The Armchair General by Mike Foulks

30 Oct

This blog series is dedicated to failure.  More specifically I will be writing about mistakes I have made or seen made at tournaments and the lessons they have taught me.  Experience is absolutely the best teacher, but mocking a noob comes a close second – just watch the Leeroy video on youtube if you don’t believe me.

I take a Chaos Space Marine army to the tournament scene and whilst some of you might point out that this is my first mistake I firmly believe that there are still some competitive builds to be squeezed out of that book.  I actually think that anyone can do well at a tournament with the army they love by eliminating the mistakes in their gameplay.  It may sound obvious but to eliminate mistakes from your gameplay you first have to make those mistakes, understand what you have done wrong and ensure that you don’t repeat them.

There are a lot of players out there with more 40k experience than me.  About 6 months ago an old friend of mine (who incidentally got me into bloodbowl and D&D back in our uni days) made the innocent sounding suggestion that we play a game of 40k for old time’s sake so I dusted off my 2nd edition rulebook and codex and got out the old beat stick that was my Chaos army.  He patiently advised me that there was a new edition since I last played and set about teaching me 5th.  It is quite a different game and I was roundly thrashed.  Nevertheless I was hooked and set about hanging around my local GW each week on “adult night”, re-painting all of my models and scouring ebay for new ones, filling my commute with 40k podcasts and my lunch break with 40k blogs.  Have I mentioned I get a bit obsessive?

Anyway, after winning a few games at my local store I decided to get “on the scene”.  Trust me when I say this requires more logistics than you will first expect.  Before you even get to make your first mistakes and start the learning process you will need to secure a place at a tourney, read the tournament pack, plan your list, paint up your army, book travel and accommodation, change your list at the last minute, re-glue your army after it falls apart in transit, find the venue, shake your opponent’s hand and pray to the dice gods to be kind.

At your first tournament you are the baby seal and you will get clubbed.  Heaven forbid that you actually win a game convincingly early on and get rocketed to the top tables where the big boys are playing hard for positions.  After 2 days on your feet you will be hurting, your brain will be jelly, the dice will be out to get you and the army you slaved over will look like crap next to the one that wins best painted.  Why would you then put yourself through this pain?  Because it is actually great fun and a fantastic learning experience!

Over a weekend you can expect to get 5-6 games with new people bringing fresh ideas and tactics to the table, you get to play some beautifully painted armies on terrain that you didn’t have to make yourself.  Tournaments are structured so that after your first game you get to play people who are doing as well as you – you will often hear the term “Swiss Pairing” but all that really means is that the person in top place plays the person in second and everyone else pairs down accordingly.  The scene can be competitive but if you have taken a beating you can expect your next game to be against someone else who has too and once you are out of the running for first place the games get a lot more relaxed.  You get to cram 2-3 months worth of making mistakes into 2 days and meet a host of new proto-friends along the way.

I have now been to 2 tournaments, Mr Franco Marufo’s “The End Times” and Tolworth First Founding’s “Oktoberfest”.  I placed mid table at both and had some really memorable games.  All of my opponents so far have been fantastic and between them they have taught me a heck of a lot.  Staring down the results list for both events I can firmly say that I was robbed!  Little mistakes meant points dropped here and there, all of which cost valuable places in the rankings.

Noob Mistake Number 1 actually comes from my first ever competitive game.  It was against Daniel Sacket’s Grey Knights and because the tournament was an escalation event it was just 1000 points a side.  Now apart from learning that a henchmen Grey Knight army is just dirty at low points values and that multi-charges from death cult assasins hurt bad, it taught me a more general lesson: understand how the tournament is scored and play accordingly!  After my opponent’s fifth turn I had very little left and no hope of winning the game so I shook my opponent’s hand, thanked him for a good game and resigned.  Only when we began packing up our models did I realize that the tournament required us to record victory points as well as if the game was a win, loss or draw.  Doh!

Different tournaments score games in different ways.  In a victory points game you should never resign, it gives your opponent maximum points and this could well affect your future match ups and your final standing.  I would also recommend against showing mercy late in the game as heartless as that sounds.  You may win your game convincingly on objectives but be massively outscored by someone else who tables their opponent.  Equally, don’t throw units away because everything that you lose counts against your score.  In a 1000 point game, if you kill 800 points of your opponent’s army and lose 500 points of your own army you actually only score 300 vps for what was pretty close to a tabling.  The player who can get through their game without any of their units being taken down to half strength only has to kill 1/3 of his opponents force (and win) to get a better points score than you.

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4 Responses to “The Armchair General by Mike Foulks”

  1. Mike October 30, 2011 at 23:54 #

    Hi guys. Hope you enjoyed the article. I just want to correct a little error I made. My opponent at the end of times who I mention in the article was actually Daniel Sackett. Very sorry For giving someone else the credit for your victory Daniel!

  2. Generic Goon October 30, 2011 at 23:55 #

    I feel where your coming from. Oktoberfest was my first tournament which was characterised by mistakes. Hopefully I’ve learnt from them. Not bringing a tray to put my army on was a relatively harmless one, popping all the smoke launchers on my vehicles a turn early against a Decent of Angels list was amongst my most painful. In addition to learning from mistakes it’s also important not to get disheartened by them and the sound thrashings that often follow.

  3. Sideways thinker October 31, 2011 at 01:01 #

    An excellent read. I’m offering myself up as a baby seal next month in what will be my first tournament. It won’t be pretty, but a lot of learning will be had.

    Most importantly though, where can I get one of those chairs?

  4. Digital Unicorn November 1, 2011 at 15:55 #

    Going in with that attitude is the best way to go about it I found. The old adage, “Aim low, you won’t be disappointed” rings true. Don’t go expecting to win and storm up the rankings, view it as an experience generator, and then be happy and see the positives in whatever you achieve.

    Like, I went to my first tournament this october, I managed to be the second best Nilla Marine player in the single scores. I may have been 33rd but I was still second best marine player! Lol.

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