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Friday, March 25, 2011

40K is not a Proving Ground

Believe it or not, there really does exist a line between wanting to play a great, tactical game and being competitive about your game play. I know, that's a real hard line for some people to draw. Some people can't separate the desire to play hard and to play to win.

In sports, they call this "remembering to have fun".

Honestly, there's no two way's around this. Desiring to "prove yourself" at anything in life at the expense of yourself or other people is a serious personality disorder, in more ways than one. Using 40K as an outlet for that level of thinking error is even worse. In fact, there's several DSM IV diagnoses that you fall into once you start using your toy soldiers game as an outlet for either proving self-worth, inflating your ego, or otherwise carrying out weird fantasies of hurting other people (namely your opponents).

Being competitive isn't a problem unless you make it a problem. If people around you don't like to be around you when you are playing a game, you have a problem. If people have told you that you are "over-competitive" or that you have a problem when it comes to gaming, you have a problem. If you find yourself constantly getting into hostile situations while gaming, you have a problem. If you find yourself getting angry over losing, you have a problem.

Yes, I know. You don't have a problem! It's other people who just can't take the heat, right? Yep. And I've never met an alcoholic who still drinks, either.

That aside, picking 40K as your outlet is really a bad idea in the first place. There's a lot better ways to go! If you need to feed your personality disorder, this is probably one of the worst things you could have picked. Let's just take a sample of the horrible reasons.

1) The company that makes the game has already said that isn't designed for competition.
2) The playing field isn't level, ever. Notice that real competitive sports have a level playing field except for the players? They don't randomly roll to see what the rules of the game are today or randomly select opponents to play against. They don't use a rule book that is so riddled full of arguable rules that you can't tell how the guy next door would even play the game. They use similar pieces with identical rules. Not a variety of armies not balanced to play the game in the first place (See #1)
3) True competitive events try to eliminate luck. 40K invites luck. Think about it. Do football players randomly roll to see how long the field is going to be today? Do chess players randomize how far a queen can move?
4) There's nothing to gain from winning. There's no fame. No fortune. No, well, anything?
5) There's not even an established system for competing in.

People like myself seek out others who enjoy the tactical experience of playing 40K. I like to play with people who know the rules as well as I do and who enjoy " the game " not the supposed competition.

Truth be told, I like to game, not compete.

Think about it!


  1. I concur wholeheartedly! You should definitely talk about this on the show. Too many gamers are way too hung up on the competition aspect of 40k.

  2. Geez, you keep talking like this and you'll have to rename the show "The Overlords" or something.

  3. Maybe the Carebear company, joking aside, i wholeheartedly agree with Neil. A little self-examination never hurt anyone.

  4. Great post. There is a fine line to be drawn there. It takes a bit of maturity to make a list you think is good, play to win, but still have the tact not to pout when you roll 1's and not to rub your luck in your opponents face. Win and lose with dignity, after all we play with toy soldiers.

  5. I might or might nor disagree with Neils comments concerning competition. I think you might be mixing more than a few separate issues in your post to be honest.

    Would you really consider a person mentally ill who works all week at a job they do not particularly like, with little prospect of personal advancement so they can provide for their family and then on the weekends and for their personal pleasure they play 40K as well as they possibly can.

    Is that person disturbed because they work hard to win that tournament they took time off for to visit. Are we really going to cast stones at this guy just because they get upset when some stupid random thing happens because of 40K's vagaries in its rules?

    You know, maybe if it was just a casual gathering a person might go over the line sometimes and censor would be justified. However, I am not going to be "that person" who passes judgement on a guy just because they want to win and they get upset when they do not. Most definitely I am not going to do so with regards to them participating in a competitive event.

    Is 40K a good competitive game? Heck no! It sux as one. It lacks balance, it lacks consistant clear rules writing. It lacks good company support and it uses the most arcane combat system you will find in table top miniatures gaming.

    However!! Despite many peoples assertions to the contrary GW promotes the heck out of 40K and WHFB as competitive games. Oh they will say out of one side of their mouths it is not but let me tell you as a former store owner going back to the early 90's that out of the other side of their mouths GW pushes and pushes hard the use of competitive tournaments and escalation leagues as the number one way to promote and grow your GW market in 40K and WHFB.

    In my humble opinion I think the 40K hobby taken as a whole. (collecting, building, painting, terrain making, reading etc) is the best fantasy based gaming hobby there is bare none. I adore it. I definitely spend too much of my personal time around it as a result of that love.

    I think that a lot of the gripping and complaining you hear about 40K has a lot to do with 40K hobbiest being frustrated that the "Game" of 40K does not live up to the rest of the hobby. It is indeed terribly frustrating for myself. When players lose it in a game or a tournament, just how often is it really that frustration with the game not living up to their efforts painting, modeling, learning their army etc etc...that puts them over the edge? Whether they actual realize it or not.

    I know it may make some people mad but if you have been around more than a few years and have played more than a few different game systems across genre's you know full well the truth about 40K as a game. It is beyond horrible. It is tragically bad when you consider just how great the rest of the 40K hobby is.

    In fact I would say that the group that is in the greatest state of denial is the group of gamers that refuse to recognize just how badly 40K as a game needs to be re-written. That this game who's mechanics date back to the Johnson Presidency needs to be seriously brought into the 21st century.

    The obnoxious gamer who is getting on everyones nerves arguing the rules or being to competitive, what ever that is, is not the problem. They are just a symptom of the problem. If they were the problem then they would exist equally in every other game system and they do not.

    Blaming them for making 40K miserable or unenjoyable is like blaming the canary for the bad air in the mine.

    So there it is. Maybe I am just a voice of one. Or maybe I am just the dumb bastard who is willing to talk about it openly.


  6. Stiucarius,
    I think you kind of miss the point of Neils post. I don't think he is suggesting that you should not "play" as hard as you possibly can, and attempt to win the game, when you play. I think he is bemoaning those who hold the winning of the game over their opponents, try to game the rules at every turn to get an advantage, and then sulk endlessly when things do not go their way.
    I have heard it said many times that it is not your job to make sure your opponent enjoy him/herself. While that is true, it is also your responsibility not to be a douche. I think the people Neil refers to in his post are basically so obsessed with winning at 40k that they would go to any length (even cheating) to do so.

    While I disagree with Neil that sports are inherently played on an even playing field (they're not at all in many cases), I think in many cases they are a better outlet for an obsessive need to win. Honestly though, there is no place for that kind of attitude in any event of any kind, if you want to win, practice harder, get better at whatever it is you are doing, but do it in a gracious way. The people who are the best at anything rarely feel the need to shove it down someone elses throat.

  7. Hey Stu,

    I don't think we are disagreeing on any point, and actually I agree with you on most of what you said.

    This sentence is the core of what I wanted to say:

    "Desiring to "prove yourself" at anything in life at the expense of yourself or other people is a serious personality disorder"

    It's the "at the expense part" that makes it a problem. In other words, you are good to do whatever you like until you tread on someone else to get it done.

    This that you said:

    "Would you really consider a person mentally ill who works all week at a job they do not particularly like, with little prospect of personal advancement so they can provide for their family and then on the weekends and for their personal pleasure they play 40K as well as they possibly can. "

    That's me! :)

    There is no problem with wanting to play a game the best that you can. What I was saying was that you have a problem when you can't do that without also harming your relationships, other people, the people you play with. I then wanted to express, more jokingly, that using 40K as a place to do this is a bad idea anyways because....

    I also agree with you 100% that we need clearer rules which would clear us a lot of headaches about this game. We need them, have needed them, and will probably still need them for a long time. It's why I'm on board with helping so much with TCP. I recognize, as much as anyone, that GW will probably never fix the problems with their games, but fans can.


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