To keep ourselves busy during lockdown, the Rollmodels hobby community have been playing a series of Age of Sigmar (AoS) team tournaments using Tabletop Simulator. In the most recent one we used a different format to the traditional tournament, and we thought it would be fun to document how it went down.
The tournament was played in May 2021, before the release of AoS 3.0, so it used AoS second edition rules.
- Two teams of six players (imaginatively named ‘Team A’ and ‘Team B’) come together to play Age of Sigmar on Tabletop Simulator.
- The tournament organiser (TO) writes twenty army lists, and the teams are told the faction and sub-faction for each list.
- The teams then ‘buy’ lists at an auction where each team has forty ‘tournament bucks’ to spend: each list is revealed in turn and the teams have 90 seconds to evaluate the list and put in a bid, the highest bid wins the list.
- There’s then a drafting stage where the team captains decide which lists will face off against each other. Three different matched play scenarios are used (in this case Total Conquest, Blade’s Edge and Focal Points from the 2020 General’s Handbook), with two match-ups using each scenario.
- The teams then decide which players will play which list, and agree secondary objectives.
- Finally, the teams face off against each other in six games of Age of Sigmar.
This turned out to be a really fun way to play, with a lot of twists and turns. Read on to find out how players from each team, plus the tournament organisers, felt about the different stages of the tournament.
Chimp (Tournament Organiser): This is a very unusual format for playing Warhammer, and I needed the players to just trust me on some of the elements I knew would be a tough sell, people like writing their own army lists! I had a few goals in mind when writing the rules pack for this, which is how we ended up with an auction. Firstly, this would be our third online team event in a row and whilst they were always great fun there were some obvious patterns emerging. Some players only ever played their one army, some armies (here’s looking at you, Teclis) always got played and it took some of the surprise element out of the format.
Previously we’d had teams build their army lists blind from each other, which added quite a lot of time to the process. I’d just had a baby and I knew one of the players also had a baby approaching imminently so I wanted more control of the buildup to the games and a tighter time frame. Secondly, I just wanted to see people playing with armies they might not ever even have considered before, and if I can get someone to start a whole new army off the back of it, well that’s just a huge bonus.
At the start of the tournament, the TOs revealed the faction and sub-faction for the twenty lists that would be available to buy at auction. The teams then had a few days to think about their bidding strategy.
|Nighthaunt (Reikenor’s Condemned)||Skaventide|
|Beasts of Chaos (Gavespawn)||Idoneth Deepkin (Mor’Phann)|
|Legion of the First Prince||Slaves to Darkness (Ravagers)|
|Cities of Sigmar (Har Kuron)||Kharadron Overlords (Barak Zon)|
|Fyreslayers (Lofnir)||Ogor Mawtribes (Underguts)|
|Ossiarch Bonereapers (Mortis Praetorians)||Seraphon (Dracothion’s Tail)|
|Tzeentch (Guild of Summoners)||Flesh Eater Courts (Hollowmourne)|
|Big Waaagh!||Stormcast Eternals (Stormkeep)|
|Lethisian Defenders||Gloomspite Gitz|
|Sons of Behemat (Breaker Tribe)||Soulblight Gravelords (Kastelai Dynasty)|
Chimp (TO): I’m not much of a chaos player, hence the lack of god-based armies. But I also knew a bunch of our players would gravitate towards them, which was my real motivation for cutting them out. Some of the subfactions here were big giveaways as to what the army would likely be, and some were not, which was intentional.
Sam (Team A): I found this whole exercise deeply exciting and interesting- it was such a great opportunity to get to know a whole new army! I felt like there wasn’t much we could take from these factions at this stage – I knew the organisers well enough to suspect they’d get a kick out of trying to make “good” lists from “bad” allegiances, and vice versa.
My suggested strategy for the auction was basically to acknowledge how little we knew, and to come to terms with the fact that we probably wouldn’t be able to work out interesting interactions quickly enough to allocate our resources very efficiently. I wanted us to try and maximise our lists, to give us as much flexibility as possible in the draft phase, and to minimise the options the other team had. Obviously there would be some warscrolls we know are considered a bit undercooked and which might indicate a list to be missed, but generally I felt like we should try and bid reasonably competitively on most things.
Rich (Team A): I was resistant to the idea of listening to Sam, but ultimately he was right – by maximising the number of lists we could win in the auction we’d have a better hand to play with in the draft and be more likely to be able to counter Team B’s lists. 90 seconds isn’t long enough to flick through a battletome and work out what a list’s gimmick is, so we’d have to base our decisions on quick recognition and tournament scene knowledge. I think Chimp and Michael (second TO) knew this, and tried to throw in some lists that looked like comp builds but were actually subtly different.
Laura (Team B): We’d not done a huge amount of planning for the auction, because it was difficult to agree on a strategy until we knew what the lists were. There were a couple of things that we’d decided as a team:
- We wanted the Sons of Behemat list, because Focal Points is one of the scenarios and that gives extra points for monsters, so the Sons list should be very good at that.
- We wanted the Soulblight list, because at the time of the tournament they were new and cool and would be fun to play.
I’m primarily a duardin player, so I was hoping that either the Fyreslayer or Kharadron lists would be good. The Tzeentch list had potential to be interesting, because both teams had experienced Tzeentch players so we thought we might end up in a bidding war for that one.
I spent a lot of time building a spreadsheet to simulate the auction so that I could practice it. The first time I tried it out I’d spent all our imaginary money by the 12th list, so my strategy clearly needed some refinement there!
Tom (Team B): Okay well. Hmm. I play Khorne mostly, and am only very loosely familiar with the other armies, so immediately I see that my preferred choice of murder-men is not on the table at all. In a way this is freeing! I don’t have a specific thing I have to grab, so can be flexible and take more or less any other list with equal chance of success.
I know what some of these words mean, at any rate. A quick scan over the list list:
- Beasts Of Chaos: this is The Cockatrice List, right? Lots of cockatrices, lots of mortal wounds, not much else. I don’t think we need to prioritise this.
- Deepkin: Mor’Phann have a neat trick that allows them to revive lots of Namarti in one turn: at a guess, it’s that? Or it could just be the existing meta list with lots of eels.
- Underguts Ogors is something I’m familiar with – stacking buffs on a bunch of Ironblasters and making a huge gunline. I’ve never run it, but how hard can it be?
I’ve volunteered to join Laura as captain this time round – struck by some brief madness, I’m sure, so I should at least familiarise myself with the other lists, or at least try out her spreadsheet. I tend not to prepare much for this kind of thing, I just lose games like a cool person.
The auction itself
Each team had forty imaginary bucks to buy lists with. Each list in turn was revealed in full, and teams had ninety seconds to place a bid. The winning team secured the list, while the losing team kept their money. Each team needed to secure at least seven lists to be able to fully participate in the draft stage, with failure to do so being punished by having to run a special additional list designed by the TOs to be as bad as possible.
|List||Team A’s bid||Team B’s bid||Winning team|
|Ogor Mawtribes||3||4||Team B|
|Beasts of Chaos||3||1||Team A|
|Legion of the First Prince||2||1||Team A|
|Cities of Sigmar||3||2||Team A|
|Flesh Eater Courts||1||5||Team B|
|Ossiarch Bonereapers||6||5||Team A|
|Big Waaagh||1||3||Team B|
|Stormcast Eternals||0||1||Team B|
|Lethisian Defenders||1||2||Team B|
|Sons of Behemat||0||12||Team B|
|Idoneth Deepkin||2||1||Team A|
|Slaves to Darkness||2||0||Team A|
|Kharadron Overlords||6||1||Team A|
|Gloomspite Gitz||0||3||Team B|
|Soulblight Gravelords||0||3||Team B|
Chimp (TO): This was an absolute hoot. We struggled to think of an easy way to do this with revealing the lists but keeping the team bids secret. In the end we hit upon streaming ourselves reading them out like bingo callers on twitch and whilst I faffed around with that the other TO, Michael, constructed an extremely high effort presentation of the lists, complete with stress inducing timer music for bidding.
The teams will talk about their own thoughts here but some general observations from my end would be that the Deepkin list here was an absolute steal and the Kharadron was better than anyone gave credit for. Team A’s strategy of mildly overpaying the average on lists they thought might have some legs ended up with them having a strategically strong good mix of armies. I didn’t think anyone came out of this with an unplayable collection of armies to pick from though.
Laura (Team B): I think that went ok? We ended up with fewer lists than Team A, but I think a few of their lists are very bad (particularly the Tzeentch list, which has a bunch of Lords of Change and not a lot else), whereas we don’t have any complete duds, so it’s probably roughly honours even.
The way it worked out was they secured more lists early on, so we had more money and hence more leverage going into the second half of the auction. We then blew this completely by bidding twelve bucks on the Sons of Behemat list, which Team A bid nothing on! I don’t regret that though, I think the Sons list is strong and ought to give us a comfortable win on Focal Points.
Neither of the duardin lists turned out to be any good: the Fyreslayer list had five Magmadroths in which I don’t think has the board presence or damage potential to be competitive, and the Kharadron list was very Skywarden heavy, which I don’t rate as it doesn’t play into the army’s strengths. The other team clearly disagreed though, as they paid six bucks for the Kharadron list.
I think the lists that Team A ended up with that I’m most worried about are Nighthaunt (it looks solid, and they have a couple of good Nighthaunt players), Deepkin (it’s Namarti heavy, but probably still pretty good), and Har Kuron (it has Morathi in, and she’s always going to do work).
We haven’t secured any lists for factions we’ve previously played, so I’ll have to try something new. I’m one of the more experienced players in my team, so I’ll probably end up taking whatever no one else wants. I quite fancy the Sons list, but on the other hand playing the list we paid twelve bucks for could end up being quite a lot of pressure!
Tom (Team B): We need to win whatever game we put Sons of Behemat in. Our dignity is on the line. Twelve points for one list is bold, decisive captaining if we win, and folly in the extreme if we beef it. As such let me make another executive captaining decision: I’m not playing that list. (We won the Ogors at least: that doesn’t have any truly good places in the draft, I think, but I kinda know how to steer it.)
The seraphon list is an odd one, and in retrospect I think maybe we overpaid for it: it’s very tricksy and complex, and I don’t know if the scenarios really work with it. There’s lots of others I just don’t get (what’s the deal with the Slaves To Darkness? Archaon, a Sphiranx, and, uh, six Crypt Flayers?) but presumably the baffling ones won’t come up.
Sam (Team A): This was so much fun! I felt like we ended up following a version of the strategy I outlined above, and I felt pretty comfortable with the outcome. It seemed like Team B were holding out for better lists than we were, and were perhaps a bit less willing to take a risk on a list that wasn’t obviously good in the classical matched play sense. I think this meant we took some early lists that were perfectly viable without too much opposition. We also definitely took some total duds though!
The Tzeentch list is a particularly painful memory, although both teams certainly had some egg on their faces at the end… We also really overestimated how much Laura would want to play Kharadron, and how good Belakor might be- I think we were probably quite spooked by the reputations of some of our opponents with particular armies. On reflection we should have been much more scared of Soulblight as well.
This could have landed us in serious trouble in the back half of the draft, until the Sons of Behemat Debacle! I can see why Team B really wanted them- ultimately they were probably an auto win for one scenario- but I think they really overpaid. I truly wish I could say we knew that Cockatrices were also Monsters and therefore would be so tough on Focal Points too, but unfortunately we just got lucky.
I was also pretty confused as to why the Skaven list didn’t appeal to Team B- it looked a lot like one that Chimp, the TO, had done well with at a tournament, and while they might not be a totally hot meta list these days, in the context of this competition they seemed pretty good to me.
Rich (Team A): This was probably my favourite part of the whole event! Most of our guesses based on the Allegiances were way off, and it was great fun blind-reacting to the TO’s inventive list-building and trying to decide how much to bid.
In the few team events I’ve done, the drafting has always been a really fun part of the process – it’s the first adversarial clash of the teams, before any single list hits the battlefield, and can help captains to get a measure of the other teams’ strategies (or, indeed, which teams are taking it seriously and which aren’t!). This felt very much like an extension of that whole process, and made for an absolutely hilarious evening.
Two captains from each team carried out the draft. There were three scenarios to draft for: Total Conquest, Blade’s Edge and Focal Points. For each one the process was as follows: each team put forward one ‘attacker’ list. The other team then put forward two ‘defender’ lists to face off against that attacker, and then the ‘attacker’ team picked which of the defenders to play.
The match-ups we ended up with were:
|Scenario||Team A||Team B|
|Total Conquest||Cities of Sigmar||vs||Soulblight Gravelords|
|Total Conquest||Skaventide||vs||Ogor Mawtribes|
|Blade’s Edge||Ossiarch Bonereapers||vs||Lethisian Defenders|
|Blade’s Edge||Idoneth Deepkin||vs||Flesh Eater Courts|
|Focal Points||Beasts of Chaos||vs||Stormcast|
|Focal Points||Slaves to Darkness||vs||Sons of Behemat|
Sam (Team A): We came out of this draft pretty happy, I think- we had modeled it fairly well in advance, which I think took some of the pressure off our captains! I found it really helpful to think of the matchups in terms of “breaking serve”- I hadn’t appreciated before how useful it is to be the player putting down the army first, as long as your opponent can’t make you choose between two hard counters! We felt pretty good about two of the armies on “our serve” (Skaven and Idoneth), and very good about Beasts of Chaos, so we just needed to scrape a win in one of our opponents’ chosen match ups and we should be looking good!
Rich (Team A): I definitely appreciated how much we’d thought about this in advance, it made the drafting process pretty painless. Personally, I like and understand the Focal Points battleplan, so agreed to be one of the lists put forward for that with the idea that I would probably lose, but might be able to score some secondaries. Plus, I’d always wanted to try Archaon out!
Laura (Team B): I wasn’t super confident following the draft, I think we initially underestimated a couple of Team A’s lists. We only realised just before the draft that the Beasts of Chaos list would be very strong at Focal Points, because Focal Points gives extra points for monsters, and the list had fifteen Cockatrices, which are monsters! So I suspect we’ll struggle to win that game. And we also missed that while the Skaventide list didn’t have a Screaming Bell for battleshock immunity, it did have a Plague Furnace, which it turns out also grants battleshock immunity. So the Skaventide list was better than we were giving it credit for, and I thought it would be a tough match-up for our Ogors.
On the other hand, I thought our Sons of Behemat list was a strong favourite for the other Focal Points game. I was also fairly confident about Soulblight: it’s a strong list, and the player who would most likely be piloting it was well placed to take on Morathi, as he has a Daughters of Khaine army.
I was also pleased that we stopped Team A’s Nighthaunt list from seeing play: they put it down as one of the two defender lists for every scenario, but we chose the other list each time so it didn’t make it in. I was happy with that, as it’s a strong list and they had a couple of players with Nighthaunt experience.
Tom (Team B): Our priority was to stop the Nighthaunt list from seeing the table, because it’s the favourite of two of their players. Saying it like that doesn’t make me feel like a nice person.
Chimp (TO): I think Team B deeply undervalued their Big Waaagh! I sat in on each team’s chat and it was dismissed pretty quickly (presumably because it had a comedy massive unit of big stabbas) but it was fast and generated a lot of Waaagh points. Their strategy of keeping Team A’s Nighthaunt list off the table was a good one, I thought. Team A were really well served here by the depth of options they had compared to Team B.
Game 1: Sons of Behemat vs Slaves to Darkness.
Laura (Team B): My game ended up being the first one played. I ended up taking the Sons of Behemat list, because none of my teammates were keen to play it. I felt that there was quite a lot of pressure going into it, because the Sons list had been by far the most expensive at auction so if it didn’t win I was going to feel pretty silly! I was up against a bravery bomb Slaves to Darkness list: it had a lot of bravery debuffs and then a unit of Crypt Flayer mercenaries who do shooting damage based on bravery. It also had Archaon, who is always a threat. I will admit that I had no idea what this list did until I researched it after the draft, and I think it’s a decent pick from Team A.
My plan going into the game was to give him first turn, and hope I got the double turn going into battleround 2. If I didn’t get the double turn, I was expecting to lose one or two key pieces, but thought I’d hopefully be well positioned to take out the Crypt Flayers before they got more than one turn of shooting in.
I didn’t do much damage on my first turn aside from taking out some chaff, but I got lucky and got the double turn, and was able to charge in with pretty much everything. I took out Archaon and the Crypt Flayers without taking any losses, and we called it there. I don’t think I displayed any great tactical acumen, and getting the double turn was definitely fortunate, but it was nice to start off with a win.
Rich (Team A): There’s not really a lot to say beyond Laura’s summary! I did manage to get a secondary objective, so at least I didn’t limp home completely empty handed. The Gatebreaker Mega-Gargant with the Aqshian relic for extra attacks is a scary prospect, and even if that is focused down there’s still a lot of other big threats to deal with! Gargants counting as multiple models was also a challenge to watch out for, as my only real opportunity to counter that was with big blocks of Marauders. Marauders have the staying power of candy floss in a rain storm, so not exactly the most solid foundation!
I feel like the 1-2 double turn really destroyed my chances, to the point that we called the game afterwards. Based on what my army did manage to do in that combat phase, I’m pretty confident that had I won the turn rolloff the game would have lasted a lot longer, although it does feel like I was destined to either be destroyed by the Gargants or outscored on points.
Still, if my team has seen further, it is only by giants standing on my shoulders.
In game 2, Team B continued their winning streak as the Soulblight Gravelords overcame the forces of Har Kuron. But then the tide turned, and Team A won the next three games. That left Sam vs Tom in the final game, with Team B needing a decisive victory to come out on top.
Game 6: Skaventide vs Ogor Mawtribes.
Sam (Team A): Tragically I missed lots of these games, but Tom and I played the last game of the whole tournament against each other- I was Skaven against his Ogors. I was in a pretty good situation to start with, as a great win from our Idoneth Deepkin against their Flesh Eater Courts had already “broken serve”, and combined with some good auxiliary objective play, I just had to lose by less than 7-1 to bring home the team victory.
I fell in love with the Skaven list while learning it. I had three really good sources of damage in the Plague Monks, Stormfiends, and Doomwheel, as well as lots of good screening and some fun magic- what more could you want? The Ogor list had some really serious beef, but I knew that the Leadbelchers would be under pressure to both stand still and make the most of those horrible D6 shots each, while also wanting to book it onto the objectives as quickly as possible! I wanted to establish an early presence on the two neutral objectives, bait the Ogors into coming towards me, and then really open fire with the Stormfiends while hopefully getting off a decent charge with the Plague Monks.
In the end, something a bit like that happened. I was very lucky to win two priority rolls, and the terrain we selected meant that the firing arcs for the Leadbelchers were a little complicated – there was also a very usefully placed piece of entangling terrain which ended up causing some coherence difficulties for one of the units of Leadbelchers.
There were still some pretty Skaveny goings on (the Ironguts wiped out all 40 Plague Monks in one combat, and the Plague Priest managed to survive a turn of shooting on only one wound before immediately rolling a 1 on a prayer and imploding, the Horned Rat cackling in his ears), but we shook hands on a Skaven victory after the Stormfiends cleaned up the Ironguts. Team A had taken it!
Tom (Team B)
Sam has more eloquently described our game than I could, so I shan’t repeat his words. It’s very kind of him to use the phrase “coherence difficulties” – it was a straight up unforced error fuckup on my part, where to avoid the entangling terrain I made a hideous conga-line of rippling ogre-flesh, without realising that the Ogor with wounds assigned to him was in the middle. The rats landed a few hits, half the unit was lost to coherency, and most of the rest fled.
My basic plan was originally to pour everything into the Stormfiends, and was immediately thrown into disarray by the fact that Sam kept them back, well out of range. I think this was an opportunity to deal as much damage as possible before they came into play, but between poor placement and some dodgy dice, I wasn’t able to put enough hurt on the Clanrats, or make a serious push for either objective. The spontaneous disassembly of the Plague Furnace was fun, and felt like pretty much the only thing keeping me in the fight – as was the Ironguts popping an entire unit of Plague Monks like boils. Ultimately though, I just hadn’t put myself in a good enough position to survive once the Stormfiends came online.
In addition, I’ve not won a priority roll since January 2020, which is just shy of one half of the entirety of second edition. Here’s hoping third edition blesses me with more luck, because Christ knows I won’t get far just on skill.
Sam (Team A): Trying to pinpoint what cost Team B the win, I think there was one thing in particular that separated the teams. Obviously dice had their say, as they always do, but I think the real difference was made at the auction. I think both teams walked away from the draft feeling that they’d played the armies they had fairly optimally, and each team’s top 4 or so armies were probably comparable, but our 5th, 6th, and 7th best armies were perhaps a little stronger, as we’d probably been more willing to throw bucks at armies that seemed broadly fine. While the burning shame of picking up an army composed of four Lords of Change and a handful of cultists will certainly never quite fade, victory was a soothing balm.
Laura (Team B): I agree with Sam, in hindsight Team A came out of the auction with a better mix of lists than we did. In particular, we should have bid more for the Cockatrice list, and we underestimated the Skaven list. It was a shame we didn’t manage to stay the course after going 2-0 up after the first two games, but it was a really fun format and I enjoyed playing something a bit different (to the extent that I’ve started painting up a Sons of Behemat list for AoS 3.0).
Tom (Team B): Chimp was talking about his pride in how many people got new armies based off the lists they played in the event, and he didn’t quite get me. I’d already sold an entire Ogor army without ever assembling them, see, and buying them back would have made me pretty sheepish. I won’t pretend I’m not looking askance at the Start Collecting Clan Pestilens, though. This was a great event! It knocked me out of my comfort zone, and gave me confidence to run a merely A-tier list without expecting to be smeared across the landscape by whatever the S-Tier hotness was.
Rich (Team A): I absolutely loved this event. Chimp didn’t succeed in making me start a new army off the back of this, given Archaon’s rapid demise under a Mega-Gargant’s foot, but it did make me think more about competitive events and list building, and how much I enjoy it. So I started a Lumineth army.
In conclusion, it was a hard fought and very entertaining tournament that took advantage of online gaming via Tabletop Simulator to bypass the usual restriction of having to build army lists from the models that players own. It required a larger time investment from the TO than most tournament structures would have done, but generated a lot of enjoyment from players, the TOs, and interested spectators as the players got to grips with weird combos and lists that would never otherwise have be seen on the gaming table. We’d definitely recommend the format to any other group looking to run a Tabletop Simulator Age of Sigmar tournament.