August 26, 2014

WHFB why do you play: For fun or for tournaments & points?

(Couple of minor tweaks to original post following a thoughtful reader comment just to clarify more what I was talking about - changes in red)

One blog I like to read regularly is Herman van Kradenburg's Trouble in the Border Provinces.  A fellow New Zealand gamer he provides some good insight into how WHFB works, game play and lately the future direction of GW.  His latest post (link) has, like many blogs at the moment covered the Nagash End of Times releases by GW for Warhammer Fantasy.  Reading through this what stood out for me were a couple of comments he made after that post, two in particular
"I have limited time... I game when I can, more often than not against competitive games that play the tournament circuit.  For me to have a chance of winning I am forced to buy into the arms race."
"The Wellington area has become extremely competitive, and the gaming community is small.  I have had some great fun games when everybody is not (emphasis is mine) preparing for one tournament or another.... I've struggled to find fun games, continually coming up against someone's proven tournament killer list of testing-a-wanna-be-winner-because-I'm-going-to-tournament list takes a great deal of fun out of the game for me."
These comments stood out because they reflect the changes that have occurred at my local club over the last 3-4 years.  My club is small in WHFB terms just 5-6 regular players over the last few years. Until recently of those 5-6 I was the only one regularly attending tournaments and I did as Herman comments  use club nights to practice with my wanna-be-winner lists at various times.  But mostly I played for fun not points.  In the last 2-3 years all of our club members have become tournament players some like Jeffrey Kent and McCrae Louden very good ones.  Consequently, the nature of our games on club nights has changed significantly from fun lets give this model a spin lists to "I have to prepare for XYZ coming up next month" lists.  Hence a shift in play style from play for fun to playing for points (while having fun).  Every club night seems to be aimed toward this tournament practice meta whether deliberately or sub-consciously.

While I still enjoy playing I have to ask a question based on Herman's comments:
Q. Are WHFB games at your club played for fun or do people play to practice for tournaments?

One new question following a comment from a reader - the intent of my post is about the difference between games where we play just for the fun of playing and games where you have a long-term goal in mind i.e. winning an event.  Events are FUN please don't think I am saying they aren't if they weren't I wouldn't attend them.  But they do require a different mind set which leads me to a new question? 
Q. Do you play just to play or do you play for points i.e. competitively is it just about winning? 
Adam Richards and I for years played an ongoing series of "War of the Beard" games using the old 5th/6th Ed rules for that historical event pitching my High Elves against his Dwarfs.  These involved games ranging in size from 500pts right up to 4000pts+ with the emphasis being on fun.  Club nights also regularly involved members bringing along lists that contained their latest models - usually brought because the model looked cool and the player wanted to buy it e.g. my Dragon Mage.  The lists were never tournament optimal just full of stuff we wanted to take - although I do still take models/units I want to play at events just not as often as I used to.

Which leads me to one final question for everyone?
Q. How often, at friendly club nights, do you play armies full of fluff and models that you like rather than lists that are fine-tuned death machines aimed at podium finishes?
Yes having everyone in my club attending events regularly, and in the case of two players finishing at the top of table regularly, has dramatically improved our individual game play.  But it has also caused us to leave (as Herman points out) a lot of models on the shelf unused because they don't fit the meta (Dwarf Slayers and High Elf Spearmen are two great examples - I think HE Spears are awesome but they would get roasted at an event), and like Herman states has seen most of us invest in the arms race acquiring the models we need rather than those we want.

To end things I will put my hand up and admit that I have changed into one of those "lets take a tournament practice list" guys - I can't remember the last time I actually said to a club mate lets have a game rather than "lets have a game because I need to practice for XYZ" my game tonight for example is all about practising for Cracks Call in September not fun.  Starting to feel somewhat guilty about that now.

Interested in peoples thoughts on this issue?


Runeflames said...

I play it for fun. I'm fairly highly competitive so I like a good contest. When I play everyone at the club but Hamish, it is for fun. When I play Hamish it's usually tournament practice and it can get heated, especially when there are rules disputes.

Michael Mills said...

If I was you I'd be looking at what I want from the hobby. There's a definite sense of opposition in your use of the terms "fun" and "tournament". It seems you feel you've lost a lot of what got you into the hobby to begin with.

Everything you have described about tournaments is why I *don't* attend them. The constant list tweaks, the relentless prep, the extreme competitiveness and the feeling you have to do something rather than want to do something puts me off.

If tournaments are your thing then fine do what floats your boat. On this evidence they're not for me at all...

John Murrie said...

@ Michael - I take your point. I get a lot of fun out of tournaments if I didn't I wouldn't attend them. I'll edit the post - what I was getting at was the difference between "playing just to play" and "playing for points". Tournaments are incredibly enjoyable but it does take a different mind set - I am lucky in that our local group is not a "win at all costs" event crowd

Hoodling said...

The vast majority of games at our club are using tournament armies, however they do vary a fair bit because of the different comp packs that come into play - so even if a list is intended to be competitive in that event, it won't be ridiculously hard in the overall scheme of things.

Having said this, there are at least a couple of us that get sick of the constant tide of tournament preparation games and make a point of playing something different. Arranging battle reports etc is a good way to tempt someone away from trying their latest "competitive" list and doing something different. A campaign would have a similar effect.

Even when approaching a tournament, some of us are not particularly interested in trying to land on the podium, so our lists will include something "sub-optimal" that we're trying to make work.

Herman van Kradenburg said...

Thanks for the plug, John. Sam, I don't think any of us do it because we hate the game. We all love it, and do it for fun. In fact we lap it up! Jossy's blog's name always sums it up for me: Plastic Crack! We're all addicted. What differs is the aspects of the game that we enjoy. Some love the fluff, some love the tournaments. I also think we all love the competitive aspect. If life allowed me more time to indulge in the tournament aspect I would, but my life revolves around my job, which entails weekend and after-hours work, and that of my wife, which involves weekend work too. And I have 3 teenage kids. I try to balance my life (and gaming)as best I can. I'm not throwing stones at those who have the luxury of honing their skills at (and for) tournament, and bring those lists to the club. What bothers me is that the fun, social aspect of the game is taking a hit as a result of the tournament scene. To have any chance of winning even a social game you have to buy into the meta. Ogre death stars, monstrous cavalry for empire and chaos, the Throgg Troll bus,etc,etc
... and now I see the emergence of the Uberlord in the End Times expansion. The question in my mind is how this will effect the direction of the game, because there is a definite trickle down effect from the tournament scene, which is driven by power creep, like it or not...

Look, here is Nagash, and Archaon, up next for release. Are we going to see Aenarion and Sigmar on monster bases with amazing models and soon? Probably, as you cannot have an unbalanced universe, and the fluff is deep enough to allow it.

Bring it on, I say, but call it Herohammer.

Is there space for 2 genres within the same game system? Who knows?

What I can see is a bit of a divide happening between tournament players and those who can not or do not, and are somewhat derisively labled "Garagehammer" players.

What I would like to see to some extent is a return to basics and balanced play to some extent, without the arms race. Call it Fluffhammer or Funhammer if you like.
I think we need more of it, rather than killer lists that make you wonder why you bothered to turn up to the club.

Would it be asking too much to ask members draw up two lists when you came to the club, and offering your opponent the option of playing the killer list or the fun list ?

Lets put some of the fun back in the game.For everyone, not just the strong players with killer lists. Just a thought...

Scott Bowman said...

Good comment Herman.

I think this tournament mindset probably affects many game systems, not just the WFB/40k worlds...

I must admit I was somewhat amazed when I saw titans now being played in a 40k game... it made me think, you can only win if you bring your own titan along too... and now massive heroes in WFB... as you say it herohammer again... or what we used to call back in the UK "best biggest stick"...

I like to play for the fun, fluff of it... I of course still like to win, (don't we all?), but don't mind losing too much so long as I don't go 0-12 in games played too often ;-)

I like trying out stuff because the model is cool or fits the theme of the battle I am thinking of...

A tournament for me was really a chance to meet fellow gamers and perhaps learn how better to play the game... my tactics have never been the best...

I like your suggestion of bringing the 'tournie' and 'fun' lists and choosing ... though hopefully this could be sorted out before hand so you don't have to bring two sets of figures down to the club!

I must admit, my focus over last 12 months or so has shifted from the big battle competeive games, to the smaller skirmish orientated 'fun games'... but I guess these , like LOTR can be played at tournie level too - just been watching what happened over in UK with their GBHL: Longbottom tournie...looks a lot of fun, wish we could get that scene going here in NZ???

John Murrie said...

I do have to admit the sight of so many big monsters/machines in the 40k competition at my last event really did put me off. Although I have been assured that there were still lots of infantry there too.

Like Scott I think the fun vs. death list option is a good one. But I will be making a more protracted effort to emphasise the fun rather than points based lists from now on.

Also just downloaded the old WHFB Warband rules so will hopefully get the club guys to try that.

The fun vs. death lists is also why I really enjoy FOW because as a game system I think its a lot more balanced and lend itself toward the deathstar/herohammer side of things. Although the plethora of special rules coming in e.g. Easy Company stuff is not something I like that much.

John Murrie said...

"oops" meant FOW doesnt lend itself toward the deathstar/herohammer....

Nicholas Jebson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicholas Jebson said...

A great analyses by both Herman and you John. I quite often play my armies in a pseudo-tournament way but with one major difference. my lists aren't built to win.

I love the fluff aspect of the hobby, and attend tournaments so I can verse large numbers of different armies and players that I cant casually. I enjoyed the comradery of the NZTC, but since I was semi-pushed into taking dirty Dark Elves I did not enjoy it quite as much as I feel bad when I stomp someone(yes, im weird. Dark Elf Beast-masters, Orc pirates, and soon to be Dwarven slayers are my bread and butter. Armies that do not bring the killiest things, but can be competitive with those others who play for fun.

I will admit that I sometimes get annoyed with people who only collect up to a points limit to take a force to the tournaments, and so only have one play style and constant power play, but I also love lording it over them when I (rarely) beat them with cheese. Just my two cents.

Darth Weasel said...

It is one reason I don't play tournaments. I like rolling out the models I have and even knowing some are "sub-optimal" I don't care...I will probably never stop rolling my Dragon Ogre Shaggoth out when I bring the WoC, nor the Dragon Ogres because the models were a $%^& to put together, I like them, I am going to play them. If I were to go to a tournament, as you say they would be on the shelf in favor of Chaos Knights, Bloodcrushers, H-cannons and other highly effective stuff.

Warhammer and 40k are poorly designed systems for tournaments and when I try to shoehorn a game where the "cool factor" of say...GW wielding ogres and Dwarf Hammerers simul-killing each others' last man will never happen because it is a poor unit choice for the ogres, I lose interest.

As you point out, however, there are people for whom the best unit they can take is the right one. I even have some of that...when I play O&G there are few if any goblins in it because to me it is not entertaining having dozens of models that require mystical intervention to so much as wound an Empire i get part of the "tournament" mind set. Somewhere there is a happy medium

Roriusmaximus said...

Just take the time to do both equally. Doing one more than the other can be an exercise in accounting (tournament play) or an exercise in isolation (playing tournaments is a great way to meet fellow gamers, connect, see different armies up close - the reason why I started playing in tournaments is because my besty Graeme and I ran out of mates and after 20 years it was just the two of us playing each other)!
Just appreciate both facets of the hobby for what they are - making miniatures and making warhammer mates.

Good post man.

Rex Foote said...

A well written enjoyable post, well done.

For me every game of Warhammer either involves preparing for a Tournament or fine tuning my main list and the main reason i have for this is that i dont do well at Warhammer, i love the game but i don't do well or win often. SO when i do win its a big thing be it during an event or a games night at the club. I constantly tune my list in order to find that perfect combination of units that suits me just right and i never have a game without that main list, i never miss a chance to improve upon it or try out the new unit. It also probably doesn't help that i only get to game one night a week from 4 to about 9.45ish.

Michael Mills said...

@John, thanks for the clarification. Great post BTW, very thought provoking. The hobby needs more of this kind of discussion to keep it fresh. It's easy to get into a rut.