‘Nothing is as obnoxious as other people’s luck,’
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
The above quote is not exclusive to one long-deceased American storyteller as it should resonate with those of you who have ever partaken of gaming on a regular basis – in particular, dice related games.
For those of you that play tabletop wargaming, RPG’s or card based stuff – how many times have you felt that you could roll nothing but 1’s and 2’s, whilst your opponents or rivals roll nothing but 6’s? Come on, we all hate those bastards. And how smug they can get, it’s totally out of order. It shouldn’t be allowed. They’re just lucky, they’re not better than me! It really winds you up, doesn’t it? That building frustration, that furrowing brow, that last strand of inner self restraint that gets ever closer to snapping – then it’s gone, past the point of no return! You roar in your opponent’s face as you flip the table in rage-filled vindication! Models fly everywhere, opponent’s face goes from smiley smug face to crestfallen shock face as you fly at him armed to the teeth with your dice box in one hand and your tape measure ready to garotte him in the other! Blood for the motherf*****g blood god!
Okay, perhaps that’s just a deranged part of my own brain that thinks that last bit of crazy stuff, but don’t tell me the general jist of it hasn’t gone through your mind. Alright goddamnit, just me again. However, when we take a minute of reflection when the adrenalin rush has abated, have some deep breaths and analyse what actually happened. The vast majority of the time we can see that perhaps more than just luck was involved. This may sound simple and to an outsider, very easy to grasp, but there are some out there that simply refuse to accept the truth of this. They are the type that will roll a lot of perfectly average dice, look at the dice, look at you, back to the dice, then start swearing loudly and getting progressively more moody each time a dice hits the table. But in the grand scheme of things, most of us may learn to accept that on the very rare occasion (and I mean to emphasise this – very rare) you can put humiliating defeat down to shit dice. However, more often than not after a bit of thought you will come to one of three revelations about what happened:
1. I played like a complete fool
2. My army/squad/force/list (etc) composition needs a bit of thought & adjustment
3. My opponent’s strategy & tactics were better than mine
For me, I know that the most often result is number (1) in this list, with a healthy smattering of (3) there too. Yes, it has been the case – on a rare occurrence, you understand of course – that my simply groundbreaking, stunning, unorthodox tactics have been found to be not all that they were cracked up to be. I certainly had a plan, and by the Lord I was decisive on it, as decisive as George W. Bush himself! (and just as wrong, unfortunately). And of course I am willing to accept that a good player has outplayed me, frankly. I actually genuinely enjoy when I can look back at a game, and realise that with my limited ability I couldn’t have beaten my opponent with the tools to hand as he was better than I was. Exactly like the Scotland rugby team vs southern hemisphere opposition.
However, whilst I feel that number (2) on this list can be universally accepted by those on a bit of a losing streak, some, in a desperate scramble to retain their pride, some find it hard to accept either (1) or (3). No, unfortunately our local friendly TFG’s would still insist, ‘It’s these dice, they’re shit! I can’t roll 6’s man, I can’t roll 6’s!! All I roll is 1’s FFS! How am I ever going to look my loved ones in the eye again goddamnit, if I get the wooden spoon for this tournament! I … WONT ..BE ABLE… TO CONSIDER…. MYSELF A MAN! ARGHGHG!’, whilst their head and neck are going crimson and the atmosphere begins to ignite around them from the heat coming off their faces.
Now this is where I could tell you that there would be a certain joy to be had in self critique, and that only through adverse performance can we learn and improve. Of course you could look back and properly reflect, rehash and redo, but I’m not going to do that today. Instead, I am going to tell you something that may or may not have been a realisation that was there before – it’s ok to lose. Remember when you were the noob, and you used to lose all the time? But I bet you took a lot of fun out of those games, when your favourite model or card did something cool, like nail your opponent’s OP boss unit of doom. Sure, you got a country-style beating in the end, but that moment, that was cool. And it didn’t harm your hobby, because you wanted to go back to your local friendly gaming store or club, and have coolness happen on the board.
Alternatively, you may have realised that in your idiocy, you have made yourself laugh again and again at how moronic your tactics and priorities were. This feel good losing factor is amplified when you manage to share this with your friends, and then they laugh at your moronic tactics too. Personally, I am particularly good at this getting laughed at by your friends malarkey as I have had no end of tactical and strategic über fails, and usually at quite big, competitive events.
For instance, here I shall let you in with some groundbreaking, blue sky thinking 40k Dark Eldar tactics, on how to beat flyer spam Chaos Space Marines. This information is so potent, it should stay secured down under lock and key – but I am willing to share it with you, dear reader. For the glory of Commoragh!
At a competitive tournament last year, I was trolling around in my usual position – mid table obscurity. I was practising my own Art of War, in particular, ‘to pwn the noob, I must first become .. the noob..’. Never was a philosophy more strictly adhered to.
My Dark Eldar skimmer spam was drawn against a good player using triple Heldrake, x2 flying Daemon Prince and Ork allies with a Dakkajet. I was going first. Now, this is a hellish match up for my army, but I’m feeling confident, as I had just trounced an identical force (minus Dakkajet) in the previous game. However, I knew this player was a step up from the previous opponent. So accordingly, I decided to step up the strategic firepower several notches. He wouldn’t know what had hit him…..
I’m going first. This means that I get two turns of movement before all his flyers come on, and he had elected to keep his Daemon Princes in reserve due to the amount of poisoned shots I’d have at them. Ok, so I’ve heard of this tactic on tha interwebz… if I go flat-out with all my skimmers onto his board edge 1st turn, it means that I’ll be able to shoot a lot of his stuff in my 2nd turn, and his flyers can’t shoot me. I’m going to table him, 4 turns at most. I kill a lot of Orks, and his Warboss for 1st blood. Piss easy!!
Then my stuff starts to die, at a jaw dropping, slow-realisation-and-sickening-feeling-in-stomach, exponential rate.
As my opponent’s flyers & flying princes all arrive on turn 2 with my Skimmers all on his board edge, all my stuff starts getting hit by vector strikes. At first I’m thinking, ‘No… this can’t be happening.. my tactics were airtight!’, but then the dull-wittingly slow realisation sinks in. This strategy is used for Necron flyer spam – not Chaos. So about half my force dies in my opponent’s movement phase! before he’s even shot anything. So I was partially right – he didn’t get to shoot me much, as most of the battlefield was littered with exploding Eldar Skimmers and dying Kabalites, with my glorious army’s souls being munched on by She Who Thirsts. An absolute hammering ensues, with my opponent thinking that I am a complete Muppet!
As it turns out, I still almost drew the game, but bad luck prevented me from grounding the Warlord Daemon Prince and killing it. However, luck is the residue of design, and the fact remains that I would have had the weight of firepower to get the draw, if I hadn’t overcommitment to an idiotic strategy in the first place. However, this remains one of the top moments of my gaming career, as it has been the source of much light-hearted mockery from my friends at my dumbass masterclass in how to not play against Hell-turkeys. This in itself is probably worth more to me than gubbing many other of my opponents over the years.
Therefore, it was probably the most memorable game from that tournament. In fact, I remember little of the games that I actually won, which goes to show that in the grand scheme of things – they weren’t that important in the first place.
So just remember – it’s not all about bad dice. If it helps, think of it like this: your dice aren’t there to help you, if anything they are a hinderance as each dice cares not what the other rolled. Just accept you play like a Muppet sometimes and that they will be the games/matches you think of the most.
Also remember that failing is not restricted to the realm of your hobby, it can happen in any aspect of life. For instance, the last two-day tournament event I was at, I ended up getting locked in the toilet of my hotel room, thrashing about naked, shrieking and wasted drunk, and having to be extracted from the situation by my flatmate. Yet again poor fortune cannot be to blame here – I probably shouldn’t have got as drunk, I almost definitely shouldn’t have gone into the bathroom without putting the light on, shut the door and got naked and started thrashing about in the shower, screaming like banshee. Yet again, my luck was engineered by the choices I made. A low moment for sure, but was certainly amusing. Why is it amusing?
Because it was fail.
And if Fitzgerald looked on the bright side of life – like I’m sure he did – then he would have appreciated that it wasn’t such a hard life coming from an upper-middle class family in the 20’s, even if he was occasionally jealous of the millionaires and billionaires he mixed with. He made his own luck, and that’s something that he could appreciate.