40K: Safe, Sane and Consensual, or The Arrogance of Unacknowledged Playstyles

keep-calm-and-play-safe-21

One gamer explores the pitfalls and soaring possibilities of gamer playstyles in the wargaming community.

A guest editorial by the every insightful YorkNecromancer

WARNING: This is the longest article I’ve ever written, and I normally write long-a** articles. Seriously, this thing is absurdly long. If you want the TL;DR version, skip to the bottom paragraph. I’ll understand.

Coloured Hankies in San Fran.

I’ve always been socially awkward.

Actually scratch that. I was barely more than a nervous frown with the social grace of a rancid fart from the age of fifteen until I somewhere round twenty three. Even now, I find it hard to be around people. A combination of introversion, social anxiety and outright terror leaves me ill at ease in almost ninety per cent of my interactions with humans and functionally unable to talk without embarrassing myself the remaining ten per cent of the time.

You don’t even want to know how difficult I found it when it came to finding a romantic partner. From stumbling my way through what could only be called ‘conversations’ in the most charitable sense of the word, to spending dark hours enjoying that special kind of loneliness you only find in nightclubs, women were never really into me. Even back in the day when you could mount the Steps of Shame to Sheffield’s Poxy Roxy, an establishment infamous because you could catch syphilis from touching the bar, I managed little more than a single snog with a drunken girl in an entirely blacked-out room. And this was over the entirety of my youth out clubbing.


Pictured: Leviathan, Lord of The Labyrinth.

Thus it was that when I learned about the gay scene of San Francisco in the seventies, I couldn’t have been more jealous of those burly, beautiful men, and not just for their luxuriant facial hair and stunning abs.

You see, for a maladjust like me, the hankie code of the gay scene seemed the single greatest idea in the history of dating. Identifying someone with the same interests as yourself can be a difficult affair at the best of times, but these magnificent men had the perfect answer: just put a handkerchief in your back pocket and boom – everyone knows you’re single.

Like that, you never again need to be embarrassed by hitting on a some beauty, only to discover they’re already taken. Not content with this one great idea, the brave men of San Fran took this concept even further into the realms of brilliance. Hankies of various colours could be used, in either the left or right rear trouser pocket, indicating availability, personal tastes, every kind of useful data one could want to convey to a potential new friend. Currently with a boyfriend and just out for a few drinks? No handkerchief for you. What if you’re just interested in the most simple hook up? Light blue fabric on the left if you want to be in charge, the right if you prefer to be the one supply the fun.


Pictured: Codex Astartes, circa 1972.

Imagine: instantly having a fair idea of what a potential, definitely available partner is interested in. Clear, simple, easy to follow communication, and all of it free from those awkward ‘So…’s you normally have to start a conversation with. To my young mind, I couldn’t believe this system hadn’t been adopted across the world in every nightclub, ever. The time saved alone could extend the working week by at least another day.

Then I learned you could just talk to girls. Not only that, but if you just talked to a girl, you could get even more information about her likes and dislikes than a hankie might convey. All you had to do was listen. So, yeah, it turned out the problem wasn’t the world. It was me.

After talking to more girls, I eventually talked to one who really liked talking to me, and that’s when I discovered that you can fall in love quite easily. Of course, then I discovered that love isn’t actually enough to build a relationship. It’s a big part of things, but it’s not the only part. You have to find out if you’re right for each other, and that means more talking: exploring and explaining your own expectations, listening to theirs… Discovering, then explaining your boundaries; playing it cool as you discover they have significantly fewer than you, and so on.

It turns out if you want to be an adult, you need to be an adult about it.

This kind of communication, this careful and deliberate exchange of opinions and needs, this meticulous consideration of two people’s shared and conflicting desires, is something that only ever occurs in the world of romantic intimacy, or so it seems.

And I think that’s a mistake. Not because I’m an oversharing crazy man who wants to talk about things that will make your toes curl at the emotional frankness of my statements, but because there are many times in life when there needs to be a free and frank exchange about our needs and expectations when romance has nothing to do with it at all.

Like in, say, wargaming.

Joffrey and the Teachable Moment.

The three universally acknowledged Truths of Life are: death, taxes and Rousey by armbar. The Fourth Truth of Life is that teenaged boys are singularly incapable of any kind of activity without said activity becoming a brutally Darwinian struggle for the fragile, precious resource that is their masculinity. This is because it is a truth almost universally ignored that the most delicate part of a man is his masculinity. This is because he can lose it in a moment, by breaking any number of unwritten rules: showing any kind of fear or weakness; lacking a comeback when he insulted; enjoying anything perceived to have a feminine slant, including baking, sewing, having emotions of any kind… The list goes on and on.


Losing to Ronda Rousey is not on the list, though. Seriously, the only way you’re winning this fight is if you show up with a gun. And a tiger in case you miss. Even then, I don’t fancy your chances.

I’ve run a Games Club at school ever since becoming a teacher, so I get to see just how brittle masculinity is every time those dice get picked up . One the thing you learn very quickly when you’re a teacher is that the moment you put dice in the hands of twelve year old boys, they basically become asocial psychopaths. Fast friendships and lifetimes of companionship are discarded as a single, ugly goal takes their place: winning.

And if you can make him cry at the end, that’s +1 VP.

The really unpleasant thing about when this happens with younger boys is this: the fight doesn’t have to be fair. To a boy, beating an equal or weaker opponent carries no greater reward than whupping some one-foot nothing asthmatic suffering from a gammy leg, a phobia of dice and fear-induced diarrhoea.

The most extreme case I saw was when one boy (We’ll call him Joffrey) decided to ‘introduce’ a newbie to the game (we’ll call him ‘Sansa’. There is no significance to the names. I’ve just been watching a lot of ‘Game of Thrones’ recently.) Now, you all know someone like Sansa. Hell, you’ve probably all been someone like Sansa. Eleven years old, his first few months at Big School, and he’s heard about Games Club. He’s seen Space Marines and DAMN does he want some of that 41st century action. Then he’s seen Tyranids and

OHMYGODMUMTHOSETHOSEARETHEONESLOOKATTHATONEIT’STHE SIZEOFABUILDINGANDHASFOURARMSOHMYGODIT’SSOCOOLMUMC ANICANICANICANIMUMCANIPLEEEEEEEAASE?!!!


OHMYGODLOOKHOWCOOL!!! Seriously mum, I want three of these. Look how cool they are. This model has to be the best in the whole game. I bet it could fight an army on its own!

So, post-Xmas, in addition to candy-induced pre-diabetes, Sansa show up with a tiny beginner’s Tyranid force: thirty Termagaunts and a Tyrant. He didn’t like the wings and he doesn’t know any better, so he’s built it as a footslogger. He’s brought his little army – all painted in what looks like a mix of 10% emulsion, 15% Tipp-ex, 75% childish joy – and more enthusiasm than a puppy trapped of a basket of clothes which are warm from the dryer. See, he’s got his army sorted, for today, He Becomes A Man.

Unlike Sansa, Joffrey is a Lannister, and so he’s got a lot more income. He, too, has brought his new Xmas army, but he knows exactlywhat he’s doing. He’s rocked up with 10 Grey Knight Paladins, a horrifying number of Psycannon, Draigo and an Imperial Knight. That’s right. For a half hour pick-up game at lunch, he’s done the equivalent of showing up to a playground fist fight with a ninety pound lump of plastic explosive carved into the shape of a giant middle finger.

Sansa, who at this point is friends with Joffrey, asks him if he’d like a game, and Joffrey? Well, he’s more than happy about this… In the same way a 220 pound San Quentin inmate is pleased when he’s finally given a new cellmate to replace the one he ate. Unable to turn down fresh meat when it walks so willingly into his larder, Joffrey leads Sansa over to the table and – like a good friend – starts setting up his Tyranids for him. By the time he’s finished, the Tyrant is out alone in the middle of nowhere, the Termagants are positioned thirty inches away, and he’s huddled them into a single block, with all their bases are touching in a cluster conveniently designed to be exploded by a single large blast.

The nearest cover these poor ‘Nids can claim is three feet away.

In Joffrey’s deployment zone.

Joffrey then sets up his own men, all castled up behind a Castellum made of the finest dictionaries public money can buy. His good work finished, he then – and I kid you not, he really did this – actually started rubbing his hands and salivating.

At this stage, I could change the names to Ramsay and Theon and you’d have much the same idea what was going on here.


’If you think this has a happy ending, then you’ve not been paying attention.’

But in the end? It didn’t go that way. In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit: up until this point, I’d been sorting out some GCSE coursework in the filing cabinet at the back of the room, because being a teacher requires more work than there are hours in the day. If Joffrey’s innate need to gloat about how cool he was being hadn’t lead him to get me to step over, I probably wouldn’t have noticed this prison shanking go down.

‘Sir? Have you seen this?’ Joffrey says , a wide grin on his face. ‘This is going to be hilarious. He’s not got any weapons that can shoot me. And the ones that do can’t even hurt my knight, and they’re not going to get through my Terminator armour. And that Tyrant doesn’t stand a chance; I’ll have stripped all his Wounds away by the time he makes it into assault.’

(Oh yeah, forgot to mention: the Tyrant was equipped with quad Scything Talons, because, and I quote: ‘they looked coolest’. Sansa had actually taken the time to source extra ones off of eBay, because he liked them so much.)

I look at Joffrey’s greedy little face, and he’s just desperate to drill Sansa full of so many holes you could strain tea through him. So, I ask what seems to me to be the only question that matters when you’re an adult confronted by the ugliest kind of immaturity:

‘Why are you even playing?’

Joffrey looked at me like I’d just told him that I liked One Direction (#NotWithoutZaynIDont).

‘What… What do you mean?’

‘If you’re just going to take the very best, most unkillable units, ignore points costs, all in the name of making yourself feel big… Why even play? Why not just roll a dice and tell him on a zero or less he wins, on a one or more you win?’

Again, he looks at me like I’m mad.

‘But… But I’m only teaching him how to play. Anyway sir, he might win. If his Tyrant gets into assault with my Knight…’

There followed a few more justifications and rationalisations for his total douchery. I then reminded him that it was Sansa’s first game. That what he was planning would completely ruin the game for Sansa, and possibly put him off playing forever. That what he planned was not merely unfair, but ungentlemanly. He looked at his shoes, and then…

Then he agreed with me. He put the Knight to one side, packed Draigo away, reshuffled the scenery, and ran the game using only two three man squads of Paladins.

It was a good little game: tough, roughly fair, quite competitive. Both players came away having enjoyed themselves. Sansa joined the club as a regular.

Now, those of you with functional empathy will, I’m sure, agree that Joffrey’s initial behaviour was unfair. Some of you may even find it unfair enough that you think Joffrey’s deserving of some kind of imp slap.


Pictured: satisfaction in gif form.

The thing is, away from the gaming table, Joffrey’s actually a really good guy. He’s kind and funny, and incredible supportive of others. It’s only when he’s playing the game that something weird happens to him; it’s kind of like, because it’s not real, but still matters, he’s allowed to do crazy stuff, like claiming a Knight with a chainsaw the size of a school bus is somehow equal in value to a handful of Termagaunts (who, if left alone, are happy to hide in the brush and think about rabbits until George comes.). It’s also worth noting, Joffrey’s behaviour is understandable because he’s 12. We’re all monstrous when we’re twelve, because our brains are full of stupid and (if you’re male) the first poisonous whisperings of testosterone. His behaviour was fine for a young boy,because when he realised he was out of order, he made amends and played fairly afterwards.

Now, the thing that really matters about this story is the coda.

See, Joffrey and Sansa actually had that crazy match-up a few months later. Both had been talking about it, and eventually both were curious enough to give it a go and see what would happen. So they set everything up, rolled some dice, and to the surprise of exactly no-one, the Termagants were reduced to meat paste and the Tyrant received a Destroyer Weapon enema. Not a single Grey Knight was lost.

Both boys loved the game. The reason why is obvious: they had talked. They both knew the score, they both realised what would happen, and there were therefore no problems once they were done. They actually drew a crowd to watch, and everyone wanted to see that plucky little Tyrant slap the yellow off that Knight’s faceplate. Not a single person was rooting for the Grey Knights.

Not even Joffrey.

Teaching and Learning styles

One of the first things you learn when you train to be a teacher (at least, one of the first things I learned) is how arrogant people are when it comes to their learning style.

See, everyone learns a different way, and everyone assumes their way of learning is the best. There are three styles of learning, and each can be combined with the other to greater or lesser degrees.

The first is visual. Visual learners learn by seeing and reading. They like books and words, pictures and illustrations. As a result, pure visual learners tend to be good readers or artists. The second is auditory. Auditory learners learn through hearing; they like teachers to tell them how to do stuff. Pure auditory learners tend to be great at music too – for obvious reasons. They also memorise things better when they make them into a song (where a visual learner will do much better by simply writing their ideas down). The final style is kinaesthetic. These people learn by doing things with their hands, or by moving. Pure kinaesthetics tend to be great at things like sport or carpentry, sculpting or dance.

Now, we generally all learn in all three ways, but to greater or lesser degrees. I’m very much a visual learner myself, but with a powerful kinaesthetic element. The visual side of my learning manifests through my chosen profession – there’s a reason I teach English, and it’s that I was always good at reading. My kinaesthetic skills though? I was good at making things too, and I use those skills in my wargaming: I love to convert models.

The thing is, I’m a terrible auditory learner. I know this, because I don’t remember things people tell me. And thus, when I started learning to teach, I never included auditory elements to my teaching, beyond those that just showed up accidentally.

Until I had VAK (that’s what we call it BTW) taught to me, for the first month or so of being a teacher, I had no idea I was doing anything wrong. After all, I was structuring lessons in the way that worked for me, so why should I worry? I knew my way was right, because it was right for me. Those kids who ‘just weren’t learning’? Well, that wasn’t my fault. I was doing what worked. They were probably just lazy.

Of course, I know now: they were auditory learners, and they fell behind because I hadn’t made the lessons as accessible for them as I had for everyone else. I mean, most of them still did okay, but then, once I started to include auditory stuff as well?

Man. You wouldn’t believe how quickly those ‘lazy’ kids suddenly turned out to not be lazy after all.

Well, apart from the actually lazy ones.

If you’re going to teach, you have to learn humility. You have to learn that the way that works best for you? It isn’t the only way that works. Some people’s brains are set up very differently to your own, and in subtle ways that aren’t immediately obvious. None of us can control how we learn best, and saying that a visual learner should just adapt to kinaesthetic lessons is like saying a pupil with no legs should just try harder to be good at football. (Or ‘soccer’ if you’re one of our charming American cousins).

There is an arrogance to demanding others be like you. In teaching, the self-importance can cause real damage, which is why you learn VAK so early on.

So why am I talking about teaching? Because that same kind of arrogance is absolutely prevalent in wargaming… And if you’ve ever had someone call you a WAAC player, or ever been trounced by one when you were expecting a friendly pick-up game, well: I think you know how.

The People You Don’t Even Realise You’ve Hurt

There was a recent thread on BoLS Lounge where this subject – of different playstyles – was brought up. Of course, if you read the title of that thread, you’ll see why it very quickly descended into unpleasantness.

It strikes me as kind of self-evident that there are three ‘wargaming styles’, in much the same way as there are learning styles. Just like the fact we’re all set up to learn in one primary way (with a little or a lot of overlap from the other two) I think we’re set up to enjoy games in a similar way.

I would define the three playstyles as follows:

Competitive: you like to win. In fact, it’s the main reason you play. The other person is there to serve as a challenge. You may or may not enjoy the social aspect of the game, but that dopamine rush as you take the victory is why you pick up the dice. Losing is anathema to you, and while you may not despair when things go your way, losing is an uncomfortable experience emotionally. You find it hard to understand why anyone would willingly go through it.

Narrative: you want to tell a story. For you, wargaming isn’t like other games exactly because of this opportunity. Sure, you enjoy when things go your way, but even if you lose, as long as your side got to participate in some awesome events (maybe good, maybe bad, maybe funny), you’re less worried. Your ‘win’ doesn’t come at the end of the game, but much later, when you get to tell people about what happened: the dice roll that let the Genestealer kill the Dreadnought, the time the guy with the 2++ invulnerable bought the farm to a laspistol… If there’s an interesting enough anecdote, you might even forget who won. You go all-in to for the fluff, and probably have hugely detailed army backgrounds… Not to mention named characters leading. And not named characters created by GW. As a side note, this is obviously the player GW is pushing us all to be, what with their ‘Forge The Narrative’ thing.

Finally,

Casual: You’re just here for a good time with friends. You’d like to win, but mostly? It’s about the chat. The game is simply a structure to hang your social engagements around; a shared interest that gives you and your buddies something to jaw about.


Pictured: Competitive meets Narrative. Spoiler: this doesn’t end well for Narrative.

For my part, I’m primarily a Casual gamer, with the Narrative side brought out by the modeller in me. As far as being Competitive? Never. I don’t think it’s too strong a statement to say that I not only dislike the idea of competitive play, I actively despise the very concept of a tournament. I can’t imagine ever going to one, even to simply watch.

Now, I’m sure that statement seems not just wrong, but actually crazy to more than a few people reading this. Especially when I tell you I enjoy reading articles on strategy and tactics, and that I like seeing the statistical breakdown of the meta after a big tournament.

But these are the things I like about the hobby: how can I be wrong about what I enjoy? I literally can’t be wrong: enjoyment is a purely subjective experience.

Which means you can’t be wrong about what you like either.

However, all of us can do harm.

My friend Arya is an abuse survivor. She spent two years of her childhood suffering the most appalling horror, and at the point this story takes place, she had only just been able to finally admit to herself that those experiences had left her with a number of debilitating mental health issues. One of them was introversion; another was a fear of going out.

Then she got an invite from my mate Podrick. Pod’s a great guy, and he knew she was in a bad way. He asked if she wanted to join him for a game of ‘Vampire: The Eternal Struggle’. It’s like ‘Magic’ but with vampires and politics, and it’s a great game. He knew Arya enjoyed LARPing at the local Camarilla game, that she’d just picked up a Toreador deck, so he thought she’d enjoy a game. If nothing else, it’d finally give her a reason to get out of the house.

So, she put on her prettiest clothes, put her nicest bow in her hair, and set out in her knee-high sh*tkickers to be social. It was the first time she’d felt capable of leaving the house in a fortnight. It was the first time she’d gone out socially in six months.

She sat at the gaming table, was welcomed, and everyone smiled. It was friendly. Pod got the beers in and the game began.

Within two hours, Arya was barely holding it together. Another player, a friend of Podrick’s named The Hound, was attacking her with the relentlessness of his namesake. Everything she tried, he countered. Every fight ended in her minions destroyed, her holdings razed to the ground. After two and a half hours, she started to have a massive panic attack because The Hound would not stop. Unlike most people I’ve met who suffer from panic attacks, Arya’s are almost undetectable; she doesn’t say a thing. Not because she doesn’t want to, but because of the lessons her stepfather taught her. The lessons she had learned at twelve, lying on her back in terror as he did what he liked, all while making it very clear:

If you make a sound this will get worse.

So she sat there for another forty five minutes as The Hound played card after card after card, as her minions burned around her. So, in desperation, she began playing to lose, just so she could end the nightmare that was happening to her. In the end, even losing proved too much. She got up, said she’d had a lovely time, but that she needed to be up in the morning. She reached down to pick up her cards.

‘If you’re withdrawing, you have to wait until next turn; there are rules. You can only withdraw if you go a turn without being attacked.’ said The Hound, readying his next attack card.

To my eternal admiration, she said no. She said that she was going. Then she picked up her cards and left.

A week later, I found out from Pod that The Hound talked sh*t about her not playing by the rules for the next hour. When Arya got in, she spent the night holding her knees. She didn’t cry, didn’t sleep. She just sat and rocked a little. I was living with her at the time, and honestly, I was terrified. I didn’t want to think what she might do. So I just asked if she needed anything: a cup of tea, or perhaps even a hug.

‘I just need to be alone. I need to be alone and quiet.’ She said.

She didn’t go out for another four months.

She didn’t play any games for two years.


Kittens don’t make this story any less horrible, but they hopefully take the edge off a bit.

You may be pleased or relieved to know that this story ends positively. We got to meet The Hound socially about a month later, and I was absolutely ready to beat the sh*t out of him with his own teeth. When I met him, I couldn’t have been more surprised. He’s honestly the loveliest guy you could know. He’s kind, and thoughtful; whenever he visits a friend – any friend – he brings food. And not pizza – actual gourmet stuff. Regards it as polite. Socially, he’s a gentlemen in the truest sense of the word. He’d give you the money in his wallet as a gift if you only asked, and is a man I honestly feel privileged to call friend.

Three years after it happened, Arya was finally ready to tell him her side of what had happened that night. I watched as she sat there, explaining how it had felt. When she was finished, The Hound cried. Openly. He wept like a man, and said he was sorry, that he had no idea. He’d never intended to cause the reaction he did.

It’s just how he plays games, that was all.

He just thought everyone played that way.

Safe, Sane and Consensual

Arya’s story is an extreme one, no doubt, but it does serve to illustrate the problems that can occur when you make assumptions about what others want. The Hound is the hardest-core WAAC player I’ve ever met, so we never play together. I literally refuse to play him, because I know I’d hate every moment of it. He’s honestly one of my very best friends, but I have boundaries.

See, I know what I want.


SOON…

In my opinion, and no matter what you may hear online, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with being a WAAC player, a fluffbunny, a beer & pretzel guy, or anything in between. Nothing… As long as everyone knows the score. It’s entirely possible to have a great, great game where a Tyrant and thirty Termagants get kerbstomped by the cheesiest Draigowing + Knight combo. Entirely possible.

The problem isn’t the game (because balance is an entirely different issue – one that, I suspect, Narrative or Casual gamers place a significantly lower value on than Competitive ones, because to us, as long as it’s mostly fair, we don’t mind. After all, we’re not really playing to win in the same way). The problem isn’t people being hypercompetitive, or building insane netlists, or whatever.

I think the problem is when you assume your opponent is okay with your personal style without asking. If you’re both high-level WAAC guys and you want to fight each other with the latest meta-busting netlist of doom, well, why not? If you’ve talked about it, and both know the score, who cares? Not me. If you’re both happy, that’s actually a wonderful thing.

Which brings us round to handkerchiefs again. We all know what we want from the game. You know if you love to play to win, or if you like to Forge A Narrative. In the same way that those moustachioed geniuses used a simple colour-coded system to clarify their desires, why don’t we?

I’m not saying we go around with little green swatches in our back left pockets. But I do think we should start to acknowledge that different people want different things from the game, and building a community which supports and encourages that. The more we talk openly about these currently unspoken desires, the better the hobby will become.

I don’t know about you, but I think the idea of ‘self-identifying’ to our opponent at the start of each game would be a really positive step. Pairing up with people who want the same as you, while being tolerant of those who don’t can only lead to more satisfying games for everyone. And that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?

  • Mr. Nailbrain

    This, quite honestly, is the best article about wargaming that I have ever read. I will be sharing with all my friends.

    Fantastic job, mate.

    • I completely agree on this one.

    • khegrow

      Very very nice article.
      Thanks for the time putting it together and sharing here.
      It speaks a lot about your passion for gaming and make everybody have a good time.

    • kaptinscuzgob

      i agree, it was a great read

    • corrm

      In complete agreement, fantastic article that I will be sharing. Content like this is the reason I read bell of lost souls.

    • plasmaspam

      This article makes great points about the activity of gaming, great read.

      More importantly wherever Arya is I hope she’s safe and happy.

      • yorknecromancer

        You may rest easy – she’s doing really, really well and is in a very good place now.

    • Cary Gould

      I liked it as well and posted it on our community FB page also.

    • Bayne MacGregor

      Agreed. So good i shared it 3 different times on facebook, one on my wall, and also in two radically different local groups!

  • Masonfan

    This is the most obliviously insulting article I’ve ever read.

    • Hivetyrant36

      How’s that

      • daboarder

        because its biased as all hell

  • Masonfan

    You start with a BDSM term, then move into ” Gays got it great!” , then end with the suggestion that people not go around with green in their left pocket. Which Green in Hanky Code means male hustler or purchaser depending on the scene.

    • Ian Roy

      What exactly is your point? Whats the problem, here? How is this article bad? I think you completely missed the point.

      • Master Avoghai

        I think Masonfan doesn’t get 2nd degree and parallelism on situations.
        He took everything at first degree including the green in left pocket sugestion that was totally random when the author wrote the article.

    • NagaBaboon

      Did you skim read this or something?

  • That took a while to get around to the point (and in that I sympathize; brevity is likewise my arch-nemesis), but once it did it was a very good read.

    I think this phenomenon is more well-known on the RPG side of the industry than it is on the wargaming side, expressed in the GNS or “big model” theories, things like the Stormwind Fallacy and all-too-common forum rants about killer GMs and min-max players, all of which are really attempts to explain (or rants about) mismatches of expectations of game play styles.

    Like on the RPG side, however, there’s a second set of factors that influence this the article doesn’t touch on, and that’s the expectations of the game designer of how their game will be played.

    40k is very much meant to be played in “beer & pretzels” mode. The designers don’t care about balance or competitive play, and that intentional blind spot creates a game that is very easy to break, widening the gap between those who are there for the beer & pretzels, and those who are there because it’s easy to write lists that will always win. The problem with this is that there is no explicitly-stated default mode of play. The only expectation a new player has about play-style is their own, making it easy to create that mismatch the article talks about.

    Compare that to Warmachine, a game that was written and designed with competitive play in mind. The rulebook explicitly tells the players how it should be played, right there on Page 5, and players understand what they’re getting into. I’m not claiming play-style mismatches don’t happen in Warmachine games… but I am claiming that when such a mismatch happens, chances are overwhelmingly good at least one of the players will know about it in advance. Usually it’s the player with the intentionally soft-but-fluffy list.

    • Mr. Nailbrain

      I will agree 100% about warmachine. It’s the only game that I am able to alter my playstyle in. I enjoy throwing down at tournaments, but on Friday nights at the LGS there is a very different crowd, and I can alter my playstyle to have a close, fun game without feeling like I’m dumbing myself down.

      As contrasting with 40k, which I am firmly set in the beer-and-pretzels mode. It would take a long time to work towards tournament readiness in that game, and I’m not sure that I would enjoy the results.

      • I maintain, as I have for years, that the competitive scene is the source of about 90% of the 40k community’s problems.

        I look at games that have no appreciable competitive scene (Malifaux, specifically), and I find that even the most hardcore WAACy players I know will relax and goof around freely in the game… because there’s no pressure to write a “good” list, or even to bother knowing what a good list is.

        I look at 40k and think… what kind of a game–what kind of a community–would we have if people treated it like they treat Malifaux?

        The only answers I can imagine are better than the reality we have, some by a long way.

        • Matt

          This is way off base, often touted, and completely unfounded. I find the worst sort of players to be those that don’t actually have the mettle to test their stuff in a competitive environment but still think they’ve got game. They troll internet and then show up at the FLGS thinking they are a big man and loudly talk their stuff whilst concurrently getting rules wrong. All the top shelf players that I have played have been gracious and kind and an absolute joy to lose against. They had nothing to prove and enjoyed dismantling the best I could throw at them. I knew what I was getting into and it was a good time all around. Sure there has been the occasional neckbeard trying to prove his manhood with toy soldiers, but they were few and far between. More often the problem lies in the bloke that asks for a game “just for fun” and then drops the latest internet “____star” on the table.

          • Andrew Shaeffer

            I would Hire Gordon Ramsay to yell at my opponent whilst playing if they were douchey enough to field an internet deathstar…

          • I didn’t say the problem was tournament players. My experience has been like yours: they’re not only the most skilled players I encounter, but generally the nicest and most fun to play against as well.

            I said the problem was the competitive scene, specifically the pressure it creates within the community as a whole, which is exactly what creates the “worst sort” of players you’re talking about. This pressure can only exist because there’s such a capability gap between fluffy, fun lists and game-breaker WAAC netlists, and the perception, created by the tournament players for better or worse, is that the WAACy netlists are the “correct” or “best” way to play the game, and that’s what creates the e-peen-waving neckbeards.

            This problem doesn’t exist in Malifaux because that top-down pressure from the competitive scene doesn’t exist. There are no tournament-winner netlists, thus there’s no pressure to copycat them in order to have the “best” list. Because the neckbeards have nobody to pattern after, they’re left to their own devices and either leave the game because they can’t figure out how to faceroll their way through it, or they turn into normal, pleasant players because there’s no pressure to be the “best”.

        • Victor Hartmann

          Straylight, there seems to be a misconception about why people play tournaments. Most of the players aren’t there because they expect to walk away with a shiny trophy (although they’d be thrilled if they did). They’re there to play against armies and people that they don’t see all the time at their club. Players who are bringing tactics and styles different from what you may have become used to in your local meta.

          And from my experience they are happy to talk about it and listen to what you have going on in your army. I’ve played a lot of tournaments against many people, mostly in the South and Midwest. Almost all of them were great and interesting players who I’d be happy to play again. There was only one guy who I wouldn’t. And it wasn’t because he was trying to be a jerk or had a beat-face list (I won that game due to a timely assault by my Legion of the Damned). Our play styles simply didn’t match. I like to play quickly so we can get to a game conclusion rather a time stop. He apparently likes to consider every move and rule carefully and in detail before committing. So, I don’t blame him or myself. Just a personal mismatch. But in general everyone was looking for a fun game against a new army and its general.

          Granted, everyone has their own personal experience and if your actual experience based on years of tournament play has been negative, that is truly unfortunate. Because mine has been great regardless whether I have won every game or lost every game (both have happened, the latter more than I’d like). On the other hand, a lot of the bias against tournament play seems to come from people who have little or no actual tournament experience.

          And besides, what difference should it make to anyone if someone else is having fun in a way different from you? Play against people who match your play style.

          As a community, I have found 40k to be genuinely fun and supportive. Yes there are some haters on the internet but that’s coming from a very small yet vocal (and sometimes multiplied by sock puppets) fraction, many of whom are not actually in the community. They simply enjoy lobbing in grenades to try and disrupt it.

          In regards to Malifaux, I have not played it. But there is a competitive scene for it. There was a good turn out for it at Adepticon. People being people, I suspect people made it as competitive or casual as they liked. Just like any other game.

          This was a good article. I could only hope that people will take it to heart. Because a lot of the “feel badsies” could be avoided with some decent communication.

          • I’ll say to you what I said to Matt elsewhere in the thread:

            I didn’t say the problem was tournament players. My experience has been like yours: they’re not only the most skilled players I encounter, but generally the nicest and most fun to play against as well.

            I said the problem was the competitive scene, specifically the pressure it creates within the community as a whole, which is exactly what creates the “worst sort” of players you’re talking about. This pressure can only exist because there’s such a capability gap between fluffy, fun lists and game-breaker WAAC netlists, and the perception, created by the tournament players for better or worse, is that the WAACy netlists are the “correct” or “best” way to play the game, and that’s what creates the e-peen-waving neckbeards.

          • Victor Hartmann

            I am glad that you’ve also had good experiences in tournaments. I think there are many great people involved actively working to build the community.

            I’m not sure where you’re going with the “competition is a problem” though. I mean I get that some people can take it too far but people like making things into competitions. It’s apparently part of our make-up. After all, millions of people love watching singing competitions. Something that’s completely subjective. As an orchestra director I enjoy the music but the competition part of it makes no sense to me. May as well vote which shade of blue is prettier.

            On the other hand GW must love tournaments. Even though they stay out of it officially, they alter the rules to change the meta. Which encourages people to buy new models and even complete armies.

            And even if GW personally begged each player to not play in tournaments, they would anyway. It creates a formal way of gathering a diverse group of people from around the region or beyond to play different armies. To me the best thing is to work as a community to improve how we play together. Which, I fully admit, is far easier said than done.

          • Again: tournaments aren’t the problem any more than tournament players are. It’s the SCENE; the perception, by the community, that the way tournament players play is objectively “better” than other options, and is therefore the “correct” way to play, regardless of what their natural playstyle is or what their local metagame is like. To use your analogy, think of it like your percussion section believing that Kevin Kiner is a better composer than John Williams, so when you break out the Star Wars, they refuse to play anything but Kiner’s arrangement, regardless of the fact that you’ve given them Williams’, regardless of the fact that what they’re doing is clashing badly with what the rest of the orchestra is doing.

            As far as GW and tournaments… hobby centers are actually PROHIBITED from running competitive events, which should tell you everything you need to know. GW does not support or care about tournament play in any way, and they haven’t for a long time. Heck, they barely seem to be aware a competitive scene exists at all. Anyone claiming that they intentionally shake up the tournament meta in order to sell models is either badly misinformed or outright lying.

        • Grand_Master_Raziel

          I don’t agree with your assertion. I lay the blame for all the problems with 40K squarely at the feet of Games Workshop.
          We’re always going to have competitive gamers. They are going to do what they do. There’s nothing inherently wrong with competitive gaming. The problems lie with 40K’s hilarious lack of balance and rules ridiculously open to abuse and exploits.

          Ideally, 40K would be the sort of game where one could walk into the LGS with a fluffy-but-competent take-all-comers list and get in a pick up game against someone they’ve never met before with a reasonable expectation of an enjoyable game. In actual fact, there’s no way one can play that way without eventually going up against a tournament-champ-wannabe who won the game in the list building phase. The fact the game is this way is entirely Games Workshop’s fault.

          Why it’s this way is anyone’s guess. Generally, I think it’s just sheer incompetence on GW’s part, but when I’m feeling cynical, I think GW deliberately exploits the tournament-wannabe-crowd by constantly shifting the meta. I’ve given up any hope GW is going to suddenly realize what they’re doing is bad for the long-term health of the game. I’m instead waiting for GW to run itself out of business and be forced to sell their IP to a company competent at game design. Then, maybe we’ll wind up with something like a balanced 40K.

    • David Leimbach

      Yah, because with warmachine, there’s no modding. There aren’t really fluff players. There’s no hobby. There’s no “make your own warcaster”. They limit your options to set characters and you play the game within narrow guidlines. 40k is an open universe and the rules are expansive to explain that.
      For example, imperial guard chimera used to have a rule for moving through water that gave it an advantage. Yes you could set up a game and it would be “imbalanced” because your board had rivers or lakes on it they could move through at faster speed than other tanks. This is why 40k can never be balanced. The rules are meant to cover all possibilities – of a narrative. You built your army for a flat plain with a few rocky areas, too bad it doesn’t do so well in an empty wasteland, or a jungle.
      Warmachine doesn’t have this problem because the scope of it’s rules are much much much smaller.

      • That’s… not even close to right. It’s also not even in the same post code as the point I was making about Warmachine.

        Try again?

    • vonevilstein

      “The problem with this is that there is no explicitly-stated default mode of play”

      There is. It says it’s not designed for tournament play. That leaves narrative and casual gaming. If there is any problem it’s that competitive players *want* it to be a competitive game and run tournaments regardless of the author’s intention. Thus we find competitive gamers in the arena primarily aimed at casual and narrative gamers. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing as the article above addresses.

      The other to bear in mind 40k is not alone, *any* game designed to be for narrative, casual or family play can be turned into a competitive game with varying degrees of success.

      • Cite a page, please, because I’m looking through the rulebook and I see nothing that says “this game is not meant for tournament play” or “this is a casual game” or anything of the sort. The important part of the sentence you quoted was “explicitly”.

  • PinkTerror

    Interesting read. I agree, if you mix the wrong types of players, it’s not fun for the one looking to have the most fun, while the other is just WAAC.

    I think the most important take-away from this – is that people realize that someone in LaLa-Land doesn’t need to be playing games set in LaLa-Land.

    My friend killed himself. And no amount of 40k ever soothed him to not do what he did. He didn’t need doses of fantasy, he needed doses of reality. And I hope people can see from the example above, she needed reality, not vampires; she already had enough of those.

    • I’m… not entirely sure you’ve gotten the point the author intended. But at least you got A point, which I suppose is good enough.

    • SYSTem050

      WOW way to miss both the point and stigmatise mental health in one fell swoop. For reference the point was she was looking for social interaction not to be thrashed at a game. The game in question could have just as esily been bridge poker or
      Rummikub the fact it was a scifi/fantasy/horro card game is immaterial

    • Thomson

      I am very sorry. Sad story, somewhere shared in the void of the internet. Reality can be cruel and hopeless, LaLa-Land can be empty and meaningless. Life is not easy.

    • Bayne MacGregor

      Foirstly, i’m very sorry to hear of the death of your friend and the loss it has left you with.

      That said, you seem to have confused the word ‘therapy’ with ‘reality’. Did you know that part of the origin of fantasy gaming was from effective therapies to help people with severe mental illness? Role Playing Therapy. Fantasy isn’t a problem, alone it can be a maladaptive coping method, a Deferment Activity true but ANYTHING can be. However it can also be a safer controllable space within which people with anxiety disorders PTSD or similar can work through issues.

      I know people who found fantasy gaming helped them recover from trauma.

      Someone with severe mental health problems like someone with severe physical health problems requires a skilled evidence-based medical practitioner. Not ‘reality’ or to avoid fantasy, just quality Therapy which will help them enjoy reality AND fantasy.

      • RexScarlet

        The Red Cross brought me a Ral Partha Paint miniatures set when I was recovering from a dominate hand injury in Porthsmith Naval Hospital, USMC and later the VA supplied me with plastic models, and I have been painting and/or modeling DAILY ever since for therapy, both physically and mentally, for my bad paw.

        • Bayne MacGregor

          That is awesome! 😀

  • Masonfan

    I’m glad you don’t think we should all go around being prostitutes.

    • Ian Roy

      Seriously?! Ok, I wasnt going to say it before, but Im starting to detect a hint of homophobia here. At the very least, you’re coming off like you’ve got a chip on your shoulder. Uncool, bro. Uncool.

      The article is not about being prostitutes. No kidding. Can you contribute to this conversation? Like, constructively?

    • David Leimbach

      I read it as a word of warning: careful about putting any colored cloth in your back pocket!

  • Senexis

    I find with different people I wear different hankies, and sometimes in different pockets, even with the same person at different times.
    I’m one of a group of seven, and I find I have two Joffreys, who I wish to imp slap for their undeserved arrogance and bullying natures. There are two Eddards, with whom I enjoy matching myself for the satisfaction of honest competition. And then there are two Aryas, who I could destroy every time, but I prefer to give them just enough challenge to help them grow, because ultimately I’d prefer everyone to be an Eddard.

    • That’s the problem that I have for my group as well- I am different each time. I don’t mean to be, but sometimes I write up a fantastic list and want to see how it competes, and sometimes I write up a really fluffy list and trick myself into believing that I’ll have a ‘good game’ (and I don’t, because dice hate me, like too many others). It sucks for my gaming buddies, I’m sure, because one is competitive, one is fluffy, and another is terrible (like, noobie terrible after a few years). It becomes a game just trying to communicate before the game begins (a lesson I’m relearning recently). Too many hankies, too many pockets!

      • CMAngelos

        Set up rotating meetings. How often do you play as a group? For example if a group meets twice a week.. say.. Saturday and Wednesday. make saturday a day for Competitive play, Wednesday your fluffy day.. and your noob guy can use both days to.. learn (Yes i know many people dont get say days a week to play, its only a suggestion but its something to build on, This meeting we play this time, next time we play this way) it’s the simplest way to make the most people happy

    • Chris from AU

      Yep, totally agree with this

  • alex

    maybe not the best wargameing article if have ever read but certainly the best article on the cesspool of clickbaits that BOLS has become. great job and my respects to you sir. more please 🙂

  • Chris from AU

    Awesome article! Really a good read indeed with some very decent points.

    I’m a competitive person, I Iove winning and have a real dislike of losing but what I will do to win entirely depends on who I’m playing against, for example if I know I’m about to play someone that’s out to smash my face with little plastic men I’ll take a highly competitive list (While still being able to look myself in the mirror after the match) BUT I find the best games I have of 40K involve a social contract of some kind, I’ll go so far as to show my opponent my list before the game so they can tailor a bit, believe it or not it makes for a better game.

    If you can make friends while playing wargames then you are doing it right 🙂

  • Dr Bored

    What a fantastic article. Like, really fantastic! It was actually emotional. I laughed, I cried, I laughed again. I’m not being sarcastic, I really enjoyed this.

    In my experience, because I’m very open about being a casual player right from the get-go, I don’t have much problem with this. I also take it slow when I go to a new hobby shop and spend a few days scoping out other peoples’ armies and watching games be played. I notice when a person’s temple is pulsing in frustration when his White Scars bike army + Sicaran and Fire Raptor aren’t performing the way he was hoping against a Necron Decurion. I notice when a person has a bunch of unpainted, but lovingly converted Chaos Cultists, and he’s got four more boxes of models ready to swap out at a moment’s notice for whatever kind of game comes his way. I engage the different people, learn about their playstyle, and if they ask for a game, I politely inform them that I’m a casual gamer.

    So far, I haven’t had a game I didn’t enjoy.

    But see there’s two sides to this. I don’t just go around ranting to everyone how casual is best and how I’m the king of casual games. No, I observe, I listen, I learn, and then I inform.

  • Jay

    Take the hankies mainstream!

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    In my area, competitive players took over the Malifaux scene and they
    absolutely killed the game. Utterly destroyed it. It went from a large
    community that split time between three stores with multiple events a
    week all the way down to nothing. Malifaux is dead in my area.

    The
    same thing happened with Heroclix. That game was BOOMING, it was
    becoming as large as Magic until the really competitive guys started
    cranking out the broken lists and absolutely killed people’s interest.

    The
    same thing was happening with 40k until the shop owner finally had to
    ask the competitive players to tone it down, play each other for find a
    new hang out. They opted for the latter. Once that WAAC group left, the
    community once more blossomed.

    The only game to survive the
    competitive onslaught is Warmachine and even then I hear a lot of
    rumblings from players who are growing increasingly frustrated.

    Same thing happened with Infinity. People started bringing really broken things and the community died.

    I am not decrying the competitive playstyle. I love Magic and used to be really into the competitive scene. The problem with Wargames is that (at least where I live) the community of wargamers is not large enough to sustain multiple playstyles without fracturing and/or disenfranchising people. The community is not large enough to adequately sustain multiple groups nor is it large enough to sustain heavy losses from players quitting.

    This can cause resentment when playstyles clash. You have to change or else the game dies. You don’t want to change because other playstyles do not appeal to you and you don’t have fun when you play differently. So the game dies.

    There are two ways to stem the tide of problems:

    1. Forge a community around a playstyle and constantly mention it over, and over and over again. Beat it into everyone’s head.

    2. Create a system whereby everyone comes with multiple lists – competitive and casual. Before you place terrain or break out your models ask your opponent which style s/he would prefer – competitive or casual. You set the tone for the game right at the outset of the match.

    Neither system is perfect but it is often better than the “everyone joins in, no one gets along and the game dies” method that seems to occur a lot.

  • zantis

    Amazing article. Actually helped me realize why I’m feeling very disconnected with my gaming group. I am definitely a competitively minded warmachine player. With warmachine, I often assume most others players are the same way. In a small group with all casual minded players, this has left me somewhat separated from the group. I’ve ended up becoming the shark of the group (this is not meant to be bragging) where in my old one I was somewhere in the middle at best.
    Maybe other people who are competitively minded will understand what I’m talking about, but I find that if I want to have a game with someone in this group, I can’t “turn it off”. I can intentionally make my lists worse (and even that just feels wrong) and play with a handicap, but I’ll still try to play the best game I can. To be clear, I enjoy having a good time with friends and laughing about crazy stuff in the game, but my favorite thing is the competition and figuring out the puzzle of how to play each turn. I LOVE going to tournaments. Gaming all day with people with the same mindset, bringing the best lists they can; sign me up.

    Not sure how to fix this issue though. As I mentioned before, I can take worse lists and have a good, close game with the guys in this group, but it still feels awkward because we’re looking for different things out of the game

  • Craven Moorehead

    I need to read it again to digest the content, but I must say:

    Bravo on finally, FINALLY, having a well-written, copy-edited, professional-looking article. This is the last we’ll likely ever see of something like this, so I am going to relish it.

    • WellSpokenMan

      I’m impressed by how you took that compliment and repurposed it as an insult. It wasn’t particularly original, but the execution was flawless.

  • benn grimm

    Great article, enjoyed it very much. I found your humanity/empathy to be quite touching and was very surprised to find it on a site like this. You took me on a journey I could relate too (I totally wanted to punch that hound guy too…;)), and I feel I’ve learned a few things new, bravo good sir and thank you!

    At the weekend I went to a local tourney, played against three very different guys and three very different playstyles. The first brought serpent spam and I thought to myself; ‘ here we go…’ but he turned out to be a really nice, down to earth guy, a total casual gamer. He got the worst dice I’ve ever seen an Eldar player roll and he was still smiling and cracking jokes about it and at no point did he deflate visually or get funny about it.

    The second guy is known locally as being one of our best tourney players, his list was pretty brutal and hyper efficient (much grav and FW evil), but again, even though he pasted me all over the board and pretty much crushed me by turn 2, he was a really nice, friendly guy and it was a really fun game.

    The third guy was playing Tau, and again I must admit I thought I was in for another pasting at the hands of cheese list. But this guy had made a highlander type list, with his own self imposed restrictions. Another fun, relaxed game and I actually saw the Tau flyer in action for the first time 🙂

    We have a really mixed community, with so many different types of people from different social classes and backgrounds all with their own values, motivations and preferences. The best thing we can all do is leave our value pre-judgements at the door and just enjoy the game, and the company of the other people who enjoy the game for what it is, life is too short to do otherwise (imo).

  • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

    this guy needs to read some men’s studies books. You can’t lose your masculinity dude, its a chromosome, its in every cell, so don’t stress.

    • Go reread that paragraph, you missed the point. Hint: second sentence.

    • David Leimbach

      Says the guy wearing a pink sundress sipping tea with his legs crossed. *not that there’s anything wrong with that

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        Have you been peeking at me? Its all in the best possible taste.

  • Master Avoghai

    I really appreciate this kind of article that starts with a situation that has absoluttely no relation with the real topic, then subtely move to the topic and then end with an allusion to the initial situation..

    Really brightly written.

    If I had something to say that is missing is that finally, all the situations you describe are “how casual players get annoyed by WAAC players”
    It could have been great to show how a WAAC player coul be annoyed by playing against someone that doesn’t play hard.

    But great article

  • standardleft

    Great article. So, what do competitive gamers think of us narrative gamers?

    How can we make our games more fun to play against?

    Is it as simple as staying relatively up to date with the current meta.

    • Victor Hartmann

      I don’t think that they are mutually exclusive. I enjoy tournaments but I build my army around a strong theme with a detailed background which evolves with each game played.

      For example I went to one tournament with an Inquisitor in a bastion with some Jokaero and Servitors. My personal narrative was the Inquisitor had set up a temporary base on a hostile planet while his minions were out scouring the planet for a hidden artifact (which worked out even better if the mission turned out to be The Relic). Would he be able to hold the bastion long enough for his allies to arrive via Stormraven and Deep Strike and turn the tide of battle?

      This made it very easy to get the other player into the narrative regardless of faction. Even if they were Imperial we could go with something like they wanted the artifact too or they suspected my Inquisitor of heresy because of his Jokaero or if they didn’t like Imperium vs Imperium we could say it was a training exercise.

      A lot of other tournament players had interesting themes ranging from deep back grounds to funny adaptations of Where’s Waldo?

      To bring the article into it, I think a lot of it is simply talking with the other player to get a feel for what they’re looking for in the game and try to help each other have fun with it. And some self awareness goes a long way with that. If you’re a guy (speaking in general, not to a specific person) who gets blood in his eyes and must win, that’s fine with the right match up. But you’ve got to learn to reign it in when it’s not. Just saying “that’s who I am and I can’t change it” is giving up and not taking responsibility for your own actions. Over time, people can learn to channel these attitudes more constructively.

      • standardleft

        Yes you are right.

        The only problem I can see is how could I take this approach with an army theme that includes overcosted or broken units?

        My imperial guard army list is really quite rubbish, but it fits my themes. Lots of ogryns, bullgryns and rough riders.

        How would I play with a really competitive player and still provide him with a challenge? Is it impossible?

        • Victor Hartmann

          Certainly there can be bad match-ups. I’ve been on either end of those. Felt kind of bad about the last one but tried to keep the humor light. He was running the Slaughter Cult or whatever that special formation is. Would have been great against most armies. Not so great against my tanks. Just blasting him off the field. It got so ridiculous that even my scouts were winning melee against Khorne berserkers. But we both kept the humor going and found a theme that one of his special units was very similar thematically and rules wise to my Legion of the Damned so we had this running story line about how they should be brothers in arms but loved fighting too much to stop. I promised to match up against him again in the future when he could bring his Necron army. Quite likely my tanks will be on the bad side of that match up. But we can still have fun with it.

          But in regards to your question, how to make it a good game with a competitive player? Play to the mission. A lot of tournaments work very hard to design missions which allow even a weak army the opportunity to win games if they stick to the mission. If they are a good player they should enjoy the tactical gamesmanship. I’m not a naturally funny guy but I do try to find humor in things. That often makes the game more acceptable when things go sideways.

          And I’ll freely admit I’ve had tournaments where I lost every game. Often because I did something dumb or misunderstood the mission or forgot some basic rule. But I learned a lot from those games and that made me a better player. I sure learned to pre-measure when a big fat Great Unclean One charged from the middle of the board and wrecked one of my tanks. I had assumed I was safe. Nope. Not at all.

  • I was with you up until this part:

    “Competitive: … Losing is anathema to you, and while you may not despair when things go your way, losing is an uncomfortable experience emotionally. You find it hard to understand why anyone would willingly go through it.”

    In some game systems I am definitely a competitive player, I attend tournaments and I practice in order to get better at the game. But you know what? Losing is fine.

    Why? Because in order to learn you need to lose. You find out what works and what doesn’t, you experiment and you discover new strategies that you hadn’t considered before. Losing is the best way of becoming a better player.

    The only time a loss is genuinely frustrating is when nothing can be learnt from it, but these instances are extremely rare (and when they do occur they are often due to substantial misfortune of dice). But that’s okay too, you take from the game what you can and move on. .

    Competitive players aren’t desperate to win, and their mental well-being certainly doesn’t depend on doing so. the clue is in the term – they just like to compete.

    • Victor Hartmann

      Well said.

  • NagaBaboon

    This was one of the better wargaming articles I have read in a long time. I really appreciate your frankness and you’ve articulated the things I think we all know but most of us have never properly assembled in our heads.

  • N12NJA

    Brilliantly written and loved the article.

  • Wraeccan

    **stands up and claps for a long time**
    I have many conversations of this ilk with my son. I may edit some of the more mature content, but I will be sharing…

  • KrakenWakes

    Great stuff, very well-written.

  • Yep – it comes down to playing with like-minded people. If you are wanting one thing out of a game and playing people that want something else out of the game, neither of you are going to have much fun (unless one of you only cares about winning in which case if they win then they had fun regardless of if it was a good game)

    The core of most arguments about plastic men I find online is simply two people that want two different things trying to win the argument.

  • Victor Hartmann

    Excellent article, I hope people take time to really understand it.

  • Another Biased Opinion

    10/10

  • Deathmage

    I have already read this on the lounge, but I really do hope Arya is alright now. I first hand know that abuse is horrific, any kind, and wish her and any else luck with getting on with their life. Know its out of place on BoLS, but someone had to say it 🙂

  • Yep, totally agree. I will even mix it up mid game depending on what I have gathered from my opponent during a tournament. If I see they are a fluff bunny I will go for the fun sometimes instead of going for the crushing win. It has cost me sometimes but in the end it was worth it.

  • polyquaternium7

    Good article

  • bfmusashi

    York, you continue to be one of the best things about the boards. I don’t think I ever told you that. Thanks for the article.

  • Ironside_Online

    Ah, the Roxy! I went there for a foam party when they re-opened it back in 1999/2000 when I was studying at Sheffield Uni. Got a pint poured over my head for no apparent reason. Happy days.

    (Great article, by the way. )

  • Damon Sherman

    you know, I’ve been wasting my time commenting on the more click-baitish articles on this site. And, I’ve have yet to say anything openly good about this one.

  • Kevin Boyd

    Great article.

    Reminds me of the first time I played 6th Edition 40k, after 10+ years of being out of it.
    Found a “Pick-up” game at a local shop here in Cincinnati.
    Told the guy “I am just getting back into 40k so this is a learning game for me, hope you don’t mind”.
    He said “Cool, not a problem” and then proceeded to table me on turn 2 with his Tau.

    After the curb-stomping he told me “Yeah, sorry about that, that was my Tournament list.”…what a dick!

  • Chris. K Cook

    Yet another fantastic Article from you York. I think Larry should give you a regular writing gig.

    Also Guessed you were a V:tES man given your Avatar and Handle.

    I’m the local ‘Prince’ (TO) and guys like the Hound are best kept away from the fresh blood as they tend to scare them off.

    Great game. Sadly interest round my parts has waned since the CCP Self inflicted gunshot

    • Chris. K Cook

      Its also an interesting study in how Meta differs from Area to area. In my home town we started playing games in our lunch break in year 11 and 12 or that hour gap that managed to line up in everyone’s schedule once we hit Uni. So to get as many games in as we could we’d play hard and fast. That coupled with the unusually low amount of Archon Investigations meant we developed a go hard or go home approach so we could get as many games in as possible. “If you aren’t bleeding for at least 3 why bother?”, was our attitude.
      Fast forward a few years and we discover the idea of Tournaments and more specifically free promos, so I get elected to be prince as the long term player with the most free time and I start running tournies and eventually hold a State Qualifier for the Nationals. a few of the players from the Next State over come over and take part. Only to freak out and the monster bleeds some of our decks were throwing out and start freaking the hell out and shrieking about ‘responsible bleeding’. Apparently their playgroup meta was lousy with Archons (must have been where all the ones we should have got ended up) and flick decks so they had a more timid approach to the game.

      This is why the idea of ‘Meta’ being anything more than Club or City based has always struck me a ridiculous idea. Sure a Tourny or set of tournies may have their own meta but that is as far as it goes. So can we please kill the fairytale of the ‘global meta’?

  • Koszka

    Great read. thanks for the article. It can be sad how a game can turn good people sour.

  • RexScarlet

    Great article!
    Even the Wrestle-Dancing picture (if there is choreography, it is DANCING! lol)
    .
    Easy;
    A) Tournament style.
    (painted, guidelines, house rules, restrictions, wysiwyg, reasonable counts as, etc.)
    I do not care what set of guidelines you follow here, just pick one to follow and STICK WITH IT.
    I asked a big fish in a small pond Jeoff player what ruling he was using on his current broken BS, he said Adepticon, about a month or so later Jeoff was asked the same question, he answered Nova Open, why, because Nova had ruled in his favor for the current broken BS he was running.
    Reminds me of this, especially at 1:25;
    http://www.cc.com/video-clips/eb32ns/chappelle-s-show-popcopy—uncensored
    .
    B) Arr’d Boyz stlye (no painting wysiwyg)

    .
    C) Apocalypse everything and the kitchen sink unbound.
    (plus or minus A and B above)
    .
    D) Pew-pew style, which is never a topic of posts;
    (no rules needed, narrative, proxy, and etc.)
    My sisters Barbie proxy wraithknight shoots your Pikachu proxy Dreadnaught, pew-pew..

    .
    That is about it, pretty simple.
    .
    Again, great article!