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Tournament Gaming

September 4th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Picture the scenario. This is classic Scooby-Doo. You and your crew of hardened investigators are investigating a labyrinthine structure (y’know, with the exact same umbrella stand every three doorways due to animation shortcuts) with a dark history and a genuine possibility of gribblies wanting to pull you under the floorboards and have their wicked way with you (assume for the moment that’s not your thing). A natural junction develops where you could go one way or the other. You’re not pushed for time.

Common sense says stick together. Narrative law says split up. Separating your characters leads to more exploration of your surroundings, more communication problems, more clues, more gribblies, more jinkies, more chaos. Possibly one of my problems with storytelling is, I think of my characters as being sensible enough, or savvy enough, to stick together. I think maybe I assume that unless the antagonist or the environment is actually misleading the protagonists, they’ll make the right choice every time. That’s a flawed belief for a writer (or at least, designer of stories) – but at the same time, you’ve got to balance the readers’ savvy urgings for the characters to not do that thing which only the audience knows is bad for the characters – versus, the need for the reader to believe the characters are not completely stupid, and thus worthy of reading about.

I digress, kinda. This blog entry is a departure from the writing ailment and focuses on another hobby: gaming. I’m a Warhammer player. I play at tournaments. I encounter plenty of people who play for fun but whose idea of fun involves doing well rather than building a story. We bring collections of models whose collective theme does not seem to fit the Warhammer universe – because we can, and because the army is effective, and because the rules just didn’t/don’t encourage the kind of play the games designers intended.

‘Rules as Intended’ or ‘RAI’ is a source of many forum arguments, as loopholes or vagaries in the stated rules open up tactical possibilities which boggle the mind. The tournament player looks for the loopholes. We are the gribblies the games designer fears (and until you pull our masks off, we walk through walls too), because we’re the ones who look at this, or that, and say ‘for this many points, that thing is too powerful/not powerful enough’.

Contexts are sensitive, we get that. But while we accept that the ninety people who descended on the North West Gaming Centre this weekend for the Tempest Redemption tournament are in fact a minority of Warhammer players everywhere, there’s a sense of entitlement which says: we buy armies of models, more so than the dabblers who play casually every other season. An item may not be to your tastes so there’ll be plenty of context arguments but shouldn’t everything in the army book look like a viable option to the discerning general, while at the same time not seeming so cheap that you’ll automatically include it because you’d be stupid not to?

The new Ogre Kingdoms book is out this weekend. Players have pored over its pages and spent lots of pennies on new boxes of big gribblies. There have been smiles over what has changed for the better and grumblies over what has changed apparently for the worst. Discussion has already decreed that several items don’t seem to be worth bothering with and one will likely be banned outright at tournaments because it’s too nasty.

Realise that no-one at the event, discussing the book, will have been able to play a game using it yet. But we know the rulebook. We know the previous book. We know the fourteen books we’ll be using it against. We’ve had an idea of what we wanted changing, and how stuff works. Is that ignorant, or savvy?

I’ll build a few new beasties and try the new stuff out. We may get an answer.

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