Monday, June 21, 2010

"Win At All Costs" in Action - Misused Phrases

So, my friends and I have oft discussed, and I've oft witnessed, the use of the term "win at all costs."

I think it's important to me as a player, tournament organizer, and competitor in all things to highlight and understand the subject ... especially since it rears its head most often during and in tournament settings.

I know a guy with a gorgeous, showcase-worthy and fluff-designed list he brings to tournaments.
I know a guy who will never go to a tournament without a perfectly optimized, spam-tastic power list.

I know a guy who puts all of his models on slightly too large custom bases. When he charges someone, he "succeeds" sometimes by just enough margin due to having a larger base. When someone shoots a weapon at him and is just barely in range of his base ... he claims they are out of range, b/c his base size should actually be a little smaller.

I know a guy who will shrug off every rules argument if it gets even a little heated and let it go his opponent's way, even if it means he's getting unfairly treated.

I'm still talking about the same 2 guys here. The fluff-built gorgeous army is the one who will take advantages for his modeling and deny his opponents fair return. The power gaming list builder is as considerate as it gets in a tournament setting.

I game with a group of players who, with few exceptions, take very optimized lists for their own play styles. Some of us are excellent painters, or converters (or both, damnit ... not me). What's relevant here is that when we all started playing together, the variety of the list caliber that we brought to the table was extreme. Nevertheless, a handful of us started the experience with very, very powerful lists (sometimes by accident, sometimes by design). Since we're all about as socially normal and easy going as it gets, there was no animosity toward anyone or FROM anyone about the armies hitting the table top. People simply adjusted. This is what competitors do ... they compete. Over time, the game meshed, all games became far closer, and the fun went up for almost everyone.

Cut to us meandering our way to tournaments, and perusing our way around the internet. Numerous blogs and forums out there proclaim the best ways to build lists and run armies, and how to play the game. For us ... merely by the chance of how we became 40k players ... it's "old news." What's that, a "best of" list? Boy it looks familiar. We don't think we had any influence on it ... we're just a few buddies. BUT these are conclusions that resulted from how we play together over time ... 40k isn't *that* complicated a game.

There are numerous players and groups that develop differently. Sometimes the most competitive and "win-oriented" people in the world never see their game elevated beyond a certain point, simply as a result of where and who they play with. Dialects of 40k, I suppose.

When a lot of us go to tournaments, without any malicious forethought, and with the same excellent sportsmanship we show in any game setting (including among buddies), we often "run over" players who are clearly competitive (sometimes too much so) but who are used to winning in lighter gaming circles on the power curve. Cut to EXAMPLE 1, of a fluff-based modeler and list builder who really doesn't compete with our best ... but who will take and nick every single possible advantage he can in a game.

Warhammer 40,000, and Warhammer Fantasy are extremely heterogeneous at the army build level. Most people tailor their army builds to the group they game with.

- GT and tournament "only" gamers who don't have a tight knit social group will tailor their lists to the all comers approach ... unless they're purely in it for the appearance awards, you can expect their lists will reflect the current literature on the web / blogs / etc., b/c they'll be tracking the tourney chatter and keeping in touch with what's currently winning tourneys, yatta yatta.

- Gamers who spend most of their time in local gaming stores or GW's playing are going to have ... probably whackier or less potent builds. The wide variety of "casual" or young gamers that frequent these locales often means you don't need to do as much list changing to win routinely.

- Gamers who spend most of their time playing with their social network or club / group are going to exhibit an enormous variety of list build. Some groups (i.e. mine) will be power built out the wazoo, some won't ... it's obviously not a practice of their powergaming or fluffgaming, but simply the potency required when you really don't play much outside of those regular opponents.

Here's something super important - none of the above says a damned thing about their attitude toward gaming and competition, and whether or not they are "Win At All Costs." It is so critically important that you all understand this when attending a tournament (especially one with such a variety of attendance as, say, the NOVA Open). If you don't, if you're incapable of enough deep/critical thought to recognize that a person's LIST does not reflect upon their CHARACTER by any necessary connection ... well, you'll be "that guy." YOU'LL be the Win At All Costs. Because when you lose a game, and instead of congratulating your opponent on the win ... you simply call his army cheesy, or wander around the hall complaining about how broken your opponent(s)' lists were ... well, that's just you attempting to "win" after all. I hope you realize this.

If you lose a game, but attempt to trample your opponent and slander his name afterward ... guess what - you're still trying to "win." The same applies to those who try to cheat during games when they know they cannot out think or out list their opponent. Both styles of player ... the post-game slanderer and the in-game cheater ... are the true "Win At All Costs." Avoid the abandonment of dignity, pride and true sportsmanship inherent to decrying your opponent's list and success as irrelevant. Avoid the same inherent to cheating.

Anyway, a ramble as usual ... but what do you all think of "Win At All Costs" as a label ... and what are your experiences with players you think/thought were "WAAC?"

- Mike

To those attending the NOVA Open - anticipate that powerful lists will be present. They always are at big GT's. Prepare for it, or accept the inherent risk of not doing so. That said, your attitude and skill as a competitor are so much more important than the "perfection" of your list.

I'm going to open up 16 more 40k slots for the Open today.


  1. What you are describing is a "sore loser". Sore losers are born from trying to recover their pride because they can't separate themselves from the sportsmanship required to be a competitor and the self imposed shame of publicly (important word there) failing. Generally, this is a social skill that some of us learn while we are growing up. We learn that it's okay to lose a "game" because there is no "shame" in losing, that shame being self perceived (thus not real :) ) We are taught this because that is one of the corner stones (if not THE cornerstone) for what sportsmanship really is all about.

    Truthfully, I know very few people that won't try to make excuses when they publicly fail to do something. I'd wager that major public figures in sports probably do this as well, when at home talking to their wives or their buddies over a brewsky. Mostly, it's unconcious. "Well, if my dice hadn't have failed me..." "Well, I just got a bad draw..." etc. etc. :) So, what I'm really saying is I don't know someone who is really a "sore loser" at heart. (Deny it all you want. I don't believe you! :) ) What I do know is that people who are taught "sportsmanship" know that although it's perfectly okay to "vent" your frustrations, you do so privately, not publicly. Further, they have also learned that publicly venting after a self-perceived shame only brings more shame.... which causes more venting...

    Long story short! It's impossible to bar "sore losers" from a tournament. It wouldn't matter if we were playing in the tournament with the strictest comp system known to man. It wouldn't matter if the only prize was given away to the "best painted" model. Someone would project "sore loser" behavior over not having their model win the best painted prize. It's got absolutely nothing to do with the game.

    I would agree. What it has to do with is that you are correct that "Win At All Costs" is that guy that can't stand to lose = sore loser. They are one in the same at least in mentality, almost the same in definition, and certainly the same guy you don't want to meet at the tournament!

    Also, truth be told, these guys are rare :) I rarely run into someone I wish I hadn't of had to play.

  2. Awesome reply!

    I think at the heart of it, you're right - these guys really are rare. It is perhaps that fact, more than anything else, that motivated this post.

    There are entire blogs (blood of kittens, no offense) dedicated to the premise that the hobby is rife with sore losers, with win at all costs personalities. They're rare as all get out ... and more often than not it's the tough competitors with perfectly acceptable (if not fantastic) sportsmanship who come under scrutiny ... quite unfairly.

  3. When I worked in retail there was a saying:

    If you provide perfect service to a customer they MIGHT tell one or two other people about it. If a customer perceives you have treated them badly or unfairly then they will tell everyone they know.

    Loud, sore people stad out because of their volume and attitude. It's easy to say that there were a bunch of jerks at a tournament, even though maybe there were just a few. I vividly remember most of the jerks I've met at tournaments. Sadly, the nicer guys, a lot of them I've forgotten over the years.

  4. I never mind facing people with 'hard' lists. I feel it should be expected when coming to tourney.
    I typically care more about how the person BEHAVES before, during, and after the game. If they built a 'hard' list, and modeled to their advantage, then had the gall to argue tooth and nail over minutiae, catcall 'slow play' during the game, and then claim I was cheating...
    yeah, that guy's a WAAC gamer.

    I bring fairly competitive lists to tourneys. Many people see WitchHunters across the table, and think it will be an easy match. As the game progresses, you can tell how much WAAC flows through their veins.

    some of the best games I've had (and closest) games have been due to gentlemanly conduct. It's spectacular to be able to talk a bit of tactic with your opponent DURING your game at a TOURNAMENT.

  5. I am a bad loser, but not a sore loser. I really hate to lose, though I do my best to avoid ruining the fun of others when having little or none myself. I blame Sting. Sting, and the Cardigans. I can't stand losing, my favourite game. ;)

    Excellent article, btw, MVB. :)

  6. Sweep the legs!

    This touches on a recent issue we've had at my FLGS about certain players being "WAAC", lists being too powerful, blah blah. Then I ask the accuser why he puts so many of his points in his win.

    See, if someone called Bruce a WAAC, he'd liquefy a bitch's solar plexus.

  7. Another interesting conversation that comes up from this that might be worth talking about Mike is how to properly address a rules conflict issue with a TO. I ran into this for the first time at my 'Ard Boyz semis because, generally, I'm willing to go along with things that are interpretations from store to store. This was the first time I ran into an issue that was RaW but was being ruled incorrectly... a seeming impossibility, but it was about the most confusing rule in the friggin' BBB (the multi-assault BULLET #1).

    The outcome of the scenario is not important. What is important is that addressing a TO over an issue like this is a near impossibility. It's like arguing with a police officer -- only going to net you a ticket or worse, being arrested. Here's why.

    1) The TO has all the power. This puts you on an immediate uneven ground to make a point.

    2) Because arguing, in general, makes you appear to be the WAAC jerk at the tourney, even if your point is valid. Worse, it doesn't matter how polite you are, nice, whatever... just the act of arguing is enough to get you looks and earn the TO's ire.

    3) Because exactly what is pointed out here. The discussion about this "one fabled time when I played against this one guy.... " has taken over to be the "this is your average tournament experience", when it simply isn't. Therefore, even TOs now enter every argument thinking "the person I'm fixing to argue with is a d-bag" instead of "this is just another friendly player that I should address appropriately" .... similar to how a police officer has a tendency to HAVE TO enter situations thinking everyone is dangerous (not the fault of the police officer... IS the fault of the TO!)

    In this particular example, neither I nor the TO got overly heated about the issue, but what did happen was that the ruling was made the wrong way. Also what happened was that I became embarassed because my opponent was uncomfortable now, the TO was uncomfortable, and I felt like I had done something wrong by calling for a TO to settle a rules dispute, something that shouldn't happen, especially over a RaW rule. :)

    Honestly, the best way to solve that issue is to take people aside (away from all the other tables) so that you aren't creating a scene either. It doesn't matter if the argument is loud or not (certainly wasn't in our case), but the fact that the TO is there creates a scene and creates a toxic situation no matter how you shake it... all because it's PUBLICLY being resolved and not privately, which is an important thing to note. People do strange things in public.

  8. Neil Gilstrap raises an excellent point, that I would also like to see people's reactions to...