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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

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pre-game Mentality

I seem to be in a 40k philosophy theme lately. Rather than focusing on specific tactics I seem to be doing more general posts on gameplay and approaches to such. Interesting...

Moving right along, nothing is changing! Katie and I were talking (look at that name dropping) about the Ladder (which is moving along nicely) and it ended up sparking this article. One of the most important parts of any wargame is being able to look at the table you are playing on, the winning methods and the two (or more) armies opposing each other and from there. From there, you need to distil this knowledge to figure out what you need to do to win and what your opponent needs to do to win. By doing both of these at the same time, you can not only achieve your victory but blunt your opponent from doing so as well which will better enable your own plan to work. Remember as well, they are going to be trying to stop you. To do this you need to be able to think clearly, rationally and use the full might of your cognitive ability but things often get in the way of this.

Now I could go full psychobabble here but I'm not because well it's a pet peeve of mine but I really dislike people discussing the 'psychology' of a gamer. It's generally folk-psychology bullcrap and it insults the already weak scientific grounds of a social science which I happen to have some affection for. And the psychobabble would basically just be a loosely related concept in which I get you to google a bunch of terms. Glad I got that off my chest! Rather, let's look at the mentality of the gamer, specifically pre-game.

There are two 'mentalities' I want to look at here - overwhelmed and cocky.


Players who feel overwhelmed by their opponent would relate closely to things like "How am I going to deal with that?" or "How am I to win against this list/player?" This is very often a by-product of inexperience or poor list building and new players will often feel it, especially when big scary units such as Nob Bikers, Paladins, TH/SS Terminators, etc. are used. They are scary units and not knowing how to deal with them can be difficult. The problem with this thinking is you can often down-play your own ability or army's capacity to impact your opponent on the tabletop. Whilst this may be common to newer players or individuals with sub-par lists, thinking like this isn't an unknown amongst more experienced players or individuals with better armies.

As we said above, this thinking can often lead to a downplaying of individual or army ability but importantly impacts upon how you look at the game. For example, from the outset of the game you might aim to draw instead of win, believing you have no chance to win. You might not take reasonable risks afraid that by doing so you will lose even more or your opponent will take advantage of it. In short you start second-guessing yourself and become unsure of what you should do. This is bad. Whilst when you are new it is to be expected, it's part of the learning curve after all but if you feel like this I encourage you to look at it differently - you have nothing to lose. It is after all, a game, and thus never really have anything to lose. In the case of going up against a better army or player, this is particularly true as you aren't expected to win. Don't go in thinking you will lose or feeling overwhelmed and you will better be able to play at your ability, learn things and hopefully win.

An easy way of course to fix this is to improve your gaming knowledge. Whilst nothing replaces the actual experience of gaming, by knowing your the theory behind armies and units you shouldn't feel overwhelmed by your opponent's army. Even if you have a sub-par list, you should know how to deal with your opponent and know the weaknesses of your list and how this will apply to opposing armies. I feel this is a major factor in people being overwhelmed - lack of knowledge coupled with the lack of experience. It's easy to fix your lack of knowledge though it can take a bit of reading and memory and the only way to make up for lack of experience is to gain some! Remember whilst doing this however to focus on improving and not feeling overwhelmed by your opponent, their army or the situation - play with confidence!


On the flip-side of this you have the cocky mentality where one feels they should win regardless. This can simply be the individual thinks they are top fudgemuffins (hey look, an e-peen!) or think they have an army advantage. There's nothing wrong with playing confidently, see above, but there is a line which you need to toe. When you cross that line and head into the land of cocky, well you can be in deep strife. Even though the odds may be in your favor, remember, they are odds and by thinking you have the game in the bag from the beginning, you'll often be less engaged with the game you should be. This is bad as you'll start to make mistakes or not be out-thinking (or even matching) your opponent. This will lead to you losing and it is most humbling if you aren't an arrogant tool.

A prime example of this is my game against Michael's Footdar at Event Horizon. Whilst Eldar have some nice advantages against Grey Knights (Runes of Warding; Eldard), the army advantage was clearly in my park. I knew this. Michael knew this. I played with over-confidence, didn't think properly, made mistakes and lost the game. I ended up learning loads and have still yet to improve my Grey Knight movement to a point to which I am happy, but it was a game I could and probably should have won which was lost due to my cocky attitude. Lesson? Don't be cocky.

In situations where you think you may have a significant advantage, i.e. good army match up or player you beat regularly, don't go into the game 'knowing' you will win. Obviously it is good to think positively and believe you will win, but you must believe this whilst knowing you are going to have to work for it. Even if the odds are heavily in your favor, focus and play the game that needs to be played for the win. This will ensure you are engaged throughout the game, will minimise your mistakes and are thinking several steps ahead to ensure your victory is secure. This is very different from being a cocky wanker and you'll also be more pleasant to play against.


These pre-game mentalities can hugely impact upon the game as individuals can lose focus and be less attuned to the game. This is where less viable tactics enter and individuals can perform less ably than they should normally. By maintaining a clear head, not being arrogant or overwhelmed towards your opponent and their army, you will have a better game. Not only will you be thinking more and playing better but you'll enjoy it more due to your frame of mind. You're not worried about this being a waste of time nor about getting your face smashed in. In essence you are relaxed and there to have fun (with the aim to win of course). As we said before, play with confidence!

These mentalities can also creep up in-game (i.e. major unit gets wiped out and you enter a state of being overwhelmed or you're wiping your opponent out and feeling cocky). The same principles apply and in this respect, the player who maintains their focus and concentrates on the winning parameters will more often than not pull through. Don't lose focus and you'll find you perform to the maximum of your ability and the capacity of your army more often.

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