So what did I learn or get out of my experiences? Quite a lot!!!
#1 Game time
I played 27 games across 5 tournaments 25 at 2,250pts. In a single tournament I played more games at that level than I normally would in 5-6 months of going to my local club. We do play the odd 2,250pt game on Club nights (plus the odd 5-10k battle on weekends), but 750-1000pts means we get two in each night and makes it easier for newer players to get into the hobby.
#2 List building
Making a simple list isn't that difficult, nor is making a bigger list at least not at club level. You take what you like and have painted and go from there. But because your game time is limited it can take a long time to figure what lists work best, how particular units should be used (or even if they should be taken at all), and how to build a generic all-comers list. In club play you know who your opponents are and tend to build a list accordingly.
With tournaments you have to build a basic "all-comers" list as it could face any of the armies in the game and you need to be able to counter or at least minimise their respective strengths, while emphasising your own. Play testing, talking on forums, working on and modifying my army lists and then knowing that you are going to be stuck with the same army for five games means you really have to think about what you do.
#3 The rules
Simply put, playing 5 games in two days to a strict time table requires you to know the rules inside out and more importantly know your own armies rules. There is no substitute to learning from direct experience, and the constant and varied game play tournaments throw up means you quickly learn the core basic and advanced rules. You also start to figure out all of the tricky rulings that so often form part of the FAQ's. Club rules are great, but if everyone is doing it wrong in the first place it doesn't really help.
Ahh the steep learning curve that is tournament play. After playing the same opponents at your club all the time you all kind of know each others play styles. Tournament play taught me a hell of a lot about using my armies effectively, and a lot of neat little tricks to squeeze out those tight wins. Some of the lessons I learned, most definitely the HARD WAY in each case were:
- Fleeing is sometimes the best strategic option you can take.
- Patience is a virtue - especially for Dwarfs.
- Calculate the outcome of a battle before you go in.
- Just because you like a model/unit doesn't mean it will work.
- Think 2-3 turns ahead.
- DEPLOYMENT wins games.
- There is a reason people spend time turning the facing of their units just so; redirection, redirection, redirection.
Finally, if you want ideas on how to paint and base your figures go to a tournament. I really really wish I had gone to a few before I had assembled my stuff, just to look and learn. Some of the armies I have seen over the last six months have been absolutely stunning. So much imagination time and effort has gone into assembling, painting and basing various models and units it just boggles the mind. My High Elves have been in a constant period of re-development precisely because of the ideas I picked up at my first and subsequent tournaments.
#6 Tournaments are fun
Yes they are, even when your losing. Just need to store up some brownie points so I can attend more of them next year.