Kirb your enthusiasm!


"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

Friday, February 3, 2012

Winning Doesn't Mean You Did Well; Losing Doesn't Mean You Did Badly

I've talked about fallacies, errors, mistakes, screw-ups and traps in the past, but there is one that is far and away the most common of them and probably the hardest to disabuse someone of as well. Anecdotal evidence, usually seen in the form of "Yeah you say Unit X is bad, but I once saw a squad kill thirty Space Marines and nine Rhinos and eleven Land Raiders and thirty-five Thunderhawks in a single game, so I KNOW they're good!" Or, similarly: "I don't care what you say or what your arguments are, I've won lots of games using my Chaos Spawn list."

Winning a game (or losing a game) once proves nothing. It's why internet grudge match challenges are stupid. It's why citing that one time a thing happens is meaningless. Certainly, results matter, but that should be looked at in terms of their place in an overall framework of events, not as just the immediate results of what happens.

For example, Orks, Daemons, the old Necrons, etc, all won tournaments- and not small numbers of them, either. And yet I claimed, and continue to claim, that these are/were bad codices. Is that contradictory? No, because the strength of a codex or army is not the only factor at work in determining the results of a tournament. Obviously, there is the factor of luck- this is why individual instances of winning are meaningless, but we can discount that if it is something that happens often and consistently. There is the skill of the player- absolutely nothing stops a good player from bringing a bad list. (You might argue that it is impossible to judge the list of a better player, since one might not understand what they are doing with the list and how it functions, but that makes a faulty assumption that generalship and list-writing are the same skill. They totally aren't.) There is also the strength of opponents (both their lists and their generalship) to consider- it's easier to win at your Saturday afternoon local tourney then it is to take top prize at NOVA. There's the actual tournament itself- the terrain balance, the missions used, and so forth- if you're playing with wonky scenarios or fighting on Planet Cueball, results will be very different than if you use tiered missions and 25% coverage terrain. The point is, whether a list is good or not is but one of many, many factors that determine whether you will win a game, so winning does not in and of itself prove anything.

For this same reason, don't abandon or alter your list just because you lost a couple of games to people. Look at what happened- did you misplay? This is where honesty with yourself is critical, because if you just blame your loss on the list every time, you will go on changing it and changing it and changing it and never improve. It can likewise be easy to blame luck, and perceptual biases make this hard to look at accurately, but unless your dice were grossly unfair, this is something you should avoid doing. Sometimes the game hinges on one or two critical dice rolls, but in order to get to that point, you had to allow the situation to happen that made things hinge on them- you don't need to worry about killing that Land Raider on turn 7 if you already dealt with it on turn

So whether you win a battle or lose a battle, we would do well to follow Mark Twain's advice: "We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it -- and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again -- and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore." Take away from a battle only the relevant lessons, and not anything more. Don't beat a weak player and take it as proof that your army is good; don't lose on long odds and take it as the enemy being unbeatable. Don't use single games as evidence of anything, really, except maybe an illustration of something you already know. A sample size of one is a terrible data set add, while it isn't always feasible to do dozens of test matches against every possible army, that doesn't mean that you should make broad, sweeping generalizations from single matches.

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