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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Pain Train: Competitive vs. Hobby 40K

Justin, aka Dashofpepper, recently posted this on Dakka and asked if I had any opinion or insight I'd like to share concerning his recent store troubles. Well never fear Dash, Roll-Royce is here! I actually find this article coming a perfect time for us in the hobby, what with the recent success of NOVA open and the growing rumblings of a dedicated Competitive 40K movement. This movement of players who wish for something more from 40K, who yearn for challenging games is not new, but it is new enough and intensifying at such a rate that the "Old Guard" of Hobby players are becoming somewhat concerned, and dare I say, threatened. This is by no means a knock at Hobby players, for I myself consider myself a blend of competitive and hobby. I think the issue though, stems from a general lack of understanding between these two groups. As I mentioned here on Kirby's blog a few days ago, there are truly two distinct groups in 40K: The competitive 40K crowd, who like going to tough tournaments, building tough lists, and utilizing the best units/combos their codex have to offer in an atempt to have the most challenging game of their life; and the hobby crowd who like nothing more than to work on getting that perfect paint job, converting their entire army into something unique and meaningful, who try and play up to the established GW "fluff" of their army. Both groups have a single goal in mind: to have fun and enjoy the game. The means to that end, though, are (or at least can be) entirely different. The Competitive crowd wants tough, close games against equally skilled opponents and armies. The hobby crowd would rather play good games, but against armies that aren't min/maxed or made to "beat face". They want, in a weird way, to face a "balanced" army. The irony is not lost on me, for the Competitive crowd views "balance" as a means to being able to take on all lists and all opponenents. It seems for the Hobby crowd "balance" means having a nice mix of units from the Codex, playing up to the "theme/fluf" of the army, and achieving some new age concept of Army harmony that redundant units (or competitively "balanced" armies) seem to lack. With that said, here are I feel the biggest misconceptions and issues the gaming community face:

1) Competitive Players care only about the win; Hobby Players only care about having a good time:

Whether we like to admit it or not, this is the long standing opinion and view of many in this hobby. Those people who play in tournaments don't care about conversions or having a four tone paint job on their models, and they definitely don't try to stick to a theme or background fluff. They care only about the win. If this means being "rules lawyers", so be it. They'll nickle and dime a rule to ensure they get the win. The other side feels that Hobby players are a bunch of hippy Hobbit "peace, love, and understanding" players who care only about their next conversion, throw rules out the window if it comes against having fun, don't mind playing to lose, because at the end of the day "it's all good bro." Both of these views are full o' false. Most competitive players LIKE converting their armies and having good paint jobs. They LIKE sticking to a theme and having it shape their army. Likewise, not all Hobby players like being master conversion artists, and plenty of them LIKE having tough games against good opponents. Yet these stereotypes still exist. Look at Dash and Stelek. Both are superb competitive players. Yet both are genuine nice guys to play, have excellent paint jobs, and have done some good amount of converting on their respective armies. This would seem like they would be your quintessential hobbyist, no? Yet they enjoy nothing more than a good tough game against
a solid opponent.

2) Competitive Players are Rules Lawyers:

This one gets leveled at Competitive players all the time. It arises from the fact that in tournaments, their usual scene, it is almost a MUST that you are very familiar with the rules and know most of them off hand. This is for many reasons: they're on the clock so the less time spent rifling through a book is more time playing; they're competing, and in ANY form of competition, whether it is football, baseball, hockey, Australian Rules Football, or 40K, the participants MUST know the rules in order to compete. How can we have a game/tournament, but then expect the players to be ignorant of the basic rules which said game/tournament are run? You can't. As players, it is our JOB to know the rules and be intimate (in a non sexual way...unless your Dethron. He loves him some rules) with the rules. Yet, we see Competitive players frowned upon because of their familiarity with the rules. On the other hand, many view Hobby players as rules lenient players, as people who'll just as likely toss out a rule that doesn't work for them or that they feel is "broken" as they would a piece of trash. This also is a gross oversimplification, as many Hobbyists are just as rules savvy as a Competitive player. The issue is that some of the most VOCAL Hobbyists, are those who think have a general familiarity with the rules is ok, or feel that it's fine to work around the rules if it makes the game more fun, or go smoother, or that doesn't "work" in their local

3) Competitive Players are unfluffy:

This is one of the biggest sticking points between the two camps. Hobby players, for the most part, feel that Competitive player armies are not "fluffy". For better or worse, they somehow feel as if they have a monopoly on the fluff of this fictional universe (created by a Company) in which we play. That is a patently false assumption, yet browse any forum out there for 40K, and you'll see Army List naysayers decrying someone's army as being "unfluffy" or "not what XXX Army would do/look like/ be comprised of." Excuse me, but when did you start writing for GW? When did you become the sole loremaster of a game that probably predates your birth? Moreover, the UNIVERSE is LARGE. Who's to say that that
Competitive player's army wouldn't fit in with the universe? Let me give you a real world, live action example.

My Competitive Space Wolves army is based (loosely) off of the Varangian Guard from the Byzantine Empire in the 9th-11th Centuries, as well as an Amon Amarth song ("Varyags of Miklagaard" if you're wondering). So what does this beast look like? 1 RP, 1 Thunderlord, 3X Wolfguard with the usual (PF/Combi-melta), 2X Lone Wolves (1 with TH/SS/TDA, 1 with CF/SS/TDA), 3 Squads of 8 GH's in Rhinos (with Mark, Melta, Banner), 2 TWC squads (1 of 3 TWC w/ SS and TH, 1 of 2 with SS and TH), and now (thanks to Kirby's awesomesauce) 3 Long Fang Packs (2 with 4X ML, 1 with 5X ML). It's made to swamp you with missiles and rush in to beat your face.

My fluff that justifies this? They went on a Great Hunt for Russ and became separated and during that time, guided by a vision of Russ no less, came upon the world of Miklagaard VII where they've been the past hundred years or so trying to stabilize it after an extensive Genestealer infestation (followed by a massive Tyranid invasion), a recent Ork WAAAAGH!, and general Chaos shenanigans. They've been away from the Fang so long, their Stone in the Annulus has been removed and they're now accounted for in the 13th stone. Additionally all the Blood Claws in the pack have either died or matured into GH's (ergo no BC's), and the GH's that have survived have become LF's (ergo an equal number of GH squads to LF squads). Additionally, due to losses, there are 2 Lone Wolves running around (1 from a GH pack that was wiped out, 1 from a Wolf Guard Pack that was wiped out...and expect in the coming months a series of articles as I convert Baldr - he GH LW - and include some minor fluff I've written for him). And since they're away from Fenris, there are few Wolves to be had (all told 4 Fenrisian wolves are in the whole army), and the only reason there are Thunderwolves is because those creatures are bred to survive and can easily outlive a Space Marine. There you go (without me going into too much detail) I've got a fairly competitive list that fits in with my fluff perfectly and actually in the grand scheme of the 40K universe, makes perfect sense. Competitive players are just as creative and "fluffy" as Hobby players; the difference is that Competitive players tend not to hamstring themselves in making army lists by following some misguided concept of "fluff". ANYTHING can be considered fluffy and thematic in this fictional universe if you put a little imagination into it. The idea that the only "true" fluff is what falls in line with what GW has officially produced is absurd.

Once we get past these misconceptions, the biggest issue then is when these two groups come into contact. As you can tell from Dash's experience, it usually ends in name calling, store banning, and other puerile displays of power. This adverse overreaction occurrs on account of one group or the other entering into an environment they were not expecting. Usually this environment is fairly insulated and welcomes outsiders of like ilk, but frowns upon outsiders of the other play style. Thus, what happens when a HobbyKer goes to a beat face tournament and gets swamped, he has a terrible time, as he went with one expectation (that everyone there would play like him) and gets slapped with the cold reality of another play style. The same is
true of the other side: the CompetitiveKer who goes to a tournament thinking it will all be tough lists and stellar opponents and runs into a bunch of HobbyKers who really just want to "have fun". The Competitive player will stomp face and win, and then everyone will bitch and moan about he's a "WAAC player" a "rules lawyer" because he brought his tournament army to a tournament that wasn't for Competitive players. It was more a "friendly games weekend" for Hobbyists. That, I feel, is the biggest issue: players of one crowd unknowingly entering into the realm of the other. They don't do it on purpose, and usually it is done in good faith with no bad intentions. The result though is always the same: people not having fun at a GAME they supposedly enjoy. That's why I advocate players really looking at themselves and identifying which crowd do you fall under: are you a Competitive player or are you a Hobby Player?

The reason I advocate this is simple: that way when you go to a new games store, or a tournament, or a new friends house, you already know what type of army you'll bring, what type of attitude you'll have. Moreover, it allows you to adjust your army or attitude or play style accordingly so you don't come away with that feeling of betrayal and shock and indignation that always occurs when one crowd stumbles unknowingly into the other crowd. So if you are a Hobby player and you know it, and you sign up for a "Beat Face" tournament, you know ahead of time what you're getting into and the type of players/armies you'll face, so you won't be caught off guard. It also gives you time to prepare, to make a Competitive hard list, and to become more Dethtron..I mean intimate...with the rules. On the other hand, you may feel like still taking a fluffy, not maximized list, with the knowledge that you may not win, but that you can always see how well it stands against some of the toughest lists out there. That's the type of attitude to have. Sure you're 10th Company Ultramarines list may get stomped, but if you play it well and give your opponent a good time, does it matter? Hell, you may surprise yourself and do better than you thought, and isn't that an awesome feeling to have, knowing that your "by the book" "fluffy" Codex list managed to hold it's own against some of the tougher lists out there? Personally I'd consider that in and of itself a win. Sure I had a 1-3 record or I went 0-4, but think how close all 4 of those games were, and how my opponent came up to me afterward and said I was an excellent player and my fluffy non-optimized list gave him a run for his money. That is better than any 1st place trophy. And another bonus, assuming you've done a lot of conversion/paint work on that fluffy army, I guarantee most opponents afterward would be all over you with questions on how to converted this, or how do you paint that, a good chance for you the Hobby player to level some of your area expertise with them, to share the wealth of knowledge you have on your style of play.

Now I've talked a bit about Hobby players, so it's your turn Competitive guys. We know it's not a great or fun feeling going to a tournament or friends house to play a game, expecting to play a tough list and solid opponent and then facing some 15 year old who just got into thegame and is coming at you with a battle force box. You AND your opponent won't have fun. So knowing YOUR play style is key, so you know when there's a Games Weekend at the Hobby store, it may not be the best idea to bring your "Beat Face" list, maybe not at first. You might show up and realize, hey there're a bunch of Competitive players here! Let me go get my Uber list or I'll bring it tomorrow to play some of these guys. Likewise, if someone is having a Campaign (like the soon to be launched 3++ Campaign) maybe it's not the best place to try out your new NOVAopen competition list and something more...relaxed and themed would be appropriate. For example, I wouldn't (nor do I) expect anyone to be bringing a Tyranid list into the 3++ Campaign. Why? Because the 'Nids weren't on Kastorel-Novem and they'd be completely out of their element (like you Donny). On the other hand, someone expressed interest in bringing a White Scars list, which CAN fit in the campaign (as I'm writing the backstory) and having a contingent appear because they feel the challenge of their current hunt is to claim the skull of Buzgob fits right in with the story line of the campaign. Heck an all Nob biker army fits in with the campaign theme and story (as does pretty much any Ork list...though I think Chumby or MJ are thinking of doing the All Grot Army of DOOM! which I think is AWESOME. Grot Tanks FTW)

To summarize: it's a matter of knowing which style/crowd you fall in and toning that stykle accordingly given the environment in which you play. If your FLGS is full of Hobby players and you love Competition play, work WITH them, not against them. This may mean you have to every now and then bring a weaker list than you like, but the goal is to have fun at the end of the day. And over time, you can always work with one or two guys and slowly show them the wider world of play style out there, and hopefully this would further develop your group as more people become exposed to opposing game styles, it's not something to fear but embrace. Work slowly with the onesies and twosies until they become comfortable (like you) switching between crowds, and pretty soon your once Hobby-only FLGS is suddenly full of people who can switch hit like Kirby, going back and forth between Competitive and Hobby. Likewise, the opposite is true: your a Hobby player surrounded by Competitive players. Introduce yourself to their play style, ask them for advice and help on optimizing you list, and slowly bring them into the Hobby fold via campaigns and personal workshops on coverting and painting. The net result for both these examples is to burst the little bubble each clique resides in and to show them there is more to 40K than what they know, with the end state being everyone is comfortable playing 40K in BOTH environments. This is how we get more people into the hobby. This is how we get the hooby to expand: by creating unity and dissolving boundaries.

This public service announcement brought to you by: "The Pink Army: We like to CUDDLE TOO!" and by Kirbalaya: "Pink: It isn't a color. It's a lifestyle."

Anyway, I hope my long winded dissertation spurs some discussion and feedback. I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Where did you learn formatting? Oh the pain of wall'o'texts! lol. We'll just blame it on blogger again.

13 pinkments:

MasterSlowPoke said...

I wouldn't say that Dash and Stelek have excellent paint jobs. Stelek's works as a theme but is a bit boring, and I love Dash but ugh.

Kirby said...

What's wrong with my painting? Oh, I wasn' referenced how rude Roland.

Also, AFL doesn't have any rules...well as far as I can determine from watching it.

Solid article though. I'd recommend people who haven't seeen it to read this article by Timmay ( Competitive & Hobby can co-exist. You've all seen pics of my painting table, how many models are unassembled because I put the effort into my paint-jobs and models rather than just assembling them and "crushing face."

It's a hobby but with rules. Rules are written for a reason, for the game to be played and there to be a winner and loser. GW has produced some excellent rules of late and their models have always been top-notch.

So my White Scars has been approved? lovely. Now to deck out a stupid character! Twin-LC FTW lol.

VT2 said...

This is why we can't have nice things.

I love Dash's long, long, looooooong thread. People are always so hostile to change, and being called out on their own stupidity.

Dashofpepper said...

Calling me a WAAC gamer, and "everything that is wrong with the hobby" by someone across the table from me who fielding primed, plastic, or unpainted miniatures and being a bad sportsman...

Welcome to Jacksonville, FL.

Chumbalaya said...

I agree with Dash, but this could have been handled much better. As it is now, reconciliation is all but impossible and both sides look bad as a result.

Now, we're all hobbyists here. Some people like playing competitively, others prefer fluff'n'stuff or painting. We can all coexist and have fun, just look at NOVA. Problems come up when you start weighing one aspect over another and start excluding people that don't fit your model.

MasterSlowPoke said...

Dash, I'd tell you to move down to Tampa to play at Anthem Games here, but GBF frequents the store and I'd rather not be an accessory to murder.

VT2 said...

Sometimes, you just can't fix things, no matter how hard you try, because things are beyond fixing, and need to be replaced.

Being declared 'store champion' was a stupid move. Joining a no-nonsense, competitive tournament with a no-nonsense, competitive army was a smart move - but it was obviously too much for the scrubs to handle.

I don't see any elitism in offering them help after they got owned, or telling them the rules, and what you're rolling dice for.

In fact, most everyone I've ever played against, no matter if they're old, new, a n00b, young, or really wise have appreciated it.

Roland Durendal said...

@ Kirby: haah my bad. It WAS Blogger this time. I had that shit formatted perfectly when I saved it...and uh yeah White Scars got the go ahead.:-)
And oh man did I just notice some horrendous grammatical errors. That's what I get for writing it in Wordpad.

@ MasterSlowPoke: Their armies, were painted to a higher standard then I've seen at many tournaments, plus they were eons above the primed/unpainted models we see at 'Ard Boyz, or the lazy tri-color slop jobs we see at some tournaments. By that standard, their conversion work and painting were leaps and bounds ahead of what I've seen.

@ Chumby: Agreed. When you start emphasizing one aspect of the game over another you inevitably fall into that trap that "your way" or the aspect you emphasize is the correct "way" or the aspect of the game "GW intended to be emphasized". This is a view point we can all agree is bunk, yet there are players in both camps out there who have this attitude.

@ VT2: Exactly, offering help and advice should be a bigger part of our hobby. Whether it's sharing advice to a player you just pwned or it's sharing advice on how to perfect that highlight on your model or how to convert the perfect Thunderwolf, the sharing of ideas is paramount in our hobby. Sadly, it's the execution of these ideas that usually fails, as many times when people offer advice (especially after they beat an opponent) it either comes off as being arrogant and elitist (either due to tone or the way things are said) or because the losing player takes it that way (usually due to the fact they lost and they for some reason put a significant amount of emotional investment in the game, and so the loss comes almost like a personal blow to their ego, and someone offering advice is the haughty victor rubbing it in). Granted, there are inevitably players out there who ARE the arrogant asshat who just wants to rub it in the losers face about how he won, and how the other guy's tactics/army list sucked, and they then go about "offering" advice in a wholly inappropriate manner, but by and large most people offer advice and help in the most sincere manner possible. The meaning and intent, though, is often lost in translation.

Anonymous said...

"Unfluffy" armies are in fact encouraged by the BRB. Or so I seem to recall anyways. It's been a while since I've cracked the thing, but isn't there a bit in the beginning about how your tabletop force/game might only represent a small portion of a huge, sprawling battle? So, it's not possible to create an unfluffy army list because this is just a small "zoomed in" portion of the otherwise balanced force locked in combat just outside of 4x6. Maybe I'm making that up, but I think it's in there...

The paragraph about the players attending the wrong events is particularly important and contains the subtle truth of why I believe competitive gamers get such a bad rap.

What happens if a competitive player accidentally wanders into a non-competitive event? They mercilessly slaughter everyone they face.

What happens if a non-competitive gamer accidentally wanders into a competitive event? They get mercilessly slaughtered.

In either case, the non-competitive players always lose. Sure, neither side gets full enjoyment out of the games, but at least the competitive gamers always get to win. I think this is largely where the antagonistic relationship with competitive gamers comes from.

Wow Dash. Bad times at SCC. I live in Jacksonville as well (on the other side of the bridge) but I've never been to that store. Borderlands is sort of small and charming, I enjoy it, but I've been thinking about trying to get out to SCC and see what the larger scene is like here, but now I know better. Either way, I'm too poor right now to actually play, I just like watching. Wonder if we've ever met...

Dashofpepper said...

Well, I've never been to Borderlands and I just moved here. Interestingly, Chip over at Borderlands banned me from his store - I've never even been there. ><

Some of the locals apparently told him what a horrible person I am. I called the other day planning on cleaning him out (I needed 2x more wraiths, 6x tomb spyders, 1x more monolith, etc), we were having a great conversation until he asked for a name....and then he was like, "Uh...I'm going to be blunt, I don't want you in my store." He wouldn't tell me why or what had been said.

Kirby said...

@Dash; *facepalm* people are idiots, I swear. We should all wear pink shirts "Make Warhammer not war." Lame but come on, pink =D.

Anonymous said...

Well said Roland!

Breunig said...

Where can i download a Fluff-Background for my 2/9 Chaos List? ;)

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