Feast of Blades '13

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Tuxedo Fex: Let me feed your ear-toasters some strudel-words.

Here is a post from my gaming buddy friend/scholar/poet/mind-melter Marcus. He is a mad funny general xeno player who just got into grey knights for the fluff and fun of it all. He writes at his new place for his thoughts and infinate(infamous?) wisdom... enjoy -Kevinmcd28


Thought for the day: If a racist hates somebody based on their race, and a sexist hates somebody based on their sex, does a hobbyist hate somebody based on their hobbies? I think yes.
Here's the thing about the way I, you, or anybody else plays 40k: nobody likes to win.
That is, nobody likes or respects victory in and of itself. There's a psychological connection between winning at checkers and happiness, but it's more related to what you felt as a kid when you got a gold star on a spelling test: you're happy you won because you see it as a reward for doing well. The tough distinction to make here is that it's easy to get your cause and effect mixed up. If you win a game by fielding a steroid netlist, manipulating loopholes and cheesy RAW interpretations, and rolling handfuls of 5's and 6's all day, you'll find it's quite easy to look at the fact that you won as justification for any and all methods that you used. It's a matter of perspective. It's how our brains are wired; when it comes to our world views we like to pretend that good guys always win and that the winners are always the good guys. It's called the Just-World Fallacy. The basic idea is that we are inclined to believe that if you win a game, it's because you deserved to win it. But the word 'fallacy' is in there for a reason. Every single gamer has had games where they won because their opponent failed one single morale check at the end of the final turn, or games where their painstaking tactical maneuvering was thwarted by uncooperative dice. It's simple enough, right? People mistake enjoying a victory with enjoying a well-earned victory. Of course, most people would be able to look back on a game they won purely by luck and realize that it was just that, and I'm not particularly interested in the few that can't. But the fact remains that because of this misconception we're programmed to have, and the tendency of some people to not think beyond it, that a couple of grievances arise.
I'll get the obvious problem out of the way first: people treating pickup games like 'Ard Boyz. At my local gaming store there are horror stories about a disreputable dude who bends some rules, breaks others, and takes advantages of rookie players' inexperience in games originally meant to 'show them the ropes'. For him, the means aren't so much backseat to the ends as they are gagged and bound in the trunk. Clearly he's an extreme example of not being able to distinguish between rosy rationalizations of why you think you won and why you actually did, but he's hardly the worst I've ever heard of. People sometimes lose sight of the fact that they can deserve a win or a loss. Their credo is along the lines of 'if I'm gonna win, I might as well massacre', which is a bit of a bloodthirsty attitude to have while you're just kicking it around locally, no?. People like this are pretty easily identified, usually by their power-built GT level lists that they bring around to friendly shops on weekdays to table casual players while grinning like a horny hyena.
But this kind of thing also propagates a different stereotype. While you might be correct in assuming that a power player would field a power army, seeing somebody with, for example, a Grey Knights army doesn't necessarily mean they're a baby seal clubber (hint: I'm talking about myself here). Since I started playing games with GK the general consensus people have when seeing a storm bolter being placed on a table is that I'm a jackass who shelled out $400 for an army, spent hours clipping and gluing and cussing at magnets, and then came to the store solely with the intention of mercilessly squashing anybody who is foolhardy enough to step to my Mat Ward-powered queso-fiesta army. There's always some self-righteous kid champing at the bit to call me a mercenary front-runner n00bz0r, and decry my obvious plans of running gaming tables against my hopelessly underpowered opponents. Good guess. When the GK rumors started circulating on the 'net and I made the decision to make them my first Marine army, it wasn't because I wanted to run MSU Psyback Spam, or fill Chimeras with Multi-Melta Servitors and Storm Shield Crusaders. I wasn't looking forward to Shunt Punching my opponents silly or fielding three Psyrifle Dreads every game. It wasn't because I'm clairvoyant and I knew GK would be projected to fill 8 of the top 16 slots at the Nova Open. I decided to start Grey Knights for the same reason I continue to play them now: because I think Grey Knights are bitchin' sweet. I read the codex leaks and weapon lists and thought of a backstory for my personal chapter. I planned out the color scheme. I started thinking about goddamn names for the squad leaders. I liked how the army sounded and I ran with it. That's as much thought as I put into it. Despite that now every major 40k blog (like this one LOLJKROFLCOPTER) has broken the codex and found the most retarded combinations that are all but unstoppable by normal means, I don't play this army because it gives me any particular advantage in a competitive sense. I'm of course not saying that it doesn't (power-armored armies don't seem to be able to suck), but that's beside the point I'm trying to make. The fact of the matter is that people simply assume everyone else is playing purely to win, and that makes it that much harder for either player to enjoy the game as a whole.
And that brings me to my central point: the color behind the armies, not certain armies' ability to let you dominate on the tabletop, are what truly make this game fun. Think back: the fluff of your army is most likely the factor that sparked your original interest in playing it, not it's delightful smoky gouda flavor. I like space bugs that eat worlds, so I play Tyranids. I like zombie robots that with guns that zap people into technicolor skeletons like Mars Attacks, so I play Necrons. I like psychic ghost-hunting space monks with broadswords and halberds and guns attached to their forearms, so I play Grey Knights. Do I win more games with Grey Knights than I do with Tyranids or Necrons? Of course I do; they're an extremely powerful army, more so than anybody predicted. But don't see me playing and automatically assume that their newfound competitive strength was even a factor in my decision to start the army. If there is anybody reading this who picked an army whose fluff they hated because they thought, "Well, I can win games with this", I will shake your hand and agree to completely disagree. In this deranged gentleman's humble opinion, wargaming is meant to be a very immersive experience, and to completely ignore everything but the gaming itself is to rob yourself of the majority of the enjoyment you can get from it.
And so I will always advocate fluffy lists, themed lists, lists with character and personality and fan-fiction personalized backstories, and above all fun lists above the soulless, run-of-the-mill tourney netlists. There's a weird trend I've noticed where super-optimized lists are considered the norm and casual lists the exception, which I feel is totally backwards. You can have all the MathHammer and predatory instinct you want but at the end of the day it's you and your little plastic tanks and soldiers against the world, and I think you can afford a nonchalant chuckle or two along the way. Do yourself a favor; write up a goofy, sub-optimal list, proxy and counts-as all the characters you've never used before, and while you're writing your list, remember to please get off the fucking internet. Would you rather read a novel and enjoy the art of it, or read the SparkNotes and learn just enough to pass the exam?
And most importantly, remember to meet me at the gaming table, where I'll be doing the exact same thing.

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