Monday, 20 October 2014

Painful Mistakes and the Absent Blogger.

Seeing Mick getting back on the scene (and pumping out the Blog content) got my typing fingers twitching but I’m just not inspired to write anything about 40K right now, fear not I’ll be attending two large tournaments in the next 3 months so I’ll have something to write about in the near future. This being said I hope you’ll forgive me a digression.

I was a World of Warcraft player for many years. I rolled a Tauren Shaman a few short weeks after release and then signed up with a guild called The Suffering almost as soon as I spawned in Mulgore. I pretty much embedded myself there for the best part of 5 years as I worked my way up to being on the Guild Council as a Raid Leader. With the relentless quest for loot, raiding: from the first tentative steps into 40-man raiding in Molten Core to confidently having Illidan “on farm” and even the occasional Guild meet up (in the real world), this was the most fun I’d ever had simply playing a computer game.

Inevitably however real life began to invade my wonderful little fantasy world and I managed to extract myself from the game some time in 2010. I still pop back in on occasion to dust off my Shaman and a few of my other alts but without the Raiding side of the game, it just doesn’t hold my attention like it used to.

There’s still a lot that I love about World of Warcraft (WoW), the lore, the design, the mechanics and the multiplayer nature of it, and therein lies the crux of it. I’ve always been a fan of playing games with other people, it’s one of the key reasons why I like 40K, whether competitive or co-operative (or both), that’s what really scratches my gaming itch. As is so often the way though, as I get older, the time I can dedicate to these gaming pursuits becomes less and less, so with WoW taking up 4 hours per night 3 times a week I just wasn’t going to be able to keep it up, particularly with a young family. Even 40K with its, perhaps, 3 hours per night 1 night per week demands, can be a bit tricky for me.

Enter Hearthstone.

I heard about this game via some friends who I still keep in touch with from my Guild so I thought I’d check it out. I’d never played a card game, like Magic or Pokemon, before but the theme was something I was all too familiar with so it felt very comfortable and non-threatening. The Hearthstone Heroes all reflected the aspects of their WoW Avatars, so I had somewhat of a head-start on understanding the abilities. The design is fantastic, both graphic and game design, it looks beautiful and plays simply but with a huge amount of depth. The final taste was the fact that it is (at the time almost exclusively) a player vs player gaming model. I was hooked!

As I dug a bit deeper into the game I started to relate deck building in Hearthstone to list building in 40K. As you may already know from the blog, list construction is one of my favourite aspects of 40K, theory-hammering out a list for a tournament and then playing it out to see if your expectations were met is something that really hooks me into the game.

Also the simplicity of the game makes it easier to play the odds in line with an overall strategy, something which is key to the success of many top 40K players. For example, if you know you want to control the board in Hearthstone and you know what cards you have in your deck, you can make intelligent choices with the cards you have in your hand to either flood the board with your cards, to trade advantageously or to simply bide you time knowing that you can clear you opponent’s board in a few short turns.

The game (or more accurately – your opponent) will also punish even small mistakes. One particularly fresh example of this happened to me only this past weekend. I was playing some Arena and I’d drafted a particularly mediocre Shaman deck. Arena is a game mode where you build a deck of cards from scratch by choosing the best card 30 cards from a pool of 90 shown to you 3 at a time of which you may only pick 1. Anyway, I was on 3 wins and was up against a Warrior who came out of the gates flying with a very aggressive deck and who was clearly not interested in trading with me. Every card he had just went straight for my face and before I knew it I was on 1 health and facing an opponent with 30 health and 2 additional armour. Queue the Rocky theme tune …

His aggression and my card trading had actually left me with a relatively strong presence on the board and I had a hand which I could use to protect my single point of health. Also to my advantage was the fact that it seemed that his deck had run out of steam. Over the next few turns I got just the card draws I needed and I took him down to 14 health, during the same period he’d been frantically working to get back some semblance of board presence and I was acutely aware of the fact that my single point of health wasn’t going to last much longer. Then all my defence was gone and I was staring down a board which I could not weaken enough to survive the following turn. However, I knew I had a card in the nine that were left in my deck which would give me the turn I needed to finish him off and I had a way to draw an additional card so I took the 1 in 9 chance …

Needless to say I was unsuccessful, but almost as soon as I spent the action to draw the card I realised that if I’d used that action to hit my opponent I would have had a lethal amount of damage which I could have dealt to him that turn and won! Oh the pain of blundering away a 32 point come-back (the heroes start with 30 points of health) simply because I was so focussed on board control at that point and I simply missed the fact that I had lethal if I’d only noticed it staring me in the face. It felt a lot like stretching a unit out to just barely get a single model into scoring range only to have you opponent charge them from the other side and pull them off just as the game ends.

Anyway, the lesson I learnt was to always calculate the damage available to me and compare it to my opponent’s health before making any actions. Even if you’re playing board control, you still want to win the game right?! I guess the broader lesson here is to not focus so much on a particular strategy that you forget about the overarching goal.

Lastly there's a final lesson here, and that it to never give up. Staring down a 30-1 deficit is pretty intimidating and I could well have thrown in the towel but there was a glimmer of hope in the cards I had in my hand so I played them to the best of my ability, and but for a stupid mistake, I could have won that game. To link this back to 40K, keep your focus in the mission, your opponent may be handing you your ass but there's more to winning the game than tabling someone. If you have the troops left you can still win it so keep your head in the game and stay focussed on you goals.

I hope that was at least somewhat interesting  and if Claws and Fists deems it worthy, perhaps I’ll post a few more Hearthstone stories in the future. Otherwise stay tuned for more 40K content in the coming weeks.


  1. Very intriguing! I've heard a fair bit about Hearthstone, it seems a lot of competitive 40k gamers are playing it.

    Next time, could you post some screen dumps so we can see how the game 'looks' and plays? Ta!

  2. Cool! By the way, fancy some 40k practise this weekend?


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