Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hardcore Wargamers: Playing with a Casual Crew

Can't we all just get along?

Welcome readers!
First off, it's good to be back. Real life can get in the way sometimes, so it's good to be back doing what I love. Today I've decided to put a new spin on the classic "Hardcore vs. Casual" Wargamers debate that plagues the 40k community. Now, I'm not claiming to find all the answers and finally end the constant bickering that persists among gamers. I am looking, however, to provide a suggestion to help the hardcore and casual crowd game together in harmony. Here we go!
So, if you're anything like myself (and I can assume you are, because you're reading this blog! ) then you often spend hours tweaking lists, analyzing your preferred codex, and even contemplating endless table top scenarios in your head, and for good reason. You like to win. Because winning is fun. Right? Well I don't know about you, but there's one occasion where winning actually isn't all that enjoyable. Now most of my gaming group are pretty hardcore, battles are rarely one-sided and lists are as refined and full of spam as they come. However, we often meet up with other friends, or strangers at the local game store who often don't put in as much pain into what they bring to the table. And I often find myself, when up against these friendly players (who are all awesome dudes, they just play the game differently) absolutely decimating their forces with any list I pull out of my collection. By the end of it all, neither of us had that great of a time, because while we all love to win, let's face it we also like those intense, emotional, anyone can win type of battles, too.  For you football fans, it's like what the Broncos are going to do to those poor Jaguars this Sunday. Sure it will be interesting to watch, but is either side going to feel all that great after the inevitable slaughter? My point is, we all know those less competitive gamers among our respective groups, and much of the solution for having a good time on both sides boils down to your list. Not only will a casual list help even the odds to make the game more intense, but it also gives you a chance to try out units you may not normally use, or theme a list in any number of compelling ways to have more fun. Because we all like having fun, right? 

So, my goal is to provide the typical hardcore gamer with a toolkit to create a fun, intriguing list that is approachable by casual gamers so that we as hardcore gamers may maintain friendships, instead of beating our fellow gamers into the ground with torrents of spam and brokenness.

Tip #1: Theme your list

Providing your list a theme can be an easy way to not only make your army more casual, but also give purpose and design to your game, rather than an assortment of rag-tag units that don't really get along, but happen to form this super broken combo for which there is no escape. A very simple theme that my Dark Eldar codex provides me is an all cult-style army. This would include only the super fast, super fragile cult units such as wyches, hellions, and reaver jet bikes. Many other books provide similar themes, such as space marine chapters  or tyranid hive-fleets. A theme, however, does not have to be so obvious. Work with different concepts and ideas to find something that feels right. Maybe you want to create an army that is based entirely on psychic powers, or perhaps you want a space marine company that has a reputation for being expert armor killers, and contains only heavy hitting, anti armor units. Sure, the army may get destroyed by a swarm, but that's okay, it fits the theme! Which brings me to my next point... 

Tip #2: Don't worry about covering all your bases

In a casual list, it will serve the game better if you avoid fighting to squeeze in every tool for the job. The purpose of a casual list is not to be balanced, but rather to play towards a certain idea and give your opponent a fair fight while still bringing the units you love. If you're light on High strength weaponry, that's fine! So you're opponent brought two land raiders? Great, that's tough for your specific army to deal with. But that just means you will have more fun playing your army to its strengths, and figuring out clever ways to deal with threats that your forces aren't prepared for. It makes the game feel more "real" because in an actual battle you may not have every tool at your disposal, and improvising is what makes great generals. So stick to your theme, and don't worry if you don't have enough templates to repel a horde of gaunts. 

Tip #3: Avoid spam

Now, this rule isn't universal. However, it may help you avoid taking as many of your best units as possible, and freeing up space for units that you don't normally use, but that seem fun. For example, in my Dark Eldar lists I usually run the full amount of three ravagers for my competitive builds. In a more casual list, however, I might mix it up and limit myself to only one ravager, freeing up space for those awesome pain engines or fliers, which are units I wouldn't normally use but always seem really powerful. The point of avoiding spam is to free up your unit choices. Causal gamers love to see varied armies on the table, and variety is not only the spice of life, but the spice of causal gaming. It keeps the game more interesting as different units respond in their own unique way, making for a less competitive, yet equally fun battle.

Tip #4: Take units you normally would never use, but you've always wanted to

This tip goes hand in hand with avoiding spam. Avoiding spam gives you the opportunity to put units on the table that you've never used before because there may be another unit that performs the roll slightly better or for less points. Ever wanted to see vanguard veterans crash onto the battlefield? You love your new mandrake models? Go for it. This is your chance to play the army you've always imagined, not necessarily the army that the meta has forced you to play. Also, trying new things doesn't have to just involve units. Try out some new special weapons or HQ upgrades (those grav weapons sure do look fun). Remember, treat a casual game as an opportunity to change things up with no risk!

Tip #5: Be creative with the scenario

The scenario can help balance lists in a variety of ways. Putting the stronger player at a slight handicap can be fun for both players, as the hardcore gamer gets to see what he is truly made of while the casual gamer gets to enjoy the battle on a more level playing field. For example, you can put a 100 point handicap on one player, while also giving that player a guaranteed first turn. Moreover, make it cinematic. In that same scenario, you can create a narrative about a weaker scouting party that spots the enemy, or any number of possible situations that you want to see played out. This can add purpose to your game while still keeping it fair and fun. Also, campaigns are an awesome way to keep new scenarios coming and letting each player feel like every battle means something.

Well that's all I've got on this subject. Remember, my goal isn't to force hardcore gamers (I am one, remember) to play less competitively. I'm just trying to give everyone the tools to ensure a unified, harmonious gaming group and show that it is possible, if you so desire, to alter your method of play.

Finally I just wanted to say that I appreciate all of our readers' support, and if you're new to the blog feel free to comment with suggestions and follow us for more content! We've been gone for a bit, but our resurgence is in the works, with lots of new content to come including battle reports, product reviews, and of course more tactics. Stay tuned!


  1. This is a great article. Often as a competitive gamer, I run into the same situation, so I actually put into practice some of the things mentioned above. In fact I usually run some thing with just no redundant units, called a highlander list "there can be only one!" and I always run something I never run and do my best to put some of my better paintjobs up because the players we are talking about really come out for a close game and sometimes the spectacle of the game.

  2. I tend to float the line between competitive and social gamer. I REALLY hate spammed units to the point that I frequently stop playing armies or units that WAAC players are rushing towards. I like trying to figure out how to make good use of things other players under-estimate (5th Ed. TFCs for example) and I like strategy discussion that focuses on deployment and movement instead of deck design err list design. Don't get me wrong, I do pay attention to force balance and I do try to squeeze as much out of a unit and a list as I can, but only within limits. For example, if I played Tau or CSM, I would only run 1 Riptide or 1 Heldrake. I think the highlander list is an awesome idea except for troops.