This article is reprinted with permission from "From The Warp".
This is the first article in what will be an ongoing series of articles written by guest authors on a variety of topics concerning the Warhammer 40k world.
Written by Patrick Vetter
With the passing of another Grand Tournament season I have been asked "How can I make it to be a top tier player or even win one of these auspicious tournaments?" My answer is both simple and complex; to consistently make it into the top 10% of any tournament it takes a combination of excellent army design, unwavering focus on mission objectives, excellence in painting, and supreme sportsmanship/personal composure. There is nothing harder than keeping your cool when luck goes against you and your battle plan just falls apart as your army is systematically destroyed by a tactician that sees everything you are doing and can stop you with proper deployment and a good dice roll. If my answer sounds easy believe me it is NOT.
These traits are skills that are learned over the years and it takes a truly dedicated person to achieve all these traits in order to pull off the big win. Mind you Warhammer game systems are still games of chance, but top tier players tend to factor out as much of the luck and chance as possible through army design in order to achieve the results that they want from this type of play and any competitive player that says different is selling you something. Because of this dedication, focus and perceived ruthlessness, most top tier players are seen by your average opponents and hobbyists as Cheesy/Beardy power gamers that suck the fun out of the hobby for everyone else. At first glance this attitude may ring true for some of the players out there, but it is only a small percentage of them. You normally will find that a game against most of these of individuals is challenging, fun, rewarding and at some levels enriching. Even in defeat you can still learn something from one of these players that you can take with you to your next match.
When ever I am asked to describe 40K or fantasy to a new person entering the hobby I have two descriptions. The first for your average player is that Warhammer is a fun and challenging experience that can teach pride in yourself and artistic creativity, especially for those that enjoy accomplishing difficult objectives and long term goals. To those people with truly competitive spirits, I simple say that top tier tournament play is in my opinion on the same level as a master class chess match, where one mistake can and normally does cost you the game. It is this duality of the game system that makes it such a success and draw for so many competitive and normal players.
Personally my gaming experience started out as a hobbyist and tactical board game player/painter back in 1991, it was not until 2000 that I decided to make the switch and become a competitive tournament player. I have had the benefit to be tutored by some the best in the field over my many years of play. I have thousands of hours playing competitively and I have seen luck win me a Grand Tournament and loose me a Grand Tournament. It is this element of chance that keeps the spirit of competitive play alive in me. I have been present at an 80 person tournament where the name of an individual is called out and a hush falls over the crowd, and when the name of his opponent is called the sighs of relief that echoed across the hall were deafening. I have heard this same individual, when asked why he does not play one a certain army anymore simply and with out any bravado say "I am tired of winning with it; It just does not provide a challenge for me anymore," as he continues to flip through the pages of his next army of choice Codex. This may sound like arrogance and bragging but the truth be told it is what it is. His record with the army was unparallel and only a handful of people could ever say they have defeated the list. But what rings even more truth is the core to his statement; "It just does not provide a challenge for me anymore." This one sentence can sum up all that it is to be a top tier player. It is an individual that consistently sets a challenge for himself to better himself at a game while knowing that anyone can build a winning ruthless army but the true challenge is can you win with a loosing army. A top tier player is one who consistently strives to find armies to play that make the game fun and enjoyable while appealing to the ever challenging nature of his or her person. This trait can be found in all of us it is just your own inhibitions or personal desires that set you apart from the top tier players. If you can find the focus and drive you can eventually achieve the status of a top tier player.
The hardest lesson to learn is the lesson on how to loose. I lost at every tournament I played at for three years till I finally learned what I needed to do to win. Ironically, all of my rhetoric aside, it was simply stay focused and do what you can to make sure both of you just have fun. All of your army's strengths and personal tactics will in the end prevail as long as you are watchful and the dice gods are kind. It is after all a game with little toy soldiers.
Once again, visit "From The Warp" for more of this author's work.