Seth has Thoughts: Tilting at Windmills

Many moons ago, when Captaincon was Templecon, I played against a gentleman fielding a MKII Harbinger list against my Gator army.  We were having a great game, lots of laughter, good discussion etc. Being a particularly good and congenial opponent, we worked out together the average damage my Posse would take walking into the feat, which was a PW14 damage roll.  We determined a significant number of Posse would live making the move worth the risk.  Fifteen damage rolls later and not one roll below a 9, most of my Gatorman Posse were turned into alligator shoes.  My opponent felt guilty, worried he had just stolen the fun from our game, but I had one last trick up my sleeve:  The Flying Circus!

Harbinger was within charge range plus 6 inches of a Wrastler.    This is an old MKII minion trick where Rask casts Fury on the model being thrown.  Wrastler #1 throws Wrastler #2 and casts his Rise animus on him making him stand up.  The Second Wrastler activates and whatever it touches dies.   So I activate secret plan Flying Gator Circus:  Rask casts his spell, Wrastler #1 moves up, is  forced to power attack throw…..and….double 1’s on the attack.  There was a pause.  I had everyone reason to throw dice, blame the terrible luck, or suggest that approximately 96% of the time I make that roll and win that game. But instead….. I laughed. It was the kind of laughter that made everyone in the hall stop and turned to see why they were not having as much fun as we were having.   I can’t tell you why I laughed.  Felt good.  Kept the joy of the game undiminished and when I see this player at various events he and I still laugh about it YEARS later.

I often tell this story to illustrate the futility of tilting.  For our purposes we will define titling as losing your cool, temper or focus during a game that negatively impacts your game play or experience for the remainder of the game or event.  I tell players, “have fun, it’s a game don’t bother getting upset!” But I am wrong.  Telling someone not to tilt when something goes horribly wrong is the same as telling someone not to be upset or disappointed when the person should justifiably be upset.  It devalues and minimizes a person’s justifiable reaction.   We participate in a truly competitive game so there is a certain level of dissatisfaction that should come with improving game play.  So instead of saying, ‘just don’t tilt’ it is better asked why we tilt.   Let us look at an example…

I had attended a store’s steamroller where I had taken third place at a previous event and was returning determined to increase my standing.   I was facing a canny and tough opponent.  I knew my win conditions and felt like I had control of the game.  The opponent is a friend and the early game saw much loose play.  A wiggle of a model here a change in order of activation there.   If the dice hadn’t rolled what did it matter?  On an important turn my unit needed to remove a battle engine from the table.   After I did my charges and rolled damage the battle engine was still in play.  Ugh.  But wait!  I had assault shots!  Certainly one more assault shot was all that was needed to remove this model.

I asked my opponent if I could take the assault attacks I had forgotten; after all it was still this unit’s activation.  The answer was “no.”  Assault attacks are taken after movement before charge attacks.  I was mad. Had I not reciprocated throughout the game? Did he want to win on a mistake?  I was tilted.  I lost the game feeling anger toward my opponent.  After fuming for a few more seconds (minutes?), I came to a realization:  He was right.

It was my responsibility to remember my rules and to follow them correctly, not my opponents.  My tilt was brought on by my not wanting to take responsibility for the game’s state, my own mistakes and destroying any shot I had at taking 1st or 2nd place.  I have not forgotten about the way assault works since.  So was the social contract violated by my opponent denying me a redo?  No.  Were my expectations for taking 2nd or 1st in the steamroller ruined?  Yes.  Let us call shattered expectations common tilt causality.

Now let us discuss a more sensitive example.  What if your tilt is from playing an unkind, intentionally non-communicative, chippy, deceptive or bombastic opponent?  Thankfully, in my experience it is more of an exception than a rule in our hobby but it happens.   While people have bad days and bad games, I have met very few truly and consistently ‘bad players’ in our hobby.   The best response I have seen to this situation was unfortunately not an example of my exemplary behavior.  A well-known player who clearly was having an unpleasant experience looked at the opponent and said; “I am not having fun, I feel like we are not communicating well and have different ideas about the game should be played. I am calling a judge to help us settle this” A judge came over and the players asked if the judge could pause the clock while they had a discussion.

The well-known player led the discussion by stating, “In my store we move one model at a time. We don’t move one model after we have begun movement on another; it’s actually rules as written.  Is this the way you play?”  The player answered no and said that as long as it was agreed the model or unit had movement remaining they could adjust. The first players agreed to play this way.

The next issue was fast dice: “I feel like you are picking up dice faster than I can read them, if I am taking too long to do the math, feel free to flip the clock, but please let me confirm the roll.” The other player agreed.

I cannot say the game continued happily but both players stopped playing angry.   The well-known player lost on clock but felt that the best game possible was played all things considered.   In my experience there are few other options that are going to produce a less negative experience.  You can choose to communicate, walk away or play angry.

Not every play experience is going to have a positive solution somewhere hidden in the zeitgeist.  When you find yourself tilted it is useful to determine the why. Are you angry at yourself?  Did you expect too much from your opponent or yourself?   Are you angry at the dice because chance and circumstance has not favored you or favored your opponent?

As a career and family-centered person I get few weekend days to spend at a convention or tournament. I want that time to be positive and fun, while constantly trying to improve myself as a player.  That is why I play.  A player should define his or her goal within the context of ‘fun.’  So when I find myself tilted I remind myself that since I have fewer opportunities to play as much as I’d like, it is better to make this time as positive and fun as possible and keep focused on the goal. There is always time for reflection and discussion.  Sometimes the best part of an event is the discussion during the meal/beverage at the end!

My goal is to improve, enjoy the time I get to play and be a part of the community.  As a player you have to find yours.

I can’t say I don’t tilt. I can say I don’t tilt for as long as I once did because, while a simplification, ultimately how long you choose to feel a certain way is largely up to you.   I don’t blame my opponents for my bad play, just as I remind myself that bad dice happen and if we are not rolling dice we might as well just play chess.  However … sometimes…..A die has to be sacrificed via electric drill in front of the others, So they know what happens to them if they ever leave a Siege Animantrax on one box again.  I enjoy that too.

See you at the Brawl!


~ The Bokur Boss