Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Bigger C

Combat? No. Chance? No. Cancer? No. The bigger C here is Clausewitz. Go on Wiki if you need to...back? Good.

So lets talk about friction, this big F made big by the bigger C. An object wants to go where force tells it; you throw your dice it wants to go on forever. It gets stopped though. Mostly by terrain or your opponents lovingly crafted cheese infested models of doom, trademark there, but also by friction. Little by little the force you put on depletes into the environment until the dice goes Emu and doesn't wanna roll any more. Team Jacob.

So the idea is pretty simple really when you direct force things stop it working properly. Not just your opponent but things like bad dice, rules misunderstandings and well bad dice really. I'm sure a lot of people will have heard the maxim that to march an army in a straight line for a long way is you know not easy.

I like to think of it as having two parts, and I'm relating it here to 40k so any officianados in the audience you know chill out. Part one: unforeseeable friction. The number one killer in the jungle is dead-fall, that is logs etc falling on peoples heads from their tree branch homes. It's pretty unforeseeable. I mean sure you don't camp under one but when your moving around in the environment there are a lot of trees and watching the trees rather than where your going is a bad deal, because its a jungle out there man!

Here are what your after in part one. Chance outcomes with a close to 50:50 outcome on which your force depends heavily. Classic example is you need 4"+ to move through the jungle in order to be in charge range of your target. If your short your hurting and the outcome is unforeseeable. Next is what you will face at the tournament. Now a lot of people are going to scream "but the metagame!". I'm here to break it to you - there is no metagame. Unless you literally know the armies of everyone turning up there is not enough information to make the concept of a metagame useful. Last, but not least, are human factors like how well you get along with the other guy. If its well you dice stuff off when you dispute, unforeseeable, if its poorly you call whatever passes for a judge over who makes a shocking ruling, equally unforseeable.

When it comes to unforseeable friction here is the secret weapon. Don't plan for it. Acknowledge its existence in a French way then in an equally French way get on with wooing its attractive, but tall, wife Anticipated Friction.

Anticipated Friction decides a lot of games. It accounts for three main elements of the hugely important conflict your waging on the table top against the 3+ scummers, or for them whatever.

First your ability to anticipate your opponents play. Poker tells exist in 40k. They're unsubtle - people usually swear and yelp when you ruin their plans. Aside from that I suggest you take their list, their standing in the group and how ninja like they look and make a decision if you think they're better or worse than you are. If they're better oppose everything they do - restrict their options and play for the mission. If they're worse make a plan and stick to it forcing them to react, badly. It's like an argument - the worse a position your in the better off you are listening and disagreeing only with the most important bits. If your winning however just keep at it until you win.

Second is your ability to predict the dice. Pray to the God of dice here or just do some statistics in your head and realise what an unusual result will do to your plan. This has been talked to death so I'm stopping there.

Finally is your ability to predict the terrain and real environment. I once saw a guy, at a Magic Tournament, order a burger and chips table side. See his opponent had complained about being hungry. So he ordered the food and left it there. Serious distraction. It's underhanded but there was money, you know real money, on the line. Since then I always bring snacks to things so that if I get hungry I can eat. The bigger half here though is predicting the terrain. Some armies perform better on different terrain. Kroot without a forest are wounds waiting to happen for instance.

So what am I saying? Well this guy Clausewitz popularized this idea Friction. I think friction is a big concept. To make it work for 40k it needs simplifying and dividing. Recognize that some things that cause friction are unforeseeable, you can't work them into your plan, and that others can be anticipated, but often aren't. If you work these into your plan it has two outcomes. First your less likely to get mad and loose track of whats important when friction happens. Second your able to exploit your information and turn it into an advantage against people who don't have the information. I swear its Piranha next.


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