The Rule of Cool VS The Will to Win
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
I'd like to think none of us get into the hobby of table top war/skirmish gaming with the idea of going out and winning all the tournaments. My belief is that most of us, if not all of us, got into the hobby because we saw something we thought was cool.
Maybe you saw the Hulk and Venom figures from crisis protocol and you're already a comic book nut so you bought in. Maybe you came out of the movie theater watching Poe Dameron blow up some TIE Fighters and happened upon a hobby store and saw an X-Wing starter box. Maybe you walked past a Game Workshop store and got intrigued by the amazing not-so-mini miniatures towering over the battlefield. Either way... chances are you saw something cool and decided to pickup a starter for whatever.
my first love/rule of cool... Battletech
One of the reasons I don't really play X-wing that often anymore is because the main reason I got into the game, which was Star Wars space dog fights are cool, is that I started to find I was more interested in winning than I was playing the game. In fact that drive to win started to make the game unfun. If I went to a tournament and lost my first game or two I'd be in a terrible mood and a bad head space for the rest of the day. Chances are I wasn't too kind to my opponents. There was even a time during a major tournament that my opponent missed a critical trigger on attack and I didn't mention it, but did mention that the same unit had the negative trigger when it came time for him to defend. In hindsight... that was cheating.
I didn't like the person I was becoming while playing X-Wing competitively. Back in January 2020 I got a concussion during a Karate training camp. I was not aware of the injury at the time, but the next day I went to go play in what was, as of this writing, my last X-wing tournament. I opted to play a list I feel is both cool and highly competitive. Luckily my love for A-wings and Poe overlap and my Poe AAA list, at the time, was considered an A-tier list, and... I'm pretty good with it. I won one game. I even lost against someone who is brand new to the game (maybe 2 weeks in). I was pissed. My friends attribute it to my head injury. Well... I feel that's a cop out. Sure I came in top cut a major tournament a few months earlier with the same list...and had a string of second place finishes. But I bombed hard.
I dropped my last game and went home early. Forgetting my play mat at the store (luckily, the owner of the store is amazing and noticed this and kept it in the back for me. Don't forget about your FLGS, especially the good ones). On the way home I was so triggered that I actually sat through a full light cycle and almost missed my turn off. I told my wife this and she actually ended up taking me to the hospital as I was not myself at all, and there we go. diagnosed with a concussion. Still... I didn't feel good about how I acted, or how I felt after playing in that tournament. I started planning on what the most degenerate list I could take to the next tournament was going to be, weather it was a "Luke list" (as is commonly referred to
in the community) or not.
Once I recovered from my concussion I went to one of my local stores and came across Infinity. I thought it looked cool as hell, did a quick look on the google and learned about the ARO system and fell in love. Bought the coolest looking box (Icestorm, Nomads vs Pano), and off I went. That February I played in Colder than Carbonite, a local major tournament. Found out it was the equivalent to a System Open series in X-wing...which is a pretty big deal. I had so much fun not worrying about winning and just using my big cool stompy robots and space knights and just enjoying the game that I had more fun than I ever had playing X-wing!
I ended up going deep with the game. I have played more Infinity than X-wing in 2020...by a long shot and I love it. I have a pretty decent Win/Loss record for a newbie too...but here's the thing... aside from 1 game... I've had amazing fun in every single game I've played... and I'm still fixated on what I think is cool.
Wow that was a lot of back story.... So onto how do you balance this?
The first thing I realized is that a lot of the will to win is based on your community. If you have a very competitive community chances are it's going to be harder to exercise the rule of cool. My local X-wing community is very competitive. When a small Canadian city has at least 4 people qualify for Nationals or Worlds events and perform well at them it's a tribute to how good our players are. The problem is...the will to win has taken over. This can be very intimidating to newbies and doesn't help grow the community. In fact right now I'd say it's killing the community. I tried to work on rebuilding it...but Infinity took over.
To fix this highly competitive nature I had a game plan. I would host a casual league night and casual tournaments. Some ideas I had were everyone brings lists then they are randomized to be used by each player...so you wouldn't necessarily be playing your list. A tournament where the top prize goes to the last place player. I also made a post saying I would no longer be playing against internet meta lists or against players I found who rule lawyered or took advantage of new players. Essentially, I was going to do everything possible to be the player I was before I became overly competitive.
The second thing you can do is make sure you play what you think is cool. Love A-wings? Fly them in X-wing. (I'm personally a HUGE fan of 5 A-wings loaded with Proton Rockets and Crackshot). Love TAG's in Infinity? Run two of them!!! (I actually do this a lot, and it's a blast!!!)
If you loose your game, and you will, look at the story and how it unfolded. One thing I love doing now is battle reports (and I've been posting them on my Instagram if your interested), and trying to vaguely tell a story. I want to actually get to telling full stories based on the battles played. Some of the most fun things in this hobby are the stories that get told during the game. It's upto you to find those stories and tell them.
One of my favorite things was how my Infinity community handled a recent tournament, and I may host an X-Wing tournament with the same format. Everyone submits their list and the TO posts them all on a global Facebook group. The Facebook group votes on the least Meta List. That player who brought that list...wins top prize.
Winning isn't everything. It is fun to win sure, but you can't make it your sole focus on why you play these games. Don't forget why you got into the hobby. You got into it to have fun, to have an escape from the stresses of your day to day life. Your hobby shouldn't be as, or more stressful, than your job or home life.