With Competitive Innovations in the Mortal Realms off another week due to the holiday, Marchettus has written a piece about why you should attend events.
Statistically, you haven’t been to an Age of Sigmar event. This statement is a bit like running a game at a carnival. Chances are that I’m right, but I still win if I’m wrong. If I was wrong, come to one of the next one or two day events in Georgia or the Las Vegas Open to play and hit me up. Ignore the great outdoors, family, and other responsibilities for the supreme joy and carnal pleasures of telling another human “Hitting on 4s, wounding on 3s, rend 2, D3 damage” 15 or more times in a day. Skip ahead to “Thoughts on Community” and check it out.
Cool, everyone else (up to 84.6% of you per the goonhammer reader survey). stay a while and listen. I suspect there are A LOT of event curious gamers out there based on 73.2% of readers (LITERALLY YOU) preferring competitive content yet only 18.8% of players played more than one game of Age of Sigmar per month. All you need to play an average of 1 game a month is to go to a single one day event per quarter – an incredibility fun way to accomplish this goal. I started playing this game during the pandemic and can attest to the nerves, not knowing if I was doing things right, and getting pushed in by better constructed lists played by more knowledgeable opponents. Two years on I’m still getting pushed in by better opponents but the list construction gap is smaller and I am still a big supporter of going to events early on in your mini journey.
Why You Should Go to an Event
There are numerous benefits to going to an event that you just cannot get from pick up games with friends or at the local FLGS
- Structure: Events are extremely structured compared to a pick-up night or narrative match. When talking to newer players (and being one) a big concern is being ground up into dust, not knowing what to do, and being embarrassed when you forget a rule. An event doesn’t stop you from facing a more experienced opponent, but it does take the pressure off of who you’re going to play, when the games will occur, how long they should take, what mission you’re going to play, and even where the terrain is setup. You’re able to focus on your lunch order, your games, making new friends, and doing your best instead of negotiating what type of game you’re going to play and how competitive it will be (assume competitive).
Now, you probably will face a more experienced opponent on your first, maybe even 2nd or even 3rd round. 99% of tournaments are run in a “round robin” fashion, which means your first game is completely random, but subsequent games will match your win record. Which means if you lose your first game, but win your second, your third game will also be with someone who won a game and lost a game. This means while you could get thrashed early on, you will slowly settle into the lower tiers where you meet people more your skill level.
Even if you get matched with an extremely experienced player, you really shouldn’t fret. Most “competitive” players who pack up toys and give up a day or two aren’t trying to beat up on new people. Many of them are actually super nice guys who, while they may trash you, will be happy to offer advice how you can do better. This helped me develop my love for the Sigmar.
- Tournament Organizer: What is a Tournament Organizer (TO)? Why have they decided to take a day, or two, to herd cats, listen to complaints, adjudicate measurement arguments and judge model painting instead of napping? It’s likely because they love the game, love the community that already exists, and want to bring new people into the game and system that brings them so much joy. Most TOs put a lot of effort and thoughtfulness into putting together a packet and event. The vast majority of the TOs I’ve met at events are EXTREMELY focused on making sure newer or first-time players have a great experience. TOs WANT to hear how your experience, especially as a new player, is.
- Efficiency: A nasty habit we have when playing a pick-up or casual game is to muck about and just have fun and not keep to a tight 2.5 hour game. It can be a challenge to keep two people focused on the game instead of saying hello to friends, eating, or looking at the phone. Newer players also suffer because people allow them to take back moves, take back actions, or redo something that wouldn’t be allowed at an event. Making mistakes is part of the learning experience and having to sit and stew over a failed pile in or wasting a command point will stick with you. Really good players, no matter the experience, use intent to signal what they see as happening to avoid disputes.
- Talking Hobby Projects: Every single person who rolls a dice or measures has a hobby project, technic, or tip or suggestion. We all know the people who just have impressive looking armies that they’ve crafted and painted, wild conversions, and display boards. Nothing compares to getting a compliment for an army you’ve painted. For a lot of people, the real competition happens during lunch when the painting contest is judged. For all the content made nothing beats having two or three hobbyists talking about what they used to achieve a certain look.
- Evaluate the Local Community: Age of Sigmar might be owned by a large publicly traded company but the best things about the game (points and warscroll builder) were first created by the community. Your local community is likely going to be the most impactful part of your experience in playing Age of Sigmar. Going to an event allows you to get a broader sample with games against three different people, and more importantly evaluate if you want to spend more time with them. Anyone can have a bad game, a personality mismatch, or just be in a poor mood. Having three of those experiences in one day is a sign that the community isn’t as great as the one I and others have experienced.
- Learn to Play the Game Better: Even with TTS Age of Sigmar is a game that requires practice to play well. Moving models, measuring bubbles, and all the physical parts of the game are difficult to simulate in a virtual space. Age of Sigmar is a game that takes real skill and the ability to both plan out moves in advance for if you win or lose priority. Events provide a perfect downtime to ask an opponent why they did something, or what they would have done if you had made another choice. If you’ve been playing home games against the same few people it will also give you the chance to see other armies. (pity the Kruleboyz player whose been playing against the Stormcast half of dominion for the last year).
- See All Aspects of the Hobby: Competitively focused players do a disservice in describing what we do as competitive. There are a lot of people are focused on putting together a winning list and playing it well. There are people focused on putting together a well painted and thematic army and playing it well. There are people focused on drinking until they take off their pants and play in socks. There are people who are focused on seeing friends and talking about painting. Unlike a competitive computer game or a card game the community is small enough, and our armies unique enough, that it’s really hard to always have the top meta-army (if you are a commission painter find one of these
sickosnormal ordinary regular person as you will always have an active commission pipeline). Age of Sigmar is ALWAYS a cooperative game between two people.
Congratulations, I’ve harangued you enough that you are willing to take the time to go to an event and have a good time. What do you need to do next?
How To Prepare For Your First Event
- Find an event – Finding an event should be easy but it’s not always the case. If you play casually on a game night often times you can ask another human being “When is the next one-day Age of Sigmar event in our area?”. If this doesn’t work, or you don’t play at a store, you can look at the Best Coast Pairings app. It has an O.K. search function but not every Age of Sigmar event is posted. Facebook is also ideal. Social media has dominated the scene and your local store’s group might be the easiest way to find an event. I’m part of one group run by a local store and a second group for the multi-state region where events are typically posted. Typically stores that run a 1-day, or RTT, event have them once a month or quarter. Pick an event between four and six weeks out if you have any hobby that you need or want to do.
- Determine your goals – This might be the most important step in the entire process. What are your goals? Do you want to see some new armies? Do you want to get drunk and take your pants off? Are you trying to see if the community is full of people you want to spend time with? Are you looking for new friends? Do you want to win? The truth is at the vast majority of events, from Las Vegas Open to a small RTT have players with a variety of goals. Miniature games games are complex, fluid, and winning at your first event, without some extreme form of preparation isn’t a reasonable goal. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and setting expectations early will help streamline the experience.
- Pick a Faction to Use – This should be pretty easy – pick a faction that you have at least 2000 points assembled in a legal list. Rule of cool is likely the best choice. I’ll discuss considerations on list building below.
- Reach out to a Friend – If you’ve played AOS it’s likely you have a friend who plays, so ask them to come. You can always talk about your games on the ride back and compare experiences. If not, or if they can’t, reach out to the TO and let them know this is going to be your first event. A good TO is going to appreciate the communication and is likely to make sure that you don’t have the worst time in the world, even if you lose.
- Practice Your Army – Once you have an army picked out try to plan for three scenarios at the event. You don’t always have as much time as you’d like (most events have between two and half and three hour rounds) and the ability to deploy quickly and explain your army will help out a lot. Knowing the buffs you want to put up and keeping inside bubbles and command ranges is something you can set up for if you’re home alone. Knowing when things need to be activated (Start, during, end) comes with practice.
- Have everything you need – The event package is going to likely list everything you need. He is what I typically take:
My army on an old baking sheet.
Two tape measures.
The current GHB.
A physical copy of your list.
Something to mark objectives.
Your army book and any supplemental books that might be needed (e.g. Thondia for the Krondspine).
The AOS app downloaded. You might think you need an FAQ for any changes but GW has been pretty good at updating the app. If you own a printer it wouldn’t hurt to print the faq out.
You might note that I didn’t mention painting your army. Most one-day events don’t have a painting requirement and as long as you bring your assembled minis and they are on the proper base they will be allowed. Most people make progress on armies over time and your goal should be to get out there and play, not worry about painting up 2000 points before meeting people. Two day events typically have a painting requirement, so if you’re going to one of those make sure you have enough weeks out to paint them up
Selecting an Army List
There isn’t a better reason to get into your first army than the rule of cool. If you’re just starting out you should hit your first local event around the time you have 2000 points put together on the table. That makes selecting an army list extremely easy.
If you’re in the unfortunate situation of having choices you have to decide what it is you want to accomplish. Are you there to show off your best painted models and talk about the theme of your army? Are you there because you just really like dwarves? Do you want to minimize your mistakes?
If your goal is to minimize mistakes I’d recommend bringing a more elite list, rather than a horde. They’re typically effective at fighting, shooting, or moving and it requires a lot less energy to remember a smaller number of warscrolls during an event. Due to Covid-19 worries and having young children I didn’t play at all in person in the leadup to LVO earlier this year. I didn’t want to get sick, endanger others, or have to cancel the trip. I had to worry about transportation and didn’t want to think too much so I only brought 6 different warscrolls. I didn’t have a lot to explain, I didn’t have a lot to think about, and I didn’t have to worry about forgetting how my units interacted.
In addition to taking a small number of warscrolls consider taking manageable unit sizes. Taking 180 goblins might be fun, but moving and piling them in throughout the game might be taxing. In addition to moving around a lot of models on the field you’re going to have to manage them in the battleshock phase, rally them, and moving around those models between games.
You score points by getting by moving on objectives, by accomplishing battle tactics, and by achieving your grand strategy. You should know what each unit in your army does to be able to help you achieve these goals. It could be as simple as “My wizard unbinds and she casts mystic shield on my combat hero” or “This unit stands in front of my good unit and dies to keep them safe”. There typically isn’t a need to buy more models – just build and paint up the ones you have.
Taking a simple list doesn’t mean you’re not taking a competitive list. “Oops, all gargants”, “Oops, all dragons”, “Oops, all Nurgle flies” have all been competitive lists taken in the past year. If a friend of mine wanted to borrow models for a game I’d hand them a bunch of trolls and have them go forward and kill stuff.
It took me, a competent player, some time to think about what the difference is in play between casual and event play. My best example comes from about a year ago during a casual game. During combat I piled in a unit within 3″ allowing my opponent to active with a unit that was outside of combat. I was surprised, because I never intended to pull them into combat, and my opponent didn’t say anything until a few activations later. He didn’t offer a takeback of warn me what I was doing.
It is pretty common to communicate things like “wholly within” bubbles, threat range, moving to stay outside of a certain triggers (like redeploy), during a more competitive game. This is the essence of “playing with intent”. You might feel like you’re giving up the game by directly telling your opponent what you’re doing, but this is not poker, you win nothing by hiding information. While it’s not exactly your job to warn an opponent to pile-in might draw in another unit of enemies, for a measurement that fickle it’s good praxis just to ask “So is it your intent to draw these guys in, or not?”/
There are extremely few situations where all the information on the board isn’t available to both players. These serve to establish a board state (this unit is within 30” to unbind a spell) and guarantee that won’t change because a board gets bumped or models get knocked over. It’s always best practice to measure a potential charge before rolling and establish a distance before the dice hit the table.
Another aspect of communication is waiting your turn. Each phase has a beginning, middle, and end. The player whose turn it is does all of her actions at each part of the phase and then the player without priority does all of her actions. It’s very common to have somebody say “Generate a command point” as a heroic action in a casual game out of sequence. This is a really bad practice at events because:
- It is a really bad habit to be in. It can be disruptive for someone trying to think about what their move is.
- The board state can change significantly at the start of the hero phase – the player whose turn it is needs to pick a battle tactic, heroic action, and activate any start of the phase abilities in whatever order they want.
- You’re giving away off-board information (your intent). The one advantage you have of it not being your turn is you get to wait and see what your opponent does and respond appropriately. You may not want that command point if they activate a battle tactic that telegraphs that they intend to kill your General, and maybe its better to respond with Finest Hour instead. Similarly, if you declare you wish to activate Finest Hour before they chose a battle tactic, they may pick a different tactic than they intended, and avoid your general, wasting that once per game action.
Thoughts on Community
I want to acknowledge that I’m talking to Age of Sigmar curious people about playing Age of Sigmar events. My knowledge is limited to my local AOS community, a larger community of people who travel to multiple events, and people online who I’ve met through twitter and TikTok. I’m fairly social and just a really average white dude with kids so I’m basically 70% of the population of every game store. It’s super easy for somebody like me to suggest “It’s so simple” to play in an event or walk into a game store. I recognize that, for a variety of reasons, my advice might right false, miss something, or be lacking. I’d love to edit this in a few weeks with a greater consideration on how Age of Sigmar could be more welcoming to you.
However, when I attempted to play 40K and Magic I didn’t get the same warm fuzzies and want to continue in those systems like I did with Age of Sigmar. It’s because the people in my local community and online community were welcoming and helpful that I wanted to continue. There are a lot of people who have fond memories of square bases and a world that was. Increasingly there are people like me who have no idea why some demon from 25 years ago matters. There are painters, those that love the lore, competitive net listers, and people that love to make quirky armies and roll dice.
Despite the view of mini game players in the general population Age of Sigmar is the most diverse group of people I spend time. This includes discords, TikTok, in person games locally, and travel events that I started to participate in this year. Young people and old people play. Those that have kids and those without. People with and without post-secondary degrees. People who try to recruit people to play fantasy sports and those that won’t talk about sportsball one bit. There are country folk and city folk. There is a higher proportion of military vets than any other part of my life. In a world where like-minded people continue to self-sort the hobby allows us to come together and learn one thing about those that we might disagree with in other walks of like. We’re all nerds who want to roll some dice.
Its everyone’s job in the community to make sure everyone who wants to play and participate in good faith is welcome.