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EDITORIAL: Nova Open: Lights, Camera, Gripe!

6 Minute Read
Aug 29 2011
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If you’re reading this, you’re very likely aware the Nova Open took place this past weekend… and after watching the live internet feed, there’s an obvious trend there to talk about.

Two points to make before we get started.

First off, congratulations to Tony!  I had the pleasure of meeting him after Adepticon, and he’s a truly great guy.  He’s now won three major titles in the two arguably most competitive events in the states, so to my mind it’s impossible not to credit him as among the best players in the country.

Despite that, no doubt there are some who will, for reasons that shall soon become obvious.  Here again is the video of my interview with Tony after the Adepticon; his integrity and character are on display.  Also featured is Mike Brandt, the Tournament Organizer behind the Nova Open.

Secondly, I’m well-known as the guy who plays around with the style and direction of my articles, but this won’t be one of them.  This will be the most straight forward piece o’ press old Brent is capable of writing, largely because I want to be very clear about my opinion on the matter.  Normally, Terrible Tuesday Editorials are left deliberately open-ended, so as not to squeeze all the discussion out of a topic. Not so here.

Still, have no fear!  It won’t be long before this hot mess gets thrown to you, Oh Faithful Reader.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape… or Just Videotape

The Nova Open continued the trend of live internet streaming coverage started first, I believe, at this year’s Adepticon Championship Rounds.  I’d personally made it into the Top 16 with my Daemons, but I have to say the high point of the day was seeing the rig the Independent Characters  had built to highlight the top table.

(Naturally, I grabbed video of that; you can watch it HERE.)

Turns out, that’s going to be a trend; it’s fairly safe to assume every major event from here on out is going to be covered in ever-increasingly sophisticated ways.  TastyTaste has been a pioneer of wargaming press coverage, and he’s been covering tournaments fairly consistently, publishing updates throughout events on Blood of Kittens.  Mostly these are written word blurbs, but there’s been more than one video.

Including the now infamous Internet Cheating! video, from Adepticon 2010.  There was backlash, and not a little resentment at the new media’s new media… especially after Son of Internet Cheating and Step-Daughter of Internet Cheating were published to cries of, “C’mon, enough already!”

Interestingly, the videos raised more questions than they answered; as I recall of the conversation back then, people were split between believing they’d observed a clear cut case of cheating whereas others thought the play was just a bit loose.  Also started was the, “I’d hate to be recorded..,” conversations.

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There doesn’t seem to be much of a choice anymore; coverage is par for the course, and personally I welcome it.  Any light shining on the sometimes ugly scene of the national tournament – of which yours truly is a small and good-looking part – does nothing but improve it!

Moving on, enter the Nova Open.

As an aside, I was scheduled to attend but work conflict (the ‘needs of the hospital’) meant the leave days were revoked.  Gotta say, as disappointing as it was at the time, Hurricane Irene’s impact on the air traffic nationwide makes me just as happy to have sat this one out.  I imagine many of our wargaming brothers and sisters have been adversely affected by the storm, so safe travel home to all of them.

The next best thing was watching the live UStream on the 11th Company Channel.  I listened in on most of it Saturday and Sunday, and it made for interesting listening while putting together models; those guys did a great job!

But something interesting happened… the crowd started noticing little mistakes here and there.  No big deal… until it was.

It appears – and let’s clarify that, because it can be very, very hard to tell what’s going on based on the limited view – it appears there were several major mistakes throughout the games.

What kind?  There have been allegations of destroyed vehicles returning to action, or continued confusion over the ‘what’ and ‘where’ of embarked units.  There was also (in my opinion) a bad rules call that possibly screwed up someone’s standard game.

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But the one most discussed on the blogs and forums I’ve seen is the possible misuse of Njal’s Lord of Tempests power.

Yea, Tony ran Njal.  You see where this is going.

So the rule reads:

 “When Njal is roused, the elements themselves wage war upon the foe.  At the beginning of Njal’s turn, rolll a d3 and add the turn number to the result.  Refer to the table opposite for the tempest’s effects that game turn.  Only enemy model’s in Njal’s line of sight can be affected by the tempest’s effects.”

Now, reading this I took it to mean a Game Turn was from Njal’s turn to Njal’s turn.  That makes sense when you consider that powers 3 and 4 directly target enemy models with 24-inches; how else could it work?

This is the way it appeared to be played in the game, according to the discussions out there.  The problem is the FAQ directly nerfs this power IF the Space Wolves player has the second turn.

Yea, stupid right?

Basically, the FAQ defines a Game Turn as ‘Turn 1, Player One, Player Two.’  Still confused?  If the Space Wolves player is Player Two, the power ends right after his turn.  It literally can’t work in that case.

Making this the least logical decision GW’s made.  You’re going to FAQ a power out of existence because the Wolves don’t get to Alpha Strike?

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It goes without saying it didn’t appear to be played that way during the final game.

The question is: should Tony have been expected to know?

You’ll have to make that call for yourself, but as I alluded at the beginning of this, I’m going to drop my opinion first.

No.  The FAQ was counter-intuitive and confusing.  It’s entirely possible he read it and just didn’t interpret in the way described above.  Equally possible is he never read the FAQ: why bother, unless a question comes up?

Judges were present and did not interfere.  Blackmoor, Tony’s opponent and a canny veteran of the tournament scene, wasn’t aware of the ruling, and while it was brought up and discussed – briefly – the judge wasn’t consulted for clarification.

How do you even clarify a problem you’re not even sure is there?  I have my suspicions that, even if a judge had been tapped for a ruling, the FAQ wouldn’t have been consulted and it would have been played on the board in the manner it was.

Did you notice how often I said ‘appeared’ or ‘perhaps?’  It’s really difficult to tell for sure exactly what’s going on in the game.  There are psychic powers in the Space Wolves book which would have caused enemy units to move as in difficult terrain – and I personally have no idea if maybe that’s not what was happening.

So if I’m not sure, what gives me the right to bring it up?  Because others have, and will, and I want to join the voices of reason putting this thing to bed before it’s rightly woken.

In a major tournament, a good judge is not there to enforce his will upon a game, he (or she) is available to arbitrate should a problem occur the players can’t work out themselves.

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This can, and does, mean mistakes happen all the time in games of 40K, even among experienced players.  Add a time clock and the pressure of prize support, and it’s a given that not every game will be perfect.  That does not change the legitimacy of the results…

…not even with an eye in the sky mercilessly revealing our all too human flaws!

Playing a game, regardless of whether it’s in a tournament or not, is a social experience…

…and interactions between people are endlessly complicated.  Beneath your conscious mind at any given moment, the brain is working to interpret meaning in an unimaginable amount of sensory input; add in people, who we’re naturally wired to notice, and the old gray matter starts flashing away like Vegas on a weekend.  (By the way, it neither needs nor wants your help with all that…)

We’re all so much better at solving people problems than logic problems.  It doesn’t matter that gamers spend so much time programing for these, your brain is not at its best when you’re playing someone unfamiliar.

Because you’re paying more attention to person across the table than to the table itself, whether you realize it or not.  So you’re not at your best, and neither is your opponent.  Any wonder there’s so much attached drama at these things?

There’s my theory; now solve for Hugs and Gropings and my philosophy will become clear!

Here’s my conclusion, all neatly wrapped up for you today and today only: in an age of live streaming games of 40K, we can’t get so wrapped up in the occasional mistake, rules or otherwise.  Tony and Blackmoor sat across the table from one another and worked through a very complicated ritual, mutually determining the winner after an application of planning, skill, and luck.

It worked for them.  We can’t see cheating in every game – you’ll just make yourself crazy trying to figure it out.

Your turn!  Thoughts?  Comments?  Hugs and gropings?

(And for the record, no, I wouldn’t actually grope you!)

And feel free to talk about anything else Nova related.  It seems like it was a huge success to me, but I know there are things to talk about.  The terrain, for example…

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