.

So, where am I going with this? At the end of February, we’re running the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V tournament, the event that started the Horus Heresy. If every there was an event where the organisers would like the players to play their armies in exactly the same way as the 40k stories read (rather than just play a standard good-for-any-tournament army list), it’s this one.

So that’s my task in the coming days: to figure out how to elegantly implement a dynamic in the Istvaan V event that “tricks” players into acting in character of the Marine Legion they’ll be playing, to make their army lists –and play– for fun.

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6 Responses to Tricking Tournament Players Into Having Fun

  1. Careful with that line of reasoning – you may disgruntle your players when they find they have little impact on the game. Herding players is harder than herding cats…..

    • imaginarywars says:

      Good advice. Though I use the word “tricking,” my intention behind this is more about trying to motivate players to want to go in a certain direction. I don’t think I expressed that well enough in the post; I think I need to sit down, refine my thinking a little and revise this post.

      I’m not so much trying to get players to do what I want; more, I’m trying to come up with a way that gets players playing the story (not just the tournament) because elements of the event’s structure rewards them / motivates them to do so, all while being above board, very much in the same way the Warmaster rules were able to motivate me to play my army more like how an orc army would work: all units (that aren’t TOO far away) trying to mad-dash it close enough to the enemy to let their instincts kick in and get a charge for free.

      The last thing I’m trying to do is make the players do what I want them to do: I’m along for the ride as much as they are; the fun I have in running tournaments is watching to see how players handle all the things that the event challenges them with…especially with this event that splits all the players into factions and aims to combine strategic (in between rounds) play along with tactical (the actual games themselves) play.

      Just like GMing a role-playing game, the better game master is one who sets up the adventure (campaign, whatever) with enough open ends and then lets his players do what they will, all the while watching what his players do, how they overcome and where they ultimately steer the adventure/campaign/whatever. The GM’s reward is that he gets to enjoy the show.

      This is opposed to the poor GM (or inexperienced GM) who sets up a very linear campaign that is set up so that players can only do one thing or go one direction. The poor GM doesn’t let players do what they will within broad parameters; his campaign leads them by the nose. I think this is what you were warning me about (?), but no worries, I’m not planning on leading our tournament goers by the nose to my own private ends.

      I can still remember the GW Warhammer Fantasy summer campaign, “Storm of Chaos.” I remember how the object of the campaign was for the Forces of Chaos to go across the map and reach Middenheim and lay siege to the city….and how after FIVE WEEKS of the eight week campaign, they were barely half-way across the map to Middenheim. Then suddenly on week six the online campaign map showed that Chaos was at the gates of Middenheim (!); and after three more weeks of ineffectual result reporting, it was revealed that, by the skin of their teeth, the Forces of Good had withstood the onslaught of Chaos (et al)–seriously, the campaign map had shown the walls of Middenheim barely (if at all) breached. I remember how cheated I felt, that nothing I did had actually mattered, that GW (Gav Thorpe) had pre-written the entire campaign (none of the weekly updates, or the final resolution fiction, matched up with what players saw unfold on the campaign website all summer long). It’s not my goal to pass that feeling on to others.

      (Coincidentally, Storm of Chaos was the LAST worldwide campaign GW ever ran.)

  2. Jaded Gamer says:

    One word… LARPing… er… I guess that’s an acronym.

    • imaginarywars says:

      I can’t see how asking players to wear Home Depot plastic buckets cunningly reshaped into MKIV Marine power armour will improve anyone’s tournament experience.

  3. […] only in the loosest sense. I won’t go into the particulars much more, as I spent a few posts discussing and covering and reviewing the […]

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