Friday, September 16, 2011

What Does a Tournament Record Mean? Is it OK to Lose Due to Something Besides Dice? Propping Yourself Up on the Internets ... OH and some BFS Lists

So, here's a heck of an intro:

I've never lost a singles tournament game, anywhere, ever.

It's true.  SARCASM WARNING - By my stupendous awesomeness at 40k I've never lost a tournament game against another player.  At AdeptiCon Team 2010 my partner and I lost my 4th round team game.  That's my only loss of any sort at a tournament.

What does this mean?

Nothing.  I'm just lucky.  The law of averages says there are plenty of players out there as good as me, or better than me, and they all will beat me a good # of the times we play together.  WE haven't even all played together.

At the Battle for Salvation GT last year, I played Simon Leen, Jeff Frederickson, Bill McFadden, Alex Fennell, and Andrew Sutton (among others).  All of these players would independently qualify for the NOVA Invitational.  I beat them all.  Many of them I beat on lucky dice rolls or things going my way.  They were all my peers or perhaps better.

You will  NEVER hear me EVER claim to be a SUPERLATIVE at anything, b/c I'd be flat out wrong.  I'm a very good 40k player, I'm comfortable with that, and I don't really wish to be anything else.  I feel NO ONE ELSE should seek to be, either.

I see a  constantly increasing occurrence of a strange internet phenomenon ... or maybe not so strange ... of people propping themselves up as skilled / elite 40k players, sharing oodles of advice on how to play and what to do and what lists to bring ... and then when they lose, blowing up with excuses and perhaps less than cordial reasons why on the internet.

Here is all I kinda want to add as a thought ...
While Warhammer 40k does involve rolling dice to determine many of the outcomes, there are significant components of the game that are either not dice based, or involve mechanics that can mitigate the impact of dice.  If you choose to play a list that does not account for the mitigation of "bad luck," or that does not focus on components of the game OUTSIDE of the dice (i.e. using clever movement and pacing, avoiding overcommittal early on, taking advantage of LOS blockage with "survivors" or entire units, etc.), you are periodically going to face games against your peers where your dice absolutely blow.

Please, for the love of mary, stop blaming the dice.  We've all had crappy dice games aplenty, many of them playing the "usual suspects" at our local gaming stores or in our house-bound gaming groups.  The people we typically beat that lead to us having a "firm" self-opinion and posting on blogs about how great we are or trying to teach people ... well, we beat them with or without bad dice b/c they often aren't as good as us.  If they were, and beat you all the time, you'd think you weren't so hot comparatively.

Either way, the point here is - when you lose to bad dice, it is almost always still your fault, and your opponent's fault.  It's not the fault of Lady Luck.  Your opponent was in a position to beat you if your dice weren't "to the odds," or you took a list and/or played in a way that left you extremely vulnerable to poor odds, etc.

This also has relevance to HOW to build a list for tournament play ... taking a pure MSU list that presumes it will get even marginal odds over the course of a game is all well and good, but it is often the type of list that will win "unless my dice suck."  Well, that's a bad list in a lot of senses, for tournament play ... b/c in a longer-game-set tournament, chances are your luck is going to suck at some points and be great at some points (and thus we get the averages).  If your list can't survive through the crappy luck games ... well, that's not really luck's fault.

I know I'm rambling some here, but to bring it all home ... I'll be attending and competing at the Battle for Salvation GT again this year.  I think I'm bringing Grey Knights this time around, and my list will be or be based off one of the lists that follows.  Because this is a great, tough event ... I'm sure I'll face some peers while I'm there, and it's going to be anybody's game.  Best believe if I DO lose, even if it's to "a single roll of the dice," it's going to e credited to my opponent being a peer, or being superior.  I'll analyze any mistakes I make (And will do my best not to make any), I'll be sad for any bad dice rolls, but if a bad dice roll is all it takes to screw me, it's b/c my opponent was right there with me every step of the way.  If I'm counting on a single roll  of a 3+ to let me win by going to Turn 6 ... he's just as much counting on a single roll of a 1-2 to let him win by stopping at 5.

Be magnanimous in defeat, build your lists to be less susceptible to odds, and when you lose ... and you WILL lose ... for WHATEVER reason ... give credit for it where due, befriend your opponent (because that's all either of you will really deeply remember about the game), and try not to be a douchecanoe starting internet flamewars across the web over it after the fact.

Great example, btw, is Sandwyrm from The Back 40k.  He was caught off guard by the height and quantity of LOS blocking terrain at the NOVA, and had some games that came down to very close calls as he fought his way to 4-4.  That said, here's a perfect quote in light of all that from him:
"So all I did was trade a good list that I knew well for a mediocre one that I didn't because I was insecure. My fault."

His recent post with the Gonzo journalist image topper is full of a lot of commentary that acknowledges some of the WHY behind losses (i.e. terrain, self, dice, whatever), but doesn't take credit away from his opponents in the process, and doesn't defend inappropriate choices or actions as being flawless and only upended by bad dice or bad opponents.  Hell of a good man for the approach, and everyone still knows he's a well above competent gamer.

When some of the guys out there promote themselves too much, the ego burst on loss is catastrophic and visible ... and you can't deal with it but to make up excuses, insult people, etc., and everyone ELSE is ready to jump on you for being imperfect.

This is how you can see some people go like 10-3 over a weekend, yet still be "upset."  What the heck?

Can we point at Blackmoor as a paragon of bright here also?  I think 10-3 is precisely what he went at the NOVA this year over the Invitational and GT, losing in the final round of the GT, and you know - he seems by all accounts to be quite happy about what he did, as he should be.  Mad props.

Anyway, here are some list variants and rationales I'm looking at for BFS:

1. Purifier Spam + My Standard Coteaz Core

Grand Master w/ Psycannon - 220
Inquisitor Coteaz - 100

(1/3) Venerable Dreadnaught w/ Multi-Melta, Twin-Linked Autocannon w/ Psybolt Ammo - 185
(2/3) 10 Purifiers w/ 2 Psycannons, 2 Incinerators, Hammer - 265
Rhino w/ Psybolt Ammo - 40
(3/3) 10 Purifiers w/ 2 Psycannons, 2 Incinerators, Hammer - 265
Rhino w/ Psybolt Ammo - 40

(1/6) 3 Acolytes w/ LP, CCW - 12
Razorback w/ Psybolt Ammo - 50
(2/6) 3 Acolytes w/ LP, CCW - 12
Razorback w/ Psybolt Ammo - 50
(3/6) 3 Acolytes w/ LP, CCW - 12
Razorback w/ Psybolt Ammo - 50
(4/6) 3 Acolytes w/ LP, CCW - 12
Razorback w/ Psybolt Ammo - 50
(5/6) 3 Acolytes w/ LP, CCW - 12
Razorback w/ Psybolt Ammo - 50
(6/6) 8 Acolytes w/ LP, CCW; 2 Acolytes w/ Meltagun, CCW; Death Cult Assassin - 75
Razorback w/ Psybolt Ammo - 50

(1/3) 5 Purgators w/ 2 Incinerators, 2 Psycannons - 140
Rhino w/ Psybolt Ammo - 40
(2/3) Dreadnaught w/ 2 Twin-Linked Autocannons, Psybolt Ammo - 135
(3/3) Dreadnaught w/ 2 Twin-Linked Autocannons, Psybolt Ammo - 135

In Kill Point missions, the Purifiers are going to probably stay together, and scout / outflank (optional)
In Objective Missions, they'll probably combat squad into 2 cannons / 3 swords in Rhino + 2 Incinerators / Hammer that can walk behind LOS terrain or hiijack a Psyback.

The Purgators are just an extra gunboat, and yet another unit that Coteaz or the Grand Master can "hop" to in order to give it just enough combat and LD boost to deal with any sort of MSU unit that gets close enough to eat up in combat.

Nominally, Coteaz and the Grand Master will deploy on foot with the 11 model Henchman squad of 8 acos, 2 acos with meltagun, and a death cult.  Together, this unit can expertly dissect most things for a couple of reasons; 1) the model count permits - even when charged - applying the independent characters to the enemy models I want to fight, instead of getting them based by high strength power weapons (though S7 and lower can be semi-tanked by the 3++ GM); 2) inherent casualties on the acos in combat + stubborn 10 leadership + ATKSNF will very often let me intentionally "draw" a combat on the turn I charge something scarier, and thus hide in combat until 2 full rounds are done; 3) double hammerhand turns S3 acos into S5 acos with 28 attacks on the charge, turns the deathcult into WS6 I6 S6, turns the GM into WS6 S6 I5, and turns Coteaz's hammer into master-crafted S10.

The Grand Master has a psycannon so that most/all of my units are still pumping out mobile firepower to help demech/mess with opponents.

The 3man acolyte squads are almost always going to be reserved and walking on ... their psybacks are there to provide fire support, and help move combat squadded purifiers around, and provide movement blocking against land raider lists, etc. etc.  They aren't there to explode with 3 hapless T3 5+ saving bodies inside.  I'm quite happy to Communion acos off the board even longer too.

Finally, the Psybolt Rhinos ... I could turn a couple of them into Psybacks, but this is bad for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I can't outflank 10 purifiers in a psyback ... but I can outflank them in a Rhino, and put 2 S5 shots into the side armor of chimeras, or into DE vehicles, or into trukks, or just into infantry ... and can also fire 4 psycannon shots out upon arrival (or fire 2 incinrators into a vehicle flank, or whatever).

The point of the Psybolt rhinos is to let me stay bunkered and firing as long as possible, and to scout or outflank full purifier squads, and keep them bunkered in KP missions ... these are all relevant, and it's trading a little bit of on-paper-optimization for a wider and more reliable series of choices in practice.

Ugh, this is a long post ... so more to come in time re: BFS list development.


  1. 100% agree with this post. None of my NOVA losses (or my losses in general) were due to dice. Plenty were due to mistakes I made and my opponent(s) capatitalized on. Like you I get sick of seeing. Well I was the better player but I did not roll well enough for X to happen so I lost. If thats true, guess what, at least for that game you were not the better player. Lose with humility, acknowledge the fact that you were not prepared for Y to happen so you lost. Stating that "I would have won if X did not happen" is just sour grapes.

  2. You just remember this post when you lose your first game, to me, at the BFS. :)

  3. Neil at that point he needs to blame your Dice for being average. I know if I face you I will plan my strategy around you failing every key roll ;)

  4. Nay! The "Curse of NoVA 2010" has since been lifted and transferred to Steve. I'm clean now and NoVA disease free! You have no idea how many pygmy marmosets I had to sacrifice to transfer that curse.

  5. Really Mike all you had to say is don't be a douche if (and when) you lose a game at a tournament. I think you would have conveyed your point better.

    I have no where near a perfect record, but I'd also like to point out that when I lose a game, I am not going to be a dick about it. Shit happens, it is just a game. You need to lose in order to learn and improve your skills.

    Instead you went on this tirade on how amazing you are, how spectacular your lists are, and how you don't make mistakes, which makes you seem like a complete ass hat. Good Job!

    Personally, dice do matter because a "perfect list" or "perfect general" will still lose if he fails every single die roll. I'd also like to note that there is no such thing as a perfect list or general because every army has a weakness and every general makes mistakes. Perfection is impossible.

  6. Brandon, quite the opposite! What part did you read here?

    The fact is ALL of us have plenty of peers AND superiors in this hobby ... we all make mistakes, and we all have poor dice rolls from time to time.

    When we lose, it's often to people who are at least as good as us, or perhaps better than us.

    Don't be such a negative nancy, BV! If saying my record means NOTHING, and using giant "SARCASM" comments isn't enough ... I'm guessing you're just lookin' for the bad here, no?

  7. I have to agree with Mike. At no point did he claim to be awesome or not make mistakes.

    The fact is that there aren't enough dice rolled in any Warhammer 40,000 game to average out the results. A player has to be prepared for good luck and bad luck, as well as average luck.

    Mike is right when he calls on people to own up and take some personal responsibility for losing, rather than trying to blame it on some external factor, or wriggle out of it to save face.

  8. I'm still green, and lose more often than I win. However, I attempt to take a lesson from each game I play and allocate it to successive games.

    My goal is to one day participate in the Nova and win. Speaking for myself, it is a lofty goal- and probably a ways off.

    You make a valid point about winning and losing games: Randomness aside, ultimately the opponents' determine who wins and who loses.

    Great post!

  9. Mike,

    Your points are off a little. Rhino's with psybolt ammo costs 45 points and Razorbacks with psybolts are 55. Interesting list, sounds like fun. Good Luck. I hope to get a response on that email! :)

  10. Dude, you know you really want to take orks. Saw you bragging on your ork playing prowess on the back 40k. So prove it. And no, you cannot take Z to be your "counts as" Mike. Speaking of, he wasn't at the NOVA. Everything's all right I hope.

  11. I too want to see you win with Orks. Or put up a poll and let the public decide what codex you should bring to the party.

  12. Your razors are right, but your rhinos and venerable are off by 5 points each, making it 2020 total.

  13. The venerable is correct at 185. It's 5 points for psybolt ammo, 5 points to replace doomfist w/ TLAC. +10 over the 175 base.

    You all are correct on the psybolt rhinos tho!

  14. mike ive been testing out a couple of vens with autocannons and keeping the doomfist inn a heavy dread list. I like the dualality of it. Getting s10 cc has been greatly effective especially with ws5 mixed in. Have you considered 1 or 2 of those variants ?

    interesting list none the less


  15. +1 for completely agree, Mike. I had some bad rolls in both my wins and losses this year, but I admit I truly did get out-played in some of my losses. I didn't rage about it, and still had fun. I finished the GT with I think six "excellent" ratings for sports, which I'm pretty proud of that too. But yeah, I made some grievous tactical errors at times. Oh, well. I still feel my list is solid, and I'm playing an expanded version of it at the 'Ard Boyz today.

  16. Nice post Mike. I remember you posted an article last year or so about moving out of the probability pool and into the tactics pool -- really applies here.

  17. Nice post. <3 Mike

    For the record, my dice rolling at the NOVA was about as average as I think it could possibly get. Only 1 out of 37 turns really varied much at all from what I expected.

    I think I shall not see it's like again. :)

  18. I'm not sure if I'm such a fan of skipping on potentially more meltaguns, but you have probably tested this whereas I am just looking at the list on paper.

  19. Well put, Mike. That is of course until you have an e-meltdown after losing a game at BfS. =D

    It's funny, until this article I hadn't even considered my dice at NOVA. And with that in mind, I cannot even remember my dice being good or bad. But then I think it's safe to say that's because I was having fun.

  20. Here's what I don't get. While acknowledging your own good luck with dice, how can you refute the idea of bad luck? While some may be blessed, others may be cursed. I understand the point of this article is to get people to analyze other factors of their game, but if a person makes the right move in the right situation and rolls that 1, what can you really say?

    My relationship with dice is complicated. If I do something out of character, they'll fail me every time. But if there's a moment to be made, they'll come through every time. I don't roll the dice of champions, but rather the stuff of legends. :D

  21. Benjamin, my point is if you lose to someone off a single dice roll, you more than likely lost to a peer, because he also would have lost to a single dice roll if it went your way.

    Therein lies my point in fact. Losing a close game to the dice not going quite your way demands credit to your opponent for effectively matching wits and lists with you in a game that was in all ways "close."

  22. I can't believe I haven't popped 'round here in so long.

    Here's how it should go. "I lost because I didn't roll well at a crucial point... which rattled me and left me without a coherent backup plan." "I won because those lucky rolls meant I could do this and that and threaten the other instead of leaving that piece where it was to get killed."

    The dice don't beat or defeat people on their own. That you are rolling dice indicates that people have put pieces in places where they get to roll dice at each other, and that's all skill, as is the denial of it.

    Thanks for reiterating that, Mike.

  23. Plenty said about the article already...suffice it say I agree.

    As regards the list, I appreciate and respect the rationale (particularly as I would never have thought of Psynos as a genuine option someone would consider) - but I think you're choosing a debatable set of options (S5 vs Land Speeders, Venoms or whatever) in favour of a definitive set of options, provided by (arguably the best generic vehicle upgrade available to Imperial forces) the Dozer Blade.

    IMHO, of course.

  24. Dice do go bad. Buy new ones before every major event. And yes, stop whining about bad dice. Oh, and stop whining about losing even when you know you were cheating on distance that game....or whatever you were doing. Live a clean life. The Emperor sees all. Courage and Honor!
    Ming from B&C

  25. "Benjamin, my point is if you lose to someone off a single dice roll, you more than likely lost to a peer, because he also would have lost to a single dice roll if it went your way.

    Therein lies my point in fact. Losing a close game to the dice not going quite your way demands credit to your opponent for effectively matching wits and lists with you in a game that was in all ways "close." "

    That sums up the entire article pretty well I think Mike. ;)

  26. I hope we play. I will certainly try to make a game out of it!