Hi lovelies. I hope you and yours are all safe and well during these unprecedented times!
I, like a good few people in the UK and around the world, have found myself with some extra time on my hands recently.
It has allowed me greater access to all that beautiful AoS content swimming around, provided by some very clever folks with a plethora of opinions and viewpoints on winning!
One thing that really interests me about Age of Sigmar (and all games in general), is how different people or groups of people approach the game. Playing at an international level for a few years now, has taught me there is a lot more to this game than I had even considered playing at casual/club/national levels. France in particular (highly efficient horde builds with limited characters), from my UK perspective, played very differently when I first encountered their players and teams. It was a real eye opener and the cause for much debate between our domestic players at the time.
So, when the subject of playstyle is brought up, I will pay extra attention, only to find myself disappointed with the limited time and effort people seem to offer. More often then not, the list archetype people are running (MSU, gunline, debuff, magic heavy etc) or like to run is offered up as an explanation to their playstyle, or the generic new filth “suits my playstyle” (does it fuck you beardy bastard), those S-tier hoppers like winning, that’s their playstyle.. But your playstyle is more than what list you run. At least that is what I believe.
This all led me to start the below thread on Twitter:
I thought the responses were so interesting, that I decided to expand it into this article.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world Mortal Realms.”
My hope is by offering up a more in-depth self-analysis of my own playstyle and list build preferences, it’ll encourage others to give it more consideration. And help improve the language we use to describe the game overall. And help me make better decisions about list building and purchasing, as well as the advice I am often asked for etc.
I have used all sorts of list builds over the years and have never taken the same list to an event (often teching similar builds from the lessons I’ve learnt previously or to anticipate the strong builds that I think will emerge and shape the meta).
Although I appreciate your playstyle can change depending on the list you bring, I do not feel my playstyle changes a great deal at its core.
I believe it is better to try and understand your own fundamental self-style and use lists tailored around that, rather than altering your playstyle to a new or fancy list.
It is more natural to play to your strengths rather than cover your weaknesses. The best case for this I can think of is the journey I went on to finally win 100 ranking points by taking out the London Grand Tournament in 2018. I’ve included a link to a piece I wrote for Dan of AoS Shorts fame, for his website. Not only was it the most successful list I have taken, but also the one I had the most fun using and creating.
The final iteration was built with my playstyle, strengths and weaknesses in mind – no list I’ve used before or since has ever felt more me.
A case study: me!
The best place to look for insight into the whys of your playstyle preferences is your personality. For myself I can think of a few stand out character traits that I believe influence mine.
- Anyone that has spent any length of time with me or listened to our list diary show on The Honest War Gamer, would probably agree I am an emotional guy.
- I need lots of little wins throughout the game – this means I tend to play surgically.
- I have a short attention span; I need a stimulus to keep my interest. This also means I am impatient; restraint is not one of my strong points.
- My family and friends will attest to this, I can be very stubborn, I do not like to lose anything, be it a debate (or if I’m being honest here an argument), game, or miss a work target etc.
I’ll go through each of these traits and look at how I think they transfer over to the tabletop.
A blessing and a curse, this one. I must make a conscious effort to not get ‘negged out’ when things are not going to plan. Playing a great deal of Poker in my 20s taught me, no matter how good I think I am at a game, it all goes out the window once you are on tilt and I tilt easily.
Therefore, I favour builds that are consistent and contain redundancy. I will often dedicate a lot of resources into buff pieces or double down on a source of a particular buff if it’s central to my overall strategy. Not just because it is my belief consistency is key to winning, but also because I fear to fail that cast, charge etc will lead to me becoming disillusioned and affect my decision making later in the game.
Having watched a few of my streamed games back (a little narcissistic perhaps, I tell myself it is to try and spot mistakes I missed while playing), plays I have made have often been described as ‘surgical’. Support heroes and units are on the top of my list of target priorities for a few reasons. The enemy will do less damage and die quicker if you take out the support early for the rest of the game. But I also need many little wins throughout the game to keep me focused.
This also links back to me being overly emotional, getting a few early wins helps me deal with when things do not go my way. When procrastinating about how to proceed I will often repeat to myself “kill what you can Darren”.
So, my lists will often include a great deal of ranged threats, I also look at ways to increase my units reach, be it with endless spells, teleports, buff, allies etc. I want to be the one asking questions of my opponent before they have an opportunity to ask theirs. As a rule of thumb, anything that can affect how your opponent deploys or can punish them if they deploy poorly is very valuable to me.
I have said before I do not think I am mechanically very good at AoS. Micromanagement is not my thing, I need to be forcing mistakes from my opponent, as I will make plenty myself.
3) “Short attention span”
Because I need lots of little wins throughout the game, I favour aggressive proactive plays and builds. I feel I also take the priority if given the choice or opt to go first much more often than my peers. Something I always reflect on after a game, but I think that is just how I am made up. I normally have plenty of ways to dish out damage at range and cannot resist the urge to get that quick kill. It seems to have served me well, but no doubt it has cost me games before. Something to work on.
I am simply not a technical enough player to be reactive. I accepted this a long time ago and it is my belief I have been more successful from understanding this flaw. Trying to be patient, being conscious of restraint etc, would likely stress me out and I want to be as stress-free as possible when making my decisions during a game.
As mentioned, I really hate losing. I normally fight until the end and try to approach all games, regardless of being in a good matchup or not, with a can-do attitude. You are much more likely to win a game if you set out to win. I know that sounds like an obvious statement to make, but I have seen many games of AoS decided before models are even deployed.
For more detail, I wrote an article a while back with some general thoughts on how to win at Warhammer: https://www.hampshirehammerers.com/post/how-to-warhammer
People seem so worried about losing badly, they set out with the aim of losing the best way they can. I would personally much rather lose horrifically by setting out with a Hail Mary play going for an unlikely major win in a bad spot, then set out for a minor loss or even a minor victory.
For those interested in going up in the rankings, it is my belief, no matter which situation you find yourself in, making the play that will most likely lead to a major victory is the best play in the long run. In the UK, only your top 4 results count towards your ranking points, losing out on a major win to secure the minor win because you were overly concerned you would lose, will cost you podiums. If you are a prolific tournament goer looking to succeed in the rankings, always aim for the sun.
That’s all, folks!
I hope when reading through this piece you have been considering your own playstyle and preferences. I would strongly encourage you to examine your own previous builds and approaches, as I have always found it useful when list-building pre-events. It’s my belief I have also had much better gaming experiences understanding the pros and cons of my persona.
This idea got quite a few responses from some top players, which made me think about doing a “Playstyle Series” of interviews. I’ll be starting with my good friend Laurie Hugett-Wilde, who will talk about different Sylvaneth armies he has played and what he’s plotting during the current break in playing any games.
He’s also been kind enough to set up a Google Doc, should you wish to pop down some thoughts on your own playstyle and compare them with others, I’d really appreciate any and all of your thoughts, I find the subject fascinating.
Thank you for your time, I hope, as ever, it’s been well spent.
Love Dazza x