Playing 40k tourneys is a daunting undertaking, one marred by rumours of WAACS, Neckbeards and people who get no joy out of the game other than winning. In the end you play a game for the fun, for the challenge and obviously the win is a nice bonus but you don’t want to have a bad experience do you? It is a ‘Game’ after all.
With so much bad press and rumour its therefore understandable that people are a bit reticent to play in them. I was one of the many who always said they’d never play a tournament and well, 3 years on a lot of mid table results, a few sportsman awards, a painting award ( obviously the quality was low that day) surprisingly a second on a 1 day event and a lot of new friends, I can say I am glad I took the leap and it isn’t as bad as it is made out to be.
Why did I do it though?
Well, with it becoming somewhat harder to get my general group of friends to play, for one reason or another, (cat herding comes to mind) I was running out of options on what to do If I wanted to play a game.. random people at Element was an alternative but I couldn’t always get someone on the day I was free, on top of this, as I wasn’t playing much my pile of grey plastic shame was growing with no painting being done; I had to think outside the box and tourneys seemed to offer an incentive to paint, along with a weekend of gaming.
But you still had to enter the proverbial lions den and deal with all the Neckbeards right? Well yes and no and here is why:
First up I’m going to give you a list of 7 types of people (though you do get hybrids) you will find at tournaments:
- The WAAC – Also commonly known as the neck beard, this is the guy you read about, the reason you probably don’t want to play tournaments and just a horrible person. Winning is all that matters and he/she will cheat, rules lawyer, intimidate, time waste and bully their way to victory. If they aren’t winning they’ll challenge everything, strop, moan and generally make you feel uncomfortable; nobody likes this guy. Luckily these people are the minority and in a tournament of 100 people you’ll be lucky (unlucky as it is) to find 2 or 3 of them; so you odds of playing one are slim.
- The Competitive player – Most people who enter tournaments are competitive in some way shape or form but the archetypal competitive player takes things a bit more seriously. Like any sport, the win is important, a good list is important and knowing the rules thoroughly is important. In the end a lot of tournaments are ranked (ITC & ETC) so there are league table positions at stake.If you rock up to a tourney and expect not to play someone who takes the game seriously then you are going to be disappointed but there is something very important to note, despite being called /mistaken as WAAC by some, they generally aren’t.Granted, If you have a middling or fluffy list, you will get annihilated, and very little mercy will be given to you.. to the Moaner (see below) this may epitomise what is wrong with the game / scene and why you should throw your toys out of the pram and stop playing, but they won’t cheat you, they won’t bully you or rush you, they will just play the game to the best of their ability, based on the list they feel is effective and, depending on the list you have, enjoyable games to play and something to learn from.
- The Rules Lawyer – Rules lawyers are generally competitive players as well but whereas a pure competitive player will optimise a list and go for the most effective meta going the rules lawyer will have more varied lists and will focus on how rules are interpreted, how they can be used to their advantage and how to use them to set traps for unsuspecting noobs ( I have been that noob, many times). Their proverbial ace in the hole is a nasty trick they have found, with some poorly written rules.A frustrating player to play, if on the receiving end of a bubble wrapped flyer that can disembark its units or a charge that seems to be able to lock down all of your units at once, but, to be honest, a good player to know and learn from if you want to make it from mid table results to top tier. Also without people knowing the rules inside out and how to exploit them, then GW wouldn’t be able to fix meta mistakes as quick as they do these days.
- The Moaner – He / she rocks up to a competitive tournament with a list that has no chance of succeeding against current meta or they have a mono list they like but everyone is running flyers or knights…and boy do they moan about it. They moan to you, to their gaming club, to the blog they have with 25 followers and have pretty much quit before the first dice are cast. A vocal minority who give others and the tournaments a bad name. In the end, if you want a fluffy game, then play with your mates, if you want to play a fluffy tourney then play one, don’t rock up to ITC / ETC , knowing the rules and the list restrictions and expect everyone to have nice balanced monochrome armies; it isn’t going to happen.
- The “Is what it is guy” – This guy is a pleasure to play, his/her lists go from fluffy fun lists, with no chance of success competitively, to moderately competitive. He doesn’t care though and he / she is their because they just want to field a nicely painted army, they have some cool new units they want to try out or WAAAAAAGHHHHH! They know they aren’t going to win but are happy to play similarly ranked players in the second half of the tournament after a drubbing from the guys at the top.Generally upbeat, happy to let you take back moves, do things out of sequence, if you’ve forgotten and just a good sport all round. Don’t be a WAAC, Be the “is what it is” guy.
- The Painter – The painter is here for one reason, and one reason only, to show off how awesome their paint scheme is and how beautifully he / she can base and pose units. Getting 1st place in the painting competition is the goal but if the list is competitive as well, bonus. You will seldom meet a well painted army where the player is a knob, why? Painting / converting units takes a high level of patience and dedication, they therefore are patient people in general and a lot easier to get along with.. as well as the fact that when you play them, the games look super thematic…. Only let down by your hastily sprayed and washed guardsman blob.
- The fluff lover – Sometimes coupled with the moaner but for the most part just an “is what it is guy.” They will rock up with a pure mono faction list, no real thought will go into how it works, just they like it and they want to see if it works or not. Sometimes it works and they do quite well, other times they get absolutely smashed and end up with the wooden spoon but all in all they are just happy to have played, been able to try out their list and give other players a fun thematic game.
Still sound somewhat intimidating? Like its something you don’t want to do? Well let me give you a view from a guy, who never played a tourney to a guy who now plays in 1 every few months.
Pick your tournament wisely – There are loads of tournaments out there, with all kinds of different restrictions, rules and prizes, pick the one that suits you. Don’t just pick one, turn up, get beaten and smoulder with rage for the rest of your gaming life. In the end its your decision and your choice on what type event you attend.
Generally the ones I attend at Element, ran by them or Caledonian are great. You have prizes for best painted (some times top 3) you have best sportsman award, best army in faction, 1st 2nd and 3rd for the tournament and, of course, the wooden spoon. So there is always a good chance of you getting something. It also helps that they are really well run!
If you want a less competitive tourney, they are out there. Some are dedicated to mono lists and good paint jobs, others are for lower point limits; there is a lot of choice.
Don’t be put off by rumour or assumption – Tournaments are not hives of scum and villainy, WAACs are not rampant and you can have a good set of games. Sure, if you aren’t overly bothered about optimisation, or maybe you just cant afford the new big meta toys then you will struggle to reach the top table BUT if your just there to enjoy the games, then granted you may get obliterated in a game or two, depending on the size of the event, but rankings will find you your niche and by the 3rd game at least you will be facing more manageable lists.
If you are new, play to learn and enjoy, don’t play to win- If you turn up to a tourney with the wrong sort of mindset, especially if you are new, you will leave disappointed. A lot of people you will playing will understand the rules very well, will understand their armies very well, and, will also know your army too, so will challenge if you make a mistake.
Just turn up and play the game as best you can, learn how the meta is moving and learn how different armies work. It may mean you lose all your games, or most of them but if you have come into it with the right mindset, you’ll come away understanding the rules more, understanding how your army works more and understanding how other armies work / are played too. This will then give you an idea on what to change for next time, if you care or if that sort of tournament is for you or not.
Trust in the Emperor and GW– Meta lists are a thing and can be frustrating but what I have found is that Games Workshop are being very proactive with neutering meta creep with restrictions on matched play, points increases and rules changes.
There are very hard lists out there, and some players will know their rules inside and out, but, as has been shown around the globe and in different Tournaments, just because you have knights doesn’t mean you’ll win, and just because you have flyer spam, doesn’t mean you will win. Its very much about playing the mission and having something that will be able to score points. you can lose your entire army but as long as you are ahead in points, being tabled doesn’t matter anymore; so don’t live in fear.
There we have it, hopefully this article will have given you an insight into the competitive world of WH40K tournaments and maybe, hopefully, encourage you to give one a try. In the end it is just a game and if you want to play and have something to aim for, be it painting minis or aiming to be the best; the tournament circuit is the best way to do this. it can be a cruel mistress to someone unprepared but once you find your niche, it becomes a great weekend of gaming.
Had a good experience? Had a bad one? Thinking of getting into the tournament scene? Let us know in the comments below.