Well, to day we have... oh wait...
*Sigh* deep breath...
The views, opinions [I generally disapprove of opinions], facts and indeed, anything at all written below is entirely the view, opinion and potential delusional ramblings of its author, and I gladly pass on any and all blame to him, though I am happy to keep an appropriate proportion of any praise...
Saying that - I fully endorse his opinions on the matter (though perhaps not all of the more... personal ... aspects)
Good afternoon campers, this is your resident lunatic speaking…
Yes indeed, Raf has let me put pen to paper once more and besmirch his blog with actual opinions. Apparently once wasn’t enough and he’s willing to let me regularly attempt to string together coherent sentences whilst abusing half the tournament scene.
This entry is inspired by recent debates, principally on the HeelanHammer podcast, on what makes a good game. Whilst the discussion on the show was quite wide-ranging I wanted to offer my penn’orth on what makes a good tournament game.
In my view the fact that a game takes place at a tournament means that, by default, two main things are different to your average club or garage game.
First and foremost both players will want to win. Even I want to win tournament games (see Panzer Aside 1). Chances are if you’ve paid your money, sat in the car for three hours with people who insist on talking shop despite your loudest pleas, burned a couple of days holiday and cashed in many shoe shopping trips’ worth of wife points, you want something to show for all this apart from a reduced bank balance and Purple Sun poisoning.
Secondly the armies on the table will often reflect this desire to win. Not everyone will be pushing the latest filth but this article assumes that both players are using armies that they expect to be able to win with at some point.
This does not mean that it’s OK to be an utter bell-end from the first dice roll on the Saturday to dice down late Sunday evening. Hopefully this entry will provide some tips that mean you will avoid any comparisons between your gaming style and having one’s genitalia sand-blasted (see Panzer Aside 2).
Top Tip 1 – Engage Your Opponent
The games that tend to stick in my mind are the ones where my opponent has been willing to join in the banter, have a reasoned debate with me if we have a rules disagreement and ultimately accepted that the dice will shaft either of us at any given moment. The result is normally irrelevant – I’ll remember it, but it was how we got there that was the fun part.
A particularly recent example of this was when I played Marcus Lake at this year’s South Coast GT. Overnight I was in the top 30 at a 200-man field with an Ogre list featuring 2 Stonehorns and the Flyrant, because I’d played 3 Warriors of Chaos players and beaten them all. Marcus’ Dark Elves however were a terrible match-up. Ogres do not like L4 Purple Sun and L4 Pit of Shades with L4 Mindrazor if you actually get near the twisted pointy eared scumbags he was pushing, and the game was pretty much one-way traffic. In short I got annihilated and it didn’t really matter what I did; the result would still have been the same.
However, despite it being a Sunday morning whitewash, Marcus was an absolute legend. We made a mini-game out of whether or not my Tyrant on a flying carpet would survive. There were drinks on offer and we even asked the TO what was the current highest margin of victory and whether I could stop him beating that. In short Marcus went out of his way to make it fun for me whilst still doing what he had to.
I’ll compare and contrast this to a game at a Winter Incursion with Jack Armstrong.
Round 3 at a 100-man event and I’m on table 2 having administered some absolute thumpings courtesy of a Bloodthirster to the face, and I’m ‘rewarded’ by getting the Zulu Dawn Lizardmen that Jack has owned the scene with. I expected to lose, and boy did I manage to do so. This game though, in a nutshell, was no fun whatsoever. Jack spoke more to a wandering friend than he did to me and we were supposed to be playing each other. I had more in-depth conversations with his girlfriend and the guys on the next table. Occasionally Jack would turn around, roll a handful of dice and take more of my Daemons off on his way to the inevitable 20-0 win, but it didn’t represent the interactive experience that Warhammer is supposed to be.
That, to me, was the height of disrespect. I’m all too aware that taking all my toys off the table doesn’t present a challenge to the top players. I’m rubbish. I know this and I’ve come to terms with it. But at least talk to me. Don’t turn me off because your mate is walking past and you’d rather talk to him. If I ever did this to someone I’d be genuinely mortified because the routine made me feel about six inches tall.
Now I know Jack is actually a decent bloke. The way he handled the list error at Midlands Open is the stuff of legends. We’ve chatted a bit recently and all was good. I’d play him again tomorrow. But that was one of the worst games I’ve had since coming onto the tournament scene and I offer it by way of example rather than a personal attack.
That’s the point of this tip. If you’re playing someone then talk to them. You’ll see your mates again and you’ll be able to catch up in the bar. But you owe your opponent the courtesy of your attention for the game. Not anyone who happens to be passing or (as has started to creep in recently) your phone / iPad. Warhammer is an interactive experience and to get the most of it, you should treat it as such.
Top Tip 2 – Don’t Download Your Army List
A pet hate for many players is the so-called netlist. Ogres with 12 Mournfang, 2 Ironblasters and a GutStar. Warriors with a Daemon Prince, a car pool of chariots and Skullfuckers. Empire with a light council, Demigryphs and cannons. Armies with no variation and that many people have brought because they hear it’s the latest filth and they should win lots of games with it.
Let me tell you a cautionary tale. My background in gaming is Warhammer 40,000 and during 5th edition of the round base fest, a codex was released for the Grey Knights. This is a particularly elite branch of Space Marines that didn’t require much in the way of models to field a viable army, and the codex was an example of Games Workshop’s finest rules writing at the time. It was, in short, total and utter complete filth that walked all over anything that had been released previously.
Not long after this release I attended a 40K event with well over 100 players. 63 of those had brought Grey Knights. 18 of those players had the exact same army list. I don’t mean similar units, I mean exactly the same. Wargear. Weapons options. Vehicle upgrades. The lists were identical.
This was what finished me with 40K. After Leafblower Imperial Guard lists I was already teetering on the edge but the Grey Kinght fiasco pushed me over. If I wanted to play chess I’d wear jamjar glasses, lose all my friends and spend every waking hour studying gambits and Torygraph puzzles (see Panzer Aside 3).
I don’t want to play chess. I want to play Warhammer and part of that is the freedom the game offers. My plea goes out to the gaming world – write your own army lists! Taking inspiration from someone else is fine. Don’t just mindlessly copy what they take because it’s not fun for anyone. You won’t know how to use it (see Panzer Aside 4) and the poor sods you’re playing will have to spend the entire weekend playing the same thing.
Top Tip 3 – BEING LOUD IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING SPORTING!
There is a certain school of thought that in order to pick up sportsmanship points, you have to act like Brian Blessed on crack. Lots of jumping up and down and shouting whilst getting trollied.
Let’s be honest. A lot of Warhammer players tend to be the quieter type of person. Behaving like this is likely to be extremely intimidating rather than get you the ‘good guy’ brownie points you so crave.
This is what caused that fateful exchange between Ben Johnson and I. We’re both very large adult men standing less than 5 feet away, but he still spent most of a game shouting at me. I wasn’t intimidated but it did get my back up, and I can easily see someone who doesn’t have my build and strength of conviction backing down when they shouldn’t just for an easy life.
Apologies if this looks like I’m singling Ben out because I’m not, and the fact that he’s picked up sportsmanship trophies in the meantime says that he’s sorted this out. Hell, I was guilty of similar behaviour before someone pointed out to me that I was literally scaring the children, and there are others who need to heed the same lesson us Bens have done.
Being sporting is more about being a nice guy and you don’t have to act like a drunken rhino with a foghorn down your throat to achieve that.
Top Tip 4 – Get On With It
We’ve all had those games. Games where the other guy will spend 20 minutes with his hand on a unit pushing it around the table, before finally deciding what to do with it. He’ll then repeat this on the next unit and keep this up the entire three hours. By the end of it you feel like you’ve had to run a marathon, such is the mental effort required not to force-feed a man like this his laser pointer, arc template and tape measure.
It’s OK to use your opponent’s turn to plan your moves out for your turn. Personally that’s how I do it. I start the game with a rough plan in my mind, tweak it as the game goes on, and make mental adjustments as my opponent makes his moves. By the time it comes to my turn I’m fairly comfortable with what I need to do so I can put my plan in place and crack on. Can’t remember the last time I failed to finish a game. It just doesn’t happen.
Somewhere in the middle of these extremes is the space occupied by most of the gaming community. It isn’t necessary to spend the time needed to construct a Screaming Skull Catapult in order to decide where to fire the thing (see Panzer Aside 5). Skinks are renowned as an impatient race so remember that when you put them in the 15th position that turn.
I get that people with horde armies will need more time to play the game. They have more stuff and there’s the time it takes to physically shift all that gear into the right place. But please. Please, please, please. Think about your opponent when playing such an army. Accept that you have to move a little bit faster with 300 Skaven on the table than 25 Warriors of Chaos. Don’t spend so much time sweating the small stuff in the early turns when it really doesn’t matter. This will mean that you will have the time you need when it does matter.
I’m one of those gamers that’s happy to agree things like arcs of sight and unit facings on a theoretical basis. What I mean is, if it’s clear that a unit can be placed in such a way that it’s out of line of sight of another unit, then I’ll agree this with my opponent, we both make a note of it, and the game can move on rather than him spending the time shoving movement trays around to actually accomplish it. Both of us know what he wants to do and if we’re both happy he can do it, why waste time? Again, little time savings, but it all adds up and means you and your opponent are interacting. This is officially a Good Thing.
Top Tip 5 – Chin Up
It’s a fact of tournament life. You’ve spent hours, days even, of your life on your army. You may have had to go to places you don’t want to be to play people you don’t like in order to hone the list. Loved ones will be making you pay for this weekend long into the next aeon.
And then some cunt smashes you off the table.
If you are the victim it is so easy to let your head drop. As a long-term sufferer from bipolar disorder I am all too familiar with the kind of mood swings that make pregnant women look at me and say in a loud voice ‘what’s wrong with that guy?’. Getting my back doors smashed in on the tabletop isn’t conducive to being smiley and cheerful. You wouldn’t believe the epic sulks I used to fall into. Then I got talking with someone I was playing and he told me just how awkward it makes it for him if his opponent is looking like he’s just shot their puppy rather than rolled some good dice. I understood where he was coming from and it’s been something I’ve had to work on. Believe it or not I’ve meted out some total thrashings (see Panzer Aside 6) and the shot puppy act is hard to take.
It may be hard but smile through gritted teeth, blame the dice if it makes you feel better, and promise dire revenge next time. Chances are you will get another shot at the same opponent so then you can even the score.
Likewise, if you’re the cunt in this equation, go easy. You don’t need to spend the next two hours telling the world why you’re so great. All that gets you is a punch in the car park (see Panzer Aside 7). Make it interesting for your victim, or at least finish it quickly and give the poor man a pint. One of the things I personally appreciate most is getting a Warhammer lesson afterwards if I’ve been outplayed (OK, OK, when I’ve been outplayed…). If your opponent has done something monumentally, epically stupid that contributed to his own downfall, tell him what it was. Maybe give him some advice on what he could have done next time. It all goes a long way to creating a better impression of the game than the word ‘chumpbashed’.
[Editor's note: The two most important aspects of good gaming/gentlemanliness come into play here. It is vital that you are not a terrible loser. This robs the fun out of the person that smashed you - you are basically calling them rubbish to their face. Sure, have a laugh about the stupid dice, discuss how you think things should have gone etc. The other equally vital aspect is being a good winner. A lot of people aren't. And it can really sour the mood. I have seen it plenty. Do. Not. Be. That. Guy. Its as bad as being a bad loser. Which is a BAD THING.]
Anyway. I should probably do some of this ‘work’ thing that my erstwhile employer is paying me to do. I hope though that this has been of some use to people. If you play me and I’m not practicing what I preach then tell me, because I probably don’t know or haven’t realised. The same goes for everyone else. If you’ve had a bad game, say something. Don’t hide away and have a go later from the safety of your keyboard.
Unless you believe the Nurgle Daemon Prince with no Nurgle support units and a default model that’s painted green is ‘fluffy’, at which point please stand in the middle of an abandoned country lane so I can demonstrate the flaws in your logic…
Panzer Aside 1: Yes. I do want to win tournament games. No sniggering at the back. OK, so my army lists are usually terrible. I’ll admit that until fairly recently I believed that tactics were a particularly small brand of breath mint. However my self-delusion knows no bounds and I am usually convinced that the assemblage of sub-par units arrayed in front of me will exploit some weakness that only I’ve seen.
Panzer Aside 2: One of my more infamous Twitter comments concerned big Ben Johnson, when I stated that playing him was about as much fun as getting your cock sandpapered. I thought he knew. Turns out he didn’t.
Panzer Aside 3: It’s arguable that being called Norman, dressing in anoraks all day every day and communicating only in ‘Queen to Bishop 3’ morse code is preferable to being accused of playing 40K. Hell, an accusation of being Craig ‘#fatcraig’ Johnson is preferable to being accused of playing 40K.
Panzer Aside 4: Not entirely sure how he does it but Tom ‘of Borg’ Mawdsley manages to cram his corpulent bulk onto every passing bandwagon and still take trophies away at tournaments on a regular basis. He is the exception. Nobheads like me, possibly the only gamer to have switched to Ogres and tanked their ranking, are the rule.
Panzer Aside 5: Is there a worse model than this in GW’s current catalog? So many identical pieces, mould lines across all the detail, flash everywhere and it’s metal, so won’t stick together. If you have to build one it’s best to have the anti-depressants on hand, make sure the guns are locked up safe and warn the general population not to approach until the fucking thing is done with.
Panzer Aside 6: Sean Gill managed to get 92 points off me during our game at Midlands Open. I got his army. He may have beaten my Bloodthirster list with a Daemon Prince list at Tempest, but that was a close game. This one wasn’t. Gill, you suck.
Then again, the one time I played Steve Wren, he took me off 20-0. I have no explanation for how that happened. I wasn’t even drunk.
Panzer Aside 7: Unless you’re Ben Curry, at which point explaining why you’re so great will get you a podcast with a listener base in the tens of thousands.
Until next time!
Raf (well, mostly Ben... but still)