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Casual gamer? Go to a tournament!

Back in the day, oh way back in the day, I thought tournaments were a hardcore affair. Full of Win At All Costs overly competitive dicks trying to out dick each other with the most unfun dickhead lists possible. This was before I started playing Kings of War.

During 1st edition the community was tiny. Finding a game was difficult at best, if not downright impossible. It was frustrating not being able to get games in, so I turned to that dark place. I figured I’d try a tournament and try to enjoy it through gritted teeth.

My impressions of the tournament scene could not have been more wrong.

While the overall competitiveness has increased somewhat with the WHFB influx, it’s still a far cry from what I imagined it would be. Players are friendly, games are good natured and everyone enjoys themselves. Sure, there’s the odd Peoples Champion who relies on their army list rather than any actual skill or tactics to carry them, but no more than you would meet at the local club.

Tournaments are nothing more than a day or even weekend out meeting and gaming with people you otherwise wouldn’t meet.

There’s no major competitive streak, the vast, vast majority of people you meet will be awesome guys or gals and almost everyone treats it as nothing more than a day at the gaming club. There’s a huge variety of skill levels, from the people at the very top such as Mr King or Mr Robinson, all the way down to those who are in it for nothing more than fun and vie for last place, such as Mr Hadfield, Mr Swann and Mr Faulkes. No matter what your skill level is a tournament, whether you’re a complete newcomer to the game or you’re the best player at your club, there are going to be people on a similar skill level at the event.

Are there dickheads? I’ve only encountered a couple over the many tournaments I’ve attended. They’re extremely rare – no more common than at the average gaming club. They’re absolutely in the minority. Everyone else is lovely.

The Competitive Dickwaving

I do worry sometimes that the competitive dickwaving that sometimes goes on gives off a bad impression. If you’ve seen the overly elaborate “challenge” posts, rankings or even articles or podcasts where top players analyse everyone’s army list, you could easily come away with the (wrong) impression that the scene is highly competitive. It’s not, and I’ve taken issue with the level of dickwaving going on in the past (in particular an article by the organiser basically telling a bunch of attendees that their lists are shit and they needn’t bother turning up).

Understand that it’s all just good natured ribbing and banter.

No-one really gives a shit about the rankings or where they place in the event. Everyone there is there to have a good time, play some games and if they come out on top then great. Sure, people often bring their A-Game, but who doesn’t want to play well?

Ignore the dickwaving. It’s just banter, nothing serious meant by it.

Skill level

You do not need to be a great or even good player to attend a tournament and have a great time. As I said earlier, we have players of all skill levels at the events. Don’t think that there’s any kind of minimum skill you need to attend.

Hell, one of my friends had only played 40k, and never in any kind of competitive manner. I taught him Kings of War the night before a tournament and lent him my army. He played his 2nd, 3rd 4th and 5th games of Kings of War at the tournament the next day and had a great time. He even placed 7th out of around 26-28 players, and like I said he wasn’t even a particularly hardcore 40k player.

Even if you get absolutely trounced, your opponent will happily give you some hints and tips on how to improve for the next time if you want.

Attending a tournament

Let’s say I’ve started to sway you. Ok, tournaments aren’t highly competitive events and are just an excuse to go out and play a bunch of games in one day (or two). How do you sign up and what actually goes on?

You sign up to an event in advance, and they’ll be widely advertised on forums, facebook and anywhere the organiser can. You’ll often be required to pay an entry fee, usually around £10-£15 depending on whether lunch is included or not, but details of this will be on the page.

There will also be an event pack. Read it. Read it back to front, especially if you’re new. It will contain all the information you need – what size army to bring, what time the event starts, any special rules in play etc. Sometimes organisers will ask you to email your army list ahead of time, so make sure you do (but they’ll probably remind you if you haven’t close to the cutoff date).

The first thing on the day is registration. Turn up at the venue, find the TO (tournament organiser) and tell them you’ve arrived so they can tick you off their list. At this point people mill around a bit, chatting, catching up and getting their armies out of their boxes.

After the registration, the organiser will give a briefing. This will cover things such as fire exits, when and where lunch will be served or anything else of note. Then they’ll say who’s playing who and on which table (some TO’s will do a “live draw” and publish the matchups before the event). The first round is usually randomised, but TO’s will often nudge these random matchups so that players challenging each other play the first round or to avoid players who travelled together playing in the first round.

Go to your assigned table, meet your opponent, shake their hand and have a great game of KoW! Note that it’s always nice to shake hands and wish your opponent “Good luck” or “Have fun!” before the first turn begins.

At the end of the game, report your results to the TO. Each TO will handle it differently but often you’ll be given a piece of paper to write your results down. Tournaments will use some sort of point scoring system giving x points for a win and y points for a loss. Usually these points will be modified depending on the scale of the win, but this will be listen in the pack and your opponent will be able to help you out if needs be.

At the start of each round the TO will tell you who you’re going to play next and on which table. The matchups are usually based on the players total points so far in the event from highest to lowest, but again the TO may nudge these matchups for various reasons (to stop repeat matchups usually).

Some events (not so much in the UK< but they are on the rise) also use “soft scores” – scores for your painting/modelling and your sportsmanship. Each event handles these differently, but often there’ll be a sheet of tickboxes for painting (are all models painted, Do they have advanced basing etc) and there may be a paint judge portion. For sportsmanship, you’re often asked to choose your favourite opponents and the player in the event with the most votes wins.

All details will be in the event pack! So, read it!

Go to a tournament – you’ll enjoy it!

Seriously. Tournaments are nothing more than a day out gaming. They’re not hyper competitive, they’re not full of dicks and there’s no “minimum skill” for entering one. They’re a great way of getting a lot of games in, they’re a great incentive to finish painting your army (it’s tournament tradition to be still awake and painting your army the night before) and you get to meet players you’d never otherwise meet.