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Kamose

Matched Play vs. Narrative/Open Play posts on TGA

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This post is about HOW people post on TGA.  Its a meta-post if you will; a post about posting and a couple of polite suggestions (why do I feel like I'm about to get raked over the coals after saying that :().

Just prior to the release of the General's Handbook back in July, there was some worry that introducing points would lead to Matched Play taking center stage and pushing all talk of Narrative and Open play back into the shadows.  Its not an unreasonable fear since for years the reigning assumption on most forums has been something like, "Competitive play is more important because it needs tight, unambiguous rulesets and narrative play just means throwing all your toys on the table and doing whatever you want, no rules required."  I hope a year and a half of AoS (matched, narrative, and open) has put that kind of dismissive mindset to rest.

Now months later it is clear that this prediction has come true to some extent.  To TGA's credit there are still lively discussions about Narrative and Open Play!  However there have been examples of Matched Play trying to muscle out other play styles.  Some examples taken from the recent FAQ post:

1. "I understand the AOS is like 2 games smashed into 1 (pre and post GHB) but when they do this FAQ they need to take its effects on matched play most serious"

2. "It's also a terrible position to be in when events are more and more likely to ban Compendium Units. The Battalions are already officially dead (which is more of a blow to Destruction I'll admit). "

3. "That's really stupid lol!! Ring became usless for no reason"

To be clear I am in no way impugning on the value and enjoyment other's receive from Matched Play.  My point is that the language used is absolutist.  Its implies that the statement is a fundamental and undeniable truth.  The poster in #3 does not truly believe that the Ring of Immortality is literally useless.  They simply mean it is "less useful than previously in the style of Death list I choose to play in Matched Play."  Unfortunately online forum posts (like texting) lack all context and are read and understood literally as a result.

My concern is not that veteran Matched Play folks will get confused by this language; its quite common.  My concern is that players new to the hobby (or new to Narrative and Open play) will take such confident assertions as truth and limit how they play before exploring all their options.  For example, #1 strongly implies that Matched Play is more important Narrative and Open Play.  This is the assumption I fear newer players will take away from such statements.

To a new player, a statement like "The Battalions are already officially dead," implicitly forbids their use unless they are willing to break 'the official rules'.  One of the fundamental ideas of game design is that new players will follow 'the official rules' even to the detriment of their own enjoyment.  If they follow "the official rules" and do not enjoy themselves, they consider the game unenjoyable and will not play again.  What statement #2 actually means is, "In Matched Play, the battalions are already officially dead."  However that little clause is rarely stated and assumed to be universally understood.  It is not and I believe that assumption harms the community, specifically Narrative and Open Play and new members.  

The reality is that none of the people posting truly believe that their position is God-sent, unassailable truth.  However because big blocks of text (like this one) lack context, care is required to prevent sending unintentional messages to your audience.  I do have a couple of polite suggestions for the community.  First, make use of tags; that little box underneath "Title".  If you are discussing Matched Play, tag it as Matched Play.  The same goes for Narrative and Open Play.  Secondly, a suggestion for the TGA site as a whole.  Three sections dedicated to Matched, Narrative, and Open Play respectively might be a good idea.  I know there are great ideas for scenarios and narrative campaigns but these are getting harder and harder to find in forums flooded with Matched Play discussion.

TLDR; choose your words carefully when posting, please use tags, and Matched, Narrative, and Open forums would be appreciated.

Edited by Kamose
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Matched play will always be seen as "the way to go" because that's how you "win properly"...

Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk

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A well thought out post. 

I agree, too many times its matched play is all there is when people discuss things.

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I was thinking this, this morning and was getting a little sad. The FB group I was a member of looked like a 40K article on the BoLs front page and there was a bit of it on here. Really good post @Kamose 

Edited by Ollie Grimwood
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I think part of the problem is that it is a little harder to start a conversation about Narrative and Open play, and people shy away from it for that reason.

"Is unit X better than unit Y?" is a common post for a forum... but it has no bearing on Open Play, because you can just take them both.  Nor does it have a bearingon Narrative Play, because lack of full story context makes it impossible to answer.  Anyone would say that 3 Varanguard are netter than 10 Bloodreavers... but if your narrative is about a cheiftain leading his people on their first steps down the path of the Blood God, the Varanguard have no place there.

The solution, to me, is to champion the Narrative and Open path to newer players through stories (both fictional and of in-game events), through battle reports, and through discussion about how to use something that is "dead."

A post titled "Using The Ring of Immortality" or "How to Use X Batallion After the FAQ" are infinitely more helpful than a tag that says "Matched Play"

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It would be great to have a place where non-matched conversations can be held. Clearly marked so there is less of a chance of confusion. Where post titles can be as simple as "how to model a narrative unit" or "the best way to approach the battle for blackstone summit". Even a post where a story can unravel as games get played.

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I would love to see more narrative, I do think the 'how do I smash face' discussion is easier to have than 'how do we tell a good story and ensure both people have a good time'. Matched play has more common language.

I think this is the difficulty GW is also struggling with. Their narrative game on WHTV could have passed for a matched play game.

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5 minutes ago, TerrorPenguin said:

 

I would love to see more narrative, I do think the 'how do I smash face' discussion is easier to have than 'how do we tell a good story and ensure both people have a good time'. Matched play has more common language.

I think this is because it takes the responsibility of a social contract  away from the individual players. 

If you and I play an open game, and throw down the starter box Stormcast (maybe I'm new and that all I own) and you throw down Archaon, 5 units of Varanguard,  a Gaunt Summoner, and each of the Greater Daemons, then we have a problem.  More importantly, we have a problem that is is up to us to solve.  I either have to say something, or you have to realize that this does not a fun game make.

For some people, that conversation is as nearly impossible to overcome as the tallest mountain (I think if we're honest with each other, we can both agree that a good sized chunk of the wargaming community has or has previously had social interaction issues).

But if we default to Matched Play, there's no longer a discussion.  We can retreat and interact with the book more than the opponent and convince ourselves that it's okay because it's "balanced," which I fear more and more is just a way for people to say "I don't wabt to be held responsible if this game isn't fun."

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I'm not one for competitive play discussion but part of the problem I see is that Narrative play in the first place has never been defined well by GW.

So far my understanding of GW's idea of narrative play is either Path to Glory or playing exact army lists/scenarios from the books. Both of those as they currently stand are pretty thin and boring.

I think they could do a whole lot more to make Narrative an actual game mode, not just a nicer word for Open.

It is somewhat natural that Matched Play has dominated the discussion as it's the only real defined game mode so far.

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14 minutes ago, polarbear said:

I'm not one for competitive play discussion but part of the problem I see is that Narrative play in the first place has never been defined well by GW.

So far my understanding of GW's idea of narrative play is either Path to Glory or playing exact army lists/scenarios from the books. Both of those as they currently stand are pretty thin and boring.

I think they could do a whole lot more to make Narrative an actual game mode, not just a nicer word for Open.

It is somewhat natural that Matched Play has dominated the discussion as it's the only real defined game mode so far.

I think narrative play has been defined considerably.

Look at all the realmgate books, all the battletomes, and the majority of the ghb.

That's full of tools to play narrative games.

Edited by Hotdropmartin
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Discussed with @Devilreefman and others about ways to increase Open and Narrative presence in AoS. 

hopefully @Ben will read this and see there is a big call for Open and Narrative sections on TGA, follow the Generals Handbook layout with 3 ways to play. 

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I was also a bit disappointed with the narrative game on Warhammer TV, but I think we may have been a bit hard on them being as though it was the opening game of a map campaign and it takes a couple of games to get them bedded in but they are great once they get going.  

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1 minute ago, Hotdropmartin said:

I think narrative play has been defined considerably.

Look at all the realmgate books, all the battletomes, and the majority of the ghb.

That's full of tools to play narrative games.

I guess it depends on what you're looking for. Giving me the story of a battle and two army lists and a scenario to recreate it is about the opposite of narrative play to me. My idea of narrative would be a structured way of telling your own stories. I'm looking for something that mixes path to glory/campaigns/structure/progression/statistics kind of thing. I want it to be a standalone game mode like Matched Play is. Right now I find it hard to tell what the difference is supposed to be from Open.

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Discussed with @Devilreefman and others about ways to increase Open and Narrative presence in AoS. 

hopefully @Ben will read this and see there is a big call for Open and Narrative sections on TGA, follow the Generals Handbook layout with 3 ways to play. 

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It is perfectly ok for discussions of comparison of damage, efficiency and overall best of the best. But it is a matched play conversation and should be understood as such. 

in the new paradigm people are wandering into these conversations from many different mindsets. 

Our worst game experiences are when the players have different expectations of the game.

same goes for conversations. Either people need to state a framework for conversation or need to be able to go into a section where everyone's on the same page. I think @ben has heard the suggestion before.

setting strong expectations for a given discussion and avoiding arguments would be another case for creating sections for each way to play.

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Part of the situation is that matched play conversations are universal.  The points for skeleton warriors are the same in the US as they are in the UK as they are in NZ (sorry if I left out your country, I still love you).  This allows players from all over the world to participate in discussions about synergies, list creation, point costs, etc.  Narrative play conversations tend to be local conversations.  The narrative campaign my group in Texas plays is going to have a monumentally different story, set up, army composition, etc. from someone else's narrative campaign.  This limits the number of people who could realistically participate in that conversation except in the vaguest most generalized terms.

 

Essentially, this forum which has members from all over the world is going to see a preponderance of matched play conversations because those conversations are universal, whereas narrative campaigns don't have the same universal structure.

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15 minutes ago, polarbear said:

I guess it depends on what you're looking for. Giving me the story of a battle and two army lists and a scenario to recreate it is about the opposite of narrative play to me. My idea of narrative would be a structured way of telling your own stories. I'm looking for something that mixes path to glory/campaigns/structure/progression/statistics kind of thing. I want it to be a standalone game mode like Matched Play is. Right now I find it hard to tell what the difference is supposed to be from Open.

There is loads of themed battleplans which encourage choosing different forces than the stories, time of war rules,  path to glory tables with progression for units and heroes.

There's examples of different campaigns in the ghb which you can use to structure the scenarios you want to use.

The purpose of narrative play is to make your own structure to best tell a story you want.

I understand all these ideas and "tools" are spread out over the different books, but to me narrative play is defined by simply telling a story using miniatures, and GW has given players loads of great content already.

 

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I think, at the core, narrative play revolves around a cooperative rather than a competitive mindest among the players. By working together with the framework of a game we can create something larger than just a game rather than playing within the game.

But it would be great to differentiate between the different play styles for the sake of finding content easier, if nothing else! I'm not so interested in Matched Play so I don't check TGA as often as I would if I could engage with others discussing narrative ideas.

And I think narrative campaigns can have a universal structure--each local group is creating their own little narrative because we don't have better ways of discussing how to create a more universal structure. Just reading about RAW, for example, has given me a lot of ideas for expanding my own narrative structure locally while also beginning to connect with a narrative event several time zones away!

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2 minutes ago, Hotdropmartin said:

There is loads of themed battleplans which encourage choosing different forces than the stories, time of war rules,  path to glory tables with progression for units and heroes.

There's examples of different campaigns in the ghb which you can use to structure the scenarios you want to use.

The purpose of narrative play is to make your own structure to best tell a story you want.

I understand all these ideas and "tools" are spread out over the different books, but to me narrative play is defined by simply telling a story using miniatures, and GW has given players loads of great content already.

 

Just different ideas then, nothing wrong with that. Thought of a videogame comparison. Matched play to me is the ranked online multiplayer, and it's well defined in AoS. Open play is just goofing around in custom games. Narrative should be the single player/co-op...but right now Narrative in AoS to me is just telling a story in custom/goofing around games. There's no campaign (yes there are "campaigns" in the GHB etc but they're pretty thin ideas).

I'm thinking they could do like a real campaign setup of a system for Narrative, not just roll a few dice on path to glory and play two games and you're back to Open play basically. Really change up some of the base rules, start super small, long, slow progression, stat and army buildup, lots of things to keep track of, unique ways to build characters and units as they go through (options not available or present in Matched) and whatnot. Ideally I want Narrative to be a meatier experience than Matched, which would just be the streamlined-for-balance-and-competition version. 

Again to this extremely stretched videogame comparison...AoS feels like an online multiplayer-first game with very little/token resources put into anything else. I want a Narrative I can dig my teeth into.

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I agree.  Now I am one of the people who originally (not here, this was before I found TGA) was in the Matched Play/points are needed camp.  But after trying it and seeing what was lost by attempting to shoehorn everything into a competitive mindset (even if not for a competitive event) I backtracked.  I now go out of my way, as might be evident, to suggest that Matched Play does not overtake the other styles and remains where it's strongest: Setting a baseline standard for competitive games and tournaments but not being the standard way to play, and especially not to take the place of having a mature discussion with an opponent and coming up with a fun game.

I am perhaps guilty of using the wrong language when discussing the FAQ, and if that is the case I gladly apologize for it.  However I also act out of passion because I was afraid Matched Play would become the "only" way to play, and in my area at least (and many others I've seen from what I've read) that has happened and IMHO the game is worse because of it.

I definitely encourage more open discussion, and I actually like the idea of using tags or something to indicate the type of discussion to be had.

Edited by wayniac
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3 minutes ago, polarbear said:

Just different ideas then, nothing wrong with that. Thought of a videogame comparison. Matched play to me is the ranked online multiplayer, and it's well defined in AoS. Open play is just goofing around in custom games. Narrative should be the single player/co-op...but right now Narrative in AoS to me is just telling a story in custom/goofing around games. There's no campaign (yes there are "campaigns" in the GHB etc but they're pretty thin ideas).

I'm thinking they could do like a real campaign setup of a system for Narrative, not just roll a few dice on path to glory and play two games and you're back to Open play basically. Really change up some of the base rules, start super small, long, slow progression, stat and army buildup, lots of things to keep track of, unique ways to build characters and units as they go through (options not available or present in Matched) and whatnot. Ideally I want Narrative to be a meatier experience than Matched, which would just be the streamlined-for-balance-and-competition version. 

Again to this extremely stretched videogame comparison...AoS feels like an online multiplayer-first game with very little/token resources put into anything else. I want a Narrative I can dig my teeth into.

I think I see your point and yes a book dedicated to narrative with a full framework would be great.

Basically taking everything they have already released and making it more universal, plus adding all the extras you listed?

I think that would be well received.

I still believe they have defined what narrative play is reasonably well up to now.

As for Open play I think it's very different to both Matched and narrative as it's just simple.

Bang some models on the board pick a scenario and play.

 

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Regardless of the play style warscrolls can still be discussed as well as synergies, a good ability is still a good ability regardless of the style of play.  

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5 minutes ago, polarbear said:

I'm thinking they could do like a real campaign setup of a system for Narrative, not just roll a few dice on path to glory and play two games and you're back to Open play basically. Really change up some of the base rules, start super small, long, slow progression, stat and army buildup, lots of things to keep track of, unique ways to build characters and units as they go through (options not available or present in Matched) and whatnot. Ideally I want Narrative to be a meatier experience than Matched, which would just be the streamlined-for-balance-and-competition version. 

 

You can do this but GW doesn't give you that many tools because in the end that would limit peoples imagining. Although I do wholeheartedly agree that starting small and creating enough depth are essential. 

2 hours ago, Kamose said:

irst, make use of tags; that little box underneath "Title".  If you are discussing Matched Play, tag it as Matched Play.  The same goes for Narrative and Open Play.  Secondly, a suggestion for the TGA site as a whole.  Three sections dedicated to Matched, Narrative, and Open Play respectively might be a good idea.  I know there are great ideas for scenarios and narrative campaigns but these are getting harder and harder to find in forums flooded with Matched Play discussion.

I agree with you almost fully. First it's great to have this discussion. Seeing the amount of responses this means people care about it. I would conclude that people focussed on narratives feel less need to discuss it.
Personally it's because of the long timelines. During the summer I was building a map campaign for my friends. Took me 1,5 months had a lot of talks about it on this forum. But now it's running I feel less need to discuss. But I will share a post about the first game day to give a bit of insight. 

Secondly, I don't mind that two thirds of the posts are about matched play/tournaments. Up until the point that people are becoming very defensive about their own opinion. But rather than create even more sub sections I would rather steer the conversation as a commutity a bit more. Not just modarators. 
The risk of creating more sections is that not enough happens to keep people excited every time they log in. It would be a waste if the community feels less 'buzzin' just to make sure you find what you are looking for. Fun and unexpected conversations start when people end up in different topics that they are looking for. 

 

But again good that you bring this up and the above is also only an opinion :)

 

 

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