Thursday, August 18, 2011

From 40k to Fantasy Part Three: Beer and Pretzels

In the first two parts of this series I discussed the different approaches to strategy and list building that a 40k player picking up Fantasy will have to make in order to avoid frustration.  In this article I will discuss Fantasy as a semi-competitive game, and how to actually enjoy playing it.

In the prologue to this series, I mentioned that modern 40k has achieved a level of rules balance, codex balance, and community support necessary to be considered a competitive game.  While there is still plenty of room for luck to play a factor (and luck playing a factor is good game design) the winner of a truly competitive NOVA style tournament will definitely not be a fluke.  You can bet the farm that whoever wins this year will be a very skilled player with a very strong list.  Bottom line, 40k can finally be played as a competitive game.

Fantasy isn’t all the way there…yet.  The game is, simply put, semi-competitive.  If you held a NOVA style 8 round tournament single elimination tournament, you can bet that the winner would be a skilled player with a strong list.  Similarly to 40k, whoever wins that event wouldn’t be a fluke, either.  We are all familiar now with the complaints for Fantasy, namely that certain spells are overpowered, and the random elements such as charge distances create frustrating situations.  These are fair criticisms.  You CAN get smoked by a ‘bad’ player who happens to snipe your wizard lord with a Dweller’s Below, and he ends up winning the game when by all accounts you and your list are superior to him.  Alright.  But as I said, at the end of an 8 round tournament, you can bet that a good player is going to win the whole thing.  There are bad luck breaks in poker, too, where lesser players simply out-luck their opponents.  Warhammer Fantasy Battles is a game of home runs, not singles.

But acknowledging that doesn’t change the frustration players can feel.  Heck, I got owned in Fantasy ‘Ard Boyz two years ago by Teclis and Purple Sun.  I was frustrated that I lost to a much less experienced player simply because of an overpowered character tossing overpowered spells.  I get it.

The solution#1 : play the game semi-competitively.

Go to tournaments if that is your thing, but when the inevitable epic bad luck breaks happen, just chalk it up to the nature of the beast.  If you can’t handle it: don’t play in tournaments.  The more I think about it, and accept the game for what it is, the more those evil “random” events don’t bother me.  In the long run luck is the same for everybody and the best players tend to win more, and that’s good enough for me.

Or don’t play in tournaments.  When 40k Apocalypse was released it was sold to us on the basis that stuff will get killed by the bucketload.  Big templates and powerful effects killing handfuls of dudes.  Say what you will about how fun Apocalypse games actually are, I know for a fact that plenty of folks enjoy them as a beer and pretzels experience. 

Solution #2: play the game like a beer and pretzels game

Treat Fantasy the same way as Apocalypse.  Play large point value games.  Stuff will die, you can be sure.   Craziness will happen.  Enjoy the fun of wiping out half a horde of 40 Chaos Knights with a Purple Sun.  Also enjoy the times when that horde of knights smashes through your lines like a tank.  When an amazingly “lucky” dice roll results in a huge game changing effect, laugh with your buddies, take a swig of a good beer, and eat a handful of pretzels.  And be sure to rub it in when you laugh about the game afterwards. 

Thoughts?  Comments?


  1. That's exactly what I've been doing with 40K and Fantasy as well. Even though I started with Fantasy, nowadays 40K is my competitive "sport" and I take it's square based cousin less seriously. To be honest though that's because I really suck at Fantasy and would do terrible at a tournament. After reading your article though I see there is a reasoning behind this subconsious decesion of mine. I am just glad I didn't invest as much in Fantasy to be honest.

  2. An interesting read. I'm putting the finishing touches to an article on 'beer and pretzels games' with a slightly different spin. Personally I remember a time when 40k was a fun game and it was fantasy that was the well balanced strategy game. That balance started going out of the window with the army books. Notable Chaos Daemons and Dark Elves. Its that which fundamentally killed Fantasy as a balanced competitive game. I think 8th was an attempt at trying to balance things out with way too much random. That's where its all gone wrong. Rather than admitting they got it wrong with a few army books the GW just went headlong and threw the baby out of the bath tub but forgot to chuck the dirty water with it. Its been truly interesting these past few years to watch 40k actually evolve into the 'strategy' game from the GW... although I now see similar codex mistakes being made with Space Wolves and Grey Knights. Thanks for the interesting read.

  3. Fantasy is definetely easier for a beginner to enjoy becuase even the worst tactician can win with a lucky dice roll (more so in fantasy than 40k), so I still reckon it's a really great system, even if it just introduces new players to the hobby (after a bit of experience of tabletop games they could branch out to 40k :p).
    Cool articles, I'm enjoying them :)

  4. @RhydPedr the only problem with that is the exorbitant cost of getting into the game. ;) I actually think GW's problem is that they don't actually have a pure hobby entry point game. Turning one of there main games into one isn't the wisest of ideas either. lol.

  5. In an 8 round tournament, wouldn't it be fair to say that if you lost that one game to a lucky roll from your opponent (I lost my second game in a large 5 round tournament when my Hierophant got turned to gold) that you're still pretty much out of the running?

    I do like your analysis. I can't help but feel a similar way. I've been shifting to semi-comp after this last tournament. I am going to take a seriously nasty list to the next big event that I travel to (as I have to fly down from Alaska to get anywhere anymore).

    Going to start doing some more 40k events now though, it seems like fantasy has gone from my main game to beer and pretzels and 40k has jumped into the competitive spotlight.

  6. If the only difference is that Fantasy has a larger random element, that doesn't mean it can't be played competitively, it just means it would take more games to determine accurately who is superior. I think that is a small price to pay for less predictable (and more realistic) wargaming.