Friday, March 18, 2011

Generalship

I'm not a competitive player. That is to say, I don't play in tournaments and I don't pore obsessively over my army list and tweak it to get the most killing power out of it.

Whenever a new codex comes out, you hear the same complaints on the forums and some blogs, over and over again. Things like "codex creep", "OP" (over-powered), "nerfs", "buffs", etc. Whine whine whine. It's pathetic.

Some people may thrive on the whining. They live for it. Or perhaps I'm being too cynical and there are people who look at new challenges constructively and as an opportunity for growth. Yeah, right. The whiners are everywhere.

With such a wide diversity of 40k armies and their playstyles, it is a monumental, perhaps impossible task to make 40k into a truly balanced game. The only reason to even try to do this is to promote competitive play. Unbalanced armies/rules are probably the single most complained about facet of the game. This is a staple of the gaming industry in general, especially PC and console games. The most popular form of play (multiplayer or competitive play) is also the most complained about, for being unfair or unbalanced in some way.

Guess what? Life is unfair.

And that includes war.

History is replete with more wars and conflicts than bear mentioning. But one thing you'll never find is a war or a battle in which both sides were evenly matched. Always, always one side or the other will have an advantage in numbers, quality of troops, terrain, etc. But, notably, the side with the initial advantage is by no means the certain victor. In so many battles, a random event like the weather, hard fighting by the common soldier, or perhaps even good generalship can be the deciding factor.

No real world general ever gets to pick the composition of his force. He has to make do with what he has. That is a challenge in generalship. It may sound unfair to take your green army into battle against a better equipped foe twice your size, but then, that's what makes a general a military commander and not a wimpy tabletop gamer.
What gamers see when they look in the mirror.
The games I find more interesting are the ones in which things are deliberately stacked against one player, and seeing how he deals with it. When the going gets tough, a player can either suck it up and stick it out, or whine and complain. The former are the men, the latter are the boys. (or alternatively, the women and the girls)

Also, real world generals never have the whole picture.  Real world generals don't get to peek at the contents of the enemy's army list. They get intelligence reports, and those reports are usually incomplete or even flat out wrong.

Here's a idea for a different way to play the game.

You pick your general, since that's represents you on the battlefield. Your opponent does the same.

Get a GM for your game (The GM doesn't have to be a referee, but rather someone to help you prepare the battle).  Pick someone you and your opponent can agree on, someone with a modicum of intelligence, knowledge of military history, and preferably an imagination.  The GM comes up with a narrative/scenario, and makes the two army lists. There's no restriction on the size or composition of either army--the GM should just pick something that fits the narrative. Force Org charts and points values should be guidelines, not rules.

If you get the "weaker" army, don't complain. The GM is giving you a chance to shine. Instead of whining, you can thank the Blood God for giving you this opportunity to give him more skulls for his throne. Maybe if you win he'll make you a daemon prince. One can always hope.

Depending on the scenario the GM has devised, he may provide you with an intelligence report about the opposing army. The information should be vague, incomplete, and perhaps even wrong in the details.

The GM gives each army an objective, and depending on the scenario devised, this does not necessarily have to be revealed to the opposition.  The objectives need not be mutually exclusive.  (e.g., one side might be attempting to get the secret plans off the table, while the other side merely wants to kill the opposing general)

Let the battle begin!

If you're on the weaker side, blame the impossible odds you have to face.  And if you win, the reason is obviously your generalship so give yourself all the credit.  That's what real generals do!

5 comments:

suneokun said...

That's such a cool idea... thank you Arcadia Prime ... your my only hope!

Chorus Lucia said...

here here... of course I don't know enough about the game mechanics yet to form an educated opinion, but I'm completely behind the idea and sentiment!

Jack Badelaire said...

Of course, no matter what you get handed, if it doesn't have a half dozen hidden powerfists and multiple meltaguns, it's completely unplayable.

Andy - bG said...

In essence, this is a return to Rogue Trader, where there was a GM, there weren't force org charts, and, at least where I used to play back then, you generally fought with whatever models you could get your hands on.

I love the idea, and despite having a "hard army" with spammed units etc., I also have more "fluffy" army builds and builds that I've put together just to see how they work.

One thing I've found is that playing games from the battle missions book can give you a lot of this kind of feel to the game, especially if you just choose any old mission at random as more often that not neither of your armies are suited to playing the game.

Darkwing said...

Competitive gaming or pick up games have their place, but I've always preferred games with some kind of roleplaying element to them. They're just much more fun in my opinion.