The assassination run described above occured at my first major Warmachine & Hordes event: The Swedish Masters in 2016. On top of that this was the final game. The one where, you know, the winner kinda takes it all. It was a painstakingly long endeavour to sit through it as the judges meticulously measured up Axis' position as he bought 2 attacks per focus spent to dance around the Stormwall.
In Warmachine & Hordes, mistakes are made all the time. Quite literally I believe that every turn ever played has mistakes. I believe that mistakes define our games. There are too many variables to calculate, too much to remember, too little time, too many unknowns. Succumbing to paralysis by analysis is common and people clock out. At the end of the day a lot of the things we do are based on our gut feeling.
:: Simplicity ::
Consider chess. Chess has existed for many hundreds of years. It has been played competitively for decades. The best chess players in the world make a pretty decent living off of the game. Comparing chess to Warmachine & Hordes reveals a glaringly obvious difference: Chess is so simple! Everything's in a fixed starting position, you have a very finite set of options and you only move one piece at a time. Despite this simplicity, the age of the game and the level of skill involved from the many experts who have dedicated their entire lives to this, mistakes are made. All the time.
:: Own Your Mistakes ::
Acknowledging that you will make mistakes is one of the first steps to truly understanding mistakes. We start second-guessing ourselves. We become unsure. We let our mistakes consume us. Indeed, the mistakes own us. Acknowledging that mistakes are inevitable is a necessity in order to turn this around: Do not let the mistakes own you. Own your mistakes. Here's an example from one of my own games: In the Iron Moot Iron Gauntlet Qualifier finals against Karchev's Mad Dogs I needed to get the most out of my turn, truly maximize my list's damage output to be able to grind him down. A stupid mistake with my Firefly (more on this matter later) did not allow my Ironclad to charge and kill a Mad Dog as intended. This would frustrate anyone and it frustrated me quite visibly (report can be found here). If you check out the YouTube video linked in the report you can even hear the commentators mentioning that I'm visibly annoyed. At that point in time I knew I had to let it go. I had to own that mistake and put it behind me. There was still a game to be played. When my opponent finished his turn, I was honestly over it. I was clear to focus again, paying no heed to this mistake and my focus was 100% for the task at hand. I played an amazing turn, dice co-operating certainly helped, and the advantage I forced here ensured I won the game. I might not have if the mistake had still disrupted my concentration. Everyone makes mistakes. Make sure you own yours.
:: Mistakes Define Games ::
In my experience, Warmachine and Hordes is a surprisingly well-balanced game. With a few outliers. most games I play tend to be won or lost when one side manages to find an opening and press the advantage. What's interesting is that these openings are, more often than not, the result of one player making a mistake. I was recently told that I'm very critical of both my own play and that of my opponents in my reports. That's probably true! When I write reports I'm always looking for mistakes on both sides. Did I overlook something? Could I have played better? Likewise: Did my opponent let me get away with a mistake which should've cost me the game? Could he have punished me for it?
In practice games I often play with a lot of open discussions, take backs, resets and concessions. We are, in a nutshell, trying to minimize our mistakes. Often times you don't see a mistake up front. I've often told my opponents - and have them tell me - stuff like "If you do that, you lose the game". We then discuss why and typically reset. Although you can't necessarily see it up-front, once you're in the position and your opponent is explaining it to you, you'll probably realize your error. At that point in time, you've got the valuable lesson you needed. There's no point playing it out. If your main goal is to become a better player, your time is best invested in resetting (either an activation, a full turn or even the entire game, depending on the situation). People ask me how I get to play so much. Open discussions during games, take-backs and concessions help me have shorter practice games, leaving room for more situations to learn, more lessons to take away and more mistakes hopefully avoided.
:: Mistakes And The Deathclock ::
I play a lot with proxy bases. Especially with casters like Haley2 and Haley3 where specific positions are key, I play with proxy bases no end. I had a game recently where I had 20 proxy bases in play at one point in time, on top of 15 other markers to help me visualize what I wanted to do. Obviously, this consumes a ton of time. Referring back to the Firefly incident above, what happened was that I was pretty sure my Firefly could run far enough to get out of my Ironclad's charge lane. I didn't bother spending time putting down the proxy base and finding the precision measuring tools, I just started moving the model. Suddenly I had spent the entire 12" and he was in the middle of where he should definitely -not- have been.
Two things are important here: In a proxy-world I see a lot of people, even in tournament settings, giving themselves take-backs in situations like this. They'll simply go "eh, no that doesn't work" or something like that and retract their movement. This is, quite literally, cheating. It's not a particularly bad case of cheating, but it's clearly against the rules. In the heat of the moment I can completely understand it, I've probably done the same myself, but I aspire not to. In this specific game I did no such thing, if memory serves I didn't even ask my opponent. I knew I had made a big mistake, but I respect the rules enough to let it be and just move on. Likewise I expect my opponents to respect the rules as well. Depending on how serious the tournament is, (a local 16-man Steamroller is a quite different thing than an Iron Gauntlet Qualifier event) this might vary of course and I may be more lenient, with my opponents at least.
The other important thing is that the clock provokes mistakes like this. We are all stressed out by our lack of time. At some point or another it affects us. We think we're fine but suddenly realize we're not. Time management is a very important skill in this game. You forgot to feat? Chances are it's the clock messing with your head, just like I forgot to pre-measure my Firefly's landing spot. A mistake is a mistake and in my opinion they're all fair game to capitalize on. I also have a principle regarding nudging, which happens too often when we want to measure something in detail: "My nudge, my fault, you get the benefit of the doubt, your fault, vice versa". See an example in this report.
:: Summary ::
Mistakes happen. All the time. We cannot let them affect us. We must respect them, learn from them and look for them. To become better players we need to cope with them, not let them drag us down. In practice games, identifying mistakes is one of the most important things you can do. In tournaments, be strict but fair. All mistakes are essentially the same: We simply aren't playing optimally. Sometimes it's forgetfulness, sometimes we don't know better, sometimes we assume. Learn to understand mistakes and their importance in defining the games you play.
'Another snake eyes?!' Axis had somehow managed to miss the Stormwall on two of his attacks, needing 3+ to hit. I was hoping so badly that he would fluff even more. My experience against Convergence was limited to say the least and I had never seen a move like this before. "Ok, I'll buy another attack. Hit! Move..." Axis was getting dangerously close to Haley2 but he was also running out of focus. I did the math, he needed at least two attacks or a boosted damage roll to theoretically kill her. A few more attacks and beat back on the Stormwall to inch ever closer. "Ok, I am now within melee range of Haley. I have 2 focus, enough to buy 4 attacks." I knew he needed two hard nines to make it. The first missed. The second missed. The two last would both need to hit. The first missed! I couldn't quite believe the math despite having been over it many times. My opponent looked resigned. "I'll just roll the last one anyway." Another miss. Yes!! "Good game. man. I tried!" A minor mistake nearly cost me the game, but sometimes dice have their say as well. Next time, I might not be this lucky.
PS! The full report can be found here.