Win at What Cost?

Sportsmanship in 40k is having a sportsmanship revolution. As the game becomes more and more visible online, players are finding that they cannot be jerks, cheats, or shady individuals and get away with it.

Leaders of the game like Richard Siegler and Nick Nanavati are showing that top table environments are chock full of moments where sportsmanship reigns over being cutthroat. Case-in-point is Nanavati reminding Siegler to use his melta-buff on his commander in the finals of the Atlanta Pro event, which didn’t ultimately win the game, but was a solid sportmanship moment during a game where a win translated into some serious cash.

Siegler has been featured in numerous interviews talking about his desire to win a game because he played better than his opponent, not because his opponent forgot to take an action or use a rule. He also makes the point that it’s just as important to make a friend in a game, than to beat that person at Warhammer.

Which can bring about the question: How nice should I be? I was discussing this with a friend of mine, Lieutenant Dan, from Goonhammer, and we thought about scenarios where you can see your opponent making a blatant mistake that you know you’ll be able to take advantage of. 

I think about a game I had two years ago at NOVA. My opponent made it explicitly clear that he was going to fight a unit of Storm Guardians with his Tzaangors, and then wrap a unit of Wracks because there was no way they could escape a tri-tip.

We were playing game 6 of NOVA and not up for any awards. We were essentially middle of the road players having a practice game.

I was presented with a dilemma; do I tell him that you can’t trap Wracks? They have a 2 CP strat called Black Cornucopias which lets them be removed from the board and appear nine inches away from enemy models, and you can use it when within one inch of enemy models. His intent is obvious. Neither of us is playing for anything. The only thing that will come from me not telling him is a gotcha moment and he will lose his entire unit of Tzaangors. 

I’m not obligated to tell him this; he obviously doesn’t know about the strat. His loss, right? I’m not responsible for another players knowledge. This is a competitive game, bro! Sucks to suck. Git Gud. All of that. 

On the other hand, he made his intent very clear. We talked the whole thing out and he showed me how he would be able to totally trap my unit. I had obviously made a mistake by letting this happen, but I had an out. He didn’t know about my obscure little stratagem. The fool! How could he not have read all the stratagems in the Drukhari book?

Ultimately I pointed out that you cannot trap Wracks, and he chose to kill the Wracks and wrap my Storm Guardians instead. I felt good about that. At a certain point, I need to remember that this is a game.

G-A-M-E. With little toys.

It might be set in the grim darkness of the 41st Millenium where there is only war but we’re just a couple of grown men playing with toy soldiers in an event hall.

I think these situations fall into a couple of categories, and there are rules I follow when I identify each situation. If somebody tells me their intent clearly in their turn, I am going to tell them if I have a trick up my sleeve. You’re going to charge a unit near my Solitaire? Watch out, I’ve got a 6’ heroic intervention strat. You want to wrap my Death Jester? You can’t; he effectively has the fly keyword. 

To me, there isn’t an acceptable scenario for a gotcha moment. I agree with a lot of top players; I don’t want to win because somebody forgot a rule here, or didn’t know about an obscure ability. At the end of the day as much as I want to win, I want to make friends and be a decent human being. Everyone knows how much a gotcha moment sucks, and there is no reason to continue doing that.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



11 Responses to “Win at What Cost?”

  1. Faitherun February 15, 2020 6:28 pm #

    Awesome article, and one I would love to see pinned somehow

  2. steven pampreen February 15, 2020 7:50 pm #

    I’m willing to win with a gotcha moment and willing to lose by them. Some of my favorite moments have been on the receiving end of gotcha moments.

    Including the gotcha mentioned in the article! I just enjoy the game differently I suppose.

    • Conor Lobb February 16, 2020 9:36 pm #

      Absolutely man! Everyone has their own ways of enjoying the game and all are valid in their own right.

      • Conor O Lobb February 16, 2020 9:48 pm #

        In general, I would just feel bad having a discussion about what my opponent is going to do and pulling the rug out from under them.

        • steven pampreen February 17, 2020 5:42 am #

          yeah, my one loss at Socal this year was talking through trapping a spiritseer with centurions. Which then proceeded to use wings of falcion to fly out of the trap. Super fun game and Ray definitely deserved the win.

          • Conor O Lobb February 17, 2020 7:24 am

            Ahhh good ol’ Falchou. To me, that is kind of a feel bad, but I can see the logic.

  3. Rob Butcher February 16, 2020 12:07 am #

    I’m not sure about your choice of “icons for sportsmanship” – at the LVO one stayed and won, one lost one game and gave up. The same one used a gotcha moment to win the LVO 2018.

    Obscure stratagems are a curse of W40K – but you do learn from your mistakes NOT just by reading the books. The more you practice, the more you learn – especially if you are playing some-one prepared to help you have a fair/level game by pointing out the obscure rules/changes since the book was published.

    The world’s biggest game (in numbers of participants and fans) is football. FIFA has one set of rules for everyone from 0-110 to play to. W40K currently has too many … that leads to times of unsporting behaviour. Things that aren’t allowed in the TM set of rules, creep into other sets of missions/rules.

    • Conor Lobb February 16, 2020 9:42 pm #

      I would still call Siegler and Nanavati examples of sportsmanship. I think the 2018 LVO finals was a special scenario. In that case, both players agreed that the way Nanavati played it could have been done by either player. I believe Grippando said he would have done the same thing to Nanavati on the stream.

      A big part of what I believe is both players ought to be on the same page about the events in the game.

  4. Vikstalus February 17, 2020 6:10 am #

    I think a lot of communicating with your opponent is attempting to avoid situations like this. I have a good memory and remember a lot of rules but as you say not all of them, or I may misunderstand them. so if I was attempting to wrap something I would make my intention clear, then ask if you have a way to get out, even if I know you don’t just to make sure where both on the same page.

    I agree gotacha moments don’t feel good, but playing around mistakes is part of games. and by this I don’t advocate that everyone must know every rule. We as players just need to learn to ask the right questions so we can make decisions based on all the information.

    • Conor O Lobb February 17, 2020 7:14 am #

      I think a lot of avoiding situations is asking the right questions. That might be a good follow up to this; something like, How to avoid Gotcha’s with the right questions.

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