Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Improve your game in 3 easy steps!

Good day!

No matter what game you are playing, there are certain concepts that are common in all of them.  It's the same in chess, stratego, 40k, or real life. Some ideas are just universal in tactical situations.  These ideas build on each other like the legos of life! Here are some of the key things I consider when trying to get better at any game. (Using Warhammer 40k examples)

The only tactics I care about...

1. Foreknowledge - "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.  If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle" - Sun Tzu

One of the most important parts of being able to win any game is being able to anticipate your enemies moves.  Knowing what to expect from each unit on the battlefield is the lynchpin of planning a game strategy.  It's not enough to know what all the units you are fielding do, although that is where strategy planning starts.

Being intimately familiar with every unit you are fielding is the first step. (I don't mean in a sex way, pervert) Whether it be reading and re-reading your codex to scrape out every ounce of utility from your units, studying chess strategy to discover new uses for your pieces, or reading up on the latest deck strategies on the internets, knowing the options available to you is where you can start to understand how they will interact with your opponents pieces. I mean, really... how do you expect to effectively battle an enemy if you don't know what you can do?
"The internet said this is ok, I think..."

Expanding beyond that is becoming familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of your potential enemies.  In a game like chess, this is a fairly quick process as the enemies pieces do the same thing yours do. When you get into more involved games that have multiple books you have to read at the entry point (ahem, warhammer 40k, ahem), then you need to be familiar with more and more info.

This information can be obtained several ways;

1. RTFC - Read the Fuckin Codex. Read the abilities of units in other books. It's pretty straight forward. Knowledge is power and the information is readily available to those who want it.
2. Read/watch battle reports - Seeing the units in action may help the info stick a little bit more. This will also make tactics that you may have not thought of become apparent. The problem with battle reports is that it's not always clear what's going on and the authors sometimes skip through the turns.
3. Play games! - Playing friendly games where your opponent will hold you to the rules and guide you along is a good way to start on the path to greatness. An Obi-Wan to your Luke Skywalker. (Not that you are necessarily going to have to fight Darth Vader, but who knows?)

Just like in the Sun Tzu quote above, the more you know the more you will win... guaranteed!

2. Target priority -To put it technically, identifying threats and dealing with them in an efficient and practical order.  To put it more simply, killing the shit that is going to hurt you the most the best way you can. For example, if your opponent is fielding long fangs, Thunder Wolf Cav and multiple packs of Grey Hunters, which do you take down first? In a vacuum, the biggest threats immediately are the long fangs, followed by the TWC, followed by the grey hunters. Any of them can be dangerous, and the situations in which you face them will change your priority greatly.
Hopefully your opponent doesn't have a... Hard Target!

The priority you assign depends on several factors and will change greatly during the course of a game. The kind of army you are fielding (melee/shooty/mech/hybrid/etc), what the terrain looks like, what the deployment type is, and how effective your target is at the time.  I often see people not taking priority into account when playing.  It seems most new players just want to kill stuff!  I am down with that mindset in a friendly game, but when you move into a more competitive mindset then you need a plan.

Take my example of Space wolves above: If you start out on a relatively clear board in a pitched battle mission, then your #1 priority for the first couple of turns is most likely going to be the long fangs. You will want to soften the TWC as well with mid-ranged shooting and possibly bait them out, but the Long fangs will put the most hurt on you in the early game therefore they must die first!  I know it seems like common sense to shoot the things that can shoot you, but this is meant to be a simple example. Something I see people doing all the time is shooting whatever is closest to them.  That works if you are playing Tau and have str10 AP1 guns to spare, but not so much if you are playing Black Templars :)

Hopefully that example is simple enough to get the concept. This is really important to winning against a good opponent and can only really be mastered after you have learned what range units in your army can be effective and what kind of abilities your enemies units have. (See number 1)

3. Metagaming -This is literally "the game within the game".  My blogging compatriot, Magister wrote about his take on metagaming here.

The metagame is an interesting concept to me.  It was a huge buzzword back when i played Magic.  How does this deck handle that deck? How do you deal with dragonstorm? How do you deal with necropetence??? (Yes, I played magic in 1996, haha) Everyone was always trying to out think the competition and get a leg up by trying tricky stuff.
Scissors is clutch in the summer months...

It seems to me that this became much easier with the advent of the internet.  People could share ideas and come up with ways to beat the most dominating decks in clever ways.  Some people call this 'netdecking', but I think it was the natural evolution of the metagame on a large scale. Why wouldn't you use the most powerful deck in a competitive environment?  But this still goes back to my first point. You can buy all the most expensive stuff (we called this guy mr. suitcase) and still only be an average player if you don't take the time to know the game!

So what I play Grey Knights, what are you trying to say???
In 5th edition 40k (my only 40k competitive experience), the metagame seems to be all about what codex came out last.  Beating the common lists of the new army is your top priority in the competitive mindset.  A lot of people who were dissatisfied with how their last army was performing will eagerly jump ship to the new hotness.  I can say I liked Grey Knights since I was 17 (Which is true for what it's worth) but there's no reason to justify it. I like winning as much as the next guy.  The majority of these people will have no idea what they are doing and should fall easily if you are not surprised by what they are fielding. 

The being said, I would like to wrap this up as I think I have babbled long enough.  Hopefully this is coherent enough for people to follow as I think the ideas here are really important to advancing their game! 

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