Monday, June 13, 2011

Dashofpepper's Guide to Tournament Success!

Hey folks!

I'm relocating articles I've written to the blog here, so while you may have read this before, I wanted it archived here.

Before the Tournament:

List Creation: If you're going to be playing in a tournament, you want to make sure that you have a "Take All Comers" list. Popular and powerful builds: Mechanized IG, Mechanized Spacewolves with Longfang Spam, TWC Spacewolves, Mechanized Blood Angels, Mechanized Eldar. Is your list capable of competing against these six builds? There are certainly others, but if you can stand toe-to-toe with those six builds, you'll be able to adapt and deal with other builds too. I don't want discussion about this article to devolve into a discussion of what makes a competitive list - there are a lot of theories about it, and it deserves its own thread - this isn't even a topic that can be summarized across all codices, but I list those six because they are amongst the most popular and the most likely that you're going to see across from you on the table in a competitive scene. The one thing I will offer here is that you should bring a list that you are comfortable playing (see my note on practice) - just because someone on the internet has had fantastic experience with a list doesn't mean that you are going to as well - a list is just a piece of your experience in a game; how you use it, what you face against, and your ability to adapt to changing needs on the table play a much bigger part. For example, I play a nonstandard Ork list that gets immense critique when I post it on the internet. It isn’t supposed to work, it isn't a netlist, but I have phenomenal experience with it because I'm intimately familiar with its strengths and weaknesses and what I need to do with it to pull out a win. Find what works for you, what you're comfortable playing, and tweak it and tweak it until you feel like it has the ability to face "all comers."

List Printing: If you have Army Builder, use it. It costs about $30. Many stores have a store copy of Army Builder that you can use, and they either charge a nominal fee for its use and paper printing, or nothing at all. If you don't have Army Builder, use one of the Excel Spreadsheet Army Builders, or one of the customized and free Army Builders. Tyranids have their own special army builder....I use an excel workbook I found online where everything is linked to each other, and has a very nice printout that shows each unit and their costs. I personally don't prefer Army Builder because the printout is an extensive spreadsheet with some unnecessary information in it that can be hard to read; it isn’t the easiest to read format, but it is definitely a verifiable means of proving that you have a legal list. Many people prefer to have an excel or word printout of your list that is easy to read - regardless of which way you choose to go, you *MUST* bring enough copies of your printed list to give one to each opponent, one to the TO, and one for yourself. A single copy is a no-go. A written copy is a no-go. Print your lists out and don't disrespect your opponents or the TO by offering your chickenscratch scribbled list as your list. People like me like to write battle reports, and you can't do it without a copy of your opponent list.

Army Practice:
-Practice with your army. Practice how it moves together, what units give physical cover to others, how things move on the board and support each other; if you're playing an army with a lot of models, practice moving them quickly - like instead of moving 30 boyz 6" forward, grab the back three ranks and put them up front - you only have to move half the models. You'll have to watch your special weapons - you can't move special weapons from the back to the front using this method, but if all your boyz / tyranids are the same, it can cut off real chunks of time from your movement. Things like that. Many opponents will let you perform your run movements at the same time as your movement phase so that you don't have to move all your models first - I've never had an opponent say no, but always be sure to ask. Practice against opponents with fast armies. If you can't get through 5-6 turns in 2 hours with an 1850-2k list, practice more, or tweak your list. If you can only get through 3-4 turns in a tournament because you're slow, you're going to be labeled a slow-player at best and annoy worst, you're going to be labeled a cheater who is intentionally slow-playing to avoid your own destruction and face possible disqualification. DO NOT bring an army to a tournament that you are not capable of playing in a timely fashion. These events have strict time limits and you need to be able to play within those limits.

-Tape Measure: Get the $3 12' kind from Walmart. It is small, efficient, and wonderous.

-Dice: Everyone has their own assortment of dice, avoid dice with custom facings if you can - they do nothing but create confusion and potential hostility on the table. If you refuse to do so, they *must* all have custom facings on the same side (six or one) without being mixed, and you need to demonstrate before the game to your opponent which the custom sides are. Custom faces won't win you any friends, but they will be tolerated - however, if you're asked to not use them, be prepared to have other dice. Best advice: Avoid custom facings. You also will need a scatter dice if you have any kind of deep-striking or blast tempates. Make sure that your dice and pips have easily readable colors. Sparkly pink dice with white pips that glare the light and make it hard to read aren't a good idea. Marbled black dice with blue pips...not a good idea. Get distinctive colors between them so that both you and your opponent can readily read them. There are a lot of people attached to their specialty dice - but for the love of 40k, please don't pick up this bad habit.

-More on Dice: Don't be afraid to ask your opponent to use your dice or for you to use their dice. If someone has a block of dice, and are about to roll to seize the initiative and pluck out a special dice to make the roll, I pause and ask to see it. There's plenty of statistics elsewhere on the internets about various dice; square edged dice are more likely to roll statistically accurate; rounded dice roll 29% ones instead of 16%, things like that. If someone has a bunch of 5+ invulnerable saves to make on terminators, and they get out a special dice to make all their rolls with on that single dice...and then go on to make them all, ask them to change out for one of their other dice. If something makes you uncomfortable, speak up. Better to say something than for bad feelings to start, or for it to devolve into drama on a forum thread somewhere later.

-Galeforce 9 Tactical Template: This $7 treasure from Galeforce Nine is the most precious treasure to a 40k player. It's a blue template with a 1", 2", 4", and 6" side, along with a 45 degree arc of fire. When you or your opponent need to measure a close assault, or you're reaching down into a unit to move stuff around, the tactical template is far superior to a tape measure. The 2" coherency side makes disembarking from vehicles and spacing your models extremely easy. Not a requirement, but a VERY HIGHLY recommended addition to your tournament repetoire. This template is the difference between tournament ready players and everyone else. Get one.

-Codex: Make sure that you have your codex with you. Don't forget it. Also bring any FAQ or Errata for your codex printed off the GW website. Many codexes have updated rules (especially recently) and those rules don't exist unless you have the documentation with you. Make SURE that you have a rulebook with you. The pocket rulebooks from the AoBR box are gold; you can buy them cheaply on e-bay if you don't have one. And most importantly here, make sure that your NAME is on the side of your rulebook, written across the outside of the pages, and that your codex has your name on it; the same can be said of your templates and Tactical Template. No need for you to get your stuff mixed up with other people.

-Pen/Pencil: You will pretty much always need to fill out a scoresheet, so bring one with you. Keep it in your case/dicebag/foam/etc.

-Superglue: Breaks happen, and many tournaments (and pretty much all GTs) have painting and customization scores. Be prepared to fix them. For quick-setting, bring a spouted little bottle with baking powder it in - it will instantly set superglue bonds, and is also useful for reinforcing joints. I can't tell you how many times I've had Tau Battlesuits break off their stands, or reaver jetbikes, or ork deffkoptas.

-Moving Trays: Either a display board, or a couple of cookie-sheets, or a couple of fast-food trays - you need to have something to transport your army between tables. Putting your army into your foam, then making your opponent wait while the clock for your game is ticking for you to get it back out is supremely disrespectful to them - get a jump on timeliness by having something to move your assembled armies together between tables.

-Templates: Flamer Template, Small Blast, Large Blast - if you have any of these weapons in your list, make sure you bring the template for firing it with you.

-Explosion Templates: Cut felt/paper/plasticard to the size of your vehicles. I have DE raider shaped felt pads that I place for vehicle explosions. Also rhino, land raider and chimera shaped pads. When a vehicle explodes, passengers get placed in the footprint of the vehicle. Having a vehicle footprint sized crater nullifies rules disputes, and solves a lot of issues!

[u]Call Ahead:[/u]
Call the store before you go. Find out if painting will be scored. If your army isn't fully painted, find out if it will be scored. If you're using any "Counts as" or proxy models - primarily because the models you want don't exist (yet hopefully), call and confirm that your stand-ins are acceptable - don't show up with any assumptions. Ask what time registration starts, how many points it is, what the registration cost is and what time the first game starts so that you're on time.

Personal Preparation:

-Hygeine: Not joking. Fresh clothes, underclothes, freshly showered, shampooed, cleaned hair and beard if you have one, and heavily applied deoderant. Armpits, chest, anywhere else you need. Stinky gamers are a real detraction to crowded rooms, especially six hours into a tournament when your body odor is trying to push through sweat and grime to reveal itself. Keep it covered up. One of my friends brings spare deodorant to GTs and gives them to his opponents if they are particularly pungent. I realize that not everyone has the ideal personal hygiene, so you need to make a conscious effort of not being noticeable around other people for your own smell. It will mark you out unfavorably. Brush your teeth that morning, bring gum.

-Hydrate: A running monologue throughout your turn of what you're doing ,asking your opponent questions, talking all day - can be thirsty work. Hydrate, and stay hydrated. I bring two liters of powerade/gatorade with me to GTs and larger RTTs - or bring petty cash if the place you're going sells drinks. I'm a fan of drinking and gaming, and I'm personally a bit famous for the bottle of Captain Morgan that goes with me to big events, so hydration is doubly important.

-Shoes: Whatever style you want for clothes is fine, but your shoes need to have good soles; sneakers are best. Standing on your feet for 8 hours with intermittent breaks to sit is going to KILL your feet and back, so take good care of your feet and what you're going to be standing on.

-Timeliness: I can't stress this enough: If a tournament starts at 0900, you need to be there at 0830. If registration starts at 0900 and dice roll at 1000, be there between 0900 and 0930 - you need time to unpack your gear, prepare it for the games, turn in your list, register, do a bit of socializing. Do NOT be late. I've seen plenty of tournaments that close off registration 10-15 minutes before dice start rolling so that they can handle table assignments and create pairings. NOTHING PISSES PEOPLE OFF MORE than a tournament that is supposed to start at 10:00 AM that doesn't kick off until 10:30 or 11:00 because someone or a few someones were lazy and disrespectful enough not to manage their time well enough to bother showing up on time. Don't be TFG.

-Optional Others: Many folks bring snacks or aspirin, and especially drinks to make a long day of gaming durable.

During Your Game:

-Ask questions. This is the MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADVICE I can offer you. Ask about things your army fears. Ask where the anti-tank is. Ask what the ranges are if you don't know. Ask about stat-lines. Ask which units are in which transports. Ask where the ICs do. Ask about special rules. As time goes by, you'll learn these things, but don't put yourself in a position of weakness by not having adequate information. Ask questions, and often. I start virtually every game looking at my opponent's models on their tray (not so much their list) asking and identifying where units are, what weaponry are on which vehicles, what units have the ability to outflank, or deep-strike, or infiltrate, what special rules are on models I'm not so familiar with - don't ever deploy blindly without an idea of what you're going to be facing off against.

-Don't lose sight of the objectives. Don't commit to an objective game early - killing all the enemy troop choices can win you an objective game as easily as castling up on them. But don't find yourself at the end of turn5 without the ability to jump onto objectives or accomplish the mission.

-Pick up your missed dice rolls. Do NOT pick up your hits - leave those on the table for your opponent to inspect; pick up your misses. This prevents suspicion, accidental or intentional cheating, and the possibility of your opponent saying, "Hey, you just picked up a miss!" Always pick up your misses and set them to the side so that your opponent can inspect your hits.

-Scatter dice: Roll the Scatter dice RIGHT NEXT to wherever you're scattering. There's nothing worse than someone trying to figure out the scatter direction from half a table a way, and its frustrating to have to reign someone in because they have bad depth perception. Keep those scatter rolls close. If an issue arises in the direction, there's an easy geometry fix: Extend your tape measure over the scatter dice. Have your opponent draw theirs connected to yours in a perpendicular line and hold it there. Then remove your tape measure and place it over the model / template being scattered so that the direction is true - then count out the inches.

-Measuring: There are many ways to measure your models - some people measure front to front, others middle to middle....I'd encourage you doing front to front - but the one thing you *need* to do is extend your tape measure the distance you're going to move, set it down on the table, then move your model up the length of where you're moving....then remove your tape measure. Dropping your tape measure out 12", eyeballing where its going to be, removing your tape measure and then placing your model where you saw the tape measure end is unacceptable. There's no need to guesstimate range like that - leave your tape measure on the table so that both you and your opponent can visually inspect the distance moved to make sure it is accurate. Doing otherwise is going to get you pegged as either lazy or a cheater - neither of which is an image you want to portray, even if its accidental. For longer movement measurements (18-24"+) if you're moving over terrain, use either a dice or a finger to mark the end of your movement before removing the tape measure from the table so that there is a definitive marker of where your movement is going to end - so that when you scroll your tape measure back in and pick up your model, you know where its going to go even with the tape measure off the table. When I'm moving to an opponent's side of the board, I'll often engage them and ask them to drop a finger at the end of my tape measure for me - its comforting to an opponent to know that you're not trying to gain extra inches.

-Killpoints: Don't worry about trying to keep track of killpoints or victory points during a game, except in a general sense of knowing what you need to win. You can sort those out at the end of the game instead of wasting game time doing it. Sometimes I see people trying to keep track on on army list, or using models to mark killpoints on the side of the board - don't bother. This isn't to say ignore the victory conditions - especially around turn 4-5, it is valuable to have a mental tally of where you are versus your opponent so that you know what you need to do to win the game, what to sacrifice, what to commit where and in what quantity to ensure you get the win - but keep it in your head; it might be an advantage that your opponent isn't keeping good track of. :)

-Explanations: Keep a running monologue of what you're doing to your opponent. If I have five beasts about to assault, I say something like this: "Alright, five beasts, with three attacks base, +1 on the charge, four attacks each, that's 20 attacks...WS4 vs. WS4, so 4s to hit <roll dice, pick out misses>, STR4 vs T4, looking for 4s to wound <roll dice, pick out misses>, that's 6 wounds. It keeps your opponent up to date on what you're doing and why. When I move models, I ask my opponent to inspect my line of sight; if I've got a ravager that's going to shoot at a vehicle across the board, I'll drop a dice at the base of where I started, move where I want, make sure I have clear line of sight....then ask my opponent to check if there's any kind of terrain in the way to get their buy in that I have more than 50% visibility. It saves trouble later where there could otherwise be disagreement about TLOS and whether something is going to get cover or not.


-Slow Play: If your opponent is a slow player, nip it in the bud early. If they are taking their sweet time with deployment, getting models out of foam, ask them at once if they could move it along a bit so that less of the game time is cut out; if you're concerned about not being able to get through the game, go see the TO in private immediately and address your concerns. If the turns are dragging out because your opponent is slow, give them reminders and prompts. I use prompting quite a bit - if my opponent has moved everything and is sitting there looking at the table, I'll say, "Alright - any other moving or onto shooting?" Most people aren't slow-playing you maliciously, so just keep prompting them to move the game along. If you *do* feel that someone is doing it maliciously (like if you hear before the tournament that so-and-so is proud of how slow they can drag out a game, or if their army has a distinct advantage by not letting a game progress), then definitely solicit TO intervention.

-TFGs: The dreaded "That f****ing guy" - this actually encompasses a lot of stereotypes. Rude people, rules lawyers, loud people, stinky people, bad sports.....the two worth addressing specifically are rules lawyers and bad sports.
A.) Rules Lawyers. There are two kinds.
1.) Type 1: They know the rules exquisitely well, can quote you the page numbers, flip to the relevant sections, and are annoying you because you're not so hot with the rules. Solution: Deal with it. Your grasp of the rules will improve with time, and you really *do* need to know the rules very well to be a competent tournament player. No, you don't get to just stuff all your models into assault, you have to move them into combat in coherency with the previously moved model. This matters when you can set up an assault to use that rule to put your opponent at a disadvantage - either making them get into base with a scary unit, or minimizing their assault effectiveness. Feel free to ask to see the rule in question in these instances, but this is simply a competent player, not a TFG.
2.) Type 2: They *think* they know the rules exquisitely well, but are just ninkers. If someone tosses out a rule and you don't believe it, or have a contrary understanding, NEVER hesitate to ask to see the rule. If they can't find it in a timely fashion (so as to not delay the game) ask the TO to come rule or find it while you continue the turn elsewhere until that issue is resolved. I can't believe how many folks I run into that profess to not know that you smoke your vehicles during the movement phase. And are willing to argue about it until you ask them to show you in their codex. If you run into these, keep the corner of your eye on the TO or a judge and be ready to call them over.

B.) Bad Sports: Two kinds of these as well.
1.) Type 1: When they're winning, they are jovial, might tease you, be overly talkative. When they're losing, they may turn sulkly and/or argumentative. The answer: Stay professional. Socializing with fellow gamers is important, but best expressed before/between/after games, not during - when you are emotionally attached to what is happening on the table. Stay professional - offer clear description of what you're doing / moving / shooting at, announce hits/wounds/saves to be made, and avoid personal discussion until after the game. Calm, collected, professional - it will get you far in both real life and through games with these kind of guys.
2.) Type 2: A 6" movement is 6.5-8", the dice get picked up off the table faster than you can see, models get rearranged, 8 of your guys are under the flamer template when you only have 7 models, and just as bad, the direction they scatter is always advantageous to them, and not necessarily related to the actual direction of the scatter. The answer: Get proactively engaged, and let your opponent know that you're actively paying attention. If your opponent measures 12" out, then moves the tape measure away, then moves a vehicle or something to within the vicinity of where the 12" was....possibly gaining moving space, demonstrate to them how to use a tape measure as I explained above, and ask them to do the same. In fact, at the beginning of almost every game, I brief my opponent on a couple of things - that I always pick out misses instead of hits, what a cocked die is and when I will reroll it, and how I measure on the table (with the tape measure left on the table for proof of distance moved) - and I will visually demonstrate the "move with the tape measure across the table to get an extra inch or three" move as one of the reasons I avoid holding the tape measure up and ask them to do the same. If they start doing it in the game, help them. Put a die at the end of their measurement. Or your finger. Tell them that you're marking their movement to help them be accurate since they're just eyeballing the tape measure ending.

In short: Get engaged, and do so early. Nip that stuff off in the bud. Don't let it get out of control or let yourself be abused by your acceptance of what's happening.

After The Game

-Reset Your Army: Presuming that you brought cookie-trays or a display board, reset your army onto your tray. Tournament tables have terrain on them that you won't be cleaning off, and the best way to insure that you don't leave behind a model is to have your army arranged on your moving trays in such a way that when you "reset" your army after the game, you can quickly see if everything is there. The same goes with dice. If you have a block of dice, stick them all back in their block to make sure that they are still there. If you use white dice, keep a count of them before the tournament so that after each game you can count to make sure you still have them all - in case both you and your opponent use them.

Post-game is an important socializing time as well. Whether you won or lost, it is important for both players to realize that it *is* a game - and that the losing side has an opportunity to learn something.

-Ask Questions: If you won, ask your opponent what they would have done differently if you played again. If you lost, ask your opponent what they think you could have done to present more of a challenge. Ask if they saw any serious tactical mistakes that you made. Losing sucks, but don't let it put you in a bad mood. Find out why you lost and don't do it again. If you won, be gracious - thank your opponent, shake their hand (either winning or losing), and ask if they want any feedback on the game, and why you think you took victory away from them.

-Socialize: A lot of gamers are shy about talking to strangers - force yourself to be outgoing and socialize with other people there. The friends you make will keep you coming back for more.

-Thank the TO: If the TO does a good job running the tournament, personally thank them. It can be a thankless job, and most of their player interaction is people asking them to rule on disputes. It means a lot for players to appreciate the effort that they've put into it.

And finally....if you have an issue during a game, bring it up during the game. Do NOT bring it up after the game with the TO, they can't do anything at that point. Don't save it for the forums as an outlet later - you're just going to cause trouble that should have been nipped in the bud. Bring up issues as they arise and deal with them on the spot; it will work out best all around.

Happy gaming everyone! I travel around the country to sample the tournament offerings of as many places as I can. If you see someone wearing a shirt with my avatar on it that says "Dashofpepper" say hi; and share a drink with me - the Captain won't be far! :D