When it's time to step up your game

It happens to a lot of us.  Don't worry, it is perfectly natural.  These changes are absolutely nothing to be worried about.  As a miniature gamer plays more, they start to get these feelings they may not have experienced before.  They may see changes in their miniatures that are both strange and beautiful. Often they will look on the internet to try to learn more, because they are too intimidated to ask anyone what is happening.

Ok, I'm not talking about puberty, I'm talking about the desire to compete in tournaments!  Whether is it just to meet and play against new people, or to see other armies, or just to get out of the house once in a while, tournaments can be a lot of fun for miniature war gamers, but they do take a bit of preparation.

While I'll be focusing on Kings of War, this advice can apply to anyone seeking to start playing more competitively in tournaments.  Also this is about attending and playing in tournaments.  If you want to host your own tournament - well Mantic has an excellent book available for all neophytes (and not just because I have two articles in it) - check out the Clash of Kings Organized Play Supplement.

The first thing you need, which should be obvious, is an army.  It doesn't even have to be your own army - you may be able to borrow one from a friend that has extra.  You need to be sure that your list is legal for the tournament, but before that you have to have an army and list.  And that means assembling, painting and basing miniatures (unless of course you are using someone else's army that is already finished).

Every tournament is different, and some do not require painted miniatures.  That is fine, and completely up to the TO (Tournament Organizer) - but please don't be one of those people.  If this is your first army and you are working on it then it might not be as finished as you like, but there are people I have seen who have played for years and never painted their miniatures.

Look at it this way.  Everyone is paying to play in the tournament.  Some people may be traveling several hours (or more) to attend, and may have to pay for hotels (as well as gas and food).  The tournament could be part of a larger convention, which will often have it's own badge cost as well. Not only is there monetary costs, but all of the people there will be dedicating both the time to play that day, as well as quite a bit of time preparing for the event (not to mention the additional cost of building and painting their armies).  Why do they spend all of this time and money?  To play others, and to play against awesome armies.

While it is perfectly fine to play with plain grey miniatures in your basement, it just isn't cool to bring them to a tournament.  Doing that gives the message that you don't respect the other players time, money and effort and puts you in the category of a power gaming munchkin.  Yes, one of those people - the type who ruin it for everyone else.  (And I do look forward to all the people calling me an elitist douche because I think you should have fully painted miniatures when playing in a tournament).

So you have a painted army and you are ready to try it against new players (or old friends) in a tournament.  The next step is to get a copy of the tournament packet.  This is a document that describes all the rules and other information you need in order to attend and play in the tournament. These are usually available on-line (though there are always some luddites (and I mean that in the nicest way) who, for whatever reason, refuse to actually join in the 21st century and the information age).  For those you may need to contact the TO directly to get the information - otherwise a quick download gives you a copy (though you might have to contact the TO to find out where the packet can be downloaded from (in cases like this, Facebook is actually quite useful)).

Once you have downloaded a copy of the tournament pack - well you need to read it!  And not just to find the point values, but the entire packet.  It is amazing to me when I run tournaments that there are people there who have NOT read the packet and are surprised because of the rules in it (such as bringing and using chess clocks).  You don't have to memorize it, and yes, much of it may be redundant after your first tournament (I'll be honest with you here - all of my packets start with a cut and paste of the previous packet - there are several sections that have not changed in several years) but there may be something added here or there that is significant.

The tournament packet should have all the army building requirements for the tournament.  This may be as simple as specifying the point value and the base rule book is being used, to adding special units you may either need to bring, or plan to use.  It may use the Clash of Kings recommendations or not.  Whatever the rules used - it is vitally important that you  make sure your army list conforms to them.  No one wants to show up the day of an event to find out their army list is not valid (Sorry the rules say you can only take 3 of any unit, so you can't take 6 cannons in your dwarf list (because yes, war engines are units).  No, your allied undead cannot include that special character.) and have to rebuild it at the last minute. (And both those situations actually happened).

Speaking of army lists - I have started REQUIRING printed copies of army lists at all the tournaments I run.  I find it extremely frustrating to be playing against someone who has to keep looking up things on their phone to see what value they need to hit, etc.  It slows the game down and is just rude.  As a TO, trying to read your chicken scratch handwriting is not in the job description.  I cannot recommend EasyArmy enough for generating Kings of War lists (and Greg does a version for historical armies, there is an option to do Clash of Kings Validation, and he is working on a version for Firefight!).

Even if not required, you should print out a copy of your list for yourself, one for the TO (often to check that it is valid) and at least one for each opponent you will play (so in a 4 round tournament that would be 4 more copies), but if you don't want to that AT LEAST do a separate copy for your opponent to see during the game.

Also, don't go and try to obfuscate your list.  I have seen some that list a name for the unit (such as Ricco's Roughnecks), point cost and any extras, but that is it.  Nothing to say what the unit actually is (i.e. Ricco's Roughnecks ( Foot Guard Regiment ), no stats or anything.  One of the reasons to have the list is to see the stats and make it clear what you are playing.  Once again don't be one of those people who want to win by keeping information from their opponent.  (Now I will occasionally print my opponents lists 2 to a page just to save paper).

Even better than bring the TO a copy of your list is to send them one beforehand.  I tend to ask for them a week in advance, and give 5 sportsmanship points to everyone who sends them.  This isn't to force you to lock down  your list (though it does do that), but just gives the TO time to go over it and make sure it is legal BEFORE the tournament (and if there is a problem, it gives you time to fix it).
So now you have your list and your army.  What else is needed?  Well don't forget your dice, tape measure, wound counters, wavering markers and anything else you normally use to play.  I highly recommend getting an arc of sight template, and a laser line is also a great tool to have.  Mantic makes a set of tokens that are a quick way to start before you can get some of your own.  They also have wound counters as well.  I personally don't like using dice for these, as they are too easy to get knocked over or picked up.  However if you must use dice - I like the dice holders to help keep them from getting knocked over.
A measuring device is required.  I've seen some old school players that have used a folding ruler for years, and others simply like standard tape measures available at any hardware or game store.  Some use measuring ribbons for sewing because they are flexible (not a requirement for Kings of War as everything ALWAYS moves in a straight line, but work great for skirmish games), and if, you are like me and magnetize all your miniatures - well they are non-magnetic so won't accidentally get stuck to a mini!

If this is your first tournament, then some method of carrying your army is necessary.  This can be anything from a cardboard box to pluck foam bags to hard sided cases with magnetic trays that slide in an out.  Me, I use cheap plastic bins with roofing tin in the bottom (as everything is magnetized).  I talk about that here.

A lot of how you transport your army will have to do with how far you have to take it, and what mode of transportation you will use.  If you are driving down the street then you don't need nearly the protection you will to take it on a plane.  Though caution should always be taken - I've seen people taking their armies across town and dropping the box when they take it out of the car.

In addition to getting your army (and other materials you require) to the venue, you should also think about how you will carry your army between tables at the game.  Display boards are a great way to do this, and to show off your army.  But even a serving tray may work, or the box you transport your army in.  Just remember you will be using this to carry things between tables so it should be sturdy enough to support your army.  If you would like to know more about display boards, well keep watching this blog, I plan to do a post about them soon.

On the day of the event, you should always remember to bring a good attitude.  Tournaments are a step up in competition, and you will often lose quite a bit at your first few.  Don't let this discourage you, and don't get upset by it either.  Even the best players in the world don't win EVERY tournament they enter - sometimes the dice just decide they hate you (like mine do consistently).  Remember it is just a game and everyone is there to have fun.  If you are losing, try to see why and what you can to do to get better for next time.

It is often helpful to make a checklist of everything you require - and here is a basic one:

  • Painted army
  • Printed army list (copy for yourself, TO and opponents)
  • Measuring device (tape measure)
  • rule book(s)
  • wound markers
  • wavering counters
  • turn counter
  • dice
  • transport container
  • display board / tray
  • laser line
  • chess clock (if required)
  • a good attitude, prepared to have fun
Because it is all fun and games . . .