Brent: Tournament Backlash? Again?

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Today’s Terrible Tuesday article was intended to be feature the Adeptus Sororitas, but through a twist of scheduling I feel compelled to write about tournament play in general and the LVO in particular.

(A BoLS writer writing about competitive tournaments?  Never!)

My name is Brent, a Blogger from the languishing Strictly Average, and I’ve been blogging almost since the practical beginnings of the medium.  I was lucky enough to get in the ground floor (so to speak) and earn the bit of notoriety that I then wrangled into a spot here on Bell.  Meaning yeah, I have a huge soapbox to sound off on, but that’s rarely my intention.  More often, I try to write articles others don’t, then leave them undone so there’s something to chat about in the comments.

I’ve attended and written about a fair smattering of large Indy tournaments.  From my perspective, the hobbyist community always seems to fall on one side or another, composition or competitive:  or my favorite slang terms, WAAC versus FAAP, being Win at All Costs versus Fluffy at Any Price.  Some of the tournaments I attended used ‘comp,’ meaning ‘composition,’ which basically is when the organizers artificially level elements of the game that are judged to be overbalanced.  I’ve attended tournaments with no such artificial constraints on the Rules as Written outside of a FAQ that documents considerations such as Rules as Written versus Rules as Intended.

RAW versus RAI.  You can look up FAQ yourself.

Why did I write all that crap?  Because I’ve held the spectrum of both beliefs at one time or another, then I grew up.  Because whenever the generally open-minded wargaming community gathers on forums or blogs or in sometimes-smelly-stores, when the opportunity presents itself the mostly-male-members separate into two distinct sides to sound off on the same notes and go after each other in choreographed, ritualistic mock combat.  Because it’s like the Harlem Shake and just as old.

In that paragraph I employed two pretty tame generalities that in other articles someone would call me on.  Typically speaking, we like to avoid extremes.  Except on the issue at hand, of course.

Let’s call each other out a bit, shall we?  I’ll go first.

Playing and Painting

It feels as if the idea of WAAC versus FAAP settled in due to an individual bias about what was most important, playing or painting.  The answer, for most everyone, is comfortably somewhere in the middle.  I have to ask though, why is it when someone does well in the competitive portion of the tournament does it seem as if opinion is firmly against them, but when someone wins a Golden Demon or Crystal Brush the same community dials up the awe and appreciation?

I think it’s ego.

The tournament winner – and someone look up tournament, please? – just happened to get an easy series of matches, or their army abused the rules, or terrain wasn’t favorable, or by Gawd it was just plain luck!  The easiest thing to attack becomes the army list:  the Codex is unbalanced, or the army exploited an under-priced unit, or it was min-maxed – lather, rinse, repeat.

Anything but, “Hey, that player is just better than me.”

Oh, it hurts, doesn’t it?  Own it.

We, the community at large, have at least attempted to paint, so we all know what goes in to learning the art.  We appreciate the time, the hard work, the attention to detail, the focus and the planning.  We know we either haven’t gotten their yet or perhaps aren’t willing to make the personal investment at all.  But because we understand, we can place value.

What we don’t do is belittle the achievement.

Playing in a tournament environment takes similar dedication – it just does.  It takes the same positive attributes described above and places them in the arena of competition.  It’s why you see the same players over and over again:  there’s a considerable investment of time, study, play, and understanding.  I believe there is a sizable percentage of folks who make crappy comments that kick ass in their local pond and believe they could do the same in a bigger environment where, frankly, it means more…

…to those people for whom it matters.

It shouldn’t matter to everyone, but it seems to.  People take it so darn personally, like it’s an attack on their skill, or the way they want to play the game.  Thankfully, this isn’t public school anymore, so not everyone wins.

Tournament Paradigm

The modern tournament isn’t just a tournament at all; rather, it’s an event.  Almost all the large events people refer to, such as the just-finished Las Vegas Open or the daddy of them all, Adepticon, host a wide array of interests other than the actual ‘competitive’ tournaments themselves.

Words matter; they influence our understanding and thus our perceptions.  We’re constantly talking ‘tournament’ this and that, and that word means something.  An event pays homage to the spectrum of interests in our little corner of the world.

(I recognize I’m using the word ‘spectrum’ a lot here, but with the DSM-V my other little community, work, is incorporating the idea.  It’s such a great little concept for formalizing thinking about, well, anything!  From personality disorders to tiny toys, it has its applications.)

Further, I haven’t met anyone who attends and plays in tournaments simply to win the big prize.  It’s way too much of an investment in money for a goal that shallow.  Sure, you play for it, but the Indy Event is about brotherhood, and community, and games.  And often a lot of adult beverages.

This is the man-boy-plays-with-toys holiday event!  I almost always schedule vacations around these things, as it’s a big part of my stress relief.  As an aside, it’s what was so genius about the LVO, since it was the first event my wife was really upset that we didn’t get to attend together.

Tournament winners at the large event level never, ever recoup their investment in money back.  It’s not about prize support for the winners.  The best events almost always allow for random prizes or goody bags, spreading the love and increasing the general satisfaction.  The tournament players who have the most fun are, in my opinion, those who have personal goals they are shooting for, such as besting a previous record or even fitting in as many games as humanly possible in a 72-hour period.

For me, 2014 is about trying to improve my painting score.  So yeah, I’ll see you in 2015, Sisters of Battle!


Lastly, and briefly, and maybe you can help me out with this, why are WarmaHordes tournaments looked at through such a different lens?  Seriously, I’m asking – my opinions are unformed.  Still, it seems as if that community of players embrace change in the game and a good fight on the board.

Unlike Warhammer or 40K, where supplements aren’t considered ‘tournament proper.’  There was no outcry about those freakin’ huge models that came out, or unbalanced magic, or new supplements.

I’m completely ignorant about the WarmaHordes community.  I’m sure part of it must be a perceived balance in design, but as even chess isn’t balanced that can’t all be it.

That’s it for the day.  I’m off for work.  Have at it, boys and girls, Unicorns and children of all ages!  What are your thoughts?  Comments?

Any hugs and gropings for this somewhat antagonistic article?

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