A little treat from the exquisite hand of Daniel Summerbell:
There are few tournaments on the Age of Sigmar scene for which the build-up is a major and much anticipated part of the experience. The Road to RAW is an event in itself. The initial pack, released about six months in advance, hinted at rebellion stirring in the mortal realms and introduced the two opposing parties: the incumbent Insignists and the upstart Pyrestarters. It also charged attendees with producing a RAWband – a collection of (ideally converted) models that would grow and develop throughout the campaign.
As the event approach, online Party Political Broadcasts introduced the two main characters. The Patrician Lord Dracothfoote, played by Steve, called for order and stability on behalf of the Pyrestarters. The upstart Tarnos Brightmane, played by an incredible set of false teeth (with Mitzy in a supporting role) tried to rally support for burning down the old order and starting again. One of the RAW team evenproduced a spoof tabloid article from the ’Purple Sun,’ and soon Twitter was awash with propaganda from the PSun, the Daily Chain Mail, The Eternal Guardian, and the Evening Herald of Nurgle.
As Work-in-Progress pictures were replaced by stunningarmies and RAWbands in all their glory, so stories behind the participants emerged. These varied from a few lines, or a single page, through to multiple episodes, accompanied by photos of suitably posed miniatures.
And so to the tournament . It is hard to describe the sight of thirty-six armies playing over incredible, fantastical terrain, let alone capture the three dozen stories developing around the room. All I can do is give a few details of my own experience, and hope readers can extrapolate the sheer scale of the event itself.
Round 1 featured an ambush by the Pyrestarters on a small force of Insignists. A 500pt battle allowed those of us who had spent more time painting than rolling dice of late to remember what this ‘Age of Sigmar’ thing was all about, while forcing veteran players to adapt to the task of playing with very few models on the table. Although I have a great deal of experience of this particular challenge (Turn 3 onwards of every game I’ve played to date) it did me little good, and my ill-fated foraging expedition was wiped out by a thundering charge of ex-Bretonnian Blood Knights.
Between rounds, the two Parties met to discuss strategy and review results, led by the magnificently attired Dracothfooteand Brightmane. It transpired that not only had the Pyrestarters won most of their games in Round 1, but had captured much of the food supplies (that existed as secondary objectives on each of the tables). Our only comfort was that we had retained more wealth, for which Lord Dracothfoote duly thanked us, before stashing it in his off-realm accounts.
The implication of this hit hard during Round 2 as my starving army began taking mortal wounds left, right and centre in every hero phase. My opponent – running two units of gryph-hounds painted to resemble the Avengers - nearly took advantage, and it required some spectacularly unlucky rolling on his part for me to hang on to both the win and a little extra treasure for Lord Dracothfoote’s coffers. A particular pleasure was playing over some of the FenrisGames terrain – not only does it look beautiful, but it’s well designed to be easy to play around.
The Insignists’ overall fortunes reflected my own, and it was some relief that hunger had abated in game three. This was a ‘destroy objectives’ game, and I found myself facing the citizens of Candlevale. One of my favourite armies of the tournament: a very simple concept, well executed, consisting of wax golems supported by human troops. The accompanying lore booklet was a particular highlight.
The final game of day 1 was a doubles match, leading to some intense tactical discussion as objectives disappeared in the gloom. I had not helped the cause by displaying my usual skill at dice rolling between rounds. Not only had I managed to roll a curse on the upgrade table for my RAWband, but followed it up by inflicting that curse on nearly half my RAWband, removing them from the table (odds of 2.8%, Mathammerfans). My teammate led a horde of undead agricultural workers in a scything charge into the enemy line, but an underestimation of our opponents’ speed cost us the crucial objective in the final turn.
The evening saw the introduction of RAWCRY – a simplified version of Warcry that allowed gamers to get members of their RAWband on the table who might not otherwise have seen the light of day. Suffice to say that having not been particularly interested in Warcry before RAW, there is now an impending £100 hole in my bank account. At the same time, the online propaganda war was reaching its zenith: the result of a Twitter poll would contribute to the overall outcome. Despite much public sympathy for the upstart Brightmane, the Insignists pulled off the narrowest of victories – 50.2%-49.8%- a winning margin of one vote from over 200 cast.
Day 2 dawned, and hangovers slowly abated as the two full scale, 1500 point, games approached. My first game of the day found me facing a vast Chaos horde, complete with themed dice for each Chaos god. While the army was beautiful, the board on which it was played outshined it. Created by the inimitable Bishmeister, it consisted of a spectacular set of docks, complete with Viking longships, Amazingly, every piece was magnetised, allowing for quick removal to facilitate model movement and gameplay. It also gave me a taste of a mechanic unique to RAW – inter-table play, where my army was affected by a cycle of Nurglehappening next door. Compared to some, I got off lightly, as monsters, dragons and whole armies were travelling between realm-gates, invading each-others’ tables, or diving into city sewers in search of treasure.
The final game provided a suitable climax to an epic event. Some logistical juggling on the organisers’ part allowed for a game against an opponent with whom I had been building a narrative since our game at RAW2018. The scenario – involving a delegate attempting to escape to take their seat in the house of Representatives – fitted our narrative beautifully. We adjusted our game to fit the table, the duardinrepresentative escaping from the gates of the city and making for the wheelhouse of an enormous skyship. The game ended with the Representative, devoid of bodyguard, scrambling aboard, while the Varanguard in hot pursuit was left cursing at his horse’s refusal to jump aboard the ship as it left the ground. A suitably cinematic ending to a fantastic event. The final tournament ended with a clear majority of Representatives supporting the Insignists – given the narrow margin in the popular vote, clear evidence that the Mortal Realms operate a first-past-the-post system.
The last act of the weekend was to present the prizes. The RAW team do an excellent job of recognising as many of the amazing hobby contributions as they possibly can. This made John Greene’s success in taking the award for both best Army and best RAWband even more impressive in the face of superb competition. A prize for best costume also went to Pete Lockwood, with an honourable mention for the ‘Forbidden-Power-Rangers’ – yet another example of the incredible effort put in to RAW by organisers and attendees.
Since the weekend, many minds have been turning to next projects, and even to armies for RAW20. For myself, RAW has determined not only the next steps in my ongoing narrative, but also the next army I’ll be collecting: the triumph of the Insignists, and the failure of the forces of Rustwater to take Erynost in the final game – but their slaughter of a key character - have strengthened the hand of Nagash. An Element Games order is on its way, to sow the seeds of Undeath in the fertile gardens of Erynost.