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.