Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tournament Tuesdays: Building a Winning Team

One of the efforts that I am trying to make with this blog is to move towards having a standard theme for each day of the week. Saturdays are dedicated to the Online Contest Round Up, and I will be unveiling the Thursday theme in September/October. Monday’s theme looks to be a weekly “On the Bench” segment, while Wednesday is all about the “Wednesday Peek”. Sundays are going to be my day off, so that leaves me with Tuesdays and Fridays. After some consideration, I have decided that Tuesdays are going to become “Tournament Tuesdays”. My standard Tuesday post will discuss something related to tournaments. It could be my twisted views on running one. It could be me discussing how I prepare for one or it could be me recapping one that I attended. The point is that on Tuesdays the focus of this blog will be something related to tournaments.

If I were to equate the game of Warhammer 40K to a style of sport, I would say that it is primarily an individual type event. By this I mean that it is usually one player versus another player. In the last decade though, the team format has grown and become more popular. I believe this is in large part to the success of Adepticon, but other noteworthy events such as Flatcon, have also helped bring this format more recognition. When it comes to this format, I believe that in order to be successful at it, the approach to preparing for it is different from preparing for an individual style tournament.

When it comes to preparing for a team tournament, I feel the first thing that a team needs to do is be honest with its self about why they are attending the event. If the goal is truly to just hang with a couple of close friends and play a few games for fun, there really isn’t much that needs to be done (outside of meeting the minimum requirements to play). However, if the goal is to truly be successful, there are a couple of things that I would suggest doing to increase your odds of doing well.

I Know You

One of the biggest strengths a team can have going into an event is the members of the team knowing each other. It sounds obvious, but a strong team is built upon each player knowing what his partners will do in a certain situation. This helps because it allows for more effective communication between teammates without giving your opponents an idea of your strategy. Knowing each other also helps by allowing for teammates to compensate for each other’s weaknesses. Most of all, it makes for a fun event because you are sharing the experience with people you know and enjoy.

Think Creativity, Not Diversity

In the second Adepticon Team Tournament, the team I was on decided we would each bring our respective armies and create a reason for them aligning together. It was a cool idea and we had fun, but looking back, our theme didn’t really work and didn’t help us when it came to placing in the tournament. If we remove the discussion of unit synergy for a moment (we’ll get back to it), the idea that diversity can make for a good theme can be a double edged sword.

The problem teams typically face when it comes to diversity is that their “story” may not be clear in the brief amount of time the judge has to review the team’s army. In my example, the theme was the Deceiver tricking the armies into working together. We had written up a two page story for the army and did one base that combined elements from each force. In the end though to the casual observer, it was four armies brought together for the event and not a true unified force.

In comparison to what we did, most of the successful teams field armies that are pulled from the same codex or closely aligned ones. Again if we ignore unit synergy, the reason for doing this is that it allows for the building of a theme that is easier to recognize. Four imperial guard forces is a pretty easy theme to understand upon first glance.

So if a team is eager to be diverse, how can they do it without sacrificing their theme? The trick is to be creative and find a theme that fits the diversity. For example, if three players want to play Imperial Guard but the forth is set on fielding Necrons, why not model the necron force to be Adeptus Mechanicus. Another example would be if a team is broken between the various Eldar factions, have one player build a Harlie force and the other three can be Dark, Standard, and Redneck eldar. The point I am trying to make is that diversity doesn’t have to be thrown out the window if some creativity and a little knowledge of the fluff is applied.

People in Your Neighborhood

Having a creative theme is just the beginning of building an effective team. The next piece is breaking down how various units and pairing will work together. In the case of a two man tournament, this can be done over coffee and donuts. When it comes to the majors though, like Adepticon, a four member team really needs to sit down and spend some time figuring out how units will interact with each other. This is where diversity can become very tempting.

While a theme can help win the judges, it may equal slaughter on the battlefield. A single necron force in a team army is going to suffer greatly from phase out issues because it will likely be the focus of the enemy. This doesn’t mean that all four forces need to be identical, just that random pairings are going to reduce effectiveness.

When it comes to each unit in one player’s force, the other members of the team should look at their own forces and figure out which units can work well with them. If any player determines that their force cannot directly support a certain unit, the team should evaluate what is the best course of action for that unit. Unlike in a single player format, their really can be no oddball units in a force if the intention is to place well.

Practice Means Better

No amount of practice will make you perfect, though enough training with Sergeant Slaughter can. (Yo Joe!) Anyways, a team that does not practice is likely not to do well regardless of other skills. The difference between knowing your team mates and practice is that you learn what others can potentially throw at you. Right now, Imperial Guard armies are “in”, so if I was attending a team event in the next few months, I would want to practice against a good number of IG armies.

Another reason to practice is to become familiar with an event’s style of missions. Adepticon uses the PST format, but other events just use the standard missions from the book. Becoming comfortable with an event’s style of missions will remove some of the pregame jitters and make a team’s game play flow better during each round.

At the end of the day, while the team format will never replace the single player format as the most common style of tournament play, it does add an interesting dynamic to the competitive environment. To be successful in a team format, the team must be committed to each other and to winning the event. The combination of players and styles can lead to some struggles when combining such elements, but with a little effort and fore thought, these can be overcome and lead to a winning team.

Tournament Size Poll - A poll has been added asking readers what point size do they prefer for 40K tournaments. The results of the poll will be used in an upcoming Tournament Tuesday article.

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