For the Love of the Game

SaltyJohn here to discuss just why I love and play 40k.


I am aware that this article being written by me is a bit ironic. I am known as a super competitive player who prefers tournaments and play-off situations to just playing for fun.  This is a bit of a misconception since I love playing in story-driven campaigns/leagues and Apocalypse games, but I know where you are coming from with your perceptions of me.  I spam a lot in my lists, and I play Space Marines, Space Wolves, Conclave, Thunderstar, Wolftide, and Battle Company. I play in a lot of tournaments and often finish mid-high on the list of competitors.  Also, a quick list of my armies will show you I lean towards playing what is “good.”  


So why am I writing an article about playing “for the love of the game”?  Simple, I do love the game, and often times I will play sub par lists or super fluff driven lists in order to just have a good time.  I don’t write much about it; in fact, most of the blogosphere doesn’t, so I wanted to take some time and talk about how playing just for the love of the game can be awesome.


This concept doesn’t just apply to 40k though.  I also have a Protectorate of Menoth army for Warmachine.  I played a little Warmachine in Mk I and hated it, I played some in mid Mk II and it was fun.  It wasn’t that I was too GW minded or couldn’t handle the more tactical nature of the game, but my problem stemmed from my mind set at the time.  When I took up WM MkI, and later MK II, I was at the height of my “I have to win, I have to play ultra competitive armies, I have to play the uber list” mindset.  Luckily that has worn off, and I can now play a game just to enjoy it.  At the time, there wasn’t an auto win list in WM, and there still isn’t, even though near the end of Mk II, the game had a feeling of having been “solved”.  I couldn’t handle the nuances of the game at the time, so no matter what list I used, I was getting beat.  Now that my uber competitive side is reserved for tournaments and league play-offs, I have found myself drawn into giving other games like WM Mk3 and a few historicals like Saga because they are well, fun.


Dialing back your competitive side and restricting it to just when it’s appropriate is not easy to do.  It certainly wasn’t for me. What I found was if you can play a game with a list that you know isn’t optimal, you can play for fun.  Whether it means leaving the Battle Company or the Thunderwolves in the case or it means playing without a Conclave and just a single Librarian, it’s doable.  Maybe it means using Vanguard Veterans in a Vanilla Marine army and struggling through learning how to use it properly, or it might mean taking Orks to game night.  Break your mold and play a game just for fun, use a unit you never do just for the hell of it.  it can open up not only possibilities in your gaming, but it will improve your abilities as a gamer.


Here are a few examples of how just playing for fun every now and then has made me a better gamer:


  1. It made me less intense and therefore less off-putting as an opponent, which means a better time at the table.
  2. People want to play games against you when you are capable of switching between ultra competitive and just having a nice game.  That way both types of gamers feel comfortable playing me.
  3. It opened me up to new possibilities.  Playing WM MkII would have never entered my mind if I hadn’t grown up a little and focused less on the competitive nature of my game.
  4. I became a better player.  Learning how to play and win with sub-par units helped me out tremendously.  Some lists are pretty push button, but being able to win with a non-push button list hones your skills.  Also, being open to playing new systems (and losing at them) grants you insight into your main system and improves game play within that realm as well.  It certainly does for me!
  5. It decreased my boredom or gamer stagnation.  By being open to playing a different style of gaming and subsequently being open to playing a different system, I have been able to stay engaged, positive, and excited to play my main game system.
  6. It curbed my development into TFG or a WAAC (Win At All Costs) player.  TFG is someone people don’t want to play because they run on full octane every moment of every game no matter who they play AKA the classic baby-seal clubber.  WAAC players are those who have gone so full bore competitive that they begin to cheat, fudge rules, use RAW interpretations to trick their opponents, and generally do things seen as unacceptable by their peers.  Learning to step back and play for fun can really keep those personalities from manifesting in yourself.


Learning to curb hyper-aggressive/TFG/WAAC attitudes in yourself will give you insight into potentially helping curb that behavior in others. Learning to recognize the thin line between being competitive and being a rules lawyer to game the system and win at all costs is not an easy skill to acquire. It’s ok to enjoy this hobby and games in multiple ways. It is ok to love the hobby side and want to play in tournaments, and it’s ok to dislike painting and want to win tournaments; however, both those players need to make sure they have left room in their fun for their opponent to have fun as well. That was a difficult lesson for me to learn, but once I’d learned it, I saw the immediate benefits to all the people I play.
All around, I think playing for fun is extremely beneficial.  This can be glossed over a lot of the time by those of us in the war-gaming blogosphere/podcast arena since we often focus on building the most competitive lists, beating certain lists, or playing competitively.  I encourage you to take some time out of your day and put together a few lists for 40k, Age of Sigmar, Warmachine, Hordes, Flames of War, or whatever it is you play that just look fun.  Not stomp-my-opponent-into-the-ground fun, but this-looks-interesting-and-maybe-even-funny, I-want-to-try-it-out fun.

You know what else would be fun? Checking out the TFG Radio Patreon!