40K: So Your Face Got Stomped

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What do you do when nothing’s coming up Milhouse?

There comes a time in every gamer’s life when they run into an opponent who has the latest broken unit/paid a bunch of money to Forge World/knows more about the game than them/is playing Imperial Guard. When that happens, it can be tempting to give up then and there. To gently pick your models back up off of the floor, right the table, shake your opponent’s hand, and thank them politely for a good game before employing scorched earth tactics–and you know, that’s not a bad option. But it’s also not the only option. I know–it happens to me a LOT, and trust me, there’s only so many fires you can start before people start asking questions.

Even if your opponent is playing Eldar.

But I wanna talk about what you do when you find yourself in those situations where the game feels like a foregone conclusion.

It can happen for a number of reasons. Your opponent rolled all sixes on those damage rolls and took out your linchpin unit. Or they seized the objective with heavy infantry in cover and you just don’t have the firepower left to shoot your way out of it. Or they found the relic and now it’s across the long edge of the table from where you are.

And there’s nothing but artillery in your way

Whatever the cause, sometimes you know there’s no saving a game. But what do you do when you realize it’s a lost cause and that you left your kerosene at home?

Give up

This one’s pretty easy. You can always just call it, take your loss and reevaluate. It saves the most time, and gives you a chance to do more of the thing you love–or at least the thing you have spent enough collective time and money on that the sunk cost fallacy looks ever so appealing. It does cut off any opportunity for a dramatic reversal, and we’re talking about those times when it takes that last desperate chance paying off for you to have a shot at victory. So, odds are in your favor on this one.

It does cut out a little of the magic of the game, but it saves that most valuable of all commodities, time. Sometimes the world is arrayed against you, and all you can do is start fresh. But there’s other options left. Like:

Make them work for it

Spite is a powerful force. And even if you know you can’t win, maybe you can definitely make them earn that victory. Make ’em actually table you while you roll those 1’s and 2’s. This one can be rough, though. Sure, it actually does allow for those miraculous victories, but it can also make you feel the loss just as much. Especially if you’ve been having an unlucky streak–there’s only so many times you can get back on that horse before you start to wonder.

And nobody wants to get burnt out on the game. This is a hobby we all enjoy. We paint those plastic dudesmen, we roll those dice, but we also are people–and it feels good to win. It’s that positive reinforcement, that sign that you’re getting something out of the time you spend playing, that metric that shows we’re improving at this game. Even if you’re not in it to win it at any cost, it still feels nice to feel like you’re accomplishing something.

Redefine your goal

This is probably the most team-building-y suggestion, but sometimes it can help to figure out what you can do. Sure, you can’t win the game, but, maybe there’s something else you and your doomed army can accomplish. Maybe it’s getting your unit of jump pack models to assault the enemy flyer and bring it down in hand to hand. Maybe it’s claiming the objective and holding out with that last, doomed squad until the game ends.

I’m a big fan of narratives, and those last stands can be fun to play out–but only if you realize your goal is to have that blaze of glory. And this might seem a little trite and easy to say, but it takes some doing. It’s worth it though. I feel like it really reminds you of what we love about the game. For me, it’s those moments that you talk about, those weird moments that emerge from the dumbest situations. I feel like we tend to glom onto those emerging narratives. They give our units character, they’re often the things we retell years later. I feel like everyone has some version of a “Let me tell you about the time I charged into some berserkers with cultists.”

Take a break

Or sometimes, just take a break. Let your ill fortune bleed off, take some time to remember why you still hang out with the people you play with. Time and distance heal all wounds, after all. And sometimes that can give you the space to figure out some new strategy that will surely see you ascendant next round.

Anyway, those are some of the ways you can weather that storm of defeat.

What keeps you coming back to the table?

  • UltimateCrimson

    I usually prefer that my opponent / myself would concede when it is obvious that one side is going to win and you don’t wanna bother try playing the objectives. Back in 7th my friend was notorious for this, as he would disregard tactical objectives early on and I as I slowly killed his stuff off he would set a goal like “I wanna kill that land raider and then I will concede”. Needless to say it was not fun playing with him, still isn’t.

    • Dave Bacon

      A friend of mine will always say “Oh lets just play out that combat where my entire army is about to fist your Warlord to death” whenever I concede.

      Imagine if it were a boxing match. I’ve just thrown in the towel, i’m trudging off to the showers, gloves off, gum shield out, feeling like a failure, and he’s just run up behind me, smacked me round the back of the head and then relieved himself on my prone form.

      • ZeeLobby

        Lol. More like him and 4 of his buddies. I also never understood the whole “wait, I just want to see how bad I can crush you”.

        • Muninwing

          it’s the WAAC mindset, and the problem i have with it: it’s inherently selfish.

          when the game is “look at what i can do” instead of an actual match against a real person, then what’s the point of playing?

          • ZeeLobby

            Totally agree. I just believe the responsibility for whether that community exists and grows falls on the developer, not the players. If you create a game that’s easily broken, people will break it.

          • Muninwing

            see, i’ve seen enough of people to know that even if it’s hard to break, people will still put a lot of effort into trying to break it. the effort is an ongoing patching, which is a new idea for such products, and GW has been a decade behind the times for awhile now.

          • ZeeLobby

            True. I do think there’s some value gained in reducing the ease of doing so though. Most people who netlist do so because they’re lazy. Making those breaks harder to find reduces the likelihood of many players finding or abusing them.

            But you’re right, fast FAQing is important to finding those breaks. My issue is that when the holes are so large due to poor design, it makes it harder to quickfix an issue.

          • marxlives

            That is true, many who live in a gaming bubble don’t see that this is a uniquely GW phenomenon and players blaming players instead of hold developers to task doesn’t fix the issue. Does build a good cult though.

          • ZeeLobby

            Which is crazy imo. It reminds me of security on smartphones. If Apple left a hole in their security that people could use to hack into phones, Apple would be lambasted by the consumer. Actually this might even be more relevant than I thought, because the fan cults probably wouldn’t, lol.

          • Muninwing

            i think that GW themselves have not realized just how much this is now an expectation, how easily you can collect data on these problems, and how quickly changes can be made with the proper structures in place.

            really, it’s the last one that makes this different.

            weer all codexes digital and auto-updating (like the newest iphone security you mention), any holes could be patched immediately. but with publishing what it is, they cannot economically reprint successive edition updates with each faq for every codex.

            of course, writing better rules and actually playtesting them would save the process many steps, but…

          • ZeeLobby

            Haha. True. You’re right about the structure. With the right one in place it should be almost painless.

          • Muninwing

            i honestly think that the codex model was right… over a decade ago. for a game this size, that’s about what they should have done if updates to the structure would only come about every five or six years.

            once they stepped up releases (which, honestly, was a great concept, to make sure everything was updated for the new edition), but also got muddled about system (the too-fast changeover between 6th 7th, and into 8th), it really undermined their model.

            now, with everything available digitally, there’s really no excuse not to release armylists more like software… but that also includes changing the pricing model. i actually think they’re missing the boat on not going subscription — $10/year gets you the core rules accessed via password, free with a WD sub or membership in a GW-managed club, and access to codex/armylist info could be either built in to an upgrade subscription, or ala carte.

            then, when FAQs came out, there’s be a notice, and it would auto-update in the digital codexes.

      • Sean Temple

        Inversely at our gaming club if a match finishes early and we have some dead time on our hands between games we will see what’s the stupidest/most fun matchup with what we have left on the table. Or try out daft scenarios, like how many ork boys does it take to kill mortarion on a single tile.

  • What keeps me coming back?

    Fun. It’s fun.

  • Spacefrisian

    Latest shinylolz players are fun to beat, now let my once useless dust collecting but nice looking Warptalons with diabolic strength and warp time show you what i mean…I heard Tau are even more happy when they get charged and cannot overwatch.

    Its called tactics through combos.

    • Muninwing

      yes… when such combos are afforded to your army. when you are left out in the cold, like many…

    • lemt

      Diabolic strength only works on a single model, not the entire unit. So you can have the Sargeant have 4 S6 attacks, but the rest of the unit fights normally. However, diabolic strength on a World Eaters Raptor Lord with a power fist is tons of S10 goodness. Throw him against a superheat tank and use a command point to have him fight another round for 12 S10 AP-3 D3 damage punches.

  • Evil Otto

    Depends. Sometimes it’s just funny, like a battle where my hive tyrant got taken out by a small mob of shoota boyz in melee after my opponent rolled four sixes on damage and I failed to roll a single save. All I could do was laugh at the most incompetent hive tyrant in history. The dice were against me the whole battle, and that was just the culmination.

    • Marco Marantz

      Bad dice you can accept because everyone has a run of it. Thats the nature of probability. I dont let dice ever get me down, even when my opponent makes 14 4+ invulnerable saves in the one melee phase…thats hilarious.

      • ZeeLobby

        I mean it’s why most other games have gone away from simple D6 rolls. 40K dice rolling is real swingy.

  • Hagwert

    Two things:-

    1. I’m from northern England and have no idea what coming up Milhouse means.

    2.) Wasn’t it Napolean who said victory teaches me nothing but defeat teaches me everything…..although I don’t think he took that advice in the later stages of his career !

  • I_am_Alpharius

    I normally go on: an all night bender; followed by a drug fuelled rampage; and finally find the gamer that beat me and stealing their toys…….no…no…thats not right…..Oh yeaaaah, of course; I just get on with my life and move on to the next game; since it is just a game of toy soldiers!


    • There is actually at least one of the better known tournament players who, when he loses, tends to go on an all night drunk and drop out of the event lol

  • Heinz Fiction

    I never give up as long as it is mathematically possible to win. However sometimes time runs out and when the state of game indicates a major victory for my opponent I grant him that.

  • Rob brown

    Really liked this article… optimistic, pragmatic and sportsmenlike. Having taken a few knocks myself in the last four games against IG I’m slowly learning. My games sometimes feel like the scene in Last Samurai where Tom cruise keeps getting knocked to the floor with the wooden stick.

    I think we’ve all given up at some point but I think it’s only fair to give the opponent at least a decent run of a couple of turns. I had a person give up once because they didn’t win the first turn… suffice to say I refused to play them again.

  • Meh, it’s a game, makes no difference to me who wins

    • Muninwing

      i mean, i like to win… but i’m not going to throw a hissy if i don’t.

      the only thing i don’t like is when i play someone who makes lots of mistakes, my dice roll well and theirs do not, and i play well… and because of list discrepancies (like 400 points of free vehicles in a <2000 point game, like in 7th), they still manage to win.

      i haven't played much 8th yet. but it at least seems to have blunted that a bit.

      • I mostly just play to add to my characters’ stories. For about a year I ran a khorne lord who was cursed by khorne to consistently try and fail to achieve glory and daemonhood, lost a looooot of games helping friends prep for NOVA haha

        • Muninwing

          that’s… kinda awesome

          i actually wish there was a way of representing that… like a way that you could (at the beginning of the game) create “secret objectives” and get some points for those. and i know you can, i mean a way of keeping it a little more balanced.

          i have in my head an idea for a cross-platform gamer-aid that GW could market very well to a number of different strata of their customers. having “personal goals” and other alternate win conditions — along with a “battle report” app/journal — would do wonders for immersing yourself in the experience.

          i have, in the past, kept a journal (some old LJ clone) where i posted batreps and army-based writeups of events, particularly when in a campaign. there was one i was in that gave extra points per week if you were willing to post such things weekly, and i just kept in the habit. it’s always interesting to go back and compare.

  • eMtoN

    I’ve played games that looked hopeless only to claw my way to a very slight victory. I’ve also played games where it looked like i was going to table the opponent in turn 2 only to have things turn around and I lose in turn 7…

    I say play it out.

  • Sean Sakamoto

    I call it the “spit in their face” approach. You go after their weakest unit. Shoot their footsloggers with lascannons even if armored targets exist. Instead of reducing their land raider to one wound, kill three tactical marines. Make a few plastic widows to go with those plastic soldiers. Kill, kill, just kill!