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  • Andy Salkeld

Goonhammer Open May 2022 Tournament Report

Warning: This is going to be an incredibly detailed and in depth review of my experience and performance at my first ever two day Warhammer 40k tournament. It covers six games, totalling 18 hours of game time, across two days. It currently stands at 15 pages of solid text in a Word document. There will be photos of my army throughout this article to break it up, however not all were part of the list I played.

The TLDR before the DR

I finished 21st in a field of about 80 to 90 players. I went 4-2 (WLWLWW), won Best in Faction Imperium (not Space Marines) playing Adepta Sororitas (Sisters). I was the only Sisters player at the event which was surprising to me. In the Top 20 above me, there was one Blood Angels player, one Chaos Knights X Slaanesh Demons player and then everyone else was Tyranids, Tau and Eldar (all varieties). I massively exceeded my expectations (1-5) and my ambitions (3-3) and had a fantastic time at the the event. I had one middle-to-bad experience at the end of two long days. Everyone I met, every game I played, every experience I had, was fantastic and exceeded my expectations. The Goonhammer Team deserve incredible credit for what they put on. The Warhammer Community as a whole does not deserve the somewhat negative portrayal it often receives. I would highly recommend anyone enjoying the hobby and curious about tournaments to try one and in particular to try a Goonhammer one.

A Good Background Story

Before the event I wrote a tournament preparation document describing my thoughts about the missions and terrain, what secondaries I would likely take and what my game plan would be in a vacuum (before knowing my opponent). I will be referring back to it so if you would like to ready that in advance, you can find the link here.

The Night Before

One of my oldest and best friends and I drove down to Nottingham on the Friday afternoon ahead of the event. Both of us are close to 40 (me more-so which he'll never let me forget!) so we wanted to have a good rest ahead of the event rather than travelling down at 6am on the Saturday morning.

We paid a visit to Warhammer World on the way and picked up a few small bits. It looked like there were a fair few people who were also going to Goonhammer Open as we kept bumping into them throughout the evening.

We were staying at the (more central) Premier Inn which is about a 10-minute walk from the venue (Nottingham Girls High School). We checked in and did a bit of recon to know what we needed to do in the morning. The walk was fine, although up a hill, and it was clear where we were going, although we weren't sure what building we were in. We then wandered into Nottingham centre for done dinner before returning to the hotel bar for some drinks before an early night. We played a thought experiment game of picking a random lists from the tournament, on one of the six maps and then discussing our secondary choices. I love hypothetical games like this as it can help prepare you in a very chill manner.

It was very clear that this was one of the hotels of choice for people attending the event. There’s always this uncomfortable meeting of eyes when you see people in the bar or restaurant. As people tend to be a little shy, socially anxious or introverted (and just think it's a bit rude because we're British...) people typically avoid asking if others around them are here for the same reason. Not me though! I just talk to people nearby, asking questions and seeing if we share a hobby etc. It is surprisingly easy to ask someone "are you here for the event?" and then to lead with "what faction are you playing?" Suddenly there is a vast plethora of things you can talk about and all social anxiety fades away. It was particularly easy for me as I could say, “I’m the only Sisters player at the event,” and then there's a whole other line of questions that can follow. This is one thing I’d love more players to do across all games and tournaments. It really helps build the community around the game. Our hobby is relatively small so encouraging just a single person to have the confidence to keep coming back is important for it to keep growing.

The Morning of

I did not sleep well.

I never sleep well.

But I particularly did not sleep well this time!

Premier Inn beds are just rubbish. One of my previous roles was within Business Change in an independent bed manufacturer and it totally changed my opinions and thoughts on beds, mattresses and sleep. I won't bore you here, but I always forget about it and then stay at a Premier Inn again and regret it.

I was awake at about 6:30am and was the first person downstairs for breakfast before the breakfast buffet even opened. I had coffee, cereal and pastries. I didn't want a heavy breakfast or something that could upset my stomach as I didn't know what the facilities would be like at the venue. I spoke to a few other players (one playing White Scars and one playing Tyranids), met up with my friend, who also stayed over, and then we walked up to the venue.

The venue was spacious. The terrain was high quality (I believe it was all Vanguard Tactics Terrain). The armies were beautiful. There was food and drink available with lots of toilet facilities and doors open to the outside to keep fresh air flowing. This was simply fantastic. As a first GT event, this was an incredibly welcoming experience and I was genuinely happy to be there.

There was a real buzz in the atmosphere.

We had a bit of a wander, met with our friends who travelled down this morning and then pairings were announced so we started getting ready. Quick chat amongst our friends to go over thoughts on matchups and then we're into the games.

Just as a heads up, I will be re-posting the maps I created for my Tournament Preparation document. Where something differed from the plan, I have marked it in green. Additional green markings will typically represent deep strikes.

Round 1 – Dark Harlequins – Win 72-69 – Tide of Conviction

Possibly my worst match up on the worst map for it. My opponent has enough speed to tank my primary hard and also fights on death so my typically efficient trade pieces suddenly become worthless and don't bait additional units for me to trade into again.

My opponent was absolutely lovely. He welcomed me, complemented my army, helped me set up the board and just generally provided a great experience. There was lots of talking, a bit of banter and overall it was just incredibly fun regardless of it being an incredibly hard matchup.

This mission heavily favours going second due to the primary swing at the end. As such I stuck to my plan to just crush one flank completely, assume I’m going first and therefore deploy aggressively to deny my opponent primary to hopefully counteract the primary difference at the end.

My secondaries were Retrieve Nachmund Data, Leap of Faith and Stranglehold. My opponent took Behind Enemy Lines, Deadly Performance and Retrieve Nachmund Data.

I won (lost) the roll off and went first.

I Carry Forth the Faithful (CFtF) a Rhino of Novitiates up the board to score me Strangehold and two mission primary. Very little else happens. My opponent plays very cagey, forgoing Behind Enemy Lines turn one. Turn two with everything staged I start going for trades and aiming to deny my opponent primary. I take him down to a four on primary using obsec Repentia missiles. His turn two he dealt with the threat in front of him without contesting my primary, so I’m now up 12 primary (2 + 4 + 2 + 4). Turn three I keep hammering the same point with more Repentia and finally kill all the Voidweavers and Bikes putting my opponent down to a zero on primary. There were a couple of cool plays where a Troupe Master killed the Novitiates and consolidated back into a transport using a strat. I then use an 11 Miracle Dice (MD) charge to wrap the transport with my last unit of eight Repentia, destroy it and because my opponent has 0CP for desperate breakout the Troupe Master died to being unable to be deployed.

He contests my primary, lowering my advantage to an eight on primary (12 + 2 – 4 – 2). I push hard again on turn four with my remaining assets and once again drop him to a zero on primary putting me up another six, back to 14. Zero-ing my opponent on two turns of primary is absolutely massive and is the only thing that kept me in the game. By turn four and five now very few units and we’re both fighting with the dregs of our army. Harlequin strats are incredibly good and they kept catching me out. The no overwatch strat was clutch against my Seraphim with hand-flamers and the pile in on fall back strat was devastating every time I tried to fall back forcing me back into combat. Turn five I believe I’m back to a four on primary, but I know he’s easily scoring 12 + 6 at the end on the game. I make the last ditch plays I do what I can to score what points I can. I luckily succeed my last RND for four points with a five lady Zephyrim unit. I spend my remaining MD on advances and failed charges to cap Leap of Faith and I just pray to the Emperor that I denied my opponent enough.

We added it up and I believe we came out even on primary, or maybe slightly in my opponent’s favour, but my secondaries were 12, 12, 12 and his were 9, 9, 15 or something like that meaning I won by three points. Every action mattered! RND for eight instead of four mattered. Screening my opponent's last RND mattered. Zero-ing my opponent for two turns instead of one mattered. Every little decision and action was clutch.

This to me was a “perfect game”.

Any game that finishes within eight points (two primary swings) I consider to be excellent.

This game played out exactly as I expected it would except I thought my opponent would just outscore me due to the huge swing of going second on this mission. Somehow I pulled it out of the bag! This was a great way to start the event although it meant I’d start playing in the upper bracket immediately and was therefore more likely to face Tyranids and the other 'yet to be fully balanced' factions.

Huge credit to my to my opponent, this was an incredible game and probably the best one I played all weekend. It was incredibly close and just came down to a bit of luck and was probably influenced by my preparation on this mission.

As is tradition, I spoke to my opponent at the end of the game and asked how I was as an opponent. He said I communicated extremely clearly, fully discussed intent, warned him of all possible gotchas at all times and gave him all the information I possibly could. He said my rules knowledge was excellent and that he was a little shocked that this was my first event given how technical I was with regards to game e.g. movement, pile-ins and consolidates.

Again, a nice little boost to confidence!

Round 2 – Drukhari + Dark Harlequins – Loss 93-75 – Death and Zeal

Over the lunch break the canteen was open and we were able to get a “home-cooked” hot meal. This was absolutely incredible and so very welcome. Having options like this available at venues is just incredible. It saves people wandering into town (which can cause delays etc) or bringing their own food (which could spoil without refrigeration) or anything in between. It also allows people to sit down and chat, helping being the community aspect of these events, which is something that can often go forgotten at these sort of events.

I found out I was playing against Drukhari + Dark Harlequins (not again!) on possibly my worst deployment type (corner). I was playing against a fast army with just seemingly infinite disposable assets and a few missiles that could take out my important threats. I knew from the start that this would be incredibly tough and I’d need to play well. I went in expecting to lose and I think I made a few mistakes that I’ll take through now.

My opponent was incredibly welcoming, had a really joyful and bubbly personality and was just fun throughout our match. Given the deployment as the mission, I knew he could deny me banners and could screen out RND, but that I’d be more likely to score better on RND if I just focused my assaults. I opted for Stranglehold, Leap of Faith and Retrieve Nachmund Data knowing that I was going to score relatively lowly on RND. My opponent took To The Last, Stranglehold and Retrieve Nachmund Data.

My first mistake was during deployment (as you can see in the diagram above). My opponent’s army can spread out fast and everywhere, but apart from the missile characters, the Incubi and the Troupes, it isn’t that “killy”. I deployed to fight a war on two fronts (from my corner outwards). This meant I had fewer assets to play with in each quarter so if something went wrong I couldn’t respond. What I should have done was pick one and turn the fight into either 'Dawn of War' or 'Hammer and Anvil' so that I could somewhat reliably hold two points for eight. By spreading myself thin I ended up getting four on primary most turns. I also think I played Vahl and my Retributors too far back and needed them up near the middle of the board. The terrain was absolutely horrific for decent line of sight (heavily favouring my opponent's all-combat army, whilst I have almost 900pts of shooting assets) and so I rarely, if ever, got to shoot my Retributors. The terrain and map heavily favoured my opponent and I was well aware of this from the start. If I had followed my deployment play, starting the Repentia more central rather than on the middle of the long board edge, I would have been able to respond much quicker and could have leveraged my shooting more.

I lost the roll off and my opponent went first.

He redeployed one Harlequin Transport and missiled one Troupe, one Troupe Master and Solitaire into my Repentia. He killed 16 Repentia and they killed all his assets in return. This left me with one unit of three Repentia and one lone Repentia. I was relatively happy with this trade, but then so was my opponent so I felt I was probably in the wrong in my calculations. We talked about it after the game and he said that I could maybe have started some in a Rhino or deployed differently so he could only get into one unit and not all three. He said the thing that scared him the most was the Repentia and so he was willing to sacrifice a lot to just get them off the board. He also mentioned some advanced screening techniques for Harlequins where you spread your models out more making their flip belts for moving through models much less effective. This was a great bit of insight I'll take with me into future games.

The game carried on and I got relatively unlucky on a few dice rolls; one wrack living prevented my Stranglehold more than once; a poor hand flamer roll made it impossible to win on a different point. This denied me two Strangeholds and gave my opponent two 12s on primary which was brutal. At the end of battle round three I was happy to concede and talk it out as I was pinned in and unable to come back into it. We had an hour left, it was clear my opponent was winning and there were limited things I could do (if any) to catch up. I still scored decently which is one of the strengths of Sisters as a faction. I may lose but I at least keep the scores close. This is incredibly important for Teams events where Sisters can be used to blunt the most horrific of armies. Similarly though, Sisters will rarely dominate. It’ll also be a close game (up until it isn’t) even if you win.

I believe my opponent went on to finish 32nd overall.

My MD this game was were awful. I didn't roll a MD higher than a two until turn three, by which point the game was already over. It's a dice game, it happens and I accept that. It still feels bad in the moment.

I spoke to my opponent about the game and what I could do differently in the future. We talked about Repentia in Rhinos, or maybe screened by Battle Sisters / other expendable units and also deploying Retributors further forward, but largely they were micro decisions. The terrain was in my opponent’s favour and I played my best. As previously he said that my rules knowledge was excellent, I played a relatively complicated army incredibly well and that I articulate every decision I was making, clearly playing to intent.

Since we had some time we spoke about the start of the game and meta as a whole. I’ll cover this in a section at the end, but in short, Craftworld needs some rules tweaks but probably not points tweaks whereas Tyranids needs some points tweaks although not as many rules tweaks.

Round 3 – Death Guard – Win – 85-63 – Secure Missing Artefacts

Death Guard were previously a bad match up for Sisters. The indirect platform of three Plagueburst Crawlers was massively damaging to the small T3 bodies. Most things wound on 2s rerolling 1s so anything that hits is likely pushing an armour save. Pre-dataslate this would be incredibly tough for me as a Sisters player. Things have changed a lot now with Armour of Contempt and the Indirect nerf. Now I’m taking two up saves in cover against the mortar shots and I can just run away from the inexorable tide of terminators.

My opponent was relatively new to the hobby (I think he was returning) and at this point had only played seven games of 9th Edition. He had played against Sisters once so I talked him through Miracle Dice and Bloody Rose and what my army does to try and explain the gotcha moments. As with most people new to the faction, I explain that when I use Miracle Dice it’s going to feel like I’m cheating as it allows me to do stuff that breaks the fundamental rules of Warhammer (much like placing an objective marker wholly within a terrain piece, such as some crates, violating rule 6 of Warzone Nachmund…). My opponent was incredibly welcoming and provided a great experience. I did everything I could to help him with his rules (three of my friends and also myself have all played Death Guard!) where I could. His army was beautiful with a really soft metallic undertone.

Not that I was going easy, but I was feeling tired and opted for non-interactive secondaries so I could just avoid the devastating combat of Death Guard. I opted for Stranglehold, Leap of Faith and Retrieve Nachmund Data. In hindsight, banners would probably have been the better choice, but I couldn’t know that at the time. My opponent opted for Spread the Sickness, Stranglehold and Assassinate. When my opponent selected Assassinate, I warned him that it is often a trap against Sisters and that you’ll probably score zero. He listened and decided to take it regardless to see what it's like.

I set up fairly aggressively to assault my opponent’s weaker objective. Very little actually happens in this game as my opponent is so scared of my Retributors and Repentia that he doesn’t come out to play until turn four by which time is too late. I’ve been denying him four primary every other turn which just puts me slightly ahead. I completely deny him Assassinate and Spread the Sickness scores average to low. My opponent repeatedly used Disgusting Force to splash mortal wounds on my Retributors and they kept making FNP saves thanks to the Hospitaler.

This was a match up I used to fear, but from playing it now I’m less concerned. I think replacing the Plagueburst Crawlers with three War Dogs (shooty variants) will add a lot to the army now. I think Death Guard are a solid option, incredibly well balanced but have just fallen off given the speed of the other armies around them. The more I play the more I learn that speed and being able to manipulate moves, charges, pile ins, consolidates and heroic interventions is by far the most important thing in the game from a tactical perspective.

My opponent commented, without asking, on my rules knowledge, my experience and how I was a great opponent who he learned a lot from. So few people in the world openly complement people on anything nowadays, so having someone say this without prompting is an amazing experience. These are the sort of things that encourage people to keep going in tough times and allow people to develop.

He also mentioned that he has just moved to near Leeds (where I live) and that he was going to come to some of the events nearby at Leodis Games and maybe the Leeds GT. We exchanged numbers and e-mail addresses and hopefully we’ll meet again soon!

The Time Between

I was 2-1 (WLW) after day one. This was much better than I expected and I was heading towards my aspirational goal. I can’t remember my friends’ records precisely, but regardless of results, everyone was happy with their first venture into competitive Warhammer. No one had a bad experience. No one played against “that guy” (yet...). People accepted luck, mistakes and all the bad stuff that can happen and just enjoyed playing three games against different people and different armies from those we were practicing and testing with.

We decided to just have dinner at the hotel restaurant as it came with free breakfast the next day so a bit of value.

We chilled a bit after dinner and then got an early night.

I once again didn’t sleep well and the chilli from the school canteen didn’t seem to agree with me.

Regardless; breakfast and travelling up to the venue.

I knew I was playing Jägermeister (?) Tyranids and that he was likely swapping his adaptive trait out for all obsec (just looking at the composition of his army). He had dense cover as a rule beyond a certain range but luckily I remembered that Retributors ignore cover (which I forgot in almost every other game entirely).

Again, the venue was clean, airy and well organised. I quickly headed to my table and began setting things up for the match.

Round 4 – Tyranids – Loss – 96-54 – Tear Down Their Icons

Everything obsec five Tyranids is terrifying as they’re able to contest my primary incredibly well and are just tough enough to make it a nuisance to shift. I couldn’t easily take Stranglehold against them as just a slightest missed opportunity would be capitalised on. Luckily they gave up Bring It Down, so I had planned to take that, Leap of Faith and Stranglehold (I didn’t like it, but I had to take it to play the mission!). My opponent took Stranglehold, To The Last and Raise the Banners.

I wish I actually looked back at these maps and strategies before playing this mission so I would have deployed better. I deployed my Retributors too far back and over respected my opponent's movement (I forgot he always needed to take the long way round as very little was infantry). If I had positioned my Retributors where I originally planned and walked them up to the second floor of the building, they would have full line of sight across the battlefield and could just sit there shooting. Everything apart from the Flying Hive Tyrant and the few small infantry squads wold need to charge round to fight them and they could shoot without fear. I could position the Canoness and/or Vahl round the back to Heroic Intervention any charges that are successful. We get so used to playing on a two dimensional battlefield that we forget that the third dimension does exist. This is something I'll remember for next time for sure!

I won the roll off and went first (not great, but need to make the most of it).

I decide to CFtF a Rhino of Novitiates up to kill some Gargoyles, and create a wall between two buildings preventing his Tyrannofex, Maleceptor and Toxicrine from walking forward. I expose my Castigator to get some shots but it is just picked up by an Exocrine. It then exploding, killing a unit of Crusaders and a half a unit of Zephyrim. My opponent clears that screen and pushes hard on my other flank with his Carnifexes. My opponent plays the angle game perfectly and obscures the Carnifexes limiting my Retributor shots.

My second turn I am denied primary and need to make a play for Stranglehold. I replace the Novitiate screen with a Repentia screen killing the Tyrannofex and once again blocking in the Toxicrene and Maleceptor. I deep strike my unit of Seraphim to double shoot and then have my three remaining Zephyrim charge the single obsec Parasite of Mortex holding the point in the middle for Stranghold and between all that it lives on one wound denying my Stranglehold and giving my opponent a 12 on primary. It’s a dice game and we need to accept that variance like this can happen, but it still feels bad when it does.

My opponent once again denies me primary and brings more stuff out to play. He fights my Seraphim, then uses the Overrun strat to move an obsec Carnifex onto my home objective. This forces me to burn my Heroic Bravery strat (or whatever it’s called) to auto pass morale on one remaining Battle Sister holding a point with obsec. I then have a great turn and clean up my own space and once again pin the Toxicrine and Maleceptor in, but my opponent is so far ahead and he knows it, so he can just sit back and wait now.

I think I needed to be more aggressive here and once again, pick a flank to push hard. I needed to bring the Retributors up earlier and just try to turn it into Dawn of War as quickly as possible. I’ve been playing very cagey with my Retributors and Vahl, which almost makes me think taking To The Last over Leap of Faith would be better in most games. I think across the weekend I lost Vahl once (see game five) and never lost a full unit of Retributors (maybe I lost one once). As mentioned at the beginning, utilising the verticality of the terrain would be big, particularly against 'Big Bug' Tyranids where they become very hard to fully obscure.

I spoke to my opponent and he said I played excellently, with a really solid grasp of what’s important. He said he’s just come from a Team England event and was not used to playing in singles events. He said he thought that’s where Sisters as a faction really shine and I agreed with him; saying I’d love to get into Team events somehow but since I’m so new didn’t know how. I passed him e-mail and mobile number so he could reach out to me when they’re looking for people to help prep for Teams and so on.

Who knows!

Excellent game versus a highly skilled opponent that I learned a lot from. I believe he went on to finish eighth overall.

Pleased I put up some small resistance!

Round 5 – Tyranids – Win – 94-59 – Recover the Relics

Another game versus Tyranids!

This time it was Leviathan (Transhuman). Upon walking up to the table, my opponent immediately expressed delight in seeing my Sisters. He is a Nighthaunt player in AoS and loved what I’d done with all my conversions saying it was a unique take, a well executed theme and an overall beautiful army. Mid way through the game one of his team mates also came up and said the same and was amazed at all the work I’d done (He had a converted Nagash as Magnus the Red which was truly incredible!). This was one of the things I had dreamed would happen at this event. It’s so nice hearing your efforts rewarded. One thing I tried to do all the time is complement my opponent’s army as it’s such a nice thing to hear, everyone deserves it!

My opponent talks about being the second worst Tyranids player at the event by standings and that he is not really a competitive player but just likes going to events with friends. He’s never played against Sisters before so I give him the run down about Miracle Dice, how they will feel like I’m cheating. I warn him about taking Assassinate and basically give him all the warning I can about Bloody Rose damage output. I warn about all the gotchas and say I'll make sure he's aware of everything before it happens.

I choose Raise the Banners, Bring it Down and Leap of Faith. My opponent chooses Assassinate, Engage on All Fronts and Raise the Banners. At this point I am ecstatic; I can zero my opponent on Assassinate if I play conservatively, deny him Banners with obsec Repentia missiles and he’s forced to walk towards me every turn for Engage which puts him in Sisters' very limited threat range of 24". I didn’t opt for stranglehold as there’s quite a gap to close and if he just played defensively I might fail to get it on a couple of turns.

My opponent wins the roll of an goes first.

His list isn’t stock Leviathan Tyranids, it has some different big bugs. No Maleceptor but instead a Scythed Hierodule. Lots and lots of Carnifexes. My opponent then does something that back fires immediately. He walks everything forward within 24” of eight Multi Melta Retributors and a 20 Repentia. Not much happens turn one for my opponent other than a Carnifex charge into a Rhino which denies me raising a Banner. My Turn 1 however involved me Melta-ing a Scythed Hierodule, Shooting one Carnifex dead, Having Vahl kill another in combat and then eight Repentia clearing a squad of Tyranid Warriors from a point denying him a Banner. Turn two he walks more things forward to back fill all the units I killed and we repeat this dance. At this point I start getting greedy; I cross fire Vahl and the Castigator into a Winged Hive Tyrant diagonally across from them (hiding from the Retributors) and use MD to force through the kill (after my opponent’s unlucky saving throws). I then MD to charge Vahl upfield and kill another Carnifex. At this point I start denying my opponent primary and the game is all but locked up. I’m sacrificing Vahl, but I haven’t used her in combat all day and just wanted some fun. My opponent wants blood and charges Swarmlord into Vahl. I introduce my opponent to the complexity of killing a Sisters character; 1CP adjust a dice, 1CP reroll a save, 1MD; Vahl then fights and uses her once per game ability to fight twice and kills the Swarmlord. She dies to my opponent on his next turn, but my Retributors are now in range of what little he has left. I leave my opponent with one Ripper Swarm on the board.

My opponent was super nice and knew as soon as he walked forward and experienced Retributors he’d made a mistake. He kept playing and having a great time throughout the game. He learned a lot and had a lot of fun. I felt bad for just picking up 500-750pts of his in two turns, but we still had fun regardless. This is something we can all learn to do better. Learn to enjoy losing a game. You don’t have to win every game. Enjoy playing and be able to enjoy your opponent’s success. Learn something from the experience. Try something new. It could help turn a negative experience into a positive one.

I played this game by the textbook and enacted the plan I laid out in my preparation. I was really pleased with this game and achieved my ambition of getting three wins at the event. Little did I know the last round was going to be as important (and as awful) as it was.

Round 6 – Tyranids – Win – 88-65 – The Scouring

This one is going to be long because it was the worst experience I had at the event. I will not name names (although you can check in BCP), but it was an incredibly sour match played at the end of a long day and longer weekend. The reason it's important to highlight all this is because these are the experiences people remember. The good ones fade, but the bad ones last. We as a community should do everything we can to foster a great environment for everyone to play in. There was no harsh feelings left at the end of the match when we talked about how we spoke to each other and reacted. All of my friends said that I looked stressed and grumpy throughout this game and they could overhear my opponent's frequent complaints and grumblings and that this was the same as when he played his previous round opponent on the table next to me.

Leviathan Tyrnaids again, this time with two Harpies!

My opponent was an elderly gentleman who had been playing Tyranids for something like 20 to 30 years. He said he wasn’t on the band wagon and that he didn’t even care about the result of the game as he’d also achieved what he wanted with three wins. I thought this would lead to a chill and fun game, but I was very wrong!

Me being me, I wanted slightly more. I knew Best in Faction Imperium existed and that I was only competing against two Imperial Knight players and two Grey Knight players (no Guard players were present, there were no other Sororitas, Custodes were all 2-3 and lets not talk about Mechanicum). There was a further aspiration I could achieve if I won this one!

My opponent said he’d played Sisters before so wasn’t scared and then just started trash talking. You’ll never kill my Harpies, they have Transhuman, they have a 4++, they fly etc. Said he’s not bothered about scoring and is just going to walk forward and kill me. I repeatedly warn my opponent about the lethality of Bloody Rose and my shooting platforms which he completely dismissed. I warn him about use MD on damage and guarantee charges. I explain that most of my attacks will be AP-4. I give all the warning I possibly can against just pushing into me turn one. He disregards it.

I select Strangehold, Leap of Faith and Retrieve Nachmund Data. He selects Assassinate, Stranglehold and Grind Them Down. I warn him about Assassinate, but he takes it anyway. I also warn him about Grind Them Down and the lethality of Sisters. He said he's never had a problem against Sisters and that he's not afraid of the combat potential.

Importantly; I deploy one unit of Zephyrim on the board near Vahl and set them up to charge any Harpy that comes near me with full rerolls (and Tear Them Down). I split my Retributors and surround one squad with Repentia so they can’t be charged. I CFtF my Rhino backways when my opponent gets first turn to which he responds “ah, you’re scared”. He pushes his entire army forward including his Neurothrope and Zoanthropes, doesn’t kill anything in shooting and charges 20 Hormagaunts into five Battle Sisters and kills them, then piles into my Retributors (I warn him of fall back and shoot). Then they hit back and kill a few. My opponent seems to be playing the "I don't need to hold my objectives if I hold your objectives" style of game. This is absolutely fine by me as my intention seeing this is to weather the storm for 2 turns then essentially table him and score late game.

My turn one I don’t even bother trying to hold points, I want to bait him to come closer. I will be giving him a 12 on primary and giving up three on Stranglehold, but if it brings him all into range then I can strike. It was clear he likes using the Command Reroll stratagem, so I expect him to be drained of CP very fast. My shooting phase does little bits of chip damage to Harpies and then the Zephyrim with Vahl rerolls go into one Harpy. I use Tear Them Down and fish for 6s. I roll an absolutely obscene amount, probably close to 15 6s on 25 dice with full rerolls. I then do the same on wounds and add even more to the pile. The Harpy dies and my opponent looks blindsided by my damage output (I did warn him in advance).

I used one of my cherubs in each Retributor squad during their shooting activation. My opponent complains that I do not have physical representations for the token on the table (even though this is only a suggestion in the rules) and how he will be unable to track them, then openly saying he doesn't want me to cheat him. I offer to get the cherubs I have with me out of my storage box (I came prepared, I'm just lazy) and put them on display for him. He seems shocked that I have them ready for this circumstance and just says that “I should think more about my opponent and less about the game.” Ultimately it felt like he was just trying to be awkward for the sake of it. I deny my opponent Grind.

Turn two my opponent scores 12 and just pushes his entire army forward he does chip damage and chip mortals in the psychic and shooting phase (killing the Zephyrim). My opponent rolls really badly and I roll really hot. It's a dice game. It happens. He starts overtly complaining about dice and about me asking questions about his rules making it very awkward. I am very used to narrating my game (as if I were streaming) to describe intent at all times. I even do this for my opponent at times. It's very hard to break out from once you start doing it. When he says "Rerolling 1s" I naturally ask why which seems to frustrate him, he explains and I accept.

He makes some mistakes and forgets about things so I let him take back some fairly significant game events (relevant later) such as scoring stranglehold (moving off 2 points), forgetting deep strikes, doing mission actions and even taking back a charge that he made, then moved his models and then decided against it. In a time pressured game it's easy to make mistakes and I wouldn't want anyone feeling bad for doing something too quickly. He charged a Carnifex into some Repentia, I used Desperate For Redemption then used my pile in and consolidates to swing round and get onto a point to score four on primary for my turn (and killing the Carnifex).

My turn two my opponent has fallen for my trap and I spring it with glee. I set up charges on his Neurothrope and Zoathropes with Repentia (why he moved them all up I don’t know). I set up charges with my Canoness and Novitaites onto the centre objective to score Strangehold. 4 Multi Melta Retributors with Vahl rerolls kills one 'Big Bug' behind the other unit of 20 Hormagaunts. 4 Multi Melta Retributors, Vahl and a Castigator kill his last Harpy. I guarantee my long bomb charges with MD and just annihilate all his units. All he has left now is Death Leaper, a Walking Hive Tyrant, a Carnifex, a Neurothrope on 2 Wounds, a Tyranid Prime and 9 Tyranid Warriors who are now walking backwards to kill some Seraphim that I used for RND.

My opponent is now in full on complaining mode. Talking about how when he last played Sisters all the had were Multi Melta and none of this combat punch. He didn’t understand where all the AP-4 was coming from (which I had explained at the start). He attempts to kill my Canoness but whiffs (Sisters Characters!) and she all but finishes Death Leaper. He scores Stranglehold but is currently zero on Assassinate and zero on Grind them down (after my turn). He kills all but 1 Novitiate which I auto pass morale on on with a 1MD denying him the centre objective and scoring me eight on primary.

My turn three and four I melta the Hive Tyrant followed by a charge from Vahl with once per game double fight, finish off the Neurothrope, the last Carnifex and leave him with the warriors (who I have ignored this entire game) and the Tyranid Prime. My opponent is now complaining because other games around us are packing up saying “It’s time to go home” and that “I slow played him by asking questions”. There is 30 to 45 minutes left on the clock and we're entering turn 4. I tell him not to worry because I’ll essentially table him and he won’t have any more time to spend. With my opponent pushing me to finishing I forget to move my Castigator to shoot the Hive Tyrant and he complains that I was going back a phase. At this point I’m just fed up; he’s made what could have been a fun game into a miserable experience and I say "If that is the game you want to play, sure, I can take it back". I ask if he's happy for me to move it as I'll gladly take it back if not and he just eye-rolls me. I proceed to move my Castigator.

I finish Turn five and win fairly comfortably, maxing RND, Leap of Faith and 12 on Strangehold, having all but tabled my opponent leaving him with zero on Assassinate and six on Grind Them Down.

After the game my opponent apologises for his words and I do the same. We both agree that it’s at the end of a long weekend and you don’t want to let tiredness stop fun for others. I concede that the dice were massively in my favour. I made three clutch 6+ deny the witch tests. I made an ungodly amount of FNP saves. Likewise my opponent rolled so many 1s and 2s that it was just the unluckiest thing you could imagine. Sadly I cannot control this, nor can my opponent and neither of us should take frustration with dice out on the other player.

My opponent also said around Turn four that he was losing this game because he made the mistake of playing aggressively. I agreed and said that I had warned him about my army only having a 24” threat range and that if he walks into it that it was on him. He got more frustrated knowing it was his mistake, but chilled out a bit on the passive aggressive nature of his comments.

But here’s the thing; look at the length of this game report compared to the others. This one is maybe twice as long. Being “that guy” means people will remember you and will tell stories about you like I am here. It is upsetting and leaves a negative memory with people . I warned my opponent about my output, about the lethality of my combat and shooting and he disregarded it with bravado. If a new player experienced this game and this attitude they would probably think twice about going to an event again. By all means feel the emotions that occur, but you don’t need to put them on other people or take out your frustration with sarcastic comments, hurtful “banter”, eye rolls and all the like. I admit that my opponent may have a similar sour taste about me as after a while I just wanted to play the game out, deliver the deathblow, and get away from the toxic table environment that was created. From speaking to people it seems to be more elderly players that are worse for this sort of attitude and behaviour in general, but I personally wouldn't want to generalise.

I took a risk in this game. I sat back and let my opponent come to me. I hard baited him and tried to leverage his lack of experience against the army, despite him saying he knew it well. Against a strong opponent this wouldn’t work, but I read my opponent, their personality and their attitude throughout the pre-game and into deployment and took a risk that I felt would give me the edge against an incredibly strong army on an incredibly tough map against an incredibly experienced opponent. It paid off and allowed me to finish 4-2 and take home Best Imperium (and Best Sororitas by default).

When you’re in a tough spot, sometimes you need to take chances rather than just playing the standard game plan you had to begin with. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn't!

Army List Review

You can find my full army list here or on BCP.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing my list all weekend. I was the only Sisters player so it was hard to compare notes. I really liked the three units of jump pack infantry to add some much needed speed to the army (Sacrescants on horses when GW?!). I think you can build your characters in different ways, I like Rapturous Blows over Word of the Emperor but you can play it both ways. I’m going to drop the two pennants from the Zephyrim squads to add hand flamers to the Retributor Superiors to enable Holy Trinity and then I’m probably chill until the new missions, secondaries and balance patches happen.

I think Sisters are incredibly strong but ultimately well balanced. I think they need a hell of a lot of practice and a deep understanding of the codex and the metagame to do well. A novice player can do alright with them, but an expert (which I would like to think I am now that I have almost 15 months, 50-100 games, and two tournaments under my belt) playing a good Sisters army will do things you just feel completely broken and unreasonable.

Miracle Dice are an incredibly strong mechanic that can lead to some real feels bad moments.

I feel if GW wants to tone Sisters down, the one thing I’d change is either to stop you using MD for damage, or make Leap of Faith harder to score (but you can’t do that in a vacuum when Purifying Ritual exists...). Removing MD damage will bring them more inline with Strands of Fate. Strands give you four per Battle Round (with some amount of manipulation), Miracle Dice guarantee you two and then you have to earn them. You need to kill between seven and fifteen units and/or have characters die for them to be broadly equivalent (depending on Repentia and Ulthwe etc). I think they’re broadly equivalent as it stands as one is a resource you grow but can hold onto and the other is one repeatedly replenished. I think if you remove MD from damage, Sisters need access to (old) Storm of Retribution to allow more consistent damage output from Multi Meltas.

I don't believe points need to be changed as currently building a list requires tough decisions. I'd like to see Sacrescants come down in cost now that Bodyguard is much worse and would like to see Paragon War Suits drop to somewhere between 150-180pts for the unit without upgrades. This would bring them into consideration when list building.

Meta Review

This conversation came up a lot over the weekend so I’m going to try and summarise as best I can. The metagame right now is incredibly healthy apart from two (maybe three) outliers. My understanding is that this is possibly the healthiest the game has ever been from a competitive stand point, but I haven't been playing long enough to judge this.

Lets start off with the least egregious of the offenders, Tau. Tau are exceptionally good and their rules are mostly fine. They’re been brought in line with much of the non-interactive elements hit. There are probably a few units that could see some points tweak just to bring them in line with other similar units. I think shaving about 100 points out of Tau lists will bring into into line where by turn three they need to be exposing their “good” units to play the game a little bit earlier. They're close to being perfectly balanced around everything else and I think that just a few small tweaks are needed.

Next up is Craftworld. I think the majority of people feel Craftworld are probably well point-costed for what they do. You certainly have less stuff than you think when running a Craftworld army. The main issues are as follow:

  • Swooping Hawks and Baharroth are too non-interactive and too good as being To The Last targets. My suggestion here is to turn Skyleap into a “deep strike at the end of your next movement phase”. This will prevent the negative play loop of repeated battle focus moves and bring it in line with similar effects.

  • Hail of Doom when combined with Masterful Shots can essentially take all shuriken up to essentially AP-4 which is terrifying. The output of small units against large targets just doesn’t fall on the natural curve. My suggestion here is either to say they cannot be taken together, that the “counts at a 6 to Wound” only works in half range” or something similar. I don’t want to see it removed as it’s a very unique way to play Crawftworld.

  • Eldritch Storm was discussed a lot about how it is too strong. I’m not too bothered about this personally as I feel the threat is worse than the reality, but I can see where people are coming from. I think the absolute best way to change this would be to say that it can only deal MW to visible models within the radius. This way you can’t snipe an entire army for D3+3 MWs at the start of the game when they are obscured.

Finally, Tyranids… Is there anything they can’t do? Reading a Tyranid army list is like reading a pre-nerf Drukhari list where it just keeps going and going. On average a lot of people think that Tyranids are between 200 and 400 points under costed (and that smaller bugs are over costed). The most obvious faults are on the midsize bugs. A Tyranid Warrior is around 25 points, has T5, 3 Wound and decent armour (and potentially permanent Transhuman). An Intercessor is 20 points at T4, 2 Wounds with a significantly worse gun and a significantly worse combat profile. Outside of points adjustments I actually think the book is remarkably well balanced. I think there’s a lot of mortal wounds which can’t easily be interacted with, but these will likely decrease with points adjustments anyway. You could make the Maleceptor mortals require line of sight or something to mean it can’t just hide in the middle of a U ruin and destroy everything around it. I can’t think of many other specific rules but we just need to see what happens with points first.

Generally, the metagame feels extremely healthy and that outside of the three discussed above (and potentially changes I mentioned to Sisters if you think they’re too good – I don’t!) every army is probably within 5-10% of every other army (excluding those without a codex yet). If you love marines you can play them. There will be better/worse matchups for sure, but player skill and knowledge can win out which is what we want from a healthy competitive game.

Overall Experience

Goonhammer Open was a great first GT experience . I don’t think I’m going to regularly travel and stay over to do events, maybe once or twice a year, but whenever there is a local GT or local RTT I’ll be doing my best to attend. I love competitive play and will be keeping up appearances as best I can whilst balancing everything else in my life. I will probably just play Sisters as my event army and won’t dramatically change my list.

My first GT event and I finished 21st (top 25%). Best Imperium (and Best Sororitas). It’s a pretty good start. Out of all the people I met and all the games I played I had one bad experience and it was right at the end when we’re both tired, both wanting to go home and both just wanting it to end. As a new entrant to the competitive 40k scene this was a fantastic introduction and I must give serious credit to Goonhammer, all the staff, the school and everyone else involved. This was a fantastically run event and well worth the price of the weekend (ticket, travel, food etc).

Truly incredible and worthwhile for anyone to attend to just be around other people who share the hobby.

The End?

This is a bit of a beast, but hopefully you’ve enjoyed it, learned a bit from it and understand this scene and me a bit more through doing so.

I intend to keep writing these as long as people keep enjoying them.

If you have any questions, you can reach out to me via this website, via twitter @andysalkeld or via e-mail

Who knows, maybe

will feature me and my nonsense writing someday!


Andy Salkeld

just another guy

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