So you’ve gobbled up all of the Start competing and Faction focus articles, you’ve built a list (or thirty), played some games and even ventured out to your first competitive event. Congratulations! You’ve taken the first big step on a long road. But now where do you go from here? How do you ascend the ranks of this game? How do you improve your experience at events? And how can you help your community level up?
For anyone that has competed on amateur/university or professional sports or e-sports teams the answer is simple: Join a team.
This article will tackle all aspects of team sports in the realm of table top war-gaming and the impact it can have on your local communities if done correctly. I myself am one of the team captain of Northern Front, a team based out of the Canadian prairies, that was formed to help our region become competitively relevant.
We will hit on some of the major topics associated with the Team dynamic so let’s dive into it.
Why join (or start) a team?
Wargaming, much like a sport such as track & field, is at its core, an individual activity. You are lined up against an opponent or many opponents and only one person can win. So where does a team fit into this and why would you need one? Well, just like in track and other individual sports, there are still many benefits to being part of a team.
The first and most obvious reason to create or join a team is simply to find and play players that are focused on the same aspects of this hobby as you are. Often it can be tough to find competitive practice games and going out into stores to play pick-up games doing so can potentially lead to some poor times if you are looking to grind out games for a learning purpose and you’re up against someone looking for a more casual approach to list-building – a big mismatch in expectations can lead to an unsatisfying game for both of you. Having a team of competitive players gives you a pool of people whom you know are already geared like you and up for playing competitive practice games. Finding and organizing game days with your teammates drastically increases how often you can play and the level of play involved.
People often ask me how I play so many games and while at first I was surprised at the small number of games people were playing I then realized that most people lack the kind of support structure that a team provides that can help with exactly this. A typical weekend at the shop (pre-COVID) with the team can easily involve 7-10 games simply because you can re-rack and start over any time critical mistakes are made or the game is in hand. The point of these games is not to win or lose, it’s to improve and learn. This kind of play is really not possible to find with the average casual/comp player in the community and for good reason: It’s not technically fun and you do not really play full games to conclusion, which is what most players expect to happen in a pick-up setting.
The phrase “a rising tide lifts all ships” is the perfect way to think about the benefit of teams in the realm of individual sports or hobbies. On your own this hobby, especially on the competitive side, can be extremely overwhelming. There is an immense amount of information and interactions to analyze and comprehend and unless you are gifted with a photographic memory it will be near impossible to learn it all and retain it. A team helps you to decompartmentalize this wealth of information and lean on your teammates who focus on different factions or aspects of the hobby when you need them; this is a critical aspect to improving beyond the middle tables at events and trying to reach for those top table finishes. Or put another way: You don’t have to read every codex if you have a team of people around you who together will do this and share the important stuff from each with you.
This extends to lsits: A good team has open and honest discourse with one another and shares feedback and input on team members’ lists to ensure that every player is taking the best possible version of their list to an event. This might seem counter productive at first as a player who is also trying to win an event (since you’ll often end up competing against the players who gave you list feedback), but, remember this is about improving as a player, a team and a community. If you are tested on a daily, weekly, or monthly interval, you will improve and when you help your team create and run lists you are all growing as players. It becomes a true melting pot of ideas from all sorts of different point of views from players who play the factions you do not. This is so incredibly important.
There are many examples out there of what this process looks like when it is done right but the freshest one in everyone’s mind is from LVO 2020 and the Broviathan Iron Hands nightmare fuel list. These types of lists do not just come out of one person putting an idea down and showing up to an event; it takes trial and error and hours of discussion and testing to come up with something new that is directly focused on one specific event.
Let’s talk about the meta. As a player on your own it can be very difficult to think through matchups and understand the overall meta of the event you are focusing on. This is where a team can really help – going into an event a team will help you understand what is and is not a concern for your army and what lists might show up. As an individual you can definitely do this, but as a team of players this process will be much quicker and most likely more productive. As a competitive player one of the most exciting moments is when you see the alert that Lists have been made visible. This is when the real work begins and what will really give you the leg up come game day. A team will deep dive on the top 10/20 lists and dissect them, learn the tricks and threat ranges and develop plans for each of them, including your pre-game secondaries and deployment style. The next step will be to have each player give the team their top 5 lists they personally worry about and for the team as a whole to give input on how to play vs each of them. This is critical knowledge to have before you ever walk through the doors; the vast majority of players have not even looked at the lists never mind developed game plans for each of them individually.
Once you are finally at an event this is where you are able to put all this hard work into play; early on in the event (baring a really tough early pairing) the team is really just there to bounce some ideas off of and cheer each other on. As the event gets later into the rounds, things start to heat up. Your team will be critical between rounds in helping each other prepare for the tough matchups. It’s one thing to theory craft matchups but it’s a different thing when you know the player, the mission and the deployment, and you only have 30 minutes to an hour to prepare. Teams thrive in this setting, using everyone’s collective knowledge to help you design a game plan so that you can enter that table confident. When you enter with a plan and follow through with it another side effect is that your time management will almost never be a concern, you are now not fighting the clock and your opponent, it’s just you and them.
I will use an example from my own team to illustrate how this process works from start to finish:
Get your team on a platform that can easily organize and manage discussion; our team prefers to use Discord as you can have many easy-to-find and follow chats that are then able to be organized by faction or player. This will drastically improve your communication and efficiency. Once a platform is created, now you can create a sub-thread for all your events with all the players attending in their own individual threads.
Step 1.5 – Now you ask all the players to set reasonable goals so that all the advice from this point on can be focused and personalized with those goals in mind.
1-2 months out from the event baring any major upheaval from GW via a looming FAQ or release you begin the list construction and have each player post their lists in their own thread, now all of the players are able to quickly jump into the thread, view the list and the method behind it and give any relevant criticism. As the event looms and the lists go into locked in phase this shifts from list design to matchup theory.
Lists are visible we are 1-3 weeks away from the event and now each player searches for the top 5 players and lists that concern them, teammates who play those factions can now come in and give first hand knowledge of how to play into that matchup, including how to deploy, what secondaries to take, how aggressive or passive to play and if the player whose list they are concerned about has any specific ways of playing that can be exploited.
The event has begun; what you really want to do here is huddle up with your team, give any last minute advice and double check with all your team that everyone has a plan and is ready to go. These little moments can be very calming and helpful going into a particularly difficult first round pairing. As the event goes on, the importance of having a team increases. The advice and pre/post game advice and commentary you are receiving is all so important to helping you get a clear picture of how to approach your next game. One tip that I require all my players to do is that before you leave for your break or to get drinks, take a picture of your next table. Now while on break the advice you are able to get from the team will be personalized to that specific set of terrain. It’s a small thing but with 40k, like many other e-sports or sports, it’s about who is working when everyone else is not.
Review performances and goals: did everyone on the team perform well based on their goals? Did the team as a whole function well and help everyone achieve these goals? Review the lessons learned and the mistakes made, start focusing on what is next. Wins and losses are really not that important in the end, what matters as a team is that you grow and learn and adjust. Wins will come if you put the work in and focus on learning and enjoying the process.
Creating a team
What do you do if there are no teams in your area or none that you feel reflect your attitude as a player? It’s time to create one. I personally have a vast amount of experience with this as I have been involved in creating League of Legends teams, Guild Wars teams, World of Warcraft teams and many other sports teams in my personal life.
Creating a team takes quite a bit more work but can really be rewarding in the end if it works out. I highly encourage anyone out there reading this to think about doing this if they can not find a team they like. Your team does not have to be 200 people large, what matters is going through the process creating something that reflects your personal mantra and going out there as a group and competing.
The process is simple enough: You create a team name and enter it for results with the ITC. Typically what I would suggest is find a couple players around you that you get along with and would enjoy showing up to events with that have similar thoughts on the game and ask them if they would like to start a team with you. Yes this will take communicating with other humans, but trust me, it’s worth it. Once you have a core group, just take it slow and show up to events and see where it goes from there. As a team leader just be involved in your players’ progress as humans and competitors, be willing to put time into helping them and encouraging them to grow in whatever aspect they require help with. One of the most important parts of creating a team and managing it is to make sure it actually feels like a team, do not just be another team that has people write their names down for the sake of some ITC points. This is not what this article is focused on and it certainly is not a style of team I personally respect.
Be ready for some bumps in the road but stick with it and you will find that you as a team leader will also get drastically better as both a person and a player. If you do create a team, please send us updates on its progress, the trials and tribulations of the process and how it changed the landscape of your region. I personally would love to hear about it and am always interested in talking player development.
The final thing to mention and it certainly is not the least important is that forming or joining a team is just fun, going to events with a crew of players and having that social interaction is rewarding in its own right. Creating rivalries with other teams in your area and playing teammates in events just make the entire experience so much more enjoyable in the end. There’s even team events you can enter and play as a group. When one of your players or teammates wins an event and the entire team is cheering them on, it’s an amazing feeling that makes it feel like an actual sport or e-sport.
That is the short and sweet of it people, there is no real need for ten thousand words on the topic, I hope you have enjoyed the read and consider seeking out a team in the future.
Keep seeking that saga.
Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.