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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bolt Action - Dealing with Failure after a Tournament

When I first starting playing Bolt Action amongst my group of buddies I had an excellent win/loss ratio.  My three infantry squads would do amazing things against my opponents three infantry squads, all of course laden with LMG’s, AT grenades and any other options we could possibly fit. Our expensive medium/heavy tanks would roll around taking pot shots at each other while our best anti-tank armoured cars would look for that sneaky shot against the tanks side armour. We were kings of our own garage with our 7-8 order dice armies and we loved it.

We would play diverse forces such as English vs. Germans and Germans vs. English and maybe even English vs. Germans for something different. In our own secure little gaming environment we thought we knew the rules or fudged them when we were unsure and everything was just excellent. I found myself really getting involved online with other gamers and when a big tournament came up I broke the shackles of the group and headed off to show the wider community my skills.

Tournaments can feel like your jumping into the unknown sometimes.
First game was Max Attrition and I started confidently with my new USMC force, that I may have played all of two games with prior to the event, however I very quickly lost that confidence as my force was beaten convincingly and I walked away a little confused. Not to worry however this was an anomaly and I will certainly win the next 3 or 4 games no problem. Wrong.  I managed one minor victory from the event and in one game all my hopes and dreams were shattered as I was systematically dismantled by a Russian list with a KV2.

A re-enactment of my first tournament list.
It was a disaster.  Why had my skills abandoned me and was I not some savant style General able to move my toy soldiers around a table with the skill of a chess master? I was not, I was just some dude who got slapped in the face by gamers who had more experience in tournament play, knew how to write better lists and understood the game on a level I had only glimpsed from afar. My opponents all destroyed me with a knowing smile and a reassuring pat on the shoulder like the old veteran Sergeants welcoming the green recruit into the squad.

No guesses as to which one was me.

I could have gone away and thrown my toys on the ground, even got on the internet to blame power gamers, list exploiters and everyone other than myself for how I ranked in the tournament, indeed plenty have and still do. I could have spat my dummy and wrote things such as ‘That’s it, I am out, this community sucks etc. etc.’ Whilst it may feel good at the time and release some frustration most people just roll their eyes and quickly move to more interesting topics to discuss and you will be quickly forgotten. You may however find yourself sneaking back into the forums and painting up a new army and then eventually sulking back into a tournament with your tail between your legs.  Awkward right?

So rather than act like a 4 year old I decided to learn from my experience and work out why I had performed so badly. I put it down to the following criteria:

1.            List Writing. Tournament play is not a garage game between mates.  It is competitive play (in the nicest possible way mind you) and people are generally there to win. Lists are well thought out, practiced with and as a rule need to be flexible to combat all manner of unexpected opponents. Turning up with your garage winning 7 order dice Tiger tank list may mean you will struggle and may not have as much fun as your were expecting (or this may be your idea of fun which is all good as well!)  Do some research and reach out to the veterans to ask some advice if needed. If you insist on taking a weak fluffy list knowing it is not competitive do not get upset when it fails. I took a list to my first tournament that was just not flexible enough and therefore suffered once a few units were neutralised.

2.            Know the Rules. It is not necessary to be able to recite backwards the rules for every occasion though knowing all the basics is essential. When playing with just your mates many things seems to just slip through the cracks, because of inexperience or misunderstanding.  However when you try to make that run move through heavy terrain at a tournament you will be questioned. Visa versa, when your opponent does something odd you can pull them up and refer to the rulebook rather than just think that is the way it is played in these parts. In my first event I did not know building rules well enough and as such shied away from their use and therefore limited my options.

3.            Practice. When you have your list worked out you need to get some games in if you can, working out what your units are capable of when working together is really important. Knowing your army will allow you to know when to be offensive or defensive and what units are good at particular tasks. Forgetting to activate your howitzer before the unit moves that it had been zeroing in on for example can really cost you that chance to take them out.

4.            Know the Missions. This is very important, most player packs will tell you the order of missions well in advance so time spent studying them will really help you out.Work out a loose strategy and be ready to adapt it.

5.            Attitude. This is probably the most important attribute in the way you handle failure at an event. I can guarantee you after the first tournament your attitude will be significantly different, from perhaps overconfident to optimistic but reserved. Go into the next event with an open mind with no expectations, just enjoy the event and with proper preparation you will find yourself being more competitive. This will mean that you should not see those terrible soul destroying defeats and in theory enjoy the tournament more. (If you're playing a game with a cool new opponent, you've already won. Winning the game is just frosting! - J)

So how did I go in my next event? Well I came 6th out of 40 players with a French list with three solid wins and two draws, a massive turnaround from the previous failure. I put this down to taking on board all those things I have spoken about and not throwing a toddler tantrum and doing cartwheels on the floor like my 2 year old son when he doesn’t want to go to bed. This is the mind picture I have in my head, by the way, when I read another dummy spit, it makes me giggle.

What is better than 1 MMG, how about 4!

Tournaments are amazing events where I have made outstanding mates with people who share my passion for the hobby. I have had a ball playing these games and have learned so much about the system and how to play Bolt Action at this level. They are not for everyone as there is that competitive aspect which some players find unattractive but I have found that I do not care about winning the event but I do want to be competitive and losing miserably each game is just not very fun for me.

My final message is don't be disheartened and drop the bundle, learn and evolve and your efforts will be rewarded.


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