40K: Tournament (Competitive) Play Is Not Narrative



Am I trying to pick a fight?  Hell no.  Just stating a fact, and getting folks to think about something we all know is true.

The first thing we need to do, within the context of this commentary, is define narrative and competitive play.  Narrative play is, simply, a game that tells a story.  It may be part of a larger campaign.  It may be a string of 3-4 games that a couple of friends have written scenarios for.  In essence, it is not about the win.  It is about the game telling a story.  Competitive play is about the win.  True, all 40K games could be defined as competitive; it is a game with victory conditions after all.  But within the context of this article, it is about building lists that are powerful and are, in most cases, built to take on all comers.  It may even be driven by mission specific goals, but it is still about getting the win.


I Want to Tell You a Story…

Narrative gaming also is not reliant on brining the best of the best in a killer combination.  It is about bringing Stealers, Lictors and Mawlocs because they are stealthy and sneaky.  If I bring a list built about the aforementioned units, I very well may not win.  The story, however, is about those units coming out of nowhere to strike at a remote outpost of Marines.  Or maybe an Eldar scouting party.  Whatever.  The win is not the thing here.  Do I want to win?  You bet.  If I don’t, however, it is OK as long as the story is supported and/or advance.  If certain conditions are met, then perhaps I can bring something more the next game.  Or maybe those Eldar will be forced to play without certain heavy support units.  Whatever the scenarios/conditions that tell the story are, they do not depend on winning.  However, they will, quite frequently, require brining units that are not optimized for getting that win.  They are about bringing models that will help tell the story.  The other thing that defines many narrative games is that they do not specify points.  Unit types yes; points, no.


Conan, What is Best in Life?

Compare this to competitive play, as we have defined it here.  There are certainly some well designed missions that are used during tournament play.  Those missions, however, do not require the use of specific units.  They do require that I bring those units that will allow me to score the maximum number of objective points so that I can, ultimately, win the tournament.  Those Genestealers, on most cases, will not be a popular choice for Tyranid players who intent to win.  Lictors, Mawlocs and Spores…another thing altogether.  Competitive list building is about point efficiency and optimizing unit selection.  No stories are told, other that those that players share as they sit around after the game with a cold one.


Space Hulk is a great example of narrative play, IMO.  The units that you take, as well as the enemy that you will face, are fixed.  The mission is fixed.  You have no opportunity to “optimize” your “list” or even think about point efficiency.  There are no points!  It is about completing a mission, which is part of a chain of events that build a narrative. Ultimately, the story will be told by how successful you are at completing your missions, and how you go about doing so within the confines of the predetermined units that you will use.


The Third Way?

There is a third category of game we play, that is neither narrative nor competitive as we have defined them here.  Just two people picking a point total and throwing dice.  No story to tell.  No mission points to advance in a tournament.  Just two players rolling dice, drinking, and talking smack.  I sometimes think, or maybe it’s hope, this is what the majority of the 40K games being played out there are.

So is tournament play narrative? No.  Is it another way for a large portion of the 40K community to interact with other players, enjoy the game and have a great time?  Sure.  But it is not about telling a story, and building a narrative around the models, paint schemes and scenarios that you create.  Tournament play is about winning.  It is about taking the latest, greatest, cheeziest (word?) and opponent stomping list you can think of.  In the end, both narrative and tournament gaming are essential parts of our hobby.  One is not better than the other at keeping 40K alive.  They both serve a purpose.  Most importantly, players in each of these gaming styles will finish the day sitting around with fellow players; drinking a beer, sharing tales of dice rolling (terrible and great), bemoaning list insanity and a myriad of other foolishness.


Do you consider yourself a narrative or tournament player? Perhaps both? Neither?

  • Zingbaby

    I like competitive games and I try to win games of 40K but I’ve always found it [40K], in every edition, to be much more fun as a narrative driven game.

    When we play missions, custom scenarios, variants and different mods/styles of play we always laugh and have fun, even when it’s “unbalanced”… when we try to make it into a “who is the best general / (who is the best net-list copier)” someone always has a terrible time.

    • nurglespuss

      This is the truth of it.

  • Keaton

    Pretty good read. I get a little tired of the notion that games that make narrative sense and competitive lists can’t be married though. Personally, I have a certain narrative “threshold” I feel a list has to have in order to enjoy a game. Once you pass that bar, make your list as powerful as you possibly can. For example, if you ally your necrons with tyranids and take a tau formation, I hate you and and I’m going to hate this game. But if you’re taking Chaos with Orc allies, okay sure, I can conjure up a scenario where Tzeentch/Eldrad ruined someone’s life. Just keep it plausible, then take as many thunderwolves and baby carriers you want, imo.

    • jeff white

      works as a minimum standard

  • Which is why I don’t get gw seems to only support narrative/relaxed. Make the game available to both camps. I’ve never been to a tournament, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep people from doing it. And vice versa. At the end of the day it is each persons hobby, they should enjoy it how they want to, not how GW thinks they should.

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      There is a gulf between the two camps when looking at it from a design perspective.

      Hardcore competitive games try to limit the scope of unit power, weapons, rules and wargear to a predefined minimum and maximum so as to balance the factions and units off against one another. The end product is a game where many of the rules are replicated across all factions, which has a drop down effect of making units more similar to one another and therefore possessing less individuality.

      It is like a game of Chess. The only real difference is the color.

      Hardcore Narrativist games do not try to balance things but instead marry rules with story. It doesn’t matter that one faction has guns that can obliterate tanks because that is the way the story was defined. Points aren’t incredibly relevant either, since the focus is on scenarios where, like the real world, the two opposing forces are mismatched in terms of numbers, equipment and power.

      Striking a balance between that is really difficult and that is why so many people struggle with 40k. It is a game designed for Narrativst gamers being used by competitive players. The mismatched intent of the designers and the players causes issue.

      • euansmith

        Personally I like my games to be balanced so that I know when I am unbalancing them. I like Role Playing Games (Narrative Play) where the designer has a sufficiently strong grasp of maths and literature to create a system when some basic balance is easy to achieve, while still allowing for creativity.

      • Charon

        I like my games balanced so I know how much I unbalance them when I write a scenario. Also I want the rules to reflect more of the novels. Forcing a tyranid player to field 200 Gaunts is just sadism as moving them is boring, rolling dice for them is boring and they do not achieve anything at all. The same scenario in the novels is a desperate fight for survival.. not so much on the tabletop.

      • vonDietdrich

        But 40k’s really NOT designed with a narrative in mind in some huge ways, which is the problem.

        It’s a competitive system that has, over time, been slapped with a bunch of ‘this is a game for telling a story!’ stickers which, while loud and sort of convincing, don’t really change the underlying engine, which was designed to be a wargame where the sides were competing for victory.

        Ultimately, the shift to ‘We Want You To Forge A Narrative’ as the tagline of Gee Dubs is rooted in their desire to sell more models, not for one person to just buy a 2k point army and then stop purchasing minis. It has nothing to do with their rules.

        For example, narrative games like Malifaux, tabletop RPG systems, Dropfleet Commander, Infinity, etc have mechanics which allow you to easily build a narrative using the game’s built-in rules to describe a situation on the table. This narrative then becomes synergistic with the mechanics for characters/units, creating the feeling of a ‘whole experience’. You get the satisfaction of your sniper popping out of cover and maiming an enemy lieutenant from your sneaky ambush, then start to sweat as the narrative turns around and your opponent sets the your sniper’s hiding spot on fire. So your sniper eats a three-story fall to get out of the inferno.. but he’s being chased by your opponent’s ninja assassins. An interesting narrative is created which will last for the whole match.

        GW’s mechanics by comparison are strictly self-contained. You can’t really interact with terrain, create or remove it, and objective-based play is almost entirely dependent on just moving a unit within a few inches of an objective token or pulling some maelstrom cards. Special rules are very one-dimensional and most of the game is spent either moving models or rolling attack dice and saves. This has gotten even more pronounced in Age of Sigmar. An ‘awesome model’ in a lot of cases for GW games just means one that’s rolling well. There aren’t many memorable actions to take, besides ‘wow, he killed that unit, and then he made all his saves and killed that OTHER unit too! What are the odds?’ There’s no leaping from burning buildings to escape a crispy death or surviving a barrage of bullets by hiding behind a trash can so that the mini can chuck a grenade through a window to kill the squad of enemy soldiers on his next action. It’s just ‘wow, this unit rolled a lot of 6’s’. And that got boring for me.

        If flamers could burn down forests and krak missiles could blow up pieces of scenery, I think 40k would be a much more interesting game. It’d be a start, anyway.

        • Andrew

          Yeah, 40k totally started out this way. Rogue Trader required a GM as well as two players. Its core mechanics have remained essentially unchanged. 2nd Edition was basically a more streamlined version. There’s even rules for your example of weaponry having an effect on terrain. You should totally check out the Battle Bible, its all the 2nd edition rules and FAQs compiled into one printer friendly PDF document.

          Third is when they tried introducing balance to the lists, with mixed results.

        • Dave

          Rogue Trader had a lot of narrative elements. You could destroy terrain…there were anti-plant grenades! Vortex grenades could spiral out of control, eating half the board. Robots that required prepared ‘programs’. Orbital strikes that could turn half the board into a giant crater. Goofy stuff but good times indeed.

    • Nic Hughes

      I think it is more that the game designers believe that the sweet spot for their game lies a little closer to its narrative role-playing roots than it does to a properly competitive game like chess. When you look at RPGs and chess it is fairly obvious that 40k cannot really be best at either of these extremes, it has to have its sweet-spot somewhere in the middle. We are really getting all worked up about exactly where that best balance is for us personally.

      Now if some players want to play at those real extremes and enjoy it then good for them. Where that would harm the community is if that is the only way they play and new people into the hobby only see that in their local area and move on to something else as a result. Pure storytelling pew-pew would be as bad for this as pure only-the-win-matters competitive gaming culture.

      There are also deep compromises in trying to practically achieve both ends of the spectrum as a game designer. One wants lots of cool characterful new stuff to fire the imagination. The other wants everything extensively play-tested and balanced. With combinations being possible in-game every new thing is made more difficult and expensive to play test by every previous cool new thing already in the game. It is not even a linear progression, the increase in time to test and balance is more like a geometric progression. The raw mathematics of this become prohibitive if the designers want to produce a game with lots of models each with different rules. The only way to control this runaway cost of playtest and balance is to limit the number of rules either by limiting the number of models or by ensuring that models have essentially similar rules – or to accept that imbalance will grow as the game grows.

  • Sebastian Fare Kjeilen

    Good read

  • Maybe with GWs stuff, but I have personally always felt the WMH host the best of both and they do it well. Their leagues are top notch and competition is very objective centered and kinda tells a story with the right scenery. Just my opinion though. Most of the 40k games (Fantasy for that matter too) were a show up and slaughter your opponent type of games.

  • You can tell a story with narrative or tournament play if you want.

    Gamer gamers typically aren’t as worried about the story so much as they are about the game rules so trying to make them care is kind of like slamming your face into an iron wall over and over again in the hopes that this time the wall will come down.

    I think a good game today should have both elements.

    That being said, the thing that you have to watch out for with tournament play is that it often sets the community standard. This is great if you are more interested in the game and tournaments. This is a nightmare if you are more interested in trying to play narrative style as the community will be harder to cajole into using narrative tools like unbalanced scenarios and other rules that are not used in tournaments as it is not a “standard” game any longer.

    This does not mean that I am saying that this is impossible… I am saying that it is very difficult to play outside of the norm if you are not part of a group that does so already.

  • The post author should spend a lot more time thinking about what actually defines narrative play. The post is vastly overly fixated on equating fixed scenarios and lists with narrative play. In reality those are a very small subset of the style: They’re a mechanism for telling a story, but not a necessary one, and actually a very limited one toward the crucial, nuanced difference between enabling storytelling as opposed to telling a story.

    It’s also definitely not the case that narrative and competitive gaming can’t co-exist. I have a long post here talking about some of my group’s experiences doing so, and we’ve experimented with several other approaches since this was written:


  • Oggthrok

    Personally, White Dwarf 222 was my introduction to most things 40k, and it was home to the funnest thing ever – the Last Stand at Glazer’s Creek. The idea was to recreate the historical Roark’s Rift scenario, with Orks in place of Zulus and Preatorian Guard in place of British soldiers. The Pratorian has an assortment of Necromunda civilians with them, and had to hold out for multiple games against randomly generated waves of Orks, just trying to have some survivors by the end.

    and, the rules were tossed right out where needed – no points values, the ork stat line was modified for the scenario, and so on. That one report really drew me into 40k, and so to this day I still want to set up a cool story, to create the kind of drama found in that issue.

    Of course, soon after reading WD 222, my 2nd ed starter set marines (two tactical squads) fought another new player’s Chaos army, consisting of every named character, all of the greater demons, and five plague marines. That was the experience that made me appreciate points. 🙂

    • jeff white

      omg i remember that and loved it when i read that too… dam… old books are lost now.

      • Oggthrok

        Actually, I read my copy of 222 until it fell apart, and lamented losing the whole Glazer’s Creek section, until I noticed you can still type “White Dwarf 222” into Ebay, and there are numerous sellers, often charging less than original cover price, so for a few bucks you can relive the nostalgia 🙂

  • Joseph Boyd

    honestly 40k sucks now! there is no tactics left in 40k. I have left the hobby and that much happier for doing it. I still have some wolves left to paint and will sell them upon completion.
    I liked playing in tourney’s and themed games. But I like running my wolves and only my wolves. Now they get shot to death by every Shooty! Shooty! army that I come against. And its hard to play themed games because everyone wants to try out their new tournament list. I try to get them into combat but 50% of the time they get shot apart before I can do anything. I ran 12 Twolves in one game against Chaos and my wolves were gone by end of turn 2. I ran my SWolves against Space Marines/Grey knights and only killed three of his models (Invisibility Sucks). And Guess what GW? Not everyone wants to take allies! So good by! GW. Thanks for the good times while they lasted. but ive moved on to a more balanced, tactical game that dosent involve my wallet being empty before payday. and up yours BOLS

    • Victor Hartmann

      It’s unfortunate you’ve had a bad experience. Space Wolves are really good and have a lot of tactical flexibility thanks to their toughness, damage output, and speed. Plus their ability to mob up into a large, powerful unit then break into many separate units due to their large number of characters. True, they’re not an autowin but they are certainly competitive.

      Good luck with your future endeavors

    • Keaton

      Sounds like you lost some games. Sorry to hear that. There are tactics left in 40k, however. Up yours BoLS was a nice touch -_-

    • jeff white

      that was fun.

  • Victor Hartmann

    I wouldn’t say tournament play is not narrative. Or at least that it can’t be. Just depends on how much thought you put into it.

    When I play with friends and family for fun, we like to come up with a reason we’re fighting and a story to go with it. Or sometimes we just get right to playing, eager to try out our newest ideas.

    In tournaments, I base my army around a theme and apply it to my games. For example, if I’m running an Inquisitor, she might be on a mission to find a piece of Xenos technology and has commandeered some Imperial forces to subjugate or destroy anyone she suspects is harboring it. If I run into another Inquisitor, maybe they’re from a rival faction prosecuting a shadow war to end my heretical (from their view point) quest. Lots of players have themes so it’s fun to come up with explanations of how our themes mesh and clash.

    Creating a narrative doesn’t require certain units or events, it just requires creativity.

  • crusader284

    There should be two ways to play the game, competitive and narrative. Narrative should have simplified and streamlined rules that are easy to learn and laid back in terms of what the players bring to the table, i.e. Age of Sigmar. Any other rules on top of the basic should be up to the players (as long as every participant is okay with said rules).

    Competitive should have advanced rules and a little more restriction to ensure a balanced experience. For example, for restrictions, I would say super-heavies should only be allowed in larger games, or at least games where the opponent would have the means to bring it down without being mercilessly stomped by it. Give tournament officers guides on how they could input their own rules if they choose to.

    I could go on here, but yeah the community in 40k is so diverse you might as well support both. By catering to the narrative lot you’re disowning the competitive lot and forcing them to play other games and by catering too much to the competitive lot you make the game harder to get into for narrative players who simply want to have some fun with their models. There’s nothing saying you can’t cater to both, GW. 😉

  • PrimoFederalist

    I don’t understand why people who don’t play competitively care about the way people who play competitively play.

    I don’t play at tournaments, but having well-balanced rules necessarily means a more narrative-friendly game as the internally balanced codices will let you bring a much larger selection of units instead of the 2-4 most powerful/points efficient.

    Well-designed game rules benefit everyone.

    That said, I’ve started Infinity. It’s amazingly refreshing to buy models from a company which actively seeks to create a well-balanced rules set. And I rather like the true-scale 28mm. Cheers!

    • crusader284

      Well, some of my friends used to play the older editions of 40k and they told me that once the later editions started focusing on competitive play a lot of the fun elements had vanished because of all the restrictions the rules had when it came to their miniatures. Since they’d built their miniatures for older editions with narrative in mind they couldn’t use them any more due to these restrictions.

      For example, my friend had loads of different kinds of power weapons for his miniatures, then they expanded the rules on power weapons, so you had rules for power axes and rules for power swords. Only problem was, half of those weapons on my friend’s miniatures were neither.

      • babelfisk

        I’m surprised that your friends didn’t just agree to new rules for the weapons they had on the miniatures, or treat them as counts as power axes/power swords.

        The nice thing about narrative focused play is that you can make adjustments like that without having to worry about what the TO/random guy you draw in round five will think about it.

      • PrimoFederalist

        OK, so…

        1) the different types of power weapons were a thing from Rogue Trader/2nd edition, which was super fluffy (virus bombs only affected models without sealed helmets, for instance). They were simplified in 3rd edition along with everything else, stayed that way for a few additions, then were changed back.

        2) it had nothing to do with “competitive play”, it’s a *fluff* thing to have each different type of weapon have different rules and points. That’s kind of obvious, isn’t?

        3) what armies restrict which types of power weapons you can and can’t take? Are assault sergeants limited to power sword only in some armies? I know nothing in the SW or IG codices demand or prevent you from taking specific power weapons. I didn’t play for a while (in the real Marine Corps) – did an army they played force them to use swords or power axes? I highly doubt it.

        4) there was no edition that focused on competitive play, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about. GW was never into the tournament scene, though they did hold tournaments once upon a time, and, once again, having a well-balanced game with internally balanced codices will make taking fluffy armies more fun.

        Anyway, my point again is that if you could take a SM captain, several tactical squads, an assault squad, a devastator squad, and a terminator squad and they all were well-balanced with rules and points to make them good without crazy free-transport shenanigans, and those units were actually good and complemented each other, and you could play against an equally well-balanced army of Tau or Eldar competitively… why is that a bad thing? Well-written rules and armies that are well-balanced internally and externally against each other make for fluffy armies that can compete with each other in a tournament. Again, how is that bad?

  • life of adept brian

    Both, but enjoy the narrative aspect more than whether or not the game is “fair”. When I play, I am trying to win the game, however I do not spend a lot of time optimizing my list. I do take units that compliment each other in game play and fluff.

    I would think Space Hulk is an example of a balanced and potentially competitive game. Like chess, as you put it? Two balanced armies, opponents with an equal opportunity to win the game, depending on the moves they make and the success of their dice rolls. Albeit in a strong narrative setting. Best of both worlds really.

    All things being EQUAL, a win using good decision making, planning, “talent”, and a bit of luck would be the very definition of competitive play, would it not?

    Certainly, list building is a big part of the “competition” in 40k tournaments, but really the winner is the winner regardless of the list he/she brings. In fact, I would argue that the better “player” would be the one that wins with a less-than-optimal list – effectivelly making yourself the underdog and still pulling off a win ;). That is a sweet win. Not quite on topic on that last bit, just how I feel about the tournament environment…

  • Boltstein

    Does anyone know of any good sites that have homebrewed resources or scenarios for narrative gaming?

  • jeff white

    your argument is based on a false or dubious premise:
    >>> But within the context of this article, it is about building lists that are powerful and are, in most cases, built to take on all comers. It may even be driven by mission specific goals, but it is still about getting the win.

    and this win, and these goals, can be narrative driven/derived,
    as is the case with army composition and model collection used to build the list (using some models for some things means different things to long-term and acute collectors, for example, as a product of scholarship in a way).
    and don’t forget the rpg elements, the backstories and histories worked in tot he models and army.

    these used to be more important, i think, than ‘competitive’ players apparently like.

    actually, this style of ‘competitive’ play is the reason that rules and points systems get broken and exploited, as it encourages the breaking and exploitation of the rules system, when a tourney win could as easily and more justly go to the player who refrained from breaking and exploiting the rules to win…

    don’t you think?

  • Drpx

    I can see competitive tournaments still existing for 40k and narrative events being organized that aren’t just about bashing folks, but the people organizing them have to really be on top of things and have rules to account for GW’s “anything goes” mentality of 7th edition. With the current 40k being what amounts to “low-points apocalypse” in its rawest form, a lack planning and forethought on someone trying to do a narrative can really bite an event in the patooty.

    Case in point: my FLGS decided to do an escalation campaign to generate interest/help new people build armies with a goal. There was a map, and even an “NPC army” of Tyranids for the participants to fight if no one was around to play.

    The campaign was set up so that each hex on the map would have different points in the idea of limited player movement and having them battle each other as the escalation campaign worked its way up in points before someone would try for the juicy 2k pt center and the main objective.

    The guy running the event banned flyers for the first few hundred points knowing that some armies would have trouble with them without dedicated AA. I was miffed, but figured he was right and told my Stormwing pilots to go play volleyball with Maverick and Goose for a while.

    Unfortunately, he forgot to ban superheavies, or at least limit their numbers, and that was when our narrative ran smack dab into the competitive in the worst example of the ongoing trainwreck that’s 6/7th edition and the widening divide of the player base.

    The first weekend in comes a guy who decided his army would be Imperial Knights. Not one Knight with a bunch of allies, but five of the things in a formation with 3+ invuln saves and IWND on the leader. As the points went up, he plopped down another one with Skiitari or Inquisition filling in the resulting gaps like Frog DNA in Jurassic Park.

    It was too late to say no and Knights are a codex army with detachment rules and the person was following all the rules that had been set down to the letter. The organizer was at fault if anyone was, but the poor guy probably didn’t think anybody would actually spend around $850 on a single army (one Knight was a forgeworld model which cost about $240).

    After stomping on people (via rolling 6s for every other template attack) who’d only brought a handful of dedicated anti-armor stuff in their themed lists, the Knight player stampeded to the middle of the map where the 2k pt nids guarded the main objective with 1pts of Knights and some Inquisitor stuff.

    Though bringing twice as many points to that fight, NPC army was a motely 5-year old collection that only had a handful of models that could actually hurt armor (two squads of genestears, a flyrant, two carnixes and three zoaranthropes) and without any of the latest Nid supplements (something else he probably didn’t think would be an issue).

    I suggested a tyrannofex or suitable gargantuan creature proxy, but the NPC player said his bases were too small and must have thought that would be unfair or improper. Like how the captain of the Titanic thought slowing down in an ice field would look bad or silly.

    Admittedly, the resulting battle was probably a badass narrative in its own right and a testament to player skill: the Knights beat a nid force that had twice their points value. A bit of well placed shooting killed the zoarathropes, skyfiring attachments killed the flyrant, one knight went down to Genestealer rending with the subsequent explosion killing them and the remaining two knights waded through a sea of helpless gaunts and warriors to claim the objective.

    Unfortunately for the event, by this point it was mostly the Knight player and the NPC player who was obligated to play him left in the campaign and a few regulars who conveniently found other games to play that weekend.

    Though I’m sure there’s plenty of competitive people who could handle an all-Knight army (no sarcasm, I just don’t follow the meta anymore) the newbies/casuals we’d been trying to attract and get involved were a bit put-off and either would not or could not tailor their lists to fight that many Knights.

    I can see their point. I could have spent my monthly $150 budget on more Warhammer stuff to get a big anti-super heavy list together, but instead I bought Warmahordes and Armada starter sets. Why pour all your money into one expensive game in the name of remaining competitive when you could play two others that were built from the ground up to be so?

    Anyway, lessons were learned on both sides and the Knight guy says he’ll run something else at the next event, but OTH I kind of want to say why should he have to? It is a valid codex with unit points, detachments and fluff, and any random schmo could buy three Knights because he likes MechWarrior and identified most with them.

    Should he show up to his first event, narrative or competitive, and be politely told to f*ck off because nobody wants to play his army that’s seen an imbalanced and no fun to go against (hi Necron players, take a seat by Eldar over there)? That’s why 40k needs balance either by the players or the devs because some people really don’t have a clue and just grab what looks cool (hello Space Marines/Tau players).

    Hell, I picked up Cryx as my Warmahordes starting army in total ignorance (I swear to God) in a Journeyman League at another game store, so I’d be the proverbial pot calling the kettle black if I condemned Knight-Boy. I picked Cryx because they looked cool and I wanted to start as the Bad Guy for once (boy did I get my wish). I could possibly trade them for an Everblight battlegoup (the other evil guys), but Dragon Lord Toruk already has my soul (seriously, steam-punk zombie pirates, how awesome is that?).

    I think the main screw-up was trying to do an event that blended narrative and competitive together. People were still competing even as they were doing a campaign focused on narrative so it wasn’t exactly a field of innocent fluff-bunnies getting mauled by the big bad tourney wolf.

    I’d say if you do an event you need to decide if it’s going to be competitive or narrative in style and then set guidelines accordingly which may or may not mean telling someone they can’t bring more than, say, 3 codexes in an army (I know someone who’s going to do Knights/Cult ) Mechanicus/Skiitari) or with just one super/gargantuan. One or the other, but not both.

    TL;DR: Tournaments and Competitive play in 40k can work, but they need to be understanding and concessions by all involved parties and not just saying, “bring this many points.” Also, GW needs to balance their base codices because even narrative games suck with shoddy balance.

    • Andrew Thomas

      The “Simmons is acting funny” Kill Team Stratagem from way back in 4th would’ve made that scenario a lot more interesting. Having a Knight reenact the end of Vengeful Spirit would be oh so satisfying for the folks forced to play the lout.

    • babelfisk

      I agree with your main points, and have a couple of observations to add.

      In competitive play the need to be able to handle 4-5 knights is one of the major reasons tournament nid lists have shifted to mass flyrants. (I know it’s not really relevant to your point, I just wanted to make that observation).

      My local group has a close to even mix of competitive and casual players, and we have found that there is no real way to write rules that a skilled player can’t find a way around. We a getting ready to start a major story driven campaign, and we have instituted a ‘don’t be a d**k rule’, where of the organizers think you have brought something unfair they can do things like remove units from your list or add points to your opponents.

      • Drpx

        Yes, the flyrant was probably the best unit in that collection and did the most damage via getting around behind things with devourers and warp blast. A few higher rolls with the psychic power and it might have turned out different.

        That sounds like an interesting rule, but I would advise caution as what’s d**kish can be somewhat subjective. Half the new Space Marine codex and the web bundles probably count as d**kish if used in certain ways.

  • This is the most “water is wet” article I’ve ever seen on here.

  • Andrew Thomas

    Totally discounts the ability of TOs to generate improvisational campaign arcs. All you’d need is a few die roll tables to pull that off. And no, narrative gaming is STILL about the win, even with a loose plot.

  • Spacefrisian

    But tournaments are always narativ, each player there simply comes to conquer and trample anyone in there path….right?

  • Deathwing

    I once ran a tournament at Owlcon a few years back where the second scenario required you to “catch” 3 objective markers that moved 3d6 in a random direction each time (if off the table they immediately deep struck back to the center). Your scoring units could hold them on a 3+ and your HQs a 2+. Once they had them they could run around with them, but if you were assaulted you had to test to hold them each assault phase.

    Half the players thoroughly enjoyed the “hold still Dammit!” scenario. The other half wanted to gut me in a dark alley with a dull razor.
    Please feel free to steal the idea. Just message me so I can get a good chuckle if you use it.

  • JP

    Tournament play is not narrative.

    No sh!t, really? I never would’ve guessed.

  • nurglitch

    So play mirror matches if you want to play competitively.

  • nonafel

    This is a pretty good read. After all, it’s hard to argue your list that includes all the best space marines, eldar and knight titan stuff is anything more than powergaming.

    Don’t be that guy in friendly games. They don’t get many games after that.

  • Marky

    I liked bringing a themed story based list to warhammer tournaments and trying to win.. Eg trying to make the best list possible using 50+ Slayers… Or using a necromancer lord as a general in 5th/6th (can’t remember which) because I wanted that to be the story of my army. You can pick a good fun theme then min max some stuff and still have a tournament viable list.

    Ps I am considering a return to 40k after not liking the look of AOS. If I build a tournament army it will be themed (because I want to enjoy playing) and I will be aiming for top 3.