Friday, April 15, 2011

Competitive Modeling - A Discussion

Competitive Modelling...
Not this.
Ahhhh...  can you smell that? (Hint, it's not what Purgatus is cooking).

It's Friday, and that's the sweet, sweet smell of freedom.

I had a really stressful and really good week at work. No complaints on that front, but it's good to take a breather.

So I started out wanting to talk about this excellent Termagant conversion tutorial that SinSynn pointed out, and I realized that this is a perfect opportunity to talk about Competitive Modeling. This is a concept that I've had rattling around in my head for a while, not sure I was ready to try and explain it. I'm going to give it a whirl.

The idea is that once you have crossed the threshold of being a 'Competitive Hobbyist' the logical bi-product of that is competitive modeling. It's not a separate concept, more of a sub-concept. 

If some of you think this is the point where I say "lower the bases on your Land Speeders so you can get cover behind Rhinos, hurr." you couldn't be further from the truth. If anything this post is about the exact opposite of that later on, but we'll get there.

The basic premise of being a Competitive Hobbyist is that you care about being both an "on the table" competitor, meaning that you care a lot about your list or tactics, and that you are also a "hobbyist" by which I mean that you embrace the modeling, painting and yes, even fluff sides of this activity. Here are a few articles that go into this concept. I've even started to think about competitive terrain building.

In this man's opinion, this is the "best" way to fully experience this hobby, and what I try to encourage my buddies to try. It's not always easy, however.

Sometimes that great looking unit just sucks on the tabletop. Sometimes that Lascannon toting Space Marine you painted up so beautifully six years ago just doesn't work for this edition. Sometimes buying all your Daemons in sacred number squad sizes really fucks with your ability to build a balanced, competitive Daemons list. 

Lol, yeah that was a joke. Daemons suck. (Waits for mob).

In short, sometimes hobby and competition get in each other's way. It's true, there's no point in denying it. One of my professors once taught me about value trade offs. He said there's nothing wrong with value trade-offs - sometimes the reality is we can't get EVERYTHING we want. The true danger, he said, was in pretending that the value trade-off didn't exist, and failing to properly account for it in your decisions. 

Anyways. The point of competitive modeling, at a basic level, is MINIMIZING the value trade-offs that you, as a competitive hobbyist, have to make in order to satisfy your desire to compete AND hobby.

One large example of competitive hobbying is magnetization. You, as a hobbyist, should recognize EARLY in the process that this game changes over time. Edition changes, new codice releases, etc. can alter what makes sense for you to bring to the table. What that means is that unless you want to hack apart your precious spesh mareens 3 years from now, you had better plan ahead.

Even if you are only using ONE weapon now, and have no plans to use another, MAGNETIZE IT ANYWAYS. That way, down the road, if you DO have another weapon that suddenly comes into vogue, you have the option to just paint up a new arm and gun, pop a magnet on it, and stick it on your model.

Beyond the desire to adapt to future changes in the game, magnetization allows you to be flexible with your list building. I don't know a competitive gamer out there who does not enjoy building lists, to some extent or another. Why would you limit yourself when a simple step in the assembly process leaves you so much freedom to experiment down the line?

Now, some people might not care, they will proxy or play on Vassal or whatever. I'm not really 'down' with that. I don't mind proxying for a bit if necessary, but at the end of the day I *personally* don't seriously write lists that I don't have a path towards putting on the table. This explains why some might think my lists are not 'purely' competitive - I write lists with future realities in mind. The list building on paper and the model designs in my mind go hand in hand. I always have SOME plan to put things on the table.

This brings me to the next large part of competitive modeling, which is 'counts as.' Now competitive hobbying is not about taking your Utramine Tactical Squads and putting them in a list as 'counts as' Grey Hunters. Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se, but that is not competitive modeling. 

Rather, competitive modeling in this sense would be converting a Defiler into the exact same dimensions as a Grey Knights Dreadknight so that you can use the Grey Knights codex to represent your band of Thousand Sons space marines without gaining any in-game advantages (or dis-advantages really, but I would rather take a slight hit than cheat). It's basically converting models such that they represent what you want them to represent in a clear and skillful way, because you want to use a particular rule-set (probably but not necessarily for competitive reasons). The MAIN point is that you go out of your way to ensure that your models behave exactly the same way as the original model would so that they don't cause issues in a competitive environment. 

It's a lot like architecture, in that it's an artistic expression bound by certain constraints and requirements, in this case the rules of tournament play.

Those are the two main aspects of competitive hobbying that I can think of, but there may be others. I'm open to suggestions. I mainly write this out so that I can organize my own thoughts on the matter, and I hope that you all find it at least somewhat interesting.

This is related to the Termagants tutorial directly. I have not seriously considered lists with Devilgaunts in them till now - mainly because I didn't want to paint (not to mention purchase) up another 20-30 gaunts with a competely separate loadout. I had thought about trying to magnetize them but... man even my magnetization knows some limits. the thought of magnetizing 30 gaunts makes me shudder. 

But this is a conversion I can perform "retroactively" on my assembled but unpainted minis (and there are far more than the 30 I feel would be a solid number to have available as Devilgaunts) and so I have been seriously considering list options with them.

I feel like they may be a key tool in being successful against Grey Knights and other mid-range shooting armies, and are really quite handy against MEQ armies in general. The volume of fire is impressive for a 10 point model, to say the least, and the 18" range is the "sweet spot" that is needed to be able to tangle with Grey Knights (more on that when I present my list thoughts later tonight). 

Till next time, I would love to hear from you guys. I have made a promise to myself to START MY GUARD ARMY paint commission tonight, probably with the Storm Troopers. What are you guys up to?