3 Ways to Improve Warhammer 40k Events


BBF here again to discuss how to improve Warhammer 40k Tournaments from the smallest to the largest.

These suggestions can be applied to any size event too.

Taming Illegal Lists

Currently one of the biggest issues tainting the match play competitive scene are illegal army lists. Illegal army lists do not only affect players on the lower tables. If some top players are fast and loose it affects all of their opponents who lost up to the point at which they are caught and that’s a lot of collateral damage to any event.

The best solution is to check army lists prior to an event – the good news is there are events that already do this… Here’s a set of three point categories taken from the London GT player pack:


Players accrue 20 points for army lists on the following basis:

• The list was submitted on time, 10 points
• The list was in the correct format, 5 points
• The list was free of errors, 5 points

If a player is caught with an illegal army list during the course of a tournament the penalty should be automatic disqualification – no prize support and no awards. Anything less only serves at worse as an example to other players that it’s okay and maybe you won’t get caught.

Do the Math, Check it Twice

This means don’t trust an army list building app... verify everything manually if you are going to an event. It’s also a really good idea to have other players check your list as well. The more you play the same army list to practice for an upcoming event you plan to attend the more familiar you become with it and it’s easier to find any possible errors over time.

Illegal armies also includes other things such as using a relic incorrectly (for example arming a Primaris Space Marine Captain with the Teeth of Terra), using a stratagem that doesn’t apply to one of your factions or selecting an incorrect Warlord Trait. There are ways to circumvent these types of errors such as including in your list which relics you intend to use for which models in your army. These kinds of mistakes don’t necessarily mean the offending player intentionally cheated but if they gain an advantage the end effect has the same potential result.

The Ultimate Solution

Hopefully one day GW will offer their own army list building app for Warhammer 40k but until then we are all ultimately responsible and working together we can reach this goal collectively.

~Do you support awarding points in events for those three goals?

  • You’ll never achieve this simply because it requires the TO to go over every list. And much like how most tournaments are maligned with bare tables and shoddy terrain because it takes work to get tables filled with proper terrain, most TOs (and I say most TOs because in 20 odd years this is the norm) simply don’t have or won’t give the time to go over these things.

    • Koen Diepen Van

      Maybe You will never achieve this. But I have checked ever single list on every single tournament i have ever organised. The trick is to just do it. Sure maybe i have missed something once in a while but perfection is impossible. Even so it’s not a excuse to not do check. Ppl pay for these events and so have the right to expect some profesionalisme on the part of the TO.

      • People like you I can count on hand in 20 years of playing.

        TO’s SHOULD be doing this, but they largely won’t.

  • ….so the third solution is no solution at all and just hoping that GW will baby tournament organizers and players?

    One thing that’d make the game better is Terrain. As in, having enough of it.

    Another thing? Putting greater focus on the hobby aspect and encouraging people to actually get invested creatively. That way, players would actually need to spend time “bonding” with their army, which could go a long way towards avoiding loophole exploitation and spam. The longer somebody spends painting, basing, converting a unit, the more likely they want to show it off and feel proud of their work and won’t ditch it just for the hottest new cheese.

    Tying into the hobby aspect point, extra points or prizes could be given for people having proper army fluff prepared. If it is a DIY Chapter, a page with paint scheme, brief synopsis/history/character and squad names, all that little stuff to make the army your own.

    You could have a pre-formatted PDF form up online and have participants fill their sheets out in advance, then post them up on a wall at the event and have other players cast their votes for their favorites. That’d mean that it isn’t entirely up to the organizers to read through a bunch of text, involve the community attending and give people something to chat about and look at during break times. It may get a bit tricky depending on attendance, but as a concept I believe it could do well, if the participants actually give a damn about their hobby and not just about beating a dead horse on the table.

    • euansmith

      My proud Mortuus Equitum Spam Marines will never be beaten!

    • Koonitz

      Problem with this is that making sure your army is painted and looks cool is not hard when you have money. You just pay to have someone else paint your list for you.

      You will never get anyone who isn’t interested in the modeling and painting aspect to actually want to model and paint. I know. I have a friend that is like that, which is why he only buys pre-painted Sisters of Battle.

      If you force them to (ie: Up to and including prevent them from being able to use third party painting services), many won’t bother to attend. If they don’t attend, you don’t make as much money, your event isn’t profitable, you don’t bother doing it next year.

      While I do not like and do not attend competitive tournaments or events of this nature, I agree that these types of events should be as inclusive as possible, not exclusive.

      Personally, I think there should be separate competitions, ALL WITH EQUAL MERIT AND SUPPORT! The tournament should not be the only one with the “$1,000,000” prize. That prize should be split to two $500,000 prizes for tournament and modeling/painting, or three $333,333 prizes, for tournament, painting/modeling, and perhaps a narrative campaign (where it’s not about the best, most beaty list and the prizes are handed out for other reasons, like most fluffy list, best background, or “stayed in character the most during the narrative”.). Equal support to all aspects of the hobby.

      THEN pages like BoLS needs to actually CARE about more than just the tournament aspect. Because I’m fairly confident there’s a lot of focus on tournaments because they’re the only one that gets a spotlight shone on it by these websites.

      • ZeeLobby

        Totally agree about the hobby aspect. I have a friend that is the same, and isn’t rolling in cash to have his stuff painted for him. He doesn’t mind missing the chance for best overall and best painted, as long as he can get best general. But I do think that painting requirements is unnecessary honestly. It does make events less inclusive.

        As for posting about tournaments, it’s sad but narrative events just don’t get the same turn out or mass appeal that tournaments do. I mean BoLS posts about tournaments because tournament players across the nation are interested. While I’d love to read about a narrative event in the Southwest, I’m never probably going to attend it. Not to mention describing results from a narrative event is a lot more journalism and writing than BoLS has ever done before, lol.

        • Narrative events don’t get nearly enough press and the big push to get ITC events out there in the past few years has made a number of them fold up and disappear.

          But with the narrative campaign and event push in the new rules hopefully these kind of events will make a strong comeback.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah. I mean that’s the dream. Here were I live, anecdotal clearly, narrative has never been big though. I don’t think it’ll ever be big. In a 1v1 wargame competition will always be the spotlight sadly.

          • Koonitz

            Just gotta show people what narrative is all about. I’ve only just started running a narrative campaign for a few friends. The new players among them are having lots of fun, and the experienced are saying they’ve never had more fun playing 40k before.

            All I really did was add some RP elements and a story. We’ve only had one round of games.

            Gotta remind people that, win or lose,the story will still go on (so people don’t focus wholly on winning). The first games had the Chaos players ambush the Imperial players in separate ambushes. The Death Guard player lost pretty handily, but one of his pox walker units survived and was essentially ignored. Now there’s a zombie plague spreading in that city, but a Sororitas unit that was cut off from the rest of the escaping forces has been engaging in a guerrilla war to keep their numbers down and track the Death Guard that started it. If one of the Imperials goes to try to halt the growing plague, this unit will show up to help.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah, very true. I just don’t have the time in my life. Too many life things, lol. I mean people locally aren’t hung up on winning/losing. they just like to play the 1v1 like a competitive game, which I can’t fault them for. I mean it’s a type of game that is just naturally competitive. I mean Warhammer Quest is a great example of a non-competitive game that works very well for narrative gaming. You can definitely introduce narrative into 40K, but you have to have a full group that’s pretty dedicated to it, to the point where balance and competition almost don’t factor in. Tough to find, and timely to grow.

          • What we found is that the the competitive crowd was just the loudest and the group willing to spend big money on events.

            We ran a RTT style event, kept the cost of entry low, and only had plaques for prizes, tried our best to keep the power gaming under control. Then the Narrative players + modellers started to come out of the woodwork to play.

          • ZeeLobby

            that’s the hope. I need to find a place where that exists, hehe

      • The events we ran were under the old RTT model and had painting scores as part of the overall score. In practice it encouraged players to paint their armies better and we tended to attract hobbyist and narrative type players rather than the competitive crowd.

        But you also had a handful of people who got their armies painted by painting companies and others who just didn’t care and did the 3 color minimum.

        Those that only cared about the gameplay would fight over the Best General award and that was a good thing. After the first round the hyper-competitive guys would tend to end up in their own bracket and leave everyone else alone.

        As for the people who get their armies pro-painted, who cares? If they want to spend money so that they have a nicely painted army then great. More nicely painted armies is a good thing. We just excluded them from the Best Appearance awards, and they knew that was the price they paid for not painting their own stuff.

        • Koonitz

          That’s the catch, with painting awards, though. I wholeheartedly agree with you that if you want to commission someone to paint it, great, and I am more than happy to see another painted army floating around.

          But when it comes to painting awards, what if that person just doesn’t bother to tell you he never painted it? We had one particular local event where a Black Templar player won best painted, despite his army being 100% commissioned (which was not found out until afterwards). I got second, so I’m a little salty at that one (though it was a while ago, so most of the salt is gone).

          • That happens sadly, but an experienced painting judge can usually tell.

            There was an infamous young bloods painter that won an award at a Games-Day and after his fig was featured in a Whitedwarf a bunch of folks wrote in that he had bought it on Ebay and just changed the base. They even provided screenshots of the ebay auction… Kid got banned from events for it.

            We were involved enough in the local community that we could see when someone showed up with a brand new shiny army that was 100% painted. We would also know from experience when a player was using an army that was well above their skill level.

            You don’t go from a 3 color minimum army painted with a paint roller to a “pro-painted” army overnight.

            But again, so long as they straight up admit they paid someone who cares? Most of us are adults and we often have more disposable income than time. If you want to pay someone to be able to play with an nicely painted army so what. Just don’t try to fool us into thinking you did the work. I don’t really understand the taboo against it.

  • benn grimm

    Requiring the lists to be submitted then put up online ahead of time, including everything which will be used (relics, wargear etc) a good week or two before the event, so other players can check them seems like a sensible answer, that way the pressure is taken off the organizer to do everything. Awarding points is cool too, but I think making it a flat requirement to participation avoids any potential confusion/situations where people deliberately try to game the system (rare as it is).

    • eMtoN

      I like this idea. It also means you have to have a deadline for submission so that all army lists can be released simultaneously. With the only allowable tweak being to reduce unit sizes in order to get under the point cap.

    • ZeeLobby

      I actually really like this idea, especially in an imbalanced and skewy game. Although your list is in you could at least mentally prepare for what you will see.

      • fenrisful2

        …or more importantly read up on your potential opponents, so you have a plan when and if you face them.

        • ZeeLobby

          Right… That’s what I meant by mentally prepare.

  • Xodis

    I love solution 3, because we ALL know that an official source cant possibly be incorrect either /endsarcasm….. grab a calculator and do some math!

    • Defenestratus

      Usually thats worse.

      I’m going to have a jolly LOL when GW can’t keep their own army builder up to date/working.

      • zeno666

        Yeah I’m so looking forward to that!
        Because we all know its going to be horrible 🙂

      • ZeeLobby

        It’s just crazy that we already KNOW it’s not going to work. Man, I just don’t understand why we play their games with expectations like that, lol.

  • Defenestratus

    How to fix 40k events:

    Make the prizes not dependent on who wins games. Make the motivating factor “fun” and not “winning”.

    Many problems will then self-correct.

    • Koonitz

      I’ve always said that the act of adding prizes to an event (especially to the winner), instantly changes the attitude of many, if not the majority, of players going into the event.

    • ZeeLobby

      I just don’t get why GW doesn’t support some badge/pin system… I mean I love those systems in other games. It’s not like your winning massive money, etc. But winning a badge to put on your army case is pretty awesome.

    • fenrisful2

      nope, it makes people not care if they win or lose, and hence makes no effort to win, just like communism.

  • As a former small-time TO checking everyone’s armylists ahead of time is a lot harder than it sounds. Checking armylists for 24 players is a weeks work (in our spare time) for 2 people. That’s assuming that we have access to all the Codexes and/or trust army builder 100% which you can’t…

    Then you have the players that inevitably hand in their armylists day of which throws everything off.

    But Yes, it has to be done. Particularly at the larger events because nothing is worse than disqualifying a player after the fact, or half way through an event for a mistake.

    Yes some players cheat with their army selection but more often than not it’s just a simple mistake. Forgetting to carry a 1, or taking options that aren’t legal. Giving meltabombs to a Terminator Captain for instance was a common one back in the day.

    • euansmith

      “Hey, look, I only forgot to carry a one!”

      “Yeah, but it was in the thousands’ column.”

      • The number of armylists off by 10-30 points would surprise you

  • Angry Panda

    More Hookers and Blow, or at least bring some weapons to cull out the weaker players.

  • Wes

    Events like the London GT don’t actually check themselves. They put the lists up in a public online location, and let the community self check. Which is about the best way to do list checking when you have several hundred attendees.

    An idea I had was to set aside 15 minutes before the first round. During that time, opponents check each other’s lists for accuracy. Obviously not foolproof, or even a fully fleshed out idea. But it might be a better solution at a smaller event than putting the burden on a volunteer TO.

    • Koonitz

      The problem with getting opponents to check lists is that few people are familiar enough with every army to be able to spot mistakes in a list. Cheating, maybe, but mistakes like putting a relic or wargear choice on the wrong model, or calculating points wrong, most people will never know. Most will give a cursory glance, say something like “cool.” and hand the list back because they know full well they’re lookin’ at greek at that point.

      Having lists submitted early and posting them online so the community can look over them is definitely good. We all know how critical the community can be about every little niggling mistake.

      • Wes

        Thats why it’s 15 minutes, not five. I’m handing over my list and my codex (you brought your codex, right?), and you give a quick check to see that point values look right, relics are assigned legally, add up the points on the roster with your calculator. Far from perfect, certainly, but it only takes a little time out of the event, and encourages other good player behavior, like bringing your rules and having a clear roster.

        • Koonitz

          Oh, I don’t doubt that it would help. I just don’t think anyone would bother. So few people now want to take that effort to poor over a book and crunch numbers just to see if their opponent’s list is correct or not.

          In the same vein just below here with the conversation between Auticus and Koen Diepen Van. People don’t want to put the effort into the boring stuff.

          It’s also why so many people use battlescribe, despite consistently having rules errors in it. It’s an easy way to create an army list without having to bother with the terrible number crunching and writing stuff down yourself.

          • Wes

            I see your point, but I respectfully disagree with the implication. That implication being that the community is simply not interested in putting out a modicum of effort to try and deal with an issue we all agree is real. By that logic, nothing will ever work, and we are doomed.

            I think it’s better to try something, and attempt to work out the kinks. Anyway, we can agree to disagree.

    • I listened to a podcast and they said they do.

  • Andrew O’Brien

    3 Ways to Improve Warhammer 40k Events
    1. Bring legal lists.
    2. Make sure lists are legal.
    3. Be responsible for making sure lists are legal.

    Also, why provide an example of a point system that includes “the list was free of errors” when an illegal list (one with errors) should be an immediate and full disqualification?

    • That’s what I said.

      • Andrew O’Brien

        Isn’t that just 1 thing?

  • The problem with 3 is that it will only work if the army builder becomes the source of truth in army construction, which knowing GW and how glitchy their programs are and how slow they are to update, I sincerely doubt will be the case. Unless however, an update simply isn’t legal until the army builder has implemented it.

  • checking lists doesn’t stop cheating it’s just the first step in a process which needs all players involved to take some responsibility for.

    I’ve taken part in a tournament where the TO himself broke the army building rules on his army and his opponent walked out!

    • fenrisful2

      You are correct, a tighter ruleset would avoid much of the unfriendlyness occurring due to difrent interpretations or rules bendings or even purposeful cheating.

      However a first step is still a step in the right direction 🙂

  • Drpx

    Suddenly, min/maxers can’t do basic math.

    • euansmith

      Spamming makes the adding up easier 😉

      • Matthew Pomeroy

        and spam is delicious….sorta.

    • Netlisters rely on others to do the math for them.

  • Bootneck

    Never had a problem with this its not hard.

    The last tourney I went to at WHW, you needed three copies of your list

    One for the event organizers to check
    One for your opponents to check pre-game
    One for yourself

    All just basic common sense stuff really which doeskin take a genius to put in practice.

    The other thing which you can’t plan for is knowing the rules yourself, personally I buy every codex and read them as much as possible for that very reason – know thy enemy.

    I have caught out many players doing things illegally before – normally not through intent but through ignorance of there own rules.