Sunday, November 4, 2012

Comp in 40k... (A Guest Rant)

I recently explained my absence from the 40k community here in Melbourne for personal reasons.  When I returned I found comp in 6th Ed to be a hotly debated issue. As I feel removed from the debate I had someone who has been along for the ride to put their two cents in.                                                                In a lot of ways I think this topic has been bashed out a lot over the last few years.  To have comp- to not have comp that is the question!
Comp seems to on a lot of occasions polarise people into two camps – those think it is a necessary part of an event and those who don’t and view it as a limiting factor to their enjoyment of the game.  Both sides are welcome to their opinion and when asked I would say I fall on the side of I believe comp should exist in the 40k tournament scene and I see it as integral to creating event environment that creates variety and seeks to embrace all aspects of a hobby. But I see no reason for this being the only way to play and can see a place for no comp events to exist as well!

So there’s my view and now for a little grenade:
There has been of late a movement in this state where a group has actively sought to break composition systems run at tournaments either by actively collaborating to stack numbers of players in the field with unbalanced lists that would be comp’d heavily so as to negate the impact of the score.  So much so that in several cases it was not about participating in the community event but purely from the point of view creating an environment where their opinion on how the game should be played at a tournament level  will end up being the only pervading view in most major events.
I personally find this approach disappointing and also disrespectful to the multitude of views out there on how the game should be played.
The reason is that 1st and foremost 40k tournaments are and should always be community events.  They are there to grow the hobby in my mind, collect a range of people who play this game together to have fun in organised play.  While winning is fun it really should not be the primary reason for the event.  There are a range of skill levels and competencies that will make up such events and as such it is equally important for these people to be catered to no matter if they are casual gamers or competitive gamers.
2ndly the event should aim to display a wide range of aspects to the hobby from game play through to modelling and painting.  These things can act as major advertisement for the community and also when done right can attract new people to the game.  The concept that GW bricks and mortar storesare the key to bringing in new players is rubbish in my opinion- clubs and events that are well run and focus on inclusiveness are what create the next generation of players.
So how does the above relate to comp you say?  
Simple – as Jervis pointed out in the most recent white dwarf.
“limits are intended to make it easier for players who have never met before to play by reducing the availability of some of wilder machines and monsters”
this obliges players to choose representative armies and puts and appropriate emphasis on generalship and (good)games play”

He goes onto to talk about the “intent” to level the playing field in the “unnatural environment” that tournament creates.  

And I agree with him – what I have seen since coming back to the game 3 years ago after roughly a decade’s break is that those who dislike comp are also strong proponents of math hammer and work on model and points efficiencies and what the right build or “optimal” build is.  I can understand that to an extent given the cost of this game in real $ terms.  But then again they also seem to fail at times to really explore anything else that this game brings- such as the fluff or modelling aspect.  I rarely see well painted or thematic armies from these individuals or even an attempt at some aspect of coherency of force as it is all about the force optimisation so as to ensure enough turn by turn damage is put out and that they reduce (as much as is possible for a dice game) the randomisation of results. I.e they stack the deck and are bold to tell people they do so.
It is fair to say assessing unit effectiveness is part of the game and creating a list that has synergy is valid, yet I feel and observe that when this becomes the only consideration, the game devolves into two pugilists hitting each other, with no real thought to strategy on the table as the game is won or lost in the list building. As a friend of mine calls it Army Builder Hammer, the game within the game.
The other observation I have to the no comp environment is the lack of effective terrain to force any real thought as to tactical game-play.  Tables are sparse and empty with a few interesting mounds of something but all in all are shooting galleries- it is interesting to note in America where No-comp is very present that there is a heavy consideration given to effective tournament terrain.

Nova makes good use of this- the best explanation for this is on the Whiskey and 40k blog:
There is clear consideration about how tables should be set up – now I think this applies as equally to comp’d events as it does to no comp’d events but my observation is that non comp'd seem to focus on this less and allow terrain to exacerbate the unlevel playing field that exists. The argument would be all those who attend such an event would be taking equally “optimised” lists yet if this is the only option available then surely that begins to limit the variety to play that is out there and narrows the freedom to play as to really compete it becomes more about if you only take such and such combination as otherwise your losing efficiency that will then mean your less likely to win the “boxing” match.
So where is all this leading. Well put simply Comp has a valid and important part to play in this game, its integral to introducing players to the game, and building a stronger community. Composition scoring in events is not a bad thing and I worry about an environment where individuals and group seek to remove an element that can and does add range of benefits to the hobby and game as a whole.  I look forward to events such as Arcannacon and MIF and even Kill count (if it ever returns) enjoying a strong following where people intend to enjoy what comp brings and not to de stabilize it and remove it from the spectrum.  


  1. I find that the idea of comp is noble, but I haven't really seen a good way to do it. It generally tries to limit certain builds because they are seen as too powerful, but ends up just making different builds top tier, so doesn't accomplish the goal, and usually also hits a number of weaker builds too.

  2. Love this article. Have put up a "few" of my own as of late on how it is happening in Turkey. The love of WAAC is high here in the current tournament scene, and in my opinion also killing the scene. Less players are joining due to so many "3 colors minimum" armies being fielded with the same cookie cutter builds to win. Since sportsmenship, and painting are not really rewarded, but if you don't abide by them you are punished instead.

    Checking out Whiskey and 40k now.. thanks again for this, and linked it from my blog in my article going up today! Cheers and enjoy the weekend!