By: Scott T.
One of the first challenges most players will come to face in their Warmachine careers when they begin to venture out to tournaments, is the clock. While thankfully, most tournaments are now ran on a death clock, (a timing rule that allows each player 60 minutes on their clock, and it acts like a chess clock, in that when you are done you switch the clock over to the other player and it counts down for them, allowing each player to have a full 60 minutes to play their game) it doesn’t remove the uneasiness of trying to play on a clock for the first several games, and it’s especially troublesome if you have absolutely 0 clock experience and play in your first tournament.
And even when you have lots of experience playing on a clock, it still can be troublesome and difficult to do, especially when trying new warlocks and warcasters, or learning new list designs that you aren’t completely sure of exactly how to play them.
While I can’t solve all of your clock management issues, I can give you some basic pointers as to how to work through some of the clock issues and how to start using the clock so it isn’t as intimidating.
The first rule I always tell people is that you need to accept the fact that you are going to loose games on the clock. There will be times, when your opponent will be beaten down, crushed, have only their warcaster and a small smattering of support and a half dead war jack, and you will have most of your army left and still loose when your timer hits 0. It happens. In a tournament, the clock is a win condition like any other, and there are lists that will intentionally play to clock you just as there are lists that will play to win on scenario or assassination.
The second thing I always discuss with my newer players is that playing on a clock isn’t a tournament only mode. I mean, every game you play should be on a clock, even on casual nights. While that sounds odd to most, the reality is that people forget what it is to play on a clock, and forget how to do it if they aren’t consistent. I also strongly recommend playing on a clock, even at local casual play nights, because no one wants to sit around for 5 hours only to get one game in. If nothing else, the clock does serve to move games along at an acceptable rate.
The third thing about playing on a clock that I think everyone should know, is to be a good steward of your own clock. The clock, and switching it back and forth, is a function of both players, true, but if the clock is on you, and it’s your timer counting down, it’s your responsibility to make sure that it isn’t counting down when it shouldn’t be. Things like forgetting to flip the clock back to the other player, forgetting deployment is on the clock, even marking damage, tough checks, martyrdom, and out of activation effects, like admonition all might require you to flip the clock back and forth, and if you leave it stuck on you, and your opponent plays the rest of the turn on your clock, there is nothing anyone can do to stop that timer from counting down.
Knowing when to flip the clock to the other player is the last big one, and this one really needs to fall under the category of “don’t be a dick”. Players have a lot of things to do in a game, and it’s very easy to get confused, take some time, or just find the things needed to do the job, like cards, or get to the correct menu in warroom, or even just find a widget for movement. When times like these arise, at any point you are waiting for your opponent to perform an action, you can flip the clock to them to complete it. Now, that’s not a free license to flip the clock to your opponent when they are making tough checks immediately after the damage roll, and it’s not a free license to flip the clock while they are marking damage to a beast or jack while you are playing the game; if your opponent is doing nothing wrong, and making damage quickly, there isn’t a need to flip the clock, however, if they are taking longer than expected, or “warming up their dice” before every tough check, then yeah, flip the clock to them, and the behavior will likely stop.
Things that are commonly flipped on clock for are things like admonition movement and countercharges. Effects that require interaction from your opponent, those are fine to switch back and forth and its expected that you would do so, so don’t be intimidated.
The last big thing that I would want every new player to know about playing on a clock actually has 2 points to it.
• The first is that you should never feel bad about spending your clock in any way you want to. If you need to go to the restroom, go to the restroom in the middle of the game. I have gotten Diet Dr. Pepper on my clock, one guy went and got an ice cream at a larger convention, other people like to sit and talk, hell, some just want to sit in silence and think about their move. Either way, it’s their clock, and they are free to use it as they wish. If they want to burn it down doing something silly (which I have done) then, by all means, let them. Some players get irritated at what they see as “slow play” but the reality is that your play speed doesn’t affect their game at all, so if they get angry or frustrated by it, call a judge over and let him explain it. (Then go grab a Diet Dr. Pepper in the middle of your assassination while the judge is explaining the clock rules to the other guy…)
• Never stop doing the things you would normally do in a game just because you are on a death clock. If you are the kind of player that looks at the table, one last time before handing the turn over to your opponent, don’t stop doing that. If you are the kind of player that must math out your next big play in your head, then continue to do it. If you have to look at your spell card to make sure you have no upkeeps you are forgetting about, or you have no maintenance phase affects you need to remember, then do so. I guess the point I am trying to make is that I am a very deliberate player, and recently, in testing Doomshaper 3 and Calandra, I lost like 4 games in a row on clock. It happens, because I am a deliberate player. I walk through my turns at the same pace, same cadence, with the same level of thought and consideration. So when I am playing something new, I spend more time thinking about what I am doing and that’s how I loose on clock. The difference is, that given a few games, I won’t loose to clock anymore as I continue to practice and get quicker. Muscle memory will begin to take over as I work my way through the turns, especially playing something over and over again. Just because my clock is down to 5 minutes left doesn’t mean im going to rush through my turn. I’m going to play that turn to the best of my ability in the time I have, and when/if I loose, I loose, and I learn for the next game.
The final thoughts I bring to playing on a clock are very simple. Don’t feel that you must memorize everything in the game to play on a clock. You do not. While a strong familiarization with the rules, and knowledge of what the common lists are in a tournament will help you, you do not need to know all of that to play a reasonable game on a clock. What you DO need to know to play a good game on a clock is the majority of YOUR stats. Spend some time playing and practicing your lists, and when you aren’t playing, make flash cards for your lists and run through them to memorize all of your stats. It sounds stupid, but memorizing and knowing exactly what your stuff does will make it much easier to make intelligent decisions as to what to do in a game, and it will speed you up. In short, learn your stuff, and your opponents stuff you will learn though experience.
So there ya go! Its not an exhaustive resource for how to play on a death clock, but it is a good resource for how to play on a death clock and how to understand what the expectations are. Good luck and happy hunting.