Tuesday, September 6, 2011

NOVA: Lessons Learned

Hola amigos. 

The dust from NOVA has settled nicely and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned about Grand Tournament 40k in regards to how to be a better player and also a better list writer.  Though I didn’t play a very competitive list, I still managed to glean a bit of useful information from my experience that you may be interested in.  Or not.  I don’t care, I’m posting it here anyway.

List Building

1.  This might be peculiar to the NOVA, which always had five objectives and table quarters in each mission, but I am 100% sure that six troop choices are obligatory is your goal is to be competitive.  You could bring fewer, and definitely still give people tough games especially on kill point or victory point missions, but there will inevitably be games where the choice to run fewer than six will cost you.  It simply doesn’t make sense to run less than six at a NOVA style event. 

2.  Melta is still relevant.  Light mech truly does dominate the battlefield, but even at the top tables there was a surprisingly high amount of AV13+.  I personally faced dual or triple Land Raiders in ¼ of my matches, and I rued the lack of melta in my list in those matches.  I said before during my metric system posts that people can try to get away with skimping on anti-14 firepower in order to increase other stats, but skimp too far and you’ll be punished for it eventually.  Eight rounds is a lot of games to hope for dodging heavy mech the whole time.

3.  Marines and Rhinos matter.  The prevalence of 3+ armies in Rhinos was strong.  Granted it was just one tournament, but I would be shocked to see a tournament that wasn’t a 75% MEQ field.  A big criticism about my metric system was it was too MEQ focused, and didn’t take things like Orks into account.  I think the NOVA bore out that your testing, and thus assumptions in list building, should be primarily focused against MEQ forces if you want to win.  When it’s safe to assume 75%+ of your opponents will be MEQ, it becomes easier to plan.  Dark Eldar and Guard were also well represented at the top tables, but those aren’t really ‘horde’ armies as we think of them.  They more neatly fit the template of unit + vehicle.  Guard vehicles being a little harder to pop than marines, and Dark Eldar being a little easier.  But the paradigm is the same.


1.  Cover.  With the 4+ cover area terrain being plentiful; it definitely had an impact on the way people played.  Players who played gunline lists complained pretty loudly that the cover neutered them; however, I saw plenty of very shooty lists at the top tables.  My tentative theory was that the shooty players who were getting rolled used cover as an excuse to explain a loss that was due to poor deployment or poor tactics.  That said, cover did play a big role in every match.  I don’t think anyone would argue that cover saves weren’t among the most important tactical considerations they had in every match.

2.  Previously, I have advocated playing 3 turn games in playtesting because the first few turns are so crucial and the more games you can get in, the better.  I would like to say that I was both right and wrong.  It is important to practice your ‘openings’ so to speak.  Deployment and maneuver the first few turns is key, and you SHOULD do a lot of the 3 turn games in order to get enough reps with it to be comfortable.  But I did observe that a lot of people struggled to win games, despite being far ahead after the first few turns.  In a tournament where you have to balance multiple objectives, closing out the games can be a challenge.  I think it would be highly useful for people to get comfortable with winning games with complicated scenarios.  In two of my matches I won because I was simply more mindful of the objectives than my opponent.  In my final match against Troy, he jumped out to a huge lead in the game, but it wasn’t decided until the final turn because he struggled to finish me off, and I persisted in focusing on the mission objectives.  He should have been able to sweep me clear, but he allowed me to stay in the game.  I don’t want it to seem like I’m saying anything negative about his skills, but an example of something I saw over and over again.  Player A jumped out to a huge lead and slowly but surely Player B clawed his way back into the game.  Across the board, it seems 40k players need as much practice winning on the last turn of the game as on the first.

Tournament Preparedness

1.  Sleep and hangovers.  How many of my opponents complained about lack of sleep and/or being hungover?  A lot.  I overheard similar comments all weekend.  I’m not telling you not to drink and have fun at the con.  But you have to establish what your goals actually are.  You can’t get mad at losing a game when you only got 3 hours of sleep and you’re hungover.  If your goal is to hang out with friends, drink some beers, and throw dice by all means have a blast.  If your goal is to 8-0 the NOVA, try to get a good night’s sleep every night and don’t drink to the point where you’ll be hungover the next morning.

2.  Nutrition.  This is another thing I observed people were epic failing across the board.  I saw people filling their maw with gross pizza, McDonalds, candy, soda, fried chicken wings, and oil soaked Italian subs.  I also heard dozens of people complain about fatigue and exhaustion.  Not a coincidence.  Yes, the food at the hotel was garbage, and the food nearby was garbage.  But a little foresight remedied that.  I found a nearby grocery store and I bought healthy food to stock up on.  Every morning my breakfasts were greek yogurt and fresh fruit.  In between rounds and for lunch I noshed on almonds and fruit.  Even by Round 8, when everyone else was universally agreed to be at the end of their endurance, I felt fine.  I credit my freshness in the later rounds of the tournament to the fact I was eating clean food all weekend and not loading myself down with sodium and greasy food.  Clean food, along with sufficient sleep gave me a measurable advantage.  I know this kind of thing can sound preachy, and it probably is preachy, but I'm speaking the truth.  If you want to be at your best, it's good advice.  If you don't care about maximizing your performance, feel free to disregard.


  1. A well written and insightful article. Most of it reinforces what you have previously written about, and I am interested to read if the lessons you have described were apparent or applicable to other combatants at NOVA

  2. List Building:

    1) To be honest, I never really had a problem with my four squads taking objectives. They were incredibly durable, but that also could be attributed to the quality of opponent's I was facing. Then again, I was in that bracket...so I can't really say anything negative about them can I? :D

    The problem that I DID have, however, was trying to knock other people's troops off objectives. This really became a problem for a variety of reasons, which I'll explore later.

    2) I faced AV14 a grand total of 2 times. And I made that AV14 irrelevant via movement blocking. As a result, they didn't have an impact on my games and I didn't need melta. That blocking would have been even easier with dual/triple-land raider lists, there would have been fewer Rhinos to shoot at. However, if those LRs managed to get to an objective, I would have had difficulties getting it off that objective. This will be addressed in my future lists as well. ;)

    3) This point is critical. There was such a prevalence of AV11 and 3+ armor, it was ridiculous. It is an absolute must that an army has the ability to kill both with relative ease.


    1) Hopefully I'm not considered one of the complainers. I was caught unprepared, yes...but I took it in stride. ;)

    The terrain definitely disadvantaged during my games, but I did my best to take advantage of whatever fire lanes available to make the most of it. At no time during the actual event did I make any negative comments about the terrain. There were others that did however.

    While I saw some other very shooty armies on the top tables as well, those were mech IG, Blood Angels, and Dark Eldar. All of these deal with this type of terrain easily. Even if I took Dozer Blades, they are the gimped versions that have no real value. :)

    I simply did what I could, with the army I had, to salvage games. I made every loss I had very close; down to the last couple rolls of the game. Considering my disadvantage, I'm very pleased with how I played to produce results. I will be better prepared next time and won't be caught with my pants down. :D

    2) In my games at least, I didn't win or lose until the last turn in each of my games (with two exceptions). The only thing the first three turns gave me was to realize how ineffective my shooting was. lol! I definitely think you need to playtest the whole game.

    Tournament Preparedness:

    1) This one I blame on myself. I was already exhausted from lack of sleep due to my procrastination painting (painted 1750 points in two days). That won't happen again. Then I did the Barcrawl and we got back way later than I would have liked. So my first day was rough. Got a good night sleep for the next day though, and I really noticed the difference during my Day Two games.

    2) Nutrition wise, I did a pretty good job on this front. Kept myself hydrated with water and/or Powerade. Stayed away from pop and alcohol during the tournament itself. Food was good the first day, but the second day didn't work out so hot. My lunch break got killed by drops (which caused long delays for my bracket) and the Nova staff's strict adherence to their schedule. So I was forced to sustain myself on a bag of nuts. :(

    Overall, a damn good overview on important things that went down at Nova Open. :D

  3. Good article, especially the point about eating well and getting enough rest.

  4. Oh my God, yet more avenues for the WAACholes to abuse, NUTRITION!!!

    You neglected to mention caloric intake specifically. I know that mine increased by nearly half from a regular day back when I was regularly competing at chess tournaments. Even at more low key tournaments like we get with 40K I have a spike in minimum up take.