Part 2 -- The Day of Battle
No plan of battle ever survives contact with the enemy.
General Heinz Guderian
I arrived at GenCon's Miniatures Hall early Saturday and made sure I was well fed and rested. Brian Mackey may have been able to win the 2004 Championship while suffering from food poisoning, but I doubted that I could equal that performance. Players began filtering into the hall, and I got to meet a lot of friendly people whose names I recognized. Unfortunately, one of those wasn't Brian Mackey. Much to everyone's disappointment, he was unable to attend and defend his champion status.
One thing that has always impressed me about the DDM tournament environment is how friendly everyone is. While everyone there is a serious player, seldom is the competition soiled by the extreme cutthroat tactics that sometimes hold sway in other tournament environments. Rarely do you see a sore loser or a gloating winner. I sometimes wonder if this can be attributed to the luck factor in this game, which can occasionally humble even the best of us.
Another thing that impressed me was the attention given by the designers. They wandered through the hall the entire time with notepads, observing games, asking questions, and cooing over player innovations such as my first-round opponent's clever combination of dice and counters to make an aesthetically pleasing and practical stat tracker for his minis, or even the benefits of my simple base flocking. They handed out free LOS tools and made sure all the players got this year's promo minis. All of this added up to another reason to love DDM.
After the initial greetings, the first order of business on everyone's mind was verifying their estimates regarding the state of the metagame. Jesse's estimates proved fairly accurate. The only surprise for me was the last minute substitution of Quad Red Samurai bands as a counter for the many Triple Chraal bands. Several players brought two or three bands with them and decided which to play only after confirming the state of the metagame. On the surface, this seemed quite clever, but some of these were warbands that the players had never tested in actual games. Having a superior band is no substitute for knowing how to play the one you have. I can't count the number of times I have discovered that how a warband worked in theory and how it worked in practice were two completely different things.
Round 1: My first match of the day went very unexpectedly. I was up against a Beholder + 2 Gauth band (thank goodness I included the Efreeti). Shortly after we sat down, my opponent realized that one of his minis was the wrong one. He bolted off to find the right one and had no sooner left the hall than "start" was called for the match. I waited patiently, but after ten minutes the judges called the match in my favor. I felt bad for my opponent, so when he returned, we agreed to play the game anyway. I did win, which made us both feel better about the forfeit, and I got a no-pressure opportunity to practice on the championship map. In what proved to be a prescient question, I asked the judges what my opponent should have done. The response was that he should have used a proxy. This would have earned him a Warn, but he would have gotten to play.
Round 2: My opponent in round 2 used my worst nightmare, an Archmage band. So much for playing the odds. On top of that, I couldn't find one of my Warrior Skeletons. A brief search by all proved fruitless, so I used a proxy and took the Warn. After only three rounds of play, the one-minute warning was called. I was two victory points down and my opponent still had four creatures to move. Here again is an example of the sportsmanship I admire in DDM players. My opponent could have easily taken a full minute to move his four remaining creatures and won. But when I requested he do his best to allow me another turn, he magnanimously obliged. The final round came down to a single die roll, a rally attempt for my routing Orog. A group of players had gathered around anxiously and held their breath as I stood up for the final save. The roll succeeded. I shook hands with my opponent, stepped back from the table and felt something under my foot. It was my missing Warrior Skeleton.
Round 3: My opponent was the youngest player there, an 11-year-old playing a Beholder-Soth band. Despite my best playing and the valiant efforts of a Warrior Skeleton pinning the dread Beholder, both my opponent's dice and mine teamed up to give me a sound thrashing. Again the game came down to a single, breathless die roll, but this time I lost. Remember what I mentioned earlier about luck humbling the best of us? I knew I would need to win all my remaining matches from then on, but at least my typical bad luck loss was out of the way.
Round 4: This was another worrisome match-up, a Large Silver Dragon band -- not as scary as the Archmage but bad enough. My Efreeti proved surprisingly durable, however, and occupied his dragon long enough for the rest of my creatures to defeat his support troops. My Blue proved its worth by confusing his Cleric of Dol Arrah just long enough to win a critical initiative. It was also one of my most enjoyable games because my opponent played in a relaxed manner that allowed me to relax as well.
Round 5: This was my first match against another Chraal band. My choice of the Efreeti gave me victory over his triple-Chraal/Blackguard/Kobold Sorcerer.
Round 6: This was a CE Quad Beater band. I expected the large size, reach, high saves, and AC of my own band to prove an advantage in this battle, and I was not disappointed.
Round 7: This was another fun game with a relaxed player, proving that you can both do well and have fun in DDM tournaments. My opponent fielded an interesting combination of Chraal, Efreeti, Human Blackguard, and Ghostly Consort. I had a slight advantage going into the final rounds, but a failed Tyrannical Morale save on my opponent's Efreeti assured my victory.
Next week, I discuss my finals match against Jason Lioi and why he truly deserves to be called the Champ.
About the Author
Bill W. Baldwin lives on the Space Coast of Florida with his gaming family of a wife, two daughters, and assorted pets. He started playing D&D in 1974 and was a wargamer and miniatures gamer even before that. Bill has been published in Dragon Magazine and does freelance work for Wizards of the Coast.