[WFB] Ye Grande Tournamente of Yore

Oldhammer people are generally opposed to tournaments. Hell, in the modern sense of the word ‘tournament’ I agree with them. Playing five or six or seven cutthroat timed games, under pressure, knowing that to drop out is to bodge up the strength of schedule and ruin it for everyone, sucks balls. I am a soft and sleepy autist and a slow player par excellence: this is not my natural environment.

And yet, and yet. In the medieval sense of the word – as I believe my good friend and colleague Handsome Mr. Webb once said in one of his many hacked, redacted-when-he-became-the-industry’s-bitch or otherwise lost bloggeries – ‘tournament’ means something else entirely.

It was an opportunity for every knight of fair means and foul intentions (or vice versa), every man who owned a few peasants and a murdering tool, to come together and have their preferred barney. There would be archery, and the grand melee, and a joust or two, and you could win one of those events in their own right. There was variety.

When I think back to my first contact with the Grand Tournament (a writeup of the 1995 event by the esteemed Jervis Johnson, its organiser) I recall just such variety.

Attendees brought along a 1500 point force, a 500 point allied contingent from another army, and a special character.

One round was a straight 1500 point battle – but victory was awarded to the table with the highest Victory Points score, meaning no incentive to play Borehammer – solving the game through points denial or a ‘combo’ of abilities that tables the foe with little effort. Only mutually assured destruction would do: a proper gory game. You and your opponent had to work together to ensure maximum carnage.

Another was a battle with only your 500 points of Allies and your Special Character. Yes, I’m sure it was very gameable, let’s take Mannfred von Carstein and as many Pump Wagons as we can. It was there to generate absurdities, unusual games, games worth travelling and paying money to access, not the usual 2000 point pick-up (which in our modern times would often be someone’s ‘tournament prep’ anyway, to really cement that ‘more of the same’ feel).

There’d be an Arena of Death, in the classic style. Personally, to encourage the appearance of ‘lesser’ special characters like your Korhils and Kourans, I’d be tempted to bracket this: featherweights worth 1 or 2 VP all the way up to heavyweights like Nagash or Malekith. Or you could be boring and cap the special character’s cost at X hundred points or something.

And then, if you’d been very very good, you might just get to fight something resembling a 2000 point game, with the maximum 500 points spent on allies, and a special character – the quintessential Herohammer experience everyone remembers, only you wouldn’t have paid points for the special character so you’d actually have a proper army to go with them.

The main thing to consider here is that I don’t think there was a Best Overall, or if there was, it wasn’t the Only Thing for which everyone was shooting. You could win the Arena of Death and you’d win something worth winning. I approve of this. It ensures that there’s something at stake in every round, without sinking into the territory of participation medals or ‘best in faction’ or non-prizes like that.

If I were to run something like this, I can see two ways in which I’d do it. Either those four rounds, with a free lunch or tea (the meal of tea, eaten in the evening, to avoid controversies over what’s ‘dinner’) at stake for the winner of each round, OR those four events, four rounds of each.

That way people who like the single character approach (the Arena of Death) could do that for the whole weekend if they wanted to; people who enjoyed the wacky “500 points of Allies plus a Special Character from another army” round could repeat that one; people who like the ‘standard’ Herohammer game could just play their four 2000 pointers if they really wanted to.

Happy days. I don’t know if there’s a gathering point for Herohammer, like Bring Out Your Lead for the Oldhammer crowd, but maybe… there should be?



  1. There is such an event, it runs at Warhammer World in early September. Huzzah!
  2. I have of course talked up the old tournament format before, in a post that the helpful “you may also like” widget dug out of my archives. In eight years of blogging it is almost impossible not to repeat oneself, which is why I don’t post as much as I used to.
  3. I forgot the “chariot race” round. Pick one model from your army and have a race round the table. Yes, you’re allowed to shoot other competitors. It was, apparently, hilarious to bring a Dreadnought and try to win by blasting all the Land Speeders and suchlike out of the sky.

6 thoughts on “[WFB] Ye Grande Tournamente of Yore

  1. I could get behind something like this. Even at the big events in the US, they do have a variety of styles of games played. However, you only hear about the main event and who had the bigger…dice.


  2. One of the reasons I love the Ordo Fanaticus Club Challenge is because they have a variety of events sort of like this. There’s the heavily comped 5 round Team Event over Saturday and Sunday, a no holds barred 3 round during the day on Friday, and a Kill Team event Friday evening, timed so people can play in both.

    And that’s just the 40K stuff. I think there are at least 6 or 7 other events for various other systems over the weekend.


    1. Hello, new reader! Nice to see you, thanks for commenting!

      I’m not sure you’re quite talking about the same thing. What you’re describing is “play X kind of game three times back to back, then Y kind of game three times back to back, then Z kind of game five times back to back.” It offers more variety than the usual “play X kind of game five times back to back” format, for sure, but –

      – perhaps I didn’t communicate well. Variety is not the only thing I’m looking for here. I occasionally forget that new people read this blog sometimes, and they’re not familiar with me and my history of…. difficulties… at tournaments. That’s on me. Mea maxima culpa.

      When I think and talk about event formats I’m always approaching them from a particular place that’s very concerned about cognitive load and fatigue, the things which make my poor ‘spergy brain melt, and which run high in the environment you’re describing.

      What I’m describing is “no back to back”, and proceeds at a more gentle pace, with only one ‘standard’ game. The architecture of the event is designed to be friendlier for people like me who, for reasons of neurodivergence or just not being that hardcore, don’t tend to have a nice time at the rather more rushed and regimented formats that are the norm in tournament play.


  3. Hey you’re right, that sounds fun. Modern tournaments just resemble e-sports, which resemble real sports, which as we’ve discussed before is because not many people actually have imaginations. It’s all “work out a simple contest, game it hard until there’s an ultimate winner.” And that’s all she wrote.

    A medieval style tournament is a whole different beast. And I’m with you on the non-prizes thing. One of the worst things about them is that if you don’t have the right spread of non-prizes, someone can miss out and it feels lame to miss out on a prize when they’re not even real prizes. Last year I played in a team event of six teams, where my team didn’t get the wooden spoon, didn’t place, didn’t get the theme award, and didn’t get the random lucky door prize. So we walked away with nothing, everyone else got something, and one team got two prizes, one of which was random. It felt a bit galling since fully half of the prizes were non-awards anyway.

    Tea is a meal? My grandma used to say “tea” when she meant dinner, and to me it’s a drink. What does one eat at “tea?”


    1. OK, so there are people for whom ‘dinner’ is eaten in the middle of the day and ‘tea’ is eaten in the evening and ‘supper’ has a specific meaning concerning television, biscuits, and sitting around in your dressing gown. Then there are people for whom ‘lunch’ is eaten in the middle of the day, ‘dinner’ is eaten in the evening, and ‘supper’ is a sort of networking exercise. It all comes down to class distinctions in the end.

      I have lunch in the middle of the day and tea in the evening because I’m not keen on the word ‘dinner’. Also I like confusing people.


    2. Too many (randomly allocated) prizes is as bad as not enough prizes if you ask me. I’m always leery of theme/most sporting/randomly drawn/the organiser felt sorry for you awards. First place and a wooden spoon, that’s all I want to see. If you’re awarding five prizes in a six-competitor event you’re going way too far. A free lunch though? That’s worth fighting for, especially if it’s a baguette the size of my forearm.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s