Are you a complete tournament player?

What is the secret? If you want to win tournaments, you generally need to consider 4 factors. It is the combination of them all that helps you win:

Army List

Army List:
You need to come rock hard. If you want to compete at a tournament, you need to forget those fluffy lists. Leave the thunder cannons home. You need to put together a list that optimizes efficiency, strength and flexibility. Every army has a certain combination of models that is MOST efficient, that is... gets you the most bang for the buck. I believe I have found it with my Blood Angels. This is not an instant occurance though, my Blood Angels have arrived at their current point through a LOT of modifications. I have been playing them exclusively for 20 months! But this post is not about which army is better. Certainly some armies can make a more efficient list... but do the best you can do within your chosen army. Go on the forums. Bolter and Chainsword is a great wealth of knowledge for Space Marines. Seek out blogs that focus on particular armies like Black Matt's Chaos Blog or Way of Saim-Hann. Find out what lists are winning, and play them. If you have to pick a new army, then do it. Some armies just cannot compete in the tournament scene. Accept it, adjust, move on.

So you have your rock hard list. Taking that list to a tournament with no idea how to play it is like giving a loaded gun to a 5 year old. Bad things will happen, mostly to you. In the short time I have been playing 40k, the only list I have encountered that a Pigeon could win with was the 4th edition 60 Genestealer list. At the first Gamesday 40k tournament I went to, 8 of the top 10 armies were virtual clones of that list.

Having said that... learn how to play your army. Develop tactics, and stick with them. Trust your tactics. I have won games when all was apparently lost, only because I stuck with my tactics. Just this weekend, it appeared I was getting rolled, but I stuck to my guns, and turned the game around into a total victory.

But tactics extend beyond the game table. One of the biggest secrets the major tournament winners have been employing is selective winning of bonus points. In the first round, the temptation is to destroy your opponent and get all the bonus points. In my last two tournament wins, I did not do this! In one example, I eeked out a draw and ended up winning the whole thing. In another though, I chose not to scoop up the 3 bonus points in round one when I easily could have. This placed me back in the pack of winners... but most importantly, kept me off the top tables where I would have been up against the blood thirsty nooby crushers. In round two, those guys either crushed each other, or self destructed, placing them selves out of contention... or in place to play yet another top army in round three. Meanwhile I enjoyed a round two game against a weaker army and opponent, where I was able to dictate how many points I scored. I went into round three with the opponent that was best for me. The point is I avoided a round two game against a tougher opponent simply by not killing my first round opponent's HQ and highest points total squad when I had the chance.

In the last two tournaments that I won, painting points were awarded per game. So, I got max painting points each game, for a total of 15 extra points. This made the difference both times! In more and more tournaments, they are including painting points as part of your overall score. You must get your army painted. The minimum standard is a base coat, a wash, and a highlight. GW has made this easy for you. You must do it! Get your army painted to this standard, then pick out some details like purity seals and guns etc. and you are good to go. My friend Charly was upset at a recent tournament because he was playing an unpainted ork army. He was amongst the top players there, but had no real chance of winning because he scored zero painting points. Get your armies painted.

This is the final kicker. Be a good sport. In most tournaments, there is some sort of sportsmanship points awarded by your opponent. These points are simple to earn. Be friendly, dont argue, and dont be a jerk. If you object to something your opponent does, politely raise your concern and suggest it be looked up in a book. If you cannot resolve it with a book, and he insists on doing it, suggest a die roll. If he still refuses, simply say ok, and let him have it. He is a douche and nail HIM on sportsmanship. There is however a distinction between being a good sport, and playing a cheezy list. A lot of guys find the line to be quite blurry, and will try to nail you on sportsmanship for playing a list they feel is cheeze. This happened just last weekend, and is probably what gave me the over all win! My friend Dan pulled a tyranid player as his round 3 opponent. They were 1 and 2 coming into the final round. Dan's Salamander army is a little cheezy... but it wins and is legal! Dan himself is a friendly, polite, considerate and all around great guy. The nid player docked him sportsmanship points... probably just because Dan crushed him. Dont be that guy!

Here is a list of things you can do to ensure good sportsmanship points:

Smile, be on time, do not stall, do not take phone calls, compliment your opponents army, compliment your opponents tactics. It is real easy to say "That was a nice decision." And that works wonders on how your opponent feels about you. Ask specific questions about models that your opponent obviously spent a lot of time on. Ask your opponent for input on your stuff. Dont argue every little thing. Dont nit pick measurements. I can go on and on, but you get the point. I go out of my way to be as good a sport as possible in tournament games. I will always give my opponent the benefit of the doubt, even if it is obvious that he is trying to squeek out some advantage. In the end, if you have covered parts one and two of this article, you will probably beat him any way. :)

Enjoy playing the game! If you have fun, your opponent will. If he is a douche, accept it, do the best you can, and get it done.

Hope that help!



eriochrome said...

I only play in what I would call friendly tournaments. Prizes are small and they are seperated for battle points, painting, and sportsmanship.

I disagree about lists and sportsmanship though. I would definately take off sportsmanship points for cheesy lists. Luckily people are not very cheesy in our events. We do not get 2 nob bikers or dual lash princes. Generally people know what the killer units are and if you spam them you deserve to not have the highest sportsmanship award.

I would never take sportsmanship points just because I lost.

jawaballs said...

There are different mind sets on why people play at tournaments, but in the end, a tournament is about winning. Otherwise, why bother?? Just go play pick up games. You can enter for 'the fun of playing' but you are going to come up against guys who are there to win... I think it is silly to dock some one points just because they came equipped with the best tools to win and you want to play casual. Or, worse, because they are not limiting themselves or playing to other peoples standards of fair... most guys who cry cheeze do it because they play an army that cannot compete against it and instead of adapting... they complain. I don't recall any part of the offical GT sportsmanship rubric asking if you thought your opponent's army was "cheezy".

Some tournaments use "Composition points" in which case guys spamming Nidzilla or double chaos lash get nailed, but it is not the players place to judge you a poor sport because you brought a strong and legal list. That is like calling the 86 Celtics poor sports for having Bird, McHale and Parish. I hate double Ork nob warboss biker lists, but I got no problem with guys playing them!

Also, a word on "composition points". At a recent GT in NY, the judge was scoring comp points, but without any sort of rubric what so ever. He was nailing armies based on what HE thought was cheezy but did not share his opinion before hand. He had bias against Vulkan, so any one who took him, got hardly any comp points at all. Had he posted "NO player using Vulkan will win." people would have been able to pick their armies accordingly.

If tournaments, wether they be large GTs or local informal ones, want to deduct for army comp, they need to post that info as part of the rules, and if that is not posted, then no one should do so.

Also, if they are allowing players to judge each other on sportsmanship, they also need a predetermined rubric that allows for no funny business.

In the end, if some one attempts to deduct points from some one else who is playing within the rules, just because he feels that his opponent's list is unfair... I only see one poor sport, and it is not the cheezer.

Jwolf said...

Good list for people planning to play in hard tournaments, JB.

One thing I'd add is practicing playing quickly. I can freehand move my models so that they are spread out 1.9-2.0" as fast as I can pick them up, and thats important if you're playing Guard and want to get games finished. Nothing kills the pace of a game like the guy with 5x30 boyz mobs who measures separation for each model with a tape measure. Being that guy means that no game will go past turn 3, because you're taking 35-40 minutes to move; being that guy is fine for fun games(though it's no fun to play you, at least nothing is on the line), but in a tournament, proactive judges will warn you after one game and red card you after two.
Another thing to talk about is learning to plan your moves during your opponent's turn. There is no time in a tournament for taking 10 minutes at the start of the turn to figure out what you want to do - you just had a 10+ minute break to figure out your next move while your opponent was moving, so get on with it.
Frankly you should already have an idea of what you'd like to do every turn before a single model hits the table.

Sportsmanship is especially important when you take hard lists. It's bad enough to get creamed, but getting creamed while your opponent screams "in your face, yes!" should be reserved for nontournament games between friends. Durable friends who can take a punch, at that. And who buy drinks.

jawaballs said...

Great point Jwolf. When I see guys taking the time to move each and every one of their orks 2" apart, I stop him and tell him to free hand them, and will just give him the benefit of the doubt. There is a difference between freehanding out of courtesy and trying to take advantage of it.

What a lot of people forget is that measurements are intended as guides, not exact science. If a guy's assault fell a hair short, and it matters for the game, I will always let him have it... in a tournament. However, if I am playing Fritz, Black Matt or James on a monday night at the club, those suckers are going to scratch for every fration of movement!

On a related note, I played a guy who had his measurement tape, but the little metal flange that creates a hook on the end of the tape was extended about an 1/8th of an inch off the end of the tape. I would swear that it appeared as if he had taken it off, and reattached it to get an extra 1/8" of assault or shooty range. In one incident, he just barely managed to touch the tip of that flange against a model, and proved he was touching it by rapping the metal against it. :)

jawaballs said...

I have also seen guys recognize that the game is going long, and if it lasts past turn 4 they are meat. So in turn 4, make a science out of measuring each and every model, contemplating each ones placement, their angle, the wind, and the smell of their own asses, taking phone calls, talking to buddies etc. Just to say, Oh, well, looks like we will not have time for turn 5... it's a draw...

In opposition to that, I have seen guys realize that time is short, and that they need one more turn to win, thus rush through their turns in a flash, then bitch about me taking 'normal' time to do mine.

Ahhhh sportsmanship!

Magilla Gurilla said...

Composition Tournaments Vs. No-Composition Tournaments

If a tournament has a composition score, you know that if you bring a MAXIMIZED list you will get hammered. The reduction of points is already added into your score; therefore there is no reason for you to take it our further on your opponent. Most well run tournaments have a matrix or rubric for what is considered “cheesy” or “beardy.” The most common lists that get hammered at a Composition Tournament are Dual Nob Bikers, Dual Lash/Obliterators, Nidzilla, and Dual Mounted Seer Council. However, the matrix also deducts a lot of points for having any three of the same heavy or elite choices. At Broadside Bash (one of the large west coast tournaments), anyone with three landraiders, three predators, three dreadnoughts, three exorcists, etc,etc….. got plastered on composition scores. The point is, the tournament already penalizes a player for bad composition, so it is unfair and unnecessary to “chipmunk” them by taking it out on their sportsmanship score.

If a tournament does not have a composition score, and lets face it, 5th edition thankfully seems to have gotten rid of composition scores. Then it is even more unfair for a player to hold his opponents army composition against him and “chipmunk” his score. Yes, you may hate the list and it may steam roll your fluffy list, but if he was a nice player, then you have no reason to kill his composition score, as most composition matrix say nothing about army composition. I was a firm believer in Army Composition back when I played before, but now that it is not part of the game, I have adapted and had fun trying to make the hardest (most beardy  ) list possible. Making a list that will “survive and thrive” in 5th edition is half the battle.

Note 1: Yes, I play a “hard” list, as I play a variation on a Nidzilla list.
Note 2: Chipmunking – unfairly using composition scores as a weapon to lower opponents overall score…..don’t ask me why they call it that, I had to ask someone myself.

Black Matt said...

Great post, best in a while!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I agree 100%

Cijil001 said...

I read this blog a lot, and I whole-heartedly agree on the comments you made about sportsmanship and composition. People that aren't there to win shouldn't be playing in a tournament. Regardless there's no reason to be a bastard about things like movement and range measurements and just being a general douche.

In short: kudos!

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