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IronNerd
03-05-2011, 19:10
This has always been something that I've wondered about, and with Adepticon and especially the availability of the Eternal Warriors video-cast of the final rounds, I've decided to gather opinions.

Is there, due to the nature of the game, a sort of "skill cap" to 40k? My reasoning is this. I'm a pretty solid gamer, having been to the national 'Ard Boyz twice (finishing in the top third both times) and winning a slew of local tournaments. There are a couple other guys in my store that are in the same position as well. I could never know whether that meant I was really good, or just good for my area, as I've never been to one of the big Cons. I decided to take some time out of my day to watch the final round of the Adepticon to see if there was some sort of magical tactical play that I wasn't privy to.

What I found? It looks a lot like the typical games I have with other top tier players in the area. This leads me to my question. I will fight tooth and nail with those who say that 40k has no skill basis. If nothing else, the stats don't lie, I win, and I win a lot against a lot of opponents. However, I'm starting to think that at some point "being good" is enough, and luck takes over from there.

One solid example I can bring is from 'Ard Boyz last year, where one of my friends was in the battle for first place. It was Alpha Strike IG vs. Alpha Strike IG, and both players, realizing that they must be of comparable skill at this point, essentially agreed that first turn wins the game. True enough, the first turn army won the game. Is there a "better" player that could have won that game? IMO, no.

Anyway, I rant a bit, and I think I'm doing that now, so I'll stop and open it up for comments. If I'm a fool, no worries, call me out, but think a bit about it first...

bigcheese76
03-05-2011, 19:21
40k is a very hard game to judge in terms of what will beat what based on skill alone for two major reasons.
1. There are random dice rolls involved. Alot of the game is based on the roll of dice, so if the dice rolling goes badly, the game is likely to go badly.
2. There are so many different options available. With each Codex there can be millions of combinations of army, and there are around 15 codexes. This makes the game extremely varied.

I think the biggest skill part of playing 40k happens before the table. It happens when you sit down to write your list. Getting a list perfect will massivly increase your chances of winning, but thanks to the dice, there is still and element of chance, so until the game is over, nothing is set in stone.

So, to conclude, I would say, yes, there is a large skill element to the game, one player can be 'better' than the other, but ultimately, the decision is in the hands of the dice gods!

(I hope I have answered your question, not just added my own rant/waffle)

Metal Handkerchief
03-05-2011, 19:27
Depends. Many strong strategists (which I see myself as) play armies that aren't top of the crust power-wise for the challenge. I am now intentionally starting up a DE army precisely for that reason, and still rocking my Tau.

But when a very good player builds up one of the top three army lists, (happens rarely in my experience) they should be able to dominate even against others with that same list.

There is a lot more luck (and bad luck) in 40K than there is in many other games with strong tournament scenes, like Magic: The Gathering, even chess (well, especially chess) but over the course of years of playing, statistics don't lie.

I guess a good player, if he plays a balanced army that recognizes the metagame will probably do better with Dark Eldar for example, than most above average players will with Razerspam.

Skill cap? At some point luck and bad luck does take over. If you are faced with your anti-army as the enemy for example, you will probably lose and there's nothing you can do about it.

Michaelius
03-05-2011, 20:37
Since mechanics are relatively easy you will find much shorter gap beetween good and bad player in wh40k than for example in battletech.

theunwantedbeing
03-05-2011, 20:41
Good players use standard all comer lists.
Very good players use tournament lists.

There is likely to be no difference in skill between a good player and a very good player.
Heck, there may well be little difference between a competant player and a very good player and given the same level lists they'll both win an almost even number of times.
Almost entirely down to the list (entirely if we ignore freak luck).

Now that armies can generally guarantee a win by getting to go first (both lists are the same tier, the one who gets to do anything first, is going to win as he stacks the odds in his favour first, where they stay) the skill cap is probably a lot lower than you would think.

jsullivanlaw
03-05-2011, 20:47
Winning in tournament games is different than in normal 40k games. The basic mechanics are fairly easy to get down, then it just comes down to skilled deployment, maneuvering with regard to the games overall objective, and target priority. Tournaments have the additional skill required in timing, since these games are timed. The reason i hate tournaments is that the best tournament players slow play or fast play which makes a much bigger difference to the overall outcome than what happens on the table. Ard Boyz is the best example of this since the point value is so high. Anyone can slow or fast play with a 2500 army without most people noticing. Everything else just comes down to army lists.

althathir
03-05-2011, 21:20
This has always been something that I've wondered about, and with Adepticon and especially the availability of the Eternal Warriors video-cast of the final rounds, I've decided to gather opinions.

Is there, due to the nature of the game, a sort of "skill cap" to 40k? My reasoning is this. I'm a pretty solid gamer, having been to the national 'Ard Boyz twice (finishing in the top third both times) and winning a slew of local tournaments. There are a couple other guys in my store that are in the same position as well. I could never know whether that meant I was really good, or just good for my area, as I've never been to one of the big Cons. I decided to take some time out of my day to watch the final round of the Adepticon to see if there was some sort of magical tactical play that I wasn't privy to.

What I found? It looks a lot like the typical games I have with other top tier players in the area. This leads me to my question. I will fight tooth and nail with those who say that 40k has no skill basis. If nothing else, the stats don't lie, I win, and I win a lot against a lot of opponents. However, I'm starting to think that at some point "being good" is enough, and luck takes over from there.

One solid example I can bring is from 'Ard Boyz last year, where one of my friends was in the battle for first place. It was Alpha Strike IG vs. Alpha Strike IG, and both players, realizing that they must be of comparable skill at this point, essentially agreed that first turn wins the game. True enough, the first turn army won the game. Is there a "better" player that could have won that game? IMO, no.

Anyway, I rant a bit, and I think I'm doing that now, so I'll stop and open it up for comments. If I'm a fool, no worries, call me out, but think a bit about it first...

I don't think that there is really a skill cap tbh. In competitive play there are a lot of factors and some can't be measured by watching the final round.

A) familiarity with the different fractions - knowing each army well enough to predict what're the capable of even when presented with a non-traditional list.
B) designing lists for the event - Most tournaments release the mission packs early and I think the best players modify their list accordingly, or even take a different army. Looking at the mission packs it shouldn't surprise anybody that orcs did well at adepticon.
C) ability to focus for three-four games in a day.

Lord of Divine Slaughter
03-05-2011, 21:24
40K isn't a game of skill, its all about showing off your cool models and roll the dice.

IronNerd
03-05-2011, 22:19
@althathir: I think I would honestly define skill partially by A and B. A HUGE part of the game is knowing your enemy and knowing the mission, then designing (by list or tactics) to win.

@jsullivanlaw: You DEFINITELY have a point. I've found myself rushing to get turns in against slow playing opponents. It's one of those things that is almost impossible to stop outside of timed turns (which, despite its benefits, would suck for 40k). There's no way to prove it, so you can't stop it.

Anyway, as a general response, it sounds like the general consensus is agreement. I dare say that the amount of "skill" separating the top 5% from the top 0.5% of players is quite minimal...

althathir
03-05-2011, 22:52
@IronNerd - Yeah those two are the main "pre-game" skills, and they're partially why I don't think that there is a "skill Cap" as new missions are popping up all the time, and armies are always being updated.

I do think being more skill than your opponent provides less benefit as the level of competition increases, mainly because as players get better they learn minimize their mistakes, but its still a deciding factor. The Alpha Strike IG lists you mentioned earlier is an interesting example, because both of those armies are designed to deal a decisive blow early, and punish armies that use alternative deployments (like reserving everything). The players didn't have to have the same skill level to reach the conclusion that whoever went first would win, its more of understanding the lists strengths and weaknesses, and that is a risk that you have to accept when running that style of list.

mulkers
04-05-2011, 11:07
I completely disagree with the 1st turn comment, that is army/list dependant.

Maybe it is because i play an unconventional Necron list, but i basically do everything that this thread says not to.

Reserves, resiliance, designed to go 2nd etc.

Kaelarr
04-05-2011, 11:48
I agree with Mulkers. Even if you have the same army, 1st turn only ever decides the game if the person going second has already resigned himself to defeat. There are many things you can do to minimise the damage you take and maximise the potential output of your army for your first turn. Also it depends entirly on Mission.

For Example. At the UK Masters, on game 3, I played the same list as mine, and pretty much nothing happened untill turn 4 of the game. We both played very defensively, and I managed to outmanouver my opponant marginally, I got sight of a leg of his daemon prince, which was all that was needed, however two double 6 psychic tests decided that it was not to be. I took the risk, It didnt pay off, so he killed my princes instead. However, even though at the end of turn 7 there was 700 vp's difference, he won by 1 objective, and it would have been a draw every turn up to the last. Most people tend to give up when it starts going wrong, and even more people forget they can play for a draw if they cannot win the game.

A lot of the game is experience as well. And knowing when to make moves that do nothing except confuse your opponant. If you can split his focus by sacrificing a 100pts unit or a transport, do it.

When you get 2 top tourney players in a game, there is almost never a huge margin in the victory of one or the other.

And yes, do read the rules pack and change your army accordingly!!

Michaelius
04-05-2011, 12:50
Most people tend to give up when it starts going wrong, and even more people forget they can play for a draw if they cannot win the game.

A lot of the game is experience as well. And knowing when to make moves that do nothing except confuse your opponant. If you can split his focus by sacrificing a 100pts unit or a transport, do it.

When you get 2 top tourney players in a game, there is almost never a huge margin in the victory of one or the other.

And yes, do read the rules pack and change your army accordingly!!

True a lot of defeats come from mindset of player. You have to belive in victory and don't get intimidated by other player "fame".

Also you need to have mentality to always get the most out of your battle. Diffrence between losing 17:3 and 15:5 might seem marginal in first battle but then it can decided tournament result for you.

Stealin' Genes
04-05-2011, 13:01
I completely disagree with the 1st turn comment, that is army/list dependant.

Maybe it is because i play an unconventional Necron list, but i basically do everything that this thread says not to.

Reserves, resiliance, designed to go 2nd etc.

I agree with this. Lots of reasons why.

The prevalence of cover saves and added resilience of vehicles both make the crippling first turns of shooting that sometimes happened in earlier editions much less common.

Plus, many armies can play reserve lists effectively these days, and the advantages of getting first turn are largely irrelevant against such a list.

I've heard people claiming that 40k boils down to getting first turn since 3e at least, and never really agreed. It seems to me that that statement is even less true about 5e.

IronNerd
04-05-2011, 13:40
Whoa whoa whoa, this isn't a "First Turn = Win" thread, let's not take it there. The example I used above was just that, an example. In those circumstances, when you have players that are in the top tier, or "good", I don't think there is a player that is #1, or "really good" that can win that game. With a different list, a different mission, or a non top tier player, maybe you could.

Getting back on track though, I agree with the sentiment of "Fight to the Death!". One of my greatest moments was defeating a stacked IG army with 3 marines and a rhino left alive. Yeah, he beat me in victory points about 2300 to 700, but I had more objectives. All that being said, the scoring system for tournaments makes really discourages this attitude. I've yet to play in a multi-day tournament (hopefully next month will be my first), so most of the tournaments I've been to are three rounds, occasionally four. In that environment, if you don't slaughter your enemy every round, you don't win. I think that leads to a lot of people giving up earlier in the game.

mulkers
04-05-2011, 14:34
Cover is also important, for example with the example of two IG alfa strike armies.
Also in objectives based missions i find going second to be of a huge advantage.

If there is sufficient cover, 1st player will have no targets to shoot at, in turn having to hide to avoid shooting, or being more exposed than otherwise would be to advance and draw out the opposition.

Back O.T; from a brief statistical background, an increased sample size will remove most discrepencies in averages/mean etc. Here are a few observations;

-So in the long run, all else being equal, top tournaments should have the 'best' of tacticians.

-Given new codex, mission objectives etc, there are of course many variables, however over time these level out.

-Competition breeds growth, this is extremely important to the tournament scene, to debunk myths (ZOMG broken list etc) and to experiment and learn new tactics, especially so for the 'loser(s)', they will learn (or should i say have the potential to learn) more than anyone else.

-If for some reason that the technical skill of tournament players somehow stagnated, there would be fresh blood coming up through the ranks with new ideas on how to approach missions/opponents lists etc.

-Discussion, such as the use of forums also aids in growth. Remember when dual lash prince + oblits was invincible? (Personally missed a lot of this, had a ~7 year break) It only takes some time, testing and discussion to create counters for these combos for any army, often out of all-comer lists that are already being used.

-Even if somehow a player made "all of the correct decisions and moves" the is always teh mighty D6 to contest with. There are an abundance of stories of people who have gone through impossible odds. I myself have had 8 wraiths die, and all successfully make WBB rolls the following turn, multiple outflankers coming in on the same side and turn etc.

-Have you ever spoken to a player after a match and discussed what they would do differently, or what could have been? More importantly, have you ever played someone who said that they wouldn't change a thing?

I think that the skill caps are only as limited as the resources of the players mind, and the game itself, with of course a few D6 thrown in for good measure.

Sorry for the rant... :p

IronNerd
04-05-2011, 15:12
How much cover (and more importantly, LoS blocking cover) do people *actually* play with? I just had this discussion with a friend of mine who plays DE. He claims that first turn you'll never be able to shoot at his Raiders, and I claim BS. With true LoS, there will ALWAYS be targets first turn, especially for an Alpha Strike IG army and the loads of guns they have. I'm not saying cover is worthless, not by a long shot, but I think it's given too much credence as a strategy base.

Putting that aside, I agree with this:



I think that the skill caps are only as limited as the resources of the players mind, and the game itself, with of course a few D6 thrown in for good measure.


The problem is that we are still playing a game, so the skill cap IS limited. Also, this is NOT a slam on 40k. I believe any game that has these set rules deals with limitations. There are only so many mind blowing discoveries and realizations that can be made...

mulkers
04-05-2011, 15:15
Yeah, cover really depends on your local meta.

Most tournaments just don't have the amount of cover available that most people play with at FLGS, or that is suggested by GW itself.

Both of my FLGS that i have been playing at have massive saturation of terrain, which works in my favour. Also having no terrain works in my favour as well, but that is another story. lol

Michaelius
04-05-2011, 15:18
I've yet to play in a multi-day tournament (hopefully next month will be my first), so most of the tournaments I've been to are three rounds, occasionally four. In that environment, if you don't slaughter your enemy every round, you don't win. I think that leads to a lot of people giving up earlier in the game.

Well yeah but you can make good comebacks into top if you lost first battle moderatly.

On last tourney where we played in pairs our pair of CE+DE lost first game against CSM+IG by 13:7 then we slaughtered 20:0 a pair of CE+CSM and then we got 19:1 against Demons+SW and finished 3rd overall among 20 or so pairs.

And in Poland we have whole year wh40k nation wide league where most tourneys are counted so it makes getting into top 5 or top 10 worthwille (and the end result matters for people who want to go to ETC)

Carnage
04-05-2011, 15:40
I direct you to this thread over on Dakka which has the exact same discussion and 20+ pages of replies if you are looking for some more opinions.

http://www.dakkadakka.com/dakkaforum/posts/list/352134.page

althathir
04-05-2011, 16:34
Cover is also important, for example with the example of two IG alfa strike armies.
Also in objectives based missions i find going second to be of a huge advantage.

If there is sufficient cover, 1st player will have no targets to shoot at, in turn having to hide to avoid shooting, or being more exposed than otherwise would be to advance and draw out the opposition.

Back O.T; from a brief statistical background, an increased sample size will remove most discrepencies in averages/mean etc. Here are a few observations;

-So in the long run, all else being equal, top tournaments should have the 'best' of tacticians.

-Given new codex, mission objectives etc, there are of course many variables, however over time these level out.

-Competition breeds growth, this is extremely important to the tournament scene, to debunk myths (ZOMG broken list etc) and to experiment and learn new tactics, especially so for the 'loser(s)', they will learn (or should i say have the potential to learn) more than anyone else.

-If for some reason that the technical skill of tournament players somehow stagnated, there would be fresh blood coming up through the ranks with new ideas on how to approach missions/opponents lists etc.

-Discussion, such as the use of forums also aids in growth. Remember when dual lash prince + oblits was invincible? (Personally missed a lot of this, had a ~7 year break) It only takes some time, testing and discussion to create counters for these combos for any army, often out of all-comer lists that are already being used.

-Even if somehow a player made "all of the correct decisions and moves" the is always teh mighty D6 to contest with. There are an abundance of stories of people who have gone through impossible odds. I myself have had 8 wraiths die, and all successfully make WBB rolls the following turn, multiple outflankers coming in on the same side and turn etc.

-Have you ever spoken to a player after a match and discussed what they would do differently, or what could have been? More importantly, have you ever played someone who said that they wouldn't change a thing?

I think that the skill caps are only as limited as the resources of the players mind, and the game itself, with of course a few D6 thrown in for good measure.

Sorry for the rant... :p

A alpha strike IG army at 'ard boyz is not gonna be able to deploy in a way that LOS is blocked to all its units in my experience, 2500 pts games lead to units being left in the open even on tables with 25% cover. I think at 1850-2000 points it may be possible, that said 'ard boyz isn't the most balanced environment. I agree witht the rest of your statements though.


How much cover (and more importantly, LoS blocking cover) do people *actually* play with? I just had this discussion with a friend of mine who plays DE. He claims that first turn you'll never be able to shoot at his Raiders, and I claim BS. With true LoS, there will ALWAYS be targets first turn, especially for an Alpha Strike IG army and the loads of guns they have. I'm not saying cover is worthless, not by a long shot, but I think it's given too much credence as a strategy base.

Putting that aside, I agree with this:



The problem is that we are still playing a game, so the skill cap IS limited. Also, this is NOT a slam on 40k. I believe any game that has these set rules deals with limitations. There are only so many mind blowing discoveries and realizations that can be made...

My group shoots for the 25% with a mix of area terrain and Los blocking, but playing at stores I've seen a pretty wide range sometimes there is barely any, other times closer to 35% which really changes the dynamic of the game. With true LOS of though you will be able to see most things but cover saves really add durability to a lot of forces.

I don't think the skill cap is limited because the game is always changing, if there is a skill cap at some point you shouldn't get any better and shouldn't need to keep learning new things and that isn't accurate. I just think that as the level of competition increases you get diminishing returns on being more skilled than your opponent, maybe to the point where luck plays a bigger role in the matchup but skill still is important.


Whoa whoa whoa, this isn't a "First Turn = Win" thread, let's not take it there. The example I used above was just that, an example. In those circumstances, when you have players that are in the top tier, or "good", I don't think there is a player that is #1, or "really good" that can win that game. With a different list, a different mission, or a non top tier player, maybe you could.

Getting back on track though, I agree with the sentiment of "Fight to the Death!". One of my greatest moments was defeating a stacked IG army with 3 marines and a rhino left alive. Yeah, he beat me in victory points about 2300 to 700, but I had more objectives. All that being said, the scoring system for tournaments makes really discourages this attitude. I've yet to play in a multi-day tournament (hopefully next month will be my first), so most of the tournaments I've been to are three rounds, occasionally four. In that environment, if you don't slaughter your enemy every round, you don't win. I think that leads to a lot of people giving up earlier in the game.

Multi-tiered missions seem to be gaining popularity and that will help with that mind set a bit, though it would make it awful tough to win with 3 marines and a rhino ;). At adepticon for example, most missions had 3 primary win conditions and the goal was to win 2 out of 3, and if you drew it went to vps. So if you knew your force was at a disadvantage in kill points you could concentrate on controlling objectives and meeting the third condition.

Scribe of Khorne
04-05-2011, 19:04
To the OP: The game breaks down at the points level at which 'ard boys is played. When you bring that much firepower, on a table with probably not even 25% terrain, of course first turn is going to win.

IronNerd
04-05-2011, 19:12
To the OP: The game breaks down at the points level at which 'ard boys is played. When you bring that much firepower, on a table with probably not even 25% terrain, of course first turn is going to win.

I completely agree, the game is much better suited (competitively at least) to 1750 or so, IMO at least.

If you have a lot of time and interest in the topic, I'd encourage you to take a look at the Dakka thread. There is quite a bit of squabbling there as well, but I personally agree with the OP there. The more skilled you and your opponents are, the more luck has to do with the game. It's strange that the counter arguments don't really seem to refute the point in my mind. We're talking about playing against players with *very similar* skill level, so the common arguments (better list build, better maneuvering, etc.) are sort of invalid.

Nurgling Chieftain
04-05-2011, 20:02
I think there's a meta effect with the armies, too. There's more skill involved playing a balanced army, there's more skill involved playing a fast army. A fast balanced army can be pretty powerful, but it has to make up in maneuvering and positioning the points it has spent on speed and units that aren't optimal for a given opponent.

In contrast, an army that sits and shoots is simple mode; all you have to decide is who shoots what, and those choices tend to be pretty obvious (what can they kill plus what's most dangerous). An all-assault army is only slightly more subtle, with choices like whether to maximize movement or hug cover, assault something or head over towards the best target.

I have to say that the fundamental thesis that luck matters more for well-matched opponents seems kind of blatantly obvious. As one factor becomes more even and another factor remains the same, of course the latter factor becomes more important.

althathir
04-05-2011, 20:07
I completely agree, the game is much better suited (competitively at least) to 1750 or so, IMO at least.

If you have a lot of time and interest in the topic, I'd encourage you to take a look at the Dakka thread. There is quite a bit of squabbling there as well, but I personally agree with the OP there. The more skilled you and your opponents are, the more luck has to do with the game. It's strange that the counter arguments don't really seem to refute the point in my mind. We're talking about playing against players with *very similar* skill level, so the common arguments (better list build, better maneuvering, etc.) are sort of invalid.

I guess my disagreement is more that I don't think there is a "Skill Cap", then luck becoming a more important factor when two players of relatively equal skill play againist eachother.

IronNerd
04-05-2011, 22:29
I guess my disagreement is more that I don't think there is a "Skill Cap", then luck becoming a more important factor when two players of relatively equal skill play againist eachother.

Then I have to pose the question to you, do you believe that as you get better, it's harder to get better? I'm still surprised now and again (largely because not many people in my area play the current "power armies"), but my games typically don't teach me much. I'm at a point where I don't make big mistakes. Maybe there isn't a skill cap, but there is DEFINITELY a point of diminishing return...

Nurgling Chieftain
04-05-2011, 22:55
I think that's true of virtually all skills.

althathir
04-05-2011, 23:12
Then I have to pose the question to you, do you believe that as you get better, it's harder to get better? I'm still surprised now and again (largely because not many people in my area play the current "power armies"), but my games typically don't teach me much. I'm at a point where I don't make big mistakes. Maybe there isn't a skill cap, but there is DEFINITELY a point of diminishing return...

Yeah but because the game is always changing so I wouldn't say there is a cap on it. Each new codex and edition changes the game but a lot of the lessons from older editions still apply.

I stated a couple of posts ago that there is a point of diminishing return based on skill because as the competition gets better they don't make the big mistakes either, which makes luck matter more.

Nkari
04-05-2011, 23:13
Yes there absolutley is a skill cap, in 40k, same as in other games, but good scenarios raises that cap from time to time.