If I had to convince some curious character on the merits of playing competitive Warhammer 40,000, there’s only one story in my mind that could wrap up the strategy, the mind games and the unorthodox strategies that makes the tabletop game so compelling. That is the story of Shooter and Wheels, and the Kroot Conga Line.
It all took place during the 2009 European Team Championship tournament in Germany, an event where teams from across the continent compete to find out which country is the best at a range of tabletop games - Warhammer 40,000 included.
Wheels (pictured in a white shirt and glasses in the image thread originally uploaded by Imgur user dhamster) held his entire army off the board during his setup phase at the start of the game, a move that was legal in fifth-edition 40k, with the intended purpose being to re-deploy a portion of the troops later in the match to keep things interesting. As his opponent wouldn’t know where his units would be, they would be forced to position their own units safely, allowing Wheels to later assemble his army in a way to best exploit any weaknesses in positioning.
Shooter (pictured kneeling in black) countered the move by positioning his Kroot scout units in a line across Wheels’ side of the board. This - according to the rules preventing opponents from placing units in close proximity to an enemy - meant that Wheels was technically unable to place any of his army. With no army, the game was over before it really began, leading to a beautiful smile for the camera as a judge legitimised the result.
This tale of tabletop trickery went viral as soon as it was online, and continues to get pulled up every now and again in Warhammer communities every now and again for a chuckle. It’s such a hit, in fact, that it has often exploded outside of the typical tabletop forums and dedicated websites, introducing itself to a whole new wave of hobbyists each time. Shooter and Wheels’ match is timeless. The rules since Warhammer 40,000’s sixth edition don’t even allow for the play to work anymore, but if you mention the Kroot Conga Line to a player in your local hobby store, chances are they’ll know what you mean.
I tracked down the two players to hear what it’s like to be at the centre of a moment beloved by the 40k community over the years. I first found Shooter - a French player by the name of Arnaud Monvoisin - who took me through his side of the story.
Following his attendance of tournaments in the early 2000s, Monvoisin was recruited to the French National team for ETC (European Tabletop Championship) events. According to Monvoisin, his team has never been defeated since it was formed in 2008 during French qualifier events.
“My chance to win this match up was very low but, for the sake of the team, we decided to put the White Scars army against my Tau because of the table,” Monvoisin recalls. “On the table, there was a big building in the centre where I could put my Kroots and my Shas'O (Commander).
After eight or nine Kroots Petr realised what I was doing and went to ask the referee if my move was legit.
“I deployed the army first and I took a bet. I put my commander in the centre of the table and announced I’d put my two squads of Kroots in infiltration [meaning they can be deployed outside of standard deployment zones, away from the rest of the army]. I hoped that Petr [Wheels] would attempt to play safe and put all this army in reserve to avoid some casualties from my Kroot and especially from my Shas'O.
“Then he announces to me he’d put all this army in reserve. So, the victory was almost in my hands. But with the language barrier, I asked him a second time if he was certain to put all this army in reserve. He said, ‘Yes.’”
“After eight or nine Kroots Petr realised what I was doing and went to ask the referee if my move was legit. By the time the referee came to the table, I put my 26 Kroots on the table. And I went to announce my win to my teammates.
“This is a big memory for me. I perfectly remember the explosion of joy of my teammates. They all took me in their arms and carried me! Really, it's great to remember. I was told they’d take a picture and I tried to wink but I found I have a weird face on it.”
As interesting as Monvoisin’s recount was, I wanted to dig into the aftermath of the match. What was it like being the star at the centre of this famous play?
“At the start, I was amused by all the reactions. For some, I was ‘evil’ with no sportsmanship. For others, I was a genius. I was really surprised at how big the story became! There wasn't a tournament where no one spoke to me about this Kroot move.
For some, I was ‘evil’ with no sportsmanship. For others, I was a genius.
“Some guys have even asked me for an autograph or told me it's an honour to play with me. I used to think they were overreacting - I'm just a 40k player like anyone else. Now, when this happens, I feel okay with it. If I can give some happiness by giving some advice or playing with a ‘fan’, it seems like a good thing to me.
“In truth, I still find that becoming a meme is totally crazy and unbelievable.”
After speaking to Monvoisin, he passes me along to Wheels - Petr Yasychenko, who resides in Russia. Since their fateful meeting at this infamous tournament match, the two have stayed in touch over the years, becoming friends on Facebook where they can keep in contact despite the distance between them. While Monvoisin gushed extensively about his recollection of the event, Yasychenko is matter-of-fact, stating simply: “I forgot about infiltrating Kroots and lost a game.”
I ask what his thoughts are on the status of this game among the community, and whether he was okay with being immortalised as the victim of Shooter’s peculiar strategy.
“That was quite a funny photo and an interesting situation,” Yasychenko says. “It is worth pointing out that most people discussing this situation don't know the rules of that edition and make wild theories about that game. I read them sometimes when they pop up in my Facebook feed. Yes, I'm okay with it.”
Yasychenko still collects and plays both Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar to this day, showing me an impressive collection of models he’s proud of - including a beautifully painted Relic Knight and its custom pilot. While Monvoisin did take a break between 2013 and 2017, he’s since returned to the game and has been playing with the French ETC team since 2018. With both players still interested in the game - even after all this time - who is the better player?
“That day - of course Arnaud, because he won,” Yasychenko tells me. “It would be great to meet again and see.”
Monvoisin responds with his signature cheekiness. “Good question. This will depend on the army, table and scenario. Hard to say, but I will win, of course ;)”