Four guys who want to win at painting... AT ALL COSTS!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Playing a 'Competitive' Army Non-Competitively Part One - Feevah's Opinion

***PLEASE NOTE: Yet another of my 'lost' articles'***

Part Two will be Walls hammer's opinion.  But this is something we've been been talking about for a while now, so we're going to lay down what we've been talking about.

First off, let me clarify what this about: We've been talking mostly in the context of 40k, but this can be applied equally to Fantasy or Warmachine/Hordes.  Or any other game for that matter.  But for the sake of clarity, I'll be sticking mostly to the 40k examples Wallshammer and I have previously discussed.

I'm sure any of you reading this have a pretty good idea where this is going.  Most internet readers are likely familiar with the 'power lists' that are constantly talked about on the big forums.  Things like the infamous 'Leafblower' Chimera spam Imperial Guard, Razorback spam Blood Angels, Purifier Spam Grey Knights and Long Fang spam Space Wolves.  Just to name some of the top few.  Now I'm sure the debate about which ones are the worst offenders could go on forever, but that's not what we're talking about today.

No, what we're talking about today is how these armies get a stigma attached to them.  You go down to a store for a pick up game.  The guy starts pulling Chimeras out of his bag, and automatically you start thinking "Oh great, another internet-list d-bag... this ought to be fun'.  And let's face it, some of these armies kind of deserve the bad rap they get.

But what if you've always wanted to start one of those armies, but have been turned off by that bad rap?  Or what if you've played them for a very long time, and shelved them because of the bad rap they've gotten?  Take my own example: I don't know how many of you were playing back in 3rd edition, but when the Craftworld Eldar mini-dex came out (as a supplement to the somewhat lackluster main codex), things got ugly.  Suddenly you were able to field any Aspect warrior as troops.  Or an entire army of Rangers and Pathfinders that got a special roll before the game started to wreck your enemies deployment, even taking free shots at them.  I shelved my Eldar shortly after this happened.  In fact, it's what caused me to sell all my classic Eldar models.  No one wanted to play me when I brought my Eldar.  It didn't matter what I put on the field.

So how do you get past something like this?  Well, it's not easy.  Perception is a big problem, and the band-wagon jumping, flavor of the month crowd who copy the meanest lists they can find on the internet don't help things.  But that's no reason to not play an army.  Here's some simple steps to avoid that perception:

1. Don't be one of them.  Don't take a 'tried and true' internet face-smashing list.  That'll avoid the problem all together, then you only have to work past the stigma, which will be easier when they see you aren't taking a known abusive list.  Also, changing one or two units on an internet list doesn't solve the problem.  You can't take 85% of an internet list, and claim it's not cheesy because "I took (insert crappy unit here) so I can't be power-gaming".  Just don't do it.

2. Don't spam.  If you are taking two or three of anything other than troops, you are spamming.  Take one squad of Long Fangs, then a Vindicator or anything else from the Heavy Support choices.  That's why there is more than one entry for that slot.  But three squads of identically armed units is spamming, and there is no reason for it other than game advantage. Now you might say "But I'm doing a heavily themed army... I need to take three of these".  Try flipping that the other way around though.  If you are theme-ing an army on units that aren't core troops, then what kind of army are you really fielding?  If you want to do a Biker themed army, that's great, but you don't need to do 2 big squads of Nob Bikers.  There are actual regular bikers, and a character that makes them troops.  There are ways to make a strong theme without resorting to only taking the best units.  So don't use that excuse as a cover-up.

3. Not every game is for money.  If you like competition, more power to you.  (Though my personal belief is that people who like competition shouldn't be playing Games Workshop games, since they have horrible balance and aren't a test of competition so much as who can break the game the best)  Not everyone plays at that same level all the time.  If you need to win at 40k so bad that you bring the worst list possible to a pick-up game, maybe you need to take a break from the hobby.  It's a hobby, not a death-match.  I seriously blame Magic: The Gathering for this.  They've created this mentality that has spread like a cancer into wargaming and RPGs alike.  Don't play to ruin the other guy and you'll likely get a rap as a good player.  It's that simple.

4. Minimum-sized units are probably just shoved in this list to get something better.  I'm beginning to wonder if there is a clause somewhere in the Codex Astartes that states that all Blood Angel Tactical squads must be 5-man.  And that no Assault troops shall ever wear a jump pack.  So the rule is simple.  If you are taking something just so you can take something better, you're power gaming.  Cut it out.

5. The more special rules something has, usually the cheesier it is.  *cough* Purifiers *cough*  Seriously though, if you are taking units not because they look good in your army, or fit a theme, but purely because they have a rule that makes them almost unstoppable, then re-consider taking them.

6. Go against the internet.  The internet is a very polarized place.  Things are either optimized or a complete waste of time, with nothing in between.  Don't believe the hype.  I play with a lot of units that are considered by these internet know-it-alls to be complete crap.  I can't even count the number of times my 30-man Grot mob has won me the game.  Or my Swooping Hawks have saved the day.  Theoryhammer, and mathhammer are all well and fine, but don't live your life by them.  No unit will ever live up to its theoretical potential, and several units will surpass that potential all together.  It's how you use them.  The battlefield is fluid.  It has to be, otherwise why bother playing.  Just build the most mathematically sound army, leave it on the shelf and dream of all the victories your army would have won.  I have a friend like this.  He doesn't see the point in any unit unless it's the best.  He also happens to be a life-long Magic player, so take that for what it's worth.

In summation, it's really, really easy to avoid using a power list, even on the armies that are considered the strongest.  The worst offenders almost always stand out like a sore thumb.  Do something different and don;t take them.  At least not for friendly club games.  It's a social hobby.  Having your little plastic toys beat the other guys little plastic toys isn't worth losing friends over.

Wallshammer will have part 2 of this conversation up later.  Oh and the pictures are from an old game I had against Ogres.  I just thought it'd spruce up the article.  I lost that game by the way... badly...

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