Tuesday, January 30, 2018

40K - A Blight On The Game

After saying that wargaming is not a spectator sport it is time to fess up. I spent a large part of my weekend watching 40k live from the Las Vegas Open up on the big screen.

Billed as the world's biggest 40k singles event - which it is with 500 players - the tournament goes through six rounds before splitting into a knockout Top 8. To make the Top 8 you needed to go 6-0-0 to guarantee a spot or worse case 5-1-0 (even a couple of those missed out). So no room for slip ups.

In the end the Top 3 lists were essentially the same Ynnari/Aliatoic list with the variance between them less than 100 points. This in itself is a potential problem - maths would say it is unlikely that out of a field of that size you would get three identical lists at the top unless there were some significant inherent advantages - but not the subject of this diatribe.

As we moved into the Top 8 games there was some very questionable sportsmanship on show. And there was a certain karmic satisfaction that those who "lived by the sword, died by the sword". However the most blatant "crime" was slow play.

Cyril the Snail is Usain Bolt compared to some players

Prior to the Final Game, I understand that the player who finished 2nd had not had a game go to Turn Three throughout the event. Certainly in his Semi-Final his 1st Turn took over an hour and his 2nd Turn around 30 minutes. In a game with 2.5 hours allocated this is unacceptable to most people watching. The Judges obviously thought so because they but in place a 20 minute limit per player turn in the Final. This meant that they at least got through three turns.

Slow Play wasn't restricted to a single player though he seemed particularly plagued by it. The player inquestion, is a Team USA player at the ETC, Captain of the ATC Team champions, had led the ITC Championship all year until the final game at LVO.....so obviously a very good and experienced player. Yet throughout the semi final, in particular, he was plagued by tactical indecision, needed to look up reasonably simple rules on his own army and continually questioning his opponent's rules. I appreciate he was playing under pressure but the impression portrayed was that it wasn't all innocent.

My view is that Slow Play whether innocent or deliberate is a blight on the game. I also believe that players who attend events should have a reasonable expectation that they will play their games to a natural conclusion. I am also determined that the Fields of Blood NZGT should not experience problems related to games not ending "organically".

To that end, participants should bear the following in mind when preparing/playing at the event:

  • Army List - it is a reasonable expectation that in a 2.5 hour game that players should split the time equally. To that end, just because you bring a high model count army e.g. Astra Militarum, Orcs, Tyranids, etc. you shouldn't be expecting to take up more than 50% of the available time. The onus is on you to play at a speed that guarantees at least 5 turns or cut your cloth differently. Practice prior to the event, time your turns, know your tactics and your rules.
  • Player Turn - to ensure that the game reaches a conclusion then no Player Turn should really be taking more than 20 minutes. Players should be monitoring time between themselves and self-regulating. If issues arise then calling an Umpire over early in the game is probably the best course.
In the end I'm sure that most players want games decided by tactics and die rolls rather than running out of time. The onus is on the players to work together to achieve this in the first instance. Players should attend with that expectation. However Umpires will get involved if the players can't work it out.


  1. I've been reading up on some of the coverage of the controversy at the LVO, and I have mixed feelings.
    One player was reported to make a big mistake and was penalised for it by his opponent. I think in a competitive game, you don't need to give your opponent an advantage if they make a mistake like that, its the sporting thing to do, but you shouldn't be demonised for capitalising on their mistake. However, after reading the accounts of slow playing by the Eldar player, then rushing his opponent and arguing every point, it does seem to be very unsporting and not a great representation of the game.

    I do attend tournaments that are normally 3 hour games. I have never had a problem in getting to at least turn 4, with most of my games going to turn 5. I do play Marines, so generally not a high model count army. However, I do take lots of photos and extensive notes of my games to write them up, but still manage to finish a game.

    I've only been accused of slow playing twice in all my tournament games, and both games finished at least 30 minutes early. It was particularly galling when one player accused me of slow playing after his first turn took about 45 minutes compared to my 15 minutes for my first turn. He decided to measure a 9" bubble around my entire army and mark it with dice, them spent ages deciding where he would put his deep striking terminators, then ages deciding what they would split their fire at. It was not a pleasant gaming experience.

  2. I disagree with you about the lists being identical. The fact that one list had the Ynncarne in it when the other two did not means that their was a difference of at least 337 points alone.

    1. Hyperbole. Not exact but very very close.

      The general comment coming out of LVO is that there should be restrictions on Ynnari use of Craftworld stratagems.

    2. None of Nanavati, Grippondo (both Final) or Chester (semifinal) had the Yncarne. Nick says his and Chester's list were 30 pts different while Grippando fitted in a Warlock Conclave

  3. Interesting article, which took me down a fascinating Internet rabbit hole. Hadn't been across the LVO 'situation' due to a very busy few days, but I am now. Anyway, came across this article from Nick Nanavati himself on the topic - https://beastcoastgaming.com/stop-slow-playing/

    Not sure how feasible his proposed solution is but I have a feeling that the community wouldn't want it, and GW wouldn't sanction or support it. And given how close FLG and GW are at the moment in terms of supporting the presentation of 40K to the world, I don't see it being introduced.

    But in my opinion perhaps it has a place such as the top 8 tables of a tournament like LVO.

    1. Yeah it was quite clear watching his games that Nick was mindful of the time each player spent. He was writing down the duration on a turn by turn basis.

      Having played two years with a time clock with Kings of war I believe it does make you faster. i'm not convinced they'll work for 40k as people will throw up "what ifs" that in reality are just noise. I do think saying watch your time and if your opponent is approaching 20 mins per PT then say something (them in first instance, then an umpire).

  4. Time clocks will work. The Umpire could also manage it. You start at the start time, then 30 minutes you start the first turn, if one player hasn't finished deploying then they are not going first.
    Then every 20 minutes you change the turn, regardless of where you are if you are behind schedule you switch.

  5. I agree with John regarding time clocks. Frankly one of the best aspects I like about Kings of War is the time clocks... they should be a standard tournament feature (regardless of game system) in my opinion.

    1. Agreed. Its funny though, how everyone who has actually used Time Clocks in a game (WMH or KoW) thinks theyre great and everyone who hasnt thinks its the worst idea ever.

      Its takes some mental adjustment but you dont even think about it that much after a few games.

    2. Time clocks are really great features at tournaments, it has certainly increased the pace of my games, KoW or otherwise. I don't find I miss out either as the post game chat is far better than the mid game chat. I don't even stress in game anymore as I'm usually thinking ahead more.

      Slow play is a plague on wargaming and I would see it gone through any means.

  6. Let me state up-front that I'm a gamer who can think of nothing worse than competitive play, it seems to bring out the worst in some people, and I don't need that in my gaming.

    However the conversation on slow-play is interesting, and slow play isn't a problem confined to competitions.

    I think chess clocks are an excellent solution to the problem, since gaming occurs in discrete turns - each typically owned by one of the players - It might not work so well for some of the more interactive skirmish systems.

    The question then is what sanctions to apply to the slow player.
    Let's assume malign intent - the player has accumulated a significant lead, and aims to block out the game for a points win.

    I think we can learn a little looking outside our own hobby.
    Plenty of sports (with far greater prizes at stake) work on a stop-start basis, most of these have been plagued by "gamesmanship", and many have introduced sanctions.

    There appear to be two types of time wasting in sport. Running down the clock to preserve a lead or delaying the game to recover from fatigue, injury, penalty boxing. The former seems to be the main problem in gaming.

    The most common sanction in professional sport appears to be a monetary fine - it is often argued that this is ineffective as the players enormous salaries dwarf even the largest sanction. Besides fines are hardly practical in low-budget amateur hobbies - so don't map well to gaming.

    The other sanction (rarely exercised for on-field gamesmanship, but fairly common for sporting financial abuse) is some kind of in-game penalty. Typically a league points deduction.

    I see three possible aproaches for a gaming competition.

    1. Time's up, no more turns - The faster player gets a number of free turns near the end of the game. This confers an advantage to the offended player, but the degree of advantage depends heavily on the rule system.

    2. Points cap: Don't limit time, but measure it. Players going over 50% time have their game points capped. Potential to advantage the offended player IF he is awarded the docked points. Makes little difference in close games, or if the slow player is attempting to delay a defeat.

    3. Battlefield penalty. The overrunning player must start subsequent games with fewer points (Some of that dithering army got lost during an approach march). This really hits the abuser where it hurts, but benefit goes to the "next opponent" and not the offended against player. It's also ineffective during the last game of a tournament.