Decided I wanted to put down in text some thoughts about the game I have had for a while, more to organise my own thoughts really but I think it could be a good exercise in learning more about ourselves as Warmachine players, and the things we can do to improve and move to the next level.
Warmachine players come in varying levels of skill and experience, from first game newbies to world championship winners. You see people right across the spectrum, from the new player who's just a natural to the long time player who just can't seem to "get it". In this post I am going to try and dissect the different 'levels' we move through as players and the characteristics required to be better.
The Ultimate Newbie
These players have never seen a Wargame before. Probably been introduced through seeing some models around a friends house, asking about the game and taking an interest in it. In Warmachine, I don't think we have many of these players, I have not met one person who's first game was Warmachine. Pretty much all of us graduated from the GW school of gaming before moving on to more complex and engaging games, like Warmachine & Hordes.
These players will struggle to understand the basic concepts at first, won't know how to build synergies and will often mis-allocate resources, such as using heavy guns to kill infantry. There is the very odd exception where a player will just take to the game like fish to water, however this is very rare for someone experiencing a wargame, particularly Warmachine, for the first time.
The Warmachine Newbie
Pretty self explanatory really, and is one step up from the Ultimate Newbie. A Warmachine Newbie will be experiencing Warmachine for the first time, but has some experience with other wargames. These players can come in many different skill levels, depending on their previous experience with wargames.
Warmachine as a game is a good leveller as the game is more complex than many other games on the market. However, a player coming over from Warhammer Fantasy Battles for example, who played the game at high level and perhaps did well at national level tournaments, will have a much better grasp of the basics of the game. They will understand how to build synergies and have an idea of maximising utility of resources, but they will likely miss the deeper complexities of the game at first.
This spot here is probably where most Warmachine players find themselves, they have graduated beyond battle box games and smaller point games and will be a regular gamer at the club or local store. They may even attend the odd local steamroller or 2 and will generally pick up an average or slightly below average result. These players have a good grasp of the fundamentals of Warmachine and have some level of mastery over their own casters or factions synergies.
However, these players will likely lack the deeper knowledge of other factions to truly compete, they may even struggle to stray too far from the 2 or 3 casters they feel comfortable with. Because of this, they will probably not brave an attendance at national events, not regularly at least and will probably never win a local event.
The Good Player
The next step up is the 'good player'. This player has plenty of experience with the game and probably knows their own faction inside and out. Will have a few casters that they really excel at playing and will frequently attend, and possibly win local Steamroller events. These players will also be regulars at National level events, although will rarely win or even 'do well' in some cases.
A good player will also have a decent basic knowledge of the other factions in the game, they will know the highlights to look out for such as problem casters and common plays but will likely get caught out by more complex synergies that they have either not seen before or didn't fully understand.
This level of player is usually where we start to see carefully constructed list pairs, built to be complementary to each other, sometimes as simple as an ARM cracking list and and anti-gun line list. What will sometimes let them down is knowing the right match ups to drop each list in the pair into, which stems from a lack of deeper knowledge of the other factions in the game.
These players are the ones that go into larger national events expecting to either win, or come very close. These players are also the ones in which the other 'lesser' players will recognise the names of and hope to avoid to stand a chance of doing well.
Above what a 'good player' brings to the table, a nationals contender will have a much better understanding of every faction in the game and at least a basic idea of how every caster wants to win the game. This comes from a vast amount of practise through regular gaming at a high level and gives them a significant advantage in the list selection phase of a game.
List building will consist of very complimentary lists each with a specific advantage into particular match ups or factions.
Taking the next step from contender to regular national event winner takes the knowledge of each faction in the game further to the point of having a deep understanding of the meta. Being able to understand and predict what the players from each faction are likely to bring to an event gives a huge advantage when building their own list pairs.
Using this knowledge in conjunction with the ability to predict each match up as it unfolds on the table is what pushes the players skill level to the point of being able to regularly win large national events. These players will often know the exact win condition for any caster in any given match up and will know how to play to counter that win condition.
List building from players at this level is often very reactionary, but in a good way. Players will know exactly what to expect as the 'bogeymen' and ensure they are packing sufficient counters to those problems.
The Trail Blazer
In my opinion, these players are the pinnacle of the game. Above and beyond a national event winner, these are the gamers that create the lists that become 'net lists', they create the lists that become the bogeyman and before people develop a counter they have already moved to the counter to that counter.
A very deep understanding of the game as a whole, know every faction inside out and will know exactly how every caster plays every scenario in every match up. This takes years of very frequent gaming at a high level.
A player who is a trail blazer will not only be able to predict the meta, they will also be able to predict the counters that people will bring for that meta and adjust their own counters accordingly. These are players that will often build lists proactively to create problems no one is planning for and thus start the new meta > new counter cycle all over again.
These are my thoughts anyway, you probably have a differing opinion so let me know if I've missed anything. Hopefully it gives you some insight to the sort of skills required to play at a high level. The thing is, I am not a gamer at the highest level so there are probably plenty of deeper nuances that I am missing, because I am not at that level yet.
Obviously this is written from a competitive play mindset and some will read this and have no interest at all.
Let me know your thoughts on this.
Until next time, thanks for reading!