Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. Come and join me companions for I do know what is the funnest of them all.
Too long have we as a community suffered. We eternally dredge through the muck and mire of text that Games Workshop spoon feeds us in order to fulfill an unsatiable desire to find the very thing every gamer around the world seeks. The perfect game.
Now I know not every 40k player plays the game, nor does every 40k player wish for the same gratifying game experience, however deep down in the very essence of our nerdy being, we are all the same. We crave the thrill of an epic fantasy setting where we can be whisked away from reality to kill every single living organism that irks us with the roll of a die and emperor be damned that is exactly what 40k does. The rules may not be perfect, but intent of the game is crystal clear. 40k is a game that relinquishes all control to the players, and is designed to be customized for an optimal experience. Which brings me to…..
The first most important ingredient for the perfect game of 40k is to find a like minded opponent. Now, I refuse to get into all the pettiness that comes with labels. So i’m going to let you in on a little secret. People are rational, understanding, and fallible. I firmly believe that the perfect game of 40k starts with communication. Sure, there may be some differences but if you doubt your ability to find a like-minded opponent then you may have to look inwardly at yourself. You don’t always have control over the people around you, but you certainly do have a large ability to control yourself. Maybe you don’t want to play Eldar (understandable) communicate that to your opponent and find a middle ground. Don’t like playing unpainted armies? Ask your opponent to play with as many as they can, after all not everyone has the time or skills to make their army beautiful. Remember, you can always pass on this rule to a third party. Tournaments, and narrative events come to mind. After all those are in essence the gathering of a bunch of like-minded individuals who seek a similar gaming experience.
Ok, now that you have a willing vict…I mean opponent, you can get on with pre-game rituals. During the pivotal list-exchange the perfect game requires matched, diverse, unique armies Whether in an ITC tournament or playing in your friend’s garage there is a reason why some people spend hours writing lists for their army, and why the term “net-list” is used with such a negative connotation. We all secretly want to be unique little snowflakes floating in the wind and that is most directly seen in list-building. If both lists are unequal there is a risk of someone getting steamrolled and losing the game by turn 3, and I don’t think that’s fun for anyone.
Their are X key ingredients that happen in a game of 40k that simply make everyone around the table stop and marvel. These ingredients may not all be necessary for a great game of 40k, but are a requirement for the perfect game.
- Flawed deployment: The perfect game of 40k wants vital units misplaced, and deployment errors. A conservative deployment is a boring deployment. Basically if the seize the initiative roll is closely watched by all parties involved your game is going to get off to a good start. Keep in mind if one player seizes the initiative and proceeds to table the other, then obviously both lists aren’t as evenly matched as thought.
- The terrain factor: The perfect game of 40k wants a lot of different terrain pieces. It wants hills, towers, ruins, dangerous toxic pools, and whatever else both players decide to throw onto a table. In addition these pieces of terrain need to be able to fit models, and need to be able to be interacted with by both players. No one wants to weave models through a forest terrain piece holding an objective poking themselves, and pulling the terrain up with every inch of movement. I would like to point out, that the ITC Square-building is a perfect example of a fun piece of terrain. It is large, multi-leveled, detachable at the base, and cheap.
- Even phase distribution: There is a reason why the psychic and shooting phases are so despised, and in my opinion it’s because certain players spend SO much time on them. The perfect game of 40k wants all phases of the game equally represented. There needs to be key movements, key shots fired, key psychic powers cast, and key assaults made.
- A photo finish: The perfect game of 40k wants to go on to turn 6 at least. I feel like the most fun moments in 40k are the conclusion of a critical swing turn where both players are exhausted, and emotionally drained but at the same time anxious about the outcome. Did they both do enough to secure the win? No dice roll causes more drama then the final one.
- The Challenge: Lastly, challenges are an important part of what makes 40k fun. They need to be pivotal, equally matched, and last at least 2 rounds of combat. Often times, certain models can only be featured in challenges, and the perfect game wants them there. Which brings us to…
Character representation. One reason many players fall in love with 40k is the story, and the characters that drive it. The pefect game of 40k doesn’t have “HQ taxes” or unnamed “beat-stick chapter masters”. After all, no one wants to read about some group of random guardsmen cowering in a chimera with a commander or some unknown space marine riding on a bike hammering his foes while blocking lascannon shots with his shield… On second thought that sounds badass (Black Library the ball is in your court). However i’m sure you get the picture. Marneus Calgar versus The Avatar of Khaine is certainly a more compelling match-up to set the stage for an epic Face-Off challenge.
Finally the perfect game of 40k needs some help from both players. Both players have a critical role they need to play in the game and sadly it goes against every basic gamer instinct ever honed since the dawn of time. Putting the dice into the game. You may have heard the expression “taking dice out of the equation” well, guess what? The game was designed for dice to be THE equation. Rolling dice is fun, and each side of the dice represents possible unpredictable outcomes. Predictable outcomes are boring, just ask TV show analysts. I feel like the heart of 40k is in it’s unpredictability. I mean no one has a “my warp spiders rolled average dice” story. But everyone has “That one guardsmen that could” or a “My grot killed Calgar!” -esque story.
So there you have it. Was there any ingredients I missed? What do you find most fun about the game of 40k? Before you scroll down to comment I want to leave you with one thought.
Not every game of 40k has the potential to be “The Perfect Game” but, the perfect game can be found anywhere.