friday 40k humor

friday 40k humor

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Dozen-ish Things That Will Help You Do Well and Have Fun at a Tournament

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I talk about tournaments and playing in them here fairly often, but mostly from a game perspective- what sort of list you'll want, what sort of lists to be worried about, what kind of tactics you'll need, etc. However, there is a whole other side of going to a tournament that I haven't really touched on at all, and that is the personal side- what YOU, as a gamer, will want to do to make your tournament experience better. Win more games, yes, but also have a better time and make it more likely that people will remember you as the cool guy they played last year rather than “Dead-Eye Johnny,” the assumed serial killer.
So this is my list of personal tips for having a better time at a 40K tournament. Perhaps you'll find some of them helpful yourself.

Play with your mans.
Before you ever go to a tournament, make sure you've got games under your belt with your list. At LEAST half a dozen, ideally a lot more than that if you're expecting a tough fight. It takes time to get used to how an army functions and ever change you make to the list necessitates more time spent. Don't walk in with a list you wrote last night- inexperience with an army kills more tournament dreams than practically anything else. Being practiced with an army means that you know its ins and outs and don't have to think so much about the routine actions- remembering to cast psychic powers, shooting in the correct order, etc- and that frees up brainpower to concentrate on the important things. You can have the best list in the world, but if you don't know what to do with it, it doesn't mean a damn thing.

Get some sleep.
Seriously. Yes, I know, you can run on two hours of sleep per night, and that's great, but the truth is that doing so is going to cost you. You might not notice, just like you won't notice a lot of things if you're lacking sleep, but it is going to come back to bite you in the ass in tons of little ways. It's going to affect your ability to think and it's going to affect your mood, and both of these are paramount at a tournament. Get. Some damn. Sleep. Six hours, ideally eight, each night before the tournament. Ideally you want to be doing this a couple nights in advance as well so it's not completely foreign to your body, but given some people's work schedule that can be a lot to ask.
(And, should it need to be said- take a shower and remember your deodorant when you pack. You're probably gonna be in close confines with half a hundred other people for most all of a day- if you smell like a deer carcass, they are going to notice.)

Eat well.
With two or three days of gaming back-to-back and often being hundreds or thousands of miles from home, it's easy to slip on this one. You need to shove something in your mouth between rounds and before crashing for the night, but you don't have a lot of time and you don't know the area so you just hit that Jack in the Box and call it good. Two or four hours later, though, you're really gonna regret it; greasy food all weekend long will take its toll on you and, like with sleep, your brain is going to suffer the consequences.
Not to sound like a health guide, but try to eat at least three meals during a tournament day and make them things you won't hate yourself over later. Even if you don't normally have breakfast, some oatmeal, fruit, or cereal will go a long ways towards making your round one matchup go smoothly, in both a game and personal sense. You'll probably have more time around dinner, so take that opportunity to make it your other decent meal- cramming in a burrito or wolfing down some Chinese during lunch is pretty par for the course, unfortunately, but try to avoid anything that's gonna weigh you down. Food expenses can add up pretty quickly, so canny tournament-goes often bring snacks (granola bars, trail mix, gummies or candy) and instant meals of their own (anything you can make with a microwave, basically.)

Be friendly with everyone.
Nothing will make your tournament less fun- and less successful- than starting off games on the wrong foot. Despite what the internet says, I have found that the overwhelming majority of players at tournaments are actually quite nice people and are doing exactly what you are doing- trying to have a good time and play some good games. Say hi, introduce yourself, give the handshake, and open things up right. You don't have to be a glib motherfucker, just be a decent human being. It'll help a lot down the road if there's some kind of rules dispute if the other guy thinks you're just a decent bloke trying to play a game rather than some sort of closeted weirdo who needs to win to validate his ego.
This goes for outside of the games as well- wander around, talk with folks, find interesting conversations. You're among like at a tournament, so let it go for a bit and feel free to be a nerd. Maybe you'll meet someone interesting, or maybe you'll meet someone you already knew elsewhere- it turns out that a lot of internet people also exist in real life as well. Chances are you're shelling out a pretty fair wad of cash to be here, so make the best of it and see who you can see.

Corollary: Ask people about their armies.
You know what people really like? Talking about themselves and the things they've done, and some of them are actually really talented folks. Take the time to ask people about their army if you've got a bit of time- the conversions they've done, the paint scheme they've used, and so on. I've gotten a lot of good ideas from other people's stuff at tournaments, and you just might learn the trick you need to make your next model really pop. You'll find folks with experience in just about every arena, from sculpting to airbrushing to casting, so take advantage of it. This goes for the game side of things as well- tournaments are a great place to encounter armies outside the scope of your usual local scene, so if you're interested in learning more about the game, ask folks about the army they've brought.

Have a legible copy of your army list for each opponent.
A lot of tournaments require this, but even if they don't, it's still a good practice. Have a readable- preferably printed- copy of your army list for every person you play, plus an extra or two. Handwritten isn't a mortal sin, but if you're like me and have scrawl that is cursed by the gods, you should probably go find a printer rather than smear ink and graphite all over a dozen sheets of paper. Make sure it's clear how many models are in each unit, any upgrades you selected (especially special or heavy weapons) and any other special choices you made. Also avoid the “spew of text” versions of AB and other programs that lists every single special rule and piece of wargear for every model in the squad- information overload is just as bad as information scarcity.

Know the rules.
This cuts both ways; you need to be able to explain what your units do to the other guy, but you also don't want to be forgetting important capabilities that might clinch you a game. Some people like Army Builder or other software for this, since it can give you summary sheets for your special abilities and units. Personally I'm not a fan, but there are many who are; “reference sheets,” whether a full-size printout or individual cards, can also be useful in this sense. You should know the basic statistics of most of your units and their weapons are by memory at this point as well as any psychic powers or other kooky nonsense. Be able to give quick summaries of your units for an opponent that isn't familiar with them- e.g. “These guys are like Assault Marines except that they're one lower toughness and they all have Rending in close combat.” Be familiar with rules of the game that you use a lot- if you are a shooting army, know how cover, morale, saves, and wounding work. If you are an assault army, know how charges, challenges, combat, and consolidation work. Every minute you have to spend looking things up is less time you get to spend actually playing the game.

Corollary: Know the FAQs and things not covered by the FAQs.
Sometimes GW's FAQs drastically change the way rules work or even invent new rules altogether. Make sure you are familiar with the rulebook FAQ and those of any codices you are using, at the very least; it wouldn't hurt to be at least passingly familiar with other books' as well. Just as importantly, know what situations aren't covered by the FAQs and be prepared to work these rules out ahead of time with the tournament organizer and/or your opponent. If there's a common issue with very little community consensus- e.g. Coteaz's “I've Been Expecting You” when used from a transport or building- settle the matter in advance so it doesn't grind the game to a halt.

Corollary: Know the rules of the tournament.
Every tournament does things a little differently, so make sure to read through that mission packet twice to make sure you got things right. You'll feel really dumb if the other guy has to inform you that Relic is the secondary mission not the primary and you actually lost when you thought you'd won. This goes double for “unique” missions and deployments. If at all possible, try to practice the mission format in advance so you get used to playing that style of game.

Let the little stuff slide.
Did your opponent forget to cast psychic powers before moving? Let him go back and do it. Missed a combat or a charge that should've happened? A do-over now and again is fine. You don't need to be a complete pushover on this- if someone repeatedly forgets or “forgets” to do stuff you certainly should draw the line eventually- but it's generally held as courteous to let people fix obvious mistakes, and it makes it more likely they will pay you the same courtesy. Being reasonably generous on this front lets people know that you are not a hideous parody of a human being here to ruin their game, and that is a good thing.

Sit down sometimes.
It might seem like you're just shuffling little mans around a board, but being on your feet for eight or more hours can be exhausting, doubly so if you are constantly leaning across a table. If you get the chance, give your dogs a rest and sit down for a few minutes during the other guy's turn. Even just five minutes every hour will make a startling difference. Oh, and try to have a decent pair of shoes for things, that helps a lot, too.

Realize your local rules are not everyone's local rules.
This includes a lot of stuff like interpretations for particular situations, which we covered above, but also little stuff about just playing the game. What counts as a cocked die? Balancing another die on it is a common solution, but some people prefer to simply reroll anything that goes onto terrain or models' bases. There's no right or wrong way to handle it so long as you're clear. Likewise, GW sadly has left the issue of whether you can move through the walls of ruins and whether walkers and MCs can get into the upper levels of such structures entirely up to the players- these are issues you may want to go over before the game starts.

Keep hydrated.
This goes along with the other advice about the physical demands of playing the game- you are going to lose a lot of water over the course of a day, between talking and sweating. You need to replenish that loss or you are going to feel its effects and that is going to make your experience a lot less pleasant. Some larger tournaments, hosted at a major hotel, will be kind enough to provide water for everyone, but many other events will not. Bring some water or sports drink (Gatorade, Powerade, etc) to keep you moving throughout the day. Coffee, soda, and beer will NOT help with this- feel free to drink them, certainly, but make sure you're getting something else as well.

Figure out terrain before the game begins.
This one should be practically second nature to players of all types- at the start of the game, figure out how you want to handle the terrain pieces on the board. Are those hills difficult terrain to get up? How are you going to treat that building/ruin over there? Is this piece impassible or just difficult? What counts as area terrain? Again, hammering all of this out with your opponent before the game begins can be a huge headache-saver later. Different people have different ways they are used to ruling things- I've seen some people who assumed all hills were area terrain and some who prefer to only count the “inside” of a ruin's base as area. So long as you can both agree to it, there's not really a wrong solution.

Take pictures.
Again, you spent a lot of time and money getting ready for this and you're at a gather full of (hopefully) cool people with cool armies. If you have a smartphone or a nice digital camera, some pictures of key game moments or particularly beautiful models are a great way to immortalize things. And if you like posting stuff to the internets, a couple of good pictures can make an after-action report worlds more interesting for your readers.

Don't be a dick.
I'm coming back to this one because, more than anything else, it's gonna influence how your tournament goes. Don't cheat, not even a little bit. Don't assume you're right about every little rule- it's fine to be confident, but admit the possibility of being wrong and be prepared to resolve the issue and then let it go. Don't complain about your luck every time you roll a '1′ or get a slightly-below-average turn of the dice. Don't whine about your opponent's army and how unfair it is. Don't gloat when things are going well. Don't go into mega-creeper mode the moment you see a woman. Treat other folk like human beings.
Tournaments can be a lot of fun, even if you aren't a huge competitive player- many tournaments try to cater to different types and are following in the footsteps of NOVA/Adepticon and holding narrative events in addition to the tournament proper. If you're making the effort to go out and see one of them, following the above guidelines can make your tournament experience a lot more successful and a lot more enjoyable, not just for you but for everyone. We play this game to have fun, and no matter how you have your fun- whether you like tuff games against tuff players, fantastic conversions, epic stories, or just finding some other nerds to hang out with- tournaments, properly prepared for, can be a great way to have it.
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