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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Keep It Simple, Stupid is a Strategy not a Philosophy

When I was a youngster in high school, I spent a couple of years in a Karate class. I have countless, hilarious, stories about that experience, but suffice it say, I'm not really sure why the instructor we had found himself in po-dunk South Carolina. This guy was the real deal, not just some enthusiast with a black belt. He had a lot of philosophies about fighting. First and foremost, like no other instructor of Karate I have ever seen, he didn't believe in walking away or settling disputes with conversation. (No, I'm not kidding.) His rule was ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK! Indeed, he had wild opinions on other Karate schooling, usually ridiculing the notion that people actually trained for Karate demonstrations with spins, twirls, board breaking, and a host of other very common practices. You see, what was completely missed on him was the idea that Karate itself should be a sport, a sport in which you exercise, show case, and mainly just have a good time. To him, Karate was a primary tool or weapon by which he could hurt people at a whim. (If I'm making him sound a little psycho, it's because he was.) However, think about it. If you were forced into a cage match with a Karate instructor, would you rather face the guy who practices quasi-dance demonstrations for judges or practices only three moves for 30 years so he can perfect his power, form, and destructive capability?

That brings me to my point. When I say he only practiced 3 moves, I'm serious. Technically, it was four moves if you count a roundhouse as more than a front kick! Literally, though, it was three moves. You practiced a front kick, front punch, and mule kick. That's it! For two years I did that! (He did it for 30!) He didn't believe in pads. He didn't believe in pain. He believed in one punch, one disabled opponent, and the way in which he guaranteed that was by absolutely only perfecting three very simple moves by which he could be certain were fast enough, strong enough, and perfect enough to get the job done right. (That job being busting face on anyone that looked at him strangely.)

Countless times I was schooled that you didn't need to know anything else. All that rolling, twirling, and jumping wasn't going to win you a fight. What was going to win you a fight was throwing out a mule kick so fast your opponent can't react to it, connecting to his solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him, and then, pummeling him mercilessly while he's on the ground. Further, you didn't need to know techniques or Karate to kick someone while he was down.
"Three european nationals I won with a mule kick!" he would say. "One punch, fight over. We don't practice combinations. We don't practice gimmicks! Our strategy is to attack, one time, very simple, fight over."

So, on to 40K. As you'll find, my take on strategy in the game of 40K (in any game really) is to keep it simple, basic, and without gimmicks. Gimmicks don't win games. They might once, but your opponents will get wise to it. Now that the 40K community has grown so large on the internet, there really isn't a gimmick that exists that not everyone hears about the instant someone figures it out.

What is simplicity? Simplicity in my mind follows these principles:

  • Define a clear, easy strategy
  • Build redundancy into your list to ensure you can achieve your strategic goals
  • Don't rely on pivot points (single points of failure, a GIMMICK)
  • Practice that strategy until you have perfected it
Strategies should be very straight forward. They should not involve:

"Okay, on turn 1, I'm going to reserve everything. On turn 2, I'll roll to bring this guy in outflank, this guy to deep strike, in combination with this special character, expecting my opponent to move this way, on every 6th minute of next monday... "
Simple strategies which have been perfected through practice are what wins the majority of games. (You can't win them all.) They work because they are a finely honed, simple to execute, lack failure points, and are flexible for any situation. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Let's consider the infamous "Leaf Blower" for a moment. Here's a simple strategy. I put an inquisitor w/ mystics in a Chimera to curtail deep striking (somewhat of a gimmick), and then, I load down with vehicles with lots of shooting and blow my opponent away (be it with templates or guns). That's it! I line up, take shots, and mow my opponent down. Some people might call this "push button", but the reality is, it's simple perfection. It works because it is simple.
  2. My favorite, the Orc Horde. Lots of boys and Power Klaws. There isn't much to it. I put up a wall of something (Kanz, Ard Boyz, Battle Wagons, etc.) to provide a cover save for most of my army. I spread out across the board to limit my opponent's movement, and from there, I walk forward... run.... walk forward... WAAAGH!.... assault. Easy. It's effective because it is so simple. It doesn't rely on gimmicks, situations, special characters, certain units, etc.
  3. Mech-dar. I put a bunch of units in skimmers. I wait in reserve. As I come on, I pick a flank and hammer it. Otherwise, I fly around staying away from my opponent until the last turn at which point I flat out to contest objectives. Easy. That's why it works.
The point is this: we've all heard of Keep It Simple, Stupid. We hear of it in terms of a philosophy on operations or planning, but it's more than that. It is a strategy for playing a game of 40K. Keeping it simple is the best kind of strategy because it's not complicated, can be easily practiced and perfected, and works in many situations.

Leave the surprise "chain events" to the card players. What works in 40k, in my opinion, is straight forward, clean, practiced, simple, strategies. It works because it's effective and easy to execute, like a well-timed, well-honed mule kick to the solar plexus. Fight over.

1 comment:

  1. I must have had his relative as my Aikido instructor when i was a child. He didn't believe in mats as we did head rolls etc on the wooden floor. The basics i got out of this as it applies to 40k:
    don't show off (keep it simple)
    Use your opponents momentum against them
    Don't get discouraged by your opponents strenght
    Be concerned with an obvious weakness (which could be fake)


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