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Friday, September 9, 2011

Did Blackmoor show us how to best game NoVA?

My favorite list that I saw at NoVA this year was definitely Blackmoor’s. His list was the “smartest” list I saw at the event.

So, you are probably thinking, “his list doesn’t look like a list you would endorse.” Even if you aren’t, it certainly doesn’t. I’m not a fan of Paladins, expensive hammers, the low model count, and a host of other things about it. However, none of those things are why I like his list so much. I like it because I think it shows how the NoVA Open format can be gamed, and I think Blackmoor is genius for figuring it out.

Let’s also go ahead and throw out there that even if you think this list is bad… and you’d be wrong just like me… he was on the final table with it, and yours truly got beat by it… on camera none the less. So, shows what we know!

Gaming the NoVA System:

So, if you don’t know by now, I’m a pretty big NoVA format fan boi. Not without reason, though, as most fan bois are. What I am a fan of NoVA for is not really its format so much as that it represents a “thinking tournament”. What I mean by that is NoVA, in my opinion, was the first advertised and national event that shows how a tournament can be run by truly putting thought into the format. No more completely outrageous GW White Dwarf Missions. No more 3 round battle point event for 90 players which have no clear winners. No more “crazy” terrain. No more thoughtless rulings. No more favoring one part of the hobby over any other part. It’s not necessarily the NoVA format exactly that I am such a fan of. It’s the idea of the NoVA and what it represents that I am a fan of.

And along those lines, NoVA missions themselves represent a lot of thought being put into a format that attempts to be as evaluative as possible and doing so by providing the fairest method of evaluation for all armies in 40K. The real genius behind Blackmoor’s list, though, is that it is specially designed to game the NoVA system, and it does so beautifully.

The NoVA format consists of 3 mission types:

Kill Points: This is a standard kill point game, but to win, you must lead in kill points by at least 3.

Objectives: This is a standard seize ground mission with 5 objectives all evenly spaced in quarters and he center of the board.

Quarters: In this mission, the goal is to hold table quarters, and to do so, you need more Victory Points in the quarter at the end of the game. The caveat this year, though, and this is huge, is that Troop choices count for full points even if they are below half strength.

Further, only one objective is the primary for a game. All other objectives become tie breakers down to just a straight victory point.

Lastly, and this is very important, NoVA put some seriously awesome work into its terrain this year, and the product of that was a LOT of LoS blocking terrain for infantry models.

So, how does Blackmoor’s list almost perfectly game this format?

First, lack of kill points. His list only has 8. 3 are fairly easy to get being Dreadnoughts. The others, not so much. The reason? Given the amount of LoS blocking terrain, it’s very easy to hide infantry. Extremely, even. So, if he had to, he could very easily hide his weaker strike squad, shunt the interceptor squad somewhere safe, and last but not least, ever tried killing 10 Paladins at range with cover and shrouding? Combine this with Draigo’s psychic communion ability and reserve denial, not to mention Draigo’s ability to also just hide behind terrain, and you have a beast of a KP denial list.

Second, and this is critical, the “full point troops” in quarters. One thing to note right away is that Blackmoor has three massively expensive units in his list. The first, Paladins topping in close to 800 points. The second, a 10 man interceptor squad. Third, Draigo. The next thing to note is that Draigo’s grand strategy ability means he can nominate d3 units to become troops. Then, Draigo already makes the Paladins troops. With a roll of a 5 or 6, Blackmoor could actually make all but one Dreadnought in his list and his HQ, troop choices. Combine that with the same issue of being able to easily hide infantry models, and what you have is a genius recipe for quarter claiming. Well, you finally managed to kill 8 of my Paladins? Shame. Guess I’ll just walk them out of LoS behind this hill and still have an 800 point scoring unit in the quarter. Dang, that quarter looks kind of empty. Shunt my one remaining Interceptor and now I have nearly 300 points of troops in that quarter conveniently out of LoS. The thing is, you can argue that perhaps you need to be more aggressive to combat this, but there is only physically so far most armies can move in a game of 40K to try and catch up to something. Then, when you combine reserve denial with this strategy, it’s awesome. You can’t push to far into any quarter because you don’t know where you might need to end up holding quarters.

And after all, he’s probably going to auto-win on Kill Points anyways. So, he’d be more than happy to tie.

Third, the objectives mission is definitely his weakest mission. However, he can combat squad at will to make more scoring units, combined with Grand Strategy. His goal here is not to win but to tie the objectives. If he can do that, he’ll nail you on Quarters and Kill Points.

Lastly, there is the propensity to be able to withdraw to win. Because of the above strategies, his army comes built in with the basic strategy to be able to withdraw on the field to deny you the ability to kill him. His optimal range is 24 inches at all times. Since the most efficient way to kill units is usually assault, he can withdraw to avoid it. After all, in most cases, he only needs one model left in the unit to win the game. And of course, let’s not forget the psychological aspect of that list…. The aspect that tells most people “this list looks bad, I should under-estimate it”.

That’s why it’s my favorite list of the event. He establishes what most of us wish we could do, a solid thought process on how to best tackle the format rather than just another army.


  1. First off, great article; I have been working on an article that is similar in nature: Building an army for a tournament - more on this in a second.

    Secondly, I really like small model count armies; I play Deathwing after all; so on aesthetics alone, I am drawn to a GK Paladin/Terminator List.

    As I have started to going to more tournaments, I have started to see that just as important as good army composition, is an army composition that is tailored to the tournament. On the West Coast, Reecius and Team Zero Comp run fantastic tournaments that are based on book missions. As such, you know that during a six game tournament you will get 4 objective missions and two kill point missions.
    Of the objective missions, 2 will be "bases," 1 will be 3 objectives and 1 will be 5 objectives - both seize ground.
    As such, the parameters for an army are different than say NOVA; at Zero Comp Events, you need an army that can take and hold objectives.
    Taking and holding objectives requires a different army than say an army designed to win kill points and quarters.

    Once again, great article.

  2. Blackmoor did well in building his list for the NOVA format... much like Chumby did with his Loganwing last year.

    One of the things that helped Blackmoor, and hurt other players, was the amount of LOS Blocking terrain and how close they were to one another. As Sandwyrm has pointed out.

    Great write up. Building your army for the missions is something that I have had to adjust my list for... used to bleed kill points.


  3. I am really really curious of why he lost in the final. To a guy with 24 straight wins (right?). I do love it when someone figures things like this out. Makes the game move forward.

  4. Good observations. I think you hit on something here. Blackmoor even stated in an interview he was going for KP wins in either the primary or secondary. He stated he was at a disatvantage in game 8 with KP being terciary.


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