‘Casual’ vs. ‘Competitive’ – The False Dichotomy Needs To Die

You know how this goes. There are ‘casual’ players and there are ‘competitive’ players. There are players who try their utmost to win, for whom anything goes and there are no rules except the ones written down; there are players who don’t care whether they win or lose and are just out to put whatever toys they feel like down on the table and have fun.

The Zero Punctuation fans will know what’s meant by this.

My old friend and comrade Ranz wrote a screed back in the Mark I days, which I feel outlines the situation perfectly:

I owe it to my opponent to try to win. If we are not both trying to win, then why play? There are plenty of other FUN things to do. Why play a game? Why have the game governed by rules? Why have rules about victory points and conditions? Why not just get drunk? Why not just play “Sorry” and roll dice and run around a board while drinking beer and eating pretzels?

I would hazard a guess that the overwhelming majority of wargames – the ones that aren’t about pushing your toys around as you accurately recreate the Battle of Knob Creek Bridge in 15mm scale and not rolling a single die or making a single tactical choice of your own – are games with a winner and a loser. One player or team wins and the other players or teams involved do not win. That’s competition. Whether they like it or not, the most laid-back and super-chill of ‘casual’ wargamers are still playing a competitive game. They are competing. They are engaged in competition. They are competitive.

Their denial is understandable. They have been told to shut up because people are concentrating on a super serious game over here. They have been scolded over and over for ‘sloppy play’ because they don’t care about measuring down to the millimetre. They have sat through half-hour arguments and interminable forum ‘discussions’ over the precise impact of the Oxford comma in the Skeleton Militia’s equipment options. They have carried their toy soldiers all the way to the games club of a Friday night and have sat down ready to chill after work and the game’s over in turn two because someone’s solved the scenario pack with a series of perfectly chained synergies, combinations and exploits. I understand that feeling. I know it of old and it sours me to the depths of my considerable belly. I understand why people wish to disassociate themselves from those Others whose fun seems to come at the expense of… others. The others doing the Othering, I mean.

The problem is that it doesn’t work. Try as you might to label those guys ‘competitive’, at the end of the day you’re the one playing the game where someone wins and someone loses. The attempt at disassociation and distance has failed and all you have achieved is denial about yourself and what you want. You are still playing a competitive game. You can’t say that Competitors are the Other because you, yourself, are competing.

This fundamental error of self-definition cuts the other way, too. Many ‘serious’ players are adamant that there are all sorts of things to encourage ‘casual’ play – leagues of various sorts and campaigns and so on – and that complaints about the Scene being dominated by tournament play are therefore maladjusted and why can’t they, the people who take this game seriously, be allowed to have their fun?

The problem is that they’re wrong. Not about the existence of the things encouraging ‘casual’ play, but about what a ‘casual’ player is.

A ‘casual’ player is one who doesn’t want to think about the game in between times, not very much at least; they want to paint their models, take their chances, and then put it all away in a box and get on with whatever people who have lives get on with in between times. Chances are, the ‘casual’ player lacks the time or the inclination to sit down, commit the rules to memory, establish a nuanced and accurate sense of every threat range they have available, fully consider the ramifications of every possible objective combination or puzzle out how to untangle a Harbinger control brick or whatever the local equivalent is. It’s not that they don’t want to win – it’s that there’s only so much effort they’re willing to put in to winning before the experience becomes tiresome and they’d rather be off jetskiing or whatever.

Many of the formats or variants of wargames which encourage ‘casual’ play actually introduce more rules – campaigns with territories or maps, leagues with scoring systems and list restrictions, anything with experience points – and more rules are the last thing the ‘casual’ player wants. Casual play which demands that the player engage with more stuff than usual seems to be missing the point.

Likewise, a ‘casual’ player is probably one who doesn’t want to commit to playing the same game week in week out, often with the same list or the same commander or some sort of enforced restriction. The casual player is a natural pick-up gamer (and while I believe we’ve discussed the problem with pick-up games before, I still think they are the natural habitat of the player who doesn’t take this shit too seriously). The league or campaign player is just as serious, just as committed, as the tournament player. They have chosen to engage in a more complex version of the game which requires regular commitment and rewards a series of victories.

Theatre of War is brilliant – but it doesn’t half make games more complicated.

What we learn from this is that the ‘serious’ players don’t understand the ‘casual’ players and the ‘casual’ players don’t understand either their games or themselves. Claim not that thou knowest the Other; know thyself. There’s no dichotomy between ‘casual’ and ‘competitive’ – there’s a spectrum of effort that one’s willing to put into one’s toy soldier games. We all want to compete but some of us want to compete harder than others. Recognise that, admit that, define yourself by how much you want to put in by all means, but don’t go taking sides in some shitflinging contest that doesn’t really exist anyway.

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  • sandwyrm

    Here here! Great post!

  • I think you’re pretty spot on. Mostly because I’ve met plenty of people who obviously really want to win but are trying so hard not to show it so they don’t appear competitive. And I’ve been the person who feels put out that they have to make concessions to competitive fashions and stay up to date with the latest to be treated like a “real” gamer by their peers. And don’t even get me started about video game culture. Being squished like a bug I can handle, but ridiculed and insulted because I choose not to waste my time perfecting a game is another thing entirely.

    Problem is still how to integrate them. Maybe pro and am events, like golf? But judging from my own events experience, you’d get bottom-feeders of the pro-circuit mopping up the amateur events.

    • Von

      The desire for integration is the problem. If you’re after curating a particular kind of experience, you have to accept that it can’t include everyone and you have to make it invitational – you’re either in or out. That way lie hurt feelings, social conflicts, and accusations of filthy community-killing elitism, so people don’t do it and their experience is compromised as a result.

  • Zab

    Me = casual. I cannot stand games systems that make me feel like i am studying for boards or SATs. Really? It’s. A. Game. I shouldn’t have to be a damned lawyer or accountant to have fun with it. And also i am a husband and father so i don’t want to sink 4 hours – 6 hours into an afternoon of wee men. I like pretty models and simple rules. I guess that’s why i like space hulk and the other self contained games that gw has been launching recently. low mini count that i can paint up and play without feeling like i am earning and MBA in gaming 😛 And yes i like to win, but if it was a good game and i had fun i am totally cool with losing. in fact i could lose every time if it means that game was engaging.

    • Von

      Amen, brother. Well, apart from the four to six hours thing. I am A-OK with sitting down to a long session of play, and so’s the missus.

      My affection for the Privateer Press proprietary system aside, I have little patience with elaborations and intricacies in tabletop gaming. I will play modern Dungeons and Dragons if someone else is DMing, the character sheet is purged of surplus information, and I have a nice simple character. Vaclav, my Fighter, is perfect: he shoots things, he hacks things, he drags himself back from the brink of death once per day and he is fiercely protective of Charles’ Cleric. I don’t have to spend any more time farting around with sheets and subsystems than is necessary, and I can focus on Getting Shit Done.

  • Drathmere

    I appreciate you brining this up so we can all think about It. The diagnosis may be too simplistic. I do not think that this is a breakdown between hobbyists, and semi-pro uber dice fiends. I think the real split is between people who want their opponent to have fun and people who are not aware that their actions might run counter to that objective. This is about expectations. This is a personal awareness issue. Knowing the expectations for the game ahead of time, and understanding what one’s opponent hopes to achieve.

    • Agreed.

    • Von

      Nope. Another false dichotomy.

      You’re right about it being a personal awareness issue, but there is no split. There are people, and sometimes people think their fun is more important than other people’s fun, and that’s all there is.

      • Drathmere

        I was discounting jerks! Those folks are not fun to do anything with. I think the split is real. Having just come back from Cold Wars in Pennsylvania, I can attest that WAAC folk can alter their play style if given a different environment. It becomes a matter of positive peer pressure.

        • Von

          “…people who want their opponent to have fun and people who are not aware that their actions might run counter to that objective.”

          These things are not opposite. I want my opponents to have fun, but sometimes I overinvest in the game at hand and commit acts which run counter to that objective. I haven’t suddenly become a different kind of person – I have merely shifted position on some sort of sliding ‘how many fucks do I give?’ scale and I now give way more fucks than my opponent does. This affects my behaviour and now I look like a douchenozzle. That’s what I mean when I say there’s no split here, no universal point at which we can divide Us from Them.

          • You’re talking about the fundamental attribution error in personality psychology. People have been proven to consistently and falsely attribute personality traits to others based on their actions. It’s part of how we learn and navigate social situations. You and I can both try and win at the expense of one another. When I characterise my own behaviour, I see it as me taking certain actions for explicable reasons. When you do it, I interpret it as you being a certain kind of person, in this case, a douchenozzle.

    • Von

      Also: it’s interesting that you bring ‘hobbyist’ into this, and that you talk about ‘master painters’ down the line.

      Do you mean ‘hobbyist’ in the ‘easygoing amateur bloke in a shed’ sense, or in the ‘more painter/crafter than player’ sense? If it’s the latter… that’s another false binary that makes my fingers clench every time. The tinboy tournamenter vs. the scrublord painter. More arbitrary silliness!

      • Drathmere

        I was thinking more about caring about the hobby (painting, history, narrative, social experience) versus caring about the win(binary win/loss). If we want to be serious about this discussion then we might want to discuss a myers briggs for gamers.

        • Von

          Personality archetyping? It’s been done a few times for roleplayers, I know that much. 😉

          I know what you mean now. It’s a matter of focus – how much do you care about each aspect of the whole? I preach the glory of the Compleat Wargamer and try to pursue a holistic… wholeness… but I’m not very good at painting or playing unless I’m in the right mood.

      • Zan

        akc, by that standard I would be a master painter first and casual gamer a distant second, but hey, I look really good losing with my beautifully painted models 🙂

        Ooooh I found my new gamer handle : sexy dead gamer 😛

  • Overall I agree with your article, Von, and it’s well said. The one thing I disagree with is the definition of the casual player. Where you see the casual player more as someone who lacks the time, or inclination, to put forward the effort required to be “competitive”, I see the casual player as someone more invested in what they are bringing, and less in the result of the game. As such, casual players enjoy campaigns, and more rules laden games, because the focus is shifted from individual games and more on a long term result. Also, often campaigns will offer a reward system where you can skill up units and models, something that lends a story to the whole affair, again pulling focus from just the conflict itself.

    I view the casual player more as someone who wants more from their game than just a win or a loss. They want to put down those models they like and have a great story, and therein lies the difference. It’s not whether or not they are competitive, or course they are, it’s about what the win or loss means to them.

    • Drathmere

      I agree that the false dichotomy needs to die, but the definition of casual versus competitive almost depends on that dichotomy existing. It is self referential. The split as I see it is between players who want the game to be an enjoyable experience between all of the players, and players who want to win regardless of how bad the social experience is for their opponent. I’ve played tournament winners and master painters, and had equal enjoyment. It was because those players recognized the social side of the game and what I hoped to get out of it. I think the idea of the ‘competitive player’ ruining the game, stems from the fact that there are more tournaments then narrative games, so players learn to play from tournaments. People try to win at all costs because that is how they learned to play. This is an educational issue.

      • Good point.

      • Von

        “The split as I see it is between players who want the game to be an enjoyable experience between all of the players, and players who want to win regardless of how bad the social experience is for their opponent.”

        The difference between playing a game with someone and playing a game against them?

        I can live with that. That’s a difference in attitude and yes, it’s an educational issue. However, you can be barely invested in a game and still be a douchenozzle while you’re playing it. ‘Casual’ is a discrete attribute and ‘self-centred douchenozzle’ is another discrete attribute.

        • Drathmere

          I have never heard of “douchenozzle” before, and laughed out loud when I read you use it. Kudos for that!

          • Von

            I remember every nasty thing I’ve ever been called and reclaim them. My struggle is real. 😉

    • Von

      I disagree.

      The word ‘casual’ defines the extent to which one is invested in one’s pastimes, not the kind of investment. I think the player you’ve described is invested in narrative play. Deeply invested. This is what I’m trying to drive at – ‘casual’ and ‘competitive’ aren’t even opposites. One of them describes an attitude to gameplay and the other describes a kind of gameplay. If we’re saying “casual players do this or that” we’re missing the point – it’s not what they do that defines them, but how much they care about it, how much they’re willing to put in and get out.

      I would describe myself as a casual wargamer. I enjoy campaigns but I do not enjoy an extra layer of rules burden before, during and after every game for the sake of providing the campaign continuity, or map jockeying that takes over from actually playing the tabletop game. I enjoy… well, I enjoy specific kinds of tournaments, but that’s a specific issue to my wargame of choice. The point is that I don’t sit up on Vassal every night practicing my play to be double-super-safety-sure that I can execute it within the time limit for a turn. I just play three normal games on the same day and hope I don’t run into someone who is so committed to the win that they lock me out of the game before it starts.

      I would not describe myself as a casual roleplayer. I spend a lot of time fretting over details, mechanics as tools to curate experience, and whether or not the Quantum Ogre is a sin. I spend WAY more time on these things than I do on actually playing in or running games and I think about them a lot in between sessions… whereas at least one other person in my group just sits down, steers their character around the encounter, and then barely thinks about the game until five minutes before the next session.

      You make an interesting point about what the win or loss means to a given player, and that’s where I think you find the casual attitude. Whatever the result means – a test of skill, a chapter in a narrative, a leg in a campaign – there are people for whom it means a lot and people for whom it means less.

      • Maybe it’s just the labels I’m having a problem with. Looking up the definition of casual shows me “relaxed and unconcerned”, and that is exactly how I see the casual player. I see nothing in definitions I’ve read that regard investment or time commitment.

        • Von

          Maybe I’ve been careless in equating extensive investment of time, energy, thought and feeling with a lack of general chill in deed and demeanour – but I doubt it.

          Also, upon reflection, I put an awful lot into wargaming and I am not chill in the slightest, if all of these words are anything to go by – so I don’t think my ‘casual wargamer’ claim earlier stands at all.

          So, the takeaway here is that I’m a liar and I don’t know what words mean. NEXT!

    • The Warlock

      This.

      I care more about what I bring to the table than whether or not I win- with Malifaux, pretty much every game is about learning that little bit more so that I can win. Hell, last game I managed to move an objective 12″ due to the miracle of Spider V. Plus even though I lost 4-8, I consider it a win as I played the objectives quite well and am moving away from the “move up and hit stuff til it’s dead then kill it some more to be sure” mentality of the GW games.

      Von, as a casual player I do have the time and inclination to sit down and pour over things to try and build lists- there’s always the decision of “do I hire something cheap, or do I go for more cache soulstones” Plus there’s the question of “what do I want this list to do” (the answer is usually Fuck Shit Up) -Thor is right in that I want MOAR than a win or a loss- I want Tales of Glory or death and defeat- if I can talk about various games as a story rather than “I had a game and won” that’s what I call a good game- regaling each other with the exploits of our plastic dudesmen is part of the hobby I think.

      Drathmere lines the split perfectly- and I think that’s the problem with certain games. It’s the player and not the game itself- people take broken stuff so they get that sweet euphoric thrill of the victory when some just want to have fun. My older bro used to be a WAAC player when he played warhams- 7th ed spampire counts with a blender lord w/ however many bloodlines in an ever-increasing unit of dudes. It ain’t fun, really isn’t.

      • Von

        I was wrong in my definition of the casual player. I should have shaved away another layer of my superfluous non-thinking and focused purely on attitude. My error was to assume that ‘invested’ = ‘overinvested and uptight’ and conflate ‘casual’ with a lack of these traits. I acknowledge my error and will strive to improve.

        [/autism]

        That said: I want to refer you back to my Komrade Ranz again, specifically the final flourish of his article:

        “Don’t fall into the trap of echoing and perpetuating the myth that having fun and playing to win are mutually exclusive. They are one and the same. Play to win and to win for the right reasons and in the right way.”

        Playing broken stuff is not a problem in and of itself. Playing broken stuff all the time, in every arena of play, is a problem. It’s not fun for people who aren’t doing it, and often it doesn’t provide an engaging game for you either.

        When I got back into Magic: the Gathering a few years back I intended only to play the Graveborn deck I picked up at that charity auction thing. This did not go well. It was fun to discover why that deck was so bent, but after a while the games – which I frequently won – were tedious because they’d always unfold the same way. I hadn’t been involved in building and tuning the deck at all, and I wasn’t really involved in playing it: only in choosing which bit of bent to lay down on the table this time, after which it almost played itself.

        I’m of the opinion that people who ride exploits, loopholes and corner cases to a perfect win/loss ratio aren’t having as much fun as they could be. Different strokes for different folks, of course, but if you ask me, a victory without challenge and interaction is barely a victory at all.

  • nurglitch

    Having event formats like Magic would probably help people figure out where they lie on the “giving a flying fuck” spectrum. Having pre-defined armies, like pre-posting army lists prior to an event and saying “Bring these units” so that everyone’s on a level playing field and even painting can be judged like-for-like is the best way forward for casual and tournament play, I think.

    • Von

      One of my favourite PP forumites hosts regular ‘Warmachine Weekends’ – get-togethers between a handful of players, where some smallish games are played in a sort of round robin league affair over a couple of days. He provides, tests and tunes the army lists for these things so that nobody, ah, gets the wrong idea and brings a chainsaw to a knife fight. It seems to work.

      I’ve been to events where the pre-posted army list is the norm – the weekend before the event, everyone posts their lists on the host club’s forum or Facebook page or whatever, and then you’re list-locked. That’s what you’re bringing. Everyone has a week to work out how they’re going to deal with it.

      • nurglitch

        Recently my 40k league has been playing ITC rules with a pre-season and play-offs. I’m hoping that we can start trying more fixed armies once we’ve gotten the arms-race thing out of the way.

  • Cedric Ballbusch

    I agree with your basic thesis, wargames are be definition competitive. No sensible person plays a game with the intention of losing. With it’s vast hinterland wargaming, unlike many other games, allows the player to hobble himself with poor armies or poor choices. In those cases the player then alters the meaning of ‘victory’ and–like the Legion–the goal isn’t so much to win as to die well.

    The serious-casual (less serious) axis is reasonable. However, I assert that there is a secondary bifurcation. Those who approach the game system as a means to an end and those who seen the system as the end in and of itself.

    I dearly want to win, but I consider things like moving units a quarter inch backwards to stay out of range and similar shenanigans ungentlemanly and outside the spirit of the game. After-all, no officer knows the exact effective range of the enemy’s fire, and turns don’t exist within the miniatures’ relativity. So, slinking just out of range is a non-sense move.

    This is due to the simple fact that I approach the wargame as something of a RPG. We seek to overcome our opponent, but in character. For example it has been observed in many Napoleonic games that due to their limited frontage three Allied battalions in assault column can charge a single opposing battalion in line.

    While this is possible, period tactics required units in column to deploy with sufficient room to form line or square. Therefore, failure to maintain proper spacing between your units is simply wrong. And doing such a thing for advantage would mean that we’re no longer really playing out a hypothetical Napoleonic battle. Of course, many rules do require players to keep their battalions apart. but the point stands.

    • Von

      “I dearly want to win, but I consider things like moving units a quarter inch backwards to stay out of range and similar shenanigans ungentlemanly and outside the spirit of the game. After-all, no officer knows the exact effective range of the enemy’s fire, and turns don’t exist within the miniatures’ relativity. So, slinking just out of range is a non-sense move.”

      Even from a ‘pure game’ perspective, I have a problem with this sort of move, because it leads to millimetre-counting, flowless, boring games in which nothing gets to happen because everyone’s trying to stay out of everyone else’s threat range. I play in such a way that you get to kill my dudes and I get something out of it, and I have access to longer threat ranges than I need so that I don’t have to bicker over a hair’s breadth when it comes to killing your dudes back. It is not perfectly optimised, but I still win often enough to keep me sane.

      So yeah, I’m with you, even before I put my simulation or narrative hats on.

      • Cedric Ballbusch

        You are correct. I had not considered the various, and all too common, evasive activities that largely negate the ‘point’ of playing a battle.

        • Kelly

          I resemble that remark!

          I recall playing a tournament game of 40K 2nd edition, where I hit the opposing side pretty darn hard with my orks in the first 3 turns (my opponent had overcommitted the majority of his army, and left the other half deployed way back along his table edge), and after pausing a moment to consider my moves going into the 4th, I realized that only one unit of his was positioned to do any damage to my army in response (he had the last turn). I decided to continue to push the left flank (the opposite side), but withdrew everything within reach of his one potent unit, thus rendering it ineffective on his final turn.

          The guy was completely outplayed, pure and simple. However, he then loudly whined to everyone within earshot that I was playing very “un-orky”, and that I should have just moved everything into shooting range of his one unit in a suicidal charge.

          Now, I usually try to play very logically. It didn’t make any sense for me to run a bunch of pistol armed and lightly armoured orks into range of his heavy weapons unit just to get slaughtered. But i remember wondering if perhaps I was playing the wrong army. Everyone at the time seemed to think that if you played orks, you had to mindlessly run all your models suicidally across the table in a giant rush, no matter what. I was told that paying attention to victory points and conditions was somehow not keeping in the spirit of the army…

          I guess that goes back to the concept of “casual vs competitive”. If I didn’t care if I won or lost, I guess I would have dumped my models into the killing zone just to let him bring his victory points closer to mine, but seeing as I was playing in a tournament, it didn’t seem like I should throw away a sure win. I doubt he would have done the same if the roles were reversed.

          • Cedric Ballbusch

            To some extent this is the flaw with ‘turns’. However, no rational officer would press an attack on a prepared enemy if he has already broken their line and inflicted disproportionate attrition.

            I’m thinking more of people who hang models off the edge of the board or who otherwise avoid the game because it’s possible to win through objective camping and the like.

            Avoiding a needless effusion of blood is just good leadership.

          • Von

            “This isn’t a roleplaying game, mate.”

            (That sort of thing’s why I don’t have many friends.)

  • Kelly

    Excellent article.

    I’ve been both the “casual” and the “competitive” player during different periods of my life. I think the natural life-cycle of the gamer is to start off as casually (playing for sh*ts and giggles against a few close friends), then going competitive (going to tournaments, studying the rules while you eat your cereal in the morning, fielding unpainted models that you just cracked open from the blister pack 5 minutes ago, etc), and now back to being more casual (playing for sh*ts and giggles against a few close friends, and occasionally introducing new friends to the hobby).

    Some people get stuck in the competitive stage for longer than others though. The “win-at-all-costs” mentality is usually directly related to how unhappy and unfulfilled they are with their regular life, because hey… if your boss is an ass to you and your wife is too, then at least you can take it out on the poor kids at the local game shop!

    But competitive gaming definitely has its place. When both players start the game with the understanding that they are both going for broke, then it can be a really fun experience for both parties. It’s only when one party gets caster-killed on the 2nd turn by some crazy feat-spell-feat-spell-ability combo that the other player found out about on the forums, and then realizes that there was nothing he could have done to counter the combo anyway, that it gets a bit rough.

    Now I don’t bother worrying about which models are “best” in an army list. I just cherry pick the models that i think will be the most fun to paint up, and play with those. I then game with them just to be able to show them off, and have a fun experience with my friends. I’m fairly reluctant to play against people I don’t know very well though, but that’s mainly because then there’s no guarantee that I’ll have fun, and the likelihood of some jerk manhandling my painted minis goes up somewhat.

    • Von

      “When both players start the game with the understanding that they are both going for broke, then it can be a really fun experience for both parties. It’s only when one party gets caster-killed on the 2nd turn by some crazy feat-spell-feat-spell-ability combo that the other player found out about on the forums, and then realizes that there was nothing he could have done to counter the combo anyway, that it gets a bit rough.”

      This was the core ethos of the old Komitatus group, as I understood it. No stalling, no exploits, no netlisting – play hard, engage with the opponent, get shit done instead of denying it by camping, toeing and quibbling.

      The best games I’ve ever played have been the total bloodbaths or the “well, you’ve killed all these dudes, but it’s the top of turn four and I still have enough Deathrippers and Pistol Wraiths to make the run…” Hail Mary jobs.

      I don’t like people touching my toys either.

  • Spot on!! I have always told people “I play to have fun, but the objective is to win”. You have to be competitive to play a game that has a winner and loser. If you’re not in it to win it, how much fun can the other guy have playing against you??? You’re right when you say it comes down to the level of effort people put into it…

    • Von

      Former PP staffer David Carl had a very similar tagline on the forums for years. I still think it’s bang on the money.

  • Von

    As an addendum to this:

    Had a cracking game of Warmahordes last night. The lists were gentlemanly – no character warjacks or warbeasts, no turn two win buttons – and the playstyle focused on piece trading and Getting Shit Done rather than camping arbitrary terrain features for points. Doesn’t mean we weren’t trying – we just wanted to make a game of it.

    Titan Sentries are well hard and Lord Arbiter Hexeris is also a bit fierce. People who say he’s just Black Spot on a stick aren’t trying hard enough. I find it amusing that my supposedly backfield, spellslinging, not-getting-involved warlock ended up making a melee caster kill while my allegedly front-line sword-swinging warlock has yet to draw a blade in anger. Doin It Rong, as ever.

    Didn’t take pictures. I had a new caster, new measuring tools and a mogul biryani to manage, and the game took a good couple of hours anyway ’cause the Laird Holmes and I are both… shall we say that we both like to think things over?

    I maintain that this is what living the dream is all about. When actually playing in this manner, all the Internet babble fades away and I remember why we’re here.

  • Benderisgreat

    I personally always thought the line was between those that did the tournament scene and those that didn’t, but your thing makes sense too.

    • Von

      So did I, but then I started playing Warmahordes, and… people don’t leave their attitudes in the appropriate space often enough, not in that community at least. You get people like me turning up to tournaments and not giving enough of a shit for the hardcore crowd to be challenged and have their fun, and people who bring their WTC-proven netlist to, and bicker over every millimetre in, every pick-up game they ever play.

      It’s not what you do but how you do it that defines you. [/batman voice]

      • Benderisgreat

        Aaaaand that’s why I avoid the tournament scene. 🙂

        • Von

          “people don’t leave their attitudes in the appropriate space often enough”

          In UK Warmachine, tournament attends YOU!

          • Benderisgreat

            LOL It would be nice if tournaments were a Vegas-style affair, where waitresses were attentive and kept bringing you cocktails.

          • Von

            And men in sharp suits were hired to put you off your game with two minutes left on the Death Clock, and there was any fucking point to turning up with casino dice.

  • Tapani Saarinen

    While I do agree with much of what was said in the article, I heavily disagree that all players are playing to win. There are players, who play to create a story and for the exiting moments that can happen. When there is a choice of either winning the game or creating an exiting situation, they will always go for the situation that will make for the better story. While they are playing “to win” in the sense that they aren’t just letting their models sit on the table while you slaughter them without opposition, their goal in the game isn’t to win, but to make the game epic and memorable.

    Then there are the scenario players, who make scenarios for each other that are ridiculously imbalanced by design. The player playing the underdog isn’t supposed to win. You’re expected to play the scenario and then discuss it with your opponent afterwards, evaluate decisions made by both players and talk about what you might have done differently.

    Unfortunately (from my point of view) for the miniature gaming community, in my experience the latter group especially has retreated mostly to play among themselves, as the mindset seems to be difficult to understand for many players who have been brought up in the environment where “balanced” point buy systems are the norm and imbalance between lists is seen as something that is a problem either in the game system or in the list building skill of the player.

    Of course these traits are on a sliding scale and situation dependent as well. For myself, where I find myself at depends on what I’m playing and who I’m playing with. If I’m playing an RPG, I always go for more drama and will usually pick the option that will land my character in the most trouble. If I’m playing the Game of Thrones LCG, I will try to mercilessly crush anyone who I play against. In miniature games it’s usually somewhere between the two.

    (As a side note, in RPGs the disconnect between players playing to win and those playing for the story and experience can be seen even more clearly and the numbers are more evenly balanced. Having players from both extreme ends of the spectrum can be made to work, but is more often than not a recipe for disaster, with the tendencies of the GM deciding which side will end up having fun.)

  • Triacom

    I have to disagree with this idea, I don’t have an obligation to my opponent to try and win, I have an obligation to my opponent to play a fair game.
    What is a fair game? To me that is a game where I’m not going to outright curb-stomp my opponent by playing purely to win, it’s a game where we’re fairly matched and the winner is determined by what we do/don’t do while playing the game rather than be guaranteed a win based on what we entered the game with.
    I’ve been curb-stomped in games and I’ve done the curb-stomping, and you know what they both have in common? They’re not fun, I get no satisfaction from winning with minimal challenge, and it’s not fun losing against something I had next to no chance of winning against, and why would i play a game if not because I enjoy it?
    If I play a game where I and whoever I play against have a great time, then regardless of who wins, I’ll consider it a great game, and in a lot of those games I’ll intentionally take options that I think I’ll have more fun in using, or that I think they’ll have more fun playing against, rather than options that will nearly guarantee me the win I want.