TheGM—I’ve just returned from a small but delightful wargame convention in Ocean City, Md. It was a great experience.
Set in a hotel right on Ocean City’s boardwalk (my room had an ocean view), Shorehammer 2018 offered up Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40K tournaments, a few minor events (such as X-Wing gaming), and an opportunity for pick-up games.
The best part of the event, however, was the camaradarie. Perhaps because it was a small convention (slightly under 100 attendees), it was easy to get to know a lot of people very quickly—and they proved an exceptionally nice bunch of guys.
The convention organizers also were great. The tournament director appeared very attentive of attendees’ needs, and as a small convention, I had multiple opportunities each day to talk to him. He was clearly intent on making sure people had a good time, and his volunteers were very friendly and helpful.
My first day began with a seven-hour, 20-player Apocalypse game. On a world called Shoreham (very droll), the Merlinn Research Facility was a secretive Imperial research center that was engaged in a super-secret research project on psychic phenomenon.
As it happened, there was a strong psychic signal emitting from the facility—a signal so powerful that other species, including Tau, orks, and Tyranids, showed up to investigate.
For undisclosed reasons (which I suspect had to do with balancing the sides), the Elder were helping the Imperium to defend the facility from this sudden xeno interest in the facility. Also, in a last-minute shift of alliances, a group of Tau ended up defending the facility as well.
(Given I was playing Tau—and I was attacking the facility—I wasn’t too happy with this treason to the Greater Good. But a rationale became clear: The defending Tau player based his force on the survivors of the unfortunate 4th Expansion, and everyone knows they are an odd bunch.)
The goal of the xenos was to seize the three entrance gates to the hive-sized facility, so we could pilfer the Imperial research. It was rollicking good fight. Entire armies disappeared in bloodshed, and control of the three gates changed hands several times.
(Meanwhile, Tyranids and Space Marines and Custodes, on a separate table, fought over an orbital battle station, and depending upon who was in charge of the gun batteries, massive orbital blasts would suddenly target the forces of one side or the other on the main table.
In the end, the xenos were victorious—but barely. The score ended up 35-to-28.5. If we hadn’t held onto one gate against a last-turn Imperial-Eldar attack, the score would have been a razor-thin 32-to-31.5.
Of course, the real victory belonged to all players. We had a great time.
I don’t think tournament play is my cup of tea. It’s not the competitiveness of the events that got to me. I’ve played very little 8th Edition, so I didn’t expect to win a single game.
Nor did I meet any cutthroat, win-at-all-cost jerks who are the stereotypical tourney player. Indeed, I found everyone very friendly, relaxed and low key, and decidedly willing to help out a first-time tournament player.
But three games a day, one after another, with a strict time limit was a bit intense and tiring for this 61-year-old gamer. The Gaffer and I have spent the past five years playing at a leisurely pace, drinking beer, and chatting about life. A day-and-a-half of tournament play was a bit much.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time. People were great, as I said, and although I got trounced repeatedly, I took a lot of notes and learned a few tactics that will help me tremendously in future fights with The Gaffer.
And I surprised myself by making a comeback by the end of the weekend. In my first tourney game, I was trounced by a super-fast, hard-hitting army of a fellow named Max. But Max went out of his way to be helpful as I struggled with my first “competitive” game, and so I didn’t mind (too much) that his orks crossed the table in a blink of an eye, locked my big guns in melee, and wiped me out.
The final score was something like 20-to-0.
Things turned around on the final day of tournament play. I lost my first game by a less-embarrassing 8-to-2 score, then finished up with a rematch with Max. The format for this round of a short tourney was a bit odd, as we were playing only Elite and Heavy units, and he had put his roster together at the last minute.
So, taking advantage of his less-than-stellar roster—and the lessons I’d learned while getting pounded the previous day—I made sure to “bubble wrap” my key units to protect them from a Deep Strike or ork charge, and I set up my pitiful flashlight-armed Guardsmen as speed bumps and left then to die.
Surprisingly, such tactics worked (along with some good dice). In the end, I won with a respectable 15-to-3 score—and was relieved to end the weekend with an actual victory. What a surprise!
I’m going back
Although ever gamer is a bit competitive, I really had no expectations for my first tournament experience, so winning and losing really wasn’t the point of going. I wanted to see what a tournament was like, and I’ve learned it’s not my most favorite form of gaming.
But I’ll go back to Shorehammer. The atmosphere was great, and the people I met were the absolute best part of the weekend. And I’ll try another tournament. It’s a good way to learn useful tactics and experience armies I otherwise would not face, and as I get more skilled with 8th Edition, I think the intensity of playing turns quickly will diminish.
And, as I said, I had a blast.
Still, I don’t think I will spend all my time in tournaments. One event will be enough.
What I am thinking is that, as I like to host narrative games for people, I may see if Shorehammer (and perhaps other conventions I try) will allow me to run some small, non-competitive skirmish games, with an interesting narrative plot and nice terrain.
I’d find that more relaxing, and there are always people who find themselves between tournaments and are looking for something to do.
Well, we’ll see whether this idea goes anywhere. My real point in writing is to say that I had a great time at Shorehammer, and I’m hoping to make it a regular part of my gaming calendar.
If you think this convention sounds interesting, check out the Shorehammer website here.
Also, the tournament director, (aka Pimpcron), writes for Bell of Lost Souls. Check it out here.
P.S. I’ll be writing up my tournament games as a part of Corvus Cluster lore in a future blog.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming experiences in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.