How to be a Better Wargamer Part 3 - Social and the Community
In the final article of the series, I’d like to discuss how improvement in wargaming includes the social aspect of the game i.e. the community we play in, and the opponent we play with.
Competitive vs. Casual
First things first, social. This one can be a hard one to get right. At times, we arguably have quite a divisive hobby between two types of gamer - the competitive gamer, and the casual gamer.
On one hand you have those Obi Wan Kenobi’s I mentioned in the first article, who see the game as a challenge, who want to be the absolute best gamer they can be, and enjoy the thrill of challenging themselves against other such gamers. They can sometimes unfairly get a bad rep from the more casual type gamers who see them as ruthless, calculating and no fun. Ultimately, winning is the objective for these kind of gamers.
On the other hand you have the casual gamer who just wants to have some fun regardless of the outcome. They prefer playing a beer and pretzel kind of game to have a laugh with mates, do crazy things with their models and enjoy a few hours of gaming excitement.
These are the two ends of the spectrum. Now don’t worry, its not a case of A or B. Some people, like myself, will find themselves somewhere between the two, and can appreciate both sides of the coin. I’d also like to point out that neither option is the ‘wrong’ option. Players can game however they like. It’s a hobby for enjoyment. The main purpose of this part of article is to discuss the best way to approach a game when your opponent is on a different level to you. A competitive player against a casual player.
So first things first, have a think about your opponents play style. Opponent A turns up to the game club with 14 Riptides, 7 Wraithknights and a Revenant Titan in his mighty Taudar/Eldau alliace. He immediately starts discussing rules and how good unit A or unit B is. In this situation, it would be fair to assume your dealing with a competitive gamer.
Opponent B turns up and pulls out his ‘cool’ new model. He’s gone for jump packs over bikes because he thinks they look better and proudly boasts that his Warlord will never back down from a challenge. He generally charges his units forward without any grand plan because ‘real men don’t hide behind defense lines’. I think we have a casual gamer here.
So if these opponents line up against each other, it’s time to start adapting. If not, opponent A would probably suffocate opponent B with sheer volume of dice until he’s blasted off the table. Opponent B would probably get increasingly frustrated and the lack of ‘fun’ in the game and quickly lose any interest whilst the rest of his force is mopped up. He’d move on and probably never play opponent A again. However, in the interest of sportsmanship and a good game, both players could try and adapt their game a little to come up with a happy medium.
Maybe the competitive player could ignore that quarter of an inch the opponent’s charge is short by? Or not spend too long trying to figure out whether his Wraithknight has a toe-nail in razorwire cover (they actually sell wargaming lasers to determine this! why?!). Throw caution to the wind a little bit as well to make the game more unpredictable, rather than chess. Plus, if one decision goes horribly wrong, then the competitive player can see this as a challenge to sort things out, and create a winning solution from the mess.
The casual player could start thinking a little more tactically. Time to be a general and be smart, otherwise they won’t be playing for long. Think about deployment, measure ranges, target priorities… spend time organising your units, and be a little less reckless. Maybe it’s worth deploying a unit in cover and bring it into the game a little later than usual? Or think about conserving troops for objectives, rather than trying to kill everything.
Now again, I stress that these are generalisations and the extremes. Players might be somewhere in the middle, so drastic measures won’t be necessary. However, the key point is to have a game where both players enjoy things, rather than neither. If tension arises, roll a die. It says this in the rulebook. Don’t spend 10 minutes debating a rule, it will detract from the game. I’d also say it’s generally worth giving the benefit of the doubt to the attacking unit. If a player is taking the initiative, making something happen, trying to take charge of the game, then the favour should be with them. The game is designed for things to be blown up and models killed, so keep that trend going. I realise this is a controversial notion to the more defensively minded players, but just think about the age old argument of action over reaction.
Moving on now, the community aspect of our hobby offers a great chance to improve as a wargamer. If you haven’t yet joined a club, go for it. You can find them on the internet, through GWs webpage, asking at your local store, or at your local store itself if they have one. As part of a club, you’ll have regular access to games, and the more games you play, the better the wargamer you will become. It’ll also change up the meta. If you only ever play one or two people, then you won’t get a chance to play a wider range of armies. Not only are you missing out on the scope of the 40k universe, but you can’t judge your army unless it’s had a go against a variety.
A game club is also a great way to make new contacts and meet new people. The game is played with people, so make the most of this. Have a laugh, have some banter, make new friends. Share your experience as well. If your a good painter, gamer, modeller, pass out the knowledge and give something back to the community. Seek advice too. If your starting a new project, someone might have invaluable knowledge to help you out, ideas you didn’t think of, tips and techniques to improve your abilities, or maybe just a minor bit swap to help you out.
If someone is friendly and comments on your model, acknowledge them. Equally, do this yourself. If someone has taken hours to put together a bundle of plastic, then any appreciation, comments, offering ways to improve etc, it all helps out. Ultimately we all spend HOURS on this hobby, so who doesn’t appreciate a cool model or nice paint job?
Think about a project log on a forum or website too. They are great ways to get your work out there for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above. Plus, you’ll find it gives you the motivation to start, continue or finish a project.
Campaigns are a fantastic way of contributing. Not only will you have a series of games lined up, but you’ll find new challenges, meet new people, have a chance to get new models painted up and used on the table, pretty much everything I’ve already mentioned, but with a bunch of cool games sprinkled in. There are many resources on the internet for campaigns, official GW expansions like the Crusade of Fire, and you can even get together as a group and come up with things yourselves. I find campaigns particularly interesting because it can offer a different tactical dimension to the game, and if you play with factions, one that can be approached as a team. They’ll also offer up a chance for those fabled Apocalypse games that people rarely get the time to play.
If you are the competitive kind of player, like a challenge and aim to win, have a go at some tournaments. They are a great chance to test your mettle against like-minded players. If your good enough, then prizes and awards can be up for grabs, recognition for being a gaming god! If you don’t make it to the top, it’ll show you where your army needs improving. GW run official tournaments at Warhammer World on a regular basis, but I recommend supporting your local tournaments as well. If someone with a passion for the hobby has taken the time to organise one, go show your appreciation and play some games. The more people that go, the more the tournament will grow, the bigger the game will get. If not, then next year they won’t run one, and the 40k scene in your area will slowly dwindle, as organised events have a knock on effect to your local area.
If you’ve been on the end of this, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Those games that were absolutely awful, where you couldn’t wait for them to be finished. Not because your army was doing really bad, but because your opponent was just a jerk. They argued every rule, questioned every close call decision, cheated, neglected to tell you rules from their codex, deliberately time wasted in timed events, all so they could win. If you’ve done this before, just remember your playing with plastic men and dice. It doesn’t make you any more special because you ‘won’. If your on the receiving end of this though, it’s very unpleasant. You’ve generally got two choices, and I’ll leave the decision to you. Either crack on as quickly as possible to finish, leave them to it, and never play them again. Or challenge them, give them an ultimatum like play properly, without hassle and drama, or you’ll pack up and leave right now. I think you can probably guess which approach I take.
Now then, hopefully this article will encourage some of you to get out there and add to the community of our hobby. If you have some knowledge or skill, share it. It’ll improve the game locally, and in the long run, for everyone that plays it. Also, try and make the games you play as fun as possible for both players concerned, because we are all in it for that reason, to have fun. Thanks for reading.