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