Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Grim Dark of Winter 1500 Highlander RTT Results

A beautiful view of Rob P.'s Tyranids facing down Rob M.'s Matrix-themed CSM.

Highlander is the tournament format taking the country by storm.  With so many folks feeling very put out by the shape of 40k today and how it affects tournament play, it’s become apparent that the pre-game conversation is something that’s all but required to have a good time.  At a tournament, it’s up to the Tournament Organizer to have that pre-game conversation for you and it’s turning out that Highlander is what people want to see.  This has become especially true for some events like Adepticon with the Highlander selling out almost instantly and the GT languishing behind for days after. Even if the player count is smaller, this is rather telling.

The Format

Bill's Tau hunt down Rob's Tyranids!

I used the Bay Area Open style as a guideline, but put my own spin on it.  I used playing cards for the Tacticial Objectives (TacOs) and had a modified list.  Also, the points value of the scenarios were doubled so as to alter the impact of some Tertiary Missions.  Download the packet to learn more about the scenarios.  I also randomized between the 6 Scenarios and deployment types in order to keep people on their toes, never re-using a Scenario and only re-using the Dawn of War deployment.

Lists were 1500 points so as to allow for a bracketed, 4-round tournament with a clear undefeated winner.  Also, I believe Highlander is best played at 1500 points because an army’s best units are rarely used up at that points level and it allows for more diverse lists. At the higher points levels, people feel compelled to start cherry-picking in other sources instead of sticking with a single cohesive theme. 1500 seems just right. There were no limitations on Formations or Detachments as long as the army never broke from the Highlander format itself. In Highlander, there’s little point in limiting or restricting these things.

Rob's prize-winning model, the Matrix-inspired Heldrake. Amazing!

Lords of war were only allowed at 25% of their total list (375 points) and using the BAO restricted list.

I allowed far more dedicated transports.  They were unlimited under 100pts.  I may reduce that to 0-3 for the next event.

I ran with my own nerf to Invisibility making it -4 to WS and BS instead of snap shots and 6s to hit. This was a mistake as it was a detriment to Tau markerlights and also gave invisible units a bonus to hit in combat.  I don't think it made Invisibility more powerful overall in the Tournament, but I don't think it nerfed it much either.

Please see the tournament format for more information, particularly on the unit comparisons and also special dispensation for taking multiples of certain units.

The Standings

Jason's Space Marines take on Francis' Grots

PreparedGame 1Game 2Game 3Game 4Battle Points
CharissaIyanden Eldar614111641202217016478
Jason Ba.Grey Knights/Ultramarines611142442202338683116
KevinSisters of Battle625217110121506325386
MarkGrey Knights / Space Wolves81931117202005822270
Rob M.Chaos Space Marines81243121530153834266
BillFarsight Tau81041232203233550259
Jason Be.Dragoons (UM)825045025003730166
ConnorChaos Space Marines622532502514122587140
Jason M.Blood Ravens841232521512142966055
Rob P.Tyranids641041631512162957048

As you can see, we had a gloriously diverse field. What we did see a lot of were armies which altered the force org for troops… two Deathwing players, one or two Space Marine Bike players, an Iyanden player, a Ravenwing player, and a Farsight player.  The 2+ save did very well in this tournament, though it didn’t prevail over some of the very good weight of fire, which does tend to be its downfall.

Having said that, I do expect to see a bit more Grav and Plasma at the next tournament.

The Unbeatable List

Charissa's Wraithknight faces down Phil's Deathwing!

Again, please see the format packet for more info on the list building rules.  Some units received special dispensation for taking multiples.

Iyanden Supplement, Single Combined Arms Primary Detatchment - 1500 Points - Highlander 

  • Farseer (Ancient Doom (AD), Battle Focus (BF), Fleet, Independent Character (IC), Psyker 3, Rune Armour, Shuriken Pistol, Witchblade, Ghosthelm, Jetbike, Spirit Stone of Anath'lan, Runes of Warding, Runes of Witnessing) - 155
  • Spirit Seer x2 (AD, BF, Fleet, IC, Psyker 2, Spirit Mark Rune Armour, Shuriken Pistol, Witch Staff) - 140
  • Windrider Jetbike Squad (AD, BF, Rune Armour, Shuriken Pistol, Witch Staff) - 51
  • Ranger x5 (AD, BF, Fleet, Infiltrate, Move Through Cover, Stealth, Mesh Armour, Ranger Long Rifle, Shuriken Pistol) - 60
  • Wraithblade x10 (AD, Bulky, Fearless, Ghost Axe, Forceshield) - 320
  • Wraithguard x5 (AD, Bulky, Fearless, Wraithcannon) - 160
    • Wave Serpent (Move Through Cover, +1 Cover post Movement, Twin-Linked Scatter Laser, Shuriken Cannon, Serpent Shield, Holofield) - 145
  • Wraithlord (AD, Fearless, Flamer x2, Scatterlaser x2, Ghostglaive) - 165
  • Wraithknight (AD, Fearless, Suncannon, Scatter Laser, Scattershield) - 300
This list boasted many strengths of the Eldar and really made a lot of hay with the army's high-toughness units.  It was also really nice to see the Wraithlord in a tournament. It's actually quite a good unit, but in the presence of other choices, it's just not as good.  In this format, it was a pretty good choice.  Her infantry marched forward as an implacable force while the enemy shot uselessly into the ranks of Toughness 6 and 8.  Charissa also had some nice, cheap units for either squatting on or stealing objectives.

The Unbeatable Player

The proud champ!

Hot off a long hike through the wilderness of the west coast, Charisssa emerged the victor.

Charissa’s list made the best of the format with the single Serpent and Wraithknight.  They did work, of course, but they weren’t a crutch. She was able to maintain her units natural staying power with reliable Psychics and saves while delivering enough punch to squeak out wins against equally-matched opponents.  I used the Swiss style for round 2 and 3, so each of her opponents was tougher than the last.  Then she fought and defeated the other undefeated player (pure Deathwing) in the last round.

Charissa really showed that, although the format does dissuade spam, most armies can still compete very well without actually doing that.  Even without a million Waveserpents, Eldar can be very competitive in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing.

The Consensus

No, the irony of Jesus in a YOLO shirt is not lost on us.

The Highlander format, in whatever form it takes, is perfect for pick-up games and competitive games because it practically comes with a predefined social contract.  I would love to see more tournaments pick it up because it creates a really fun and really competitive atmosphere. It really lets you level the playing field and allow skill to reign over codex.  Yes, you still have list build to contend with, but that’s part of skill.  And sure, you still have questions like Lords of War and, to a smaller extent, Detachments to think about, but Highlander is a big step in the right direction.

The players loved the format and wanted to see it again by an overwhelming poll I took after the event was over. I am going to streamline the missions to make them easier to finish four games in a day, but aside from that, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!


  1. dude i swear i love that trophy and will be using that idea as well

  2. Replies
    1. Let me know if you can't see the contents of this folder: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B7RGoi6dfv6dZDJBSVRDOGxlVGs&authuser=0