Friday, January 28, 2011

Choose this Not That - Part II, As Friendly as the Day is Long

Nyello, here is part 2 in the series, building a list for friendly play. This time we're going a little more broad; less about specific unit choices and more about mindset. But first, a bit more about me: I like to win when I play. I love me some 40k and I’d rather play 40k than do a lot of other activities I can think of, but the game is noticeably more fun when I win (or should I say much less fun when I lose?). And to my credit I win significantly more than I lose/tie. Thus if it seems like I’m looking down my nose while preaching from my high horse perched on a soap box, please try to look past that and apply the theory I’m spewing to the aspects of the game you enjoy.

All that being said, “Friendly Play” is that middle ground where, to varying degrees, competition devolves into mediocrity. Without the breeding ground of “Friendly Play” there would be no testing out units and lists for competitive viability. However that also inherently places this group of players and lists on a different rung of the 40k ladder because competitive play is an evolutionary refinement of “Friendly Play.” The reason for the continued quotes is that this category of play and its accompanying lists is incredibly broad. On one hand you have two friends playing a casual game to while away a couple hours and maybe test out a new idea – true friendly play. On the other you have an experienced player using a 95% refined list happily beating down a noob using one that is clearly on the coal end of the coal to diamond spectrum – not so friendly. “Friendly” lists also are the most subjective of the three list types – competitive, and fluffy being the other two – and thus constructing a “friendly” list really depends on what you want to achieve (dropping quotations now by the way, super annoying to keep using them). This subjectivity is what produces the devolution into mediocrity, leave people to their own devices with no clear goal and god knows what you’re gonna get – Jersey Shore anyone? With that in mind I’ll attempt to provide said direction so that even if competition is not your aim you can at least have something to shoot for and not wallow in the mud with the unwashed masses.

Raise your hand if you like to play for the sake of playing. Now put your hand down, no one can actually see you and the question was rhetorical. If you like to play just to play, do whatever you want and have a good time doing it, none of what I’m saying will actually make a bit of difference to you. If you play for enjoyment, what part of the game gives you enjoyment? Is it the strategy, rolling dice, imagining the battle, being frustrated by the dice, or spending time not doing something else? Do you play to learn, to test, or to hang out with a new super hot girl/guy? Obviously not the last one. Regardless of your reason for playing in a non-competition setting, build your list to produce the most enjoyment for yourself. At least build it to provide the most fulfillment of what you think will bring you joy. That means if you have your tournament list almost ready and you want to see if one Leman Russ variant is more useful than another, play with both and see which you like. If you want to learn the game with your brand new battleforce, knock yourself out and hope you play against a kind-hearted teaching type, not an admitted narcissist and a-hole like me. And if you’re looking to beat some kid and feel good about yourself, know that everyone is going to think you’re an ass. This is where you discover that one of everything usually = loss, and that if a unit is good then more of that unit is usually better. Conversely this is where people play what they like, see Jersey Shore above. Friendly games are where the 40k equivalent of “GTL all day baby” lives since what people like isn’t always pretty but hey, to each their own. If they have fun and feel good doing it then at least the rest of us get to laugh at their expense while sharing the joy of the game. Be honest about your purpose for each game/list and be honest with your opponent, don’t be that guy that ruins a game without at least acknowledging that you have a “plays well with others” problem. I hate that this has sunk into a sportsmanship conversation but this level of play is where so many people are turned off from the game by dishonest or unabashedly rude people that it’s actually worth admitting that sportsmanship is important. Self-awareness is so critical to this level because it will determine if you want to evolve into other areas or just put on a smile and throw some dice without ruining someone else’s experience.

So how do you build a list, do you need to tone it down or up, should you feel bad or good about playing one way or another? Quick answer – yes and no to all of the above. If it makes you happy and your opponent is a good enough sport then hell, go to town. Do what you want for the purpose you want, just be honest with yourself about why you’re doing it and if necessary give your opponent fair warning. 40k is a fun game with something for everyone, so approach it that way. If you know yourself well enough that your fun comes from winning (oooh oooh me me!) then understand that friendly play is only so friendly for so long. Play with a purpose and you’ll be playing much longer than if you wander aimlessly through list after list and eventually lose interest.

Next up – Fluff. God help us.


What do you consider 'friendly' play? Is it a staging ground for competitive lists? An amorphous mass of catch-all pick-up games? Or maybe just something to do with little men for a few hours? 


  1. The bit about self awareness is dead-on. I've seen a few players try and try to convince themselves and others that they're casual players just looking to have fun, but once they get to the table the competitor comes out and they end up having a rough time because they want something out of the game that their list and opponent aren't prepared for.

  2. Not all of us no. I play for fun and to make sure my opponent has fun too. I refuse to Spam and play the beat face lists that are in vogue now just to feel good about my self.

  3. no i meant we all want to win, even if we are playing completely no spam friendly lists

  4. Generally speakin I use friendly games to test specific units rather then whole lists. I play a game with my friends specifically to test tournamnet lists where we are all aware that the goal is to beat face. Then is I want to add a new hammer unit etc to the list i know works already i will test in a friendly game. But only that unit not the whole beat face list. I like this series so far, good job.

  5. "Next up – Fluff. God help us."

    I have to admit I have been guilty of being the type of player Dis has described. I know more recently I have taken steps to actively curb that behavior by not playing my Space Wolves or 15 Terminator Salamander list on league nights. Also by beginning a non-optimal Blood Angel army and an Emperor's Children themed Chaos army with no oblits/defilers/vindicators/predators, I am hoping to get back to having fun on Tuesday nights. Obviously I am hoping to win games/leagues but I am aiming to be less of TFG on non-tournament days.

    I am still going to try and wreck your face in a tournament though, unless your a kid... =]

  6. @Disdainful - thank you for saying it so I didn't need to.

    @Tuff Love - I eagerly await your _completely_ open-minded and fair assessment (honest guv'nor) of a valid approach to the practice of gaming. :p

    I think you're onto something with your approach to 'friendly'* play, though - more than anywhere else, they're the spaces where goals need to be explicit, understood and negotiated/negotiable. When you don't have an Event of some sort to define your approach and playstyle for you, you're responsible for having your own fun, which - as you so rightly say - means you need to know what your idea of fun is and be up-front about presenting it to others.

    * - surely all play is to some extent friendly? The words 'unfriendly' and 'play' grind in my head like bicycle gears in a desert...