A Scrub’s Journey to Greatness: Chess Clocks

So you do pretty well at tournaments, but your games always go to time. Now these newfangled chess clocks are coming in, and it looks like you lose a bunch of your time!? Well not really, let’s look at Chess Clocks, their implications, and how we all have to play now that they’re becoming a part of the ITC.

Hey guys, BigVik back (after a month!, though my trip to Italy was amaze-balls!) and we’re here to today to talk about chess clocks, how they work for you, and how we all have to play to ensure we don’t clock out in our games.

Now many people I’ve talked to have acted like chess clocks just appeared out of the Lock Ness when Reece was failing to breach top 50 at the London GT (He was undefeated, t’is the fate of armies not built to table their opponents in battle point missions), and the lady of the lake handed him a chess clock and said “You wanna screw ork players? Here you go!”

Chess clocks have been around in miniature gaming for a while. Warmachine has had them for several years, and they ensure that both players have an equal amount of time throughout the game to do what they need to win. This means that if you’re playing an ork player and they can’t take 90 minutes out of your 2 hour game round, they’ll clock out and you just get to sweep them off the objectives to win the last couple rounds.

So now that I’ve painted a grave view of chess clocks, how do we manage our time to finish our games naturally?

  1. Practice on a clock- Nothing speeds up your play time like practicing speeding up your play time. As you get reps in, you’ll want to try to figure out a series of tricks and strategies to speed up your play in order to keep that chess clock from its dreaded beeping.
  2. Know your army- Don’t build an army list in a faction that you don’t play and take it to LVO thinking you’re going to top table. Get reps, learn the army, learn how it interacts with other armies, and have these either written down in a cheat sheet, or on your phone.
  3. No down time mid game- pee between rounds, have water and a snack, have all of your widgets, measuring devices, and dice out of your bag before the clock starts.
  4. Practice setting up your army- Since we’re all on Frontline Gaming’s blog, I’m assuming you primarily play ITC missions. Thus I would say to set up a table, lets say with Frontline ITC terrain, and deploy your army for each mission in each deployment type, opponent army type (assault, shooting, melee, brick), and scenario. This will keep you in autopilot during deployment and ensure you use the minimum clock time during deployment.
  5. Think on your opponent’s time- This is exactly what it sounds like. On your opponent’s turn you need  to stay engaged. When they put a model on an objective you need to think of what you need to do about that, can you deny the objective, can you trap your opponent in a corner and control the rest of the board? If you do this, you’ve effectively legally added to your play time.
  6. Have your dice pre-set in blocks for easy rolling/ use the assault dice app- Do this, period. You don’t like the app? well i guess you’re going to get good at counting those 1’s to re-roll.
  7. Have widgets that cover common small measurements you need to make (1″, 2″, etc)- I use a 1/2/4 that works great for spacing, deployment, and screen placement, other than that 40k doesn’t quite demand much more than that.
  8. Consider movement trays- Do you play orks, guard, horde chaos, or horde Tyranids? You might need these guys.
  9. PRACTICE ON A CLOCK- Do it! arm chair generals the world over think they’re fine then they clock on turn 2, its a thing, get reps in.
  10. KNOW YOUR F***KING ARMY!- I see this far too much not to reiterate this. By no means do I play 3 games a week, in fact i’m at less than 1 game a week right now, but if I have to remind you on your army’s rules, or how the 12 pages of base rules work, its going to be a bad time for one of us, as rules get sprung or contested and AT THE LEAST, eat a ton of clock due to positioning re-work.
  11. Fitness and good diet/ no mid tourney benders- This is the anti-climactic ending. Its not rocket science. I’m no Adonis, but I run, and try to eat well. I don’t do it FOR my gaming, but it definitely helps when I’m fine on round 3 of day 1 and my opponent is beyond exhausted. An exhausted gamer will miss rules, and opportunities, make un-optimized plays, and be less emotionally stable. So avoid that person being you by sleeping 6-8 hours, not drinking in excess, and exercising to maintain that great beach bod of yours!

Well that’s it for this week! How do you guys plan on mitigating clock time, do you have any tips or tricks for the rest of us? Post in the comments below!

And as always, Frontline Gaming sells gaming goodies at a discount, every day!

Frontline Gaming will buy your used models for cash or store credit!



About BigVik

A gaming magpie, BigVik currently maintains perpetual noob status, playing Menoth and Khador in Warmachine, and Imperial Guard in 40k. He works as a professional coach and process consultant in his professional life, and loves bringing this into his gaming and writing.

16 Responses to “A Scrub’s Journey to Greatness: Chess Clocks”

  1. nk17 July 14, 2018 3:58 am #

    I can’t agree more with #10. Story of my life it seems.

    • BigVik July 14, 2018 5:05 am #

      thanks for reading!

      yea, prior to chess clocks, not knowing your army was a way to non deliberately slow play and spoil some games, so battle company, IG, orks, etc.

      With chess clocks, I can just let that person sit there and burn their clock time up, very much better for fairness of tourney play

  2. Rob Butcher July 14, 2018 7:45 am #

    1000s of tournaments per year in W40K …. and only two are going to be using chess clocks. They are not in the core rules, nor endorsed by GW in anyway (they reduced the points limits to 1750 instead and it worked well last week at the GT Heat 1.)

    If being “GREAT” only considers ITC tournaments and Chess clocks then something is seriously wrong. Win under each different scoring system in a calendar year and I’d think differently … similar to winning the four main tennis events.

    It still feels like chess clocks are a knee-jerk reaction to a situation of organised cheating / time-wasting at an event organised by FLG. If they are the answer to this problem why aren’t they used at the official home of GW?

    • BigVik July 14, 2018 7:53 am #

      GW has been following the input from their playtesters, which Franky and Reece of Frontline are!

      Chess clocks are used in many competitive wargames ASIDE from GW games, and following GW’s rules out of the book has never been viable for a truly fair and competitive game until 8th Ed. However, the majority of events in the US don’t even use GW missions, but a combination of ITC and Nova missions (which is now a member of the ITC).

      This article is meant as an intro to chess clocks as time goes on, and as they are integrated into more and more mission packets.

      I’m sorry you’re so miffed about something, maybe you should try some of the anxiety control techniques I’ve talked about in earlier articles, it may help you stay more level headed!

      Thanks for reading the article!

    • Michael Corr July 14, 2018 8:27 am #

      Hey Rob, can I ask how you know that the reduction in points limits at the GT Heat 1 “worked well”?

      I’m just curious as to where you are getting your information? Not trying to attack you, just wondering if there was any data released about the event. I was at the event and only one of my games went past turn 4. That was the experience of many of the players that I talked with as well.

      • Alpharius Walks July 14, 2018 9:23 am #

        But that beats Turn 3, right? With a 33% improvement clearly everything is fixed.

        More seriously, thank you for your report from London and confirmation that for many attendees the drop to 1750 is not the panacea some thought it might be.

        I cannot comment on 6th-7th since I took those editions off but at least going back to competitive play in 3rd when I started that and continuing on there have always been players who want to work the clock to their advantage with slow play or similar antics. If I remember correctly back when U.S. Games Day was a thing their events were only 1500 points and you could still see that going on.

        At some point we have to admit that judge observations and event rules without chess clocks are just not going to work. Happily we seem to be getting there.

    • Alpharius Walks July 14, 2018 9:07 am #

      Win or lose, not being able to finish games because some people cannot or chose not to is an incredibly frustrating experience. While the LVO situation may have been a catalyst as far as publicly documenting that it does happen even at top tables, this is not an issue isolated to the major events.

      Because of this there is increasing interest in chess clocks below the LVO level as the same types of situations continue to present themselves and are detrimental to events. While a lot are no doubt waiting to see how chess clocks work in practice at some of the marquee events, as long as use is successful at LVO I would anticipate far more widespread use and acceptance.

  3. Alpharius Walks July 14, 2018 8:51 am #

    I think “You might need these guys.” in #8 is a bit of an under exaggeration. In the events I have played in those using movement trays can finish out games. Those running high model counts and not doing seem to really struggle with this. As always I am sure there are exceptions but definitely if you going high model see what Litko and others have to offer to make your life easier.

    It is interesting how much #10 crops up. I can guarantee that knowing your rules will save you a lot of time and stop you from cheating your opponents (presumably unintentionally but why go there if you can avoid it in the first place). I would definitely recommend trying to get a few competitive games before taking an army to a bigger event. While I do not mind helping players learn the game outside of that environment, basically teaching someone their Codex because they borrowed an army after hearing it is good and have no idea how the more complex stuff actually works is a pretty big drag at a GT.

  4. defl0 July 14, 2018 7:29 pm #

    Or… We could just change the ITC scoring rules so that people don’t get gypped out of points in games not finished… Like most other tournaments that realized coring per turn is stupid. Face it. Everyone just wants a game worth of point. Chess clocks are stupid, and we are not talking about the real problem.

    • BigVik July 15, 2018 10:55 pm #

      thanks for reading the article!

      As at the last GW run GT the winner admitted that they slow played with an ork horde list to win the tournament, much to the costernation of warhammer tv. This has been found to give fast horde armies an unfair advantage in “end of game” objectives which allow you to score fully at the bottom of 2 or 3.

      I would be very interested in what you feel is the real problem in competitive 40k, can you elaborate please?

    • Neon_Katt July 18, 2018 12:20 am #

      Also please use cheated. That word is a racial slur and it isn’t going to go over well at tournaments…

      Also have you tried chess clocks. They are super easy

  5. Neon_Katt July 18, 2018 12:18 am #

    As a former chess player who played with clocks all the time it isn’t even an issue. I have years of experience practicing quick decision making. The practing with clocks is the best way to use them as after a while you will get tired losing to time and you will start to create techniques to go faster. Heck I played a lot of speed chess which really pushes it. Try playing with less time as well and really train yourself under pressure.

  6. B. Raven July 18, 2018 3:39 pm #

    Another suggestion – Checklists. Commonly used by pilots to ensure mistakes aren’t made when under pressure. I have found that they not only speed up play but they minimize mistakes, especially for special rules/stratagems that need to occur at a specific time in the round. I can quickly glance at my checklist to ensure I haven’t missed anything before moving on to the next phase. I play Necrons and it really helps to remember that in addition to reanimation protocols, I need to declare MWBD before I move any models. I can’t tell you how many times I remember to do this only after reaching the shooting phase.

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