I have a reasonably well-deserved reputation for being good at 40K. I’m pretty good at optimising lists and can get the best out of most armies. I also enjoy winning (Don't we all?), as I am a very competitive person by nature.
There is one thing I enjoy almost as much as winning though…and that’s almost winning.
However the most fun of all comes from...almost losing.
That last statement probably requires some explanation.
Once Upon a Time.
I was using a fairly optimised Space Wolves Mech list with my usual combination of Las/Plas Razorbacks, Predators, ‘Rifleman’ Dreadnoughts, Landspeeders etc. against my friend Dave’s semi-mech Imperial Guard. His list had all the elements you’d expect from a competitive Guard army – Tanks, Vendettas, Valkyries and plenty of ‘Bubblewrap’ Infantry Guardsmen many of which squads were armed with heavy weapons in addition to their standard armament.
We both expected an evenly matched, fairly competitive game with a slight advantage to whoever went first, which turned out to be me.
A single shooting phase later and most of Dave’s armoured vehicles had become craters or weaponless, immobilised boxes. It seemed like I couldn’t miss and every single roll for damage was a 6, or occasionally a 5…what’s left of his return firepower did bugger all…
So at the start of turn 2 I turn to Dave and say ‘do you want to start this game again?’ to which his answer was something like ‘It’s an objective game and I still have plenty of troops so we’ll see how it goes’.
The rest of the game involved Dave using what resources he had with such efficiency that if the game would have ended on Turn 5 it would have most likely been a draw. When the game ended on turn 6 I’d won…but only just.
Obviously the first turn wasn’t fun for any of us. When my ‘Rifleman’ Dreadnought hit Dave’s Vendetta with every shot, penetrated with 3 of them and I got a pair of 6’s and a 5 for my damage results I felt a bit bad and Dave may have used several words beginning with F and ending in uck, I’m sure he wasn’t much happier when the other ‘Rifleman’ did exactly the same thing to the Valkyrie Squadron…
All that aside, what made the game so satisfying was that at the end it was still a really close game. After a bit of repositioning and some spot-on target priority my anti-infantry became largely neutralised leaving me having to kill his infantry in cover with Lascannons and Missile Launchers.
I should have won easily based on the first turn, however due to Dave’s resourcefulness I almost lost and that made it fun…
Did I have a Point?
I learned a lot from that game, most importantly that not everybody is fully mechanised and even those that are can still cram a lot of infantry into those lists, which my list was (evidently) poorly equipped (at the time) to kill at range.
Competitive AND Fun?
Before the ‘Competitive and Fun are different things’ committee starts to chip in based on my experience they’re not different things at all. At the opposite end of the 40K spectrum is the ‘Themed’ or ‘Fluffy’ army. That beautifully painted pure Tzeentch Thousand Sons force, some idiot who doesn’t use tanks in their Guard army*, or an Ork army using only Gretchin have probably all been used at some point.
* Yes that would be me having a dig at myself…well spotted.
Playing against these armies can also be turned into those close and fun games with a little effort. Try that idea for deployment that you never use because your not sure it’ll work, throw back in that unit which you kicked out of your army for under performing and try to make it work. Failing that you could just deploy really badly…
Despite the impression you might get if you go to 40K forums a lot, most people involved in this hobby do not enjoy clubbing baby seals. Those that do will invariably be ‘busy’ when it comes time to play somebody who might kick the shit out of their army (or them if they start pulling the sort of tricks we expect from pricks like that). Besides that they usually come with early warning systems like telling everybody how brilliant they are at high volume or by the way everybody else in the room walks off as soon as they start talking to them ;-)
I suppose a conclusion of some kind is in order?
The games I learn the most from and therefore enjoy most are the close ones, where you’ve both used your best list, used every (legal) trick in the book and the game still comes down to how far that guardsmen who refused to die earlier can run towards an uncontested objective or whether you can make that 4+ cover save to keep your last scoring Space Marine Scout alive to rob your opponent of a kill point.
Playing to almost win (or lose) give it a try...
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