Sunday, March 13, 2011

You too can be a winner!

Everyone talks about how overpowered IG or Space Wolves are, or how weak Necrons or Tau are. Today, I'm here to tell you that you can win with any army. Will you win every tournament with that old army? Probably not. Can you win tournaments with that old army? Possibly.
!WARNING! Wall of text to follow.

Everyone who sees me at the local store knows the armies I play, and their apparent strength. I tend to play armies and builds that are sub-optimal or just plain laughed at. Yet, I win. I probably win roughly the same number of games that I lose. My Tomb Kings were the laughing stock of the recent Fantasy grow league. But I was able to come in basically second, though battle points pushed me to third, even though I played and beat the second place player *sigh*. My Thousand Sons 40K army went 2-2-1 during a recent Con tourney. My losses were to armies I knew I would have trouble with (get into that later) and my draw was a failing on my part to play aggressive enough.
The reasons I am able to do well with my army is not some broken list or auto win army, it is because I have done several things to make it work for me.

1: Find your style. This is key, if you don't play the way your list wants to play, you won't mesh with it, and you and your will be basically butting (metaphorical) heads. I have tried to make assault lists, I have even won games with them. It generally didn't go well, and I had little fun (remember it IS a game). Generally, across the board, I play shooty lists. I have assault elements, but they are there to take certain targets, or slow units to protect my shooty bits.
I recommend playing every unit in your chosen book at least once, preferably several times. Find the ones you like, the ones that feel right. These will be the basis of your army. From this core you will build a competent force capable of winning games. Don't be afraid to lose, you will learn more that way, and it will show you your main weaknesses and the holes you need to fill.

2: Sweeping change is the enemy. Once you have found the units that you like, build a list out of them. Play it. Play it some more. Don't play a game, decide it just didn't work and scrap the whole thing. Starting from square one repeatedly makes it very hard to reach square two. After you have played it a bit, drop units that aren't working. Don't drop them all at once, do it gradually. Drop a unit, or even just change its components, then go play more games. Then remove, change, add whatever you feel is just not working. This is not a time to forge your list against the opponents you face, right now you are building what works for you.
Once you have a list that you can play, that compliments your style... then, and only then, do you find its weaknesses. Now is the time to find what your army sucks at. Play more games (notice a theme?), play more opponents. If you are getting tromped by Guard over and over, you will be able to build a strong list to fight Guard. Then, when you play a Space Marine force, you're unprepared. A balanced list will always do better against more opponents than a list geared to one type or another. Notice I said against more opponents, a tailored list will win against that one foe, but in tournaments, that other foe will end you. And whipping out a different list depending on who you play at the local, not really that cool.
My most recent army is my Chaos Space Marines. I built my list on the Thousand Sons. It had a Sorceror, and Daemon Prince, a unit of assault Terminators, 2 units of Thousand Sons in Rhinos, a Defiler, a Multi-Melta Dread, and a unit of Obliterators. It got owned. My first tournament I went 1-2-0. I faced to heavy mech lists, and I was running Gift of Chaos(and got Lysander, woo!). My Defiler and Dread just couldn't hold up to the fire coming at them, and I didn't have enough anti-tank to do much of anything. I also didn't have enough scoring units to take objectives. I needed more anti-tank, and so I replaced the Defiler with two more Obliterators, who just came to be more resilient. Later, when my Dread did more damage to me than my opponent, I dropped him, and added a unit of Lesser Daemons to give me more scoring and also an assault blocking unit. This gave me the scoring I needed to do what I needed to do what I needed in the Objective missions that gave me trouble in objective missions, winning Seize Ground and tying Capture and Control (still later). My weakness came when I faced lists containing loads of mech and specifically Land Raiders.

3: Know your weaknesses. If you don't know you weaknesses, how will you be able to improve upon them? If you know you need to shift towards say, anti-mech, then you can take the steps needed to do that (more Obliterators anyone?). If you constantly whine about how that army that keeps beating is broken because say Land Raiders are over powered, you will never beat them, you will continue to keep your streak. Every army will have a weakness, it is mitigating that weakness, or maybe shrewdly hiding it, that will see you through. Don't get discouraged, accept it and build on it (or over it).

4: Be honest. Don't send blame the wrong direction. The game I drew at my most recent tournament was Capture and Control (I said we would get to it). It wasn't a lack of scoring units or a bad choice of units or even that it was roll dice and tie that left me with a draw, it was me. I stepped up to the table going, this is roll dice and tie, the best I can hope for is a draw. This stemmed from the last tournament when I lost this scenario because I played far to aggressively (and badly), and lost too much of my army to mount any kind of grasp for even a draw. It was to many times calling it "roll dice and tie." It was deciding that I was going into this aiming for a draw, planning to use that to keep me on the middle tables. My opponent played in a similar fashion, keeping his forces too far back, and not pressing me enough. In this situation, had either of us forced the issue, I believe that player would have won. The mistake from this would be to decide that it was my army that caused the problem, and try and make changes to fix it, possibly improving my army, but more likely damaging it. This is why I advocate many games between changes. It is easy to make a change because of mislaid blame, it is much harder to do so when you have made a single mistake that you later don't make and the game goes entirely different.

!: Games. If nothing else, play games. More games, more experience, more knowledge of yourself, your army, and how they work together will be your greatest weapons. Players win with strange armies not because they found some mythical build that makes it viable, but because the know the game, they know their army, and they know themselves. I have said it so many time that my P, L, A, and Y keys are worn blank, but it is why we spend so much time and money on plastic Dude-Mens. So, above all,
∞: Have fun!

CW, rollin' LOTS of dice.

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