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Tales of the Singular Gamer – Part 5

The Two Things You Need In 40K…Skill, Luck and The List*

A long long time ago at a gaming event far far away – and I really do mean far away – the venue for the tournament was not only in the wilderness but it was nestled snugly in the place where outsiders are shunned shagged eaten or all three, you get introduced to the wife and sister with only one person standing there and dueling banjos is everybody’s ring tone.

But anyway we safely made it to the venue without farmer Jeremiah eating our asses or humping them to get a days’ worth of quality gaming in, I was using a Mechanicus list and was obviously smashing all who dared stand before me into small bite sized pieces…apart from the inconsiderate bastards that didn’t let this happen and smashed me instead. However dear reader, that is not the point of this ramble because at some time during the days quality gaming I asked Bernard how he was getting on, to which his reply was a shrug of the shoulders before grabbing a handful of dice, dropping them on the table and saying ‘that’s how it’s going’. That is when lightning struck my brain…

When I woke up in hospital three weeks later and after speaking to geologists about the strange phenomenon of lightning striking indoors, I was curious about how skill and luck can affect our games of 40k. This led me to ask questions like, is it better to be a skillful player or a lucky player? How much do they effect each other? Am I skillful or lucky? Semi Deep questions for a flaccid mind…

So, first off what attributes make up a skillful player? Well in my usual style I am going to ramble on with no forethought, research or even a credible background to make any bold claims or opinions from…if you want any of that serious shit then you best find a different kind of article written by a more intelligent fanny than I am…Still here? Even if it’s only a cat that has just sat on somebody’s laptop I shall continue.

Now, back to the skillful player stuff, I think most people who play 40K play at a good level, unless you are just starting out and getting to grips with it all. I think that most people who play on a regular basis are good players, whether they play at tournaments or a local shop/club or even in someone’s house, they understand the rules, their army and the tactics they want use in their games (however I should point out that we are not including cheaters, cheaters big bogie eaters in this article, they are for another time) . But what I think separates all these good players from the skillful ones are subtle differences. A skillful player knows all the rules, but more importantly than that they know all the loopholes that are ripe for exploiting and harvesting for a table top bumper crop of win. They know all the rules that have a direct influence on their army, they know all the insidey and outsidey bits of their army, they know its strengths and weaknesses, they have plans A’s through to Z’s covering whatever turmoil’s may happen during the course of the game. They know it all but not only that they also know all that stuff about their opponents army, they know it for the guys armies that are playing next to them, they can even glean all this information from just seeing somebodies army list. I have had this happen to me every time I have played Innes ‘The Chairman’. In one circumstance he even knew my army better than I did and was teaching me how to use it as we were playing our game (still got thumped mind you.) You can witness this yourself next time you are at a tournament, anytime a rules query or something needs to be double checked only a select few people get asked for their advice, council, rules knowledge.

In a tournament setting these skillful games tend to be congregated around the top tables, where the atmosphere can be tense and frosty with every move being scrutinised, the tactical plotting ramped up to the max and everyone is doing that thing with their eyes that Eastwood does in his spaghetti westerns, you know the squinty thing. Everything is at stake at the top tables, can’t afford to lose any ground as any slip ups could cost a podium finish with the flip side being any win could squeeze you closer to the prizes. With this pressure it’s no wonder that everything must be precise, no bathroom breaks are allowed those are for the weak bladders, only the person that is currently winning is allowed to make jokes during the game (at their opponents expense obviously) and if you are even thinking of making small talk then think again buster that shit is what you do between games.

The mid table section is a little less serious than the above but can still be a rich environment for skillful players and good players all looking to push as close to the top tables as possible. Now this can be a brutal place as you get the ones who feel like they should be at the top tables, the normal mid table ones that are always at that level and the lower table players that are doing better than expected. So what you get are the ones who think they should be doing better all full of hate, spite and bile because they are having to go against commoners who they feel are beneath them. You get the normal mid tablers who feel like they need to defend their territory against fanny balls that have fallen from grace or indeed upstart punks that are getting ideas above their station in 40k life and then you get the ones that are doing better than expected who don’t want to go back the way now they are at the dizzying heights of the middle or lose the, now, god like status they have from the gamers they have left behind.

Then after that you get the lower tables where it’s barely controlled anarchy with shouting and screaming, drunkenness, a disregard for any form of rules or etiquette, shoes being used as land raiders, table boundaries are a vague indistinct thing (I don’t see anything in the rule book saying my assassin can’t be deployed three tables away), dodgy deals trying to be made over the outcome of the game to either gain more points or even just get to the pub quicker (let’s call it a 20 – 20 draw). The low tables have got all sorts of gamers in the mix, guys who are just learning, guys who go with the rule of cool or their army is built under a certain theme, guys that don’t know or don’t want to know the rules, guys who only get to play at tournaments or even some poor soul who has just wandered in off the street thinking it was a computer game shop. A mob of unruly behaviour that’s only a dice roll away from becoming a mass brawl.

But all the stuff I have just written about above requires a good healthy dose of luck, because at the end of day 40k is a dice game and dice are random so luck will play a factor in all games. Now obviously, everybody tries to build their armies to reduce this random factor via re-rolls, modifiers, immunity to certain effects, or the good old on a 5+ trick. In a game these things can all help to discount luck as much as possible from the game. But you can’t take it out completely.

In one of my previous articles I went over an effect that can happen during a game of 40K known as “The Turn” which is basically a turn where something goes for you or against and can swing the game to a victory or defeat, be it you make all your hit rolls or you make all your saves or indeed you make none of them. Is that skill, or is that luck? If you have ten dice and you need to roll four pluses for your hit, wound or save rolls and you make all ten then that’s you getting a dirty great hand job from lady luck. If on the other hand you make none of these rolls then that’s you getting lady lucks sloppy seconds…Another piece of luck that can have a massive effect in winning or losing a game is the dice roll to see if a game continues or not. The gaming taverns all over the world are full of stories in that the game was won because it ended when it did, or if it had only lasted one more turn I would have won.

Am I a skillful gamer? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha no. I fall squarely in the camp of going to tournaments to play games of 40K and catch up with mates and hopefully get drunker and drunker as the event goes on. I usually start at the mid table section and slowly but surely creep/stagger my way backwards until I am sitting on the floor playing my final few games with the cat as an opponent.

Am I lucky gamer? That’s a trickier one to answer as anybody can make a good roll at any time and we can all experience “The Turn” at some point, but I can be lucky with my on a 5+ trick but at the end of the day if you give me six dice and tell me to roll for two pluses I’ll still manage to roll eight ones.

But I hear the cat meow there is a third option and that’s the list.

This notion was introduced to me when I was talking about this to the Greatest Lover in The World Commander O’Shea and he mentioned the list factor.

The list factor is when you have a great list that can carry you through games and maybe masks the fact that you are actually a bit of a munter at 40k. A good example of this is the old school Seer Council list.

The Seer Council list was basically one unit of swinging dicks that could do anything it wanted, you want to swing that dick in the movement phase, the seer council can do that as they are all on space elf hover bikes, want to dominate the psychic phase, oh boy that swinging dick has now become a full on donkey porn star monster throbber of man phallus with everybody in the Seer Council casting powers making them harder to hit, harder to kill whilst also making it easier to hit and kill the opponent after that phase you were laughing. Singing spears were solid enough at being chucked and bashing someone around the head with. They were fearless as well I seem to think and you add in the elder turkey aspect warrior leader winged guy and they got access to the hit and run special rule as well…which I forgot about for a whole five turns against Martin Moffatt once…d’oh!!! (But in my defense I was sober)

And that was just the council itself, you flavoured the rest of the list with MSU scatter bikes for objective grabbing and hosing units with righteous firepower, perhaps a hemlock or two for yet more psychic douchery and at the time every elder list and its dog had a wraithknight in them, mix it altogether and you got a solid list. Terrifying in the hands of a skilled gamer but also, potentially, equally as deadly in the hammed fists of a fud because as soon as that Seer Council got up to speed it could steamroll its way to victory.

A strong list like this does have the power to carry a player along the road to greatness but it depends on the list I feel, if the list is designed to do one part of the game exceptionally well then you are golden because you just need to focus on say getting stuck in smashing people, or smiting the tits off of units, or blowing holes in them so they resemble a fancy cheese. These types of powerful lists can help a dunderheid along because you only need to get one part right and if lady luck is giving you the wink and flashing her knickers at you then you get right on it and ride that list like a dog in heat all the way to victory.

However some lists are just as powerful but require proper tactics and thinking to go into them, such as a Simmy List**, where different components all need to come together for the whole to work out, these lists are tricky to master but when done correctly they can bend you right over that table and not even give you the god damn courtesy of a reach around…bastards. These lists tend to be far more adaptable then the previous type of lists and so it’s more difficult to find a hard counter to them.

And that is where I think I shall leave this ramble and wish you all a resounding victory in your next game…unless you are actually playing me in which case you’re getting fucking hammered!!!

*In the style of the trilogy in four parts

**A Simmy List is a list that when you look at it on paper it looks complete pish, where nothing seems to work with each other but Simmy manages to turn this pish into a fine champagne, like a geek Jesus, that destroys your army in record time with seemingly very little effort or consternation on Simmy’s part

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