Thursday, January 17, 2013

Learning from a bad match up. What ebay teaches us about trends in gaming

Of the many services offered at WMG, one of the things we offer is consignment.  For a percentage of the sales price, WMG will sell your old, unwanted models on ebay for you.  The only thing you have to do is inventory and mail us your models.

Consignment has taught me a lot about trends . .. what's hot, what's not.  Which armies are winning, which are losing, and how long it's been since a gamer has actively been invested in their hobby.  When I get a box of models from the 1980's still in shrink wrap, I have a pretty good guess that the consigner had a healthy appetite for buying models, but no time to assemble/paint them. 

One thing I've learned over time is that a bad match up can lead to players making rash decisions about their collections and to false conclusions about themselves as players.

Case in point:  I have a few buddies who I play with on a semi-regular basis, at least a dozen times a year.  And about a dozen times I year . . I lose.  Part of it is they use more competitive lists, most of it is they are better players.  They stratagize on a level I can't even comprehend.  They are Bobby Fisher.  I'm the bum in the park sleeping under the checker board.  I'm okay with it.  I'm  not insecure about it.  On the contrary, they make me better players.

When I finally do get out to my FLGS I often times surprise myself by outmanuevering my opponent and forcing them to play according to my terms.  They end up reacting to my moves vs. the other way around.  But I only learned to play like that by getting thrashed by my friends year after year (after year .  . sigh)

We are limited by our finances in this hobby, so even though we want to have a collection that allows for multiple variations, often times we are set in what we can take in our list based on what we buy on a budget.  And from there, if we play folks with armies that are great vs. what we have, we tend to lose.  Not as much to do will skill as resources.

I suppose you can argue that part of the skill is knowing what to 'buy', but then again, part of the fun of the game is variation.  So it goes round and round.  I suppose a good long term strategy might be to play a well rounded list, but then again, plenty of meta players will argue about lists that 'do this well' vs. doing everything well. 

Anyway. . . I got in a game last night.  I may have mentioned that there is a local league that started last night, a 400 point league.  The league has a SHIT ton of rules, no 2+ saves, only up to 1 of each army slot (except for troops, then 1-3), no named characters, nothing with over a total armor value 33 (only counting sides once), no fliers, no aegis lines, nothing over 2 wounds, etc.  Pretty crazy.  But I thought it would be a good chance to meet the locals and stir up some new business.  I was definately right.

So I met this guy, nice guy, about my age, early 30's, with a new wife and son.  So we had a lot in common and got along well.  The mission was strange, it was called 'Duel to the Death' and you won simply by killing the other enemies 'warlord' with your warlord.  No one else could kill your warlord.  They could reduce him to 1 wound, but that's it.

I had taken an odd list.  I wanted to max out my units, so I took 3 units of 10 gaunts, 5 Ymgarls stealers, a prime, and a biovore.  I figured 40 wounds was more than anyone else would have.  Still, the list sucked.  My prime and stealers were good, but the gaunts were all but useless and the biovore just shot at nothing the entire night.

My opponent took 3 chimeras, and a squad with assorted weapons in each (a few autocannons, a few melta, a few plasma, etc), plus a sentinel with a multilaser. 

Knowing I'd walk into a massacre if I tried to cross the 4x4' table, I held half my army in reserve (including the stealers) and sat tight, hoping my opponent would come to me.  In fact he did.  I took no casualities the first round as I stayed out of sight.  My opponent drew near.  On turn 2 my stealers arrived and jumped out of a nearby piece of area terrain and ripped the command chimera to pieces.  My opponents warlord was exposed! I decided this was the time to launch my assault, while the stealers had his lines in disarray. 

I moved my Prime up, joined with a unit of gaunts for 'protection'  Although the unit was shot, my opponent was busy dealing with the stealers.  The chimera took up a defensive formation, effectively barring easy passage to the warlord.  To get to him, I'd either have to destroy one of the chimeras or walk around.

A volley of fleshborers managed to reduce a chimera (amazingly) by a hull point, while the Prime  reduce the other chimera by 2 hull points.  Still not enough to get through his line.  After his squad reduce the primes termagant bodyguard to piles of gore, my opponent's warlord took the chance to shoot my prime (since he was the only one in the army that could 'kill' my warlord).  Amazingly, the prime made his 3+ save! 

Meanwhile, without his leadership, the tyranids were falling apart.  My genestealers were slaughtered to the last by the chimera's heavy flamer, my biovore was lurking behind a building, one squad of gaunts had fallen back when tank shocked by a chimera!  It was do or die time! 

The prime, seeing a desperate chance, moved around the chimera he'd been assaulting and charged the commander!  However, a sergeant challenged my prime to single combat!  The prime accepted and easily dispatched the lowly sergeant.  The warlord had bought himself a turn, but sadly his side had lost the combat!  Failing their morale check, the warlord fell back. The prime pursued and wiped him out with a sweeping advance.  4 Turns in the game was over! 

My opponent noted that if he had designated his 'plasma gunner' the warlord, the prime would have had no chance to save vs. the plasma and died in shooting.  As it was the plasma guns could only reduce the prime to 1 wound!  He was absolutely right.  Fortunately for me, had had not.  Victory! 

It was a great lesson to be learned about turning around a bad matchup.

I think, on paper, my opponent had me beat.  He had the superior army, for sure.  And you could argue I lucked out on the mission too.  But thems the breaks.  I played the mission the best way I knew to win and win I did.  

What's even better is after the game we got to talking and I may have turned my opponent into a new client!  He was very interested in my business and we discussed quoting a few projects down the road.

So I got in a good game from a bad match up, meet a cool guy and had a great time.  WINNING!

And all that from a bad match up.  So take it from me, just because you're stuck in a losing streak  . . . don't send me your army to sell!  Mix it up, add a few new units (if you can afford it), or borrow a buddies to test out some new combos (or just PROXY play), and play someone new.  You might be surprised.

You're probably not a bad player. .  . you probably just had a bad match up.

But after all that, your army does still suck . . .send it our way.  I'll piecemeal it for you!

Until next time, remember PUT YOUR MINIS WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS!

Caleb, WMG

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How bad teachers scare away new players. How NOT to spread the hobby!

17 years.

That's how long I've been playing 40k.  17 years.  In the past 17 years I've lost my virginity, been to college, waited on probably 1000 tables in my service to the restaurant industry, worked for about a dozen different companies,owned 6 cars (mostly junkers), lived in about 6-7 apartments, dated maybe 10 different girls, married one of them, and bought 2 homes. 

But through it all, I've played 40k.   I got into it in high school and was hooked from the get go.  I'm not sure what makes me a 'wargamer'.  I have the same passion for this I see others display towards football or baseball, or that my wife displays for reality TV.  It's just something in my blood.  I can't help it, I can't fight it, and I don't really want to.

But I'm reminded just how long I have been playing when I show up a my FLGS and 90% of the players that show up for league night are still in college, or even high school.  Most of them, like you might figure, are attracted to the hobby for the same reason young athletic types are attracted to playing sports . . . they are naturally good at it and can test their mettle vs. an opponent on 'even' ground.  Geeks, just as much as athletes, thrive on competition.  They are hungry for the W. 

But I realized last night I was one of the oldest players in the room . . and I am 32.  That is a weird feeling. 

Like most of us that do anything for 17 years, we go through phases.  Our interest in the hobby ebbs and flows.  For my four years of college, I only played during breaks and over the summer.  My college was just too intense for much wargaming, and there were no game stores (at the time) in my college town of Winston-Salem.

 In the mid 90's 40k was in it's 2nd edition.  I played all though 2nd and 3rd (which was a huge change).  By the end of college, I had mostly become a casual gamer, getting in a pick up game once in a while, but that was about it.  Then I took a break for a while.  By the time I was ready to get back into it hardcore, I realized I didn't know anybody that played anymore, other than my friends back home, that were hours away.  So I went to my FLGS and tried to scrounge up a game.

After a few weeks of no luck, I decided to post a flyer.  "Local player looking to get back into 40k seeks same for a refresher game in 3rd edition".  Or something like that.   I did the little tab thing with my phone number/email on it, like I was a babysitter looking for work.  The next week I went back to the store to see if any tabs had been removed.

I was surprised to see a Warhammer Fantasy game in progress.  Not the same as 40k, but close enough!  I had hit paydirt!  So I hung around for a few minutes and watched two players go at it.  Both were older players, late 30's to early/mid 40's.  Clearly the 40 year old was a veteran and the 30ish year old was fairly new to the hobby.  The 40 year old was blasting through rules almost as quickly as he was blasting through his opponents infantry.  At the time I didn't understand what being a 'bad teach' was.  It was brutal to behold.  Like a train wreck, I couldn't look away.

During a short pause, while the thirty-something player took a break to get a soda or something, the veteran milled around the table, waiting to continue his thrashing.  This was my moment!  The time to introduce myself!

Before I could say a word, however, he had wandered over to the board.  He saw my note, the note about needing a mentor for the new edition!  He looked at it, shook his head and laughed.  "What an idiot!  Doesn't he know it's 4th edition now!"

I was dumbstruck.  I mean, this short, balding, fat jackass was right, on the one hand.  It was indeed 4th edition.  I needed to learn 4th, not be refreshed on 3rd.  But on the other hand, I felt like he had missed the forest for the trees.  Here was a chance to increase the gaming community by +1, to gain a new player, to make a new friend, etc.  Here was a chance to blast through stereotypes of gamers being anti-social or jerks who just like to win.

Devastated (as much as you can be when ridiculed by a short, fat, 40's balding wargamer) as I was, I decided to simply leave, and didn't even bother to introduce myself.

Now the story has a happy ending.  I did get back into gaming and now consider myself pretty well versed in the newest edition.  But at the time, when I needed help most, I was let down . . by a veteran.

Last night, at my FLGS store I got in a small 400 point game as part of a new 'combat patrol' league.  I was approached by, wouldn't you know it . . a player that had been a serious player in 5th edition but hadn't played much in 6th, and needed a 'tune up' game.  "Wanna play?"  He asked me.

Now, kiddies, what do you think I did:

A.  Laughed in the players face.
B.  "What, are you stupid!  It's 7th edition!"
C.  Offered to teach him the ropes of 6th. 
D.  None of the above

 If you answered C, give yourself a gold star!  This was a chance to teach someone about the game!

What's even better is after the game my opponent and I talked shop and I think I may have met a new future client!  He certainly had interest in what I was doing.  I was sure to speak loud, so others at nearby tables could hear me too.  Hopefully a few others are interested in doing business with us in the future as well.

As veterans, we have the privilege of being able to inundate new players to our favorite hobby.  We are in a unique position to show how fulfilling a long term hobby can be, and how some love affairs, like the one I have with wargaming, last a lifetime. 

So be careful when you make a casual joke at someones expense in the company of strangers.  The person you piss off may have been a great player to get to join up. . .  or they might shoot you when you leave the game store.

After all, some veterans really are veterans.