Lessons Learned: The Failure of Confidence

ConfidenceWe’ve been doing this tournament at the shop that spans two weeks. The other week was the first week and so last week we were pairing off appropriately, losers vs losers and winners vs winners, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I got there late and there was one person left not paired off, who fortunately happened to also win the previous week, so we grabbed a table.

Now, this person isn’t a new player but he did have an extended time away from 40K. This spring he came back and has been playing routinely since. The time off though did not favor him in the least and he has frequently been losing, though not without some wins of his own. He has not shied away from playing the tougher players at the shop and has been taking the beatings in stride. I had played him a few times and we’ve had some close games and a few where I took decisive victories. I’ve always enjoyed playing him too because he’s one of the few Chaos players at the shop, an army I play very infrequently.

I lost the game. What went wrong? Two things really. One, confidence, the double edged sword that it is. My gaming has, over the course of the past few months, gotten a lot better. As I found myself playing better my confidence grew. With my growing confidence I played even better. When you’re sure of your army list, your deployment, you choice of strategy and tactics and your general ability at 40K you can do a lot. Confidence is the base element that separates a mediocre player from a good player. Take a game of chess where everything is equal on both sides and the only difference between the players is one has the confidence to win. The confident player will win out every time if that’s all that separates them.

The second thing, which is tied to confidence, was underestimating my opponent. See, I wasn’t intentionally underestimating him. When we paired off I didn’t think, Alright, an easy game, nothing like that at all. What I did do though was allow my confidence to supercede caution. In short, I dropped down a Drop Pod too aggressively and that unhinged my game. We were playing a 1K game with a limited force organization and it only took that one bad deployment move to crumble me. My confidence in my ability to play told me, You can land there and bait him in and then counter charge him with your other Tactical Squad. A sound plan normally but I estimated range poorly and how he would react.

Underestimating his reaction was the kicker. Guessing range wrong happens to all of us and even the best laid plans can fall apart because of it. Guessing your opponent’s reaction incorrectly can be far more detrimental though. His response to my Drop Pod was the same response I’d have given in his shoes. Instead of asking myself, What would I do if I were him and he landed a pod there?, as I should have, instead I threw caution to the wind on account of my new found confidence and in turn underestimated him.

That one early mistake put me on the back foot and he took the initiative and ran with it. At the end of the game I was able to salvage a minor loss instead being massacred. My late arriving Terminators with Librarian were able to let me steal back the initiative but it was far too late.


I began playing Warhammer 40K in 2006, and have been an avid player and hobbyist since then. I have also been blogging about 40K for almost as long as I've been playing it, having started Creative Twilight in 2009.

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  • I always appreciate thoughtful and honest reports on 40K games, even when the reporter lost. It really helps to see a coherent analysis of “why did I lose” instead of snotty blame shifting.

    You learned something- that’s a plus. Also, you played a player who sounds as if he’s interested in learning as well. ALSO a plus. Those can be the best kinds of games!

    • I completely agree. If I walk away from a game having learned nothing, win or lose, then the game wasn’t fun.

  • Sounds like a good game despite the loss, thank you for providing a summary and your thoughts on it. I think this is a great addition to the Lessons Learned series.

  • You didn’t pray to gork or mork that day did you?
    I have to agree 100% about the confidence thing. When at nationals with my blood angels I was not confident and it lead to failure. With my orks I feel almost 100% confident that I will win the game. There have been some tough losses and close games. Do not ever underestimate your opponent and his figs. Math hammer in your head is always a good idea during the game but also a proper estimation of your opponent comes with more play time. You have gotten way better and into the ranks of the top players at crg. I never see you do poorly rather I always see you do well. Nice blog Thor.


    • I appreciate the compliment, both on the blog and my playing. I probably should have prayed to Gork and Mork since the Emperor did not protect. Instead he let his chosen sons get defiled by the filth of Chaos. It’s time to get my Marine playing ability on par with my Orks.

  • Anonymous

    I wouldn’t say it was confidency that made you lose but over-confidence.

    One needs confidence to win, for without it, one will play too conservative and thus surely loose by not utilising opportunities to their fullest.

    • I agree. That’s pretty much what I was saying but in a lot more words.

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