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40K: Tournament Preparation 101

4 Minute Read
May 11 2011
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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been attempting to paint my new Grey Knight infantry for a tournament at the end of May. It’s coming along…slowly but what this reminded me of was something I think a lot of people forget. How to prepare for a tournament.

Since I’ve been painting madly I thought of doing a post about painting an army within a month but Rupert is better for that really. Rather what this post is going to look at is tournament preparation in terms of gameplay and understanding your army.
Tournament lists and competitive play are a big part of 3++ is the new black but the list itself is only part of it. You can have the theoretically best list out there which has everything you could possibly want and yet still be unable to win games. This is where tournament prep comes in as well as understanding yourself and how you like to play the game. Before we go further though, a quick note. I know not everyone goes to a tournament to win all of their games and aims for best general. That’s the great thing about our hobby and well run events, you’re going to have multiple winners. Whether you are aiming for best painted, being undefeated/best general or best overall, your army and playing it play some part in your role of participating in the tournament. This article looks at that aspect of tournament play.
Before you do anything at all you need to make sure your rules knowledge is up to date. This is a problem I see with a lot of newer players which is understandable but I even see it with people who visit tournaments regularly. Know your army. Know your opponent’s army. Know the rules. Mental lapses or oversights happen so getting everything 100% right all the time isn’t going to happen but you shouldn’t need to dive into your codex or rulebook every other minute to check what something does, etc. You shouldn’t need to ask your opponent what unit X or wargear A does. You should know the majority of this stuff before hand unless you are brand spanking new. If you’re brand spanking new, I recommend you start reading the army books, rulebook and FAQ documents so you have all that knowledge at your fingertips. If you don’t have to refer to texts to know what unit does what or how the game works, you’re going to have a much better game as the information is readily available without the aid of external references.
Having established you are well-versed in the rules and potential armies you are going to face, you need to decide on a list. Whether you ask someone for help, make it your own, take something copy-pasted from the Internet or take an Internet list and modify to your own tastes doesn’t matter. Decide on it and decide on it early. Most tournaments require your list be sent in a couple of weeks before the tournament date but look to have your list set in your mind at least a month before hand. You don’t have to submit it then but have a very good idea of what you want to run and only make small tweaks leading up to the tournament.
These tweaks must be made on practice games and you must practice if you want to do well. I don’t care if you’ve played the list two billion times and know it like the back of your hand, practice with it before the tournament. A lot of people play a lot of different armies or army styles and this helps put your thought patterns into the right frame of reference. Furthermore, make sure you practice with the tournament missions. I’m a huge fan of the NOVA format and thus use those for my general games but a lot of tournaments modify this concept or have completely different missions (which may or may not be good). By practicing with your tournament list and with the tournament missions you’ll have a much better understanding of your army and be able to respond to each situation as it unfolds.
And this brings us back to the list itself. However you got it (yourself, others or a combination) doesn’t matter as long as you practice with it and are comfortable with it. That being said you must have an understanding of how you like to play or want to play at this tournament. Sometimes missions favour more aggressive or shooting armies and other times you just feel like playing an aggressive army. When you are writing, modifying or asking for a list you must take this into account otherwise you’ve got the whole square plug, round hole thing. Practicing with the list well before the tournament happens can allow you to make significant changes if you find the list style isn’t working for you. This is a huge reason I feel ‘net-lists’ don’t do well. People take them because they look shiny or someone online said it was really good (and it most likely is) but then never practice it or modify it so it fits them. Here’s an article exploring this concept a little more with backlinks to further articles I would recommend reading as well.
Attending a tournament is great fun but it can be disheartening to lose a bunch. These steps and the prep outlined above will help you improve your gameplay and hopefully allow you to have a more complete experience at a tournament. The biggest thing to remember however is to practice and not expect wins to come flowing in with a new army or list. It can take well over 30 games to get adjusted to a new army or list and only after that if you are still doing poorly should you consider whole-sale changes.

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