Monday, August 30, 2010

I Hate Comp

I was contemplating hading up to Lafayette for a tournament this weekend, until I found out about the crazy tourney rules. A lot of people have chimed in on why they dislike or like the old comp'ed or battle point style tournaments. I thought I go and put down my particular reasons for disliking the format. I going to cover not just comp restrictions, but painting and sports scoring as well.


Comp restrictions and scoring always irk me. Comp is a means to try and fix a game that I don't think is necessarily broken. It never seems that the people who come up with comp really understands the game. That, or their understanding of the game was cemented in place some time in the distant past. From my observation, most comp comes from local groups trying to overcome some perceived imbalance in the game. 40K is a very complex game in terms of possible interactions with a dozen armies written against three different editions. Most gaming groups are only exposed to a small subset of those interactions. A lot of comp rules I see suffer from having big blind spots toward uncommon armies and builds. Take the one from Lafayette where they are requiring 4 Troops instead of 2. Older armies suffer from very poor troop choices. Forcing a Tau player to run extra troops hurts him a lot more than forcing a Marine player to run another tac squad. Of course that's assuming the motives of the TO are misguided and not malicious. Hypothetically the TO could think that Tau are overpowered and is trying to cripple what he thinks is a local players WAAC list.

This leads to my other gripe about comp in that it is exclusionary social engineering. There are these 'other' people who play 'differently' and something must be done about it. Comp rules favor local players, and hurt the guys from across town. All power rangers in our sandbox must be red, or you can't play here. Comp is meant to keep out WAACs, but is just as likely to hurt some random player's honest attempt at a 40k army list. Anybody who can build a good list to standard rules of 40k can also game any comp system, so it ends up that the only player who really gets hurt is the poor random scrub. In fact most comp systems can be gamed far worse than standard 40k. Oh, what joyful things can be done with a tournament that allows Dark Angels and Black Templars to have Codex Marine wargear!

5th edition makes comp redundant anyway. The newer codex's don't require as much FOC min/maxing and spamming to be competitive. It too easy for a Guard or Marine player to tip-toe around a comp system and still put a face smashingly brutal list on the table.


I would like to preface this by saying that I like to paint miniatures. I'm not the greatest at it, but the ability to build and paint a model and then do something with it was one of the things that drew me to the hobby. But painting requires two things to be good at: Time and Talent. Not everyone has those in spades. Plus painting injects a huge subjective blob into what should be a fairly objective affair. If you can't paint, and you want to win, people will just get their armies painted for them. This turns the painting competition into a how much money you can spend competition. I've always felt uneasy giving good painting scores to an army that was professional painted by someone other than the person playing it. There are also people who are physically incapable of painting small miniatures. How are we supposed to fit them into the hobby? Painting scores also skew the results towards veteran players. It takes time to fully paint an army to high standards, and it can take years to develop good painting skills. New players might have good tabletop skills, but are years away from fielding a pretty army.

I'm in support of minimum painting requirements, and separate painting competitions. I would also never turn away someone who had an unpainted army from a local tournament. Grand Tournaments are another matter entirely. I'm OK with them holding players to higher minimum requirements.

Painting and Comp are also contradictory. Painting an army takes a lot longer than it does to come up with some comp scoring system. You may not have the painted models to adjust your list to account for comp rules; forcing you to decide whether to take a comp hit or a painting hit in a tournament.


Like painting, I think of this as more of a requirement than something that should be scored. As Bill & Ted once said, "Be excellent to each other." I've becomes friends with many players where my first tournament experience against them was not pleasant. Sports scores are again skewed toward locals, and act as exclusionary social engineering. You accept the idiosyncrasies of people you are friends with more than those of complete strangers. Being friends with someone means the difference between, "That's just how Mike plays", and "What a WAAC jerk."

It's also another way for WAACs to abuse a system meant to protect us from them. People for the most part will act in their own self interest, and you are giving them a slip of paper that essentially says, "Check this box if you don't want your opponent to win the tournament."

It's the job of the TO to police bad behavior. It's up to the players to let the TO know when bad behavior is occurring. Cheating should not be tolerated.


Short conclusion: do it like the NOVA Open did. NOVA was structured as an event that tried to include people and promote a common community. This upcoming Lafayette tournament looks like the opposite. While I've seen worse tournament setups, it's not inclusive. It doesn't take into account that 5th edition 40k is a fairly balanced system. Some armies don't have as many tools, but any army can give a decent showing with a good player behind it. Giving some armies free upgrades, and hamstringing others does not help the game. The only people who benefit from a tournament like that are local players who are used to that particular home-brew 40k. Tournaments should be about stripping away the BS to determine who the best player is, not about adding another layer of crud to reinforce stereotypes.

While I have my own personal opinions about 40k and how it should be played (you just read through a whole post full of them), the only ones I adhere to are on the basis of inclusion. I don't think we should turn people away who have different opinions about the game. We should embrace systems that cater to as many people as possible. From what I've seen Nova was an event that accomplished that, and I think it is something that should be emulated whenever possible. I don't like tournaments that penalize people for not playing with their toy soldiers the 'right' way.


  1. amen brother!

    *returns quietly to his seat*

    Sandwyrm and I have had similar discussions, esp. about how silly easy it is for him with IG to dance around Force Org based Comp, and how it can get kind of hard for me to do.

    esp. when they want no more than 2 of a particular type of unit.

    DaemonHunters codex is one of my prime examples of how comp typically screws over an old codex that's already been bent over by the new rules.

  2. I've played often up there. To be fair, the missions are normally very well designed and overall a lot of fun.
    But the restrictions put in place are often...very... taxing to most codecies.
    Most of the people I faced up there are/were generally new and casual with one or two competitive players.

    It is much fun if you think you can handle the comp and have the time.

  3. That's the problem, though. They are a casual group of players and their choice for a public event is a tournament, a generally accepted competitive type of event. So, they've created an event that fits their style of play, but is deceptive in how people perceive it. There are many other types of 40k events that are more casual and will still attract many players. If you are going to have a tournament, have a tournament. Accept that there is going to be competition. Accept that people will show up with hard armies and play their A-game. That's what tournaments are about to most people.

    Those one or two competitive players in their group are going to have a huge advantage over some random out-of-towner who hears 'tournament' and 'Lafayette'. They know the mission and have armies tuned to that environment.

    The rules they've put in place don't protect them from WAAC's as much as create a home field advantage. Not a very inclusive thing to do for a public tournament held at a convention.

  4. I agree with all your sentiments CaulynDarr.

    Hopefully I can go this weekend and have fun, and win. If not, no big deal. But if I get screwed because I am an out of towner or find out the locals all knew the missions before hand, that will be a different story.