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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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Keeping in the Game

We've all played That Game. You get shot with five Bolt Pistols, take four wounds, and three Terminators fail saves. Meanwhile, your opponent can't seem to miss with a blast weapon to save his life and every single 4+ cover is rollin' like magic. It is, to put it simply, the most awful game of your life.

How do you deal with That Game? It's awful, and probably not much fun for either you or your opponent, and it may well put you out of the running for prize. The hardest thing to do is to keep on slogging through it and play it out to the bitter end, but if you really want to make it, that's exactly what you need to do.

This article is, unsurprisingly, spurred by my own tail of recent woe. Over two turns, my Carnifex+Prime failed seven out of eight saves (mostly against Heavy Bolters, sadly enough) and thirty-six 'Stealer attacks failed to see a single Rend. Meanwhile, sixteen Devourer wounds killed a grand total of two Havocs and his Oblits may as well have been immortal.

The key in situations like this is to keep a level head. Yes, things are awful and it may have wrecked your plans to lose those two Synapse creatures that early, but don't stop fighting. Do not give up until it is literally impossible to win or tie- the gods of dice are fickle and an overconfident opponent can easily find his luck turning against him, giving you a chance to pull back out of the abyss. You can't grab that chance if you've been playing sloppy and taking losses where you didn't have to.

I will admit: it is very hard to keep your focus when things go south. And some people are especially bad at it- it's nothing to be horribly ashamed of, it's just something that you need to come to terms with if you're playing competitively. You will lose sometimes, and some of those wins will be bad luck. Lots of sports are founded on this assumption- no baseball player expects to get a hit, much less a home run, every time he is at bat. He goes into each at-bat hoping for the best but realizing that it will probably be an uphill struggle. There are things you can do to try and keep yourself in the game, however.

First off, keep it in perspective. It may have sucked to lose that Land Raider to a random Lascannon shot first turn, but it's not the end of the game. You still have a chance and while your plans may be scrambled somewhat, you still know the army (right?) and have options left. Even as the losses mount, your army hopefully has redundant units that can do the job (because you did include redundancy, didn't you?), so you're not out of the game. And if you are out of the game? Well, play for the tie, or at least to cushion the loss. In a multi-round tournament a single loss may not take you completely out of the running. And if it does? Worst case scenario, you're suddenly dropped into the losers bracket and have no chance at prize? You keep playing, that's what. How many games have you played with this army? Not enough, I bet. Every game is good practice, and no matter how much you've had, another game never hurts.

Second, don't get mad at your opponent (or yourself.) You're probably going to get angry, as that's only natural, but take a second and cool off. Rolling five sixes isn't any more their fault than it was yours, and getting petty and argumentative because of the way things are going will only make the game worse and lower their opinion of you. A good player can play a losing game and keep a straight face about it, still being a gentleman; a bad player flies off the handle and throws dice and models around. If you've ever been on the other end of that scenario you know just how childish and embarrassing it is to watch and it's better not to expose either you or them to that little spectacle.

Third, losses are a good way to learn something and try and step up your game. When things are going badly and there's nothing you can do, obviously you won't learn how to stop rolling ones and twos, but playing playing from a position of weakness is a skill, too- understand how you have to change your play when your army is down some of its resources, how your target priority shifts, etc. And let's be honest here: it's not always the dice's fault. Lots of times we make mistakes ourselves and it's just convenient to blame it on bad dice, lucky opponents, etc; don't do this. You're never going to get any better if you can't admit you're screwing up, since you're never going to recognize and correct the mistakes you're making.

Fourthly, fight your battles where you can. This goes back to #1 in some ways, but don't try for something you can't reach- if you only have one troop squad, it may not be realistic to go for an objective-based victory anymore; perhaps you need to be aiming for a wipeout, or killing off their troops, or simply surviving until game end and contesting their objective for the tie. If you don't change what you're going for based on how the game goes, isn't that just poor play? Win or lose, you should always be striving to play the best you can.

Taking a loss based on luck, good or bad, is never going to be super-fun and amazing, but it doesn't have to be something that ruins your whole day, either. Try and keep your mind on winning the game, rather than dwelling on how awful everything is and how you are the unluckiest person on earth, because you aren't. Everyone has those games, and there's nothing you can do about it- just roll with the punches and be a good sport. No one's dice are magically weighted to always roll good or always roll bad, no matter what they think. Probability is absolutely neutral, and for all you know your dice will come up nothing but sixes for the entire rest of the tournament, so suck up that gut and get back to playing.

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