While usually my articles bring you solid(ish) advice on playing Genestealer Cults in 40k this week we will look at a more general topic that all players can benefit from even if they aren’t playing a faction with a 40% win rate!
40k is a hobby with many different layers it’s players can enjoy. From the collection of the best models in wargaming, becoming a talented painter, or becoming a 40k famous tournament player, 40k enthusiasts have many different areas they can focus their time on to improve in their hobby. Unfortunately, this hobby also comes with a huge time commitment. Buying, assembling, and painting an army takes a substantial amount of time, and just playing even a single game of 40k takes hours. It can be difficult to make progress in any area of the hobby because of the sheer amount of time commitment each aspect of 40k requires.
I am not the person to write about improving in the painting aspect of this hobby (my last completed army was Necrons, they are a beautiful silver), but I do have some ideas on how to make the most out of your 40k gaming time. Maybe you are looking to attend a tournament, or maybe you simply want to not lose the majority of games that you play. The best way to get better at 40k is to play focused practice games with players who are better then you.
You may be thinking, I play plenty of games before my tournaments, that’s my practice! While it is true that playing games is the best way to get better at 40k there is a way to fast track your 40k level ups. In order to make the most of their time investment into playing games a player should treat each game as a focused exercise where they actively try to improve at the game of 40k. By focusing on decisions within the game, the impact of strategies that your opponent used, or the overall performance of units within an army list you can gain a better understanding of how your army works on the tabletop.
The first step in focused practice is to go into your games of 40k with the mindset you are playing to improve your craft. My gaming group and I have very different game experiences when we are playing purely for the fun of it as opposed to when we are practicing for an upcoming event. An example of our practice game etiquette is talking about our strategies out loud at the table in an open conversation with our opponent. While having open communication during all games of 40k is the best way to play this game style goes a step further and includes your opponent in your tactical thinking and game planning. During a normal game of 40k your opponent may not want to tell you charging your Silent King into 10 Guardsmen is the wrong play even if you kill them because his Bullgryn are within counter charge range, but during a focused practice game this mistake could become a teachable moment. These types of practice games tend to take longer then your average games of 40k due to the discussion happening on both sides, but they are worth the time commitment!
Setting goals can also be an excellent way to motivate yourself into getting more proficient at the hobby. While playing focused practice games is helpful it can start to feel like a burden if you are not working toward something. Your goals should be multi-leveled and realistic. For example, I am not making a goal to win a Super Major event anytime soon since I am generally a 2-3 player at local GTs. An excellent starting goal for me would be to get a winning record at a local GT with a stretch goal of going 4-1. By setting this standard I now have something to work toward, and keep me focused, during my practice games. Think of your goals as a set of stairs you are climbing to reach your ultimate goal within the hobby. Each little step is a small goal that gets you closer to the top.
A simple tip to focus your 40k practice would be to start a notebook that includes notes on your recent 40k games, your 40k goals, and anything else you have learned during your time in the hobby that can help improve your game play down the long road of 40k mastery. The act of physically writing down your lessons learned will help you focus on them during games in the future, and now you can easily remember to not put your Silent King within shooting range of an Astra Militarum gunline so a quarter of your army isn’t killed turn one (I’m not bitter). This notebook will become extremely useful over time as a tool to review before events. Keeping all of the knowledge gained during practice games of 40k straight in your head is almost impossible, but having those ideas written out for review will make them much easier to remember.
At the end of the day 40k is just a leisure hobby that is supposed to be relaxing and fun. While some people may find putting extra focus on their games helps them improve and enjoy the hobby more, not all people will feel this way. Sometimes putting extra focus and effort into something can take away the joy you get out of that activity, and if that is the case I highly recommend you ignore everything I have written here (well except this part). Besides, it doesn’t matter if you are crushing all of your opponents if you (and they) are having a bad time while it’s happening .
I hope some of these tips can help focus your games into becoming more productive practice sessions. Unless I play you at a tournament, and then I hope you did not take any of this advice and I crush you while we have a great game!