Scenario play in Warmahordes is not just a tournament standard. In fact, I would advice anyone already over the game rules learning hill with a decent (25 points?) collection to play scenarios from the get go. Here’s why.
Caster kill games get old very fast. More so, there are bad matchups and there are worse. Caster kill exaggerates these matchups in a very clear way. The rock-paper-scissors aspect of the game comes to the forefront in such a way that when a bad matchup is set one player will just have no fun at all. It is great to learn, specially to learn what your models can do and when, but after a while it will be about the best list.
Let me give you an example of this. You have anti-X model on the table. It will be deployed straight ahead of your opponent’s X models. Every single time. Now, depending on the scenario, your anti-X model might seem to work better someplace else due to some of its other rules and abilities. So now you have to make a choice based on scenario. Choice is good.
It gives you something to fight for. Alright, I admit it, Steamroller scenarios are as abstract as they get. You could add some fluff and spice to any of them, but I’m sure not everyone will. And in the end, it’s still about controlling the flags or occupying the marked area. But still, they add something other than utter destruction, something to think about other than shooting and hitting.
Makes scenery important. There are factions that can ignore almost all the terrain on the board with the proper list (Legion, Circle). They make caster kill games an unfair proposition. One player has to deal with the forest and the walls while the other one ignores them all and focuses on grinding the opponent getting ready for caster kill. Trust me, I’ve played a ton of those and it is not fun at all. Sure, on a scenario things are the same for both players (one ignoring everything) but that player has to be active about stuff, and not just reactive from safety. You can hide all you want, but when I score that 3rd point I win no matter what you have done and how with your spiffy rules.
Makes movement crucial. In a game where movement already is a beast of a factor (unlike many other wargames) the scenarios make planning your movement specially tricky. You want to be where you want when you want, and you need to avoid the enemy doing that as well. It’s no longer a matter of staying out of threat ranges. It’s going where you have to, considering the risks that threat ranges pose, and thinking how to deal with that.
Makes you a better player. Ok, I can only speak for myself about this, but I really think I do a lot more brainwork playing scenarios than plain bashing. And the best part is I don’t get burned so easily. After a couple of games of caster kill remembering every threat range and trick the enemy model’s can pull on me I get exhausted. But I can play 4 or 5 straight scenario games where both my opponent and myself are thinking above the abilities of the models, and it somehow makes me worry more about tactics and movement and crazy tricks with what I have there and then, than just thinking about the initial deployment for the rock-paper-scissors kind of game. I can honestly say this kind of play has made me a better player.
You might think that Steamroller scenarios are only for the hypercompetitive game. And you’d be wrong. Take away the time limits and just play the scenarios at any point level with any composition. Make a story out of the abstract win conditions, make new scenery elements to represent objectives and zones. It’s all about playing with something else in mind than just bashing your opponent. It rewards smart play and not only good model stats memory. It creates a better looking playing board (most of the time).
Now, about that last point, it is true that most scenario boards seem boring. When playing competitively people try to make the board as fair as possible, and this usually means drawing an imaginary line along the board and placing mirrored scenery on each side. This is good for tournaments, but it shouldn’t for your regular scenario play. Set up the board before choosing (or rolling for) the scenario. Make the basic adjustments to place the objectives or the areas and then roll for sides. Suddenly it’s not just a matter of thinking if you wanna go first, but now choosing the board side might be just as useful.
And this is why I like to play scenarios.