There was a recent post of the Kings of War Fanatics Facebook page that included comments about “social gaming” vs. “tournament gaming”; with the implied position that KoW was inherently different in these two settings.
I decided to write this article as I feel it’s very easy to carry over some views from the old WHFB scene into the KoW scene and that can be detrimental to the community.
First, let me say that I enjoy playing tournaments. I have a busy (real) life and rarely get to play KoW outside of the tournaments / leagues despite there being game stores and clubs near to where I live. Without playing at events, I would struggle to get any games of KoW played; or armies painted for that matter.
Before going any further, let me apply my definitions:
- Social Gaming (SG): Playing games with people in a “non-event” setting
- Tournament Gaming (TG): Playing games with people in an event setting
- Win At All Costs (WAAC): A style of play that puts winning the game above all other considerations
- Cheating: Breaking the rules of the game / rules of the event to gain an advantage
- Bending the rules: Breaking the rules of the game / rules of the event for the advantage of both players to enhance the game
- Top Tier Armies: Old WHFB term used for army books that are clearly better than others
- Strong/ Hard Builds: Armies that are perceived as being more difficult to win against
- Weak / Soft Builds: Armies that are perceived as being easier to win against
- Local Meta / Meta: The gaming scene / style of armies that are predominantly used in your local (or national) level
- Power Gamer: A person who would choose a “top tier army”, which has a “strong build” and they may have a WAAC attitude
- Fluff Gamer / Fluff Bunny: A person who would choose an army based on the background (fluff), the aesthetics of the army or matches their personal style; regardless of the “tier” of the army or the “strength” of the build
With these definitions in mind, let’s quickly review how these can be applied (or not applied) in KoW. First, there are no “top tier” armies in KoW. The evidence from multiple events suggest that all armies can (and do) win. In a SG setting, there are also likely to be Strong and Weak lists but in a TG setting, this is less likely to happen. I know, I’ve lost you here – let me explain.
In the setting of a small SG group, the ability to learn how to deal with “Strong” armies is limited. You will find that the local meta will migrate to a small number of armies / builds and the hard counters to the meta are really difficult to deal with. This is where “all flyer” lists (as an example of a perceived “strong list”) can really dominate as the local community struggle to deal with this. In a TG setting, players are exposed to a much wider meta and therefore find it much easier to learn new skills to deal with perceived “strong lists”.
Let’s look at the WAAC and Power gamer stereotypes next. These people can be found in both SG and TG settings but their impact can be very different. In a SG setting, a couple of WAAC players can ruin a local scene with their antics. No-one likes to lose games, even social games, to people who don’t feel that enjoyment is a priority for them. In a TG setting it’s a little different. People tend to expect more of a WAAC attitude (rightly or wrongly) and so are slightly more accommodating. The Tournament Organiser (TO) have the ultimate sanction available to them if someone steps too far from accepted norms and a quite word or two can usually get the WAAC player to behave more appropriately.
What about Fluff Bunnies? Are they only scene in SG? Well, I would certainly say that SG tends to attract people who want to play for pure fun, with an army they enjoying playing with and as an aesthetic and play style they enjoy. But in KoW, as the armies are well balanced, fluff bunnies can also be found in TG settings too. Yes, their army may not adhere to the “meta” and may have some huge tactical holes (the player likes fast attacking playstyle, so on-foot anvil units are not around, for example) but as they are playing an army they like, which matches their play style and they have no doubt played dozens of times they can be very effective.
What about “rule bending”? And what is this really? This is allowing things like:
- Movement “take backs” when you spot something you missed when you initially moved the unit (i.e. Damn, didn’t spot that flanking unit..)
- Allowing a counter-charge melee despite not actually declaring a counter-charge and moving the unit 1” into combat (i.e. it is “assumed” that the units are in combat)
- Allowing a player to go back to the shooting phase when in the melee phase as “they forgot to shoot that unit” (i.e. oops, forgot my lone bolt thrower..)
- Rolling nerve checks before rolling for damage when the odds are hugely against you
All of these go somewhat against the “rules” of KoW. If you wish to allow your opponent to do this then that’s very gracious of you. If you do this, you should expect your opponent to do likewise; that’s simply being polite and fair. I could expect to see this in SG as these small “rule bends” are all about creating an enjoyable game. This also happens in TG too. But don’t expect it!
Cheating is a touchy subject. You could argue that the rule bends described above are “cheating” but I see cheating
as more of an intent to gain advantage. Sadly, you can see this is in both SG and TG scenes – and in SG they can be difficult to manage; in a TG setting the TO has to deal with the issue quickly.
TG and SG in KoW has fewer obvious differences than we noticed in WHFB. TG can also quickly turn into a great SG event; people catch-up with people they’ve not seen in months, exchange compliments on their army painting and tips on how to achieve a certain effect. The number of “problem gamers” in the TG scene is likely to be the same as the SG scene but with a strong TO and a strong community, these players can be dealt with quickly. If you are suffering from a limited local meta and want to learn how to play against certain builds then pop along to an event; you may well return to your local SG with the new filth!