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Warmachine Editorial: The Coffee Conundrum

4 Minute Read
Jan 4 2016


If you drink a cup of coffee before a game of Warmachine and Hordes, does that mean you’re cheating?

Chalkboard here from Chalkboard War, with a discussion of the caffeine, nicotine, and Jimmy Dean side of gaming.

In my previous editorial, I discussed any potential questions about performance enhancements in the Warmachine and Hordes tournament scene. That article talked about the way that focus-enhancers and memory aids are being used in other competitive games (video primarily). Yet, there’s a focus enhancing drug that almost all of us use. Caffeine. So the conundrum becomes: what about coffee?

I’ll start with the admission that I’m sitting writing this article in a coffee house, and it doesn’t feel like some old timey south London opium den. Yet coffee is clearly something that we use to keep us focused, keep us awake, and keep us sharp. It affects the brain and the heart, and is taken through ingestion. How many times have we heard the statement: “Hang on, I’m not awake without coffee”? How many early morning starts for a long day of Warmachine and Hordes tournament start with a cup of coffee? Doesn’t that blur the lines if we believe other performance enhancing drugs that sharpen focus are unfair?

And it’s not merely coffee–we use all sorts of chemicals to keep our focus and attention in games. Some players smoke, and the relaxing effect (to them) of a break for a cigarette must contribute to their focus and concentration while playing. For me, it’s food. I bring a granola bar to long tournaments, so I can get some quick energy when I’m feeling like my mind and concentration is dragging. Isn’t that me ingesting certain chemicals to aid in concentration and focus? Am I cheating if I brought out a ziploc baggie of blueberries and had a snack to keep my focus during a game?

Food Chemicals

All food is chemicals. Even blueberries. 

And it’s not just things that we ingest. Listening to music to calm your mind between rounds of the game or to lower social anxiety during breaks? That’s using vibration waves to gain an unfair advantage. Take a break to do five minutes of therapeutic yoga? That’s using a self hypnosis technique and activation of key body chemicals released artificially through body stretch and positioning. Sitting down in a chair is using an ergonomic artifice to ease in muscle tension relaxation and reduce energy expenditure. UNFAIR! UNFAIR! UNFAIR!


Pete Rose

That liquid in the bottle that you are consuming? It’s Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO), which makes you basically the Pete Rose of Warmahordes.

OBVIOUSLY, there is a line somewhere (scroll to the comments below for all the people who didn’t read this far and think I’m claiming that coffee is cheating). Everything we consume is a substance, every action we take is purposeful artifice to enable our effectiveness at the game. The question is not “can we use substances or artifice to improve our gaming abilities?” We’re constantly using substances and artifice at all times. Instead, the question is “when is the use of a particular substance or artifice unfair?”

The answer is ultimately equal access. I can go and get a coffee just like you can. I cannot, however, go and get prescription drugs with equal access. They’re controlled substances, and not everyone can get them by law. What makes performance enhancing drugs and corked bats cheating is that they’re not allowed within the game. If the 2016 Steamroller document included a section that added “Oh, and no consumption of coffee is allowed within 24 hours of the event” or “No snacking during matches is allowed”, then the rules would be fixed and create an access inequality situation. If you had secretly gotten a Mocha before the event or had hidden Doritos in your pocket that you were munching when the Tournament Organizer wasn’t looking, it would be an advantage that others do not have given the rules of the system. Without such rules in place, it’s fair game–again a reason that specific rules for specific prohibited substances might be valuable to be provided in rules from Privateer Press. Hopefully the SR 2016 document has a specific list of drugs that violate fair play of the game (as I called for in my prior article on the subject). And I hope the specific list doesn’t include granola bars. Because I need my granola, man. I need it. I NEED IT!

~ Willing to share your routine for staying fueled, focused, and hydrated during matches? Comment below!

To see how much you lose when you haven’t eaten recently, check out Chalkboard’s blog at


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