Friday, March 8, 2013

Tournament Thinking and the State of Play

What is the most common complaint you hear about 40k?

I hear things about prices, model design and rules. Since prices aren't going down and model design can, at times, be satisfied by third party products and conversions - and 40k plastic provides a wealth of options, the only we left is the rules. And the rules can change.

The downside to having a thriving nation-wide tournament scene that is knit together by regional tournaments and Adepticon, is that rules get standardized. Surely, this is good for the tournament scene, but it also entrenches rules written in the books and FAQs, by GW or by independent TOs and their gaming buddies.

However, for local gamers that interface with tournament players, a strict adherence to the rules can displace your hobby dreams. What I mean is, what if I want just a vindicare in my Tau army - a converted Tau sniper that uses the vindicare rules? What if I want him to have a jetpack? Like this model:

Can I just throw him in my list and expect to use him in games at my games store...or my buddies place? I have some friends that'd let me, others that certainly wouldn't.

But I don't know if anyone has ever asked for something like a complete rules changes before the game. I sure haven't and its because there is a presumption that I would be breaking the rules for advantage. I'd be called "cheese" if I win... or that I didn't really win because I wasn't codex-legal, people might complain about our game behind my back. There's no reason to think I am doing this for advantage - other than you assume I'm only interested in winning. But this is tournament thinking.

Lots of tournament players in our mix and we've, I feel, been dominated by tournament thinking. In tournaments, the game is played to win. For the result. The rules are standardized - there's no "breaking" them. The game is serious. You must practice. You must hone your list. There's money at stake!  Take it seriously, man!

This thinking has gone sour in our community. Rules ambiguities create arguments, friends turn on one another, sometimes feelings are hurt or guys feel "butt-hurt" as I've heard it called. Couple this with some complaints about how one was treated during our local convention and we've got a community tinged with sour grapes.

Is it like this in your area too?

Remember hide and go seek? A game for children that really encapsulates the way I approach gaming and the state of play in general. I used to love hide and seek. I had three older brothers and we lived in this huge 4 story home in Bucharest, Romania. The house was ancient it seems and filled with nooks and crannies, a scary basement, and two sets of staircases, apparently a servants' one and a residents' one (we had no servants, sadly). It was a great house for the game.

Of course, the best part of the game is finding a great spot and being found in your imaginative hiding place. You hear the seeker approaching, you tense up with anticipation just hoping he'll keep walking. And then you surprise the seeker and dash out to get chased around the house, oh, what fun!

Sometimes I hid too well. The game would drag on and eventually my brothers would stop trying to find me and wait for me to come out. LESS FUN!

You see...if your hiding place is too good, it's less fun for all.

It's the same in 40k. Don't take the game result too seriously. Don't be too good.

Approach the game with a mind at ease and light heart. Bring your game but bring your good humor too. Approach it like a kid playing hide and seek.



Admiral Drax said...

One of the best posts I've read in a long time, mate!


Andrew G said...

Great post Tim, very reflective!

For myself, I'm by all admissions a tournament player if I had to be tossed into one of those categories (casual vs. tournament). For me, the game is enjoyable when the rules are set, we all know what we're doing, and we play hard to win/outwit the opponent (part of that being done ahead of time in list building). It's what I enjoy most about the game! But that being said, I know it isn't necessarily what everyone enjoys most about the game, and I try to limit that outlook to tournament games, and when I am in a different setting, to act accordingly. At it's core this is a hobby/community experience, so we've all got to play our part to keep it alive and healthy. As a sidenote, while I don't make it out much myself, you should check out Beltway Gamers (BWG). For my money they got the most healthy/well adjusted gaming group I've been a part of, and have probably 30 active gamers, with a total roster closer to a couple hundred.

And for what it's worth, I'd have 0 problems with that sweet tau vindicare conversion, in or out of a tournament! :)

Pete W said...

While I know my playing style has been a bit shifted around by playing in more competitive circles for a while and reading up on tournament stuff online, I'm just excited to play with fun models now.

There's a reason I've decided to go with an all skimmer/jetbike Eldar & Dark Eldar mashup. I'm using units that are not 'optimal', playing with a list that is artificially constrained (by me) and will be fighting uphill but I hope I can find my own hide and seek spot.


PS: That sounds like a great childhood. I'd love to be able to have something like that with our kids.

Mike Brandt; mvbrandt@gmail said...

I think you'd be fine w/ the counts-as Vindicare even at most tournaments. Maybe not a niche small hardcore deal, but at any of the majors where hobbying is just as important (i.e., NOVA, AdeptiCon, WGC, BAO, FOB), you'd be more than fine, and most likely backed up by the TO's.

In terms of playstyle, it's an art meshing your approach to your opponent ... and it's as much about socializing as how you play and what you play.

I think the point to discern from the whole is that any game is less fun when it feels uncompetitive. When you're playing hide and seek too intensely and your opponent can't find you at all, it's no fun. When you are terrible at hide and seek and your opponent finds you instantly every time, it's also no fun.

IT's equally no fun if you the hiding and seeking is competitive, but your opponent is a giant a-hole about it.

A willingness to flex your style to the situation is a big deal, and something that I think everybody struggles to a degree to work toward. I know it's something I always strive for, without necessarily always achieving it :)

Tim said...

I've actually played hide and seek with children recently. They always make me the seeker. And after I'm done counting, I know exactly where they are. So what I do is I pretend to look for them. I let the tension build until the time is right to find them. I enjoy it, they enjoy it. It's because I am letting the game play out. I am making sure to include all elements that make the game fun. The hiding, the seeking, the anticipation, the chasing, etc.

In 40k, basically what this means is don't crush your opponents utterly. Let the game play out. Let it build to a climax. Don't be bigger than the game. And take your ego out of it. Have fun by watching BOTH armies perform. Not just yours.

I'v personally never seen any "competitive" player adjust his style down to a level of his opponent because to them, every game is practice for tournaments where money is at stake. If this happens when I'm not around, great! But I've never seen it happened.

Tim said...

And I'd have to say that is incorrect to think TOs would allow a player to field unit from a separate codex without using the appropriate allies rules. That's cheating.

Pedro_Zuñiga said...

Vera nice post Tim. I completly agree with you.
" we don't quit playing cause we get older. We get older cause we quit playing"