Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Old Stuff Day - Following Your Heart, Using Emotions to Gain Victory in 40k Part II: Getting Into Your Opponent's Head

Another post for Old Stuff Day.  While not quite as funny as the first part in this mini-series, I think it still makes good points. Originally posted here on Yes The Truth Hurts.

You’ve all seen, I hope, this classic moment in modern cinema:

Indiana Jones, running through the streets of Cairo. Suddenly, in front of him appears a robed and cowled figure. The menacing individual pulls out a sword. Indy’s opponent proceeds to engage in a dazzling display of swordsmanship, whirling and slashing wildly at the air in a clear attempt to intimidate Indiana with his utter badassness.

Then, in what is perhaps one of the best moments of the film (an unscripted moment, by the way), Indy calmly pulls out his revolver and shoots the swordsman in the chest. He falls down dead, and Indiana runs onward…

Two points should be drawn from this scene:

1) If the swordsman had any buddies standing around at that moment, one can assume they were thoroughly demoralized.

2) We can achieve similar victories, and similarly demoralize our opponent, by doing the same thing that Indiana did.

So what did Indy do? He got into his opponent’s head and figured out how his opponent thought the encounter ought to go, and then refused to play by his opponent’s rules.

P asked an excellent question in this thread:

“A bit more on how to counter this n00b-hammer please? Even if it’s the guy’s entire army, a land raider filled with Terminators and HQs is scary.”

Excellent question P!

A few of the commenters have posted some very valid, if quick and dirty, advice on how to counter the LR rush. But in this article I’d like to examine using emotions to both figure out a plan to counter your opponent’s attack, and then thoroughly demoralize your opponent leading to your ultimate victory.

In my previous article, I suggested avoiding the construction of a “Noob-hammer” army, with an over-investment of points into super-expensive uber units of doom.

Now I will talk about how to crush them.

Usually from looking at your opponent’s list, and looking at how they deploy, you can tell where their heart and soul are. From this, we can extrapolate what their battle plan is likely to be. If your opponent has a Land Raider with 8 Terminators, 2 HQs and all the “fixins’” in it, we can safely assume that his greatest hope and dream is to get that unit into melee with as many of your units as possible, crushing one thing after another until there is nothing left of your army but a smoldering pile of ceramite armor and faintly glowing flesh.

Well, let’s upset that applecart a bit, shall we?

Don’t play by his rules, play by yours. Don’t let him get close, frustrate him at every turn by having to move around your vehicle wall. Don’t give him good melee targets, give him fast moving vehicles against which he has to roll 6’s to hit. Don’t allow his Land Raider to deliver his unit straight into the assault, destroy or cripple the Raider, and make those fuckers walk. Don’t close in and attempt to take on his hammer unit in close combat, run away, tauntingly staying just out of range as you pour a hail of firepower into his now footslogging terminators.

I honestly have to give credit to this article by Silent Requiem. I first read this about a year ago. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. While I don’t necessarily buy into everything he says hook, line and sinker, included in this article are some of the basic tenets that I am trying to express. Your own plan in this instance is less important than figuring out what your opponent wants and frustrating them at every turn.

How does emotion play into this? Well, in game theory, we like to think that we can predict our opponent’s next move by figuring out what their ‘best’ move is. You postulate “well, he ought to move there, and do that, so that’s probably what he will do.” In reality, their next move is not always their best move, because humans are not perfectly rational actors. Instead, things like emotion get in the way of rational behavior, and we behave in ways which are not to our benefit.

One excellent way of promoting this behavior in others is to break their toys. Not literally, of course, but within the boundaries of the game. Figure out what units they love, and kill them. Worse, do it in such a way that is particularly frustrating/humiliating for them. If they have an uber cheese melee unit, don’t kill it in melee, kill it by shooting it to death.

You know you’ve seen it happen. People WILL fail 2+ saves. Usually it goes something like this:

“I fire my Rhino’s stormbolter. Two hits, one wound.”
Opponent: *rolls* “I save.”
“I fire my other Rhino’s stormbolter. One hit, one wound.”
Opponent: *rolls* “I save.”
“I fire my drop-pod stormbolter. Two hits, two wounds.”
Opponent: *rolls* “GODDAMIT!” *picks up TH/SS Terminator…*

If, on the other hand, they have a super shooty unit on the board, there is nothing more frustrating than keeping it locked in close combat with throwaway troops. (I have kept full broadside units locked up by 5 man Marine squads for most of the game) This makes your opponent angry, and angry opponents make mistakes.

Good clues to look for are exquisitely painted or highly converted miniatures. Possibly the ones that he takes out of the case first, so that everyone can admire them prior to the game. Looking at his list can clue you in too, (hint, if they have a one paragraph fluff description next to their unit entry, that’s what you want to kill, lol). My favorite thing to do is kill special characters with meltaguns. I have melta’d Dante, the Emperor’s Champion, a Grey Knight Grand Master… the list goes on. Pisses people off royally.

This is akin to taking your opponent’s Queen in chess. They may still be very much “in the game” but they don’t feel like they are. Often opponents who have lost their trophy unit will become sloppy and from that point on the game goes downhill for them.

Now, I wanted to include one important caveat with this article; you don’t need to be a dickhead to follow this strategy. Your goal should not be to produce a frothing-at-the mouth madman across the table, or a sobbing, blubbering mass of overfed nerd-boy either. It is possible to demoralize your opponent in this way without saying a word to him, just by calmly rolling your dice and forcing him to pick up his babies and slowly pack them back into his army carrier.

The goal is not to be an asshole, but instead to attack your opponent’s weaknesses within the context of the game, be they technical weaknesses or psychological ones. And remember, once the game is over, be a gentleman (or lady) and give the guy (or gal) some honest, non-condescending advice on list building and tactics so the next time your Jedi mind tricks don’t work as well.

I hope you have enjoyed this mini-series. I will try and come up with some more material for you guys soon.