Okay – something to consider when building Astronomi-con armies etc.
Astro is an event which strongly encourages and supports not just winning games but also painting, army lists, sportsmanship and play which is themed for the 40k universe.
In reality – we can only make just so many rules with the current rules set without making things impossible to understand.
Army Sportsmanship was intended to deal with exactly this issue. What it is asking is ‘Is this army something you would see in the 40k Universe?’ ‘Is it fun to play against or simply something designed to blow the opponent off the table in as little time as possible?’ Etc.
Really – what it’s asking is – is this army fun and appropriate to a game which Forges a Narrative?
At a local Astro some time ago we had a fellow show up with an army which had Necrons allied with Nurgle Daemons. Lots of flying croissants and plague zombies with Helldrakes added in. The player is a good guy but the army? Can you imagine reading about such an army in a piece of 40k fiction? Not only did it take what were, at the time, pretty much the most powerful models from those ‘dexes which would compliment each other, but there was no theme of any kind other than ‘I want to win games’.
And he did win a lot of games. He also got hammered by Army comp sportsmanship and was very upset by it. He seemed to think ‘This army is legal and therefore everyone should be fine with it – people gave me a bad score because they lost.’
No, they didn’t. They did EXACTLY what they were supposed to do with Army Sportsmanship.
The difficulty was that this particular player simply did not agree with the core philosophy of what Army Sportsmanship is about. He expected a good score and was very annoyed that he didn’t get one and truly couldn’t understand it.
This is a difficult thing – and in truth it’s why I’m writing this. The player in question is a good guy – but he has a certain philosophy of gaming that some folks (and I am one of them) don’t share, which is ‘any kind of army is okay as long as the rules say it is and everyone should be okay with that’.
The thing is – while lots of players ARE okay with that, a lot of other players are not, and playing armies of that sort – armies which don’t Forge a Narrative, armies which are simply not fun to have on the other side of the table etc. – these things ruin their enjoyment of the game.
I was chatting recently with this same fellow when I ran into him at the GW store and in that conversation I had a real epiphany about this as he pointed out something I hadn’t realized myself. I’m a family man. I have a partner, an 8 year old daughter, a house which I often need to repair or renovate, 2 cars, a full time job as an Auditor for a multi billion dollar corporation etc. That makes me BUSY. My partner likes to spend time with me. So does my daughter. My work and home and other logistical stuff like my daughter’s school and extra-curricular activities all eat time like nobody’s business.
As such, when I make the (considerable) effort to set aside time for a game I want to ENJOY that game. When I go to a multi-day event that is an even bigger investment of time and resources. If I have a bad game – that is a significant portion of my very limited entertainment/relaxation time squandered, gone and which I won’t be getting back.
Why is that important? Well if I had lots of time and played lots of games, one bad one now and again wouldn’t be a big deal – but I DON’T. EVERY game is precious. Win? Lose? That doesn’t matter. I don’t need to win. What I need to do is HAVE A FUN GAME. Having my army blown off the table without my getting to do much of anything – that isn’t fun. At all. It’s a waste of my very limited entertainment time and I resent it. In fact I resent it a lot MORE than others might, because that time is so much more limited for me.
So – what has all that to do with Army Sportsmanship and selection for Astronomi-con?
Well, we have often said that Astro is ‘the tournament for people who don’t like tournaments’ which is kind of true. But really what that means is ‘it’s the event for people who don’t like certain KINDS of tournaments – namely those which have become increasingly common over the last few years. Ones in which armies are powerful and consist of strange alliances and mixes of troops and the like all designed to win as many games as possible to win.
That’s a fine attitude for those playing games which have very tightly constrained play – like Chess or something. No one is telling a story in a Chess game. Or Go. Or Checkers. Or Poker. No one feels particularly attached to the right hand knight on their chessboard or has written stories about their experiences and the like. No one is going to argue about how a Knight can move or if he’s in range etc. That’s all very well defined.
But in 40k a lot of us do all these things. I have probably a dozen short stories and a novella featuring the exploits of characters in my Imperial Guard Regiment. I have spent hours ripping apart and combining models and figuring out the best rules sets to use in order to reflect those stories on the table top. When I’m playing my IG, I’m telling a story. In a story, sometimes the good guys win, sometimes they lose, but if it’s not a good scrap, it’s a boring story.
Astro draws those kinds of players. A lot of them. Family men, executives in business, doctors, police officers, EMT folks, you name it. People with busy lives who want to enjoy the story of their models. Yes, it brings in a few others too, but the scenarios, terrain scoring systems and philosophy – these things cause a disproportionate representation of these kinds of people at our events.
So – when they arrange their force on the table, they aren’t setting up a game of chess where it’s all about getting a checkmate. They are trying to live a 40k fiction story through their miniatures. THAT’S why folks were so upset by the Nurgle/Necron army of doom.
Funny thing is – I think if the player had done more to ‘sell’ the concept – something like Necrons corrupted by the Dark Mechanicum or some such, the concept would have been a lot more palatable. I’m pretty sure his score would have been better. In fact I’m positive about it. Imagine the modelling opportunities of an army like that! But he didn’t and his opponents didn’t like it and some, sadly, were a bit intolerant about it. I probably would have to admit to feeling a little that way myself, much to my regret.
I wrote all this to give you some idea of what Astro is meant to be and to help folks who are putting together armies realize what might happen with Army Sportsmanship. Remember, your opponent may be a busy guy or gal who cares a lot more about a good game than about a chess match victory. If you do your best to give that to them – even if they lose, they still will appreciate it. In fact, some of the best games can be losses – as long as they are fun.
And when both players have fun, you both win. Regardless of the outcome on the tabletop.