"Average Wargamer" Journey to Slightly Above Mediocrity Part 1 - Research Complete
As with any game there are many different skill levels in Warhammer, ranging from the top tier tournament players, to the new kid that just opened his first box of Marines. But everyone shares one common goal, to get better.
But how exactly do players get better? Conventional wisdom says play games and that is indeed the way to go, but what happens when you play a game? Do you magically receive knowledge after spending a few hours throwing dice?
As I've been branching out in my gaming lately, I've been wondering how exactly I can improve my play. I would not consider myself a "top tier" player in any game, I am one of the teeming masses of mediocre players. In fact the whole reason for this blog is so I can put though into print, which hopefully reinforces the lessons I learn and maybe provides some enjoyable commentary. So besides starting a blog and exposing all your boneheaded mistakes, what can an average player do to improve?
Personally, I start with research. The simple reason is if you don't know what's going on, how can you learn from errors? Knowing the rules of the game and the rules for the additions to the game (Codexes, Patches, etc.) gives a much clearer picture of how or why you failed.
Flying into a game blindly and losing can be very frustrating and teaches you little, so use every opportunity to learn. If a unit is new to you, ask what it does. Ask what the upgrades do, what Force Organization type it is, everything. Feigning knowledge might save face but it doesn't improve anyones play.
When researching a game, I prefer to stick to what's in print, not what's online. Read the official materials and experiment with them yourself. For Warhammer, try building a few army lists and try to imagine how they would work. It's not important if you've created the end all be all list, it's just an exercise to get in the habit of thinking about how an army works as a whole.
As knowledge of a game expands, so does the understanding of what is required to be successful. So besides learning the letter of the game, it's important to learn the spirit. The spirit of the game is in actually playing it, or optionally, watching others play it. I have learned a lot from watching players better than myself while NOT playing. Why? Because when you aren't involved in a game, it's much easier to observe what a player is doing and learn from it. One word to the wise though, do not become an annoying spectator with constant questions, wait until after the game if something puzzled you and you want to know more about it.
Now that we have a nice blueprint for how to acquire information, how do we apply that information when it actually matters? For Warhammer there are two fronts to use our information on, army building and army playing.
Personally I think there is way to much saturation of advice for army building. A new or unskilled player is often told to check out the laundry list of websites where you can post a list for critique, in the hopes that outside eyes and more skilled players will lend a helping hand. Unfortunately, the Internet is a big place and the advice a person receives online is not always good. What works for you might now work for me but I am inclined to give advice based on what works for me because well......it works for me!
Instead, I'd recommend engaging the players in your local area. Get their ideas but make sure they know yours and actually explain their position to you logically. The most ineffectual statements are "That sucks" or "You need these". If someone is making those statements, that is not someone I would go to when trying to improve my play.
So what are some good ways to improve army building? Make lots of lists first and foremost and not just for your army. When you make lists you get a feel for what can be brought to the table in a game, how the give and take of juggling points works. On paper a new player might look at Land Raider + Assault Terminators and think "That is awesome, I need to get that!" but when put into a list, it eats up a lot of points, points you might need to spend on something else, like Troops. It builds upon what you've already learned, that many games are won by Scoring Units, that an army needs diversity, etc. That is why reading and watching is so useful, those lessons stay in the back of your mind when it's time to build an army of your own.
Sadly army playing is much broader a subject than building as there is quite a bit of diversity among armies, players and even point totals. I will avoid making statements that claim to always work when playing an army, because there are none. However, there are some things to keep in mind when making your own strategies.
The biggest one is talk to your opponent after the game. Ask if they saw any mistakes you may have made, even if you think you made none it's worth asking. Focus on using terrain, almost all armies like free cover saves for their models and all armies love learning how to take that away from an opponent. Observe how players use their Movement Phase to take advantage of terrain by either taking it for yourself, or denying it to your enemy.
That's about all for now, as you may have guessed by the clever "Part 1" I will be revisiting this and trying to make a nice series of it. I know when I was first starting out I got a lot of bad advice while made a lot of unnecessary and frustrating mistakes, so hopefully this will give many players something to look too that doesn't make the promise of turning you into a pro player by reading a few lines of text.
It's a journey to slightly above mediocrity folks, all aboard.