Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Tactics" and the Spirit of the Game

I was listening to a podcast the other day and one of the guys on it talked about how he overcomes animosity for his Goblin Wolf Riders by pointing them to his own board edge (effectively facing the wrong way). I appreciate it is legal but it really strikes me as sad.

For me there are some things that are not really in the “spirit” of the game and this is one of them. I’m sure it can be defended as tactical nous but to me it crosses a line where you are just trying too hard.

The most common example of these types of “tactics” occurs with frenzied troops, particularly Khorne Chariots. Here one rules mechanism is used to circumvent another rules mechanism. Because chariots can’t march and can pivot on the spot, there is no disadvantage to facing them backwards and moving them in reverse across the battlefield. Well no disadvantage apart from the loss of self-respect!

A similar ludicrous situation was captured in a picture of the last UKGT Final (I think it was Final and not a Heat). On the top six tables there were 6-7 Daemon armies and in virtually every case there was a Bloodthirster advancing on the enemy using his buttocks as the main attack weapon. This was to get around the Siren song standoff that graced each of these games.

For me there is a general line marking “spirit of the game” which I will not cross. Generally the disadvantage attached to own rules mechanism is offset by another (albeit may be the overall points cost). If the “tactic” you need to employ to get around a disadvantage looks ludicrous then it probably crosses the line.

I would never reverse my Skaven Furnace down the board to avoid them being drawn out of position. Similarly if playing a Khorne chariot it would always be pointed to the enemy. So are there things you believe contravene the “spirit” but not the rules of the game? Or is it not really an issue and everything is fair in love and Warhammer?


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  2. So a tournament organiser will spend ours angsting over what unit combinations are okay in lists, but will not quietly step in and say "Don't be a dick" when someone uses such an obvious exploit?

  3. Strange, I've never though that "playing according to the rules constituted being a dick". It's rather sad that someone needs so desperately to, to win or something that they actually want others to play according to some random internal moral compass not reflected in the rules themselves.

  4. I disagree, the point of the game is to have fun. Even says that in the rules. Exploiting omissions in the rules in such a fashion risks that. I think it is perfectly fair that a tournament organiser makes a ruling against that exploit if they want to.

    I would expect that particular loophole to be closed out at some point.

    Being a good sport is not exactly "some random internal moral compass". The rules of being a good sport of been used (and abused) for thousands of years. Some tournaments even recognise this explicitly with a points system (which I do not really agree with).

  5. In fact, given that the rules explicitly state that there is a "Spirit of the game", it would then be up to the person using the exploit to justify that it does not infact break the intention of the rules.

    I would quite like to see a justification of this, given that there are a lot of quite specific rules around unit facing and maneuver, it would have to be quite a good one.

    The "the rules don't say I can't" is not a valid justification in my mind. I'll note the rules don't explicitly prevent you from doing a lot of things... loaded dice for example. I don't see any rules explicitly preventing you from hiding your opponents units when they are not looking either. Extreme examples perhaps, but they hopefully illustrate my point.

  6. I think there are two different sides, and both are wrong for trying to push their beliefs onto the other.

    Firstly, lets look at backwards bloodthirsters.
    Is this a loophole, destined to be closed? No. Categorically, this is not a loophole. There is a downside to running about with your back facing the world, so this isn't why it's wrong.

    Is there anything in the rules making it wrong? No, again, categorically, there is nothing in the rulebook that makes this a no-no.

    Is this wrong according to the fluff, the story that goes with the game? Absolutely. A bloodthirster is one of the most violent in your face units that would never hold back. It would always charge right up the guts to where ever it could deal the most blood shed.

    Now I respect that to some people, the cinematic side of things has to make sense. The story has to be fitting, and by both players adhering to this side of things, you can have some really fun, enjoyable games. Perhaps some of the best!

    But I think those players also need to respect that there is another side to the coin. Where you see an impressive general of the mighty Khorne, someone else is no less valid for seeing nothing more than a collection of statistics.

    This is a very slippery path to start going down, and IMO - the wrong one, because it is a grey area.

    It is equally against the spirit of the fluff to see things like, hormagants holding objectives instead of streaming headlong into enemy gunfire.

    It is equally against the spirit of the fluff to use a key unit as bait, rather than the all mighty hammer it was meant to be.

    Hell, best real example I can think of. I have seen, in countless games before playing his Skaven, where Pete has drawn up against armies that were content to castle in a corner and shoot them before struggling through some counter attacks when the opportunity arose, just like the spirit of their army fluff dictates they should play. Meanwhile, Pete has decided that he can't gain anything by attacking them, so has instead sat in the opposite corner and spent 6 turns practically doing nothing but saying "i do nothing, your turn, thanks for the 10-10 draw".

    Is this in the 'spirit of the game'? HELL NO. Is it the right choice to make strategically? Yep.

    When you start stepping in on "thats not in the spirit of the game in my opinion" - where does it end? "Hi, I over rule your game. Your tyranids would never hang back and do nothing, you would stream forward towards him. You lose 3 objectives to 0".

    Its much easier if everyone just enjoys the game in their own way, and uses the actual rules that we all have to play by as the one constant, instead of trying to force things back and forward.

    I'm not about to tell someone they're not allowed to charge their unit into me because its a stupid move, and would be against the spirit of competition after all.

  7. Here's one from a recent game - 10 Squig Hoppers facing imminent death from a unit of 8 Shades. Hoppers reformed to put the Giant Squig (with Charmed Shield) Boss at the front of a conga-line.

    Hoppers take some shooting casualties, not enough to hit the Boss and remove the Shield.

    Next turn Hoppers "charge". Shades would have murdered them (hitting on 3s with Hatred) but now could only attack the Boss (WS5 - hitting on 4s) with str3 (vs toughness4) against the Charmed Shield followed by a 4+ armour save, 3 wound character. Boss (and Squig) ate Shades, Hoppers waved pom-poms.

    Tactical? Yes. Gamey as hell? I think so. Spirit of the Game? Felt very iffy.

  8. Thanks Charlie. My understanding of the backwards bloodthirster is wrong. In the case of something not being an actual exploit, I am not in favor of bringing in the ban hammer.

    Running a game based on the fluff really belongs as a fun game between friends and not a competitive tournament.

  9. There are always weird things that crop up in Warhammer. The conga line mentioned above is certainly one of them. Another is the skirmish unit closing up into base to base with each other when charged, bringing the models at the end out of line of sight of the charging unit and then the charge fails.
    Mind you, there are just as many army list selections that could be argued to not be in the spirit of the game.

    I think after a while people just tend to get a feel for what is acceptable within their gaming group.

  10. I don't know how the backwards thirster works these days, but back then you were having 0 impact on the game as long as you remained backwards. You had some kind of Mexican stand off trying to neutralize each others siren, at which point you would turn it round and in the NEXT turn, start killing stuff with it.

    I think there's a big difference between something like this, and something like John Lampe claiming chaos greater daemons arent daemons because there is no rule saying that they're daemons.

    One to me is just playing the game, while the other is what I would consider bringing the integrity of the game into disrepute.

  11. There are always going to be grey areas with respects to rules...we don't want a rule book that is 10,000 pages long and every game taking 7 hours to play. That's just the nature of the beast. And that is where things like sportsmanship/spirit of the game come into it. A Bloodthirster advancing backwards? me that is a step too, backwards...