4 Steps to Jumping into 40k Tournament Wargaming

Not sure if you’re ready for the big leagues, eh? Well before you embarrass yourself, check out this great guide out first! It may be easier than you think!

Getting Started

Hey game fans, first time contributor here.  I am Zardoz, and my goal for the hobby is that everyone gets started on the right foot.  So from time to time, we’ll take a look at some fresh ideas that will help you get started.

For our first article, we’re going to take a look at something that’s near and dear to everyone’s hearts, getting started with tournament war gaming.  I have some ideas that I think will help you get ready for your first tournament. I want to give you the best option to concentrate on the games you’re going to play.  Gearing up for your first tournament?  Great, welcome to a richly rewarding side of the hobby.  Tournament style war gaming is different from more casual games. Knowing what those differences are is going to give you the best shot for being ready for your first tournament.

The first thing that everybody needs to know are the rules!  Warhammer 40,000 has a rich tournament culture in the United States. Each tournament does things a little bit different.  It doesn’t matter if you’re going to your local monthly  tournament, or gearing up for the Las Vegas Open.  You need to know the particular rules of the tournament you’re going to play.

I can’t express how important it is to make sure that you have the rules ready so that you know what you need to bring, what you can bring, and what’s expected during game play.  No one wants to get disqualified because of a simple rules mix up.  (Losing the entire tournament because you brought Deathwing only, that’s a different sort of a puzzle).  I’ve put together a list of things that most tournaments will expect from you.  So let’s take a look at the things you’re probably going to need to get ready.

Army Preparation

First things first, you’re going to need an army to play with.  Depending on the tournament you’re going to, there are a lot of potential options for list building.  Make sure you check your tournament rules. Most major tournaments will have a download packet available for you.  If you’re playing locally, check the tournament sign-up sheets. These are three key things you need to know for tournament wargaming.

  • How many Sources can I bring?  7th edition Warhammer 40,000 has opened the floodgates for creative list building and mixing sources up.  This can lead to some absolutely brutal combinations that draw units from four or five different sources.  Some tournament organizers have opted to limit this.  They could limit you to one source (highly unlikely, but wouldn’t that be a neat tournament), or a couple of sources.  If you’re playing a Chaos Space Marine army, you could be limited to the base CSM codex, one supplemental codex, and the new Traitor’s Hate book that just released.  Some sources are banned or limited, so check the tournament rules document.
  • How painted do my models need to be?  My answer to this question is usually going to be all painted to the best of your capabilities.  Personally I think that the hobby side of miniature war gaming is just as important as the playing side. I you focus on the gaming side at the expense of the hobby, you’re shorting yourself some wonderful experiences.  The tournament rules will spell out any required painting standards.  You can win a Best Painted Army award with the right paint job.   Winning Best painted is a wonderful goal, and I think anyone swinging for that fence has a good idea about the hobby.
  • What models can I use for my army?  You can use whatever models are appropriate representations of the army you’re playing on the table.  The only time this becomes a serious issue is if your opponent can’t clearly identify what units are by looking at them.   Warhammer 40,000 offers a wonderful world of conversion options and possibilities.  If you think the brand new heavy weapons from Kromlech are the bees knees, (and they totally are), you can add them to a squad of space marine devastators in place of their standard GW heavy weapon bits. Tournaments that have specific rules for what bits are acceptable will spell those rules out in the tournament rules.  You don’t want to get disqualified because you put the shiny Kromlech guns on your guys at a Games Workshop only tournament.army

You’ve got your army and it’s ready to play.  You’ve completed the hard part of picking an army and painting it. However, I think there are some other things you’re going to need for your tournament experience.

Physical Gear

  1. Your army list.  This is the written breakdown of your army composition. It includes all formations, detachments, squads, characters etc. that you are fielding for your army.  This is something you should know like the back of your hand, but references are essential.  Most tournaments will require print outs (usually one for each round you’re playing).  These are extremely helpful for you to keep track of your army, and it gives you the opportunity to share your army list with your opponent in a civil, sportsman like manner.
  2. Your sources.  The rules for Warhammer are complex. Enough so that you’re going to need a copy of the rulebook, your codex, datasheets,  and other such sources. Bring hard copies, they don’t need a phone jack or a power outlet. I knew a player that spent an entire game guessing how his army worked because he didn’t bring hard copy.
  3. Dice, Tokens, Templates.  Everybody needs dice to play Warhammer.  Bring lots of dice, and plenty of variety! This will speeding up game play tremendously. Imagine  the entire squad of Sanguinary Guard with their four attacks each, all with master crafted weapons. With enough dice and variety you can roll them all at the same time.  Legible dice on a tabletop are essential.  There are a lot of different dice out there, and the easier yours are to read, the better.  Tokens to track vehicle damage, psychic powers, and morale states are all helpful additions. There are three templates for Warhammer 40,000, and if you want the game to work well, bring two copies of each. If you use weapons that require a lot of small blast templates, plan ahead.  A tape measure is good for checking ranges, and a maneuvering tool is good for moving your guys around the board.
  4. Travelling board.  Also called display boards. These are trays you can use to transport your army (and associated things) around the tournament area easily.  Tournament rules can require a display board, plan ahead.  You could pack your army up into its travel case between rounds, but having a travel board on hand can make it a much easier time getting your army onto the table.
dice bag

Mental Planning

Those are the physical things that you’re going to need to bring, but there are a few other bits of prep work you’re going to need to do in order to get ready for your first tournament.

  1. Why are you going to this tournament?  Are you planning on winning the best painted army?  Best general in your faction?  Grand champion?  If you don’t have an answer for this question, take a minute and figure out what you’re getting into the tournament scene for.  If you’re only going because your friends are going, then you probably have different desires than winning the whole tournament.  Figuring out why you’re playing in a tournament can help you to maximize your potential of meeting those expectations.
  2. Your first list is probably not going to be your best list.  That’s okay.  Mine wasn’t either.  Building your list is the first step on a path of drafting, testing, and revising.  You need to know how your army’s special rules interact with each other, and with other armies.  Learn how the game plays, how your rules change the game, and how they interact with other armies.  Take notes, quiz yourself.  Information is ammunition.
  3. There’s an idea that it will take ten thousand hours to master a skill.  You probably don’t have that much time to get ready for a tournament, but you do have time to practice with your army.  Ideally, you should try to get into games with as many different types of armies as you can, and look at each game as a learning experience.  Seeing how other armies play, and how other people run them gives you some idea of how to react on a table top.  Practice mentally prepares you for the game .  Your play improves  with practice, observe the differences between your first game and your tenth game.
These steps will get you ready for your first tournament in no time.  Remember to give yourself plenty of time to get ready.  If you’re going to Adepticon or the Las Vegas Open, you’re going to want to spend the time to make sure your army looks good and you’re ready to play the hell out of it.  Tournaments can be scary, but you can manage, you’re a hobby war gamer.

That’s all for us today, game fans

Game on!

-Zardoz the Magnificent

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About Zardoz the Magnificent

Trained as a school psychologist, i look at the overlap between education, psychology and games with the direction to utilize the latter two components to improve the first

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