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Gameplay - how to avoid the trap of being "sneaky" in games

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So there's a trap that many of us fall into with wargames, more so when we are new to them; but even experienced people can fall foul of this from time to time - and that is the desire to be sneaky.

Now just what do I mean by this? Well I mean ideas and battle plans that we come up with which rely on our understanding of the rules of our own army and our "hope" that our opponent doesn't know those same rules (as yet). Examples might be an assassin unit that have a unique deployment mechanic; a combo that chains one or two spells/artifacts onto a single unit; a specific counter ability or the like. 

Essentially powerful moves that are not common and might even be unique, which would give the player the edge when they are used. 

The risk for the player (esp if you are new to the game )is that one can pin too much hope on these powerful moves and tricks; which means if they become broken the player ends up with reduced capacity to adapt to the changing situation and also reduced chance that they've taken steps to provide an alternative plan. Another big risk that you move and use your models with the view that you will get your ability to work; which can leave you open to being countered and then having a significant gap in your army that easily makes you exploited. 

So what's the solution? 

In my view the key solution is to go into a game planning that your opponent knows your army as well as they know their own, if not better. They know which units do what; what combos can be done; what counters and tricks there are within your army. By viewing your opponents understanding of your army like that you run less risk that you'll develop tactics that rely on your opponent not knowing key information. 

It means that you're open to other ideas, of protecting your key assets during the game and also that if your killer combo is defeated before it goes off; you're not left feeling as sore nor hard done by. You've lost a tool, but not the war and you've got other ideas or methods or even just tactical ideas on how to approach the game. 

 

 

In the end this is a short article on caution when predicting what your opponent knows. Assume that they know all commonly held information and are aware of all the tactical tricks and combos you can do. 

Similarly it will encourage you to actually learn the tricks and combos of your opposing armies as well. To keep note of powerful abilities and actions that your opponent performs and to start working toward your own mitigation or counter approach to tackling those abilities. 

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As a goblin player of over 25 years I resent this topic...

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As a Skaven player of almost exactly 25 years I feel personally attacked.

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Hmm 🤔 I am not sure I get it.

For me this sounds like normal play. That has nothing to do with sneaky. If you can come up with good strategies for me that is a sign that you are a better general then I am. 

People who just copy pasta good lists will fail eventually when something isn‘t working a good player on the otherside will be able to adapt.

 

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As a Sylvaneth player something to do before every single game is ask my opponent "Are you comfortable with what my allegiance abilities are, what my batallions / artefacts do and what my warscroll do?" I try to be as clear as possible so my opponent has all the knowledge they need to so they can try and stop my army doing it's thing.

Edited by AaronWIlson
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2 hours ago, schwabbele said:

Hmm 🤔 I am not sure I get it.

For me this sounds like normal play. That has nothing to do with sneaky. If you can come up with good strategies for me that is a sign that you are a better general then I am. 

People who just copy pasta good lists will fail eventually when something isn‘t working a good player on the otherside will be able to adapt.

 

I think it's not about copypasting lists or inventing new strategies, but rather about overreliance on particular combos. It's like with some MtG decks - they can  kill you very fast, but if one part of combo is stopped their players may just concede.

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9 hours ago, Skabnoze said:

As a goblin player of over 25 years I resent this topic...

 

3 hours ago, Kirjava13 said:

As a Skaven player of almost exactly 25 years I feel personally attacked.

I consider this a double bonus! 

28 minutes ago, michu said:

I think it's not about copypasting lists or inventing new strategies, but rather about overreliance on particular combos. It's like with some MtG decks - they can  kill you very fast, but if one part of combo is stopped their players may just concede.

Exactly. Experienced players might not suffer from this or you might have once and moved on.

However you can also develop it with strategy on the table. Eg you might have a deep striking unit and pin your hopes on it appearing to destroy the skaven artillery position - until the skaven player moves their artillery with their rank and file so that its never not protected etc...

 

It's not saying don't work out good things, but not to pin all of ones hopes and strategy around them. Otherwise you can leave yourself open to being defeated easily because your "sneaky" move is actually fairly obvious or logical. Therefore your opponent plays with it in mind and accepts what losses they will take to it and/or they counter your move (possibly before you even play it). It's about keeping an open mind and planning multiple possible approaches to the game so that you've got options open to you and that one combo being shut down isn't going to cripple your game or spoil the fun. 

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Yep, for me, I make sure throughout the game my opponent knows what my stuff can do.  Win because you played better, not because you surprised the opponent with rules they didnt know about (its not just down to them to ask for rules, you should be offering rule explanations where its clear the opponent does not or can not know about them).

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If my list is packing something that I think is unusual or off-meta (or sneaky :) ), I'd certainly mention what it can do before the game.

An example of this is if I'm running Sayl the Faithless, I'll make sure my opponent knows I can teleport a unit behind enemy lines and still have a decent chance of getting a charge off (Sayl + Chaos Knights of Khorne + Bloodstoker + Chaos Lord on Daemonic mount command ability).

I wouldn't feel right just keeping quiet and then springing it .... but I'm not a competitive player. I can understand players keeping quiet at a tournament though.

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One of the first things that we are taught in my group is to learn the rules for your army and whats popular in the meta.  

We are highly competitive though and see things like you not knowing our rules as part of mastering the game.  We will happily answer questions for you but we will not volunteer the information and assume you have done your homework and know what your army and our army can do.  

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Well I usually explain each and every unit I have in my list to my opponent and vise versa, no tricks.

It‘s just good sportsmanship and behavior

Edited by JackStreicher
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This is an interesting topic for me because my memory is particularly poor. This means even if I have come up against a certain combination or trick previously, I am unlikely to remember it. Solidly learning my own rules is about all I can hope for.

I notice the top players seem to have incredible memories. If they have played against something once they remember the rules and account for it. 

I think the most interesting games are created when both players have an understand of what the opponent is capable of and allow their real strategical decisions be the factor in whether they win or lose. Not a game where you didn't realise they could do 'x' and it all becomes one sided very quickly. I think AoS has helped shift this in the strategical direction compared to WHFB 8th edition but it still a large factor.

I think there is some degree to which mastery of the rules is a factor we want to encourage in our game but personally, it always feels like a pretty unexciting way to win. As a Sylvaneth player I will always explain what I can do clearly to my opponent within reason. E.g. 'I run cogs and warsinger in my list so that means if I teleport through the woods I will be on a 7 to charge you'.

I cannot think of many other competitive games or sports where mastery of the rules and not application can be such a large factor.

For me it also comes under a similar bracket of where I allow opponents to do an action out of sequence if they have forgotten within reason (e.g. it wouldn't have affected anything and hasn't been too long). I would hate to win through my opponent simply forgetting to move a unit they would have always moved. Slight tangent but it's the exact same feeling to me and it just depends how you feel happy winning a game. 

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1 hour ago, JackStreicher said:

Well I usually explain each and every unit I have in my list to my opponent and vise versa, no tricks.

It‘s just good sportsmanship and behavior

Yup same.

I want to beat you/you to beat me because we played each other in full knowledge of what it is each army does and made decisions/reactions on that basis.

Example, if I played Syvalaneth as well as telling you what my army did I would also tell you about the Teleport rule. That mechanic fundamentally ignores a lot of very important rules that if you weren't aware of them you would probably do certain things in the belief they were sound when they really aren't. Ditto with Idoneth tides etc. 

If we're in a wound  sequence and someone forgot a modifier to hit or something then go back and re-roll it, no problem. 

I'm also pretty generous with obvious errors as well. If someone places a hero 4' away from a unit-ie they want them to be very close to the unit, that extra inch dosen't count for anything strategic, they're just moving their full movement without thinking or something-then I'll tell them they're in danger re Look out Sir. Or if someone owns a table quarter with an objective in it but moves a unit an inch away from the control zone to shoot or something I'll do the same. If you own a square mile around the objective on the board but you're one inch away from "controlling" it then hey, I'm not going to say you somehow don't get the points for it because a gust of wind is between you and it. The inches rule is clearly designed with contesting objectives in mind. If there's no competition for it then of course you own it if you're close to it. 

Bottom line-In the grand scheme of things I can't begin to explain how unimportant winning at Age of Sigmar is . Respecting someone else's time by creating a an enjoyable social experience is far more important to me. People more bothered about winning at toy solders than that to the degree that they are deliberately obtuse or opaque about it are a joke as far as I'm concerned. 

Edited by Nos
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You shouldn't go into a game hoping your opponent doesn't know what certain units or rules do. You should be playing on even footing, with everyone knowing what everything is capable of. Ask your opponent if there are units he's unfamiliar with on your side, and be sure to point out anything that feels particularly strong or "sneaky."

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Haha first two questions! How did you get to 'many of us' & why did you decide on 'sneaky'? Because you could have chosen so many other subjective terms. 

To answer your question. It's all about expectation management right? Know what you and your opponent expect before the game & act accordingly.

Maybe you, like @Dead Scribe, feel it's part of the game to learn each others rules beforehand or deal with it on the fly in game. 
Maybe you, like our group, feel you have to check with your opponent if he knows all your rules independently. But anticipating how you are planning to combine them is up to your opponent*
Maybe you, like @Galdenistal, tell your opponent if you have particular combinations in your list beforehand. 

It's all good if that matches. Sneakiness suggest withholding info just to spring a combo in game. Doesn't sound right for a game to me. Hence my question about the term. 

* For example, I recently brought an Ogor Tyrant with Gutgouger, might is right and brew. So I told all three things and what they did. It's up to my opponent to make the connection and up to me to be fair about it. Or this Bloodstoker can whip Khorne units for extra charge range. I also have this wizard who teleports to just outside 9", in Galdinistal's example. Again in our group it's part of the game to also think about your opponents potential combo's as well as your own. 

Edited by Kramer
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I definitely struggle with this as well.  I typically go with @Kramer on my approach.  This is my army, this is each unit, this is what the units do (if you don't know) and these are all the extra bits I add in.

Chameleon Skinks are a good example of why sneakiness is actually a good thing.  Do I tell my opponent "I wouldn't leave that point so unprotected because I'm going to teleport in" or not because the strategy of chameleon Skinks is waiting until just the right moment to attack.  If I keep correcting that moment, the unit really doesn't have any value.  

It's one thing to tell your opponent  "Kill this guy because I'm planning on buffing him, running in and killing an important hero of yours."  And it's another to say what everything does ahead of time.  I also find that people upset by "sneakiness" are the same people who wouldn't say "That's actually not my most important hero, you should attack this one" when it's not in their favor.

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1 hour ago, Nos said:

Yup same.

I want to beat you/you to beat me because we played each other in full knowledge of what it is each army does and made decisions/reactions on that basis.

Example, if I played Syvalaneth as well as telling you what my army did I would also tell you about the Teleport rule. That mechanic fundamentally ignores a lot of very important rules that if you weren't aware of them you would probably do certain things in the belief they were sound when they really aren't. Ditto with Idoneth tides etc. 

If we're in a wound  sequence and someone forgot a modifier to hit or something then go back and re-roll it, no problem. 

I'm also pretty generous with obvious errors as well. If someone places a hero 4' away from a unit-ie they want them to be very close to the unit, that extra inch dosen't count for anything strategic, they're just moving their full movement without thinking or something-then I'll tell them they're in danger re Look out Sir. Or if someone owns a table quarter with an objective in it but moves a unit an inch away from the control zone to shoot or something I'll do the same. If you own a square mile around the objective on the board but you're one inch away from "controlling" it then hey, I'm not going to say you somehow don't get the points for it because a gust of wind is between you and it. The inches rule is clearly designed with contesting objectives in mind. If there's no competition for it then of course you own it if you're close to it. 

Bottom line-In the grand scheme of things I can't begin to explain how unimportant winning at Age of Sigmar is . Respecting someone else's time by creating a an enjoyable social experience is far more important to me. People more bothered about winning at toy solders than that to the degree that they are deliberately obtuse or opaque about it are a joke as far as I'm concerned. 

I think the second point to make here is not just one of etiquette but for anyone who wants to get better at the game and get the most of their games, it's a good idea for you to let your opponent know not just how your list works but also what your tactics and strategy will be and to have an open and ongoing conversation about them during the game.

It's the best possible way topractice. If you can win whilst your opponent knows what you're trying to do, then you've become a better player and this will stand you in good stead against the best top players at tournaments.

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2 minutes ago, Carnelian said:

I think the second point to make here is not just one of etiquette but for anyone who wants to get better at the game and get the most of their games, it's a good idea for you to let your opponent know not just how your list works but also what your tactics and strategy will be and to have an open and ongoing conversation about them during the game.

It's the best possible way topractice. If you can win whilst your opponent knows what you're trying to do, then you've become a better player and this will stand you in good stead against the best top players at tournaments.

Yeah absolutely. My big picture strategy was pretty good when I started out but I was very bad at the small incidentals like pile in measurement, model removal, accidentally removing a unit from a buff radius etc. That was the stuff I struggled with so teaching a new player last night I made a point of emphasising those things and demonstrating better alternatives etc.

There’s an awful lot about the game which is pretty opaque and if you don’t have those things highlighted to you explicitly it’s very possible to go from being in a position where you feel involved with the game to one where you have no idea what’s happening anymore in fairly short order.

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I chose "sneaky" because its what most players are trying to be - sneaky with their tactics and plan and approach. NOT cheating, nor denying information, just more pinning their hopes and win on a sneaky tactic. 

 

 

It's interesting to see the direction the conversation is going in! I should stress that at no point was I suggesting that players were cheating in any way. My intention was to aim more toward expectation of battle progress and development. That is to say how the game plays out - ergo what moves where, what attacks what, what uses which abilities etc... With the view that a player needs to have a strategy and an open mind at the same time and not to base their strategy upon a sneaky trick or a hope that an opponent doesn't realise that those deep-striking units are going to pop up (most likely) at their archers/artillery units  etc...

 

Of course its clear that there is variation in the style of game that many of us play. Personally I wouldn't consider telling the strategy to an opponent unless - as it seems to be highlighted above - the intent of the game is to learn rather than to compete. Clearly in a learning match one might well provide more overall information up front and also reveal strategies with a view to showing and teaching an opponent and/or reinforcing ones own learning and understanding of the game. In such a game one might even end up playing in theory with their opponent - proposing an action and their opponent proposing the counter-move they would make in reaction to it. 

Meanwhile in a competitive game I would personally expect to get a basic detail of units before the game as they are setup, but not a blow by blow of abilities and use of the unit. You don't need to tell your opponent that "this is my buff unit; and thus is my hero killer" etc... Though of course if they ask one can hand over the battletome or flesh out details on what a unit does. This isn't about hiding information, but about not bogging the start of the game down too much with a stream of facts about ones army - but each to their own and this is indeed the kind of thing that will vary a lot game to game and is easily setup and established in the pre-game phase with your opponent as to what you both expect. 

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It depends on your goal for sure.  If you want to create a social experience, aka, chatting and drinking beer and moving guys around (what I'd call practice) then sure.  Help each other out and explain things.  It helps both players get better, which...I guess who cares if long term you aren't trying to win.

If it's to create a social experience, chat and drink beer while also enjoying the competitive nature of it, then no, you don't need to explain every interaction but it is nice to give a rundown of what the abilities do.  Realistically though, if you're unfamiliar and I spit a list of ****** at you in 30 seconds, odds are you are still going to be surprised.

As for the "don't play if your goal is to win" I can say I would not play with someone who wasn't trying to win.  It would feel like a waste of time to me, like...why are we doing this?  This convoluted complicated system of rules feels so unnecessary if there is no outcome determinate on those rules. 

DnD is the closest thing I can think of that has complex rules and no real "winning" outcome.  But even there, players are trying to accomplish some kind of goal within the game and it isn't "have fun".  And I wouldn't play with someone who had no goals in that game either.

Having fun for me is a byproduct of the system.  AoS feels like a game with the goal being victory.  I can have fun either way, but I'm still going to shoot for that "win" and have fun in the building, the learning and the play all along the way.

Edit: I was talking to my friend a little about this.  I can see how, for example, AoS is the equivalent of something like throwing a frisbee outside (just a simple example).  More passive and enjoyable but there isn't really any win to be had.  I can respect that, I just don't have that same mentality for Sigmar.

@Nos I think I need to get a beer with you because we've been at odds a lot the last few days! 😂

Edited by Vextol

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45 minutes ago, Vextol said:

It depends on your goal for sure.  If you want to create a social experience, aka, chatting and drinking beer and moving guys around (what I'd call practice) then sure.  Help each other out and explain things.  It helps both players get better, which...I guess who cares if long term you aren't trying to win.

If it's to create a social experience, chat and drink beer while also enjoying the competitive nature of it, then no, you don't need to explain every interaction but it is nice to give a rundown of what the abilities do.  Realistically though, if you're unfamiliar and I spit a list of ****** at you in 30 seconds, odds are you are still going to be surprised.

As for the "don't play if your goal is to win" I can say I would not play with someone who wasn't trying to win.  It would feel like a waste of time to me, like...why are we doing this?  This convoluted complicated system of rules feels so unnecessary if there is no outcome determinate on those rules. 

DnD is the closest thing I can think of that has complex rules and no real "winning" outcome.  But even there, players are trying to accomplish some kind of goal within the game and it isn't "have fun".  And I wouldn't play with someone who had no goals  that game either.

Having fun for me is a byproduct of the system.  AoS system feel like a game with the goal being victory.  I can have fun either way, but I'm still going to shoot for that "win" and have fun in the building, the learning and the play all along the way.

@Nos I think I need to get a beer with you because we've been at odds a lot the last few days! 😂

My contention is basically that people who can only win by hiding things just can’t be that good at the game to be honest. It’s easy to beat someone at anything if they don’t know how the game works. That dosent take skill. Beating someone with a handicap is universally acknowledged as an easy thing to do.

There’s lots of things in AOS which alter fundamental aspects of the rules and with it otherwise good practice. Example, other week at my club someone was playing the hero objective scenario. They got the first turn and managed to get a point, the other guy didn’t. They got the second turn and lined up a bunch of thralls to alpha strike the treelord in the nearest quarter who was closest to contesting his held point. The rest of the army fortified the point. His reasoning was that because he was one point ahead and there were only two points on the board, if he killed that unit  he would win because of the two other Sylvaneth heroes would have to hold the other objective and his army to hold his own was in a very strong position and so unlikely to lose its first turn  point advantage. Spirit of Durthu worried him but it was miles away. Perfectly sound plan going on the conventional rules of the game.

He didn’t know that Sylvaneth have rules that overrude several fundamental mechanics of the main game because his opponent didn’t tell him, and thus his previously well positioned thralls despite nearly killing the treelord were countercharged by the seemingly distant Durthu and the Treelord capped the point on the other side of the board. The Sylvaneth player swung things on that turn not because of any great strategy, just taking advantage of someone not knowing something in the £20 book they didn’t own.

I’m not against playing to win, just playing to win over being a decent human being in doing it.  I always play to win, and win quite a lot.  I understand the basics pretty well and with the Stormcast I have a comparatively overpowered, pretty forgiving army that I know how to use.     Learning how they work has been far more enjoyable than winning. I really don’t care if I don’t win. My intention is to do so but I’ve not actually lost anything If I don’t besides a game of toy soldiers.

I have to say I don’t really understand hyper competitive people playing AOS though, as a hyper competitive thing. There absolutely are games that are really fine tuned and brutally engineered to really demand the most of your strategic muscles and be really unforgiving of a lack of game mastery, or alternatively allow truly brilliant play to always triumph . AOS is not one of them though. It’s imbalanced and inherently advantageous to a quarter of factions at the expense of the rest. The best players only seem to be able to win with the most broken armies.

It sort of feels like men playing Little League to me and getting really pumped about it. The Major Leagues is the place to prove your strategic mastery I should have thought.  I’m not at all competitive so I’m not going to say I understand what that’s like but I would have thought if you really wanted to compete at something you would want to do it in the most objective, testing arena possible.

Edited by Nos
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I guess it‘s more about the „I had a plan“ and it worked feeling. Sadly that feeling is egoistic and might ruin the game and the fun for your opponent.

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The objective of the game is to win.  The goal of the activity is to have fun.

Ultimately if someone is not enjoying the experience of building, painting, and playing with the toys then why bother?

In regards to the idea of whether to win by blind-siding someone with a combo they had no idea about or with units that they don't understand - I usually go the opposite route and freely explain what stuff does at least at a high enough level that someone has a clue as to what they face.  I will freely offer the information and then let them try to out-maneuver and out play me.  A sports analogy would be Babe Ruth walking up to bat and pointing out to the pitcher exactly where he is going to hit the home run.  That is the approach that I tend to take.

I don't need to hide what any of my stuff does.  I just might not tell you the specific tactics that I will use with that stuff.  That said, there are times for some information to be hidden - such as which units currently contain fanatics.  I'll tell you which units MAY have fanatics, how fanatics work, and even how many units of fanatics I have.  But I won't usually tell you the exact units they are hiding within.

Edited by Skabnoze
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12 minutes ago, JackStreicher said:

I guess it‘s more about the „I had a plan“ and it worked feeling. Sadly that feeling is egoistic and might ruin the game and the fun for your opponent.

I LOVE when a plan works 😂

If you can manage, with a ton of fiddling and creative play, to kill Nagash with a mighty Lord of Khorne, it's awesome.  Even if it "ruins their experience" they should take joy in my creative and we'll executed play.  We're both playing right?  Plus, I get more than one games joy out of it, so the cumulative joy is still greater overall 😋

Now, if they asked what they did at the start of the game and I said "Nothing really" that's not a plan working, that's being a ****.

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Sneakiness is for raki and grobi, us dawi are always true in our intentions. We shoot you and hit you with a big hammer. 

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