I'm not normally much of a tournament player, having only attended two as a competitor, so it was with a little surprise that I found myself recently asked if I could give some tips and tricks for tournaments, by a friend of mine. Now, I'm not going to tell you tournament lists, or entertain the discussion of meta and tiers of effectiveness within codeces and army books, but after the jump we'll have a look at some ideas and common questions in regards to preparing yourself for battle effectively.
Having started by saying I won't entertain the discussion of meta or tiers here, I will discuss what they are. Any further investigation I shall leave for a future blog or for individual research. Yes, research - what follows will include the science of gaming, if you will, and the mathematics that encompass it. Please don't be alarmed at those words, I promise I'll keep it as clear as possible!!!
The idea of tiers is a very old one, that involves some complex math and play testing which I won't go into here. The idea is that, point for point, some models are better than others. Now, I don't fully agree with this outlook, but I do capitulate that in certain situations there are undoubtedly some units that are going to come out stronger than others.
Some players/theorists divide units into top tier, middle tier, and lower tier in regards to their supposed strengths and weaknesses for the points paid. As stated, I agree there are strong arguments that can be made for taking certain units over others in certain situations, but I don't believe there is any model I'd look at and say "Why would you take this over unit x?". It can be argued however that a tournament is a type of situation and so there are some units better suited to that play style than others. This we will look at.
But what is meta? Meta is kind of a look at the trend of the game; an overarching visualisation of what's taken at tournaments and thus what you should perhaps plan against. Again, I won't get into a full discussion on meta, but we will look at what's expected of you and other players at tournaments, and how to deal with these factors.
It may be worth first asking yourself what your goal of this tournament is, before we start, do you want to:
- Win at all costs. All that matters is you win.
- Have fun in a competitive environment, pushing your abilities.
- Have fun playing some games, win or lose - who cares?
In a standard game, both players have a good understanding of the rules but can tweak them as they see fit. Tournaments, on the other hand, will have a strict set of rules. These might be exactly as laid out in the Rulebooks, but they might also use 'comp' where the tournament itself has additional restrictions and limitations (as an example, imposing a limit on the number of flyers per army). Thus it is absolutely necessary you be comfortable with both the rules of the system you're playing and with any additional rules the tournament host may have added. There is nothing worse than being disqualified because you missed something trivial. In a tournament, cheating is cheating, whether conscious or not. If you're unsure of anything, consult the Rulebook, rules pack, or contact a referee.
Be prepared. ALWAYS have a full and clear army list written up (preferably typed) showing ALL equipment purchased alongside the points costs. As a rule of thumb, your opponent must be able to clearly see what's in your army if he were to look at the roster, even if he has no prior knowledge of the army itself. As such, don't use shorthand, abbreviations etc. If its a twin linked heavy bolter, write that. Don't, whatever you do, put it on your list as TL:HB.
Also ensure you have a your Rulebook and codex/army book. It's all very well saying that you've memorised it but how can your memory prove it to an opponent if they ask? An army list doesn't prove that a particular model can have a certain piece of equipment either, so if its questioned, you need to be able to prove it.
Have your own tape measure, templates, objective markers (if needed) and plenty if dice (though some tournaments now supply their own dice). Essentially, plan for the chance your opponent left it ALL behind. Also, plenty of dice because if you need to roll 80 shots, your opponent will not be happy waiting whilst you roll 8 dice, 10 times.
But now I'm kind of hanging up on the Etiquette. Let's look at what you need to be successful with your army.
For a tailored list to work, you have to know, or assume, what your opponents will bring. How can we do this? Ultimately, I don't believe you can unless its a friendly tournament and you already know the others players lists, in which case I'd say you have an unfair advantage. However, in a random tournament, there are a few assumptions that, whilst not safe might be classified as general.
Firstly, the Internet will always cry out at the latest broken list. Necron Fliers, Draego-Wing... When writing a tailored list it's a good idea to try and get a feel for the so-called meta. And it's usual for any tournament to have quite a few armies in Power Armour (or equivalent). Thus, planning to go up against the more popular lists might give you a hand in dealing with them, but if someone pulls something unexpected out of their case, you could be in a world of hurt.
What of balanced?
In order to write a good, balanced army list for a tournament, you need to consider a few things: enemy armour/vehicles, enemy air support, enemy infantry, mission objectives. Each of these must be planned for.
It is important that, should your enemy have a multitude of tanks and vehicles that you have the firepower to take them out. If your enemy brings hordes of infantry, you'll need some high shot count or template weapons to take them out before you are overwhelmed. Whilst I don't believe Skyfire is necessary, it's worth having some high strength multishot weapons to deal with flyers, or to consider objective grabbing in the hopes of a Skyfire Nexus. Also, you need to have enough scoring units to be able to claim objectives.
It's important that all of these values are considered, and that you try to get them as even in your list as possible. The only exception is if you happen to know something about the tournament. Ie, if the tournament comp doesn't allow flyers, obviously don't worry about them. If none of the missions are objectives, that's no longer a concern either.
Ultimately though, a great list can't save an incompetent general, and a poor one won't necessarily destroy a canny general. Practice with your list. After each game, analyse each unit.
- What did the unit do in this game?
- What was its desired purpose (why was it included in the list)?
- Are the answers to the above similar? Did it do what it was intended to?
- If yes, was it effective?
- If no, why didn't it?
- Overall, did your army have any significant problems?
But the golden rule? Be a sportsman, be polite and have fun!