Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Difference Between Tournament Players and WAAC Douchebags

I was recently reminded of an article I had prepped for the 'Northern Wastes' blog, during the production of the next post, and to be honest the next one is taking rather a long time to process. So in the meantime I thought I would have a little rant here regarding the perception of tournament players.

Now for some context, this was around about Adepticon when Nick Nanavati won it with his Flying Monstrous Creature list. An article detailing this appeared on Bell of Lost Souls and of course this was advertised on Facebook. This post was then commented on by one of my friends and Welsh ETC player Mr Mike Collins so - ever interested in the American meta and their circuit - I decided to take a look.

Now I am well aware of the infamous commentors over there known as the 'BoLS Trolls', but to be honest I feel that no matter whether they are trolling or not, this is an opinion shared by a large chunk of the community, especially online. But to be perfectly honest, this was just in the Facebook comments, not even on the main sight.

The general sentiment given was that Nick is a prick (that exact word was used) and a WAAC douchebag for taking such a bent list and winning a tournament with it, and that a chimp could win a tournament with it. And I have a few problems with this.

Now I'm not here to defend Nick personally, hell I've heard stories that he's a pretty cool guy but I've never met him and I only heard the stories after my initial disappointment with the community so it had no impact whatsoever.

Firstly, it is worth pointing out that the expectations of what you're going to face at a tournament and what you're going to face at your local store or - if you are commenting with such tripe on a public space - in your mum's basement, are completely different. At tournaments, the fun is in going up against the best players with the best lists and giving them a tough game, the fun is in the puzzle of how to win the game and working out the best strategy and tactics for each scenario, not in turning up, sitting around for 40 minutes carelessly removing your beautifully painted models from a table courtesy of the titan in the apocalypse game, before spending another 40 minutes doing the same to your opponent. If you want to get pissed and throw dice around, to each their own, but you have no right to impose how you enjoy to play the game and your expectations of what you should face on others.

Therefore, you can guarantee that the vast majority of the 256 people in the room will also have attempted to bring the strongest list they can. Sure, if you're going to compare one optimally efficient list with your 'little bit of everything' Tyranid list, it's probably going to be an unbalanced game because the tournament list is clearly the more efficient. But then when you compare it with a list built for a similar purpose, suddenly it's a bit closer, and that's the entire point. You are all striving for the same goal of winning the tournament and that's the fun of it.

So when you have a room full of 256 armies all built to be as strong as possible, how can you possibly say that you could take the same list and win the tournament 100% guaranteed without being a crazy good player. In my opinion, I don't think that there is anyone in North America that could  say that, and I even think that in Europe it's a stretch (if you want to compare NA with EU in 40k I have tonnes of ammunition to say that EU players are stronger, I don't think it's even a discussion). The fact that you would even believe such a thing shows how much exposure you have to tournament play, and that is absolutely zero. You don't understand the concept of relative balance and you don't understand the fact that beating up random 12 year olds on vassal with the curtains closed does not make you an ETC calibre player. It just makes you a borderline paedophile with a messiah complex.

This brings me to my point regarding WAAC players and tournaments. Anyone reading this who has ever made a comment relating to tournament players being dicks, I urge you. Go to a tournament. I don't even mean a local one where you might know some of the guys, I mean a big tournament, with loads of strangers, and tell me that you had a bad time. Yeah, occasionally you might get the one insecure guy pretending to be good who is kind of an arsehole but no more than 1 a tournament. I have been going to these things since 2012, and I have only run into one individual who I would truely call a hateful human being.

Sure, tournament players are trying to win their games, but the at all costs bit is extremely steep. There is no point winning unless you can do it fairly, otherwise you are just proving the point that you do not believe you can beat the opposing player without cheating your way to it or sapping all of the fun out of the game. And that's what this hobby is about at the end of the day, fun. We have recently had the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in France, something that has hit me as it is in an industry that I will work in in 4 months time. The entire point of that is down to freedom of speech, and that by extension means freedom of political, religious (or lack thereof) and philosophical views provided they do not mean the taking of human life.

This is a vast hobby, with multiple avenues to explore, so please, make sure you educate yourself on a topic before you judge it.

Monday, 5 January 2015

CSM in 7th and Obliterators

It's all requests Tuesday, and as I can't be arsed to go to bed due to the 48 hours of pain I have lined up over the next few days here's a blog post.

I've spent the last month or so coming out of my cocoon of 6th edition and out into the big bright world of 7th, and a lot has changed. As such, I've been trying out a variety of Chaos lists from variations on the goofy curveball raider list that did so well for me in 6th, to ripping off a gentleman from Belarus. In the end, I think I've settled on stealing from the Belarussians with a few tweaks, which I cannot go into detail of right now for a number of reasons.

Instead, I'd quite like to talk about Obliterators, and how they fit in the modern game of 40k. If you disagree with any of the points made here, I'm more than happy to discuss them in the comments section, and if you just think that I'm a flat out dipshit with less game knowledge than a 12 year old in a hobby store, I'm more than happy to compare our credentials (/snobbery).

I have always been an advocate of one particular style of play since getting into Chaos Marines, and that is board control. If I am able to dictate where you are on the board throughout the game through my threat ranges then I can essentially dictate which objectives you can get to, and if I can dictate which objectives you can get to I can take necessary steps to prevent you from claiming them and take the ones out of your reach to close out the game. With my old Land Raider list it was essentially possible to win a game without either player losing a single model. Very few want to get near to them, and if you only have 4 Lascannons et al I'm just going to dance around the board's terrain and laugh, pushing you into a corner all the while, because my threat range is as long as my arm. Of course there are match ups which completely shut this down, but that is the case with most things.

In 7th I believe this theory of board control to be even more important, and this is simply due to the fact that it is much harder to contest objectives now. With only Eldar and Necrons able to do it to a consistent 'turn 5 jumping' level. But lets break this down to a very core level. 5/6 missions are based around capturing objectives, so lets use this as a base win conditions. So the 2 ways to win a game of 40k are to 1) hold more objectives than your opponent, or 2) wipe them from the table (a very crude breakdown but lets roll with it for a second).

Of course, you can kick the crap out of your opponent in order to claim more objectives, it's a perfectly viable strategy because you're obtaining board control via removing your opponent from the table, but the point remains that you can essentially substitute 'hold more objectives' with 'have better board control'. This is precisely why objectives need to be 12" apart, these missions are literally designed to test board control. Even if you are jumping the objectives with jetbikes turn 5, and the game ends for you to win after hiding in the corner for 4 turns, the point still stands. Your opponent was not able to bubblewrap the objectives properly, and you were able to capitalise on it, in short, you were able to control the board better because you were able to exploit the parts of it that you needed to.

So lets come back to our win conditions, 1) Control the board better than your opponent 2) Wipe them from the table. Now how do Obliterators fare in terms of helping you fulfill those win conditions?

Obliterators have always been a solid individual unit within the Chaos Codex. They're versatile, they're pretty tanky, and generally produce something that the Codex lacks in terms of a viable shooting unit. If you're looking for a rundown of Obliterators at the start of 6th edition, by a 19 year old that was still getting embarrassed at small events and Throne of Skulls, you can find it here (http://wargamingrampage.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/chaos-marine-analysis-obliterators.html) I sucked. However, 2 years down the line with a crap load more experience at a top level and a few things in my trophy cabinet, do I still think that there is a place for them in competitive lists with reasonable expectations of winning games? I'm going to jump the gun here and say no, and here's why:

(Wednesday) Lets start from the ground up here. I spent last night drafting out a list centred purely around Obliterators, and making them as efficient as possible. I'm not going to go into full detail with it because I need to be at work in 45 minutes. Essentially you're going to start with 3 units of 3 Obliterators with Mark of Nurgle, taken in a primary detachment of Crimson Slaughter for the Divination psykers and whatnot. So 2 Sorcerers on bikes, then in 2 units of Spawn to provide peel for the Obliterators, you don't really want them getting charged because - although proficient in close combat - they are still not fabulous especially with the lack of Fearless, and every turn you spend in assault is a turn you're not shooting.

Then you probably want to take a brick of Tzeentch Heralds. They can go in a Horror unit they're fine you don't really need them in anything faster so you'll save points on discs and an extra squad there. Then just use the remaining points on a few mandatory scoring pieces, some more peel or more flashy upgrades. Then sit as a brick, daemons in the centre, then Oblits, then Spawn. Cast up Cursed Earth every turn to give the Obliterators a 4++ save and then spend the rest of your dice spawning. Then move up into the centre of the board and take it. You can then spread if you need to but essentially you have a 24" threat range from the edge of your circle, so approximately a threat 60" in diameter.

So lets go back to our win conditions, and to be realistic, Chaos Marines should not be wiping people from the board very often. In terms of damage output we're pretty weak. Obliterators are our only ok shooting unit (they're pretty expensive for their output per turn really when compared to other factions, a perfectly reasonable comparison because that is what you are going to be attempting to outshoot), and once you've fully loaded yourself on those there's nothing else to add. Shooty CSM does not really work. Assault wise, possibly, but if you are smashing someone based on assault they have not taken the tools to protect their big hitters which will help to clear you or kite you around the board, and they should revise their list. At the top tables, you are not going to be able to table someone via assault either.

So then you come back to board control. Taking the example list above, you are having an effect over a large section of the board, but how great is the effect? Spawn are exceptionally good at tying things up and wiping squishier units but it's not a unit that makes you crap yourself in terror. Obliterators are a similar story. Sure if you have all 9 pump their fire into something then you will probably kill it, but damn that's a lot of commitment. As I mentioned earlier, the damage output per Obliterator per turn is not that great.

Now you can head down to your local gaming club, play a guy with a nicely painted Space Marine army, beat him by taking the middle and claim that it works. But that isn't evidence for working in tournament play. So lets compare it against the last 9 lists that I played against in tournament play (the last 2 events) and see how it would do:

1) FMC daemons. Come down, spawn tie up 2 DPs, the rest charge the Obliterators and kill them. They don't care about your threat, you don't have enough protection and your Oblits are unlikely to kill a flying DP in a turn even with Prescience.

2) Centurion Marines. You might do ok here. Really depends on the first turn.

3) Shunt Grey Knights. Again, can just jump forward, they had enough force weapons to deal with the spawn followed by the 3 Dreadknights eating the Obliterators. You might kill 1 before it gets in but if he commits fully you are in trouble.

4) Wraithwing. The real problem here is that he doesn't care about your spawn.

5) (at work on my phone) Dark Eldar. He didn't really spam lances or poisoned so really the list would be fine here.

6) Wave Serpents and Lance. He doesn't really care about your damage or your potential to tie him up so he can dictate the board much better. Until he catches up with and kills you.

7) Wave Serpents and Wraithknights. Slightly bette as you can now try and tie him down. But then he'll probably spend the first couple of turns clearing a few spawn before going for it an doing exactly the same thing.

8) horde nids. You can't tie everything down so he'll lock down your spawn with his bigger stuff, the oblits with gaunts and then have free reign of the board with the rest of his stuff.

9) weird ass summony ork/chaos list. Similar problem except he is more able to kick your teeth in with his DP.

So how's the list performing? Not particularly well. The main problem really here is that you don't have enough clear and your strength of board presence in terms of your threat because of this just isn't enough to deal with most. In short, an obliteration centric CSM list does not work.

So would they work as a support stor file role? I think the question you always have to ask yourself when building a list is 'why?' Why am I taking this unit? What does it bring to my army that nothing else does as well. I've use mutilators at tournaments in the past, not because I wanted to be that guy that used weird ass models, but because they were better suited to a role than anything else. Therefore, it doesn't matter if a unit is considered universally solid, if it doesn't fit the role you're looking for taking it is like pouring points down the drain.

If your list structure is 'I have some choppy units, now I need some snooty units' then to be honest you may struggle. When building your list ask how you are going to win games. Thus, you can generate an overall play style, and if a unit doesn't fit with that, leave it out.

10pm Christmas Eve. Still at work. On the toilet. The problem then is, even if you have a list maxed out on Obliterators. They don't provide any threat over the boar due to their relatively lacklustre point for point damage output, and despite the fact that they're tanky they don't have the speed to really tie anything up unless your opponent is exceptionally careless. Meaning that for their points cost they neither threaten a large enough area of the board efficiently enough for what they do (spawn do it better) and are not really able to clear most units well. 

Tl;dr. Obliterators are an expensive unit that provide very little in terms of achieving the win conditions of 40k.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Army List Advice on Forums - How good is it?

Seeing as I love to write scathing and sarcastic rants regarding things I hate (University Accommodation Internet Connection. Maybe I'll post it sometime), I decided to nostalgically delve deep into the sarcastic 40k underbelly that are online forums. Recently I've been pretty patronising of forums and users in a few of my posts, and I'd just like to clear the air.

Firstly, just don't post your list for advice on a forum if it's fluffy. Because any advice anyone gives can easily be dismissed 'because it's for background'. If it's for background, nice, just don't come into a setting purely there to give competitive advice when that's not what you're looking for. That said, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it if you are looking for competitive advice either, and here's why:

First of all, you have to think about what forums do, they essentially provide a platform for individuals to communicate and discuss a certain shared interest, right. And one of the appeals of this is that everyone is on a level playing field in terms of how your opinion is viewed and perceived. As a personal example; you could be the best Chaos Space Marine player in the United Kingdom or a guy with 300 points of Chaos Marines who names every model in his army and your opinions will carry the same weighting unless the poster has some knowledge of who you are, which is exceptionally unlikely as if they were looking for a particular opinion they would come straight to that individual rather than posting on a public forum hoping to snipe an individual.

Sure, you can make the argument that they are looking for someone with more experience with the faction, but it comes back to the point again, it's a complete lottery, and frankly, the vast majority of opinions I have seen given in the last week of nostalgically browsing DakkaDakka.com could practically be written by a bot because it all follows the same formula.

1. Check list for units commonly perceived as bad.

2. If units are found, remove from list.

3. If units are removed from list, replace with unit of same slot commonly perceived as good.

4. Check unit gear for perceived sub optimal loadouts.

5. If loadouts found, remove from list.

6. If loadouts are removed, replace with publicly perceived optimal loadout.

7. Once the above steps are complete, attempt to insult or patronise anyone who does not follow this formula.

From someone who has built weird and whacky lists from scratch and done well with them in top level tournaments, this is not how to write a good list. The only list I can think of that was ever any good that effectively used this formula was Wraithwing, and even then it just so happened that they worked well together (D-Lords, Wraiths and Night Scythes with barebones Warriors). Besides, that book is now the oldest in the game, and that list was first created in 5th edition.

As mentioned in the previous post regarding Obliterators. The key to a strong list is one where all its components are working together towards the same win condition, not just blindly picking units that seem good at certain roles. The days of well-rounded 40k lists covering all bases with each unit are over. If you have an 1,850pt army, whose win condition is to smash your opponent so that they cannot physically control enough objectives or flat out tables them, then having 600 points put into Plague Marines is not going to help you achieve that, so you effectively have 1,250 of a tabling army. You have an inefficiency, because quite frankly you don't need a beefy ass unit holding your backline if the enemy has nothing to clear it with, which quite frankly, is EXACTLY what your list is trying to do.

Forget the plague marines, take the dirt cheap option and pour all of those points into something that will actually help you win the game.

EDIT: This is not to say that if you reply to posts on forums you don't know what you're talking about, it's very kind to offer assistance with other peoples lists and you have my respect for it. However I would highly recommend that you try to think a little bit more about the box in terms of helping the playstyle that the original poster is going for.