‘Tournament play’ is a term that has always held negative connotations to me. These four syllables conjure up images of fat troll-like nerds wearing too much clothing and too little deodorant as they sweat their way through a competition where the winner is decided by whoever can be the most obnoxious in using obscure rules references and bullying of their opponent to gain an advantage while announcing every successful roll of the dice with a fist pump and a loud “Yes!” that sends their bingo-wings and multiple chins wobbling. Despite a lingering suspicion that I was the fat nerd, Saturday’s events proved me oh-so wrong about tournaments.
Hertfordshire is rapidly becoming a hotbed of highly skilled tournament players, soon set to rival the lethal Tohaa players of the stormy South-Coast or the deadly Ariadnan stronghold in the grim North. Well, not quite, but there’s a few of us that regularly meet up at various social clubs and church halls across East Anglia to politely throw dice in each other’s general direction while apologising for every crit and graciously allowing mistakes to be corrected. And what could be more pleasant than a genteel and good-natured four-person mini-tournament in a pilates studio in upper-middle class Berkhamstead?
The air of propriety was slightly tarnished by both Laina’s Facebook message and the tank-like sound of the turbo on my Fiesta-ST [the ‘chav-mobile’], as I squealed to a stop outside of her house. “I might be a bit late, I’m printing my lists and trying not to vom.” Laina sent, this time her message at least legible after far too much wine in celebration of half-term. Handing over a Purdeys and cranking up the aircon in the hopes of preventing the threatened regurgitation all over my bright orange Recaro seats, it was off to the tournie!
In the interests of variety I would be playing my embarrassingly unpainted Neoterra Capitaline Army rather than my fully painted Qapu Khalqi. Facing me would be Laina’s Haqqislam, Matt’s Nomads, and Peter’s Aleph. Knowing that I would be facing lots of smoke and TO:Camo, I opted not to take any units with MSV2. That’s what comes from trying to quickly write your lists before the laptop dies because you can’t be arsed to get the charger from downstairs. As per the ITS rules I brought two lists, one with Bolts and one without, using the no-Bolts lists as an opportunity to try out one of the new units from HSN3, the Locust, proxied by an Akali Commando.
Putting our dice into a carrier bag, reminiscent of parties they used to have in the 70s for somewhat different reasons, Matt reached into the plastic bag of fate and drew… my blue, white and red die.
Round 1 – Neoterra vs. Corregidor – Supremacy
Winning the WIP roll I opted to go first, as I would in every game I played today. Supremacy was a mission that I had played a few times, but never won, largely due to focusing too much on the antennas and not moving up the board quickly enough. Needing some staying power I opted for list B, aiming to advance the Bolts while spraying dropbears in all directions.
Things began well for Neoterra, the Bolt missile launcher climbing the ladder to send a well aimed shot at the exposed Wildcat link team leader, exploding her into unconsciousness. The Swiss Guard then introduced the Nomads to Mr. Machinegun, moving up to secure the centre of the board, while the FO Auxilia switched on an antenna. The Bolts then took up a dropbear surrounded defensive position in the far-left quadrant after hacking another console and killing a Moran, waiting for the inevitable Nomad backlash.
Revealing a camo-token to be an HMG toting Intruder, the Assault Commando took apart the Bolt link with surgical precision. When the smoke cleared the only remaining conscious member of the link was the spitfire.
A suspicious camo-token then moved suspiciously towards the Swiss Guard. Confident in my star player’s ability to deal with both long and short-ranged threats, I waited patiently for the inevitable reveal. Bandit! Round 1 went to the Swiss, with his three Suppressive Fire shots outrolling the Bandit’s CC attack, although the Nomad annoyingly made his save. Round two and the knock-out went to the Bandit, his DA weapon proving too much for the Swiss Guard’s finely tooled armour.
Turn two was spent resurrecting members of the fallen link and moving to secure quadrants with my cheerleaders. Managing to fend off Nomad drop troops it came down to the final order of the final turn, my Auxilia peering over his Auxbot to get an unlikely hit with his combi-rifle on an infiltrating Alguaciles.
Neoterra 6 – 3 Corregidor
A hard fought victory, neither of us had much up at the end. The win would still have been mine, but the marksman Auxilia managed to increase the winning margin.
Round 2 – Neoterra vs. Aleph – Highly Classified
Probably the match-up I was most apprehensive about as Peter was a regular tournie goer on the Soutch Coast and I had never faced Aleph before, the A:I beginning to show its true colours by turning its puppet robots on its Pan Oceanic masters. Wanting to try out the Locust, I opted to go with list A.
Things again began well, the Locust detonating its D-Charges to destroy a crate for no reason, but gaining Sabotage. The hacker then moved up, unlucky to go down to AROs despite its ODD. I completely forgot it was a hacker, otherwise I would probably have attempted to gain another Classified by performing a Data Scan. The Fusilier link then moved up to gain a commanding position on the train at the centre of the board.
My fears came true as the Aleph ODD’d, remoted and camo’d up the board, my face falling each time I asked what negative MOD I would be facing or when a No Wound Incapacitation token was placed. Watching in horror as the once-proud Fusilier link were destroyed, the only rays of hope were Penthesilia failing to stab the Fusilier missile launcher to death and the Swiss Guard putting a wound on the Myrmidon hacker while also securing Extreme Prejudice by granting the Lord’s mercy to an unconscious post-human.
However any hopes of a Pan Oceanic comeback were dashed by Penthesilia remembering to turn off the safety on her monofilament blade, liquidising the Fusilier before launching into combat with the Swiss Guard.
“Monofilament means you go straight to dead”.
“But what about my armour?”
“It ignores armour.”
“But what about my two wounds?”
“It ignores multiple wounds.”
“So you’re telling me that my Swiss Guard is just dead?”
In Loss of Lieutenant and with the Neoterrran resistance crushed, Peter was free to complete all of his Classified Objectives for a Total Victory.
Neoterra 4 – 10 Aleph
This defeat left me needing a Total Victory in my last game if I was to stand any chance of coming out on top overall. Compounding my misery was the realisation I had left my Dronbot with HMG off the table. Twat.
Round 3 – Neoterra vs. Corregidor – Comms Centre
Win, lose or draw, I was really excited to play this mission, being a fan of complicated Paradiso-like scenarios. Relegated to the bottom table, I was also in much more familiar territory, playing with my own scenery, which had just about survived the lowered suspension in the back of the chav-mobile. List A seemed most likely to net the win, with lots of specialists to programme the 9 Antennas.
Now on auto-pilot due to mental fatigue I again chose to go first. As in the previous games things began fairly well. Three Antennas were hacked in my favour, with the Locust securing a commanding view on top of the titty bar and the Fusilier link occupying the centre of the building.
An aggressive Auxilia forced an infiltrating Intruder to reveal, right in the sights of the Locust, who I promptly wasted in a match-up with said Intruder, my tired brain not registering that its MSV2 ignored my ODD. The Intruder then accounted for my missile launcher Fusilier, who got greedy and was rewarded with Double Action ammunition to the face. The last order was spent moving the now-remembered Dronbot to gain a commanding line of fire down the central street.
TAG time! The Gecko lumbered round the corner, tearing the guts out of the Fusilier link with its twin Mk12s, my Lieutenant surviving the hail of gunfire to crawl away like a coward into the building. However, it ‘aint over til the fat lady sings, or, in my case, until the saintly sociopath, the Swiss Guard, murders everything. Confident in his ability to wreck face the defender of the Holy See of San Pietro revealed to Surprise Shot both the Intruder and a spitfire Wildcat. Space Jesus was not on his side however as the Swiss somehow lost both F2F rolls, dropping Unconscious.
Despite this major setback I was still favourite to secure the most Antennas, turn 2 ending with four consoles programmed by the Neoterrans compared to only two for Corregidor.
Revenge for the death of the Swiss was swift in coming, with the Dronbot, dropped into unconsciousness by the Intruder sniper, restored by the Machinist’s trusty monkey wrench. The robot then brought the Gecko and a Daktari into its sights, impassively gunning down both with an electrical impulse from its silicon brain, the Gecko hilariously [for me] failing three straight armour saves. With the Dronbot locking down the consoles on the left of the table and limited orders remaining for the elite Nomad force, the only play was for the space-dwelling furries to convert my titty bar Antenna back into their control.
And that is exactly what they did, successfully hacking the winning Antenna with the last order of the game, as well as securing maximum VPs through scoring a Classified and killing both more specialists and more points.
Neoterra 0 – 10 Corregidor
Overall TPs – 2
Final placing – 4th!
Despite taking home the wooden spoon, I can’t be too disappointed. If you’re uhming and ahing about running a mini-tournament, do it, it’s awesome. Possibly the most fun you can have fully-clothed for less than a fiver [although two cans of Special Brew and a KitKat comes in a close second]. Peter, the lovely chap, bought an ITS prize box as a pressie for us all, and let me have first dibs on the loot as a consolation prize for being shit. Chuffed to bits with my Swiss Guard patch, Pan O dogtags and cool camo maker, I can’t wait for my next tournie in Leeds. I may only be 934th in the world, but Leicester won the Premiership this season…
Finally, congrats to Laina on her first place and first ITS tournie win! If the prize had been made up of her swearbox on Saturday it would probably have equaled the Mayweather Pacquiao purse, but the stream of profanities clearly helped Laina to ignore her hangover and focus on the win, securing a Total Victory over Peter’s Aleph on the top table.