Ramblings: Competitive Armies

CompetitiveI’m a competitive gamer. I don’t mean that I fly out to the various tournaments held across the US and prove my worth against a room full of 40K players. I would if I could. No, I mean that I enjoy competing. I enjoy the challenge and regularly attend tournaments at the LGS. I have a competitive nature, as we all do to varying degrees, but I compete locally.

I read a lot of blogs, a good number of them deal with the national, and even world wide, competitive scene and army building. Being that I don’t compete nationally you could say I found it surprising that Orks are regarded as a lower tier competitive army. At the LGS Orks do well. There’s three of us who play them regularly, four if counting Kamui who attends tournaments as he can. One of those players is RippedDragon, the best Ork player at the shop and one of the best players overall.

Why is it that Orks do well locally but are looked down upon in the larger scene? We have our fair share of competitive gamers, and good ones at that, so I don’t believe it’s that the Ork players are just better players than the others. It could be the local meta but I’m not convinced it’s that either. I’d say a good 2/3 of the players are power armor, ranging from: Vanilla Marines, Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Sisters and Chaos Marines. We also have some IG players. The rest are the Xenos: Tyranids, Tau, Daemons, Eldar and Orks of course. Overall every army is represented and most by at least two different players. It’s not as though the Orks are facing off against their skumgrod (Ork for favorite enemy).

I feel Orks do well locally for a few reasons. The people who play them really enjoy them. Think about it, have you ever met someone who plays Orks and hated playing them? Every Ork player I know enjoys the hell out of them and converts, acts all Orky during games and laughs at their random misfortune. When you thoroughly enjoy your army you will do better, plain and simple. You know the army intimately and can be thrown against any opponent and have a plan. Players who run with the flavor of the month army to be competitive may do well, no arguing that, but they may lack the passion someone else has with their army. They aren’t interested in the army’s back story, creating their own fluff, etc. They’re interested in a competitive army build and the most point efficient units. I am generalizing a bit here. Some people jump to the new flavor and find they genuinely enjoy the army. Other people do it purely to win.

You can’t quantify a player’s enjoyment of an army when evaluating competitive armies and that’s why I pay little heed to the opinions of the wider world. Not all armies are created equally, some are in desperate need of updates. Passion for an army alone won’t win you tournaments. That being said, you combine a good player with a current army who is driven and enjoys his/her army, well you have a competitive player and a competitive army no matter what anyone else says.

The other reason I feel Orks do well locally is most of them don’t give a shit what the internet thinks. I can safely say that for at least three of the four of us, possibly the fourth person as well. If I cared then A) I wouldn’t be playing Orks and B) I wouldn’t be playing Kult of Speed either. I value the opinions of many people out there. There’s some great advice to be found. However, I treat it as such, as advice. It may influence some of my choices and get me to think about something in a new way but it damn sure isn’t dictating my choices and views.

The last reason I feel our Ork players do well is experience. It’s another quality in a competitive gamer I feel is left out of the equation. A net list in the hands of an inexperienced gamer will only go so far. That same list in the hands of an experienced gamer will do much better naturally. A list a player has fine tuned and polished over years of gaming with an army is an accomplishment that trumps all in my opinion. The gaming scene will change and the list will evolve but this player is drawing from experience in the list creation and that is a value all its own.

The best list creators out there who open a codex to simply create a list, or to evaluate the codex, that aren’t experienced with the army can only do so much. The way something looks on paper and the way it plays is not always the same. The only way to learn that is through experience. A completely underrated unit can perform wonders in the hand of an experienced player. That experienced player will have learned synergies that these list creators fail to see. That player will know how to maximize each and every unit beyond theoryhammer.

I used Orks as an example but this all holds true for any army. In the end it really comes down to doing what you enjoy and all the advice and opinions in the world can’t teach you enjoyment.

  • Darklightknight

    i also find it true that orks are a good local army, because they are a rare find were im at in south down here. the best part of the blog is the info you speak about exp is right on the money, that compative drive and passion for there style of army is something that been missing were im at for a while now. i can say that i bike marine army again for the 5th time also drop pod space wolfs and found out that it take passion and drive to play both these army because of what i found out there to be repulsive.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve had this thought, too. What I concluded was that the top competitive army (Space Wolves) is indeed better than a lower tier but still playable armies (Chaos Marines) but the question is by how much?

    If the best book is separated from the worst books by say 50% the gulf is probably too great. That would mean that in the hands of two equal opponents with equally optimized lists, the good book is just simply too much better for factors like luck or superior tactics to come into play.

    What I believe, however, is that the gulf is much smaller. Space Wolves ARE better than Orks. But I think the gulf between the two is more like 15%. That is a small enough gulf where an Ork player could, with superior tactics and a little good luck, still pull off a win.

    So the truth is, if you’re playing for fun or on a local level that 15% is not a deal breaker. It isn’t a big enough gulf to make the games unfun, especially since skill levels among local players will vary greatly. It might be that the Ork players are better than local Space Wolf players and the result is that Orks win more locally.

    At a large national tournament the skill spread will be less pronounced. After round 4, you can assume all the remaining unbeaten players will be good players. And their skill will be relatively close. At that point, the 15% gulf will matter a lot. So at a major tournament, small difference in book power become more pronounced as the other factors: play skill and luck, are controlled for.

    • Great response!

      Now, what if at round #4 we have a player suffering that 15% gulf but is truly passionate about his/her army and his opponent is not? Does the scale balance out a bit more at this point?

      • Anonymous

        I think the issue would be that the passionate player has more experience with his list than the other non-passionate player does with his and that could play out in terms of superior tactics or strategy.

        Could being the operative word. I think you’d find the later you go in the major tournament the less chance you’ll have to find a player who is so inexperienced with his army that he will get badly outplayed.

  • Anonymous

    I think what you have said is very insightful. I’d love to see a national or regional event where all the great ork players decided to show up in meaningful numbers and crush everyone else. Get a flash mob mentality about it!

    • I’d love to see that also. I wish I had the time and income to do it.

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