I'll touch base on part two of the promised basic strategy article, though this kind of popped out between work and studying for that take-home test this weekend.
What does winning a tournament mean?
Some folks say it means nothing. Some folks say it means they've earned credibility simply by winning. Some folks will tell you that since you HAVEN'T won a tournament, you should shut up because you've produced no results.
So, Winning That Tournament
Warning: Some Scientific Stuff Ahead
By 'science' I mean I'm dragging the scientific method (kicking, and screaming through a gag and straight jacket) into this realm.
Consider tournaments like a test in school. Does passing a test mean you are smart? It could. So, you take a test. You get a passing grade. What's that mean? Maybe you've studied hard, done well all semester, and earned it. Maybe you crammed, which is a sub-par learning strategy but may still get you that grade.
What if you didn't do well? Maybe you're a diligent student who studies and works hard, but you had a pet die, you had a nasty breakup the night before the test, or something else. Then again, maybe you're a slacker who doesn't study.
Where am I going with this school analogy? There are multiple paths to a passing (or failing) grade. Similarly, Winning a Tournament May Be A Result Of Different Factors.
On to science, then, since I promised it. If we want to make heads or tails out of something from a scientific standpoint, we're going to do our best to control all the inputs. So, if I'm going to get a statistically significant sample* for my study, I'm going to go through the trouble of making sure they take the test with the same conditions; IE no distractions, no extraneous interference (unless I've carefully controlled for it), and so on.
In other words, I'm making sure that none of the random crap is clouding what I'm really trying to find with my study. Mmm, fond memories of spending 20-30 hours a week researching crap for my useless degree.
In 40k, I can reduce the factors of the game to six things, with three for either player:
1) The General's Decisions In The Game
2) The General's Army List
3) The General's Dice
Any combination of these may contribute to your win or loss. If all the dice are average, then they are not a factor, and it's down to the players. Let's all enjoy a laugh as we talk about dice performaing average, and watch Raptor's next game feature dice that are wildly horrible.
There are also factors beyond the player's control, at times:
4) The Scenario
5) The Terrain
These may or may not provide an undue advantage to one side.
Warhammer Is Not Science
Warhammer 40,000 does not obey the laws of science. Similarly, neither do the tournaments. If you are honest with yourself, you will see this.
Let's say that every person who plays Warhammer 40,000 is the population of Warhammer 40k. Well, the whole population probably doesn't play in tournaments.
What's it take to get into a tournament?
Nominally, a sign-up fee, an army, and time.
An army can range from like $800-900 bucks (Don't believe me? Check some math)
Of course, an army can also be around $200 (Also, check the math)
The money's largely academic, since it's kind of the entry fee into the population. So, then, you need like $15-25 and an afternoon off. This isn't a big limit, but it still is a limit; some folks just can't get that specific day off from work/family/the spouse.
So, you lose a few, but you might have a decent local turnout. So, if you win a local tournament, you've proven your ability to beat the locals that showed up on the given day.
Let's say it's out of town.
We're adding transit time and costs to the tournament at a minimum. Now, you're really eating the day up (figure 7-8 hours for the tournament, and maybe a couple hours of driving to be 'out of town'). Ok, gas isn't that bad.
Still, it's your ability to beat the players in that locale, plus anyone that heard about it and showed up.
Let's make it waaaay out of town
So, let's consider a tournament you'd have to drive 5-6 hours and stay overnight. Now we're taking up 2-3 days, and spending a night or two in a hotel. If you work an hourly job, you may incur additional costs in the form of hours off. Or, you might simply be taking time off.
You've also added a few hundred bucks to the entry fee, as you have to eat, drive, and sleep in a hotel for a night or two.
More barriers to entry. Personally, I'm willing to go some distance to play in a tournament; I participated in the Big Waagh! last year. This year, though, the economy hit and I had no job, so the entry fee + gas + hotel put it squarely out of my reach.
I'm not looking for sympathy; I'm just stating facts and pointing out that there ARE barriers to tournaments.
More barriers to entry. It's an opportunity cost; you could've done something else that day. Me, if it's a day with the crazy relatives, that's an opportunity cost I'd happily pay. On the other hand, let's say you'd normally be working 3:30-10:30 on a Saturday and making $10 an hour. Not only are you spending time and money to go to the tournament, but you're skipping out on $70 in wages.
...where are you going with this, Raptor?
All I'm trying to say is that you need to consider the external factors before you make much ado about a tournament victory.
Not everyone came. Not everyone had equal dice luck. Not everyone has skill. 'Soft' scores like comp may play a factor**. Scenarios may or may not be a factor. Matchups may or may not be a factor.
Before you make much (or little) of your wins, consider what went into them. I will always congratulate a tournament winner because if nothing else, they won that day and there is some element of an endurance test to them by their nature (and by the fact we tend to play 2.5 hour rounds...).
But please, think a little bit before you consider winning a tournament anything but winning a tournament. If someone tries to tell you to shut your mouth simply because you haven't won a tournament...tell them to address the actual point you're addressing.
Don't mistake this for an attack on tournaments; I'm just attempting to offer some perspective to things.
*I think 30's the minimum, if my memory from stats class serves. Sampling is something I'm not going to discuss here, but suffice it to say that a sample truly representative of a population is the result of some careful procedures. The sampling that builds your tournament set bears no real or implied resemblence to sound statistical/scientific procedures.
**While they shouldn't, they still can. Some sportsmanship ranking systems are a fine incentive to screw over the guy who stomped you. Paint scores are somewhat subjective. Theme scores are hellishly subjective. Then again, you might get a genuinely pleasant set of opponents, and we tend not to remember those in favor of the samples of carbon-based waste that ruin the game for us. So it is to be human and have a memory.