The Grim Dark of Winter 1500 Highlander RTT Results

A beautiful view of Rob P.’s Tyranids facing down Rob M.’s Matrix-themed CSM.

Highlander is the tournament format taking the country by storm.  With so many folks feeling very put out by the shape of 40k today and how it affects tournament play, it’s become apparent that the pre-game conversation is something that’s all but required to have a good time.  At a tournament, it’s up to the Tournament Organizer to have that pre-game conversation for you and it’s turning out that Highlander is what people want to see.  This has become especially true for some events like Adepticon with the Highlander selling out almost instantly and the GT languishing behind for days after. Even if the player count is smaller, this is rather telling.

Our FLGS, Grimfoe Games held its annual Grim Dark of Winter Tournament and this year we decided to go with this format.


The Format

Bill’s Tau hunt down Rob’s Tyranids!

I used the Bay Area Open style as a guideline, but put my own spin on it.  I used playing cards for the Tacticial Objectives (TacOs) and had a modified list.  Also, the points value of the scenarios were doubled so as to alter the impact of some Tertiary Missions.  Download the packet to learn more about the scenarios.  I also randomized between the 6 Scenarios and deployment types in order to keep people on their toes, never re-using a Scenario and only re-using the Dawn of War deployment.

Lists were 1500 points so as to allow for a bracketed, 4-round tournament with a clear undefeated winner.  Also, I believe Highlander is best played at 1500 points because an army’s best units are rarely used up at that points level and it allows for more diverse lists. At the higher points levels, people feel compelled to start cherry-picking in other sources instead of sticking with a single cohesive theme. 1500 seems just right. There were no limitations on Formations or Detachments as long as the army never broke from the Highlander format itself. In Highlander, there’s little point in limiting or restricting these things.

Rob’s prize-winning model, the Matrix-inspired Heldrake. Amazing!

Lords of war were only allowed at 25% of their total list (375 points) and using the BAO restricted list.

I allowed far more dedicated transports.  They were unlimited under 100pts.  I may reduce that to 0-3 for the next event.

I ran with my own nerf to Invisibility making it -4 to WS and BS instead of snap shots and 6s to hit. This was a mistake as it was a detriment to Tau markerlights and also gave invisible units a bonus to hit in combat.  I don’t think it made Invisibility more powerful overall in the Tournament, but I don’t think it nerfed it much either.

Please see the tournament format for more information, particularly on the unit comparisons and also special dispensation for taking multiples of certain units.


The Standings

Jason’s Space Marines take on Francis’ Grots


Prepared Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Battle Points
Charissa Iyanden Eldar 6 14 11 16 4 12 0 22 1 70 16 4 78
Jason Ba. Grey Knights/Ultramarines 6 11 14 24 4 22 0 23 3 86 8 3 116
Phil Deathwing 8 17 3 25 3 25 0 1 22 76 28 3 92
Kevin Sisters of Battle 6 25 2 17 11 0 12 15 0 63 25 3 86
Francis Orks 8 24 1 5 4 0 22 24 1 61 28 3 81
Mark Grey Knights / Space Wolves 8 19 3 11 17 20 2 0 0 58 22 2 70
Rob M. Chaos Space Marines 8 12 4 3 12 15 3 0 15 38 34 2 66
Bill Farsight Tau 8 10 4 12 3 2 20 3 23 35 50 2 59
Scotty Deathwing 2 0 25 25 3 15 2 1 24 43 54 2 58
Jared Ravenwing 2 1 24 4 24 25 0 16 12 48 60 2 56
Jason Be. Dragoons (UM) 8 25 0 4 5 0 25 0 0 37 30 1 66
Connor Chaos Space Marines 6 2 25 3 25 0 25 14 12 25 87 1 40
Jason M. Blood Ravens 8 4 12 3 25 2 15 12 14 29 66 0 55
Rob P. Tyranids 6 4 10 4 16 3 15 12 16 29 57 0 48

As you can see, we had a gloriously diverse field. What we did see a lot of were armies which altered the force org for troops… two Deathwing players, one or two Space Marine Bike players, an Iyanden player, a Ravenwing player, and a Farsight player.  The 2+ save did very well in this tournament, though it didn’t prevail over some of the very good weight of fire, which does tend to be its downfall.

Having said that, I do expect to see a bit more Grav and Plasma at the next tournament.


The Unbeatable List

Charissa’s Wraithknight faces down Phil’s Deathwing!

Again, please see the format packet for more info on the list building rules.  Some units received special dispensation for taking multiples.

Iyanden Supplement, Single Combined Arms Primary Detatchment – 1500 Points – Highlander 

  • Farseer (Ancient Doom (AD), Battle Focus (BF), Fleet, Independent Character (IC), Psyker 3, Rune Armour, Shuriken Pistol, Witchblade, Ghosthelm, Jetbike, Spirit Stone of Anath’lan, Runes of Warding, Runes of Witnessing) – 155
  • Spirit Seer x2 (AD, BF, Fleet, IC, Psyker 2, Spirit Mark Rune Armour, Shuriken Pistol, Witch Staff) – 140
  • Windrider Jetbike Squad (AD, BF, Rune Armour, Shuriken Pistol, Witch Staff) – 51
  • Ranger x5 (AD, BF, Fleet, Infiltrate, Move Through Cover, Stealth, Mesh Armour, Ranger Long Rifle, Shuriken Pistol) – 60
  • Wraithblade x10 (AD, Bulky, Fearless, Ghost Axe, Forceshield) – 320
  • Wraithguard x5 (AD, Bulky, Fearless, Wraithcannon) – 160
    • Wave Serpent (Move Through Cover, +1 Cover post Movement, Twin-Linked Scatter Laser, Shuriken Cannon, Serpent Shield, Holofield) – 145
  • Wraithlord (AD, Fearless, Flamer x2, Scatterlaser x2, Ghostglaive) – 165
  • Wraithknight (AD, Fearless, Suncannon, Scatter Laser, Scattershield) – 300

This list boasted many strengths of the Eldar and really made a lot of hay with the army’s high-toughness units.  It was also really nice to see the Wraithlord in a tournament. It’s actually quite a good unit, but in the presence of other choices, it’s just not as good.  In this format, it was a pretty good choice.  Her infantry marched forward as an implacable force while the enemy shot uselessly into the ranks of Toughness 6 and 8.  Charissa also had some nice, cheap units for either squatting on or stealing objectives.

You can see some of the other lists here:


The Unbeatable Player

The proud champ!

Hot off a long hike through the wilderness of the west coast, Charisssa emerged the victor.

Charissa’s list made the best of the format with the single Serpent and Wraithknight.  They did work, of course, but they weren’t a crutch. She was able to maintain her units natural staying power with reliable Psychics and saves while delivering enough punch to squeak out wins against equally-matched opponents.  I used the Swiss style for round 2 and 3, so each of her opponents was tougher than the last.  Then she fought and defeated the other undefeated player (pure Deathwing) in the last round.

Charissa really showed that, although the format does dissuade spam, most armies can still compete very well without actually doing that.  Even without a million Waveserpents, Eldar can be very competitive in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing.


The Consensus

No, the irony of Jesus in a YOLO shirt is not lost on us.

The Highlander format, in whatever form it takes, is perfect for pick-up games and competitive games because it practically comes with a predefined social contract.  I would love to see more tournaments pick it up because it creates a really fun and really competitive atmosphere. It really lets you level the playing field and allow skill to reign over codex.  Yes, you still have list build to contend with, but that’s part of skill.  And sure, you still have questions like Lords of War and, to a smaller extent, Detachments to think about, but Highlander is a big step in the right direction.

The players loved the format and wanted to see it again by an overwhelming poll I took after the event was over. I am going to streamline the missions to make them easier to finish four games in a day, but aside from that, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!




About adam Fasoldt

Loopy (Adam) has only been playing 40k since 2010, but is an active member of the community. He is a host of the Masters of the Forge podcast and also a moderator of the Independent Characters forums. He also belongs to gaming clubs at Grimfoe Games in East Greenbush, NY and Dirty Goblin Games in Queensbury, NY.

35 Responses to “The Grim Dark of Winter 1500 Highlander RTT Results”

  1. Avatar
    iNcontroL December 25, 2014 1:41 am #

    I always appreciate the report but this got pretty preachy in regard to highlander format being better or “a step in the right direction” you begin with annecdotal evidence comparing the highlander and main tourney at adepticon which is silly for numerous reasons but whatever.. In the end I guess my unsolicited advice is just give us the report without the insecure defense of the format.. OR if you want to argue that this format is “better” keep it separate in another article perhaps? Not a big deal of course but these kind of things always rub me the wrong way. Too many people on too many forums complaining about brutal tourney lists and how they really just want to win with any army.

    • Adam
      Adam ( December 25, 2014 8:50 am #

      Couldn’t agree more. It’s all about having fun, if you have fun playing highlander then cool, me and my friends enjoy making hard as nails lists, not afraid of spamming whatever it takes to get the job done.

      To paraphrase the amazing Dorian Corey, if you play highlander and like it, well hooray for you.

      • Avatar
        Loopy December 25, 2014 4:39 pm #

        Wow! I had no idea that would rub folks the wrong way. I was just really surprised/pleased that the format received such positive feedback from the attendees. I was expecting far more people to be lukewarm or negative than there were. If it came across as “this is the way it should be done and if you don’t, then F you”, that certainly was not my intent.

        • Avatar
          Loopy December 25, 2014 4:41 pm #

          Is there a big argument going on about the Format on other, darker corners of the internet that I’m not privy to that’s making folks a little more sensitive about it?

          • jy2
            jy2 December 25, 2014 5:12 pm

            I think they misinterpreted your intent to promote the Highlander as a fun and alternative format for tournament play as someone who is trying to change tournaments as they are currently. It didn’t come out like that to me. Rather, it sounded more like someone who is enthusiastic about a style of play that they think is a lot of fun, which I am totally fine with. Different strokes for different folks. Adding more different formats only enhances my gaming experiences, not diminishes it. Keep up the good work.

          • Avatar
            AbusePuppy December 25, 2014 10:08 pm

            There was, amongst other things, a BoLS article preaching the Highlander format as a supposed solution to the game’s current problems that garnered more than a little bit of antipathy.

            Also, I will admit, as a tournament player I got a similar vibe that Adam did from the article- that you were pushing it as a “solution” format, in particular because a lot of the phases you used (“the unbeatable list,” etc) and the fact that the format was heavily houseruled even beyond the Highlander stuff (limits on Lords of War, de-regulating some but not all transports and troops, specifying units to count as each other, no Forge World, etc) makes it feel as though you are trying to impose what you think is the “right” way to play the game on other people.

            If that wasn’t your intent- fair enough, but I do think it’s a very reasonable interpretation of the above article to see that sort of vibe coming through to many folks.

          • Avatar
            Loopy December 25, 2014 11:32 pm

            The no Forgeworld was very much just because I didn’t have time to work out what counted as what. We’ve allowed it in our past events and we’ll definitely be adding Forgeworld back into the next one. The limit on Lords of War is certainly something to discuss, especially at 1500. I get the impression from my players that they aren’t interested in seeing them if they’re taking up the majority of someone’s list and they can just remove power armor without a thought. They just don’t want to see it and I’m happy to oblige, really. The units that count as each other thing I got from the Hit Point Hobbies site which I was under the impression was the originator.

          • Avatar
            AbusePuppy December 26, 2014 1:43 pm

            Well, one easy solution would just be to not have stuff count as anything but itself.

        • Avatar
          Cavalier December 26, 2014 5:34 am #

          It didn’t come off that way at all to me Loopy. I was surprised Geoff took it that way myself. I thought you were just highlighting its increasing popularity and pointing out why people like it.

          im not a highlander guy myself and tend to get irritated when people complain about competitive play… but I wasn’t getting a preachy vibe at all. I think Geoff just took it the wrong way.

          • Avatar
            Loopy December 26, 2014 7:48 am

            Me too! I love playing competitively and hosting competitive events. One of the things I like about the format is that, it seems anyways, to diminish the importance of army choice and stress more on list building and playing which allows for players with different armies to compete better or at least put up a fight. As a sometimes-competitive player, that is exciting to me! Also, I was thinking that since it was a Highlander tournament, I’d better darn well talk about how it worked out for people. Hehe. Maybe my language did get a bit evangelical for the system because it worked out so well and that excited me. I tend to get very excited. LOL!

    • Avatar
      Carl Tuttle December 27, 2014 11:06 am #

      Preachy is a bit strong of a word here. The point of the article was this event (which was highlander) and ultimately Adams findings from that event.

      Great article Adam.

      • Avatar
        Cavalier December 28, 2014 4:20 am #

        I was saying he DIDNT sound preachy at all. Oh dear mass confusion is reigning around this article. I’m sorry Loopy!

  2. Avatar
    Dave December 25, 2014 2:03 am #

    ^ That.

  3. Avatar
    euansmith December 25, 2014 4:14 am #

    It looks like a good fun tournament. The trophy and “Last Supper” are both very cool.

  4. Avatar
    Arcahn21 December 25, 2014 5:52 am #

    Any chance of getting the Event Rules Packet posted?

    • Reecius
      Reecius December 25, 2014 11:21 am #

      They are posted in the body of the article =)

      • Avatar
        Arcahn21 December 25, 2014 3:42 pm #

        Doh I totally missed it, thanks!

  5. Avatar
    Kevvo December 25, 2014 6:13 am #

    Wait a minute, am I reading this right? A Sisters of Battle army was in the top bracket? I am pleased by this news.

    Overall, sounds like the event was a blast. I’m particularly impressed by the diversity of the armies that showed up, rather than the endless spam of Bikers, Flyrants and Wave Serpent spam you see at other events.

    • Avatar
      Simon December 25, 2014 6:44 am #

      Complaints about Flyrants already and they have only just really become competetive lol

      At least give them a few months to win a couple of GT’s before putting them down!

  6. Avatar
    ironicgolem December 25, 2014 8:13 am #

    Forgot SOB, deathwing in the finals? Really what is the world coming to.

  7. jy2
    jy2 December 25, 2014 8:28 am #

    Looks like a lot of fun and congrats to the winner, even if she is running Eldar. Haha…. 😉

    I actually enjoyed the article and the Highlander is really a fun and different event. Will give it a go at the LVO, assuming I don’t make it to the Semi-finals of the Championships.

  8. Reecius
    Reecius December 25, 2014 9:50 am #

    Sounds like everyone had good fun! Congrats to Charissa!

  9. Avatar
    White925 December 25, 2014 9:51 am #

    Awesome article! Looks like the event was a lot of fun. I’m excited to try some highlander games.

  10. Avatar
    Jay Pena December 25, 2014 11:28 am #

    I like that more females are playing the game. Good job beating down those boys.

  11. Avatar
    Delevarius December 25, 2014 12:14 pm #

    finally, a tournament report on the net with the top army lists released! this should a standard thing…

  12. Avatar
    Fagerlund December 26, 2014 5:06 am #

    I play a similar list as the winner (replace Wraithblades with Guardians and Windriders with a Vyper pretty much), and I’m currently undefeated with it (have beaten Serpent spam among other things). It’s a surprisingly strong list and seem to take most people off guard. And that just goes to show no matter what format we use there will still be imbalance around. So I say it’s better to just play the game and learn to deal with the issues rather than using various restrictions. But people in general are too lazy for that I suppose. 🙂

  13. Avatar
    tag December 26, 2014 9:57 am #

    I appreciate the report, and I appreciate the advocacy as well. It is important to engage in a discussion about different tournament formats, and their pluses and minuses.

    We should foster such discussion and advocacy, and not flee from it. And when a discussion of that sort pops up we should engage it on the merits.

    I’ve had good fun with highlander games, but haven’t participated in a highlander tourney yet. My observation is that it shifts the game results away from army choice and matchups more towards list design and gameplay which is definitely a good thing, and something that is required for future tournament format success, especially for larger events. I would prefer a less restrictive method for raising the importance of gameplay, but understand the political necessity to begin with a Highlander approach.

    Loopy, you described Highlander as a “Big Step in the Right Direction”. It it your inclination to stand pat on this step for a while until you have explored it more fully, or to plan out future steps in an effort to further improve your tournaments?

    • Avatar
      Loopy December 26, 2014 10:47 am #

      Thanks, tag. I need to streamline my missions a little so that they are easier to understand and not as time consuming to score each round. I REALLY want to keep a 4-game format so that I can always have a clear undefeated winner, so the key to that will be time management even if that means cutting back some of the aspects of the Maelstrom/TacO portions of the missions. I also want to bring back Forgeworld so that people can fill in some further holes their codex may have. I see our format evolving from there, but naturally and with player feedback.

  14. Avatar
    ZeroWolf December 27, 2014 12:38 am #

    Oh snap!

    Think you can post some more shots of those Matrix CSMs?

  15. Avatar
    Freeman December 28, 2014 2:13 am #

    Out of curiosity what was in the death wing and ravenwing armies? I’d have thought highlander near impossible with these restrictions?

    My only worry is that your results seem to actually hint that highlander doesn’t make that much difference. It’s no real surprise that the only Eldar player won and that tyranids cannot compete without spam.

    • Avatar
      Loopy December 28, 2014 5:42 am #

      You’ll have to check out our specific format. I did not require folks take every Troops choice in order to take multiples of the same troop. Just because an Eldar player was at the top and Tyranids didn’t do well isn’t very telling for the format, especially with such a small sample size. Player skill was reflected rather well on the rankings.

      Also, the end result is only half the battle. Making sure people have fun games is the primary goal of Highlander; making sure they have a fighting chance. From what I saw, that part was very successful.

  16. Avatar
    42 December 28, 2014 4:55 pm #

    where can we find more shots of those Matrix themed Chaos?

    thanks for the tournament report

  17. Avatar
    Bob December 30, 2014 9:56 pm #

    Highlander seems a bit to restricting for my taste and as i understand you can still get something liek 6 Leman Russ if you want?

  18. Avatar
    z3n1st January 19, 2015 10:32 pm #

    Looking over those lists, it looks like quite a few of them Didn’t adhere to highlander format… lots of multiple troops (while other troop options still available but not chosen), some lists had the same units multiple times (cleverly disguised in the other detachment but still there). I thought highlander format was ‘there can be only one’.

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