June 10, 2010

Winning the Game: Familiarity

This is a continuation of this article. I wanted to take a moment to address a pretty common misconception on the point of Familiarity - or Know Thyself and Know Thy Enemy. There I briefly touched upon these two concepts, but here I want to go deeper, because we need it.

The basic misconception can be boiled down into this comment by my good buddy and gaming partner Don:

I'd almost say knowing what your opponents army is going to do is more important than knowing what your army can do.

Knowing that that X unit has 36" range S6 assault 3 guns is probably going to paste your MM/HF landspeeder when at best your only going to take out 1 of them.

Knowing that the new (4th ed) defiler gained fleet when the old 3.5 defiler didn't have it will keep your crisis suits alive. (sorry about that StJ. - Old lesson, but I haven't forgot it yet.)
I think most people know what their army is supposed to do. With the possible exception of trying a different race for the first time. Sometimes some wargear items get thrown in a unit leader that you didn't have to pay points for, thus you might over look it.

I think most people know what their guns do and assault ranges/effectiveness of their own guys. But unless you collect all the codex, or actually play the army your facing yourself (as a second or third army), it would be really hard to know what to focus on.

Knowing what your units are and how far you can shoot or assault is not, by any means, Knowing Yourself.

This isn't just about knowing a codex or even knowing the rules (they certainly help!). You should already know that. Let me state this clear: KNOW THE RULES. Anyone can learn the rules and codexes, though some will argue on semantics due to the GW Factor - this should be the baseline. If you plan on competing, this should be your elementary education. Gaining a knowledge of the other codexes helps too. It pays to not cluster your guys for a Doom of Malan'ti surprise.

Know Thyself is about knowing what works and what doesn't with your army. Why it works and why it doesn't. What your opponent will react to and what feints they may fall for. Back in the glorious day of the old-old Blood Angels Codex with free Death Company, I used to run my jump pack DC up one flank. My opponents would devote half (or more) of their army to eliminate them - and I would invariably lose them to a man. But that left the rest of my army to only deal with half or less of theirs. And I would happily grind them underfoot.

Know Thyself is about playing games with your army - and leaving your list alone. Quite a while ago, everyone was still debating whether Andy over at YTTH was writing good army lists, because people would take those lists to tournaments and lose. Badly. That led me to write this little number. There are so many things that you learn about your army on accident - just by playing.

In short, you have to know about your army and what it can do - and what it should do - before you can ever hope to master three of the other focuses: Deployment, Initiative, and Control.

Stop trying to fix what is wrong by switching your army list (unless it truly is broken) and instead learn how to play through it with the army that you have. That's the only way you're every going to become familiar with your army. Vary your opponents armies and skill levels. If you're always winning against the people you play with, find someone/somewhere else to play (at least occasionally). Play in tournaments - even if you have no hope of winning or have no need or desire for the prize. That's the way to get familiar with the armies that you will be facing.

That's all for now. Get out there and play some games.


  1. Agreed. You can't just throw down a power list and expect to do well, you actually have to know how it works.

    One of the most important decisions you make in game is target priority, and the best way to make it is by knowing what your opponent's stuff is capable of.

  2. I agree as well. Practice with a list will make you better with it, even if it is a seemingly crappy list on paper.

    I really dislike entering a tournament if I haven't playtested the list a few times. I don't know what the list can't do or how to change up my strategy in case of a (seemingly) bad match up.

  3. I'll agree that if you don't play with your army, you cannot win with your army. Its why, while I have 4 different armies, I only have one build for each. I adjust my tactics and placements to compensate for lack of or over abundance of force that is inherent in the army I have chosen to play. But that is still just an application of numbers. Its knowing what to shoot at with what. Just looking at the respective army lists should tell you that.

    I think know thy self has little to nothing to do with the army your playing. But everything to do with play styles.

    Armies are pretty cut and dry, but the players are not. Two people will play the exact same army differently and with differing results.
    But where know thy self comes into play are the more untangle aspects of 40K.

    Do you know distances? If you cannot eyeball the difference between 18 and 24 inches by sight, your jump pack guys may never see assault. So if your having issues with that, you might want to trying playing an army more in tune with close range (drop pods, Deepstrikers, etc.) fighting so your always in the thick of it. Or go long range firefight where distances don't matter so much if all your important guns ranges are 36"+ or better.

    Are you an aggressive player? If your the type that plays with the need to kill something now, you may also be the type of player that is easier to bait. If you know this, then maybe keeping a few units in reserve might be a good idea so you can't bite at all the temptations your opponent offers and it will give you a little backup for later in the game to recover from some less than wise early game decisions.

    Are you willing to sacrifice a model? I've known guys who will try to keep a favorite model from dying (usually younger less experienced player) just because they like it. If your unwilling to put a model in harms way, chances are it will do no harm in return.

    Do the dice gods love you? I'm serious. I tend to have a disastrous opening game. For the first two turns little will go my way. Massive scatters, Meltas that miss by a mile, failed difficult terrain checks on vehicles, that sort of thing. Thus I play somewhat conservitive those first few turns because I know that I'm screwed no matter what I do.

    These are the sort of things that run though my mind when you say, know thy self. I've learned what type of player I am, I'm pretty sure I know what sort of baits I'm going to bite on. Knowing these things about myself has improved my win record conciderably.

    However, knowing what sort of play style my opponent enjoys is even better. But that's a different subject.

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  5. Or did I miss the boat again? LOL.

    You do need to play with your army, and leave the army be. Its the only way you will learn what sort of player you are. It was only by playing that I learned why I bite on X, or why Z squad always seems out of position on turn 5.

    The list needs to stay consistant, so one can learn their own tenancies while playing. Then adjust your thinking to better your chances at winning.

    Also realize you may have to dump the army all together and move in a different direction. If an army just doesn't fit your play style, not only will you have a hard time winning with it, you may not even be having fun anymore.

  6. No Don, you didn't miss the boat - you just missed the perspective :-)
    You are talking from the perspective of one who has already figured out the Know Thyself part (you'll go blind!).

    Yes, knowing the opponent is good, fun, and even essential in many cases (ie. when evenly or out- matched skillwise). But you can't truly get there until you've taken a bunch of steps towards knowing yourself first.

    Not to minimize your points - they are all valid and contribute a lot.

  7. Lots of people don't understand they need to play their list, a whole lot, before going to a tournament.

    I think this year, people have figured that out.

    Interesting points, anyway. Don still think Tau suck? ;)

  8. Yup, because I don't have 12 crisis suits to run. The current rule set doesn't allow for full firewarrior squads to get it done anymore.

  9. Ok, so Tau don't suck - just the way you used to run them sucks.

  10. If a codex only has one competitive build. It sucks. See Chaos with its two competitive builds, it sucks, now look at Guard, Marines, Wolves, BA, You can make five or so competitive builds (note: competitive doesn't necessarily have to mean dominant)

    Yes most of the blame can just fall on the Tau codex's age. But when a codex requires you to take a certain unit, and that unit can be as small as 6 guys, and the overall gaming community feels that that is 6 guys too many. There is a problem.

  11. I tend to agree with Don there. Largely because I play Eldar. lol