Declan ‘The Best Big Waagh Player In The World’ Waters is often credited (by me) as the player who put Big Waagh on the map in 3rd Edition, but he’s not exactly bad with his other armies either. So we decided to squeeze some insights on 20 years of competitive play, the future of the game, and his own personal philosophy on having a good time!
Danny: The big recent news is you’ve made it into the Tsports Champs event [since time of asking, Declan finished 14th, going 2-3 – with all three losses to Seraphon, the poor bastard] – have you decided what to run, and what are you hoping to get out of the event personally?
Declan Waters: I’ve been playing tournaments for 20 years and always brought slightly suboptimal armies trying to get those 3-2s. Most people in the hobby knew I could play but that I wouldn’t bring the latest filth! At one tournament a top player turned to me on day 1 after I went 3-0 with Goblins and said ‘what are you doing up here’ 🤣
With the Covid break we had some players leaving and some new join the scene and my preferred army (Gitz) had gone so far behind I was losing to new players with Seraphon and Daughters, despite [me] knowing the game better. In fact, I helped teach some of them the core rules knowing my poor Goblins couldn’t compete!
So I made the decision that I should probably show the new players that I could play… I took Ironjawz with some success but then tried Big Waaagh and went 4-1 then 5-0.
But to qualify is amazing – I’d love to bring the Gitz but it seems unfair to the Big Waaagh who got me this far so I’ll probably allow them out to play.
I can imagine you saying “i’ve forgotten more AoS rules than you’ll ever know…” 20 years is a lot of experience – in high level terms, how have you seen the game and the community evolve in that time?
The game has gone from rare releases (you could easily wait 10 years for a new army book) to rapid fire (3 LRL books in no time is crazy!!) This means that keeping up with what’s new is difficult, so I think barriers to entry are increasing.
For AoS I remember v1 ‘the wild west’ where Mo saved us all with a point scheme because games workshop only did wounds! So a 14 wound Gigantic Spider cost the same as 14 Goblins! And armour value was ‘free’. It really was strange and a lot of good friends went to 9th age. I dabbled a bit in it as well, but there were as many rules changes there as AoS and my beloved Goblins got hammered again and again! So I switched to just AoS.
For the community it’s been a quantum leap forward, with the ease of communication from the Internet, YouTube channels and podcasts. In 2002 when I played at the Bristol Big Uns there were 4 tournaments – 2 in Bristol and 2 in Nottingham ran by WPS (Warhamer Player’s Society) – now there can be 4 a weekend!
Young whippersnappers don’t know how good they’ve got it! So can we double down on this thought process? As a great player who deliberately avoids ‘the latest filth’ – what’s your advice for people who may want to run fluffier stuff but that might still end up playing 6 dragons and long strikes etc? Or in other words, how do you avoid being frustrated with people who do lean hard as possible into non interactive games?
It’s very difficult and I think it’s definitely something that tournament organisers could help with by giving an indication of what they might expect. We had dragons at a local 1 dayer recently which was completely inappropriate but having said all that, at a big enough tourney you won’t actually fight much filth… that’s the joy of Swiss [pairings]. I’m a fan of comp though like ‘Timmy comp’ when organisers would just say no to lists that were un-interactive! But that doesn’t happen in AoS.
What I do is make myself little objectives either narratively or (in a 20-0 system or tiebreak) to try to get as many points as I can. For example, I had great fun at BoBo last year despite playing with Gitz because it was 20-0, so even if I was losing I could play for tournament points and get higher up the table. I got quite a few 7-13!
But the key is… know what to expect. Have a look at The Honest Wargamer stats for your army. If a 1-4 is good aim for 1-1-3 not 5-0. And don’t blame your opponents for your poor army (it’s difficult!) I find talking about ‘GW design’ means I can laugh with my opponents about some of the poor things jn the army (Gitz).
That said, Big Waagh are good, and I’ve only played Gitz in 2, 5-game tournaments in AoS 3 because of the book.
For new players I would say have a look at which armies are doing well and pick something in the top third. It is much more fun to have an army that can compete rather than playing with one hand behind your back!
Awesome advice. That was a slightly selfish question too.
People (including our own website) often talk about specific rules/units – which is essential, of course, but what do you think are some of the most fundamentally important aspects to playing Warhammer? For instance – is it in probabilistic thinking? Having a plan and sticking to it? Staying calm?
Scenario! Always play the scenario. Read it, check both players understand it and remember it! There’s no point killing Archaeon if the Varanguard are holding the key objectives. Along the same vein, build your list to get battle tactics. I’ve won loads of games because people have tried to kill the Maw Krusha because its big rather than the warchanter on an objective!
Age of Sigmar isn’t about killing things (unless you take Dragons and Raptors) it’s about movement and placement.
With Thondia, we’re seeing the introduction of narrative Seasons for AoS – but models like the Incarnate bleed into mainstream matched play and unless i’m misremembering, we’re looking at 2 GHBs a year now.
I have a couple of questions about that – the first one is simply how do you feel about it?
It’s not good in my opinion.
GW have always said they are a miniature company who make rules but it’s getting expensive for the rules with a main system reboot every 3 years, army books and 2 GHBs. It seems a change aimed at the small number of people who play lots. In a normal year I play at 4 tournaments and 2 GHBs makes those tournaments a lot more expensive.
There also seems to be a refusal to have narrative only models which would give more design space. I like Gotrek as a model for example but making matched play rules that match the novels is very difficult.
It would be better if he were narrative only and then you could send an army of Gitz at him (for example) and they could still make him even better than now.
I get you. So some models are hampered by having to ‘make sense’ in matched play, stopping them from actually ‘making sense’ narratively?It feels in general like 3e is doing a much better job at making good rules that also feel fluffy though
Obviously the nightmare scenario is anything resembling the state 40k is in right now. So my next question – do you think more ‘matched play or death!’ players should try narrative?
I don’t think there are many matched play or death players… but narrative is something you have to want to play! There are some great events which are narrative or semi narrative where scoring encourages non standard or ‘weak’ armies but if that’s not your idea of fun I would definitely not want to force anyone! That said if you’re bringing the top tournament army to a small one dayer at your local club… then maybe a quick rethink… or try out some other toys!
Last question – James Workshop tells you he’ll grant you one AoS wish. What do you wish for?
Gitz to be playable as Gitz, Troggs, Squigs, Spider or soup! Remove the keyword bingo!! 🤣🤞