Sunday, June 12, 2011

You Got Owned...Because You Didn't Know the Rules Part 1

So, I've been trying to come up with a cool intro for this article but I just haven't managed to figure one out. However, I have thought about those times, we've all had them, when things are progressing smoothly when all of a sudden your opponent pulls a weird move. You quickly wrack your brain to try to connect the rules that would allow this to happen, but you come up empty. Thus, an inquiry occurs. You ask your opponent how he managed such a maneuver. Generally, a quotation of some BRB or codex specific rule occurs. Ultimately, your opponent backs down because he misconstrued or misused a rule or you get spanked because you didn't see the usage coming. You got owned.

Rules are what makes 40k the game it is. Without the rules that provide the game structure, we simply have collections of pretty plastic soldiers. The rules make this game the dynamic, and sometimes frustrating, game that it is.

As I mentioned in my intro post, there are lots of ways you can lose a game. You can have poor dice rolls. You can play like a bonehead tactically. You can also have a lacking or faulty understanding of the rules of the game. This is what I would like to talk about in today's article, but then I realized how large the article would be so I am cutting it in half. Today's article will talk primarily about the type of gamers you see and their grasp of rules knowledge. It is important to first categorize the types of players and their perceived possibility of misinterpretting or not knowing a rule. This gives you a vague idea of what you might be getting yourself into when playing said gamer. It is also important to understand that this isn't definite as rules knowledge of this scope falls on a spectrum and there are great ranges of rules knowledge. A "beginner" can have absolutely no rules knowledge or they can have a dozen games under their belt with a shaky rules knowledge. So use labels with caution.

1) Beginner/Novice- This is a person who has little to no grasp of the entirety of the main rules of 40k. These are players who need walkthroughs, phase by phase, action by action in small controlled games in order to gain an understanding of the rules. These players have the highest possibility of misinterpretting or simply not knowing a rule. Beginners have such a small grasp of the rules that they can't be expected to know the codex specific rules of their opponents and thus need to be prepped by their opponent about race/codex specific rules that can have a strong bearing on the game.

2) Intermediate- This is a person who has a good grasp of the rules. They know the bulk of the BRB rules, but may occasionally forget some, especially if they are rules for models that they don't normally include in their armies. They have a decent understanding of their specific army list and may even have a soundly defined strategy for playing their own army list. These players generally have dozens to a few hundred games under their belt and can be expected to play a full game of 40k and be marginally to very competitive (i.e. they provide some challenge to play against). They stand a small to moderate chance possibility of misinterpretting or simply not knowing a main rule book rule. They, however, can't be expected to have a strong knowledge of their opponents' armies unless they are from the same codex as their own army or unless they are a more popular army that is played.

3) Advanced- This is a person who has the rules down well. They know the BRB and possibly mutliple codexes. They can quote rules and perhaps even page locations for rules. They also have a decent understanding of how rules interact with each other to gain them tactical advantage. They may even have some understanding of existing loopholes in the rules and exemptions that allow shady but legal play to occur. These gamers rarely make mistakes, but there is still a small possibility that they could make a mistake or not know about the rules of an army they aren't used to playing.

Now again, these aren't hard, fast descriptions. Advanced players have bad days and beginners can pick up on gaming dynamics quickly, but chances are if you play against someone who has been playing the game for 5+ years, they can be expected to know the rules well. Conversely, you can expect someone who has just started collecting to need some help throughout a game.

This spectrum of rules knowledge brings up a good point in my mind in regards to building community. That is the idea of tutelage and apprenticeship of sorts. If gamers are really in favor of building a strong gaming community (guess what, you should be), then it should be understood that beginners need to be actively sought out and tutored through their rough, initial period of learning the game. This is somewhat of a bummer from an advanced player's perspective as it means that you may be playing some games with little to no tactical excitement or fulfillment. However, if you can train up a solid gamer, you strengthen the overall community and ultimately create a better, more competitive environment. This is huge.

So, what does it take to help a beginner or intermediate player? Here are a few quick things.

1) Share army lists at the beginning of a game and explain your list to your opponent. Share any interesting or predominant rules (like FNP and FC on priest for Blood Angels) to your opponent.

2) Have a codex and BRB at hand at all times. This is not to prove you know it all. It is to show your apprentice gamer where they can find specific rules.

3) Take it slow. Answer questions as they come up and also be willing to stop your opponent to correct him (respectfully) if he is doing something wrong. Smaller points games (1,000-1,500) may be more conducive to this process.

4) Be persistent. If your opponent isn't show huge rules and tactical growth over a few games, don't give up. Sometimes it just takes a bit more time. Showing support by being consistent means that the player will be more likely to stick it out.

5) Help your apprentice build lists. Don't build them for them. Let them have input. If they want to include Legion of the Damned, let them, but help them to understand list building dynamics and how certain units affect the army's overall performance.

That's it for this post and man, was that a marathon. If you made it this far, hang on.  In Part 2, I will take a look at how rules affect whether you win or lose. Stay tuned.

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