Meat for Meta: First Tournament

Tournament play is a hot topic these days, and I might as well chime in with my two cents.  I’m currently preparing an army for the upcoming event at Dundracon and I’ve come across a few things that I think would be worth discussing.

As a new player, tournaments pose an interesting, multi-faceted challenge.  First of all, every event is different.  They have different scoring systems, different mission set-ups, and different players.  Obviously you can’t do much accounting for the players, but you can definitely prepare yourself for the scoring and missions you’ll be playing.

Even as a new guy I can tell you that comp is a bullshit scoring system.  I recently had a chance to play in a 1250 point tournament at Great Escape Games in Sacramento.  I passed on the tourney mostly because I looked at their comp system and couldn’t roll my eyes back far enough.  I try very hard to run lists that I’m excited about, but I couldn’t make one within the confines of their comp system that I enjoyed.  If I’m not going to like the army I’m playing, why would I play the game?

I know that in this specific instance I probably should have just ignored the comp system and played for fun, but it’s hard to get motivated to travel to an event with an army that I am not pumped on.  Comp sucks because it’s a completely arbitrary (even more so than the Force Org chart) system for punishing certain lists, and even the new guy hates it. 

(Side note to tournament organizers:  Write clever, balanced missions if you really want to punish people who don’t take 40-50% of their points in troops.  Or better yet, realize that you are a terrible amateur game designer and your efforts would be better spent elsewhere!)

Unless you’re already an ace painter, you probably won’t do too hot in this soft scoring category either.  No worries, though.  Slap a basecoat of at least three colors on, make it look as good as you can before the event, and you’re good to go!  I’m pretty terrible at this aspect of the hobby, but I’m comfortable with that.  When it comes to painting scores, practice makes perfect, and new players probably haven’t had much time to practice yet.  Tournaments make great excuses for pushing through those last few models, though!

The final “soft” scoring category you’re likely to encounter is sportsmanship.  I have mixed feelings about sportsmanship scores, because I’ve already seen people “gaming” the system in the few tournaments I’ve paid attention to.  My best bit of advice for newbies and sportsmanship is this:  Don’t pay any attention to it.  Play nice and fair and you should be fine.  Don’t whine at the table, don’t make weird demands of your opponents (like “GW Standard Dice Only!” – what does that even mean?), and try to put on a friendly face. 

When it comes down to the missions and actual gameplay, make sure you read them all carefully.  Sometimes they will have secondary objectives that will be important to your (and your opponent’s) strategy.  Play to win, but don’t worry if you don’t.  Your first tournaments will be learning experiences and it’s best to approach them as such.  Focus on one category of scoring and try to max it out, or aim for a certain award like Best General or Player’s Choice.  Having an objective will help keep you focused in a pretty overwhelming environment.

Play as competitively as you want to, but remember that tournament play is a pretty singular experience.  You’ll likely get to play three or so people who you usually don’t game against in an environment new to both of you.  Take advantage of the opportunity to have some fun.  Or utterly smash that smug veteran’s face in.

You can find me also at my blog Sweeping Advance

  1.  What was your first 40k tournament and how did you do?
  2.  What’s a common mistake you see new players make in tournament play?
  3.  What advice do you have to offer new hobbyists entering into their first tournament?
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Author: Frank Austin

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