Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gamers Lounge episode 10: tournament play, when is enough, enough?

I was listening to the 10th episode of the Gamers Lounge Podcast and they were discussing the topic; tournament play, when is enough, enough?

This has spurred me to share a story that I haven’t shared fully on the internet, because it sucks to show yourself in a bad light, but I figure if someone can benefit from my experience than it’s worthwhile.

This is the point where I changed from a super optimized tourney player back into a themed could care less if I win go to a tourney for laughs kind of guy. Around the time that my buddy got his discharge from the Marines, he came home and wanted to play a game of 40k; which I obliged to give him. I had been playing in tournaments every other weekend for two years, spanning three game systems, so had gotten used to building mean lists meant to do nothing but 'beat face'.

I had completely forgotten how to build a themed fun list, because my mind had been rewired to highly optimize everything to death. Needless to say his themed fluffy old school Orks got trampled by my highly optimized Space Wolves; in the end neither of us had any fun. Who the heck wants to crush their best friend? The look on his face was too much to bare, the last thing I wanted to do was run off my best friend from high school.

I reevaluated why I play miniature wargames, the root of that is purely for having a good time hanging out with good friends. My Pop had drilled this into me from a young age but something went wrong.

So where did I go astray? Well first off most of my family and gaming friends had stopped playing wargames for various reasons; enlisted in the Military, gotten married, had children or other real life situations that put gaming in the back seat. So I had to find a new group of guys to play with; one of the local game shops became my new second home finding a group of guys that seemed pretty fun to game with. It was a win in my book.

Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a slow spiral into rules lawyering and a I must win mentality. I must say the guys were quite convincing in discussing how to optimize a list and using the math to determine what is a good or subpar unit. I was hook and a convert to the Mathhammer cult. I did quite well in our bi-weekly tournaments, and was genuinely having a good time; scoring well in both sports and comp I really had this tourney thing down.

Then I went to the first tournament held at one of the local game cons, the guys in the group warned me not to bother going because it was a poorly run tournament. I found the tournament to be very well run, I had a great time playing my games, but I was shocked to get a poor score in both sports and comp. I thought I was a friendly opponent, and couldn’t figure out what was going on. It turned out that there was some video from the event that showed why I did poorly; I argued miniscule little rules disputes, not being a jerk or anything, but I would argue them to death instead of making my case and moving on, or calling a judge over for a ruling. Now this type of thing was totally normal at the LGS, so no one even notices these arguments.

Not wanting to come off poorly in public, I immediately changed my ways, if there was a dispute I would pull out the MRB and make my case then move on, there was no need to beat a dead horse. After that I had begun not having quite as much fun with the guys, because I really started to notice all of the bickering going on.

Eventually I moved on to a not so local game store, and began having fun again. I taught them all the little optimization tricks that I had learned from the first group, and within a few months everyone was crushing each other with great highly optimized forces. I got the shop to run tournaments every other week on the opposite schedule to the local shop.

So by the time my buddy Sean got home I was playing in tournaments every weekend. I was all about ‘bringing it’ and winning, so much so that nothing else mattered. Heck I had even stopped painting or changing my list.

If I could go back and do it all again, I wouldn’t change all the memorable times I had at the two shops playing 40k and WFB, I would change my attitude. I just wasn’t being myself, I had adapted into being one of the group so that I’d fit in better. There is nothing wrong with that in a lot of cases, but you must be careful to stay true to yourself.

Now when I walk up to the gaming table I am all about creating a situation where both my opponent and I have a good, fun time. I honestly could care less about who wins or loses as long as we both walk away from the table; feeling satisfied that we both had fun.

The moral of the story is don’t be weak of character and always stay true to yourself.

Back to the question at hand; tournament play, when is enough, enough? It’s enough when you realize that you are only participating in small part of the miniatures wargaming hobby, there is so much more involved than participating in tournaments. Neglecting things like campaigns and scenario driven play is a shame. Hanging out with good friends throwing back a couple of brews can be just as, if not more satisfying than crushing some random guy at a tournament.

BTW if you are not listening to the Gamers Lounge Podcast click the link and do so. They have a great show with hosts that bring tournament discussion to a new level. IMHO


  1. The point you make with your story is very, very important.

    Regardless of the consequences you have to stay true to yourself. If you are a tournament player and that is what you enjoy do it. If you and your group enjoy knock-down-drag-out battle so be it. Then again, if you and your group enjoy games with a story, that is also okay.

    If you stay true to yourself, you will have a lot more fun in the end. After all, we are grown men playing with toys and toys are suppose to be fun!

  2. *slow clap*

    Bravo, Big Jim! Nice article, better story!

  3. Thanks guys, this was kinda hard to post because for me it is a little embarrassing, and you never know how people are going to react.

    It's definitely not a hit piece on Tourney play, I hope that came through well enough.


  4. I think the lesson to learn here is not "competitive/tournament play is a bad thing" but rather "understand why you're playing any given game." In the match against your friend's orks, the game was unfun because of mismatched expectations and skill levels; had you toned down your own list (and/or play style) I think it still could have been enjoyable on both your parts.

    Competitive play is not about winning at all costs; it's about improving your skill as a player and list-builder to the highest possible level. People who do the former are where rules-lawyering and jerk behavior come from, not the latter. Of course, it's an easy slip to make- from "I want to win this game" to "I deserve to win this game."

    Glad you re-found your center on things; not everyone necessarily wants to play hardcore- lord knows there are games I don't even try with because I'm so bad at them. If you're having fun just tooling around with the game and playing with friends, there's no reason to try and force yourself to do something different.

  5. Thanks for the comments, AbusePuppy.

    I agree competitive/tourney play are not a bad thing. I'm just saying that everyone must remember they are not the only thing. I just want to remind others to keep an open mind, when dealing with the other types of gamers.

    It is a sad state that wargaming is in when so many look down on others who enjoy playing the game differently.


  6. Big Jim, fantastic post. I encourage you not to be embarrassed about sharing this type of story, I think this will resonate with more people than you realize.

    I also just realized I was not in the follower list on your blog. Shame on me, as I have you downloaded regularly into my email/blog client at home. The situation has been fixed!

  7. Thanks Nix, it's just hard to admit I was "TFG" cause it just isn't me. I do hope it resonates with people, if I can help just one person I'll be satisfied.

    Thanks for joining the party officially, it's a pleasure to have you here!


  8. An interesting tale. Thanks for sharing. :)

  9. Big Jim, thank you for having the courage to share this with us. It can be tough to share this sort of thing.

    I have to admit that I have found myself in a similar place, with several different games, over the course of my gaming career and each time I've wondered how I have gotten here... again. As I said in episode 10, I have found myself in a similar spot once again recently, and I am currently trying to figure out how to change that situation... again.

    One of the big hurtles for me though moving back to 'fun' games is that I have had a pretty poor experience with campaigns. I have played in lots of campaigns over the years, for lots of systems and editions. However I have never played in a campaign that has ever finish, and of those campaigns I can count on a single hand how many got past turn 2. That said, my desire to play in a successful campaign is high, but my experience with campaigns always sets my expectations for new campaigns pretty low, which could be part of the problem.

    The other factor is that my current motivator and really the only way I have been able to get games late has been either through challenge pyramid or tournament play, probably going on 4 to 5 months now. So all my regular games have that competitive edge pre-built into them. This has encouraged me to stick to that one list and not play the less structured sort of games you talk about, which has lead me back to the rut I am in now.

    What I have to do is find a way and make time to play less structured, story driven games again. It is going to be tough.

    Oh and I have had you in my blog roll and have been reading your blog for a while now, but I do not seem to be a follower yet either, which is weird. So count me in as a new follower too.

  10. Jay, I completely understand where you are at, since dropping the competitive attitude I have been in the same situation a few times.

    Like now most of my gaming group are deployed overseas, and I am doing more LGS pick-up competitive slanted games. Getting these guys to play something story driven is like pulling teeth! They are good guys, but are always prepping for the next tournament. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just not my thing, but I am still having some great games.

    My advice is to be vigilant in you search for the balance between competitive and casual that you are looking for. Sometimes all it takes is one guy to give in to get the rest of the group to sway styles.

    You could also try a one day campaign quasi hidden as a themed tournament. All you have to do is plot out a first round scenario and two scenarios for the second and third rounds, that are dependent on the results of the previous rounds victor.

    Thanks for the support!


  11. Hello, i just dont know where to ask this, so i picked your newer post:

    After reading the KZ rules i am very inclined to build my own team, i always dreamed about the "special ops team" of the eldar, with one member of each aspect (exarchs) working behind the lines.

    Perhaps, the rules states that i could only take a squad leader if i take a another squad member, so the exarch would be considered a squad leader?

    I was building my 250 points team with 7 exarchs when i found this rule, and it kind pissed me off. My interpretation is right? Or i can build that dream eldar squad?

  12. Sorry Erico, your dreamlist is not legal. I can understand your frustration. We made the limit to keep the game balanced.