Why a Loss is More than Just an “L” on the Scoresheet

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A guest editorial by Berent on the merits of learning from our mistakes.

Of course as 40k players we all want to win, especially in the tournament scene! There is always great satisfaction in knowing the hours you put into hobbying, list building, gaming, and overall preparation are recognized vis-a-vis winning competitive games. However, there is something unique about a loss in 40k whether it be casual or competitive that provokes introspection and time for reflection. This introspection makes you a better 40k player, because you will scrutinize your mistakes during game play, aspects of list design and preparation against tough lists and strong opponents.

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Knowledge is key to becoming a better 40k player, as the game is evolving at an unprecedented rate when compared to the mid 2000’s (at most 4 codexes would come out in a year!). Reading all the codexes and learning what every Forgeworld unit does is simply impossible and in fact not optimal. Constantly playing your own army with a preferred style will greater your chances at winning tight 40k games, as supposed to staying at home and reading what certain units can do and fearing a match-up with it. This is where losing is important, as you will learn new things about the game and the mistakes in losses will stick with you more than your wins.

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Here’s a personal anecdote: in a doubles tournament my teammate and I were playing against a tough match-up with centurion drop pods and 4 riptides with interceptor drones! Our list was drop pod marines with centurions and psykers, so Tau interceptor was our worst nightmare and we faced it in our second game. I made the quintessential rookie mistake to drop pod assault our army’s warlord Tigurius and 3 Grav-Centurions in line of sight of 2 riptides. Let’s just say I lost 45% of my army on my movement phase. After this game I never made this mistake again and played my drop pods more carefully in such a way to protect my essential units from potent interceptor.

Despite losing, my teammate and I still had a blast playing the game, but of course it was annoying to lose your warlord on your own turn. This loss gave me some much needed time to reflect on list building and my overall dependence on drop pods as a mode of transportation. I adjusted my lists for single and double games to more mobile ground units (troop slot bikers, rhinos, and land speeder storms) to still have that in your face turn 1 play style. Effectively, I was able to explore other elements of my main codex (Vanilla Space Marines) and enjoy the game in a different way.

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In the aftermath of Tigi’s untimely death, I talked to my opponent after the game to hear their thoughts on my list and generalship. They agreed with me that decision to place my drop pod in their backlines was my pivotal mistake and effective turning point of the game. From this I became friends with my opponents and continue to talk to them about lists and overall tactics.

Never lose confidence from taking a tough defeat in 40k. If you won every game the gaming aspect of the hobby just wouldn’t be fun. We explore more about the game from losses and improve from mistakes. As Michael Jordan once said: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

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About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

5 Responses to “Why a Loss is More than Just an “L” on the Scoresheet”

  1. Jesper77 July 9, 2016 2:35 pm #

    Good article with nice pointers. To talk about the game with your opponent and analyse it afterwards has helped me improve my game overall. Its still the best learning tool in my opinion.

  2. Chris July 9, 2016 4:20 pm #

    Wait I don’t understand orks can’t lose so how can we learn… Wait that explains a lot…

  3. Lord Krungharr July 9, 2016 5:27 pm #

    Tis so totally true that the big losses stick with you. I recently experienced a tabling vs mass dark reaper and warp spider spam vs my Kharn led chaos marines. Rethought my tactics and how they flopped, and how I will deal with the inevitable rematch! Repeating play with the same army is so important and I think that would be very good for many players like myself who jump from idea to idea. (Of course making and playing with new models is just too fun).

    • punchymango July 9, 2016 6:48 pm #

      That’s always the tricky part with any wargame; figuring out whether you’re losing because your list is bad, (or in GW games because you’re not playing one of the designers’ favorite factions), or whether your list is fine and you’re just playing it badly.

      More practice is usually a good idea, and I always warn new players away from changing their lists after a loss. But sometimes you’re just trying to square a circle, and no amount of practice is going to make your deathwing not get grav-ed out of existence by the end of turn 1, or save your footslogging orks from getting roflstomped by Eldar scatterbikes.

  4. hillshire July 9, 2016 5:49 pm #

    I often ask my opponent what I could have done better, win or lose. They’ve almost always had some solid comments and suggestions. Conversely, I’m happy to talk through it to help them improve their strategy and tactics if they like. If they’re a newer player and there’s time, we’ll sometimes reset and play the first couple of turns to see how a different deployment could have worked out for them.

    When we all go for dinner after the games, we have a great time telling stories and analyzing the missions. Highly entertaining! And improves all of our games.

    Sometimes (less often than I’d like), I’ll type up a battle report and really dig into which unit did what, did they accomplish their mission/purpose, how effective they were, etcetera. Writing it out really puts the details into perspective.

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