So the tournament season is in full swing, and I’m looking forward to this year’s BoLSCon – er, sorry: WarGames Con, which kicks off on Thursday in Austin.

INSERT PLUG. Here’s my plug: go, if you’re able to swing it last minute, or plan your trip next year. I’ve been to countless tournaments and hobby events over the years and it was by far the best experience I’ve ever had. It was that good. END PLUG.

Last year I didn’t take my optimized Eldar list due to concerns I had about my Seer Council models. I have them floating on disks and simply wasn’t sure how that would fly with the judges. I’d hate to have made the trip only to find out I couldn’t use half my army.

So, let’s ask the question: is it a Proxy or is it ‘Counts-As?’

This could be a short article; I could stop right here (I ain’t gonna) because the answer is pretty simple: use common sense and ask in advance.

Let’s pretend I wasn’t a wordy-attention-seeking-net-stalker (Hi, Jawaballs!) and move on. I decided to ask the local tournament organizer, the Master Manipulator (every store needs one) for his opinion. Hopefully, this will give you some idea where event judges are coming from. Again, I add this caveat: it’s best to check in advance with the actual organizers.

Let me start off by saying in friendly games, I could care less what everyone does. This is purely my opinion on how I adjudicate in our tournaments. I am all for a well made back story to explain why you are using Sisters of Battle to rep your Dark Angels or something silly like that. That is the great stuff fun that people love doing with this game. Just don’t bring it to my tourneys.

The basis of this conversation really boils down to one question. “Why does it matter?”

I should be able to sit down with anyone at any time and look across the table and have a fairly good idea of what is going on. I should not have to question what my opponent is using for what, or whether or not they may have misunderstood some allies rule or something. When models are being set up across the table, I should have a reasonable confidence I know what they are.

That’s fairly straightforward, yes? Let’s move on – with examples.

When someone asks me if a model is a proxy or ‘counts as,’ I typically respond with the following:

Does that model have a profile or set of rules that is legal in the current game, and those rules are different from what you plan on using? For the most part if the answer to that question is yes, than it’s a proxy.

Let’s look at an example.

What we have here is a loyalist Space Marine, a Blood Angel, to be exact. Everybody knows what a Blood Angel is and what set of rules to apply to it. Moving on…

What we have here is a Space Goat. Some may be aware that Space Goats painted white are Goat Angels of some sort, but let’s face it: this is a homegrown conversion. A proper conversion is ‘Counts-As,’ meaning it can be used for a number of things. There is nothing wrong with using this model: it isn’t a proxy. Let’s recap.

Using an Ultramarine as a Chaos Space Marine, or an Ork, or an Eldar Guardian isn’t appropriate. An Ultramarine as a Chaos Space Marine is a proxy…

but a Goat Angel is ‘Counts-As.’

See the difference? Space Goats may use parts from both Loyalist and Chaos Space Marines, but they are neither and thus can be used in a variety of ways. Using straight Chaos Space Marines to rep out a new Codex chapter is all well and good at home, but is it appropriate at a tournament where you may be playing a stranger?

I don’t think so. At the very least, I’m sure we can agree it is a gray area.

So why isn’t it okay to use Chaos Space Marines as Loyalist Space Marines? After all, the Goats are pretty chaotic looking; what’s the difference?

Sort it out like this: does a model have a stat line in the Warhammer 40K universe already? If it does, and you use it for something else, that’s a proxy. Goat Marines exist nowhere except Goatboy’s probably warped mind, yet Khorne Berserkers have a color scheme and set of abilities everyone is already familiar with. Using Berserkers as Vanguard isn’t cool.

(For those paying attention, Real Genius’ eyes glazed over after reading that last paragraph!)

But using Chaos Space Marines painted in your own design as Knights of Blood is perfectly cool. We’re all familiar enough with the game to be flexible on a technical proxy like that. It’s a game, after all.

Everyone is going to have an opinion on what’s okay and what isn’t, so again, check with your Tournament Organizers, but to my mind gamers are a forgiving lot. After all, most of us came up with rules for our toys when we were kids; imagination is part and parcel of the hobby. As a last example, Rob over at Spikey Bits has a pretty fantastic Ork Guard. I wouldn’t have a problem playing it and I daresay neither would you; it’s a beautiful labor of love. But what if some dude dropped a ton of unpainted Orks on the table and said, “Okay, this is Guard today, and that Trukk is a Manticore.”

That’s all I’ve got, just a few thoughts to spark conversation and perhaps avoid an uncomfortable last-minute scramble or two. I’m aware some of you may disagree with this perspective; let’s hear where you are coming from.

On Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be posting pictures of my Team Tournament Eldar for the first time. It’s heavily converted and painted to the best of my ability, so drop by and let me know what you think. Hopefully you’ll agree they’re ‘Counts-As!’

Take care – Brent

PS: If some of you are thinking to yourselves, “Gee, was this whole thing a cunning way to snub Jawaballs and Goatboy, who are teaming up for the BoLSCon 2010 Team Tournament, a victory over which obviously belongs to Fritz and Brent?” I’d have to reply:

It must be terrible to be so cynical. You’re way off. I wouldn’t do a thing like that.

Okay, maybe.

(Can someone wake up Real Genius?)