Sunday, 20 May 2018

European Team Championships 2018 - The Report

Now that the dust has settled, axes were put down to rest and we all came home safe, it is time to think back of the battles that were had and the extraordinary weekend that happened at Firestorm Games in Cardiff on the 28th and 29th of April 2018, bringing together the best players from Spain, France, Poland, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England, as well as a team representing the Rest of the World, all to battle for the trophy of European Team Champions. What was to be the most competitive event in the world was also a very friendly encounter of different cultures and styles of play.

Several countries were able to deploy 2 teams each, so the total number of teams reached 16 and so 64 players took part in the event. If you're interested in hearing about their lists, you should check out the following 4 links, with pre-tournament analysis:

Poland 1
Scotland 2
Wales 1

England 1
Wales 2
France 2

Poland 2
Scotland 1

France 1
World Team
England 2

For more details about the draw, the lists, the event organisation and so on, follow these links:

The bit about the venue and the tables and all that...

The first thing that jumps out at you when you turn up to the ETC is terrain and board layout. Dave has done a great job making the terrain for the tables this year. He managed to build 4 sets of 4 tables that would have identical terrain with identical setup, so as to ensure fairness for the teams. All players in the match get to play on exactly the same board and there is a reference sheet on every table on where each piece should be set. Sleepless nights paid off, as the tables looked great. As far as I know, the plan is now to complete 4 more sets of tables in time for the ETC 2019 taking place in Poland, so that there will be 8 sets. Each table set has a theme to it, just check them out below. 

The venue for this tournament was Cardiff's Firestorm Games, aka. The South West Gaming Centre, which can be found here:
Hosting 2 Hobbit Events per year in the Great British Hobbit League, it is a venue well known to the regular players of the League and so a friendly and homely environment to play in. Good food too... oh and a bar!

The bit about my army...

To save you time on finding the list that this article will be about, I'm pasting it here. 

1 Goblin Mercenary Captain (Leader)
5 Goblin Mercenaries

1 Betrayer on Fell Beast
6 Reavers with Axes
4 Watchers of Karna with Bows
1 Serpent Rider

1 Shadow Lord on Fell Beast
6 Morannon Orcs with Spears, Shields and Swords
3 Orcs with Spears and Swords
1 Spectre

1 Haradrim Taskmaster
6 Reavers with Axes
4 Watchers of Karna with Bows
1 Serpent Rider

Total 41 Models, 8 Might Points, 8 Bows.
Breaks at 22 dead
Quartered at 10 alive.

Rest of the team used:
- 4 Fell Beasts & Shelob - Ed
- Gondor with Saruman & Galadriel - Jay
- Laketown/Wood Elves with Gandalf & Thranduil - Harry
Their detailed lists can be found in the videos linked above.

The bit where I explain on why we picked this army...

I know what you’re thinking. Goblin Mercenary Captain wasn’t my first choice for a general. It was an idea Ed tossed in during our team Skype call. What at first seemed like a joke, quickly made a lot of sense. Merc Captain does not have to start on the table, so can be deployed after all of the opponent’s army is there, thus ensuring he’s either in a right place for his Might or as a general he is safe from the expected swarm of flying monsters, Wizards, superheroes or the like. More importantly, picking the Merc as the leader means both Ringwraiths on Fell Beasts have complete freedom of movement and if they die, nothing happens as far as VPs are concerned. It’s the idea that Jay recently mentioned in an article about splitting your targets – the opponent will have to kill the Wraiths or they kill him, but killing them does not in any way grant any Victory Points. Splitting your attention between A) a Cap that doesn’t do anything, but grants VPs and B) 2 Wraiths that wreck your army but don’t grant VPs makes the game a lot more difficult.

The obvious choice for the general one would say is the Task Master. It was also the model I picked in the first draft of the list. However, TM needs to be as close to combat as possible, very often in the middle of it, as he carries an axe and for his rule to provide most benefit, he has to be where the Fell Beasts are, which is basically where it is most dangerous. We don’t want a general with F4/D5/W2 to be anywhere near the front lines in 800pts games. It grants free VPs to your opponent and it is a headache to keep him safe when facing Wizards, Fell Beasts and multitude of major heroes that are common at this points level.

The Cap and 5 Mercs cost a total of 75 points. Again, you could argue that for 25 points extra, a Shade would be a better investment and in fact that is what most of the teams we faced opted for in armies featuring double Fell Beasts. We considered it, but for the scenarios played at this event, it made more sense to have the Mercs. Have a look:

- Lords of Battle - Shade is better
- Domination – It’s close between the two and really depends on the enemy. Mercs can drop onto an objective to ensure it is taken. Shade helps in the centre where the fight is thickest.
- Fog of War – Mercs are better to drop into the objective for free VPs
- Storm the Camp – Mercs are better to drop into the camp for auto-win or threaten the drop, thus forcing models to stay back (they can then decide to drop into the centre and make the opponent waste a lot of resources at the back that he/she needs out on the board).
- Reconnoitre – Mercs are better, as depending on the terrain, they can be dropped on a given turn and walk off the next turn
- Seize the Prize – Shade is better, but Mercs can randomly pop out and stop a prize from escaping, grab it and run off with it. If the prize is in terrain, they can also drop right on top of it or behind it if needed

What also pushes it in the direction of the Mercs is that the Shade is an awful general and forces the Task Master to take the leader’s role. It also means the force has about 10 models less, which looks pretty miserable.

Analyzing the metagame of 800pts level shows the following possibilities (this is a rough estimate to give us an idea of what we're facing on average at this points level):

- Wood Elves with 40-50 models
- High Elves with 30-40 models
- Double Fell Beast lists with 30-40, both across Harad (mass bows) and Mordor (S4/D6)
- Shire with 60+
- Double-Wizard Rohan at mid 20s
- High Elf Knights at low 20s with Saruman
- Iron Hills with 30-40 S4/D8
- Commonly used Spirit-Killer, Galadriel, Lady of Light

Numbers are not be-all-and-end-all in this game. However, being outnumbered when almost your entire army is Defence 4 or less is not something I would recommend doing, no matter how good you are. Hurl and Blasts are a terrible prospect to face. At 800 points we expected a lot of Fell Beasts and a lot of Wizards, so no matter whether your general is Boromir of the White Tower or Beregond, they will struggle when they are close to the front lines.

When the army breaks, Task Master is C3 probably with no Might and a Will point. Shade is C1 with 3 Will. Merc is C3 probably with 2 Might and 1 Will. Also, if the Merc is still not on the table when the force breaks, you don’t have to test for Courage for him. If he's not on the table when the game ends, he does not count as a casualty either. 

Overall I think we made the correct decision in picking Mercs and their Captain was the only general that made sense. 

The Great Leader Himself leads from behind!

The actual gaming bit...

The Coach!

Team 1!

Team 2!


ROUND 1: WALES 2 & David

1 Gandalf the White on Shadowfax with Elven Cloak (General)

1 Faramir, Captain of Gondor with Horse, Heavy Armour, Lance, Shield
6 Guards of the Fountain Court with Shields
2 Knights of Minas Tirith with Shields
2 Rangers of Gondor with Spears
2 Citadel Guard with Longbows

1 Madril
6 Guards of the Fountain Court with Shields

2 Knights of Minas Tirith with Shields
2 Rangers of Gondor with Spears
2 Citadel Guard with Longbows

1 Cirion
2 Knights of Minas Tirith with Shields
1 Ranger of Gondor with Spear
2 Warriors of Minas Tirith with Shields and Spears

1 Beregond

Total: 34 models, 13 Might, 11 bows

The tournament started with a very good match up for me. Having used Gandalf and Saruman against Fell Beasts for nearly a decade, I’m confident in countering Wizards, despite always stating that I prefer being on the Wizard’s side. We get into combat and the Fight 5 with Axe bonus quickly becomes overwhelming for the Gondorians to cope with. In the end Shadow Lord chases down Gandalf, but fails to kill him in time before the game ends.

RESULT: Major Win
Team: 16-0 / 4 Major Wins
Personal: 4-0 TP / 11-0 VP
MVP: The General

(Note: The way Tournaments points are scored is as follows:

If you have scored double or more VPs in the game, you win 4-0
If you have scored more VPs, but less than double, you win 3-1
If you scored an even number of VPs, the game is a draw of 2-2.
The most points a team can score from a match is 16.
The result of the match itself is not important. What is important is how many points each individual game has scored, so a team with 6 matches won can still finish behind a team with 4 matches won and 2 losses. What this means is that every player will generally always push to score the highest points possible for their team, rather than playing a draw/denial game).


ROUND 2: SPAIN & Jaime 

1 Shadow Lord on Fell Beast
6 Morannon Orcs with Shield and Spear

1 Undying on Fell Beast (General)
6 Morannon Orcs with Shield and Spear

1 Shade
3 Orc Trackers
2 Warg Riders with Shields
2 Spectres

1 Haradrim Taskmaster
8 Corsair Reavers
4 Watchers of Karna

Total: 35 models, 6 Might + TM, 7 Bows

As we were selecting the pairing, this was the one match-up I did not want to face, as I would be outfought in combat and outmatched with better casting Wraiths on the enemy side and a lot more Will. The result of the draw however meant that I was the one to be ‘thrown under the bus’ for this round. Luckily it isn’t the lists that win tournaments, but what you do with them.

My opponent sets up 24” in, with Shade behind his lines alongside the 2 Fell Beasts. As I’m utterly terrified of the possibility of Shade, Fight 5, Strength 4 and 2 Hurls getting into combat with my squishy Defence 4 troops suffering from the -1 fighting penalty, I set myself up 7” away and cross my fingers hoping that I don’t have to move first in this game, as if I do, there is no play that can lead to anything good – If I move forward, I get double hurled, Shaded and wrecked. If I move back, I am giving up the centre for good and get into an uphill magic battle.

Luckily I don’t have to move first. Jaime Channels with one Wraith, casts a Channeled Sap Will at my Shadow Lord, which I resist and a normal Sap Will on my Betrayer, which I let happen and lose 4 Will. He then moves everything about 3” forward, denying me space within 3” of the centre. He ends up within charging range of all of my troops, without actually charging anything himself. It still looks grim, but... what’s about to happen is probably the single most incredible turn in my entire 14-year career of playing this game…- Spectre makes the Shade take a courage test. Shade fails. As the Shade is not fully blocked by warriors, I move him into the open on the left flank.
- Shadow Lord compels a model on the right and attacks it with some Reavers and the Task Master
- Betrayer compels a Tracker on Warg on the left and charges it with some Reavers.
- Front ranks engage.
- Task Master calls a Heroic Combat
- Betrayer Calls a Heroic Combat
- Betrayer kills the Tracker and the Warg, jumps onto the Shade at the back left. Reavers engage in a safe advantageous way on the left flank.
- Shadow Lord kills the enemy Reaver, jumps onto the Task Master and Reavers engage on the right flank
- Betrayer Kills the Shade
- Shadow Lord kills the Task Master
- I kill a total of 17 models, losing 1. He is 1 away from being Broken.
- 41 vs 34 turns into 40 vs 17.

Turn 2
I win a heroic move Roll-off and decide that I don’t exactly want him to be hurling anything, as really that’s the only way he could possibly win this game… I engage my 2 Fell beasts into his 2, whilst the rest of the army surrounds and begins to slaughter everything else.

Eventually in turns 2 and 3 I end up losing my 2 Wraiths, whilst he loses 1, but I’m so far ahead, there is no way I can ever lose at this stage. In a last gasp attempt Jaime tries to get his Undying onto one of my home objectives, preventing me from having full control of it and threatening my general in the wood nearby.

RESULT: Major Win
Team: 13-3 / 3 Major Wins + 1 Minor Loss
Personal: 4-0 TP / 9-0 VP
MVP: Spectre


ROUND 3: FRANCE 2 & Guillaume

1 Legolas with Armour and Horse (General)

2 Galadhrim Knights with Elf Bows

1 Thranduil, King of Mirkwood
2 Guards of the Galadhrim Court
4 Galadhrim Warriors with Shields
4 Galadhrim Warriors with Shields and Spears
1 Wood Elf Warrior with Bow
1 Sentinel

1 Haldir, Defender of Helm's Deep
2 Guards of the Galadhrim Court
3 Galadhrim Warriors with Shields
3 Galadhrim Warriors with Spears and Shields
1 Galadhrim Warrior with a Banner
2 Galadhrim Warriors with Bows
1 Wood Elf Warrior with a Bow

1 Rumil
2 Guards of the Galadhrim Court
3 Galadhrim Warriors with Shields
3 Galadhrim Warriors with Spears and Shields
1 Galadhrim Warrior with a Banner
2 Galadhrim Warriors with Bows
1 Wood Elf Warrior with a Bow

Total: 42 models, 12 Might, 12 bows (14 shots).

Fog of War is always a difficult scenario, as you never know what can and cannot be committed to the fight. Having picked the Merc as the general, I committed to a game plan of throwing the Fell Beasts into the thick of battle and not really caring if they die or not, as long as their mission is accomplished. Of course in this scenario, one of them dying means I could be giving 3 points to my opponent and those 3 points could be a difference between a win or a loss. Same goes for the Task Master, so I have to play both safe and unsafe, whilst also trying to figure out which model is my opponent trying to kill for VPs. Guillame’s list of F5 and F6 with 4 Elven Heroes is also something I don’t exactly fancy playing against, but the match up is better for me than for Ed’s Flying Circus, so due to the way the pairing is selected, I’m stuck with it.

The game begins with a lucky Watcher shot on the right flank taking off 3 Fate Points from Legolas and another shot killing his horse, pretty much making him unusable for the rest of the game. As the armies come close, I start throwing Black Darts at Haldir, who is my ‘target hero’. I have to be careful, as he’s wearing an Elven Cloak, so I have to get into 6” range to cast and then retreat. In the first turn of combat he gets transfixed and dies fighting a Reaver. The fight between Elves and Reavers gets very close and we are both getting very close to breaking, so I am forced to commit Fell Beasts into combat to ensure that I don’t break and randomly lose the game due to courage tests. Combination of some Heroic Strikes and Heroic Combats against transfixed Elves leads to a large chunk of Guillame’s army dying to Hurls and the game ends without me ever breaking. In the end he prevents me from killing Thranduil, securing 3 VPs, but I manage to control a hill in his half of the board, stop him from taking over a rock in my half, break him, kill Haldir and prevent Task Master from dying, leading to a 12-3 victory.

RESULT: Major Win
Team: 16-0 / 4 Major Wins
Personal: 4-0 TP / 12-3 VP
MVP: The Watcher who shot Legolas


The bit with more pictures to break up the big wall of text...


ROUND 4: WALES 1 & Dewi

1 Witch King on Fell Beast with 3/18/3 Stats (General)
3 Morannon Orcs with Shields and Spears
2 Morannon Orcs with Spears
3 Black Numenoreans
1 Black Numenorean with a Banner
2 Black Guard of Barad-Dur

1 The Undying on Fell Beast
4 Morannon Orcs with Shields and Spears
2 Morannon Orcs with Spears
3 Black Numenoreans
2 Black Guards of Barad-Dur
1 Spectre

1 Mordor Task Master
3 Morannon Orcs with Shields and Spears
2 Morannon Orcs with Spears
2 Morgul Knights
3 Black Numenoreans
2 Black Guard of Barad-Dur

38 Models, 6 Might. 

Storm the Camp is a weird scenario in that it requires you to be able to finely balance between how many models you leave in the camp and how many you push forward. Additionally, as it’s played diagonally, the area of play actually becomes wider than it is in all other scenarios. On a 48”x48” board, the corner-to-corner distance is 67.8” (Or so Pythagoras would claim). After taking off the 12” deployment zone, you end up starting the game about 44” away from each other on a 68”-wide board. This setup poses extra challenges in splitting your forces, positioning and figuring out where to concentrate your main threats and protect from theirs. Given unlimited amount of time, it’s a great scenario. However, given a time limit, it’s not something I (or many other players I know) like playing, as the distances make it very difficult to ever get into the camp before the time runs out. Unless you have some cavalry or perhaps a Mercenary?

TL;DR – It’s hard to get the camp, so it becomes a secondary objective. The primary objectives are 'Kill the Leader' & 'Break Them'

The first few turns nothing of significance really happens. I keep my General off the table to threaten an ambush in the camp, so Dewi has to keep about 5 Numenorians back at base. Eventually the lines get close enough, that Dewi attempts a couple of Sap Wills at my Shadow Lord, one of which I let happen (6) and the other I resist (3), dropping myself down to 8 Will. The way he then positions his wraiths leaves it open for me to potentially get a Heroic Combat off into Witch King on a suicide mission to score 3 VPs behind his ranks.

Just like in round 2, an epic sequence begins with a Spectre…

- A Black Guard is asked to move forward. He obliges.
- Shadow Lord flies forward, casting Compel on the Witch King, gets him to use 2 Might to resist, as Dewi only gets a 4 highest to my 6. SL charges into the BG.
- Betrayer also casts a Compel at Witch King, gets a 6 and again WK only gets a 4 to resist, resulting in a move forward and automatic halving of Fight Value. Betrayer charges the same BG.
- Task Master and a Reaver also charge the same Black Guard and both get some supports.
- Task Master calls a Heroic Combat.
- Shadow Lord calls a Heroic Strike to ensure Fight will be higher than 5, which is the maximum the WK could also have.
- They kill the BG.
- They both fly at the Witch King
- They kill the Witch King. 3-0.

What follows is a very tense and close several turns going back and forth in the centre-right. Shadow Lord dies. Undying is left at 11. Betrayer drops to 1 Will and begins a retreat back to my camp to protect it in case of some Undying shenanigans of 'Heroic move/Heroic Combat/Heroic Move'. We are both out of Might, but then around turn 10 or so… THE GENERAL DECIDES TO TURN UP!

The general deploys pretty much in the middle of the board, providing 2 extra Might points and some extra bodies to help break Dewi. The 2 Might proves invaluable, as Dewi has none left on the table and I now have 2 in play. The Undying gets killed and opponent is broken. With 15min on the clock however, we decide there is no way I will ever get to his camp on time. It’s also not something I’m too keen on doing, as I’m only about 3 or 4 models away from breaking, so I’m happy taking a 6-0 win (Break & General) instead of pushing forward and risking a potential break of my own leading to 4-1 or even a 2-2, if my Merc Captain doesn’t manage to get back into my camp in time.  

The great benefit of Mercs in this game was that 6 of them forced 5 or 6 of Dewi's models to stay back in the camp. Then, instead of dropping into the camp, the Goblins dropped into the middle of the battle - they both added 6 models and 2 Might into combat and took away 6 models from enemy's side that had to stay back. Big swing. 

Team: 14-2 / 2 Major Wins + 2 Minor Wins
Personal: 4-0 TP / 6-0VP
MVP: The General


ROUND 5: POLAND 2 & Piotr (aka. Zichu)

1 The Undying on Fell Beast (General)
2 Morannon Orcs with Shields and Axes
7 Morannon Orcs with Spears and Shields
1 Spectre
1 Orc Tracker on a Warg

1 Shadow Lord on Fell Beast
2 Morannon Orcs with Shields and Axes
6 Morannon Orcs with Shields and Spears
1 Spectre
1 Orc Tracker on a Warg

1 Haradrim Task Master
7 Corsair Reavers with axes
2 Watchers of Karna with Bows and Axes

1 Shade

Total 34 models, 6 Might, 4 Bows.

After the pairings were set, I found out I’d be up against an almost identical army to round 2 – Undying, Shadow Lord, Shade, 34 models. With a gigantic hill in the middle of the board, we decide to sit our Fell Beasts on the two sides of the hill and cast some spells. Both Shadow Lords pop, but nothing else of significance happens all game. Neither of us wants to risk throwing things forward or letting a Fell Beast to run through and escape over the other side of the board, so we both play it very conservatively and defensively across the entire table.

With 30min spare, we call it a draw, as there is no way either of us is winning it and we might as well have a break.

Although the game was uneventful, the chat was enjoyable and Zichu proved to be a very nice player. Sadly, other games didn’t go as “well” as mine and with Ed and Jay losing their games and Harry drawing, we ended up losing the match 11-5.

Result: Draw
Team: 5-11 / 1 Major Loss + 1 Minor Loss + 2 Draws
Personal: 2-2 TP / 0-0 VP
MVP: The Hill in the Middle

THE FINAL: POLAND 2 & Maciek (aka. Mike)

1 Gandalf, the Grey on Horse
1 Saruman, the White on Horse

1 Erkenbrand, Captain of Rohan on Horse with an Axe
9 Westfold Redshields with Axes

1 Eowyn, Shield Maiden of Rohan on Horse with a Shield
8 Westfold Redshields with Axes

3 Rangers of the North on Horses with Spears

1 Fatty Bolger

Total: 25 Models, 14 Might, 20 bows

Having lost a 6-point lead at the top of the leaderboard, we were feeling less confident than before. After round 5, England 1 and Poland 2 were on 64 points. France was on 60 and Poland 1 on 59, having just drawn with France. As the rules specify that final round allows rematches and has to be paired using the Swiss system, we got to play Poland 2 again and France were to play Poland 1. All 4 teams had a chance of winning the tournament, depending on the results of specific games. We had to score 13 out of 16 to guarantee the tournament win. Anything less than that and we'd be watching table 2 and hoping neither side achieves too big of a victory over the other.

The pairing sets up a game against Mike and an army of 2 Wizards and all-mounted Rohan. Out of all the scenarios, this is the one where I don't mind playing against this army (pretty sure in all other scenarios I'm the underdog) as the objectives require quick advancement to the centre. I'd rather be on the side of Wizards!

Due to how Warband deployment works, Mike is able to wait for me to deploy my whole army whilst dropping a Ranger or Fatty each time I put down 12 models. That gives him an early edge. The objective being hidden on the top of a hill in the middle means that there will be some advantage with defending elevated positions, should I manage to get there first. 

Turn 1 I take priority and decide to march my force onto the hill and dig up the artifact with one of the riders. I also make a gigantic mistake that I really should not be making at this level of play - I leave a gap large enough between the Fell Beasts, that a man-sized model is able to pass through. That allows Mike to charge a Fell Beast with a Rider, then Compel my warrior carrying the prize into the same combat and blast it away with his other Wizard, causing an automatic dismount on the Fell Beast. He also manages to roll low enough on the blast distance that the Prize gets stuck in the middle of the board on the cliff, instead of falling far back into my ranks for me to start running with it. Next turn I lose a Heroic Move roll-off and lose the 2nd Fell Beast in exactly the same manner.

For a long time the game progresses by me picking up the prize, then dropping it, then him picking it up, then dropping it. Although it is very tight, nothing of major significance seems to be happening. I lose every single Heroic Move roll-off in the entire game, so end up failing to cast to cast a single spell after turn 1 and fail to ever move first with my prize. Eventually my forces start getting surrounded, but luckily for me the 2 Wraiths manage not to die despite fighting multiple Redshields charging them with axe bonuses, so the Wraiths end up holding two crucial elevated positions that basically prevent most of his army from getting onto the hill. In the end I manage to pick up the prize, put it in a corner of a building and drop my Reinforcements with General into the centre to protect the Prize. As the time is called we play the last turn, during which both of us break. Since I'm carrying the prize in my half, it looks like I'll be winning the game 4-1, but Gandalf and Saruman are still due to move... The first Blast targeting my Watcher fails to cast. The second succeeds on a 5 with no Might remaining. Watcher of Karna takes a resistance test which will decide whether I win or draw the game. He fails to resist. Standing next to a wall, he receives 2x S5 hits. 25% chance of surviving. 75% chance of dying. With the last roll of the tournament he drops the prize and the game is a draw. 

Result: Draw
Team: 10-6 / 2 Major Wins + 1 Draw + 1 Major Loss
Personal: 2-2 TP / 1-1 VP
MVP: Defending Elevated Positions Special Rule

The boring statistical bit...

Team: 74 points / 1st Place
Personal: 4 Major Wins, 2 Draws, 20 tournament points out of 24 (think that puts me as 3rd highest scoring player?), 39 VPs scored, 4 VPs lost, for a total of +35VP Diff.

Team Totals:
15 Major Wins (62.5%)
2 Minor Wins (8.3%)
3 Draws (12.5%)
2 Minor Losses (8.3%)
2 Major Losses (8.3%)

VPs Scored: 147 
VPs Conceded: 34
VP Diff: +113 

Final Results

Winners of the Painting Competitions

Martin from Team Rest of the World wins the Best Painted Army

Guillaume from France 2 wins the Best Painted Model

The bit that's like a summary...

A lot of people have a view that competitive play is the bane of the hobby. Complaints about maximised lists (and axes in SBG's case) are something that wargaming in general is full of and it isn't uncommon to see internet comments on how people would never attend a tournament because they destroy the ‘fun’ aspect of the game. As someone who has been playing this game for nearly 15 years, with most of the time spent somewhere near top tables playing against the toughest opponents, I am always dazzled at such comments. The SBG community is about the friendliest war-gaming community you will ever find. In all the years I have perhaps only had 2 or 3 games that I didn’t enjoy, regardless of whether my opponents were playing the filthiest, maxed out, purely power gaming lists or whatever fluffy thing they brought.

If tournaments were all about the army lists, I would say ETC is a terrible (perhaps the worst) tournament to attend. I have never played 6 equally hard games for 2 days in a row. When I sat down on the train home, I pretty much instantly passed out from sheer mental exhaustion. But it isn’t about that. The tournament experience is not about armies, but about the players. Despite playing against the filthiest lists imaginable (Double Fell Beast / TaskMaster / Shade / Reavers… TWICE!), I have enjoyed all games as much as I would enjoy every other game against great opponents - always smiling, always friendly, always at the peak of sportsmanship. Although none of the players I played gave up on any edges and neither did I (If someone did not call ‘With Me’ on a Heroic Move, I called them out on it and stopped their moves), we always ended the games with smiles and positive attitude. In all 6 games I think I gave a 4 or 5 out of 5 Sportsmanship Score to all of them. Whatever others tell you about competitive players being all bad and terrible, it isn’t true of the majority, and it especially isn’t true about the best players in Europe, as shown by the ETC. In my opinion, a truly great player is one that will give you a very challenging game, but also ensure that your experience is enjoyable whether you win or get completely decimated. 

The fact that we won the event, having won only 71% of our games proves how difficult the tournament really was for everybody and how well matched the teams were. In comparison at the last Desolation of Stockport, the first 3 places had a winrate of 85% / 85% / 71% and at The Scouring of Cheshire the first 5 places had a winrate of 83%. But that’s not a surprise, as the ETC is supposed to bring the best players from around Europe to fight and figure out who is the best gaming nation, so the skill difference between players is significantly smaller than on average it would be. Theme becomes secondary and finding the most powerful and efficient lists becomes priority. The tournament is unique in this way. Other than Will Champion with his incredible performance scoring 24/24 using Burhdur and Hunter Orcs, every other player ended up either losing games or finishing with multiple draws.

My MVP for the tournament was the Goblin Mercenary Captain. Simply because he fought 0 combats, stayed safe out of harm’s way, denying VPs, threatened to parachute the camp, dropped into the right places in games when it was safe to drop close to combat and boost the army with 2 fresh Might and some bodies. It was the first time I didn’t worry about my leader dying. Additionally I was free to do whatever I wanted to do with my Fell Beasts. They ended up dying in pretty much every game as I was happily deploying a high-risk/high-reward tactics with them, but they generally died for the right cause (except in the last game... but we shall put it away and never speak of it again!).

Last, but not least, I would like to thank:

All of my opponents, for thoroughly enjoyable, hard and entertaining games.

Dave for taking charge of organising the ETC for the greater good of the SBG community, building all of the great terrain, as well as being kind enough to allow me to use his pictures in this article.

Matt, Sam and Owen for their organizational and refereeing work on the event. The event ran smoothly and as a player I could not have been more satisfied with everything involved. The judges were very knowledgeable and quick to answer any questions.

Firestorm Games, for providing the great venue and food for the event. All the sponsors for their help in making Middle Earth ETC happen. 

Everybody who was kind enough to lend me models for the event (I Frankensteined the list between 5 different people).

Jamie for being an outstanding Team Coach and taking care of the two England teams, sourcing awesome T-shirts and dice, as well as helping out with pairings and looking after the organizational side of the team, allowing us to fully focus on our games. Sam Jeffery for selecting the teams and helping out too.

Callum, James, Barney and Dan (ie. England Team 2) for fun times in between rounds and in the off-time as well as constant cheers and support.

Harry, Jay and Ed for their spectacular efforts in claiming every VP they could claim and always giving their best, despite the hardships the opposition could throw against them. I am honoured to have been part of this extraordinary team.

Everyone at home sending us their support!

Good Luck,

Team GB

Teams England 1 & 2:

2018 European Champions -  Team England 1

2nd Place - Team Poland 2

3rd Place -Team Poland 1

The bit that didn't make it into the theatrical release, but is where Boromir is actually cool a bit... and more elves...


The ETC pairing system is a separate game by itself and another consideration for the army selection. 

Each team secretly selects 1 player and puts them forward
Once revealed, both teams select 2 players to play that player
Once revealed, both of the firstly selected players pick which of the two they want to play against.
The opponent they did not select plays against the 4th player in the team.


England 1
England 2
Harry & Jay are selected to face Barney
James & Callum are selected to face Ed
Ed picks to play James
Mik therefore plays Callum
Barney picks to play Harry
Dan therefore plays Jay

The matchups in the above end up being:
Ed vs James
Harry vs Barney
Jay vs Dan
Mik vs Callum

The player we pick as Player 1 for the match has the choice of NOT playing their weakest match-up, unless they want to do it for the benefit of the team (if for example overall the remaining 3 match-ups will be better for us). 

Players 2 and 3 from each team are picked by players 1 and 4 from that team.

A1 and A4 will always play B2 or B3 and vice versa.

It’s complicated at first, but easy once you get it. About 10min before the start of every round is the pairing time and that's really when the teams have to work together and to know each other very well to ensure that their strengths are well suited for the potential opposition and their weaknesses are covered by their teammates playing the unfavourable matchups. 

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