Thursday, 31 August 2017

A Question of Honour: an Interview with Warring States Organiser Kieran Byrne


Hi, I'm Paul, and welcome to The Asylum.

As part of our continued and ongoing commitment to organised play, we at Asylum Wargaming will be attending the forthcoming Warring States event in Nottingham. Don't know what a Warring States event is? Or even where Nottingham's at? Then don't worry, you don't need to know ... because I've interviewed event organiser Kieran Byrne to get your answers for you. You're welcome.

Hello Kieran, and thank you for joining me. Can you begin by introducing yourself?

Many will know me from various social media outputs surrounding Warlord Games. Being a member of both the Combined Operations podcast—which is based around my first love, Bolt Action—and the relatively new Three Swords podcast, which focuses on Test of Honour. I also run two Bolt Action groups on Facebook, being Bolt Action KL and the Bolt Action Honved, which are for players of Dutch and Hungarian armies in Bolt Action.

Apart from that I playtest for Warlord Games, whether on my own or at the club I attend, Infamous Wargaming.

You cite Bolt Action as your 'first love'; how long have you been playing BA, and what first attracted you to it?

I was a big gamer in my early teens but drifted away from the hobby in my late teens when the group split up. Some years later I discovered Airsoft guns and the subgenre of WWII Airsoft events, in which groups of grown men disappear into the woods together, get dressed up in World War II kit and shoot one another all weekend. Unsurprisingly, there are a large number of wargamers in that scene, and in late 2012 / early 2013 one such wargamer brought some of his Bolt Action armies to play with in the mess after an event; I couldn't have been more hooked more quickly.

Kieran in Airsoft action!

So, moving onto Test of Honour and Warring States, can you tell me about the event?

Absolutely. Warring States will be a campaign event for Test of Honour; that is to say the day doesn't focus entirely on a competitive tournament. I have a background of putting on what have been described as 'story driven' Bolt Action tournaments with a narrative element; I wanted to do Warring States in the same way.

The key aim for Warring States is to ensure everyone gets as much out of it as they can, so I want to steer away from the kind of tournament which encourages a certain section of players to embrace their more 'competitive' nature and  side, especially as Test of Honour is still relatively new and a lot of our players may still be learning the game.

Good to hear. As a guy who rarely dips his toe into tournament play I can relate to those who find the thought of min/maxing and cheese lists daunting. But how do you aim to avoid the kind of scenario where 'newbs' may be pummelled by power gamers?

Look, you can't really complain about power play, min/maxing or whatever if that's the way the tournament's structured; you're going to get it as soon as you offer big prizes for those who win the most games. With Test of Honour, however, the basis of the game—and its various unit cards—means nothing really stands out as overtly powerful; that mitigates against the concept of only winning if you take 'x' unit. 

Also, in Test of Honour the only game mechanic that can be open to abuse is the Fate Card deck. Whilst some decks could be stuffed with what are regarded as 'better cards' from all the expansions, we've tried to curb that by stipulating which cards can be included in a player's deck. It's all going to be a bit of a trial and error with this first event, but the feedback I've had regarding the tournament pack has been positive.

The other thing about tournaments is you have to be up front with your players; make the statement of what is expected at the event and you'll be surprised by how your players buy into it, and those that don't like it just don't book on.

A Test of Honour battle rages. Photo by Alfonso Oclaf

And what has take up been like so far?

When we were looking at where to hold the event, and through our club links with Warlord, we only really had it in our heads that we wanted to hold it at Warlord HQ in Nottingham. The building they're in includes a really good event space so it seemed like a no brainer to go there. Thanks to that and generous offers to lend us scenery and buildings on the day we can easily accommodate 40 players. At present we have 20 confirmed players with others expressing interest and waiting to confirm once pay days roll round, etc.

Even at 20 players it should still be a great event, right?

Oh yeah, totally. Numbers don't always translate to bigger being better. Also, as I will be doing all the admin on the day, smaller numbers is better for me...

More Test of Honour awesome courtesy of Alfonso Oclaf

So what format can players expect on the day?

There will be four rounds of games, so hopefully people will play against a good mixture of warbands. This as a campaign event which focuses on the build up to a famous battle from the period, and all the games propel the storyline toward that battle. If players invest and immerse themselves in the event and its narrative they will leave with a good tale to tell about their hero and warband.

And how many points can players field?

It's going to be 24  points, which is seen as the set level in many cases. However, the points total builds from round to round, so a player's full warband won't hit the table until the final game. This means the player will have a bit of decision making to do from game to game. We have put the Event Guide on the Facebook group already, so hopefully people will already be planning and counter planning...

Thanks for your time, Kieran; Warring States sounds like an awesome event in the making, and we can't wait to see you there.

Find out More about Kieran's 3 Swords Tests of Honour podcast.
Art by The Lucky Orc.

Warring States takes place on Saturday 30th September at Warlord Games HQ in Nottingham. Tickets are still available, and those interested in attending should contact Kieran via the Warring States Facebook page.

Asylum Wargaming will be in attendance at Warring States, and we shall show much honour, fail many tests, and do much losing...

...We will, however, draw the line at sepukku.

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