The 2017 Las Vegas Open has come and gone and while it turned out to be an amazing event by all accounts, there was one issue that stood out above most; the clock.
A common complaint from the tournament, and really one that has been an issue in competitive play for a long time, was games ending due to time and not coming to a natural conclusion. This is certainly not the first time the issue has reared it’s ugly head in the tournament scene and won’t be the last. Captain A made a great post stating the case for lower point games of 40k and while he makes a lot of valid points, the ITC community has voted and the 1850 point threshold is here to stay for the time being. That being the case, I am going to present some tips which can help make the clock less of a deciding factor.
Know Your Army
When you attend a tournament there is, or should be, the social contract understanding that you and your opponent are both knowledgeable and competent in both the basic rules of Warhammer 40k, but also your armies and what they can do. You don’t need to be an expert on what every army in the game can do (although knowing these things certainly will improve your game overall), but you should be at least an expert with your own army. You should never have to refer back to your Codex during the course of a game. Time spent looking up rules or what your units can do is valuable time lost for both you and your opponent. The only time you should be referring to your Codex, or any book or dataslate, is when your opponent asks to see it in the book. With that, you should know ahead of time what things you’re going to be pulling in the game that might raise questions. Running the Masque against the nasty death star? Know exactly where to go find that unit entry in the codex. Genestealer Cults can do what on turn 1?! Know exactly where to show them the Cult Ambush table. Knowing your army inside and out will save valuable time. Minutes count in a 2 and a half hour round.
Manage Your Army Efficiently
40k Is a complex game. Many armies out there have a lot of special rules interacting with each other over the course of a game. War Convocation is a perfect example of this. There are lots of special rules the army can take and utilize throughout the course of a game. Managing those effectively can be crucial. A friend of mine runs a War Convocation army and uses a series of index cards, each with the special rules written on them. When he chooses to use his Canticles he has the card which has everything written on it for quick reference. If you have an army that has a lot of pre-game rolls, have an understanding of what you’re looking to get out of those rolls and have a way to manage them. Write them down on your army list for the game, or better yet have some method to track them quickly. An example of this can be found in this great article on the Infernal Tetrad. In the article the author points out the gifts he’s looking to get in the pre-game as well as a set of cards you can print, put in card sleeves, and mark with a dry erase for each game for ease of use. That alone probably speeds his games up by 10 minutes.
If you’re running a heavy psyker army, have an idea of what you want to get ahead of time. Have psychic power cards readily available and set them to the side. Quickly jot down on a piece of paper what powers each psyker has. Having a plan going into a game with what you’re looking to accomplish with the psychic phase will speed up your game. I often run an Eldar army utilizing a Farseer Skyrunner. I know the powers I’m looking to get off the bat. If I can get Invisibility that’s great. If I don’t roll it, I usually take Shriek then I will just take Guide and Prescience as Primaris powers. Because I know what I’m looking to do with my Farseer before the game begins. Sometimes this might change depending on the opponent, but at least have a basic understanding of what it is you want to accomplish with the psychic phase and it will speed up your pre-game rolls.
Manage Your Dice
Counting out dice every time you want to take an action might not seem like a big deal, but it can really slow you down. Seconds become minutes and those are minutes lost off the clock that you can’t get back. Anytime something will require you to pick up more than 4 or 5 dice, set aside a dice pool. Running scatbikes? Set aside a block of dice for rolling scatbike shooting attacks. Psyker heavy army? Set aside a separate pool of dice with all your mastery levels and just remove dice from the pool as psykers die in the game. Have a bunch of units with mixed weapons? Have separate colored dice to roll for those attacks in your dice pool. Managing your dice effectively will save you loads of time.
Don’t Waste Time Arguing
One of the biggest culprit for losing time in a tournament game is arguing with your opponent. Do not waste time arguing with them over a rule or how something works in the game. If you both can’t come to an understanding on how a rule should work, call a judge. Make it clear to your opponent that you are not trying to be a jerk, you just want a clear ruling on the issue. Call a judge, explain the issue, and accept the judge’s ruling regardless of the outcome. Do not argue with them on something when they make a ruling. You can always talk to them later after the game about the issue if you don’t agree, but most of the time a judge isn’t going to change a ruling he has made once it’s been made in a game. Accept it and move on.
People in competitive play often look at calling a judge over as some taboo act that should never be committed. That is absolutely not the case. Do not hesitate to call a judge over if need be, just do not abuse it. And if your opponent calls for a judge on something you’re trying to do, explain to them clearly what the issue is, why you are allowed to do the thing you’re trying to do, and the reference for it. Have it prepared for them when they ask so you can show them and they can read it over, and make a ruling.
Practice? We Talking About Practice, Man
Yes, practice. As much as you can when you can with your army. Learn to use those tools I mentioned above. The only way to get better and faster with your army is to practice the games. Most tournaments you attend will have a primer mission pack if not the missions themselves well ahead of the event. Practice those missions against the clock. Know your army’s limitations in relation to time. Practicing against various different armies will also help you understand what you need to do in a tournament if you face that army. You don’t want to spend 10 minutes in deployment trying to figure out what your opponent is trying to do to mitigate it.
Have a plan and the best way to understand what you need to do against certain armies is to practice against them. Even if you’re just playing against yourself in practice scenarios. Vassal is a great tool for this. It’s a free computer program with 40k support available which allows you to virtually simulate the table top game. Practice against armies that your list might struggle against as it will give you a better understanding of how to deploy against them, and will save valuable time in a real game as you will know what to do against them.
Practicing with your army, especially those with complex special rules like War Convocation or Genestealer Cults, will help you learn how to use them quickly and efficiently when the timer starts in a real tournament game. You’ll have a better understanding of the aspects which potentially slow you down in play with your army and how to work around them to use the army in the most time efficient manner possible.
Time is an issue in tournament play and always has been. There is nothing more gut wrenching than knowing you could have won a game if it could have played out to a natural conclusion, but you lost because you couldn’t get past turn 3. Using these tips can help improve your game and make you a faster player.
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