40K: So Your Face Got Stomped
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?
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?