Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Spirit of the Game


The Spirit of the Game

Ho,
This is Mike Loniewski, my handle is Fly Molo and I’m officially a contributor to Dark Future Games. Thanks to Chris for getting me involved, I truly appreciate the chance to help out. I’ll try to keep up with fresh posts from my perspective and I hope you readers enjoy them.
I need you (the reader) to help me out here. We’re going to use our imaginations for a moment. I’m going to give you a scenario. When you’re reading it, I want you to stop at the end of each little section (each will be separated by a few lines) and ponder what it said. I mean, really ponder it. Think about the words. Think about what you would *feel* like if this was really happening to you. Think about how this scenario might really play out. Draw upon actual past experiences and think about how you felt then. Thank you for doing this by the way.


You’ve just suffered a tough loss.

Today was the big event. This was your first actual tournament. Most of the games you’ve played in your life have involved your basement and your buddies. In fact, you’ve been waiting to play in this for weeks and have been feverishly painting and changing out weapons on your guys to make sure your army was up to snuff. It was a lot of hard work and effort.

And this was a tough loss in the first round. The first game and a bad loss.

To make matters worse, you believe you’ve lost that game because of a mistake that you’ve made while playing. And looking back, it sure seemed like a foolish mistake.

Your drop pod of Space Wolves Wolf Guard landed behind enemy lines and you chose to unload on a scoring unit near an objective, instead of making sure you took out that Vindicator with rear armor melta shots. The mistake was that you figured you had the Vindicator dead, you have two Long Fang squads with side armor shots at it AND you can assault it with some krak/melta bomb wielding Grey Hunters this turn if that doesn’t do it. Alas, even though you killed the scoring unit, your Long Fangs and Hunters epically failed, leaving the Vindicator with not so much as a scratch on it. You had mistakenly already fired the Wolf Guard, which with as much combi-melta that you were packing, would have easily made up for the bad luck of the rest of the army.

The Vindicator promptly turned around and vaporized an independent character, your Wolf Guard and a Drop Pod in one shot, and all but crushed your chances at winning that game.

And you lost.

You packed up your tray after the game, shook your opponent’s hand and walked over to your area you and your buddies had claimed at the start of the event. When you got there, you noticed you forgot a template and turned back to go get it.

Your opponent is still there and he’s talking to his pals and doesn’t see you approach.

“… no, he sucked. He was making some goofy moves. His list was okay, but seriously, who the fuck does that? You should have seen him, he looked like I killed his puppy! It was just clean up after that.” He’s smirking and his buddies are chuckling. He still hasn’t noticed you.

How did you feel when reading that? Have you ever had anything similar to that happen to you? How did it make you feel when it actually happened? What if you have never went up to the table after the game? Would it have changed how you felt?

Have you ever been the guy doing the talking? Have you ever felt that way when playing against an opponent?

Man, I sure am employing the rhetorical question today.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I won “Best Sportsman” out of a large field of 18 at our local game store, so naturally, I consider myself an expert in the subject. Naturally. I won the accolade without actually winning a game, I went 0-2-1.  I tried to figure out why I won and came up instead with a series of observations that might be able to shed some light on the matter.

1.      Despite there not being a “Best General” prize or even a title, everyone was still very concerned with who won and who lost in each game.

2.      There were arguments (albeit small ones) about rules.

3.      I noticed multiple times folks say “this is a friendly event,” while allowing their opponents to correct errors.

4.      I still noticed people getting into conflicts about things that affected the outcome of the game.

5.      The winners generally felt better about the game than the losers did.

6.      Everyone I played would become the eventual winner (or at least ‘not loser’) of our game.

7.      All of my opponents seemed to genuinely appreciate that I wanted them to have a good time playing our game.

8.      Nobody at the event ever seemed angry.

 

One thing happened that I want to take a special note of because they happened in my game.

9.      My opponent in my first game was using a Forge World list, Eldar Corsairs. I was very unfamiliar with the rules of each unit but managed to get the basics while playing. During the game, my opponent moved up a squad of badly undermanned guys in an attempt to get a few more kills out of them against a squad of Plague Marines. They still had a heavy weapon so they *could* take down a model, but it would be unlikely. The Eldar squad started at ten, but was down to 3. A few bolter rounds and stiff breeze would take them out next turn. And of course, it was Purge the Alien. Right when he completed his move, I asked him -
“What’s the plan with those guys?”
He said he thought he’d try to get a few more points out of them before they died. I told him I thought it might be a better idea to not jump quite so far, then shoot, then jump out of line-of-sight to save a victory point.
He thought that was a swell idea, moved them back, fired off some ineffectual shots then saved his kill point. It worked out well for him.
 

What are we playing this game for? I know what I play for, I play to see my hard work on the table top. As a bonus, I get to exercise my brain-meat for a few hours and attempt to effectively use what I have on the field of battle. Sometimes it works out and my soldiers march on triumphantly. Other times, it doesn’t work out and my soldiers die horrible deaths. That old adage “Can’t win ‘em all” is true. You can’t.
I use this game as an escape. I get to be something that I never get to be in real life. I almost universally play the “bad guy” in games because I never get to be the “bad guy” in real life. I have a Traitor Guard army, Death Guard army, Nurgle Daemons army and a Necron army. Note that I don’t worship a dead emperor.
And more importantly, I don’t want my hobby to stress me out.


Think about the last time you played a game and won a hard fought victory. How did your opponent react throughout the game? If it was truly ‘hard-fought,’ he probably had his ups and downs. Ups when he was winning or doing well, and downs when he wasn’t. We are all susceptible to this. We are all human (I think).  

    em·pa·thy  

   /ˈempəTHē/

   Noun
   The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
   Synonyms
   sympathy
 
      Empathy. If you want to make this world a better place, empathy is the key. Understanding and sharing the feelings of another. Do we, as Warhammer players, practice empathy? Do you? And if you understand those feelings, do you do anything about them?
I imagine we’ve all been on both sides of a total slaughter. Bolter rounds miss, meltas roll double 1’s for penetration, a 2+ save can’t be made… while your opponent rolls the improbable 12” charges, snapfire exploded flyers and rundowns down your Chaos Marine horde with five scouts.
Extreme swings in luck are easy to empathize with because they are so obvious. We might even express that understanding to our opponents.
     
          sym·pa·thy  
/ˈsimpəTHē/
Noun
    1.      Feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.
    2.      Formal expression of such feelings; condolences.
Synonyms
compassion - pity - commiseration - fellow feeling
 
Sympathy. To let someone know you’ve been there too. This part is tricky. So tricky in fact that most of us say nothing. We rarely express that we feel pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortune in a game of 40k. And bad luck IS misfortune. Bad luck has nothing to do with the player who is suffering from it and it is unfortunate that it is happening to them when all they want to do is enjoy a game with you and their toy soldiers.  Maybe we should, I don’t know, say something to them.
I can’t tell you how to prevent from getting down and out during a game but I can tell you how I do it: I remember the entire time that I am playing that I am only playing a game and that games should be fun. If understand that I sure would like to have fun, I can assume that my opponent wants to have fun too.
I have a big concept I am about to drop, so I will use the CAPS LOCK to get it through.
HAVING FUN IN A GAME OF WARHAMMER IS NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE!
You can both have fun.
Fun can be found in all sorts of way. Fun can be taken at the expense of others (think bullies), or fun can be given at the expense of yourself (a self-deprecating comedian), or can be generally had by all involved (pool party!!!). Why don’t we think to have our games be like a pool party? Why does my fun need to be at the expense of others? Doesn’t it seem this way sometimes?

sports·man·ship

noun \-ˌship\
: conduct (as fairness, respect for one's opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport
Not every application of Warhammer is just “for fun” according to some players and I understand this view point. There is a sect of players that have embraced the hobby and used it as a competitive war game set in a tournament format. In that paradigm, winning your series of games at a particular event is THE MOST important thing to happen that day. There’s an adage in sports: Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. Why is winning everything in sports? Wait a second, is it?
   

If you didn’t watch the video, a NCAA softball sacrificed a win to do what was right in a game. They helped an injured player run the bases so she could score her homerun and knock their team out of the tournament. Because it was simply the right thing to do.
And you’re going to have to trust me here: Those girls work a hell of a lot harder at being good softball players than you do at winning Warhammer games. I will venture to say that they have a lot more riding on winning their game than you do at winning yours. But they still did the right thing.
If you did watch it, wipe the tears from your eyes and think about that next time you play. There is SO much more to this game and hobby than winning.
 
Last night I played Jesse Zischke in a game of Warhammer. In it, the coolest thing that happened was Lord Draigo running up to a Daemon Prince and cutting him down heroically… then charging into a combat with another Daemon Prince AND a Great Unclean One, and cutting each of their fat-asses apart in the subsequent next two rounds. Holy shit. Draigo is a beast.
In that little exchange, Draigo chewed through a 290pt model, a 255pt model and a 280pt model. That could have been a hammer blow to my mind. It wasn’t. Instead, it was one of the awesome-est things that have ever happened in a game. How much cooler does it get than a lost hero of the Grey Knights reappearing to smite giant Daemons back to the Warp to carry the day? I mean, that’s what he’s for, right?
I imagine that people could lament at the circumstances, or how broken he is versus Daemons, or how unlucky they were that they couldn’t win some other combat… but what does that get you? Enjoy the game.

So what is your favorite part of Warhammer? How has this game affected your life positively? Is winning everything?
 

 

13 comments:

  1. Hi Fly Molo, great post. I think it's all too easy to get caught up in a game, focusing on the win and how well/badly it's going for you. Personally, I think that it's just as hard to be a good winner as it is to be a good looser.

    Outside of tournament play, it always surprises me that people typically don't agree what type of game they're playing. Deciding to both play competitive/fluffy/experimental lists and agreeing the tone (casual/tournament practice) can make a massive difference to how much both players enjoy the game.

    In a tournament setting, I think you've got to expect no mercy whilst paying the game and take your beatings on the chin, but there should be absolutely no reason why you both can't be polite, during and after a game. That said, some people like to brag in front of their friends, but you know, if that's their biggest achievement in life, well let them have it!

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    1. I totally agree. If there's ever something to agree on before a game, its 'what game are we playing.' That is right on the money. I have certain friends that I play where we focus on the narrative, others we focus on competitive play.
      As far as tournaments go, that's probably why I play in them way less than most of my friends: I get pretty stressed out and I can't have my hobby stress me out :) Thanks for reading!

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  2. I could not agree with this post more. In fact, I won my first 'Best Sportsman' award all those years ago when the organizer observed me suggesting to my opponent HOW TO fire his Devastator squad to get the most casualties (plasma blasts before bolters, 3rd ed). He was so impressed that I'd be helping out my enemy that he felt he HAD TO consider that. I was surprised that kinda stuff wasn't common. I mean, it's still a game, right?

    Very outstanding post! I even have to give you a shout-out for the presentation. Lectures aren't as much fun to read, but this was a bit more 'interactive(?)'. So good...

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    1. Thanks! Its funny that you refer to 'lectures,' I teach full time for a living.
      And certainly its still a game. :) Thanks for the positive feedback, I feed off of it and will continue to put out things worth reading.

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  3. Nice. I play competitively in big GT's. I am very intense while playing but laid back when not. I am working on merging the two dynamics.

    Nothing is wrong with winning or wanting to win. Its how that desire affects your reaction to others.

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    1. I agree with this. Obviously your opponent wants to win as well. Its tough balancing that desire with friendly competition. Thanks for reading!

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  4. I played a game recently where my Mycetic Spore lashed out at a zooming Vendetta with it's ripper tentacles, one of them managed to hit and penetrate and when I rolled to damage blew it out of the sky. I was so happy but remembered my opponent was allowed a jink save, albeit before the wound and damage roll. I still let him have it and he passed saving the Vendetta. He still thinks I was too generous but equally if we'd have done it properly he would have passed before the Pod got to damage and we wouldn't have had a story. Not quite Draigo eating Daemons for breakfast but I like my Pod

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    1. You didn't have to do that and I'm sure you're both glad you did. I love those pods.

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  5. This article made me think about my last tournament. I was mentally prepared to win, but finally, I saw that winning buy all terms just kills the fun.

    First game was hard to me : I lost half my army on first turn, due to a bad move and a lucky dice throwing from my opponent.
    Victory was lost for me, but I kept playing, damn tryin' to get one or two victory points, and give my opponent a good time.

    This made me change my mind : I didn't want to win buy all means, I wanted to have F-U-N. And that changed everything.

    On second day, I had a hard game with a friend of mine : both of us wanted to win... but our armies didn't want that !
    We laughed almost every turn, seeing our minis fail like on a Benny Hill show.
    If we haden't the game spirit, this game would have been the worst we both ever played.

    Thanks for this article, it conforts me in my new gaming way.

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