If you've ever attended a large Warhammer 40,000 or Warhammer Fantasy Battles tournament most of this will be old news to you, but if you're thinking of getting your toes wet in the acne grease mire of competitive gaming you will need this field guide to help you navigate amongst the herds of unwashed virgins you'll encounter. I'll give you some of the major subspecies of players you'll encounter with examples of their behavior, appearance, strengths, and weaknesses.
1. Bald Guy With Ponytail
Appearance: The bald guy with ponytail comes in two flavors, skinny and fat. The skinny version invariably thinks he is cool (he is wrong, hence the ponytail) and his style is stuck in the late 80's early 90's when he was 11. This is because that is the last time period that he could make an argument for being cool in. They say a mullet is business in the front and party in the back, thus the balding ponytail is the future in the front and a misremembered past in the back. The fat version makes no pretense about being cool. He is admittedly a nerd and almost certainly anti-social. The fat version maintains the ponytail because he doesn't want to cut his hair for money saving reasons.
Employment: The skinny ponytail guy works at Best Buy or Target. There is an off chance he works at someplace unexpected like Bed Bath and Beyond. The fat ponytail guy is either on SSI, or works a grueling desk job that won't interrupt his Mountain Dew habit, like data entry or collections.
Behavior: The skinny ponytail will generally be jovial, the fat ponytail can be either nice or not, but there will be a noticeable lack of social grace. Something will just be off. Skinny ponytail will shake your hand before the match starts, fat ponytail won't and you won't want to so it's not a huge deal. Most likely to yell "WAAAAGH!" in a crowded room.
Playstyle: Both of these guys take the game very seriously. Skinny ponytail is likely to be into fluff/painting while fat ponytail is likely to be into competitive/painting. The common denominator is painting, they both like it. These are players that you can generally get along with if you don't take them outside of their comfort zone. Even if you beat the skinny guy, so long as you stay jovial and talk about fluff he will stay happy. Fat ponytail will get upset when he starts losing, or if your painting is better than his, but if you say, "I heard there is a Five Guys Burgers nearby" and shift the conversation to fast food you may keep him on your good side.
Common Accessories: Chain wallet. Off-brand smart phone. Mountain Dew. Cheap watch. 1998 Honda CRX with visible rusting.
Quote: "I painted this unit of Imperial Guard to reflect the background of the last Gaunt's Ghosts novel. You can see how the basing really... hey, do you listen to metal?"
2. Guy in the Dragon Shirt
Appearance: The guy in the dragon shirt can be any size or shape, or have any kind of hair, but one thing stays constant: the ubiquitous dragon shirt. This is the shirt of the archnerd. This shirt says, "I don't give a damn about fashion, or girls, or food other than Taco Bell, this is me." Oddly, while they spend a ton of time picking out shirts, they usually have awful shoes. I guess they only have so much energy to devote to attire and they spend it all on shirts.
Employment: The guy with the dragon shirt is never unemployed. Despite the complete lack of fashion sense and good taste, those shirts are not cheap. Guys with metallic embossed dragonshirts always have decent jobs by the standard of their age group. A teenage dragon shirter will be a cook at an old folks home making $11 an hour, which is good for teenagers. An adult dragon shirter will be in middle management at a corporate job, or have some kind of web based business where he can wear flip flops and dragon shirts every day.
Behavior: The dragon shirted guy will almost always be outgoing and happy. It will be rare for someone to wear a bold shirt like that and be an introvert. Also, guys with dragon shirts spend a lot of money at the LGS. They believe they are friends (and sometimes they are) with the LGS owner and the TOs. Guys with dragon shirts will talk to people at other tables in the middle of your games.
Play Style: Fairly wide open. They don't fit into a WAAC or carebear mold. It comes down to mathematical ability; if the guy is really good at math he is likely to be more competitive. Still, these guys play for fun. When you attend a large tournament, these guys will be very common. They have large disposable incomes to spend on minis and tournament attendance, so they will be there in decent number always. It's rarely possible to predict whether the guy will be a dickhead or cool based on looks alone in this group.
Common Accessories: Droid phone. Fossil watch. Monster energy drink.
Quote: "Last night we got a little crazy, we had chick fil a for dinner, drank some Monster and Vodkas, and then watched the entire Matrix Trilogy in one sitting. No, there weren't any girls there."
3. Angry Younger Guy
Appearance: Angry Younger guys typically dress in a t-shirt or sports jersey and jeans. They ALWAYS have short hair. Facial hair is optional. They are mesomorphs, but they rarely work out. They are naturally bulky, so they think they are tough guys, but since they don't work out they are softer than they look. In the summer months they switch the jeans out for cargo shorts with a lot of pockets.
Employment: Angry younger guys are either self-employed or work for a small business, or they work for the government in some capacity. If they work for the former, they will complain about the "lack of hours" hurting their income, but paradoxically they will always claim to work way harder than everyone else. If they work a government job they will claim to have not risen above minion level due to some form of reverse discrimination. Regardless of where they work, they are always hurting financially, and it is never their fault.
Behavior: these guys are always dicks. They are aggressive, cocky, and confrontational. They possess an undeserved swagger usually reserved for people who have something good going on in their lives, which they do not. When they win, they gloat. When they lose, they seethe. Bad winners and sore losers. These are the guys most apt to throw their painted Hive Tyrant at the wall (true story) when it fails to kill as much as the Angry Guy thinks it should in a combat phase.
Playstyle: Almost always competitive. Except, they prefer to be seal clubbers. They don't want a challenge of competitive games, they just want to stomp face and gloat about it. They are the definition of WAAC douchebags. They aren't even always good players, usually they are power-gamers without the power. You can beat them mentally by having a strong first few turns. If you jump out to a lead they will mentally give up, start being sore losers, and you've got it.
CommonAccessories: Very few actually. These guys are minimalists. They do tend to drive SUVs or pick ups, though.
Quote: "My Tyranids have never lost to Space Marines. I'm going to max battle point this game, faggot." 20 minutes later. "I should have won, I'm clearly better than you, luckily you had TH/SS terminators that my shitty codex couldn't deal with."_______________________________________________________________
4. The Cool Nerd
Appearance: In every group of beta males, there is one who is the alpha. Now in normal society, this guy would be a beta male. But when submersed in the beta fishtank of a bunch of gaming dorks, this guy becomes the dominant. They are usually trendy, bordering on hip. But there is always something slight off that keeps them from being actual hipsters. It's not so much that they dress differently than a real hipster, it's that they know they are imitating one, and they are less than comfortable in their own skin. They wear vintage t-shirts, jeans, and usually purposefully unkempt hair or facial hair.
Employment: Either a student, or a job they can disassociate themselves from like telemarketer. They are always underemployed, and never have much money.
Behavior: Passive and unfocused, but surprisingly assertive when he starts losing He always appears distracted by something. More on that later. But really, he does multi-task incessantly, almost to an annoying degree. It often seems like he forgets that it is a tournament with timed rounds.
Playstyle: Again, he plays apathetically and in a somewhat disinterested manner, until the heat turns up, and then he buckles down and focuses. He is more likely to be a competitive player by virtue of natural play skills, rather than a competitive mindset. He will typically be the guy who you think you are having a friendly, somewhat casual tournament game until you start winning and then it becomes, "actually, I believe you moved that guy two millimeters too far in the movement phase. I don't mean to be a jerk but if you get the charge off because of it, that will affect the game."
Common Accessories: Here is what separates the Cool Nerd from the Uncool Nerds. He almost invariably brings his girlfriend with him. She isn't necessarily (or usually) attractive, but her mere presence is a distraction to him, and to some of the other players. Other accessories: iPhone, digital camera, hooded sweatshirt even in the summer.
Quote: Heard while he takes a phone call in the middle of the game, "yeah man, we are going to grab some PBRs before the Motion City Soundtrack show tonight. No man, don't invite Hilary. Excuse me, can you hold off on the shooting phase until I finish this call? As I was saying, we need to get some box wine before the show..."_________________________________________________________________
5. The Professional
Appearance: The Professional is a middle to upper middle class, 35-55 year old. He wears polo shirts tucked into his belted, pleated khaki shorts. He wear boat shoes or some kind of white athletic shoe, or a strapped sandal. He is usually clean, and has short hair. He drives a 4 door sedan, and wears a bluetooth headset, yet the only person who calls him is his wife.
Employment: He isn't necessarily a professional like a doctor or lawyer, but he is usually gainfully employed in a management position. He has a large disposable income, but since he is usually savvy about money, he still manages to spend less than others on his collection. He is the type of guy who buys online for a steal, and then brings his stuff to the LGS and doesn't get it when the owner wants to reserve the tables for paying customers.
Behavior: This guy's behavior varies a great deal. Either he is a people person and will treat you pleasantly, or he is somewhat introverted and will treat you arrogantly. Most of The Professionals I've encountered aren't usually jerks and they don't brag about being well off, though.
Playstyle: They are usually smart, but usually rusty. A 9-5 job and a marriage with kids results in them playing maybe 1 game a week, and not devoting countless hours to reading blogs for cutting edge strategy. Also, their jobs are usually somewhat stressful so they don't usually bring that intensity to the hobby that is supposed to relax them. That said, they aren't pushovers. They didn't get to be successful by letting people cheat the rules, or by not understanding the basics. The same applies to their war gaming. Their measurements and movements will be precise and they won't screw up on the rules. If you get matched up with one of the few who have the free time to read blogs and play a bunch, they may not be rusty at all and might give you a good game.
Common Accessories: Bluetooth earpiece. Blackberry with belt clip. Wedding ring. BMW key fob. Golf tan.
Quote: "Wow the new Blood Angels codex is neat. I wish I had played against them before this tournament for practice, but since I had to take my kid to his soccer tournaments this whole month I haven't gotten a single game in."_________________________________________________________________
6. The Ex-Military Expert
Appearance: They wear boots of some kind, usually Doc Martins. They wear shirts that have the logo of the branch of the military they were in. They are usually bald, but if they have hair it's short. There is always some sort of camouflage element to their clothing. Their army cases are usually military style strong boxes, or they are hard gun cases with foam re-purposed for carrying minis. They ALWAYS tuck their shirts into their pants, regardless of their weight.
Employment: Ofcourse they are ex-military, but they are currently usually in retail or some lame desk job. They wrap their whole persona in the military the way ex-high school jocks who never amounted to anything cling to their high school years for the rest of their lives. Their jobs are usually so lame that it's impossible to predict what it will be. A lot of these guys change oil for a living which, incidentally, is probably what they did in the Army.
Behavior: These guys act arrogantly, as simple as that. They will brag and shit talk, and then lecture you after the game about what you did wrong.
Play style: These guys are also usually WAAC dickheads, but often enough they can back it up. They tend to obsess over the minutia of the game and they play very precisely. Since they live in a fantasy world of their imagined past glories of their service time, they tend not to have very important jobs now, and they can spend their day trolling Imperial Guard forums having arguments with other simple people about the way tanks move in real life. These will stomp you with every advantage they can get, and then they will lecture you about you did wrong unsolicited. There is nothing fun when playing these guys because of this secret: these guys don't even enjoy playing. These guys have no fun themselves while playing, the game starts and they go into a WAAC trance, and don't come out of it until the drive home after the tournament. They get their fun from trolling forums and blogs, not actually playing the game. Playing the game is simply a means to validate their opinions when trolling.
Common Accessories: Shoulder holster. Concealed carry permit prominently displayed on their wallet. Nextel phone with two way radio. Bandanas. Brown tinted sunglasses. An Imperial Guard or Ork army. Laser pointer and cloth ruler.
Quote: "When I was in the first Gulf War we rode in APCs just like this. Yeah there were spent uranium shells, but our FGU pretty much kept us TTH. So then my CO tells me to PPWIA ASAFP to the MFG and I did it, because that was my orders. OK, now let's move into my shooting phase."
I hope you enjoyed this field guide!