In the Jaded Gamercast Facebook Group, I recently expressed my disdain for cookie cutter, power-build armies.
Actually, it was this:
What ever happened to wanting to play a fun army that’s fun to play against? Or a fluff army whose victories are unassured but looks AMAZING.
Or how about an army that should, on paper, lose games like frigging crazy but because its both unorthodox and you’ve become skilled with it, you wreck face?
I get that guys like to win, but aren’t people getting sick of cookie cutter armies? I think that THAT is part of the reason why there is so much ennui with 40K right now.
To which one of the pundits of the group, Tim of Douchebag Anonymous, asked:
Those are some of the ways to play, Teri, but not all of them. You don’t really think anyone not doing it in one of the ways listed above is having fun wrong, do you?
To clarify, the people he’s alluding to are the ones I’m also alluding to: the players get to their powergaming phase – the place where taking better units and optimized builds helps compensate for their lack of adaptive skill as a general – and instead of progressing to appreciate the hobby in all its aspects instead of just the game, they stop there. (I’ve talked about this myself on this blog before- I’ve been there as both a 40K player and as roller derby freshmeat.)
My short answer to Tim is yes. Yes, they’re having fun wrong.
The long answer is this: If their fun comes strictly from winning, they’re kneecapping themselves for wins in the short term but heavy losses over the long term (and possibly even a loss of love for the game thereafter.)
Players become better generals in adverse situations – unbalanced game scenarios, unorthodox army builds, and outside the box strategies all throw wrenches into a player’s gaming experience which forces them to think creatively, use their army differently and understand off-the-wall gaming approaches. Simply put, generals learn from their defeats (or near defeats), not from their easy victories.
It’s called a learning curve. The problem with these power gaming types gravitating towards the cookie-cutter optimized lists is that the list compensates for their lack of skill. (I’ve written about this before, but in the context of buying 700 roller skates to make me a better derby skater.)
Here’s a video game analogy: by playing these highly-optimized, cookie-cutter lists, players are essentially turning down the game’s difficulty setting. It’s great when you’re starting out, gives you that hit of dopamine that gamblers get when they strike lucky, but in reality, by being loss averse, players aren’t actually improving as generals as well as they could be with a list built knowing their list has a clear and obvious weakness.
Ultimately, if the amount of fun a player has is related to how much he wins, then playing to master the game should be the means to that goal. That may mean more losses in the shorter term, but far more wins over time.
Players who choose to take the short term gains will suffer some pretty brutal losses when the experience scale goes up – a large tournament setting, for example. They may be the big fish in their small pond at their local gaming venue, thanks to the power of their list, but when the stakes are raised along with the experience in the room, those same guys may find themselves struggling.
There’s only so many tournaments in a year, so if the ONLY place you can learn (lose) to play the game is tournament, you’ll be behind the curve. If you play games every week outside the tournament setting, playing an underpowered list against lesser generals with BETTER lists will make you a better general, instead of feeding your ego.
If your “fun” is to win, you probably want to also win at big events. You probably want to win when swimming with the sharks. If you choose to play locally and make every game outside that big event setting make you a better general, play for mastery. Don’t play for the win when the wins don’t count.
And, well, if you’re the kind of guy who likes to show up and play games JUST to win and you are uninterested in becoming a better general and your idea of fun is crushing kids at the local GW, well, you’re also having fun the wrong way. I’m not going to elaborate as to why.