For Better or Worse

The Milton Keynes Grand Tournament 2023 a.k.a MK:GT returned for another successful year – and retained its title of largest Legion event in the UK for the second year running! This fact is one I am tremendously proud of, as MK:GT is my wife and I’s own event that we run together. It does come with its challenges though, sometimes the fact we remain married after the weekend seems a miracle (and with my proposed changes for 2024 in already under discussion, I may be stretching the vow of, “for better or worse” to its limits!) Regardless, after a fantastic inaugural event in 2022, it was a given we would be running it again this year and we set ourselves the challenge of exceeding expectation! Plus – we have 12 months instead of 6 to organise, should be a breeze, right? Right?! Well…

The first issue we encountered was the terrain we hired last year was no longer available to us. I only had about six tables of my own terrain so I had to fire up the 3D printer and try to make up as much as possible (even if it wasn’t the full amount). By Christmas, it became painfully evident that there was no way my little printer could get through enough to get me where I needed to, meaning I was ending up with a Triggers Broom situation. Fortunately one of my best mates (shout out to Dez!) kindly stepped in with his admittedly, much nicer printer, and managed to knock out eight whole tables (plus spares) on his own.

In addition, Carl who runs my local FLGS, Wargames Workshop, who was already kindly donating some prize support, stepped in and offered up 10 tables worth including mats. To round out the mats, we decided to go with Deep Cut Studio and in turn they offered us sponsorship for the event, donating a number of complimentary dice trays as well as a full 6 x 3ft neoprene mat, which we eventually awarded to Best Sportsperson.

With a few more gaps filled from local players and friends, we secured everything needed. We made a website where people could purchase tickets and went live in October and we sold out all 64 tickets at the beginning of February, with a considerable waiting list for cancellations.

Not long afterwards, we had both travelled to the World Championships at AdeptiCon and met with AMG to try and get MK:GT as a Worlds Qualifier. We had a positive meeting and set the wheels in motion to make the dream come true. With some positive encouragement from the community, my wife had discussion with and secured a new sponsor in the form of Sanctuary Gaming Centre who could donate an additional 10 tables of terrain and mats. This gave us the confidence to bite the bullet and extend the whole event up to 96 players!

And well…we finally sold out all tickets with less than two weeks from the event!

The Numbers Game

Although numbers have always been my forte, I have nothing on the stat wizard himself, Krzysztof Trojanowski (Derrkater on Discord) who whilst hailing from Poland and was unable to attend himself, did have a keen vested interest in a couple of his fellow team mates who did make it over. The below numbers are all courtesy of Krzysztof, and you can ignore the entries on the extreme bottom and top ends of the below graph which weren’t real data points.

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Let us start with the biggest bid and biggest talking point pre-gaming I’ve seen in a long time – 37 points! Yes, you read that correctly. Mike Rees drummed up that whopping number with his 501st list ready to contend with Blizzard Force. Typically, he didn’t actually meet any during the weekend but it did end up helping him get a win vs triple AT-ST Tempest Force by forcing a mission which they could not score with.

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The activation count in the UK is pretty much the same as the rest of the world, settling on an average of nine strong units. Nine is a solid number of units to have and you can get a pass if you play vs someone with more activations.

Faction breakdown heralded no real surprise with Empire and all its battle forces as the most played, followed by the other red save faction. What is interesting is the drop in Rebel players in the UK. Normally they’ve come a close second behind Empire but we saw a noticeable decrease but a good upswing in Shadow Collective and Droid players.

Win rates however, are a bit more interesting. Rebels seem to generally only have strong success against Shadow Collective, which was the smallest faction present so the likelihood of this matchup was quite small. I think this reinforces the public’s feelings of Rebels being in the weakest position currently.

Empire is currently regarded as the strongest faction however that isn’t represented in the above graph. This is most likely due to the fact that whilst is it most popular faction to play, this often results in a wider range of skill level. I think the biggest stat to take away from this is that Separatists have above 50% win rates against all factions!

The amount of data that Krzysztof has mined from this tournament is fascinating and I will leave the rest of the data available here for you to consider. If you plan on attending the London Grand Tournament later this year for another World Open Qualifier in the UK then maybe there is some nice inside information for you…

Top 8

8th – Christopher Smith

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Chris is the genius who came up with the Palpatine list that I took to a store championship and won my Worlds invite with. To hear that he’d had made an adjustment to the list got me excited but after seeing the change I offered the opinion that I thought he made It worse! Well, I’m glad that he proved me wrong! In all fairness, his snipers couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn door but apparently extra Shore Troopers do more damage! Chris only loss was against one of the finalists, quite an improvement from his 35th place finish at UKGE!!

7th – Frazer Eden

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From the off, Frazer had told me he had something to prove and set himself the challenge of making Rex competitive, which he said would only be possible if he made top eight – specifically so that I had to write something about his list in this article. Well he might technically be right as I consider what he did as cheating as he took 501st which we know is good in the right hands and Frazer is a very good player. He also improved Rex by pairing him with Anakin. This list has lots of flexibility to either play a range 4/5 game or engage closer with bigger dice pools.

Frazer’s only loss was apparently due to not taking Force push on Anakin. He had secured the Hostage with Rex scouting party but had could not remove the force user from his army. That being said, a very good finish.

6th – James Birkhead

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The Force works in mysterious ways, which James discovered after the lists had been locked and messaged me to say he had mistakenly put Force Barrier on Yoda and it was meant to be Burst of Speed. (Un?)Fortunately for him, I was unable to let him make the change and I even reminded him during game one, “Don’t forget you have Barrier, not Speed!” to which he looked less than pleased (sorry James!). However, when I checked in with him during game two, he replied that it was actually helping him win the games!

Yoda and Chewie used to be popular but due to the scale nerfs has not been seen as much. This list seems to want to focus on the objectives and not die while running away with boxes or hostages very. Clearly the damage mitigation was about as valuable to him as Burst would have been, judging from his finish!

5th – Paul Buller

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Paul took General Grievous all the way to round six undefeated running a full commando droid squad along with strike teams. That’s one unit ranked as Tier F and three units ranked as Tier D!

You can see the list is designed to hit you at long range with some plink damage and then as you get closer to the objectives or to the gunline you start to take more damage from the bigger dice pools, then the General can charge into the fray and clean up or tie up a force user. His only loss of the whole tournament was due to a mega-smart play from his opponent. Paul was using a height two building to scale up (scale is still good sometimes!) and shoot at a distance while staying out of range 3 of his opponent, who had no guns further than that. He was then retreating down and recovering his shields if he got shot. His opponent force pushed the full squad of BX droids to the edge of the height two building, then used Vader’s might onto a nearby height 1 building which Vader could then climb and engage in melee. This shifted the momentum of the game and this game was a pair down for Paul, which if he had won would have lead to a 7th game but this allowed his opponent (the infamous Mr. Grant) to rank above him and steal his ticket!

4th – Dave Grant

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Shock! Horror! – Dave took Vader to an event! His knowledge on how to play Vader and the tricks you can do with him is is why he is regarded as one of the best Vader players in the UK, if not the world. And for absolute clarification, when we say Vader we mean Commander Vader this side of the pond. This is list is such a hard list to chew through! 12 heals either for Vader or for the Storms. What you have to remember on a red saving army like this that due to red dice average saves each heal is actually two “effective” health. If they heal Vader then it’s even more value for points. When I was watching his match vs Paul, Vader would suffer one wound from a sniper then just instantly be healed, undoing the damage but inflicting moral damage on his opponent. I also saw Dave leave Vader in some very open dangerous locations, but having Guardian 6, plus red surging saves plus the heals, leads to people taking the bait and Vader charging the following turn.

A great finish leading Dave to secure his spot at Worlds 2024 (and you’d better believe he’s bringing the good whiskey again!)

3rd – Kasper Verkammen

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This is a great well-rounded list. Kasper has three rockets to take down armour along with some critical to help against troopers as well. The flexibility of Cad Bane with Asajj is a great pairing, giving him the threat of Bounty (maybe even two!) if needed. In addition, it helps to have a hard hitting force user to help on missions like Hostage or Key Positions to get the big swings in the game.

I think the key to this list is pilot skill and knowing how to get the timing and positioning of every unit right since losing Cad or Asajj too early can lead to losing the game if they have not traded up in points. Kasper’s only loss all weekend was in the final round against the winner, which you can watch on stream.

2nd – Oskar Kida

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Last year’s champion at LGT came back to the UK all the way from Poland to snatch second place with General Grievous! What I like about this list is the two Black Sun Enforcers. At range two they are really efficient and also have pierce to help against the two most popular red save armies. He has also made the adjustment in his list to help vs armour by taking 3 rockets. Having the two Magnaguards and Grievous is going to be enough to stop most force users from diving him.

Overall, Oskar took down James Birkhead and Dave Grant with his only loss to the winner of the entire weekend, and so did himself, team and country proud.

The only thing Oskar let himself down on was his ill thought out plan to try to challenge the Brits to show us how to drink on the Saturday night! However, being as he finished day one on 3-0, his decision not to go heavy on the drinks turned out to be a sensible choice!

1st – Olly Dier

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Ah, Mr Dier. What can be said that hasn’t already been said? Well firstly you may have noticed (if you take notice of these things) if that a few lists at this tournament – and certainly all of Olly’s previous ones – make references to the TO eating dogs. It is at this point that I and The Fifth Trooper must advise that no dogs were eaten or harmed at this event nor do we condone the eating of dogs (unless they are hot dogs – obviously). Truly, Olly’s strongest suit is managing to troll me at every event.

In terms of actual game play however, Olly has been shouting from the rooftops that Commander Vader in Blizzard Force is categorically the best version (although as the old saying goes, “If you throw enough mud at a wall, some of it will stick”). Well now Olly has had his vindication moment as it’s the only legal version of Blizzard Force and since playing nothing else since his top five finish at World’s means that this list is still worth bringing!

The change to include HH-12 has been in his list since the introduction of Dark Troopers but is now more of a must due to Tempest Force. Where the US players have been moving away from Vader Blizzard Force, Olly’s well-deserved victory this weekend is just another example of his high skill and proof that Commander Vader might just always been the best version of this list. Citation needed – Doc

Unfortunately for the UK players, we now need to live with Olly gloating that he has won his ticket so I look forward to anyone trying to knock him down a peg or two at Worlds.

A bloody good time

Overall, the tournament was a huge success in both in turnout and results. In the end we had 87 players make it on the weekend, still retaining our title of biggest UK event to date. It really does take a (Bright Tree?) Village to make it work, from our incredible sponsors (including our own The Fifth Trooper Network who donated many prizes), to everyone who allowed us to beg, steal and borrow terrain and mats from them– a full list of “thank yous” can be found here. It allowed us to give prizes away for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, top in faction, best sportsperson, best painted (model, vehicle and army), bottom 16, wooden spoon, and that’s before we even get to the AMG prize support! We also had the return of everyone’s favourite Bounty Card Bingo too – ensuring nobody went away empty handed!

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Top 3 List Names

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The social side of the event on the Saturday night also helped everyone bond and meet new friends and a few players picking a new nickname or two that will last for future events to come (you know who you all are!)

Congratulations to all the top four players on gaining their invites to Worlds 2024 and I look forward to seeing you all again in August 2024!

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Best Painted

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Best Painted Army – Stewart Cox
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Joint Best Painted Vehicle – Hannah Stevenson
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Joint Best Painted Vehicle – Jordan Hatswell
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Best Painted Model – Lee Macken

Prizes

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4th Place – Dave Grant
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3rd Place – Kasper Verkammen
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2nd Place – Oskar Kida
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1st Place – Olly Dier
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Best Sportsperson – Mateusz Cyc

Images from the weekend

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Goody bags for each player
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