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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When did the 40K hobby become a competitive sport?

I have been wanting to write the post since early last week, but I decided to not post while I was irritated. I have had some time to contemplate what exactly I wanted to say, so I decided to go for it and post today. Before I go into my rant I just wanted to say this is not directed at anyone in particular and it is just me being frustrated with some of the things I see happening in 40K.

As my title suggests I am trying to figure out when 40K became so competitive. When I first got into playing 40K I was already a Fantasy Battle player. I started 40K because I honestly loved the back story and since I was already into the Hobby with fantasy it was easy to cross over to 40K. I am a D&D player at heart so I enjoy the story of the game as much as playing it. Last week I got very frustrated while reading some posts on other blogs and forums. There are a few trends I have seen in posts that have just gotten under my skin.

This is a Hobby not a competitive sport: Over and over I keep seeing people argue about 40K tournaments and why there shouldn't be soft scores in tournaments. I am not debating this as there are some valid reasons out there that I completely understand. What irritates me is all the people that use competitive sports as a comparison to make their points. First this is a Hobby War-game, not a competitive sport. The comparison makes no sense to me as you often have 2 different armies which have different rule sets to follow. In competitive sports you have two teams that must follow the same set of rules. Even people who compare 40K to chess are not making valid arguments as in chess both players have identical "armies" with identical rules and rely on their skill to play. 40K has different rules for different armies and relies on players skill as well as unpredictable dice rolls. So no matter what you think GW should do you will never have the same type of competition as you see in sports or chess for that matter.

Is the internet to blame: I love the internet, I spend too much of my free time on it. Does it have an impact on power gaming in 40K, hell yes! I blogged earlier about my issues with what I call "Cookie Cutter" armies. Pretty soon every Ork list has Nob Bikers, Every Eldar list has a Jetbike Seer Council. The list goes on and on. Then someone will post an alternative list and the power gamers jump on them... "This list sux, you got no Nob Bikers... noob! I love going through the book and reading about each unit and deciding how I can make them work together, but it seems this is a dying art as players just wait for the power gamers to post their killer list then they copy them.

Is the Hobby aspect of 40K dying: I sure hope not as I feel if it does then 40K itself will die. I worry when I read post that want every hobby aspect of tournament scoring removed. I understand some of the points on removing soft scores, but this is a hobby and some of us players enjoy building a fluffy list, as well as painting our miniatures and for me comp scores and painting scores help support the whole hobby. I can see a problem with the Sportsmanship score, but I also feel that power gamers brought this problem about. The idea that you do whatever you need to do to increase your chance of winning fostered the idea of screwing your opponent with a bad score. Do I think it should be removed? Most definitely because it is just another tool for power gamers to abuse.

Another issue I have seen creeping up is requests for GW to make pre-painted models. I understand that players can be apprehensive about painting but it is part of the hobby. I sucked at painting when I first started but I took the time to learn and practice. I am no Eavy Metal class painter but I am proud of what I paint and it helps make my army mine. I love playing other armies that are painted and converted, it makes the game more fun and immersive. I understand that not everyone is great at this aspect but it only takes asking for advice from the community to get you started.

The last thing I want to gripe about is the attitude that 40K can't be fun unless you are trying to win. I have actually been called a liar on forums when I say I have had just as much fun losing games as I do winning them. I don't know if it is because I got into gaming through RPGs like D&D, but the idea of playing a hobby game like 40K is first for fun, then for the narrative, and lastly hanging out with and making friends. I like to win but in the end it doesn't matter to me as long as I am having fun.

I often do moves in games that might not make the best tactical sense but it is how I feel my army would play in a situation. Recently I was playing a tough Guard list with my Black Templars. He was blowing up my Rhinos like nothing and most of my army was on foot by the end of turn 2. I had my Emperor's Champion lead his squad through insane fire in an attempt to get into the guards line. In the end I lost the game but seeing my Champion (the lone survivor of a 15 man squad) make it to the guard line and wreak havoc made the game both exciting and fun. I played my army fluffy, I lost, but I had fun and have a good story to tell when my buddies and I are talking about gaming.

I am going to bring this to a close as the post is starting to get long winded. I am just voicing some frustrations I have with trends I see in 40K. I by no means think my opinion is correct but I do want to open this up for discussion to see what you all think. I hope no one is offended, and by all means take this opportunity to voice your opinions on the matter, I would love to read them.



Big Jim said...

I concur wholeheartedly! I honestly don't care weather I win or lose. I'm all about having a good time with my hobby.

Wargaming is what I do to escape the stress of real life. The last thing I want to do is stress out about my wins or loses.

The tournament mentality is stifling the creativity in our hobby and it's fraking shameful.

Everyone should take the time to remember that 40k is a game, the rules are a guideline and it should be fun for both players.

So get out there and let your imaginations run wild!


Spyrle said...

Don't worry, there are plenty of us out there that share your views, we just don't care enough about all the power gamers enough to make as much noise as them. At the end of the game, I want to make sure that not only did I have fun, so did my opponent. Sadly, last May I left a great bunch of gamers and now I am limited to playing at the local hobby store. They have thier good players too, but when I was with a club that was allowed to operate out of a communtiy center, it was awesome. I looked forward to each Saturday and would spend from noonish (sleeping in is nice) till they kicked us out at 10pm playing or watching Fantasy, 40K, Full Thrust, BattleFleet Gothic, Warmachine and even RPGs and Magic being played.
My Favorite moment from the hobby store has been when I chose to deep strike with a drop pod within 12 inches of the board edge and right in the middle of my enemies lines because I was trying to get my Wolf Guard Battle Leader with his saga BeastSlayer close to the only qualifying unit which was a squad of warwalkers. It was a tactical blunder and I knew it, but it was the type of thing I thought he should do. In the end, he got the two warwalkers, but the squad he was with all died to get him in assault with them.

Pacific said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment. You've made some really good points, and I share your fears to an extent.

However, if possible I would like to put your mind at ease with my own experiences within the hobby :)

While useful to some of us, the warhammer community found on the internet is not reflective of the gaming community at large. Generally, its only those who spend a significant part of their time with the hobby, the more 'hardcore' if you like, who will go through the trouble of making blogs and posting on internet forums.

I used to work as a GW staffer and another time in an indy store selling GW goods. Of all of the other young guys working there, I was the only one who spent significant time posting and reading as part of the online community. Some of the guys would take an occassional look on sites such as BoLS, but I think it says a great deal that even those who work within the industry might not necessarily take it seriously enough to go that extra step, and give the large amount of free time that the online community can require.

So, to cut a long-winded point short, I think that the online community is more a reflection of those guys who spend so much time making 'power lists'. Who are prepared to sit down and work out in mathematical terms the advantage of one unit rather than another, and for whom victory is that much more important simply because they are donating so much of their lives to it. I think possibly that if someone then says to them "I don't care, I just play for fun" then that might be perceived as making their own efforts less meaningful, a slight on what they deem to be important. You can see similar things happening in a lot of other special interest forums, be it discussing sports, films, music etc.

I still maintain that the vast majority of wargamers will choose to buy or field a unit or character because it looks good, or it tickles their fancy, rather than on a statline. All of us (and I mean _all_ when I say this) got into the game because of a particular painting/drawing, or the look of miniatures on the tabletop drew us in.

I still think this is the most important factor. The current 40k rulebook recently received an attacking article on 'the most important rule' - essentially GW saying, "remember why you are playing". A small, but very vocal, minority don't agree with this and posted comments saying this was an excuse for lazy rule making. For the other 95% of us who regularly paint, model and play and enjoy doing so, that 'most important rule' sits with us just fine I feel.

Just my thoughts on the matter!

Brother Vizlani said...

I have two "hats" that I wear when playing 40K.

The first "hat" is my usual Saturday game day. I am relaxed, looking for a good time, admiring others work, playing a few games, thumbing through the store's copy of the codices, looking at product for sale, chatting with the sales staff, maybe a little painting, helping younger/newer players get their feet wet, etc.

When it is tournament though, out comes my second "hat". I will not be "giving" you that last 1/4" to shoot me. I will be using the terrain to my advantage. I will manuever my forces to stymie yours. I will play in the most ruthless and cut throat manner. I will be nice about it. I am not going to cuss you, threaten you, or physically assault you, etc. I will shake your hand before and after. But, I will use my forces and the rules to win. Prizes and prestige are on the line. Death or Glory baby!

Afterwards, we can shoot the bull, grab a bite to eat, have a cold one, etc.

Patton says it best, "Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost, and will never lose a war... because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans."

Old School Terminator said...

Great comments all. I will add this, however. The day they make this a pre-painted game, I will quit it all together; no more Black Library, no more games, no more GW models and no more blog. I can tolerate anything else, but not that. That will be the thing that ruins this for hobbyists ... That and having models that pop out of a little ball and "evolve" as they fly through the air calling their coup de grace move by name ...

Pacific said...

Thanks Brother Vizlani, I now have a vision of General Pattern, reading that inspirational speech to a bunch of guys setting up a 1500pt Thursday evening game!

RonSaikowski said...

Nice post, I saw it this morning and got distracted but came back to it. Glad I did.
A good read.

The comment by Pacific was interesting, I too spend a good amount of time "online" and working on a blog but I wouldn't consider myself hardcore and I certainly don't build power lists.
I think I've tried to do just the opposite and promote the other aspects with FTW.
But that's another discussion.

As for playing competetively, I love the challenge of the game. I don't have a powerful army and that's a deliberate choice. I have what's really cool to me but I do my absolute best to make it work.

For me it comes down to playing a game with a well grounded opponent in a relaxed environment and spending a few hours moving "little men" around on the battlefield and forgetting about the stresses of "real life."

Pacific said...

Thanks for your comment, Ron. I meant to say that some of the bloggers and posters are focused on the competitive element of the game, not all.

Your own blog and the kind of ethos it promotes is evidence of that, please keep up the good work :)

BJ said...

Well guys thanks for restoring my faith in 40K. I am pleasantly surprised to see many other likeminded individuals out there.

I completely under stand Brother Vizlani when he talks about the 2 hats ones for friendly play and one for tournament play. He sounds like the type of player I would enjoy playing either a friendly game with or competitively at a tournament.

Anyway thanks for the responses adn for letting me vent a little our here in cyberspace.


Brother Vizlani said...

BJ if you ever find yourself in the North Houston area, drop me a line.

Barry said...

Thanks. The topic you hit on is one reason why I shy away from playing with people at my local store, and only play with my brother.

I do this for fun. I would like to win what ever game I'm playing, but I want to have fun. I want to be making jokes and wondering why way huge Dreadnaught can open up with a gatling gun and hit nothing but sky.

Alexander said...

I find that some of my hard fought losses are more memorable then my hard fought wins.

RonSaikowski said...

I'll agree with Lucas.
Those close battles are the best ones.

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