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Editorial, The Best (and Worst) Strategies for Tournament Play

8 Minute Read
Jul 26 2010

With BOL-err, WAR Games Con just around the corner it feels like an appropriate time to dig into some of the best (and worst) strategies for playing in a tournament, so read on to find out what (and what not) to do!

For many of us tournaments are the center, or at least a major highlight, of our gaming hobby. They are a time to meet new people, try out new stuff, play interesting scenarios and to win free things. For some of us they are simply a time when we get to play a lot of games, some people can’t always make weekly game nights and cons or tournaments are a time when they are guaranteed to get in a lot of games. For others its a place to prove something, that an army idea we had works, or that we are better then some other players, or that we can win.

 If nothing else we all want to avoid this when we get home

At the end of the day pretty much everyone who goes to a tournament wants to win. Oh, many players may not expect to win, or particularly care if they win, but everyone would like to win, everyone wants to give their best, no one is trying to lose. Because of this we all have different things we do both before and during the tournament to help us out, we all have our little tactics to give us an edge. So here I present a few of the best and worst of these tactics, I don’t support or encourage the use of all of these, but I have seen them all used.

 I hear over in England, “Form a Square” is a favored tactic of tournament players 

1. Worry about every little detail, before the tournament
Before a tournament I am normally a mess, a huge mess even (of course I’m pretty much always a huge everything). Normally I haven’t slept much, either from pre-tournament drinking, or more likely from pre-tournament painting, (some would call it pre-tournament pretending to paint, based on my skills). I’m jittery, I’m maybe a little moody, and most importantly I worry about every little thing. Is my army finished? Is it good? What happens if I come up against list X, how will I win? What happens is List X is actually the disguised older brother of my list? Do I have my lucky shirt on? Do I have my lucky coins in my pocket? And my lucky charms?       

Those I have to worry about, the other players are always after them
I worry about ever single little detail, and I work to make them right, in my mind at least. I always go into a tournament in one of my lucky shirts, with my lucky dice, and my lucky charms, and anything else I can think about. And when it comes time to play the actual games, then I don’t worry. See I’ve already worried about it all, everything, every detail, every stratagem, its all up there, and I’ve already worried about it. By the time I get to a game, I’m in the zone, I’m flying on instinct, I know what I’m doing and I don’t even have to think about it any more. More importantly I know I’m going to win (I have my lucky shirt after all) and so while playing the game I don’t have to worry about winning, just about having fun. And you know what, much, much more often then not, I do win. Must be the lucky shirt. 

2. Playing Dumb  

This is a tactic I have run into a number of times in tournaments, and one that I strongly encourage players to never use. While this tactic is not “cheating” I find it highly unsportsmanlike like and my general thought on the tactic is:

I actually played a guy named Peter who used this tactic once, 
I can only assume his last name was in fact, Pan
The essence of the tactic is to mislead your opponent on your skill and experience in playing the game. A common iteration of this will happen when your opponent is proven wrong on a rules question, or a number of rules questions in a row. They will respond with something along the lines of, “Oh I’m sorry, I haven’t played much”. Now for normal people this would be true, and a valid excuse, to some degree. But for those playing dumb it often means that they where trying to sneak something thing past you. Other time they will simply pretend to not know what is going on in the game, or to not know the rules well, in order to get you to under estimate them, so that you won’t play your hardest. 
 Some times they throw in those sad puppy dog eyes to mislead you more
I had this happen to me recently at the Flames of War National Tournament. A player said he was new, and didn’t know the rules well, so I helped him out with some stuff. Then when we had a rules dispute and called the judge over my opponent tried to get the judge to agree with him using the argument that he would never cheat, and the judge should know all the good sportsmen ship scores the player had gotten at the past tournaments he had played in. I had a similar experiences with a player at one of the last GW GT’s, in Vegas. A guy I was playing pretended not the know the game well, and it turned out he had won some GT’s in the past. The sad fact is that with people like this out there, you can never tell if the person your playing is what he(or she) claims to be. 
And that’s why we don’t play with Cylons
Whats even worse is that people who do this ruin it for all the real newbies out there, because you can just never know. While I think these people are low-lifes for doing this I find the best way to deal with it is just be nice, and then beat the stuffing out of them. 
3. The Power of Prayer 
I’ve touched on this a bit in a previous article. It may seem silly to encourage praying before a game, but hey it can’t hurt right? I mean if athletes get to pray before a sports game, and Conan gets to pray before killing, then why can’t we pray also? Sure I guess some of you might be saving for something your really need, but not me, I’ll take all the luck the dice gods and my god want to give me. 
  If I could roll all six’s, Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum
4. Psychological Warfare 
This tactic is very, very important, and can sadly be misused for evil (so don’t let Chaos Tempt you!). All the above tactics are important to and play into this one. In short, what it comes down to is this: if you think you will win you have a better chance of winning, if you think you will lose, if you give up, you have a much better chance of losing. You can call it spirit, or the power of will, or whatever. You can, and I have in the past, attached the idea of some Force like powers to the belief that you will win.  But the simple fact is once you think that you have lost, you will start to miss things, you won’t play as well as you had been, and you more often then not.  You have to know you will win in order to win.
Win or win not, there is no try
Ultimately this is a large part of why I always worry about having my lucky shirts, and praying for luck and all that baloney, it helps me get into the right frame of mind, the right mind set for winning. Conversely that is why at times I will attempt flashy things in games, or nonsensical maneuvers, to break my opponents will. If you can during a game, convince the other player that he (or she) has already lost, that the game is pretty much over, then you have a much better chance of winning. I have seen, many many times, a player lose a game he should have won, simply because he thought he had already lost (never seen a women player do this, they must be smarter, or myths). I have even seen, on a few occasions, a player forfeit a game that could have been won, becuase he thought the game was over. 
 Was she real, or a just a myth? 
Now like a said, this tactic can be used for evil. There is a right way and a wrong way to convince the other player he (or she) has already lost. That’s by doing something in the game, some thing fair. There are other players out there who will try to goad or belittle or berate or insult the other player in to thinking that the game is over, that they have lost, this is the wrong way to do it. I advise you to never let this kind of behavior stand. 
5. Play a lot
This is pretty much the best overall tactic you can use for a tournament. Just play a lot of games. It helps you be a better player and know the rules better. It helps you become confident in your army, helps you get into “the zone” quicker and believe in yourself more.  And it helps you become a faster player, which is important not just in a tournament, but all the time. 
 What? Do you think she got to be a good fighter without practice? 
So those are just a few of the many tactics some people use to get ready for a tournament. Most of these can be used in friendly games just as well, but are, in my opion, best saved for the big leagues. The thing to keep in mind, is that there is a right way to win, and a wrong way. You should always endeavor to try and make your game better, not make your opponents worse. Winning, is good, winning, is great, I love to win. Winning at any cost, is not good, it is abhorrent. If all your plans don’t work, don’t try to screw with the other player, just try rolling all 6’s, its much more rewarding. So remember keep playing, keep arguing, and most importantly…..

That’s all for this time Lads and Lasses, hope you enjoyed the ride. I look forward to seeing some of you at WAR Games Con this weekend, just look for the Red Fez, and you’ll see me. If you want to talk about the tactics I’ve talked about, share your own, or just tell me that I’m wrong, well that’s why the Final Five built the comments section. 

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