By: Matt (Blighted Brethren)

I started off with the intention of writing a piece on my three wins after the Clock Work Dragon event. Sitting on an almost completed blog entry and I don’t know how to finish it, as over the last few weeks I’ve been contemplating leaving the game. As a hobby, I love it. Gathering models, paints, brushes, basing materials and then over time producing a fully painted model to use on the table is a joy. As much as I enjoy the hobby side the support that I have received from my local area has been less than stellar. I don’t say that lightly.

Initially there was a willingness to help learn the ‘basics’ and once I had the ‘basics’ down that’s where teaching stopped. Instead of getting useful feedback and help understanding how to play different scenarios, which models are support or frontline assault, or even deployment positioning, it became about their stats for winning and the complete desolation of your army, while the feedback you did receive was, “There is no losing, only learning,” which doesn’t really translate into anything usable. I must state, they are a good meta who love the game and want new players coming through. Now, I’m not suggesting I want to be handed a win, I don’t mind losing, if I’m competitive, but what I do want is those who have been established in the hobby to impart knowledge of the game onto those still learning so that they have the skill set to be competitive and become more engaged with the game, instead of seeing total annihilation and feel as though there isn’t a place for the new player.

Within any sport or occupation there is teaching. Sure, you might pick up a lot of skills by reading and watching videos or develop aspects on your own; however, it is through good teaching that you become better skilled and proficient in the sport or occupation. Every person who plays brings a perspective that is informed by their own education level, environment, difficulties and experiences. One player may struggle to pick up the basics while another may excel early and plateau once they get to a certain point. All these aspect will contribute to how quickly a player develops their gaming ability.

I played lawn bowls, for those that don’t know what that is, it’s an ‘old persons’ sport where you roll a bowl which is biased so it curves as you roll it, towards a small ball about 23 meters (75 feet) away. The winner is the person or team who has the most of their bowls close to the white one. Practicing I actually looked forward to and the reason being is it was scenario based. Each practice session we would look at scenarios that happened during the last game and run them over and over again to find strategies that countered them and turned them into our favour or assess the effectiveness of our own strategies that won us the game, and look at how they could be countered and how we would counter the counter. WarmaHordes is that type of gaming; learning how to read the play, understand how your models affect the outcome of play and learning how to counter a counter that swings the game in their favour or yours. This isn’t easy to develop as a new player. With so many rules in play just remembering the rules can be overwhelming and lead to forgetting lots of rules on cards that trump rules in the main rules set. Without assistance in understanding what you did wrong, you continue to make the same mistake or you identify the mistake change your tactic but go in the wrong direction and become in a worse position. This leads to frustration and doubt. I acknowledge that the more you play the more the rules become second nature, the more you remember your own models abilities the more you are able to concentrate on strategy, however, there is still so many avenues that a new player will miss, me included, when it comes to seeing the assassination run or the best way to control the objective.

At the end of a game a new player would benefit from their opposition identifying two or three decisions that were poor decisions, setting the scenario up and working through why it did not work, and what might work. That way the new player goes home with two or three tactical changes that they can implement in their next game and hopefully elevate their understanding and help make them a better player. And this is what’s missing at my local meta, a regular conversation about how to improve as a new player. They have been encouraging that I must acknowledge. Even when I hated playing the battlebox Kryssa in a Journeyman League they told me to power through and then find a caster that I like and don’t judge the game based on that one experience alone. There have been times where I’ve asked about some of the issues I’ve had with positioning but the advice has been limited to advice of a broad nature that didn’t really help me understand why or how my positioning was poor. To me, if a new player wants to up their game and become better then that will elevate the established players as they have stronger opposition which can only lead to a better standard of game. Surely as a community the goal is to have quality opposition that increases the standard of games and this ensures that the games are more free flowing and enjoyable and competitive for all involved.

The best advice I got was from one player very early on in my WarmaHordes foray was when they walked me through how my Forsaken could have taken out his caster. I now actively position my Forsaken so that it can manage my fury but also be in a position to go off like a crazy mofo and decimate something of importance of my oppositions. That lesson took a whole two minutes yet has imprinted the functionality of a model into my tactics for every game the Forsaken is present.

How do we as new players start a conversation with experienced players about the struggles we have with learning a complex strategy game, and how do experienced players become more active in teaching new players? I don’t have all the answers, in fact I may only have a couple of ideas, but they may be enough for new players and experienced players to assess how they go about teaching and learning the game.

New Players

Start reading your cards and rules actively; by this I mean really take in what they say and think about how they may help you on the battle field. Use online resources to get clarity on your thinking, such as Warmachine and Hordes for Beginners. (Shameless plug☺)

(Editor note: Here is a post we did about asking questions after a game)

Give yourself a game objective. It might be to have two points by the end of game, it might be to try and assassinate their caster. Or it may be to take a unit and two heavies off the table. That way you can talk to your opponent after the game, explain your own objectives and get feedback on your list and if that list was the right one for your objective.

When you are at your local meta having a game take note of two things your experienced opponent did, and ask at the end of the game, why they did that particular order of activation or why they didn’t boost. That way you can see how their army works, and understand how certain stages of the game call for different actions.

If you’re struggling to remember all the main rules and card rules with larger games, drop the size back to something more manageable. This way you can get a handle on the basics and learn positioning and board control in a more forgiving battle. In 50-75 point games small mistakes can cost you multiple models or the game, whereas I’ve found in smaller battles, battle box and a unit of warrior models, there is more open space and one bad move doesn’t necessarily mean the early end to a game, yet it has happened, so be wary of that, not alarmed. It also allows you to fit more games in become more familiar with your models. It allows you to develop and understand the synergy of your army quicker.

Use scenarios to get the most out of the game. Scenarios help you feel more competitive, even if you’re not. Scoring points even though you may not take models off the table is a good thing. It shows that you controlled a portion of the game board and battle for a period of time, you may not have won but you made the game competitive. If you’ve never played scenarios before ask your experienced opponent how it works, how you score points and how you can deny points. If there are multiple zones, choose one go for it and try and hold it if that’s your game objective.

If you come up against an army, caster, warbeast or warjack that you’ve never seen or played against, use you voice and ask your opponent if you can have a run down or look at their card, so you have an idea of how that model may affect the game. There’s been many games where I have not done that and at some stage an animus or Feat goes off and I’m like, “Whaaat … it does that? Shite, it be tripping balls that ability. Can I cry now, or later?” But that’s on me for not asking for knowledge about the model.

So to new players, seek out someone in your meta that is approachable and ask questions and pick their brains so you don’t feel overwhelmed or secretly start hating the game. After all, it is only a game, something that I myself need to be reminded of and the game shouldn’t be judged on win-loss ratio.

Experienced Players

If you are the only player playing a faction in your meta and a new player comes along providing you with someone to talk shop with, try not to overload them with all the cool stuff the faction can do. It can be overwhelming and cause a breakdown in the cerebral cortex, busting our flux capacitors and rendering us useless to travel back in time. Your intentions are good, get them enthusiastic about the faction and models, but it does sometimes confuse a new player with so much information in such a short time, without having in-game context. My suggestion, find out what caster and models they are using and limit your conversations to their range of models. That way they are able to gain better insight into what’s usable now and this will allow them to ask you questions about what they want to know.

Check to see if the new player has played scenarios before. They may have played none or one or may be quite versed in scenarios. Checking takes a couple of seconds, if they haven’t, explain it and often remind them how they can score or stop you from scoring points (something as simple as, you can’t score if a model is within four inches of the flag), but not how. It’s up to them to figure that part out. Guarantee that as a new player we will forget we can contest flags.

Run your new opponent through your faction while setting up. Not asking for a long essay but a quick overview of the overall play style, especially if they have never played against the faction. Learning in game about the strengths and weakness of a faction is a good thing. For instance, you let me know that Cygnar like long range gun play with lightning arcing from model to model, it might be enough for me to think, “Right, get up the table quick, engage to nullify range attacks and don’t group units together for jumpy lightning.” I may fluff it up and get cut to pieces on the way to engaging, but at least I was able to have a strategy, a bad one yes, but one to reassess and change. A simple change I might make is to use more units and beasts with stealth, take my max FA (field allowance) of Striders to pick apart a unit as they have stealth. Understanding the overall play style before you play can help them see how the faction works in game. I got schooled by Deni (a Cryx caster) but before the game my opponent ran me through the faction play style and her feat, the next time I played against Deni I had a good idea of what to expect. I lost, but I managed to almost clock my opponent. Just knowing that extra info about Cryx play style helped me in the long run to be competitive and not get turn two’d, again.

At the end of the game ask your new opponent what their intention for the game was, assassination, win on points, hold a zone to deny you points, that way you can offer advice on the list and how they went about achieving their objective. As an experienced player you may notice that their list would be a better point gathering list not assassination, let them know this. Trying to assassinate with a list that isn’t capable of assassination, is like feeding vegetables to children, it doesn’t work. If you noticed their deployment was terrible offer a suggestion of how to deploy, without telling them who should go where. For instance let them know that they put their entire force lined up with their friendly zone, so before the game started I knew where you were headed so I countered. This will allow them to assess their deployment; hopefully they might try to bluff next game by doing the same deployment or change the way they deploy.

In essence it’s up to both new and experienced players to engage with each other for the betterment of the game. Not every experienced player will be a good teacher and not every new player will be a good learner, but there are those that will be and those are the one that will ensure the survival and growth of your meta and the game.

So, now I wrestle with a notion of to play or not to play. That is the question. Do I continue to flubber about trying to work out advanced tactics or do I pull the pin and let my models gather dust, never to see the table again? The issue is, I love the game, but you can only cop so many floggings before begin to realize that you’re out of your depth, playing against players with five or more years’ experience in a meta that is small and quite a distance from larger metas that contain a larger diversity of gaming abilities. Or maybe, just maybe, I suck or I did something in a past life so bad that the dice Gods actively screw me over just so they get some vengeance. Damn those dice Gods.

For those that are interested, I’ve won 4 games in around 80 played, for a winning percentage of 5.