The origins of this post relate to my personnal experience as a player... but this time not only as a Warhammer Underworlds player !
So why this post ? If we players very often discuss playstyles and deckbuilding, I find that we more rarely approach purely strategic issues... Maybe because it's much more complex to express. I have to admit I feel this difficulty myself...
If we players very often discuss playstyles and deckbuilding, I find that we more rarely approach purely strategic issues... Maybe because it's much more difficult to express.
Of course, in many ways, Go game (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_(game)) can be seen as the perfect opposite of Warhammer Underwolds, which is much more similar to Chess - in terms of scale (for both space and time) or of basic mechanics.
However, because Warhammer Underworlds is also some kind of spatial / territorial game, I believe that there are several concepts (at least 5) coming from Go that can be useful for us.
As a long-time Go player I use them in almost all of my Warhammer Underworlds games (I mainly play Aggro Chosen Axes), not least to look at them with fresh eyes...
So let's therefore examine them !
In the Go lexicon : Shape is the configuration of stones in their flexibility and efficiency at staying connected, forming eyes, and maintaining liberties. Stones are said to have good shape if they are efficient and flexible, or bad shape if they are inefficient.
Even if Warhammer Underworlds fighters are not equivalent to Go stones, shape is something I really care about.
Firstly while setting-up, looking at boards, objectives and fighters placement, and then during the 3 Rounds, I wonder : objectives-oriented considerations aside, how does my warband look like ? Can she be described as a unique formation or is it more complex ? Where is its core ? Where are its main weapons ? Where are it's main defects ? This kind of questions we keep asking and answering ourselves all the time, and most of the time without realizing it... For our warband and for our opponent's.
Of course, such a concept is less relevant at the end of the game, when most of our fighters are out of action...
In the Go lexicon : Sabaki (捌き) is the development of a flexible, efficient position that is difficult for the opponent to attack, often by means of contact plays and sacrifice.
Sabaki can be seen as the main quality of a good shape. So here the questions would rather be : How great is the threat range of my formation(s) ? Can I improve it in my next activation or using push-ploys ? Won't I spoil it if I chose to do this risky charge ? How many of my fighters can answer the threat I sense my opponent is about to launch at me ? How many supports can be easily mobilized ? What if I lose this mini at the center of my formation ?
Here, we can also talk about our opponent's morale, with questions such as : How impressive is my current position ? How strong does it look ?
For Chosen Axes, for instance, Sabaki is of major importance, mainly because your fighters are so slow... And also because unlike Mollog*, you often want to look bigger than you really are...
*Who is bigger. Period.
In the Go lexicon : Korigatachi (凝り形) is often translated as 'over-concentrated', but more literally is 'frozen shape'. If a player uses his stones in an inefficient way, the result will be korigatachi. Knowing something about this problem should tell you how to avoid it. Placing stones too close together is a fundamental mistake, rather than safe play.
Here, it's all about finding the balance between short and long distance within your formation(s), between your minis mutual support (which requieres them to rather near from each other) and board covering (to interfere with your opponent's plans, and of course to achieve yours...).
This concept is very important, also because it's directely linked to the next :
04/ Sente In the Go lexicon : A move that overwhelmingly compels a player into a particular follow-up move is said to have "sente" (先手), or "initiative"; the opponent has "gote" (後手). In most games, the player who maintains sente most of the time will win.
Gote means "succeeding move" (lit: "after hand"), the opposite of sente, meaning "preceding move" (lit: "before hand"). Sente denotes which player has the initiative in the game, and which moves result in taking and holding the initiative. More precisely, as one player attacks in sente, the other defends in gote, it can be said that they respectively do and do not have the initiative. The situation of having sente is favorable, permitting control of the flow of the game.
Applying these concepts to a whole sequence is basic to higher strategy. If Black starts a sequence that properly ends in an even number of plays, Black retains sente in doing this. If Black starts a sequence that properly ends after an odd number of plays, Black loses sente and takes gote. Accepting gote should only be in return for some profitable exchange.
A player has sente if he does not currently need to respond to moves made by his opponent. This can be achieved by tenuki (ignoring the opponent), as a kind of gambit. A player can break out of gote, and gain sente by choosing to accept some future loss on the local level, in order to take the initiative to play elsewhere.
In the case that neither player directly responds to the other's moves, the game can become difficult to analyze. Though each player has gote on entering the turn, the move itself is sente. Such games often end in large exchanges, or one player will be shown to have a weaker position and eventually have to answer to avoid heavy damage.
When we talk about one of our games, we often specify which player dictated its pace. Sente is (almost) simply this : initiative.
When I think about sente in-game, most of the time, it leads me to very simple questions such as : Who has it now ? If it's me, how can I keep it ? Otherwise, how can I steal initiative from my opponent ? And, of course : do I need to answer my opponent's move or can I ignore it ?
Here, I'd like to say that I was very happy to have the opportunity to speak about initiative, because as we all know, with their stubby legs, Chosen Axes do not often have it...
In the Go lexicon : In the context of Go, kiai (気合い) often translates as "fighting spirit", i.e. aggressiveness or initiative, but not unthinking greed. Kiai means keeping sente, that is not letting the opponent have his or her way. A sensei might say, "You play too passively — put some kiai in your moves!” A passive player may follow an opponent around the board responding to each move in turn. Kiai moves are the opposite of passive or submissive and a player showing kiai will dictate the flow of play. Kiai moves can catch an opponent off-balance and turn the game around. Examples of kiai moves include snatching sente away from the opponent; defending with a move that also counter-attacks; or answering a kikashi (forcing move) in an unexpected way. Kiai is also a term used in Japanese martial arts, usually as a name for a loud yell accompanying an attack. Obviously this is outwardly more restrained in the context of a board game, but it is intended to be in the same spirit.
Morale again. So important in Warhammer Underworlds. The game is short and brutal, so you have to be prepared for anything. And when this anything happens, when this very nice lethal strike you made ON Mollog is countered by Rebound (!), you have to keep your fighting spirit...
But at the same time, don't be misleaded by your own agressiveness. in particular, learn when to make strong and calm moves, as very often, those are very hard to counter...
So... Any Warhammer Underworlds player also playing Go ?