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Monday, March 16, 2015

Bolt Action - Tournament Players

Time to stop the online "flame war" gang!
Howdy Gang,

I can’t help but notice that the term “Tournament Player” has been bantered around on certain Facebook groups lately as a dirty word. As a diehard tournament player I have to say that I find this both surprising and a tad annoyingly misleading. I think a few people might be using terminology incorrectly. Today I aim to bust out the dictionary and, I hope, to clarify a few things about the sometimes elusive and often maligned tournament player.

As many of you know, I am a long time tournament player. I could say that my first event was the 1995 Baltimore 40K Grand Tournament (The first of its kind in the US) and that would be true if you counted major events but that would be ignoring my roots as a gamer. In the mid-80’s, I fell in love with my very first tabletop game: Car Wars. It introduced me to the idea of tournaments and competitive events. I had a large group of friends that played and we would run our vehicles against each other through play offs and sudden death rounds to determine a champion (for the day). It was grand! Years later, when I entered my first US GT I discovered that same appealing environment, this time with total strangers. I have been a non-stop tournament junkie ever since.

Now it is important to get into the why’s of why I love these events as it is the crux of my argument. The main reason I fell in love with tournaments is the camaraderie. We need to remember that the reason that we play these games is to have fun. The people who show up to these events are invested in the game. They have committed to countless hours to assembling, painting and playing with their armies. They want to have a good time. No one spends that much time preparing something so they can be miserable about it. Just about all tournament players (and having been to hundreds of events over the years I feel like I am allowed to generalize a little) show up looking for good games and new opponents. I have made some of my best friends over the tabletop. You love wargaming? Hey, so does the guy across the table! It is a good way to make friends with similar interests. We have a small insular hobby at times and events give us the opportunity to socialize with our kind. Case in point, I met every member of the Australian crew at tournaments of one kind or another.

Don't be THIS guy!
But what about the competitiveness of “tournament” gamers? Most players are looking for a challenge and fun and most tournament players are acutely aware of what is considered nasty in the current “meta.” In fact we often talk about the state of the union so to speak, until the cows come home! Having played in a pile of BA events at this point in a variety of cities I can safely say that the players who tend to show up with the nastiest lists tend to be those who have NOT played in events before. There is an understanding between gamers that people try to be good players and try to take lists that synergize well on the tabletop but NOT at the expense of their opponent’s good time. New players sometimes do not understand this and try to submit lists that are brutally hard, that is where the Tournament Organiser steps in to educate them and to ask them to try again with something less brutal. This is not a common occurrence but it does happen.

We are at events to play a game that, let’s face it, we want to win, BUT again we want to have fun and most of us want our opponent to have fun too. Those few players that are gripped with White Line Fever, try to pull one over on their opponents rules wise, take brutally awful lists and are verbally bullying get a reputation. Players with these reputations do not tend to last. They often do not last past the first day of an event. Tournament Organizers universally warn against these behaviors, penalize tournament points if they continue and in rare cases ban unsportsmanlike players. Again, these players are not common but we have procedures to ensure that certain behavior does not continue.

On a more cheerful note, I love tournament games and play in a tournament style even in friendly games because I like the fairness of them. I like tournament missions because they generally do not favor one player over another. Everyone has an equal chance of success. As a side note, this is why I always play generalist lists in games. I never cater my army to specifically take advantage of an enemies special rules or particular units. I think it is more fun and fair that way. One of the reasons I play games like Bolt Action is that the game comes with point values so that players end up playing generally fair and even games.

One of the most important factors in my love of tournaments is the inspiration I get from them. Not only do I get to see a slew of new beautifully painted and modelled armies (which is massively inspiring in and of itself), but I also get to look for new army designs and playing styles. I am always on the lookout for new army list building ideas. The more I play Bolt Action, the more I try to push the envelope of what people consider usable to succeed in the game. At the end of my first event I played against a KV2, the first heavy tank I had ever seen work on the tabletop. I was fascinated. I bought a Stug 33B to try out heavy tanks for my self. Since then, I have taken a few notes after event I attend. Some of these notes I use to write articles for this site, others I keep to try out. These events keep my creative juices flowing. There is no better way to test a theory or practice tactics than 3-6 games in a row. There is not time to change lists or overthink a particularly good or bad game. Instead you get a better idea of generally how your ideas work.

THE most important reason why I go to events though is a reason I have mentioned above. THEY ARE FUN! Does playing a pile of games against keen players sound great to me? Heck yeah! If you have not tried out an event… I highly suggest you do at some point soon. I think that most misconceptions about tournaments and the people who enjoy them will rapidly disappear given a try.

Til next time...

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