The Athens ETC chronicles - impressions, highlights and list evaluation

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  • The next day: ETC impressions, highlights and list evaluation

    So, the ETC 2016 came to a close: The Italians got the title, following an almost flawless showing, the French managed to fight their way to the podium, and Belgium did not finish last! We actually ended up at 19th place, one spot ahead from the Netherlands (which is apparently a big deal and gives us bragging rights for a year *) without ever getting wrecked. We faced two of the big teams (Sweden and Denmark), two upcoming teams (Australia and Turkey) and another two that were about our level of commitment (Serbia and Greece). All of my games were enjoyable, some more tense than others, and my opponents were all good guys and perfect sportsmen.

    *a running joke is that the Dutch come to our tournaments to steal our prizes (and for a good part of 8th edition it was true!), so it was about time that the tables turned.

    The Athens 2016 ETC was a first for me, so going in I had a lot of «a priori»; I was pleasantly surprised, and left with the best impressions.

    Top 6 things at this year’s ETC:

    • Amazing, fully painted armies: with stories such as the 2015 insect daemon army and with the TunaSloops issue flooding the social media, one could easily assume that the painting and modelling standard of the ETC is low. On the contrary, I saw a lot of beautiful models, themed armies and amazing conversions. It is a pity that I didn’t have more time to roam the hall and take pictures, but I’m sure others did.
    • Friendly, fun opponents: Barring a (very) small incident with my Swedish opponent, all my games were fun and the people I got to meet were perfect gentlemen. No «win at all costs» attitude, but rather a sportsman’s approach of wanting to give the person across a challenging, high level game.
    • The overall atmosphere: 24 countries, people passionate for this hobby engaging in conversation right and left, the tension of the draw/pairings and the sense of camaraderie that we were left with after each round: In following rounds, you’d cross paths with opponents from previous rounds, discuss their other games, wish them good luck (and mean it!).
    • The Belgian Team: my intro post in this blog doesn’t do these guys justice. Not only great players and hobbyists, but also with a positive outlook, and the right mindset that meant that we never had an issue (even when things went bad for us). We all enjoyed our games, smiled with our wins while also whining about dice, pairings and lists when we lost. A pack of fine gentlemen! One can only hope that the team will stay the same for next year.
    • The venue: ETC is the biggest wargaming tournament I know of, and the venue reflected this. An Olympic Stadium, a few meters from the sea, with a veritable arena in which we fought our battles. I hope that T9A will continue growing, and we’ll get to play in ever bigger venues, with more teams!
    • Getting to meet a lot of the staff members of T9A. After working alongside them for a year, it’s good to be able to put some faces to the names. Shout out to @tiny (tireless T9A reporter extraordinaire) @el rey (We’ll get you next time! We just need to quit our day jobs and practice 24/7 to get to your level of play!) @Groefte (had the matchup down as a -1, in hindsight I should have put it as a +2 so we’d get to play a battle!) @Maelstorm (same deal as above, and shame on you for not defending the honour of the forest! :) ) @Stampede (most british-sounding Swedish guy I’ve ever met, and brutally effective Sylvan Elf player) @Herminard (Well deserved sportsman award, a pleasure to have finally met you! Next year we’ll get our pre-ETC match in, I’ll make sure!) @kgkid (FIghtiest dwarf army, and fighting in a kilt in honour of the Irish! A true dwarf!) @Warboss Tooth and @blonde beer (their videos do capture part of the ETC’s charm) @KeyserSoze @Giladis and @Lagerlof for the thankless task of refereeing and the many more that I forgot. T9A is a community project, and it certainly felt so at the ETC!

    Setting the social part of the event aside for a while, let’s look at the gaming aspect:

    The games at the ETC were less open than what I like. When your decisions have an impact on 7 more players, you tend to risk less and play more conservatively. However, each of the games had its moments, and I always got my maneuver fix, even against corner hammer armies.

    As some of the blog readers have pointed out, had my opponents played a more aggressive game I would have probably been able to get more points because the more you move, the easier it is to make a mistake. Against an MSU SE list, one opening is enough to tip the battle to the elves’ favor.

    In the end, I managed to win 5 out of 6 games, only losing by a small margin against the Swedish Vermin Swarm, and gathering a total of 83 tournament points. I was very happy about the result, especially since two out of 6 matchups I had marked as «can go either way» and one of them as a loss.

    Before the ETC, we had a discussion about secondary objectives and their impact on the game, and my team mates pressured me into getting an extra scoring unit. It turned out to be a good decision, since I never lost a secondary objective, and actually scored the secondary objective 5 out of 6 times.

    How did the pairings and scenarios impact the games?

    Going into the tournament, there were certain army lists that I didn’t want to face: Infernal Dwarves Kadim spam, Sylvan Elf Avoidance, Skysloop spam and Empire light council. I managed to avoid most of them, and more importantly I got to play favorable scenarios; I find the Secure Target scenario the more difficult to win reliably, so I was glad to not play it.

    But ultimately, the list was essentially an all-comers army and able to give most opponents a run for their money. So a brief evaluation of the army entries:

    • Characters: (B+) cheap, reliable, and survivable. I was reluctant to leave the Shapeshifter at home, but I think it was a good choice. Characters in my list are there to keep the battleline together and provide magic support, the heavy lifting is done by the units.
    • Sylvan Archers: (B) very versatile with the Black Arrows, moving and shooting kept them out of harm’s way. They gave me a solution for the Flagellants in game 1 and for the Minotaur Warlords in game 3. In smaller units I’d be able to play them more aggressively and make the most out of their S4 shooting, but the unit of 18 can actually take a round of shooting and come out on top.
    • Heath Riders (A-): Did their job pretty well, helping score objectives in 3 games. Having a unit of 110 points not participate in the battle is a bit counter-intuitive, but in the end the 6 tournament-point swing is worth it. If only they didn’t die on game 2...
    • Dryad skirmishers (C+): A glorified bunker for my Matriarch General, they stayed alive most of the time. When it came to fighting, their skill left a lot to be desired. Still, skirmish, T4 and ward save 5+ is why I brought them, and the potential screening antics could have proven invaluable against gunlines.
    • Forest Guard (A-): What’s not to like? Anti-cavalry properties, good defense in close combat thanks to the WS5 and a reasonably cheap way of getting some ranks in the SE army. The Icon of Gleaming allowed them to perform independently, and their presence won me at least 2 games (Game 1 vs Empire, they were pivotal in breaking the Spearmen and winning me the secondary objective and game 3 vs Beasts, where their sacrifice pulled the minotaurs right where I wanted them to be).
    • Kestrel Knights (A): Fast, hard hitting, reliable. It’s not what they did, but what they forced my opponents to do. 30 inch flying move on turn 1 (if you factor in the vanguard move) makes people very reluctant to deploy aggressively. In the Beast Herd games, very important part of the army. 153 points may seem like much for redirector duty, but the fact that they can multitask makes that ok in my book: if I really need a redirector, I want one that is alive by turn 4 (Forest Eagles are a lot less survivable). The final game portrayed nicely why the Skirmisher upgrade is so great: they survived 100+ orc bow shots unscathed!
    • Wild Huntsmen (B): Again, cheap enough to sacrifice, hard-hitting enough to not be ignored. Their Frenzy put them in awkward positions on several occasions, and the enemy mages had a field day zapping them. But where they shone was zoning: place a unit on the field, and watch the enemy make an 18 inch circle around it. Helped me win the objectives by keeping people honest and in their corner.
    • Blade Dancers: (A) the real hard-hitters of the list. They took on minotaurs, centaurs, ranked infantry, Pegasus Knights, you name it. And they took one for the team when needed. If I had the models, I’d never leave home without 3 units of them.
    • Thicket Beasts (B): These are the unit I’m most torn about. It’s nice to have a unit that can fight solo if need be, but these spent a lot of time hiding from warmachines and geting into position late-game. Their psychological impact was bigger than their actual participation in my battles, but they would have come in very handy if my opponents had decided to push. (Their presence was what kept the KoE troops in check on game 4) I’m looking foward to shifting them to their S4 version, and adding a unit of Forest Ranger for some S5 AP1 that I can actually expose to cannons.
    • Briar Maidens (A+): the stars of my list. The whole Briar Maiden thing started with me trying to prove a point (that Briar Maidens were actually pretty good even without multiple shot (2) and/or fast cavalry), but after 4 months, this unit of 10 cav has won me more games than I can count. Great spells, awesome anti-monster potential, guaranteed warmachine sniping (even if you fail to kill the machine with poison, the regular hits do the job, or –at worse- the charge you’ll be declaring on the following turn). Losing them to panic checks twice was a bummer, but that’s dice for you.

    I could go on for pages about lists and in-game tactics, but I think that I’ll stop here, for now.

    Thanks for following this series, it has been a blast writing it and reliving the ETC experience all over again! I look forward to your comments, and will be updating this blog soon enough with my new adventures! (hint: they are short, fast and «you’re coming with them» :) )

    I'll leave you with this photo:

    "A Greek, A Turk (@'LegioIgnatum') and a Norwegian walk into a bar"
    (for history, Hermund signed the Norway T-shirt with "Herminard Approves" and I responded by admitting in written form that all of my Battle reports are actually made up and totally fictional.)

    Until the next time,


    1,310 times read

Comments 9

  • Swordmaster -

    Hello Mr. Smith!

    Many thanks for the excellent reports! They brought some great memories from the time of Battle Reports section. :)

    Congratulations on a very good performance! I was very happy to see you compete at ETC and even more so with MSU army! I know that not many teams would allow this type of an army among their ranks, certainly not in the combined arms like yours version.

    It is good to know you had a great time despite the fact 5 out of 6 games were against corner-hammer. And it is simply fantastic that you could show case your favorite style, contribute to the team effort enormously and on top of that bring amazing battle reports in virtually no time.

    I can only dream about the day when majority of participants would follow your example in every aspect. T9A is extremely lucky to have you on board to promote the game in such a great manner!


    • SmithF -

      Thanks a lot for the kind words, Swordie!

      I'd recommend the ETC to any tournament player, as long as he goes with a different mindset than the singles. My team are a bunch of awesome guys, and we were fully aware that we weren't fighting for the first spot. So nobody really raised any objections about the MSU (I did go to some lengths explaining that I'd prefer to play with a full gnoblar army than being forced to play avoidance elves all tournament long :D).

      Kings of War had its test ETC event this year, I think it went well and people had fun: thinking about getting in a team next year? Perhaps next year we'll meet up for a couple of pre-ETC initiation games: you'll teach me how to play games without removing wounds and I'll try to remind you what it's like to actually roll dice during your opponent's phase. :D

      In any case, I'm really glad to see you still roaming these parts! Stay tuned, more reports will be coming in after the summer vacation.

    • Swordmaster -

      You welcome!

      But if not for your reports I would not really check this website, so keep them coming :)

      I know KoW made some presence this year and it is nice considering how young the system is. It would be great to have that gaming event expanding, even if it may pose some logistic problems in the future.

      If I were still in Europe I would consider going for holidays and at least paying a visit to say hello. Being on the other side of the globe makes it much more difficult. But we will see! A lot can change in a year! :)

      I would definitely love to meet in person and have some games, no matter in which system! Until then there is always UB :P


  • Petterwass -

    The Tunasloops will live fover in our hearts!

  • Herminard -

    Most enjoyable, Sir!

  • Maccamonger -

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your blogs throughout and after the ETC event, really appreciate the effort and commitment.
    It made me feel like I was actually there (I wish I had been).

  • Fleshbeast -

    Great series mate. We really appreciate all the effort you put in for SE and in general!

  • tiny -

    Need more report! :D Will you be able to join the Official T9A Masters in November?

    • SmithF -

      That's the plan, our team is already signed up for it! Now it's only a matter of getting that weekend off...
      (Fingers crossed!)