-by Chris Olsson (PG_deranith)


Journeyman League completed – check.

75pt Lists Assembled – check.

Decision to play in a tournament – check.

Steamroller document downloaded – check.

Steamroller document confusion set in – check.

Horror at playing games that will end in crushing defeat – check.


Wait.  Stop.  Take a breath and rewind a back to the part where you decided to play in a tournament and started reading the rules.  Maybe you’ve just started playing and you’re interested in checking out a tournament to see what they’re like, or maybe you’ve been playing a while and want to up your game by getting into the competitive scene, maybe you just like competition and playing Warmachine/Hordes, regardless of reason this is all about what you need to know about playing in your first Steamroller event.


Steamroller tournaments can be very daunting to new players or those not used to competitive gameplay.  There’s an idea that comes to mind that everyone who goes to them is there with the mentality of Conan the Barbarian- to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women, when the reality tends to be far closer to your average weeknight gathering with a few extra tidbits added in.  So step 1 in preparation of your first event is to relax and keep in mind that what you’re about to do is go play some fun games with the same guys you probably already hang out with (or make some new friends who you already have something in common with if you don’t go to the usual gatherings).


What to Expect and Do

Before The Event

Be Prepared is the Boy Scout motto, and it helps in Warmachine/Hordes too! Deciding on your 2 lists is usually a good idea prior to the event and practicing them will help immensely (more on that later).  Reading through the Steamroller rules (http://privateerpress.com/organized-play/steamroller-tournaments) is a good idea as well, you don’t need to memorize everything but a read-through will help give you an idea of what kinds of rules govern these events as well as start to familiarize you with terms that aren’t in the Prime/Primal rulebooks.  Getting everything you need together the day before the event will also help, and to that end, here’s the list of things you should bring:

  • Two printed or neatly written copies of your lists (don’t forget to include an objective for each list, you can find them on page 9 of the SR2016 rules)
  • Models to play the two lists you made
  • Tokens for Focus, Fury, Spells, Upkeeps, effects (these can be as simple as little pieces of paper)
  • Tape Measure and any templates or widgets you have and would like to use
  • Optionally – objective and flag models, SR zones (most of the time the organizer will provide these, but you can bring your own if you’d like)
  • Optionally – a tray to carry models on (so you don’t have to pack everything up between rounds, a good basic and easy tray idea is a cooking pan or a cardboard box lid)
  • Positive attitude!


When You Arrive

Odds are you’ll want to get there about 30 minutes to an hour before the dice are scheduled to roll.  That gives you time to double check that you have everything and get your models out and ready to play.  Usually the game store will take your entry fee if applicable and at that point you can talk to the organizer.  They might take your lists or ask you some things like your name and what faction you play so they can enter you into the tournament software.  You can spend any leftover time talking with the other players there or getting ready for the first round.


A Typical Round

How many rounds is determined by the number of players and who wins, but basically you play until there’s one undefeated player.  Usually, it’s around three to five rounds.  Each round you will be assigned an opponent and a table to play at.  Once you know who and where, you’ll go play a timed game with a scenario from the Steamroller rules.  At the conclusion of the game, you’ll write in the results on your tournament sheet and let the organizer know too.  It’s really not much different from a game night, except that you must use a scenario, your opponent is not of your choosing, and you have a clock to contend with.  For some players, you might be used to most of this already.  Most of the time this process will repeat until there is a round that ends with a single undefeated player.


End of the Day

Once the tournament concludes, there will likely be a small awards ceremony with prizes for placing announced and sometimes other prizes as well.  It depends on the area but some groups have a sportsmanship prize, painting prizes, and some just have door prizes that are given out at random to players in attendance.  There are even prizes for last place at some events.


The Difference Between Normal Games and Steamroller Games


Objectives to destroy, flags to claim, and zones to take and hold add an element of board control to Steamroller games that aren’t there in a standard caster-kill game. Different scenarios offer different ways to score control points, score enough and you win regardless of models left on the table.   You can destroy your opponent’s objective for a control point (if present).  Zone control boils down to have models in the marked area when your opponent does not (plus some extra rules about how units score and things that cannot score at all).  Flags work like a smaller zone, but you also have to have someone standing at the flag to score.  Each scenario has it’s own scoring, so make sure to take a look at what you need to do to score control points.  Also, it’s very important to check if the scenario says Kill Box: Yes.  If it does, you need to make sure to move your caster far enough forward that they are not completely within 14” of any board edge or you’ll give your opponent free control points.



Steamroller uses timed turns by default.  That means that you have a certain amount of time, based on how big the games are, to play each turn.  You usually get one extension you can call for each game, so if you need longer for one of your turns you can use it.  If your area uses the Deathclock variant, it works just like a game of speed chess.  You flip the time to the player that’s going and if someone runs out, they automatically lose the game.  Timed games are one good reason to practice with your lists before the tournament.  The better you know your models the faster you can make things happen on your turn and the less likely the clock will be a problem.  Don’t worry if you get caught by the clock on your first time out though, while it isn’t hard to play on a clock, it does take a little practice.

Stuff That Happens at Steamroller Tournaments

Calling for a Judge/Organizer

Call a judge/organizer if you have any problems.  They are there to make the event fun for everyone and keep things running smoothly.

If there are rules questions just keep in mind that nobody is perfect when it comes to rules.  If you and your opponent have a question about the rules, you can call a judge who will give you a ruling on the spot about it.  The ruling made is always final, even if it is incorrect (judges are human too!).  It’s a good idea to look up things you have questions on after the event just to make sure for next time though.

On rare occasions you’ll get one of those players who tries to cheat, plays by incorrect interpretations of the rules, or is generally argumentative or uncooperative.  It’s okay and encouraged that you call the judge/organizer in situations that make you uncomfortable.  You don’t have to deal with those problems, the organizer will do it for you.  If you let an organizer know about a problem player, they will likely keep an eye out, but it’s much less likely they’ll be watching for things if they don’t know there’s a problem.

Sometimes there will be situations that nothing is wrong, but you want an impartial 3rd party to help you resolve something that’s really close.  Maybe it’s a crucial charge lane or LoS call, maybe it’s a deviation that might clip something but its hard to tell.  Calling a judge when everything is fine but you need that certainty is completely normal.


Handling Losses and Getting Steamrolled

Everyone loses at some point.  It’s easy to get disheartened by it, especially when it’s a good player who trounces a new guy in the first round.  Just keep a few things in mind though.  The way Steamroller events work filters players so that each round they play someone closer to their skill level.  Keep in mind that getting trounced is an opportunity.  If you just got beaten really badly, the person who beat you is likely someone you can ask about how to get better (most of the good players aren’t assholes about it).  Many players enjoy talking about the game that just finished and have no problem helping newer players learn from their mistakes and offer advice for the next game.



To sum it all up, Steamroller tournaments can be a lot of fun, a great way to get games in, one of the best places to learn how to get better, and a place you can meet some awesome players from a wider area than your local game night.  It’s well worth it to check one out and see if it’s something you’d enjoy, even if you don’t decide to do a second one.