Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Where Two Worlds Collide - 40k and Sports

What is up everyone?  It has been a very long time since I have done a post that hasn't been for a podcast episode.  As most of us have found in Warhammer (or any hobby) is that life will get in the way, but I have been keeping in touch with 40k by listening to other podcasts and catching up on old episodes.  While listening to The Best General Episode 26  where Adam was interviewing Ruben, an Olympic rower for the Dutch national team, I started wrestling with how 40k and sports merge, and how I can look at it for my benefit on the table.  I've come up with a few topics where the two realms meet, and for today I want to look to sports for parallels with how we as a community should approach 40k when it comes to rules.  

Now the sport that most closely relates to 40k is not American Football, Football/Soccer, or even Boxing/MMA.  These sports can teach us some pretty cool ideas that we could use on the table top, but they don't encompass the game the same way that Golf does. 

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Golf has the model for 40k

Golf and 40k do relate to each other in a number of different ways, and I think the rules of Golf can help guide us through recent concerns within the community with playing by and within the rules.

Let's look at golf and 40k from the basics.  You have different levels of competition and play for both games.  I break these down into 3 levels:  Professional, Amateur, and Casual.  For Golf, these levels are fairly easy to dictate:  Professional - you are a PGA caliber player playing in the biggest tournaments with a legitimate shot at winning a couple here and there; Amateur - not quite on the same level as the Pro, but you are still good, play in a bunch of tournaments, but you have another job to pay the bills; Casual - Grab a 6 pack, meet up with your buds, and play a round. 

Now for 40k, we kind of have the same rankings:  Professional - you are constantly at the top tables and have a legitimate shot to win any tournament you attend; Amateur - you are attending tournaments and playing competitively, and every now and again you find yourself doing well and finishing in the top tables; Casual - Grab a 6 pack and start throwing dice at your friend’s house on a Friday or Saturday night. 

Now how does the public stack up.  For Golf, most people are in the casual range (I would venture to say anywhere from 70-80%) whereas in 40k, that same percentage falls into the Amateur/Casual range.  It simply means that our game of 40k doesn't quite have the dedicated tournament scene that Magic, Starcraft, or any other top game does.  Golf also differs from 40k in that Professionals typically only play against other Professionals in Golf tournaments, but when I head to Warzone: Atlanta, NOVA, or Renegade, I could be playing against the top guys like Nick Nanavati, Andrew Whitaker, or Collin Watts to name a few.  This is awesome because at every open tournament, I have a chance to see how I could do against the top of the top (if I get paired with them).

A golf tournament is also setup in a way that is similar to that of 40k.  In golf, when you are playing a stroke match, you are trying to not only beat your partner (player in the group with you) but you are also going against the rest of the field.  Sound familiar? It should because you are doing the same thing in a 40k tournament.  If the tournament is using battle points, you are trying to get the most you can while playing your opponent hoping that the rest of the field does poorly.  Just like golf, each round of the tournament you are paired against guys that are similar to you in score.  So theoretically the better you are playing the better your opponent should be.  Not only that, but the winner at the end of the weekend is the player that did the best that weekend, they could have come from the lead group, a secondary group, or out of nowhere if luck is on their side.  

Okay, so we have laid out similarities and differences between the two without identifying the elephant in the room.  That giant ivory colored beast is that of being a Gentleman.  In Golf, if you are not considered to have a reputation of being a gentleman, then you are ostracized.  You can have your quirks or your flaws (looking at you John Daly), but you should still treat the game with respect.  That respect is in the fact that no one on a golf course should cheat, and all Professional/Amateur golfers abide by this rule.  The casual golfer might bend the rules when having fun with friends, but if there is money, just bragging rights on the line, or the group you are in wants to play legit, then you have to follow the rules.  In 40k, this has been marred.  We have some of the top players accused of cheating, flubbing rules, playing loose with certain elements, claiming wargear or upgrades when none have been paid for, points errors, models that may or may not be what they are supposed to be, and so on. This would never happen in golf because golf has tradition and a governing body to make sure that these things don't happen.

So let's look at what the 40k community could learn from golf to reduce or remove these issues:

Know the rules - In 40k, there are a ton of rules, and no one person can know every single rule for every single book.  We should however be expected like in golf, to know the rules governing the game in addition to knowing the rules for our individual codex.  Not only that, but if questioned, we should be able to pull out the rule book/codex and show our opponent.  If someone doesn't know how to handle an event in Golf, they can call a rules official over, the official makes a determination, and that ruling is applied.  Sound familiar? This is what should happen in 40k, however, this is not always the case and players don't call the judge when they should, or misrepresent or misremember their rules.  

Slow Play - In golf, there are rules against this.  If a player is deliberately slowing the game down in a way that is affecting not only his group opponent but opponents behind him, then there are some stiff penalties.  These include everything from a stroke penalty, to loss of the hole, to being disqualified on the third time.  I believe that 40k tournaments should look at this.  If a player is deliberately slow playing and it can be traced to them, then similar penalties (loss of BPs, loss of game, eventual DQs) should be applied to ensure that people are not trying to game the system for their benefit.

Your Bag - Whatever clubs you have in your bag for that day on the course, those are the only ones you can play with and the same goes for 40k.  Whatever units are in your list, whatever wargear you gave them, that is that, and if it is found that something is different (not costed right, not modeled right, etc) then it should be treated like it is in golf.  The club/model is removed, you get a warning, and if you use that same club/model again, you are running the risk of being DQ'd from the tournament.

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Arnold Palmer - A true Champion and Gentleman
Be a Gentleman - In golf, being a gentleman comes before everything else.  If an opponent asks you for a yard marker close to you, or if they ask you if there is a rake close by; help them out.  Don't be a jerk and not help them with speeding up the game.  Also, if you agree on something like not to talk until the hole is finished, or that on any ball that might be lost, you will automatically play a provisional, then it should be understood that is universal for both parties and a Gentleman's understanding is in play.  If you and your opponent agree on something, then it should be treated that way unless you are told otherwise.  In a tournament for 40k, this could be that a ruin you can't go to the top levels unless you have fly, or a piece of terrain is impassible to everything except for units with fly.  Whatever the Gentleman's agreement, it should be well discussed, made sure to be marked, and finally there should be no deviation from this unless both parties want to change it or are forced to by an official.

Self-Reporting - In golf, there is a standing rule of self-reporting.  This is everything from how many strokes did you have, was a ball out of bounds and did you account for it, and did that ball actually fall in the correct allowable amount of time to not be considered an extra stroke.  This is part of being a gentleman in Golf and I believe it should be applied in 40k.  At Warzone, I realized that my opponent, the Warboss Hinkle and I had added our scores up incorrectly. I found him immediately and reported that to him, and we got the TOs to fix the mistake. I would be losing points, but the game would have been scored correctly and fairly. This is a minor thing, but we should strive for this kind of etiquette to be seen everywhere and if something is brought to us, then we should make the reports so that our game has some honesty applied to it. There have been other examples at other tournaments with different players doing similar things, but without me having 100% of the story, I don’t feel I can use it as an example here.

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John Daly - Casually Competitive
Casual vs. Competitive - In golf, if you are playing a casual game with your friends, and you touch your ball on the tee box with your club and it moves, your group will probably say "that didn't happen, just re-tee it and don't suck."  If you are in a competitive setting and that happens, then you had better take a stroke and play it from where it lies.  This is an unwritten rule that plays out thousands of times across a day of golf.  The same applies in 40k, if you are playing casual and you ask your friend if you could do something over or reset something, hopefully if you are there to have fun, they will let you do it.  However, don't expect that same kind of treatment at a tournament.  So we have a set of unwritten rules that indicate what is okay.  Proxies in Casual are okay, but at a tournament, you had better get the clearance from the TO and be ready to explain that clearly to all of your opponents, or else you are trying to cheat the system.

Cheating - Cheating in golf almost never happens because it is met by the harshest of punishments.  Almost every incident of cheating I could find concludes with a fine, a suspension, or even revoking of privileges.  These are almost always deliberate in nature and I believe that the 40k community should look into similar sanctions.  What they should be, I do not know, but if you have been found to have cheated, I believe it is up to the Tournament Organizers to make the final call and if necessary ban, revoke future invites, or even request prizes back.

Obviously, I could go on and on about the similarities but here is what it comes down to in 40k.  We don't have a culture yet of holding ourselves and our opponents accountable.  We don't have a governing body like the PGA to hand out punishments.  It is left to individuals at various levels.  What I call for is this: Let us turn our game into one of upstanding moral behavior and to hold ourselves to a higher standard in hopes of having our opponents hold themselves to a high standard.  If we want our game to begin to grow to a level where we can start to have a competitive scene with increased prize support, then we shouldn't have to put an asterisk beside each tournament winner that had cheated, intentionally or otherwise.  Finally I believe that we need help on this.  We need GW to give us an army builder that has points (adjusted immediately when the FAQs are dropped), that allows us to make legal lists with less chance for errors, and to give us the support we need on the tournament side so that judgments become more universal compared to tournament by tournament.  We need to come together as a community and to use Golf as a model for how we should conduct ourselves when it comes to our hobby, our game, and our sport.

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