Editor’s note: Ray Flynn, co-founder of Third Floor Wars gives us the keys to an enjoyable first tournament. Many casual players are scared of entering their first event. Ray gives some great tips to lessen first-event anxiety.
#1: Keep it Simple
Unless you’ve been playing for a long time and are comfortable with a selection of models and masters, try to focus on one or two crews/masters. Even if they aren’t the most optimal in every pool. Comfort trumps flexibility. If you don’t know how to pilot a master and its crew, it doesn’t matter if it’s the more optimal build. You’ll perform better with the crew/master you play regularly.
#2: Play to learn, not to win
This game is deep. It may take many games before you win your first 50ss game. Even if you’ve been performing well in your local meta, remember that a tournament environment is different. You may play out of towners, local players bring their A game, etc. Play to learn. Don’t worry about that W/L or differential just yet. If you get a win (or more), awesome. First and foremost, you’re looking to have a good time playing faux. My favorite take away: “I’ve never seen that, it won’t catch me off-guard next time.”
#3: Practice your deployment
Use books, pens, cups etc. to set up some tables. Practice how you would deploy your crew. Look at the tournament schemes. See how you might jam yourself up. Increase your speed a bit. Timed games are a different animal. You want to spend as much time playing over prepping as possible. You’re going to have to adjust to the boards and opponents you’re playing against regardless.
#4: Ask the right questions at the table
This takes some practice. You aren’t going to know everything and every model. Instead, know what to ask to simplify the information. It’s as important as the answers you’ll receive. Valid questions can include but aren’t limited to:
“What’s that model’s defensive tech, and does anything happen when it’s hit or dies?”
“Do you have anything that removes scheme markers? What about at range?”
“What’s the threat range on that model? Do you have any way to move it outside of its activation or give it fast/reactivate?”
There will be “gotchas”, it’s inevitable. Proper questions help mitigate. Try to keep them focused on the board and its interaction. You don’t really need to know something is Wk5 or Ht2 unless It’s relevant. Ask when that’s important. But when you’re picking schemes, knowing that your opponent can just pop your dig their graves marker from five different models is a thing.
Always find out how models die. Target priority is critical. If you see aggressively positioned pieces, ask how hard they are to kill. You want to pick targets you can actually affect and not ones that you will just waste AP into.
#5: Play to 10, not to deny
This is more important in tournament play than casual. Casual it’s just a W/L. Tournaments care about differential. Never give up. Play for 10 VP. If you can get your 10 VP, you at worst force a draw. Even when you lose, make your opponent work for their differential. If you go 2-1 out of 3 rounds, differential will determine if you podium or not. Not as important for your first tournament, but get the mentality going early. It will only help you down the line.
#6: Keep it Cool
Try to purge anything that’s not important out of your head. Real life is real life, so use your best judgement, but a game is a game. If you make a bad play or lose a close game, don’t stress. Push it out of your mind. Remember #2 and play to learn. Lamenting bad plays or your bad flips distract you from picking up information and valuable play experience. Everyone loses games. Learning from the losses is how you improve.
#7: Take time to prep yourself
Take a nice hot shower. Have a good breakfast. Dress nice. Smell good. Drive over listening to your favorite music. Whatever it takes so that you arrive feeling awesome. Mentality is 50% of any competitive sport. Prep for success before you even walk in the door.
#8: Be a good opponent
I could write an article on sportsmanship alone. Make eye contact and smile at your opponent. Shake their hand. Ask how they are doing. Congratulate a good play. Try to limit your salt as best you can. It’s not your responsibility to make the game fun for them, but it is your responsibility to not be a jerk. Positivity breeds positivity. Negativity breeds negativity.
#9: At the table: Random Tips
Don’t let the lack of desire to move keep you from picking a favorable side. You’re playing to win here. Give yourself every advantage you can.
Make sure to define terrain. Don’t assume.
Watch the AP count on your schemes and strategy. AP is valuable, so picking 2 schemes that require interacts alongside Ply for Information might be overload.
Check how kill oriented the pool is. If there’s a lot of kill schemes, be prepared. Accept you will lose models and look for the favorable trade.
If you’re using scheme cards, keep them in your hand with your other cards. Force yourself to always look at them as you play and make cheating decisions. One of my new players mentioned this and it’s been keeping me honest on my schemes.
Don’t stone for cards unless you need to. Not having a severe in hand isn’t always a reason to stone. Especially turn 1 when you might not engage. Setting up for turn 2 is fine, but have a reason.
Have fun. You’re playing a game, after all!