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Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.
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Old 08 May 2008, 05:21   #1 (permalink)
Shas'El
 
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Default Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.

10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players

Intro: This month I celebrate 16 years playing the game of 40K. I’ve played with and against probably 1,000 or more different players, from pretty much any state in the US, and a few outside of America. This is why I feel equipped to write this edition of wraithsight – 10 habits of highly effective 40K players- not because I consider myself one- but because the game has introduced me to so many people I consider “great” players. But what is it that makes them so great? What do these players all seem to have in common? After meeting and gaming with so many- I couldn’t help but pick 10 traits that I’ve found to be common amongst them all- and there may be more than 10, but these are the 10 that stood out with me. If you can come up with more- feel free to chime in! Let’s have a look at the 10 habits I’ve identified:

1. They’re well read.

Great gamers understand that “formal” education is in order, and the reading and study time is what they build their gaming around. Despite many years in the hobby, the “pros” will still read the codex they’ve memorized end to end, and the very reason why they can quote the page and exact content of a main rule is the fact that they regularly and periodically brush up on the main rules. Great gamers tend to have a “library” of codices they keep at home, both for armies they play, and at the very least for armies they regularly play against, and many buy every codex- as soon as it is available. They also browse fansite forums like this one- just to be aware of what’s current in terms of tactics- to be used and countered. In short- great gamers do their homework, and they aren’t afraid of earning “extra credit” by studying as much as they can.

2. They “study the tape”.

All players learn to crave a good win, whether it’s a hard fought victory, or a flawless execution, but what separates the occasional big winner from a tried and true great gamer is the fact that the great ones appreciate their losses just as much if not more. Any 40K player can recall for you that awesome charge they made to turn the tide, but a great player will tell you in exquisite detail what he/she did wrong and how they will work to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Not only that- a great gamer understands that the “luck of the dice” is fickle, and will focus on the decisions they made to put them in that spot in the first place rather than blaming it all on “bad luck”. When defeated, a great gamer will ask, “What do you think I did wrong?” and earnestly listen to your answer, even if they conclude not to agree with your assessment. Great gamers appreciate the loss- and they look at it as an opportunity to sharpen and improve rather than evidence for why their army is nerfed or the game is unfair.

3. They take the time to plan.

While it’s true that your occasional big winner will pull off wins through a series of “coincidences” against an equal-level player, all great 40K players NEVER begin without a plan. Great gamers build armies around sound strategic planning, yet they build in enough flexibility to allow them to adjust when things aren’t working. Great gamers don’t just have one plan- they have built in contingencies, and they build armies lean enough to do the job efficiently, but flexible enough such that they never feel they are truly “out of the game” until the very end. It’s the great ones that develop their plans, build accordingly, and consider the contingencies. They are always in “ready mode” when it comes to a plan of action.

4. They’ve developed a wide portfolio.

While it’s true that most players, including the great ones, have a “main” army or pair of armies- great 40K players have experienced more than one side of the board. Sure they have the one or two armies they feel the most comfortable and confident with- but they have at some point tried other armies, sometimes a dozen different ones. And even within their “main” armies- they’ve tried playing different types within that army- maybe going from mech to static, or hybrid to assault. Great players experiment regularly with lists of all kinds, and this includes strategies of all kinds. Often a good player with one army will take up a new army simply to “transfuse” their strategic success into the new army (such as going from a Mech Tau army to a Mech Eldar army), and while this is a good idea initially (play to your strengths!), many come to find out that their new army isn’t executing the same strategy quite as well (they feel it’s a watered down version of their main army). What results is that they end up really comfortable with one, and the other army is wearing “kid gloves”. Great players will continue to build that new army and revise its strategies, and tweak and tweak until they feel just as competitive or more with the new army (sometimes making the new army their main army). But developing the ability to master multiple armies and multiple strategies takes patience and time. Great players recognize the investment needed to elevate their level of comfort with all of the armies they play.

5. They take calculated risks.

Notice I’m not necessarily talking about mathammer here. Sure- it’s sound practice to evaluate probabilities- but a great player will also weigh in short and long term risks of decisions they make on the field, and only in utter desperation will take a risk that if failed will end the game for them. Great players work extensively to ensure that it never comes down to that one roll, but often matches with players and armies of roughly equal power- they understand and accept the risk. Some of the more cerebral players I’ve encountered will literally “think aloud” when big decisions are to be made, while helpful and/or crafty players will guide their opponents through a deductive decision process for the opponent’s decisions. Some of the best games I’ve had personally are the “thinking aloud” type games, where my opponent and I are literally discussing our moves as we make them- and it feels like everything is out in the open! For both players to engage in this open battle of wits may indicate a mutual respect for each other’s prowess (or sometimes they’re arguments- be careful who you do this with!). Again- great players know they have to assume risks in making decisions- but they are never afraid to accept the consequences.

6. They play with confidence.

Great players don’t just plan- they plan to win. Make no mistake- 40K is a cerebral game, and there are thousands of intelligent players- who know the rules in and out, who can explain to you exactly how you’re supposed to win, but only with the right amount of confidence (not cockiness) can a bright player be a great player. Confidence means not losing your cool when your favorite model goes down- it means staring at that boxcars you just rolled for a leadership check and accepting it as part of the game. Confident players are always in control- and even though their opponent doesn’t want to admit it- confident players are telling them how to play. This is perhaps the toughest “quality” for a player to try and gain- as it is a combination of mastering the technical aspects of the game, tempering your knowledge with real gaming experience (including losing- badly sometimes!), and maintaining the mental toughness to execute your plan in the face of extreme adversity. Among the great players I have encountered, some build great armies and lists, some have great strategic and/or tactical prowess, but without exception, ALL have the confidence to pull it off. Every now and then I see a great player come from way behind to pull off a daring win, against statistics, against physics, and sometimes in complete defiance of logic. How do they do it? Confidence.

7. They challenge themselves.

A common misconception about great players is that they win every single game, and that every single game they play the most powerful list they can build, and that they crush anyone, vet or newbie, that’s in their way. That has not been my experience at all. Great players understand that they need to continuously challenge themselves- to try new things, to learn new strategic and tactical uses for their units, and to play at times with what is considered traditionally underpowered units. As with any game- even games against brand new players- a great player will use it as an opportunity to evaluate units they might not normally take, or run strategies they might not normally employ. This is because great players understand that someday, perhaps one very soon, those “uber” units and lists may not work the way they do today- and they may not always rely on the old standby game after game and hope to stay sharp. Codices change- and main rules change- so great players constantly challenge themselves to play a footslogging list when everyone else is swearing by mech. They’ll run one heavy and one special in a 10 man unit when their codex is saying they can do it with 6 men. They’ll find a use for storm guardians. They not only challenge themselves- they challenge the status quo, the traditional lists of power, and of course themselves because they know that one day- they may be forced to play in new ways.

8. They have a “real life”.

Some people think the best player in the store or club is the “troll”. The guy who preys on newbies with his beardy lists, or interrupts friendly games to quote rules, or blather on about how bad that person’s list is. This is the guy we all hate. He smells like barbecue chips, he’s got a “Rokken with Dokken” black graphic tee which is now faded gray and clings for dear life to the top of his exposed belly, his fingers are sticky from Mountain Dew, and the guy hasn’t had a shower since Makari had a permanent 2+ invul save. And while it is known that this guy has no life- it is mistakenly assumed that with all the time he spends on this game- he’s got to be a great player.

But that simply isn’t true most of the time (the great player part, of course the troll has no life!). All too often I see the troll get beat by a hygiene-friendly, average looking guy who looks like he actually does things besides play 40K. Most of the younger “great” players I’ve met are involved in athletics, do well in school, or are just all around responsible young people. Most of the great adult players have spouses, kids, good jobs, and have plenty going on in their real lives too. Why mention it here? Because being great at the game or hobby doesn’t have to be (nor should it be) one’s entire life. I also tend to think that excellence in the hobby is due in part at least at having some of the skills important to leading a productive life (confidence, motivation, accountability, maturity, diligence), or in some cases- players have told me that the game helped them discover these traits about themselves. I’m not referring to being a member of the “social elite” or anything like that- I’m just talking about having a life and using some of the skills in your life. Some of the great players I met on this site are guys that do well in their lives, and are just all around cool folks I’m honored to share a beer with. You don’t have to give up your life to be great at the game- in fact it probably helps you more if you take care of what’s real and what’s important.

9. They do the little things.

With any reasonable amount of knowledge and experience with this game- any player can look at a table and see a decent list, or a solid strategy, but it takes much more discernment to see a “great” play. This is because the difference between good and great is too often in the little things. Moving 5” when instinctively we assume 6” moves, removing this model instead of that one…it’s these little things that can often mean the difference between winning and losing, especially with two competent players at the helm. If you remove a model to deny a powerfist swing, or clip your range such that you can only hit the squad leader at max range- some people might think this is “crafty” or “beardy”, or even dishonest- but the fact is this is not only acceptable by the rules, it is acceptable tactics between great players. A good player may skim the mission rules handed out at a tourney, thinking he understands how it is “supposed” to be played, while a great player will read the rules carefully to find out he can bring reserves in on the enemy’s deployment zone! Greatness is often in the little things, and great players constantly find ways to win just by doing them.

10. They enjoy the game.

It may seem straightforward to say a great player enjoys the game he plays, but again this is another “myth” I’ve seen regarding great players. Some people think that playing a highly competent player is just a long drawn out rules argument, or a science project that sucks the joy out of rolling dice and knocking over hand painted army men. Great players understand the main rule of the game- which is to have fun. And don’t get me wrong- there’s no need to abandon diligence in the rules because it will be “funny” or entertaining- great players enjoy the thrill of the combat within the proper framework of the game’s rules- without robbing the joy from the other player. A great game for me doesn’t always mean I defeat a great player- it means I got to match wits with a great player, and win or lose- I had a good time in the process. Sour, patronizing players whose goal is to rob your enjoyment, or who find their enjoyment in ruining your fun aren’t great players- they’re just jerks who will continue to have a hard time finding a game once everyone at their local club gets sick of them. Great players can enjoy a good competitive game as easily as they can enjoy a friendly, line-em-up and bash-em type game.

Well- that’s my 10, or at least the ten I’ve observed common to the great players I’ve encountered. Thanks for reading!

As for you: Do you consider yourself a great 40K player? Why or why not? What are some of the things you find in common with great players in your area? Which of these habits do you find you do well now? Which do you want to improve upon?

Tell us more!

- Yriel
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Old 08 May 2008, 06:35   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.

+1 karma


Oh wait....this isn't Eldar boards......I can't applaud you.

Well, +1 metaphorical karma then, it'll have to do.



Somewhat related to this, but it's been really irking me right now.


Why do we applaud lucky plays?

Like you know what I mean. When people cheer when a unit overperforms and does something unexpected. Or a unit does something heroic through the luck of the dice. Why do we applaud that? And this is institutional, white dwarf battle reports always have the "man of the match" thing at the end. Isn't this just pointless?


Models and dice don't make a great plan or a great move. Strategy and tactics makes a great move. I can understand when you applaud a really funky move like, oh one I can remeber me doing recently (sorry the example had to be a move I performed, but I'm having trouble remebering right now) where on the last turn of a cleanse mission, my Falcon zoomed over a hill into the enemy's home quarter, unloaded the firedragons 2 inches off into the next quater, and fired everything at a squad of CSM in the third quarter, bringing them below half strength. This one maneuver brought the game from him especially proud of that move, because luck took no part of it. The falcon's four high S low AP shot only killed two marines and the five meltaguns firedragons within 12" failed to scratch the defiler. That's mediocre luck at best. But that was one of, imo, my most exciting moves. That's something I can be proud of, because I managed to pull off that attack in a calm and calculated manner and my opponent did not account for that possibility last turn.

Why should I be proud of my vyper if it's first turn potshot happened to destroy the enemy landraider? It's just dice. It had nothing to do with my manueverings or my plans.

Okay, my 65 point model killed a 250 point enemy in the first turn due to a lucky roll, it's the man of the match now, great. Does that change anything for future games? Why do we congratulate others when rock hard characters make a heroic charge and slaughter an entire mob? If he was more powerful and was meant to slaughter the mob, fine, your counter attack was well calculated and timed and went just as plan. If he just got through just because he's lucky, what's that supposed to prove? Okay, your gambit paid off. Pat yourself on the back and try not to get yourself into that situation again.


It just always bugged me how these moments are supposed to be "exciting". Yeah the imagery may be cool, but we should learn to consciously seperate the emotional part of our hobby from the rational part of our hobby. It's not some credit to you as a player if your man of the match made a lucky move.


/rant.
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Old 08 May 2008, 07:05   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.

Yriel, al of the things you said is true, but my area's definition of a great players is more often than not is a powergaming person (nidzilla, two basic minimum troop choices (yes even for the orks), super horde, etc), so I have to say they make their list in the most efficient way for them by putting in units that will do the most damage for the least amount of points/drawbacks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yriel of Iyanden
Often a good player with one army will take up a new army simply to “transfuse” their strategic success into the new army (such as going from a Mech Tau army to a Mech Eldar army), and while this is a good idea initially (play to your strengths!), many come to find out that their new army isn’t executing the same strategy quite as well (they feel it’s a watered down version of their main army).
To be honest, I actually chose my Mechanized Death Guard and Mechanized Sisters of Battle with this in mind (among many other reasons). Even though they are slower and less efficient than my Mech Tau, but they offer a whole new perspective of fighting for me (Rhino Wall being one of the most interesting tactic I found out). I now actually love my Death Guard the most now, as they are some of my best painted minis and also the fact that their playstyle is nice.


For me, if it is the one thing I want to improve on is endurance. This is because the tournaments here last for at least two-four months, and the first month or so is akin to the World Cup Preliminaries to see who goes up the ladder and a certain date that is set for our matches, as compared to most of the tournaments I see in the US and Europe where it is a one or two day affair. If I can keep my fighting spirit for longer than two months, I can say that I have improved significantly.



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Old 08 May 2008, 07:13   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.

I can! +1 Karma to you sir.

I'd also like to add add:

11: They have excellent fundamentals.
A great player can almost instantly work out the average result of the collision of any number of arbitrary statlines and special rules, and knows the distances on the board to within a small margin. These are the building blocks of playing skill and without them greatness cannot be achieved.
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Old 08 May 2008, 07:26   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.

I think my top rule of a "Great" (though not necessarily "effective") 40K player is thus:

A Great player remembers Thermopylae!

What that means is that a Great player knows you don't have to "win" every battle. There are times when charging your Bloodthirster right into the middle of 30 Grey Knight Terminators just has to be done, and that's usually because doing anything else would be a crime against cinematic plotweaving.

40K Battles are always more enjoyable when a "Last Stand" breaks out. To do anything to deny these climactic encounters when you can see them forming is an insult to your opponent, and to the hobby itself.
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Old 08 May 2008, 07:54   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wargamer
A Great player remembers Thermopylae!

See I don't have a problem with that. It doesn't matter if it's not tactically optimal. But it should be about the actual player's orders, not when he actually rolled the dice.


What I'm saying is that we applaud outstanding play, we shouldn't applaud "outstanding series of dice rolls".
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Old 08 May 2008, 08:15   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.

Yriel, yet again a fantastic article. I enjoy reading these as much as the Great Mike Walker's articles. Truly brilliant, and very astute.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wargamer
I think my top rule of a "Great" (though not necessarily "effective") 40K player is thus:

A Great player remembers Thermopylae!

What that means is that a Great player knows you don't have to "win" every battle. There are times when charging your Bloodthirster right into the middle of 30 Grey Knight Terminators just has to be done, and that's usually because doing anything else would be a crime against cinematic plotweaving.

40K Battles are always more enjoyable when a "Last Stand" breaks out. To do anything to deny these climactic encounters when you can see them forming is an insult to your opponent, and to the hobby itself.

There are times, even as Tau when I know that I have to just ignore philosophy, and charge forward! Its all about fun
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Old 08 May 2008, 10:03   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.

Quote:
As for you: Do you consider yourself a great 40K player? Why or why not? What are some of the things you find in common with great players in your area? Which of these habits do you find you do well now? Which do you want to improve upon?

Tell us more!
well, having read that, i find that i (at least think i do...) match all the points you bring up. yet i consider myself a powergamer, not a good/great player.

i like to think i am "good" at 40k, simply becuase i win most of my games. but there is one thing that makes me think (after reading your article above) that i may be a good player...... i almost never ask for a game, i get challenged by other people (even noobs/vets i have smashed or been smashed by in the past).


there are people who dont like me using certain armies (i have yet to get tired of the term "beard knights" one of the guard players has attached to my daemonhunters ), so i dont use those armies all the time but my opponents always enjoy games with me.

the only exception is when i come accross the stereotypical, patronising, good for nothing, win-at-all-costs powergamer. against those kind of..... morons..... i simply pull out my RAW "hic-ups" list and play the game at their level. i had one guy (a VETERAN!!) who kept on insisting that high marshall helbrecht got an extra D3 attacks if any assaults were launched that turn (and to be honest, i could see where the confusion came from) but even after i challenged it, he carried on. to that end he recieved 8 plasma cannon shots from a devi squad becuase they can fire twice at close range > i dont play against RAW fanatics more than once for some reason
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Old 08 May 2008, 10:08   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.

A very good article and equally appliable on other games! It was very inspiring and made me start thinking about an old forgotten path I was to take with my Wood elf army that I skipped being "not optimal". Now, I will step up for the challenge instead and come out on top!

I am a decent player, and I do many of the things noted, but I am too lazy sometimes, or get to occupied by them who say "This or that unit is crap" or "you MUST take this or that hardcore combo to win a tournament". So I am not a great player, but I wish to become one, not because of just 40K, but because much of that is applicable in life.
But I am a great guide and archaeological museums teacher. Why? Because I read up on the new stuff in the subject and always study new time periods. I go back and read about stuff that I have not read about long ago, to see if theories has changed and just to refresh myself. A good guide or teacher must know much more about the subject and about bordering subjects, to be able to tell a good "story" and respond to unexpected questions.
And if taken by a question knowing not enough, he or she will say they are not sure, maybe like this, but also suggest another person on the establishment who knows much more and can give the questioneer a better answer. Humility is a virtue and will only make you look more competent, since it proves that you know your limits and do not make things up just to look smart.

I also study the practice of teaching and story telling, to be better able to catch the audience, to better read the audience, and to be able to talk with different groups with equal skill. Or as a swedish saying goes "To talk with farmers as farmers do and with the learned ones in latin".

So the theory is useful in all walks of life.

And to master the skill of being a great player in the game can help you understand how to become a great cook, teacher or anything else. Sort of like a tea ceremony or swordplay as ways for enlightenment. Well, at least a bit like it.

And Wargamer, I so much agree with you. There are times when you simply MUST make a final stand! And I recently wrote a popular historical article about Thermopylae for the Military history bookclub I do some writing for. We must NEVER forget Thermopylae!
And indeed it is the moves and actions of the gamer we should laud, not the dice roll, for dice is random.

This theory will be applicable for my attempts to become a great re-enactment fighter. And even there, sometimes you must do Thermopylae!

We should have a Remember Thermopylae society here! ;D

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Old 08 May 2008, 11:13   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Wraithsight: 10 Habits of Highly Effective 40K Players.

A great player is kind and respectful at all times , and accepts loss. They are also patient and assist he newbies. They also respect the fluff behind the game.
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