Monday, 13 July 2015

New Leads

About 2 years ago, I retired my Space Wolves. The army had seen my from my first forays into the tournament scene (dipping my toe in at Throne of Skulls) to the 2013 GT Finale in May. I was excited by the prospect of a new army now that I was slightly more familiar with the scene, and I loved the Chaos Marine book.

The plan was, that this would be the army that saw me out of 6th edition, and well, it has done that. Admittedly 7th came slightly earlier than I anticipated, but it has achieved part of its goal none-the-less. The aim was also to be, that this army would see me through University, and allow me to put my mark on the tournament scene.

To be honest, I think it's done all 3 of these things. Obviously, I have been using it a year into 7th edition, and I have finished University while still using the army, however, I have had a number of issues with the book, leading to where I am today.

I do believe that it has allowed me to impact the tournament scene. This is mainly because I am known as 'that one pleb who still plays Chaos Marines', but I've also had fun with it. We've won a lot of things together, and scared a lot of people with late game clutch plays. But I think now is the time to put the book back on the shelf.

The book itself all comes down to one fatal flaw: It has very little in terms of appreciable damage output. It could handle itself pretty well in the beginning, Heldrakes dominated for a while, but then came Tau, and Eldar, and Marines, and every other book out there, then Eldar and Marines again. After the release of Tau and Eldar you could see Chaos Marines respective damage starting to fall off, so this really led to the increase in Chaos Marine lists that functioned in a similar way to my old Land Raider one. Don't die.

This basically relies on you trying your best not to be killed until turn 5, where you fly onto objectives and then try to stay alive until the game ends, which is much harder to do than the previous 4 turns.

However, with the age of D-Weapons, and the release of things like Eldar that are more than capable of just melting a Screamer Star with it's 2++ up, it's getting harder. Sure, there are some things you can do (which is why there is a CSM showing at the ETC this year) but honestly, I can't be doing with investing hundreds of pounds every couple of months into an army just so that it might be able to stay alive. With these kinds of Daemon based CSM lists, the entire game can swing on one dice roll, and sure, that's seat of your pants stuff, but it's only ever going to swing one way, and when it swings, it goes right up your booty and it ain't coming out. You rarely kill anything, and you spend the entire game running away from that one dice roll that will screw you, and even then there's no guarantee of anything. All for the low low price of multiple high investments every quarter.

So, that's why I'm retiring my Chaos list, and putting my book away. It's been fun, but head office doesn't seem to care about Chaos (see, Codex: Khorne Daemonkin, a sloppily written abomination to appease Chaos lovers knowing no-one can be arsed to write a proper book), they'd much rather release 2 hideously broken Eldar books than update the central Chaos ones.

Caledonian Revolution will be my last tournament with them, and I will consider it a success if I can get in the top 3/4s. Not been playing well recently, and the book isn't helping, nor is the fact that I'm very bored with it.

Who knows, if a new book gets released I might hop back on CSM, however it is unlikely. Expect updates on what I will be running around with shortly. My new toys are already on the assembly line.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

If this happens at the ETC then...

So the ETC lists have been submitted and released, however due to the fact that I stick the the England squad like a rash I don't really want to talk about them too much. This is entirely to preserve competitive integrity as obviously I've been involved in the discussions both of our lists and regarding the lists of other squads since the release date.

But I do want to make a quick prediction, and release one of my thoughts regarding the eventual victor of the tournament.

I know a lot of readers will be upset about this, and if you have a rational argument to counter my thoughts, or you just want to vent, use the comments below. So, here we go:

I've been having a quick run over the general forum reaction to the lists, and I find the fact that so many people are seriously predicting the USA to win actually hilarious. If USA wins the 40k ETC event, I will personally take 12 nudes of myself using my webcam, and upload them to this blog.

All opinions expressed above are my own and not representative of anything or anyone else. In fact, I haven't even bothered to ask anyone about USA.

Have a nice day.

Friday, 26 June 2015

ETC Draft and Overkill

Held off on the latest post a little bit. There wasn't really anything to write about in terms of 40k goings on. So instead, I've spent the day looking for jobs, playing in the League of Legends IP boost weekend, and watching geography documentaries on YouTube (such nerd).

However, I have also been waiting for a couple of big moments, which occurred at midnight. The first of which was the list submission deadline for the Caledonian Revolution, which is mainly a prep tournament for the ETC, and which I needed to submit a list for.

The second was the ETC list deadline itself, after which the lists were released. As the squads have effectively been announced in full capacity, I can formally announce that I will play no part in either the English, nor the Dutch ETC squads this year (as I am eligible as a national for both). Instead, I'm going to spend my money going to watch the League of Legends World Championship in September and October. Fun times.

However, with the deadline now passed, I have been rifling very quickly through the lists. I have not looked at all of them yet, as I do not yet have access to all of them, and I have not had an in depth look either. However, a quick scan over 60% of the field has given me a couple of thoughts.

Firstly, I'm just going to take a very quick example, not naming anyone or anything like that, more to demonstrate a point. If you are a team, with a couple of world renowned, legendary players, with the rest of the team being fleshed out by people that are obviously known in your community, but not considered great players on an international stage (eg, Glenn Johnsons), then you need to think about list allocation, especially if the legendary players are known for changing their list every single year.

So, you have lets say 2 epic players, and 6 1/1 plebs. You then think about your draft. You have a number of 'power picks' so to speak. Lists that are extremely strong and should be harvesting huge points.

For an optimal team, you take the - lets say, there are 2 - power picks, so you have 2 lists that are pretty much guaranteed to get you loads of points, and 2 players that are pretty much guaranteed to garner you decent points as well. So, why on Earth would you put the 2 power picks in the hands of the 2 epic players?

Sure, you are probably going to get a very good haul from those 2 players, but in the end you are leaving the remaining 6 players that managed to perform ok in the isolated environment of their own country and throwing them all into the deep end with 'pocket picks' or '2nd tier lists'.

To be frank about this, if you throw a random with a pocket pick into a squad like the Germans, the Poles, the Swedes, the English, the Welsh, the Spanish, etc, they are probably going to struggle, and when you have 6 players out of your 8 really struggling for points, you are not going to win the round, and if you can't beat at least 2 of the above teams, there is no way you are going to win the ETC.

I talk about this a little bit as an outsider, I am also a 1/1 pleb. So if anyone holds a different view, please be sure to set me straight in the comments below.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Thank you 11th Company

When I look back over the last couple of years, and contrast 40k in 2012 to 40k in 2015. There are a huge number of differences. 3 years ago, we were on the verge of 6th edition, with Grey Knights and Necrons the most dominant on the scene.

Fast forward to 2015. The line of domination is blurred, with a wide variety of options available to the elite of the ETC squads. This does not mean that some codecies are not more powerful than others, Eldar for example are back to their usual state from 3rd edition to 7th edition with a vacation during 5th. 

You can talk about the enjoy ability of the game all you like, with the slow and considered releases of 5th edition, with all of the hype and speculation that came with them, to the rampant codex firing machine of 7th. But to be honest, I still love this game. 

One of the biggest of 40k for me cannot be laid directly at the feet of Games Workshop (although to claim that they do not hold ultimate responsibility for this would be naive in the extreme), but the passion from the community is gone. There is no longer a huge amount of hype for each Codex release.

This evening, I came home from a round of magazine delivering for hard cash to discover that the 11th Company had published its final episode, being laid to rest among such other great podcasts as Death or Glory and 40kGlobal (the latter of which I often appeared in). 

The 11th Company, and the 40kUk podcast (as it was known back then, before I met BJ) were the two driving forces that got my through my 500,000 word (with each word being a line of coding) A level Computing coursework, and are definitely the main reasons I got into competitive 40k. They drove my enthusiasm for the game, and challenged my assumptions on what would be strong, what made a good player or a strong list, or in general, how to play the game. But also did so in a way that was incredibly enjoyable. 

Without Dave Symcox, or Neil Gilstrap, or Pat, or Blackmoor, I would have never continued playing 40k, and 40k was the only thing that kept me sane in my first year of University, before I discovered other hobbys to accompany it. And so all I can say to the guys that created these podcasts, is thank you.

These podcasts are gone, many blogs have also folded, leaving us with the barren, money grabbing swamp that is the badly thought out, arrogant wasteland of Bell of Lost Souls. 

Unlike Bell of Lost Souls however, my plan of action is not to release a sniveling, stupid and shameful display of self pity blaming an entire community because I lack the motivation to actually organise things properly.

Yesterday, I graduated from University, and am currently considered unemployed by the British Government. In the meantime, whilst I am applying for jobs, I might as well be doing something constructive. Therefore, over the coming days, weeks, and months, I plan to be releasing more video and written content than ever before. 

Thank you 11th Company.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Learning to Improve at 40k

Over the last year I haven't really been able to play much 40k. This has led to some disappointing results: Mid table at Toy Soldier, being knocked out of the GT  (an event at which I had won multiple awards the previous year) in the Heats, and coming 5th at a tournament I really felt I could win or at least should be making the podium.

Practice is key it is true, often people quote 'practice makes perfect'. This to a degree is true, but it is not the be all and end all. For example, about this time last year I was nailing practice, beating down most of my opponents convincingly and getting lots of games in. The results from then were as follows: Top half at Caledonian Uprising, mid table at Death or Glory, mid table and Best Chaos Space Marine at the GT Finale, and top third at War of the Roses.

Lets start with the Caledonian, at the end, I was pleased with the result, it was the first time I had ever legitimately hit top half, but looking upwards, given the size of the event, I felt I could have done a lot better.

Death or Glory next. This one started really well, and I flew to the top tables. I then lost to Dan Sackett and Rob Madeley - two players that I highly respect - to be in a break match for top half with Steve Setterfield, who I had played at the GT Heats, and had one. This time however, we were both really tired, and he had a hangover. Despite this, I whiffed and drew the game.

GT Finale, I can't really argue with this one, although I feel there were games in there that I messed up and could have easily turned a loss into a win.

And War of the Roses. Pretty solid tournament overall, although my only loss was a case of me throwing the game away with a huge mistake.

So, despite all of the practice, I was still making massive mistakes or just straight up getting outplayed at every single event. Therefore I would argue that it is not the amount of practice that counts, but the quality of it. For an extreme example, I would rather go and spend a weekend practicing with any ETC squad than playing at the beginners club at a local GW every day for a year.

But you don't need ETC calibre players in order to learn. It is exceptionally easy for you to evaluate your own performance, and think about where you need to improve. For example, around last year I was horrendous at judging match ups, so I worked on my deployment play, spent ages micro-engineering it for the best possible result. It would take a while, yes, but it would set me in really good stead for the rest of the game.

I played a game on Monday, against what I perceived to be a difficult match up, but my deployment allowed me to capitalise on positional mistakes and punish. At the end of the game however, I was given time to stand back, and evaluate my own performance.

The result was, that I was proud of some elements of my play - such as my deployment and my micro management - but that I was unable to translate it to an overall steamroll. I focussed too heavily on individual pockets of fighting and deciding where I needed to allocate various units at what time, that I lost a sense of the greater picture, not even considering what my opponent might do next turn and how I needed to play around it.

Such playing in the moment can be beneficial, as it opens you up to utterly snowball the game out of control if you win every single pocket of fighting simultaneously and at the right time. But this is exceptionally rare, so during War of the Roses this weekend, my goal is not to hit a certain position, but to rather improve my macro level play and not get so caught up in the moment that I forget about what my opponent could do. I've learnt to do it during deployment, now I need to focus on potential plays as they unfold.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Video Battle Report

Hi everyone, been really busy the last month with University work and what have you. However I have managed to grind out a recording of a game I played with John Booth over Vassal last month, with 5 hours of cut footage. Have at it.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Open Letter to Bell of Lost Souls

Dear Administrators,

I used to read  your website on a regular basis, however due to the number of adverts crashing my terrible computer I gave that up a couple of years back. Now, with my brand new PC, I find myself back at your website reading what I have to say is one of the most misguided pieces of journalism that I have ever read.

Let me first introduce myself, my name is Tom Leighton. I am a regular player on the UK tournament circuit, and a final year student of a BA Honours Degree in Publishing Media at Oxford Brookes University.

In case you cannot recall, I am talking about your article entitled 40k: Breaking the game (Found here: Now, I am all for an analysis of the mindset of a competitive player and why they enjoy the game the way they do, anything 'philosophical' I can generally approve of. This article is not philosophical, this article merely comes across as the author's way of making themselves feel like a legitimately decent 40k player after being smacked about by someone who brought a more powerful list.

Now, for a portion of this article I can agree with the author, playing a game where the lists are completely mismatched is not fun. However, I would like to take a quote from the article here,

'Some people, like myself (there should be a comma here, back to the quote) want a nice, balanced game to stretch our abilities and make it all about your choices on the field rather than list building.' 

This is but one example of the author's complete lack of experience regarding the tournament scene, other examples include 'Checkers is a completely balanced game', it is impossible to completely balance a game. And, 'A competitive list in 40k basically amounts to "how many rule-breaking units can I stack together" I'll ignore the last bit from the initial quote as I'm coming to that anyway, but that isn't the formula for the vast majority of competitive lists.

If you just think of competitive 40k for a second, you probably think of tournaments, an environment where everyone is trying to build a strong list, so every game you are playing against someone, who has also attempted to build the strongest list possible. To paraphrase, if one 'dick list' is facing off against another 'dick list' is this not a relatively fair pairing? Both players have come into the game with the same goals, and the same expectations, and thus we have an enjoyable game where both players know what to expect and essentially, it comes down to which player can understand and play the match up between the armies the best. Aka, who can make the best 'choices on the field'.

If you think about running into a guy at your local club or friendly local gaming store, and it hasn't been the greatest of games due to a mis-match in terms of the end goals of the lists of each player, one of two things has happened.

1: You and your opponent have been involved in some miss-communication, your opponent is a competitive player who may be preparing for a tournament and was coming down to the club in anticipation of a practice game to help improve, while you came down in anticipation of just bringing your collection and rolling some dice.

2: Your opponent is an arsehole who gets an ego boost off turning up at the local club and kicking the crap out of a fluffy army.

If the former, there is nothing malicious here and there is no reason to defame competitive players as 'dicks', there was simply a mis-understanding regarding what to expect from the game.

If the latter, then firstly, you do not have to play the guy in the first place. If this is what they are like then they probably have a reputation and you know what you're getting into, and if not you'll soon discover that they are not someone you would enjoy playing and so you can simply refuse to play them.

In the case of the latter, you can label them as a dick all you want, admittedly you could refuse to play them but that's by-the-by. Call them all of the names under the Sun if you like, but it is completely unacceptable, and quite frankly - defamatory, to say that they are a competitive player. If this individual is turning up week in, week out, to beat lists that are a complete mis-match for them, then that is by definition the exact opposite of a competitive game, because there was no competition. And let's say for the sake of argument that this individual does attend tournaments, I can guarantee that they probably won't do very well at them given the practice that they will have had, and if they act like an arsehole at a tournament and ruin the experience for people, they will simply be barred from the tournament (at least in the UK).

To conclude, I have been on the UK tournament scene for going on 2 years now, and I have only met one individual that I would not call a friend. Competitive players are not douchebags looking for a quick ego boost off a player who enjoys the game in a different manner, they are lovely guys who also happen to enjoy testing the strategy, not just of the game, but also of list building, to its limits against like minded individuals, and I am disappointed that Bell of Lost Souls of all places would publish a piece (given your collection of writers) categorising competitive players as 'Dicks' and passing it off as 'philosophy'.

I hope that this will not happen again in the future,

Tom Leighton