Editorial: Questions on Comp

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Boys and girls, Unicorns and children of all ages… it’s Tuesday again.  I have nothing to impart; no words of wisdom to share… because that would be an article.  Yup, this is strictly me and my opinion on comp.

It’s not too late.  You can still hit the exit button and surf adult-oriented material to your heart’s content.

Still here?  Okay then, but I’ll make it easy on you.  If you get bored just skim the lines in bold.  This is the first article in an article, you see.  I’m a trendsetter, I am.

I’m supposed to be organized.  So, the factual sentence: defining composition rules for tournaments is known as comp, the point of which is to redefine what is acceptable within a given system, ideally to fix a perceived weakness.  Good, good!  Now what do we need?  Ah yes, the topic sentence: the problem with comp is it creates a new paradigm which in turn is subject to abuse by unscrupulous players.

Enter Goatboy!

He strides upon the scene with a roguish smile upon his mug and a pocketful of loaded casino dice, ready to do battle with baby seals.

Yes, Thomas is in this narrative – I didn’t just throw him in.  Nick, Thomas, and I are heading to Rochester, New York to take part in Da Boyz GT in November.  I’d heard it was well-organized Grand Tournament with plenty of prize support, so it was easy to get excited about a weekend of game geekery.

I did my homework.  Online there was plenty of pictures to sort through, featuring fantastic terrain and an incredible venue.  To top it off, the attendees who wrote about their experiences were universally enthusiastic.  All good stuff, right?

So when they invited me to attend I purchased my ticket.  Then I found out about the comp.

Look folks, my goal isn’t to bash this particular event.  The long and short of it is I found out about it and still purchased my plane ticket – I could have cut my losses.  I didn’t and I wouldn’t even if I could go back and do it all over.  I’m excited about the trip and the GT.

But I had some reservations and more than a few headaches dealing with all this… and being a blogger, writing about it was inevitable.

Let’s examine the theory.  If it’s sound, it’ll hold up to close scrutiny.

Playing the part of the beatstick is the always entertaining Dethtron.  I’m lifting this from his nifty little article here.

Ignore for a moment that comp rules sets are often based on personal bias, knee-jerk reactions, and just plain bad logic and just assume that a comped system was invoked to combat a particular perceived rules issue.  This was done with the best intentions, trying to fix a game or prevent something silly from being exploited.  The truth of the matter, though, is that the comp system will undoubtedly have parameters that can and will be exploited by the more savvy players.  It is in our nature to push the limits of any rules and somebody will eventually figure out how to maximize effectiveness within the rules. 

For the sake of argument… does he assume too much?  The tournament organizers have developed a rubric for grading armies.  You submit an army and 5 judges will score it; the two lowest scores will be dropped and voila!  Your army has a comp score.  It’s as fair as human intervention ever is.

I’ll concede a bias exists and ask you to do the same.  After all, assuming a 3rd Edition Codex can keep pace with the modern books is asking too much.  The game designers at GW have stated over and over they aren’t trying to balance the game for tournament play.  Is it wrong to therefore take responsibility for the event and exert an artificial balance which doesn’t in fact rule out any army?

Think about it.  The organizers aren’t disallowing any legal build, though certainly the more popular net builds – say, a Space Wolves Razor-Spam – will comp poorly.  Yes, the Necron army will probably comp fairly well.

Still, in heads up play, which army is likely to win, all things being equal?  The Space Wolves, of course, earning full battle points.

There’s the balance.  Simply put, the system gives those players who want to use their older army, or their fluffy army, or their best painted army a shot at equity.  They’ll still have to prove it on the battlefield.

Let’s look further at Dethtron’s article:

A comped event is created to prevent rules abuse thus creating additional and different rules that can be abused.  If you don’t believe me look at all of the play-testing going on around the net right now for the upcoming, heavily-comped Da Boyz tournament.  Still don’t think people are trying to push that comped rules set to the limits?

What nonsense is the man talking now. Let’s follow the link…


That’s me, isn’t it?

Is Dethtron going after me, using me as an example of hypocrisy by playtesting a list that comps well but still plays well?

Maybe, but I didn’t read it that way.  We’re chums, after all, but beyond that… well, he’s right.

This is where playing Devil’s Advocate falls apart.  This is why I’ve had such headaches about the whole thing.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.

In a regular tournament, I build the hardest list I can and play my best.  I either win or lose, but either way I’ve had a good time.

Maybe I’m over thinking it, but what am I supposed to do here?  If I build a fluffy list and lose my games all weekend, just how much fun do you think I’ll have?

On the other hand, if I bring my heavy list am I a bad sport for beating up all those well-meaning fluffy dudes?  It’s made worse because they can ding your sportsmanship score…

So here I am trying to build a Daemons army which will play to my strength, comp well, and yet still allow me to play to win games.  Is that wrong or is it smart?  The GT has fantastic prize support; is that worth fighting for?

Thus, I put the question to you.  I want to know what you think.  I want your feedback.  Keep in mind, I’m not picking on this event; I’m very much looking forward to it.

(Man, I hope the organizers aren’t looking out for me by name after this!)
Thoughts?  Comments?  Hugs and gropings?

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