CONCEPTS: Feeding Yourself 40k (or Your Game of Choice)


I like to consume as much 40k (you can replace this with your game of choice) as I can in my free time. Such sustenance comes in various forms, but I find that I run out of good quality food for thought fairly quickly, as I seem to get though it so fast!

This CONCEPTS: post looks at a few of my hunting grounds and suggests a few places to forage for the good stuff.

The one thing I do get to do a lot of is read blogs. Having a smart phone means that whenever I have a few minutes, I'm usually reading about 40k. There are a few regular sites that I'm often on, and I will regularly check through my blog list to see if anything new has been added. Once I find a good blog, I will generally take a long look through their past posts, as this can be a great mine of interesting stuff that is still relevant.

If you sign up with Blogger, you can also follow your favourite blogs (hint!). When you log in, you get a dashboard of the latest posts from each of the sites you follow. This saves you the effort of going to visit each site to look for new stuff, as it is done for you. I didn't create an account for a couple of years as my method of accessing the net (my first smartphone) didn't quite have the facility or speed to do this. However, with my new one and another (sometimes unreliable) source of internet on my netbook, I created a profile and signed up to all those blogs I had read for years but not followed with a profile. Very convenient!

I'd guess that this is painfully obvious to anyone reading this, but for completeness I also recommend taking a look at different site's blog rolls. These are usually sidebars that update automatically with recent posts from other sites the authors follow. I found nearly all the sites I like via the blog roll of ones I already visit, and I tend to take a look at a site that I see coming up frequently on multiple sites I know.

Finally for blogs, there is stalking, erm, I mean looking at what blogs other people follow. If you click on someone's profile on Blogger, a helpful little list comes up with all the other blogs that person follows. If you happen to recognise that the person is a internet celebrity or high ranking tournament player, it may be worthwhile taking a look at what else they are reading. It might be drivel, but then again, it might be a valuable source of information! This is not stalking. Honestly...

Thankfully I don't need to buy every codex to take a good look at it, thanks to the library at the club. There is usually a copy of a codex that I haven't had a good look through, or one I feel like going over again, sitting around waiting to be borrowed. I'm trying to get into the habit of writing lists for different armies, even if I don't intend to play them, to get an idea of what I could create and use this to try and find the strengths and weaknesses of the codex.

This also helps widen my knowledge base for tournaments, as players at the club generally don't play every single army. Even if they did, it is unlikely that they would all be playing the latest power-builds, so trying to get an idea of what popular units can do is really handy. Since memorising every codex is going to take a little time (if I manage it at all!), rather than stick with one army until I know it I decided to break down the task into parts and not beat myself up if I didn't find the time or the willpower to digest the whole book.

My first stage is trying to familiarise myself with army wide abilities and generic stat lines to classify the troops as GEQ, MEQ or TEQ (some codexes may have more than one). This helps me assess the relative strength of the units I expect to see in the bulk of the army, e.g. guardsmen are squishy but cheap, marines are tougher but typically less numerous, etc.

Next is getting to know the units I'm most likely to see at a tournament. You can easily find these out by reading the most popular army lists, or even better - records of tournament army lists from the organisers (akin to gold dust). If I see a lot of armies using wraiths, it's in my best interests if I make the effort to find out what they can actually do as I can more accurately assess their relative threat level *to my army at that time*, rather than think 'the internet says they're amazing - I'd better avoid those'.

This is generally as far as I get before I give the codex back, but the next thing I look for is the weapon profiles. When I was (and still am) learning what different units can do, the first question I ask my opponent when reading their list is 'what weapons have AP3 or better', shortly followed by 'how about mid-high strength weapons'. As a marine player, I'm not too concerned by big scary weapons that can't ignore my armour. As a mech player, I am concerned about the number of shots that can reliably damage my metal boxes. The next question for most would probably be 'what anti-flier is there' or 'what ignores cover' now I'm using guard allies. You could go on for some time, but since you don't have that at a tournament, these quick questions help me form a very quick basic threat evaluation before I plan my strategy (unfortunately it also gives an astute opponent an insight into what I find most threatening, but at this stage you gain more than you loose!). As you can see, reading up on expected threats before the stress of a tournament environment takes a lot of pressure off!

Finally there is getting to know each unit, weapon and rule in detail. I find this much easier for armies I find interesting, or for armies I face more often, as I will read the codex for longer and more frequently. To reference a famous ancient tactician, know your enemy, as you can plan more effectively how to beat them. It is also quite handy to make sure that you know if your opponent has 'forgotten' or misunderstood the rules in their favour!

This is used as a four letter word in certain circles, but there are some very popular forums out there that some absolutely swear by. The risk is that you will find many conflicting voices or an overpowering wrong one that can sway you from the path of true knowledge (or something less pretentious). One of the early pieces of advice I read on YTTH was to avoid forums like the plague, and stick to a few good quality sources for your opinion forming input. I have stuck to this largely, and try to avoid muddying the waters with masses of opinions. Instead I have tried to seek out sources that I have found to be consistent and of high quality. That said, reading some of the bar-room brawls on the Space Wolves section of Bolter & Chainsword have been just brilliant fun. I think what I'm getting to on this one is be aware what you feed yourself with and why you're having it, and know you're junk food from your award winning pie.

Social Media
There are some very active Facebook (and I assume Twitter) pages and groups out there. From my experience these are great for quick interactions, sharing photos and arranging games. As with blogs, just search for your army and I would be surprised if you couldn't find somebody somewhere who is talking about it. As with forums, be aware of who you're letting influence you!

I used to collect a magazine named after a white bearded dwarf when I was younger, I loved every single page. A combination of growing up and a change in the function of said magazine into a catalogue/advert has changed my opinion of said publication, but if you're looking for somewhere to see the latest shiny toys, this is one of the first (legitimate) places you'll find the goodies.

I will also include the Games Workshop and other online retailers in this section, as these provide a quick way of seeing what's available. I've used this to take a look at the models for units I keep seeing mentioned on the next but have know idea what they look like in the flesh. This won't help against 'count's as' armies, but being able to tell a Vulture from a Valkyrie or identify the types of weapons a unit has just by glancing at them in game saves a whole lot of time and mental energy.

Not everyone has friends who play, so clubs can be a great way of getting more games in. If you have the luxury of choice, I would recommend finding a group of like-minded gamers. Some clubs have a different flavour to others, ranging from campaigns to tournament play, and others allow some expansions (e.g. Forge World) as standard whilst others do not. Finding a club that suits your tastes will make gaming there much more fulfilling.

Basic Rulebooks (and FAQs)
I've left this one to near the end because it's easier to remember - read the basic rules! So many people have been playing for ages and still don't know the rules properly (I count myself in this too!). There is a load of stuff to remember, sure, but in my experience most people stop reading the rules after a few games and think they know enough. But my motivation is simple and selfish. I have lost games because I though I knew a rule, but was argued out of it or defaulted to a more experienced player's opinion. That's no good! I don't mind losing a game because my opponent was better than me, the dice actually failed me the whole game (unlikely) or I made a mistake(s) that cost me the game (as I can learn from these and play better next time), but to loose because I didn't know where to look for a rule that I know is right really irritates me (until I remember it's a game of war dollies and there are much more important things in life). So from time to time I pick up the rule book and take a look through. Highly recommended.

Create Your Own
When you can't get enough from anywhere else, you can always do it yourself! This is much easier as it seems thanks to a wide variety of free operators such as Blogger, WordPress, Facebook and Twitter. I find writing articles and posts really helpful in encouraging me to articulate and consider my own thought process and ideas. I also use mine as a custom gaming resource, where I can effectively bookmark all my favourite sites, shops and articles. It's also fun to put up my own gaming photos and hobby progress too. Really the level of effort and commitment is entirely up to you and you get to set your own pace, which is really nice. I'd say it's one of those things that you get out of it what you put in, except maybe for proper battle reports because those things take an age to do properly!

There are loads of different ways to immerse yourself in the game, whether it be to get information, to see great hobby projects or to be part of the community. I hope that this article has offered a few different ways of feeding yourself 40k/your favourite game and has offered a few options that you may not have considered. Bon appetit!

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