Meat for Meta: Choose Your Destiny

One of the more confusing things I heard from local veteran 40k players was the concept of “fun opponents”.  “What in the hell is a fun opponent?” I thought to myself, never really having that experience before.  To people who don’t play tabletop games, “opponent” is kind of a weighted word.  If you’re playing games with a buddy, you don’t really think of them as an opponent, and most of the non-tabletop gaming I’ve done is a lot more competitive than friendly.

Once I had a few games under my belt, I most definitely understood the concept.  Certain players were just a lot more fun to play against than others!  Since I wasn’t feeling very competitive with 40k yet, I was able to sit back and enjoy the experience much more with other folks who were of a like mindset. 

I’ll use one local, “The Commander”, as a prime example.  The Commander (as he is called in the local suburban weekend living room tournament scene) is a great person to play against for a few reasons.  First, he’s always very excited to put his stuff on the table, particularly when he’s playing his newer, more favored armies.  Because he’s excited about his own toys, he’s pretty excitable when it comes to yours, too.  That means when you unleash a particularly nasty trick on him, he tends to relish it and get pumped for it to play out rather than whine about how broken it is.

The other thing The Commander does that sets him apart is his mini-narratives.  He likes to verbalize his visualizations of every little fight on the tabletop, and playing against him is almost like hearing combat results from a seasoned dungeon master.  Sure, the dice have already given the result away, but when your opponent describes in detail his Marines flinging themselves off their bikes, power fists slamming into vehicle armor, it’s just more fun.  It certainly softens the blow when he tables you.

I learned pretty early on that there are some folks that I just don’t enjoy playing against.  With that in mind, I do try my best and keep an open mind for new opponents, but I have a pretty clear picture of who I will like playing against and who I won’t.

It doesn’t really have anything to do with winning or losing most (note: most) of the time.  It’s more about the type of player they are, the type of player I am, and what kind of mood I’m in that day.  Armed with this knowledge, I was able to turn a recent down-swing in my gaming time into a bunch of fun games in a row.  Hopefully I can help other new players do the same.

The first thing you should do is log your games.  Write down who you played against, at what point level, the mission type, the result, and whether or not you had any fun.  I keep a pretty simple list like:  “Win vs. The Commander’s Daemons @1000, +++” with the + symbols denoting how much fun I had playing the game.  I usually remember other details like the mission type and deployment on my own, but do as I say, not as I do. 

Write it all down and see if there are any noticeable trends.  Specific opponents, game types, opposing armies, points levels, all that good stuff.  You probably have a decent idea already who you enjoy playing against, but us new guys can’t take anything for granted.  Maybe the last time the local ‘Ard Boy beat up on you, you were just having a bad day, and you noticed that your other few games against him were a good time.  You want a good sample size before you start turning down any potential games or writing people off as bad opponents.

Another key factor in this process is doing your part to make the games fun.  Find yourself winning by a large margin?  Do something because it would look awesome and result in a fun fight, not because it’s going your opponent flip the table at the bottom of turn three.  Remember that there’s someone else on the other side of the table trying to enjoy his hobby time as much as you are!  It’s not just about the golden rule, either – you’ll find that the more you try to make the game fun, the more interesting it gets for you as well.  More and more of your games will get recorded with lots of little + symbols.

Once you’ve been thinking about this long enough and doing your part, then you can start ruling out potential opponents and spending your time better.  There are lots of reasons to do this, and some are better than others.  Maybe your opponent is just a rules-lawyering asshole that isn’t any fun no matter how much you try.  Maybe you’re sick and don’t want to risk being a bad sport.  Maybe you’d rather sit at a chair and paint while your buddies play.  There are lots of good reasons not to play all the time, you just have to find the right ones for you.

Picking opponents doesn’t sound like a very sporting way to play a game, especially to those of us who have lived in a world with random matchmaking and tournament ladders.  When you’re at your local club and you just want to have a good time, however, I can’t recommend it enough.  New players should always be having fun, and the ruthless pursuit of enjoyment on the tabletop is never a bad thing, even if it means saying no on occasion.

You can find me also at my blog Sweeping Advance

  1. What are your ideal qualities in an opponent?
  2. Who is your favorite opponent?  Why?
  3. What do you think makes you a good opponent?
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Author: Frank Austin

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