Story II: The Skyscraper.
I mentioned in the last story that Tony and Steve were playing their second game. Well, what follows is the story of their first. I remembered this as I was recalling the details of the above story.
Today's tale takes place in the Games Workshop Battle Bunker in Bowie, MD in a tiny strip mall about halfway between Annapolis and Washington, DC. The Bunker isn't there anymore, but at the time it was a 24 gaming table hub of all things Games Workshop. The Blood in the Badlands campaign was still in its early stages and people were meeting each other and playing each other for the first time.
To understand this story, you have to understand a concept in the 8th Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WHFB) that I like to call the "Power Gamer's Cocaine." WHFB was a great system as long as your armies stayed outside on the battlefield. Go inside buildings and... things get a bit wonky. This particular rule concerns how many troops can fit inside a building. The rule basically said that a unit can fit up to 5 troopers per floor of the structure, for purposes of size and being able to fire out through windows, doors, etc. The variety of possible buildings that can appear on a Warhammer tabletop meant that there couldn't really be specific rules for each, so the catch-all rule was (paraphrased) "The players should agree before the game how many floors a building has." This isn't hard to do for 99% of the population, since generally models built for tabletop wargames have an obvious number of floors in them..
Then there's that 1%.
In this scenario, Tony's force had rolled up on a fortress under Steve's control and was assaulting it. So far, so good. The players placed the castle on the table, and then began to place other scenery items on the table. Things like hills, forests, other structures, fences, etc. got placed, one at a time. Tony chose a tower and placed it a few inches outside Steve's fortress walls. This was the red flag that anybody who ever played Tony should have known to look out for. Steve never had before, at this point.
Now, I was at the Bunker that day, playing a game from the same campaign against another player, but as I looked over and saw that tower go up, a little voice inside my head said "uh-oh." I knew that Tony had placed that tower, and I knew what it meant. Too late, I realized that I had failed to warn Steve about Tony's approach to gaming. Now I was just waiting for the inevitable.
You see, as I discovered a little while later, Tony had proposed that this tower be considered 10 stories tall. Steve, being new to Warhammer, new to playing Tony, and a very laid back, friendly guy to begin with, amicably said "Sure. 10 stories it is." And nearly sealed his fate.
The tower model we're talking about here is about 6" tall and represents a wizard's tower of about 3, maybe 4 floors. (I don't remember exactly. I have a tower ruins model that uses many of the same parts but mine only goes up 2 stories.) That model isn't high enough to be able to see over the walls of the castle, but if it were 10 stories...
And that's what Tony was counting on. He was now playing as if that model were itself 10 stories which meant it would easily be able to shoot over the walls and into the castle courtyard. He then garrisoned a 30 model unit of elite Wood Elf archers into it which meant a murderous rain of wood and feathery death would be raining down into that castle every turn, and there was very little Steve could do about it.
I don't need to tell you that Steve was going to lose that castle. An army of fortified High Elven defenders was poised to lose a stone and mortar fortification to an army of Wood Elves with nothing but bows and a couple of walking trees.
Now, I'm making Tony seem like a jerk here and I don't mean to. As I said before he's a good guy. The problem is that almost every gamer has a sense of when they're gaming the rules, and when they aren't. It keeps us on the straight and narrow path that avoids exploits or holes in the rules that are obvious errors. Tony's brain did not come with that component installed in the software, and he just doesn't see it. From his point of view, declaring the tower to be a 10 story structure is a perfectly legitimate play since it violates no rule in the book.
Steve wisely came over to me, as the Campaign GM, ans asked me if this was a legitimate play. I went over, got Tony's side of the story, and made the following ruling:
Want it to be 10 stories? Fine, it's 10 stories but regardless of how many floors you and your opponent decide that building has, the actual height of the model doesn't change. Steve agreed that the building was a 10 story building, but it's still no taller than it was before and therefore it still can't see over the wall. Tony didn't like that ruling, but to his credit, he didn't pitch a fit about it. He accepted the ruling and the game was played. He did wind up putting that large unit in the tower and using it to shoot at Steve's defenders on the walls, but he did not have a line of sight to fire into the courtyard.
The moral of this story: You aren't being a jerk if you don't just let your opponent do whatever he wants. Some opponents will willfully abuse the rules to gain an advantage, and some just don't realize when they're doing it. Either way, even if you're laid back, don't be a doormat. Fair play is fair play.
"He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool."
"Don't take refuge in the false security of consensus."