Château de Chillon on the border of Lake Geneva at the end of a hot summer day right before a thunder storm moves in.
Hello everyone, this is Parcival, your Swiss dude from across the big pond, reporting from the first couple days of the European Team Championships 2011 in Montreux, Switzerland.
The main event when the national teams battle each other is this Saturday and Sunday and as I am writing this, Team USA and all others are going to their gaming tables.
Team Switzerland performing final preparations
First I have to admit that I am not into competitive gaming at all. I came to this year’s Wargames Con for playing the Armageddon campaign in the narrative track and it was a blast. Wreaking havoc with Honda Cowabunga and Rabscuttle in Apocalypse games is the best 40K ever from my point of view. The main reason I went to the ETC 2011 was to see Team USA again after I met parts of it in Austin already. I can’t state enough that it’s a very big honor to have Team USA over here. As soon as you enter the ETC hall, you are confronted with what makes this event so great: you have gamers from all over the world sharing their hobby. With English as the lingua franca you can easily approach anybody and chat away with them immediately. Team USA invested a lot of time, money, and love for the game to make the trip to Montreux and it’s this dedication from all gamers that makes this event happen after all. With Team Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa also joining the crowd I think the ETC could almost be considered the World Cup in Warhammer.
Looks like Sanguinius is beating Horus this time.
In the ETC, every nation has to present eight players with an army of their choice. Those players usually come up with army lists considered to be tough, so you see many Guard, Dark Eldar, Space Wolves etc. lists according to the current meta game. I observed an English test game between Space Wolves and Dark Eldar and it was obvious what was going to happen. I never met those dudes before, but I have seen similar lists in the web. Deviations from that norm are possible, however. For example, Team Switzerland would have loved to include a Grey Knights’ player, but couldn’t find any with enough experience in our small community.
The Swiss Blood Angels list is a bunch of foot slogging Terminators, Devastators and Assault Squads with Jump Packs – nothing close to the Razorback spam and Descent of Angels you see in the internet these days. With all players and lists defined, nations are being matched against each other and every member of nation A is playing somebody else from nation B. Every nation’s captain is trying to make sure that he can achieve favorable match ups as you don’t want your Ork Hordes have to face the other nation’s Leaf Blower.
All army lists are published prior to the event, so every team invests considerable amounts of time into play testing combos they may encounter. The captain of Team Switzerland has prepared an entire playbook telling him who of the Swiss players should preferably face any other player from any other nation in any given round. If Team Switzerland has to face Team USA and Team USA presents Darkwynn first, the Swiss captain already knows who has the honor to bring Darkwynn down to his knees (or desperately try to bring him down…). These pairings can be crucial for either winning or losing ETC. Team USA’s approach to “strategy” was much more subtle as they talked everything through over a dinner and beers where I was politely excluded from. At the ETC, everybody is very friendly and easy going, but when it comes to gaming they are all professionals.
Team USA waiting for dinner with Pizza Hawaii (ham and pineapple), Dürüm, Kebab and Uludag (Lemonade for true Orks).
So even before the ETC main event starts, there’s a whole lot going on. On Thursday, the individual championships took place for anybody who cared to enter that. Rumors say some Finnish guy won 40K and that there were three guys clapping their hands at the award ceremony, so things can surely be improved in the future to add some glamour to the individual championships as well. Other gamers even pulled their tables out of the ETC hall, which was located right on the border of the lake, and had some casual games intermixed with beers and dips in the lake. Playing Warhammer in your swim trunks, how cool is that?
Swimming in the lake was banned later, but Warhammer at the border of Lake Geneva is darn refreshing!
Friday was kind of a slow day as there was no official program, but the ETC hall was open for games, so many nations took the opportunity to do some additional play testing. Team England was up and running early, looks like they are living the creed “train hard, fight easy”. Others like Team Australia clocked in around 1:00 p.m. or even later. Team USA took the opportunity for a day trip to Château de Chillon, a Swiss castle dating as far back as 1160. Nobody knows what happened within those walls exactly, but rumors say Darwynn got a wicked glow in his eyes when he was in the chamber of torture.
Friday was also a good opportunity to check out the World Miniature Expo where the ETC 2011 is an integral part of. The expo hosted a couple smaller vendors mostly into historic wargaming, but for us the most notable vendor was Mantic Games presenting their Kings of War and Warpath games – their lips were sealed about the 8th race, however. At the expo you could also admire the astonishing miniatures in the painting contest; the samples in this article were entries to that contest. There were quite a few 40K, Fantasy and LotR miniatures, but the vast part were miniatures from all periods of human history or comic characters.
Turkish dancers – an astonishing diorama for the miniatures’ expo painting contest.
Like in previous years, Germany, Poland, and Sweden are considered to be the toughest teams to beat. Poland and Sweden generally have a very competitive gaming culture, Germany simply has a large player base to draw from. I mentioned above that Switzerland would have loved to have an experienced Grey Knights player – well, Germany simply picks the best Grey Knight player in the country.
Too beautiful to be shot.
Like in any convention, the evening hours are just as important as the daily business. Team USA turned their hotel bar into their HQ, nicely located on the shore of the lake, too. Hardly anything beats ending the day with a couple beers with friends (or Mojitos, for the matter) as you watch the sun set between the Swiss Alps and see it mirrored on the surface of the lake. It’s one of those points in life when you wish time just stopped and everything stayed like this forever. In a conversation with John last night, I said “My perfect result would be Team Switzerland winning the ETC with Team USA ranking 2nd.” to which John answered “You wouldn’t really mind if Team USA won the ETC and Team Switzerland ranked 2nd, would you?” “No, I wouldn’t mind at all.” I went. The hard part about the ETC is not winning or losing, it’s saying good bye to friends.
Despite the beers at the bar, Team USA went to bed at 10:00 p.m. every night so you can be sure that they have rested well and are tough as nails. I for my part can’t wait to see them again at Wargames Con 2012 and answer the challenges we already planned for next summer. So what team are you cheering for? Results coming soon everybody...