Thursday, 21 February 2013

Hakuna Matata

I resolved early this year that I was going to make a point of distancing myself from competitive Warhammer. I realised that competitive tournament play was not really what I was interested in, and that making a conscious effort not to get sucked into it was perhaps the best way to ensure that other things got more attention.

The majority of the regular Warhammer players at our club play competitively at tournaments. Actually, nearly everyone who has ever played Warhammer at the club has also played in tournaments, but those who have persisted with it as their main game (rather than keeping it as an occasional game and focusing on something else) tend to focus very heavily on attending events and trying to be competitive. As someone who has retained Warhammer as my primary game, I tend to get somewhat pulled along by this. I ended up attending several tournaments last year (6 if you count the ETC), as well as running one. This was slightly busier than normal, but for a very long time I would have been attending 4 or 5 tournaments every year.

For all that I have been attending plenty of tournaments, it's been quite a long time since I was going into an event looking to perform really well. I no longer make lists with the intent of winning the event, and when I get solid comp scores it's normally because I've just entered a list that deserved it (I'm not one of those trying to “ride the comp train” by sliding through a list that's sneakily tougher than it looks). Winning Axemaster last year was basically an accident, brought about by my list gradually toughening during the year as I painted more stuff that worked together to make the list better (many of them new toys that appeared with the current incarnation of the Empire army book). If had already had Demigryphs painted and no Spearmen, you probably would have seen my list getting weaker as I kept painting, rather than the other way around...

Anyway, some people probably don't understand entering a tournament without trying to do especially well in it, but from experience I can assure you that there are plenty of people who approach events with this mentality. Some people are just looking for a weekend full of gaming, and a bit of socialising. There was probably a time when I didn't really understand such people either, but now it seems I am one of them.

With a solid group of the club's Warhammer players heading to a given tournament, I tend to go along for the ride. It can be fun watching the others fighting it out on the top tables, and it's always fun hearing and relating the stories of glory and woe in between games and into the evening. But even without really focusing on these events, I find they still tend to dominate my playing time. If I'm not playing at a tournament, chances are I'm playing a tournament-sized game. This could be because my opponent is getting in practice for a tournament, or it could just be that we tend to default to that size of game because it's what we're all used to (and we often have suitable lists already prepared). I also don't have an inexhaustible appetite for playing, and if I have played 6 games the previous weekend, there is a good chance I will just sit around, watch games and chat at the club the following week, rather than look to pull the models out straight away.

Given that I have recognised these effects, the logical course of action seems to be to reduce the number of tournaments I attend. I won't be going to the ETC this year (I thought better of it after initially saying I wanted another crack at it), and there is no way I will qualify for the Masters, so in some ways I have already taken steps towards clearing my calendar. However, I may yet decide not to enter other events that I would normally go to without a second thought. In the past I would have felt bad about making such a resolution, as the tournament scene needed all the boosts to player numbers that it could get. However, the local scene is pretty strong at the moment and my absence will make little difference. This is nice to know, even if I do decide to attend things – it just makes me feel better about making the choice.

The more I try to distance myself mentally from competitive Warhammer, the more I find myself able to enjoy certain aspects of it. This was driven home to me with the release of the latest army book, Warriors of Chaos. Within a day or so I'd had a pretty good look at the army list, despite not owning it myself. And if I were trying to win events, there are things there that would worry or annoy me. The Mark of Tzeentch still allowing 3+ ward saves (rerolling 1s in some cases) seems destined to continue to frustrate people. Daemon Princes look pretty well invincible unless you get lucky with artillery before they make combat. Chaos Chariots being core seems like an invitation for players to ignore infantry entirely. But you know what? None of these things really bother me, because I'm not really interested in whether the new book is the Best Thing Ever (and I'm not saying it is). I'm just happy that there is a shiny new book (with another just around the corner!), and that there should be more variety in Warrior armies than we have seen in many years. From a pure hobby perspective, that is exciting.

8th edition has done very well in terms of balance between armies, compared to anything else I can remember over the last 4 editions. In the past I've sung its praise in this regard, but right now I am finding it liberating to not really care about that at all. It's nice to look at new releases purely as opportunities (in terms of either gaming or modelling) rather than potential problems in terms of games and comp.

It's possible that my new-found, care-free attitude won't last forever. In fact, today I wrote up a 6,000 point list with which to face the new Warriors of Chaos tomorrow. Maybe my optimism will be kicked out of me by a rampant Daemon Prince. But for the moment, things are looking good.
Daemon Princes: Thunderstomping happiness at Strength 6 since February 2013... 


  1. Don't care how well you do in a tournament any more? Look forward to playing with your toys with like minded folks rather than WIN THE TOURNEY at all costs. Welcome to my world. I have found that as I have gotten older I no longer care for tournaments at all because I don't want to deal with power gaming tourney freaks any more. I was one, sorta, once. 25 years ago. Mea culpa. But then I grew up. Give me a friendly game where mulligans are handed out like beers and nobody is uptight. Good times.

    1. I still find tournaments a useful way to set aside a weekend and ensure I get around to playing numerous games. Generally I've found that once you're well away from the top tables of a tournament, most people care far less about winning anyway, and makes things a lot more fun.