FACE_DOOM_II’s thoughts on how to be a better and more enjoyable opponent.
So I’m playing a game. It’s a game that I love, and I’m in a room with at least a few of my friends, and it’s Saturday. Everything should be great right now…but it’s not. I’m feeling stressed, or annoyed, or outright angry (in the worst case scenario) because the individual across from me is doing something – or multiple somethings – that are really hampering my ability to enjoy one of my favourite hobbies. They aren’t being a dick or trying to cheat as far as I can see, but they are not holding themselves to a high standard of gameplay and that’s making things hard for me.
And the worst part? Knowing that I’ve been guilty of all or some of the things they are doing as well at some point or another. I’ve had to work hard and spend time and money in an effort to become a player people enjoy facing off against (most of the time), and it’s not easy. It starts with good attitude and sportsmanship but that’s only the beginning, and that’s what I want to talk about today: how to be a better opponent.
You’ve been here before gamers; watching someone sling their tape around like it’s a pool noodle, scooping dice before both players have a chance to do their math or a plethora of other things that might not even be deliberate or dishonest but contribute to a more stressful and less enjoyable game state for you. Good habits in gameplay are a big part of a clean, fair game and in my humble (hahahaha) opinion are the flip side of the good sportsmanship coin. It’s very hard to play a game against a person who marks things clearly, communicates well and has a good attitude without having a good time yourself – even if they ROFLstomp your a$$!
Before I move on, yes I am aware that a lot of players don’t put much effort into being a better opponent, BUT that’s a horrible reason for YOU not to put that effort in. Ghandi said ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ or something like that, and I think he meant you need to do the right thing and set an example for others in hopes that they will see your success and happiness and want to follow in your footsteps. Take the high road my friends. I also want to clarify that these are not tips for being a good player, and in some cases might result in you losing games but you’ll lose them fairly, like a mature and responsible adult (instead of win them by dishonesty – deliberate or not). So, if you’re still with me, here are my three main tips on how to be a better opponent.
1) Communicate. This is game of information, and most of it is public information. Whether it is declaring your intentions before moving models, sharing information about a spell or rule, or just very clearly showing fury reaving or focus allocation; it is important and it is appreciated. There is a good deal of trust involved in this game, especially when prizes are on the line, so making sure that you and your opponent stay on the same page contributes heavily to a less stressful game. Clear communication is one of the best ways to do that. Your opponent might not be very good at this but try to take the high road, and maybe they’ll even follow suit and start communicating better with you.
You know a lot about your army (hopefully) and you may even know a lot about your opponent’s force but it’s possible and even likely that they don’t know much about yours. You are required by rule to answer any question they ask you regarding statistics, spells, feats or abilities, and everyone knows this, but a good opponent takes it one step further. I’m a devoted Skorne player and if you were to ask me Molik Karn’s speed I would at first reply 6, and that’s where a good deal of Skorne players would stop. The rules have been satisfied, and that’s good enough for them – but not for me. I would then tell you that he has the potential to sidestep twice for another 4″ if it all goes well.
This is where I’m going to lose some folks because I’ve tipped my hand and given away my deadly plan, but in my opinion my opponent had every right to all of that information because it’s all on his card. I won’t tell them he can get 2″ more from the Rush animus unless they ask about spells/animi, but I will promptly disclose all of his abilities when asked about him. I want to have a fair, clean, close game and win or lose knowing that I didn’t pull a fast one on my enemy. Wouldn’t you want your opponent to share that kind of information so you don’t get blindsided? Some people say that only suckers get sucker-punched, so maybe I’m being naive, but I think if you want to win fairly you should communicate clearly and not hide public information. If your unit is defence 12, but gets +2 while base to base you should tell your opponent that when they ask about it’s defensive stats. Hopefully they’ll do the same for you.
It is very important for both you and your opponent to understand complex manoeuvres before models are moved, especially when close measurements are involved. If you have a charge that’s just barely in range you might offer to show your model’s ‘total threat’ before moving it so it’s clear to your opponent before you move the model that you had the range. Measure from the front of the base because it’s in the rulebook. Look up advancing. Read it. I still see this one all the time and it makes FACE_DOOM an angry bear. If at all possible, never move a model until your opponent understands and accepts what you are doing. Proxy bases can be very handy for this, especially when it comes to base placement. Sometimes it’s questionable whether or not a base has room to land on the other side of an obstacle or between several other models. Showing these things clearly and discussing them with your opponent reduces the stress involved and the chance that either of you walk away feeling cheated or questioning a charge or movement.
2) Bring the right Equipment. This means tokens, this means counters, this means markers and measuring devices and templates Oh My! Marking things clearly is a key component to being a good, clean player and everyone you face off against will appreciate this to no end. It is very frustrating to play against someone who does not clearly mark which spells/fury/focus are where, or uses the same beads to mark fury, souls, and the fire continuous effect, so don’t be that guy. This can create that same generally tense atmosphere that we want to avoid. Trust is at issue, so be as clear as you can and explain to your opponent how you mark effects/counters before the game and then be as clean as you can while playing.
Bring tokens for all your spells, mark them clearly (if you use initials then indicate when the spell is being cast what spell it is) and then keep them as close to the model/models they affect as possible. Your opponent can always ask what is on who but it’s nicer if they don’t have to and will save you in the event of a judge being called. If an effect is not marked on the table it will be hard to convince a 3rd party it is in play should your opponent start to argue with you. Use upkeep markers for upkeeps if you have a token set so people do not misinterpret the type of spell you have cast. Even if you do not own a privateer or 3rd party token set it should be easy to throw something together to help make things clear. You can print out all of your spells and then cut them out into home made tokens, and I believe there are even templates available online to make this easier.
If you have more than one kind of counter in play (ie. focus and souls, or fury and corpse tokens or any other combination) then use different tokens to represent them and explain what each colour/shape means before the game. If you have a model that can give fire or corrosion effects then bring sufficient counters in case your opponent doesn’t have them. Do not use dice to mark things like this as they can get knocked around and then called into question. Keep tokens as close to the model possessing them as possible and move the tokens right after you move the model – no one should ever have to ask you who a pile of focus belongs to, or worse be led to miscount by your sloppy resource management. Don’t be that guy. Yes they have the right to be asking you questions but the less they have to the better of a job you’re doing.
Have every template your army uses at minimum, and if possible have a complete set. It will always be easier to use your own templates on your own side of the table rather than passing back and forth and it spreads less germs (yea I sound like your Mom but at a convention/tournament that matters). Not having templates your army needs doesn’t look great on you, and again these can be made at home in a pinch with any type of flat, clear plastic so no excuses for the kids in the cheap seats. I don’t have a melee gauge right now so I’m a hypocrite but you should still take this advice.
Proxy bases are an important thing to have in your bag as well. You can make them out of anything but something thicker and heavier than paper is advisable. These will help you clearly determine whether your model can be placed or has charge distance without moving the model itself, and it’s handy to have them on your opponents turn to prove your point if you do get into a dispute over their movement. They are also handy for representing a model on a slope or other precarious piece of terrain without risking it’s splendid paint job.
Mark your feat. It saves confusion and conflict, it helps you remember you have one and that it’s in play. Just do it. Write ‘Feat’ on a piece of paper if you can’t come up with anything more creative but just do something. For Realz.
3) Hold yourself to the highest standard, and be accountable. Don’t worry about what your opponent does, or whether they follow these tips or not. Don’t force it on them, it’s their game too and you can only control what you do. Try to give more than you take and avoid being argumentative over measurements and whatnot. If you declare your intentions, drop a proxy base, show your lines and all that jazz and the person across from you still isn’t comfortable then get a ruling from a judge or a neutral 3rd party, or if it’s just a friendly game dice off.
Try not to pick big fights about rules during the game. Even if you are sure that you’re correct just let it go for now (unless it’s a major tournament) and look it up later. Send your buddy/enemy an email or PM on your hobby store’s forums explaining how the rule works for future reference. Interrupting the game to argue definitely saps the fun out of things, so resolve conflicts quickly and let it go more often than you draw a line in the sand because the high road usually means lower blood pressure. This one is tougher at a major event or a tournament with prizes but even there you can often avoid involving a judge by being a grown up about things and discussing the problem with your opponent.
Be generous when determining how many models are under a blast template your opponent has fired or when a charge of his is nearly too close to call. Doing this makes it more likely that they will grant you the same benefit of the doubt on your turn. If this is not your thing that’s acceptable but don’t expect others to be generous with you if you’re stingy with them. It will come back to bite you often if you nickel and dime people on small movements and templates and the like so be a part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. On the flipside, return the favour if someone is generous with you. The first tournament I ever played in my first round opponent forgot to upkeep his spells and pointed it out after about 2 minutes of turn. I didn’t think it was a big deal so I let him spend the focus as if he had upkept them and still have them in play. On my following turn I forget to cast a spell before I fail a charge and he refuses to give it to me, despite my being generous with him. Fully within his rights, yes, but still not a nice thing to do. Don’t be that guy.
Be accountable for your attitude as well. You do not have to have fun (and sometimes you won’t), but you shouldn’t be preventing your opponent from doing so either way. Don’t whine about your dice, or their dice, or their faction being overpowered or yours being under powered. Don’t sulk, and don’t pout. Not all of your opinions or gripes need to be heard, especially at the gaming table – save it for the bar where your buddies don’t have to listen to you 😉 Learn to lose like an adult and hold your head high with a smile on your face. Never cheapen your opponent’s victory with complaints about their dice spikes, or your dice fails or the worst one; assurances that you would have beat them if only X. Don’t be that guy. I know this one is hard because I personally struggle with it but we are all works in progress and it’s easily possible to lose without doing this (even if you feel like it’s why you lost!). Shake their hand, congratulate them on a good game and talk tech if you have time and both seem interested. You can learn a lot from recapping a game with a stranger and you might even make a new friend.
Those are my big three tips and I truly believe that they will contribute to more enjoyable games and people speaking more highly of you as an opponent. This game is complex and confusing enough and there’s already an infinite potential for conflict within it so try to minimize that potential by being a great opponent! I’ve been Dan Gillman and thanks for reading, Wargamers.