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Mental Training and Wargaming: Gaining The Mental Edge

4 Minute Read
Nov 23 2014

How can gamers gain a mental edge over their opponents?  Athletes have been doing it for decades and so can you.

The Importance of Mental Training
Performance Psychology studies what successful people do.  Study after study has proven that if you take a group of competitors with equal abilities and one receives mental training and one does not, the group with mental training will consistently outperform those who do not.  Why? The group with mental training gains a mental edge over their opponents.  Let’s examine how it’s possible to gain a mental edge in tabletop gaming.

Much like with any game or sport, there is a mental aspect to playing Warhammer or any tabletop strategy game.  This is the second in a series of articles that will focus on the performance psychology behind gaming.  It won’t help your strategy, or your dice rolls, but it might be enough to give you a competitive edge over your opponents.  Many of the concepts I’ll be covering are outlined in the popular Sports Psychology book “The Art of Mental Training” by DC Gonzalez, abridged and modified to apply to the gaming world.

To gain a mental edge, I’m going to take the pre-game routine of legendary soccer player Pele’ and modify it for wargaming.  Before each game, Pele’ would spend 30 minutes watching a “mental movie” which allowed him to mix relaxationimageryfeelings of success and enthusiasm.  Before playing your own “mental movie” take a few moments to center yourself by practicing breathing.  Take deep breaths, allowing each to fill your lungs fully with oxygen.  This crucial first step will help you relax and stay focused.

Pele’s influence on Wargaming – who would of thunk it?

How to Gain a Mental Edge
Step 1 – Remember why you started playing Warhammer (or your favorite tabletop game).  How enthusiastic you were when you got your first starter set, started painting your first models, or began reading the lore of the complex gaming universe.

For me, it was 2nd edition.  I was 12 years old and Eldar struck my fancy.  I purchased and assembled a mish-mash of units I thought looked cool, not  paying any attention to the rules.  My step-brother and I built a gaming table in the garage, playing with our own interpreted version of the rules.  The game was pure – the end result didn’t matter, so long as we were having fun!  Think back to why you started playing, remember the enthusiasm you had for the game.  Spend about 10 minutes doing this.

My Source of Enthusiasm

Step 2 – Relive some of your greatest moments of gaming success. These could be tournament wins, last second triumphs over a superior army, awesome dice rolls, or just anytime you felt triumphant.  Remember how you felt during these moments of success.  Make a strong connection with the feelings associated with images of success.  Feel and enjoy the intensity of those winning feelings over and over again.  Spend the next 10 minutes reliving moments of success.

One of my favorite moments of success was at the 2011 Throne of Skulls tournament hosted by Games Workshop in Las Vegas.  This was the last GT that Games Workshop hosted and they spared no expense – bringing in free buffets (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for all attendees.  I was fortunate enough to win “Best Dark Eldar” at the event which earned me – and all the other “Best of” players – their picture on Games Workshops website and in White Dwarf. This, along with moments of stealing games grabbing objectives with Eldar Jetbikes, are my go-to’s for moments of success. 

Step 3 – See yourself playing perfectly.  Transfer those past feelings of success to the imagery you’re using now.  See and feel yourself achieving success.  You’re making all of the correct strategic moves.  Your opponents are getting flustered. Your dice are hot.  You’re winning games and tournaments with ease.  All of the stars are aligning for you to play a flawless game and achieve success. Spend the final 10 minutes seeing and feeling yourself achieve success in your next game or event.

Remember, to gain a true mental edge, a Champion practices mental training consistently.  Use these techniques to channel your enthusiasm for the game, and to see and feel yourself succeed. Do this consistently and you’ll be sure to have a mental edge over your next opponent.

Hobby Sherpa on Blogs / nickthewise on forums / Nick Card in real life
Be sure to check out my blog Hobby Sherpa for great Warhammer 40k eBay deals and more articles.


What do you think – does having a mental edge help gamers in the same way it helps athletes? Are the ideas outlined in this article something you could see yourself using?

Author: Hobby Sherpa
  • PETITION: Games Workshop and Change.Org