Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Hey all BBF here again with a short new article. I'd like to discuss the role of a sparring partner for playtesting your 40k armies and improving your overall game. I like to test new armies I design versus the top tier armies to see how they perform, figure out to better tweak them and discover game winning tactics and combinations. I think it's important as a competitive player to test your armies versus the best builds which can include mirror matches. In my opinion you need to play these games versus a good friend who is a good player as well—their skill level should be in the same neighborhood as your own. Depending on the army you are testing it can be a disheartening experience in the beginning but if you stick with it over time you can develop a solid army, which of course is the payoff. It's important that your sparring partner doesn't tailor their list specifically to beat yours as you won't gain much valuable experience and it won't be a fun time. You want to play games versus the current meta armies you will most commonly face at a big event. I think it's also important to play some games versus off the wall lists that challenge you—forcing you to think outside the box and these types of games can often be both the toughest and most rewarding when you win.
Back when I first started to develop my Blood Angels Descent of Angels (DoA) army I almost exclusively playtested versus Imperial Guard (leaf blower) and Space Wolves (Wolfstar). I quickly learned how to beat IG but it took probably a couple months to figure out how to consistently beat Wolfstar. It was very frustrating and at first it seemed like there was no answer but eventually I finally figured out how to beat them as well. These games also provided the opportunity to learn game winning tactics versus all of the most common armies. I ended up in the top 15 percent at WarGamesCon a couple of years ago with my DoA army and finished on one of the two top tables at GenghisCon last year as well... So definitely all the playtesting paid off.
Something quite interesting to me is the mirror match - I beat three other Blood Angels army at WarGamesCon with my DoA list - two of my opponents had heavily mechanized lists while the other was another DoA army. Currently I'm playing Tyranids so I'm not foreseeing many mirror matches this year in the independent tourney circuit but if I was playing Grey Knights that would be a big concern and one I think players tend to often overlook. I'm sure there will be lots and lots of Grey Knights playing during at least the first half of the year. Grey Knight versus Grey Knight is just brutal because of the psykout grenades so if you're planning to bring them out this year you had best be well prepared. I did have one game at a local tournament a few weeks ago versus another reserved Tyranid army and it was one of my two losses so far... I was not adequately mentally prepared, it caught me off guard and I made some silly mistakes that cost me the game.
Now back to the main topic - over time your sparring partner will become intimately familiar with your army and tactics so it may become very hard to win - this is actually what you really want as it will force you to take your army to the next level if you're fully committed. Don't get frustrated, don't curse Mat Ward or Robin Cruddance... Keep playing and keep thinking how to WIN !! Eventually it's possible these test matches will become harder to win than what you might expect to face during the first rounds at a big event and that is what will help you to best prepare to reach a top table.
If your sparring partner is a traveling tournament player as well then make sure to provide them with ample opportunities for these types of test matches as well... In the end it can be a win-win situation. Interestingly enough this is how some great gaming clubs started. Constantly clubbing n00bs is not going to make you a better gamer and you'll end up probably making some great friends if you look to play others with similiar interests and goals.