Monday 31 October 2016

Guest Post- How to Prepare for your First Tournament

This week, I have another Guest Post from Darren Tse. Last week, Darren posted a report on his experiences of his first ITC tournament after just getting back into the game. He managed two wins and two loses at the event. This is even more impressive when you consider he had only played three games of 40k before that point. In his latest guest post, Darren talks about how he went about preparing as a first time tournament attendee and as a new 40k player. 

How to prepare for your first Tournament
by Darren Tse

So you’re ready for your first tournament. Your first foray into competitive 40k. It’s an exciting time! I know the feeling. I recently attended my first ever 40k tournament, and boy, was it fun. But it could have very easily been one of the worst hobby days of all time. It’s not a given that you just turn up at your first tournament and have a blast. There are factors out of your control (like other players, the venue, etc.), but there are a lot of things YOU can do for yourself, to prepare for the day. And although these things may well help you perform better in terms of results, these tips that I present to you are mostly to increase your own enjoyment of the tournament as an overall experience.

1) Pick An Army You Like Playing
Don’t go into your first tournament trying to play the latest and greatest netlist. If that is somehow your favourite army (which is unlikely if you are a relatively new player) then yeah, knock yourself out, but most likely you have 1, maybe 2 armies that are tournament ready and that you actually enjoy playing. Tournaments are hard. You have to play anywhere from 3-6 games, spread out over 1-2 days. You have probably never played that much 40k in one sitting in your life. You NEED to enjoy playing your army or else you will literally burn yourself out on the day. It’s not a great place to test whether or not you truly enjoy your army either. Bring something tried and true. You may find lots of your opponents’ armies will annoy you in some way, don’t let one annoyance be your own army.

2) Know YOUR Army Rules
You can’t really be expected to know everyone else’s rules. This you will gain as you play more armies and play more games. As a relatively new player, you probably will not know a lot of the rules in the core rulebook. Don’t worry. These are quick to look up, your opponents may well know rules better than you and there’s always the Tournament Organizers (TOs) or judges. But what you CAN’T expect is for everyone else to know YOUR rules, so these you should know. 

Knowing your rules is about enjoyment. You will enjoy playing more if you don’t have to grab your codex every 2 seconds. Your opponent will definitely enjoy it more if they don’t have to grab YOUR codex every 2 seconds. Your games will run smoother, more efficiently, and you will hopefully finish each game on time and to completeness. Nothing is more frustrating for everyone when games only go to turn 3-4 because people don’t know their rules and take forever looking things up or arguing things.

On a side note, making mistakes is common, and WILL happen. Nobody can know everything 100% right 100% of the time. And you WILL feel bad afterwards if you won a game because of a major mistake that did not get picked up due to a rules oversight. Guaranteed this will happen to you at some point. So try and minimize this “gamer’s remorse” by knowing your own rules. One incident of gamer’s remorse can really sour your tournament experience, whether it was your mistake or your opponents.

3) Print a Cheat Sheet
This is not an exam. You don’t have to have everything memorized. Help yourself by collating all important relevant data from your codex onto an easy to read 1-page cheat sheet. Photocopying pages and putting them in a binder is helpful, but still not as good as just a 1-page list of common unit profiles, special rules that you don’t want to forget, psychic power lists, etc.. You will refer to this A LOT and will save you a lot of time not having to thumb through your codex. This will help you over time with achieving point #2.

4) Make a display board
Bring some kind of carrying tray for your army. If you wanna go hog wild and make a proper display board that is thematic and decorative, then go ahead. You will only benefit from doing that. But if you don’t have the time or skill, at least bring a dinner tray, or a picture frame or something that you can use to move your army from table to table without having to pack and unpack it every time. Set your army on your board in units and detachments, so it’s easy to see what’s what. And as things die, it is often helpful to put things back into units, so that when it comes time to calculate kill points and other objectives, it is easy to do. 

5) Practice Your Deployment & Psychic Phase
In my short experience, of all games I have played, the slowest phase for new players is ALWAYS the deployment and psychic phase. If you are playing a large horde type army (with many models) or a heavy psychic army, then you MUST, MUST practice these things before hand, or else you will use up to 30% of your playtime in these areas, to your own and your opponent's frustration. If you play both of these things together (like horde demon army), then you really gotta know your psychic powers inside out. You should have good idea before your turn starts what powers you wanna cast and how many dice you wanna use on them. While your opponent is in their turn, get your psychic dice ready, in units of dice to roll per power. You will find it very helpful to improve your speed and your opponent will thank you for it.

6) Prepare Your Body
Tournaments are long days of fun and gaming, but they are tough on the body. And unless you’re a spry young spring chicken, you WILL feel the effects the next day. Be prepared. Sleep well the night before. Try not to drink TOO MUCH alcohol. Don’t forget to bring water with you and don’t forget to drink it. Bring snacks, or eat throughout. And don’t have a massive lunch. I learned that one the hard way last time. That after-lunch game is brutal! Wear comfy shoes, you will spend most of the day standing. And on that note, don’t forget to sit down once in a while. 

7) Things To Bring 
Other than all the army and transports and paraphernalia related to playing 40k (don’t forget that tape measure!), here’s a small list of other important items to consider bringing with you:
  • a pen (you should have one to keep track of your army things and your missions etc)
  • painkillers (a definite must, and I would suggest taking them prophylactically throughout the day instead of waiting for the pain)
  • water
  • snacks
  • a good book/hobby stuff to do if you get tabled fast
  • cash (some tournaments are great opportunities to pick up second hand or unwanted models)
And Finally…

8) Prepare Mentally
Bring the right mental attitude to the day. Here’s what I was thinking as I went into my first tournament:


Let’s break this down. It’s your 3rd ever game of 40k, why should you expect to win? Because if you go into your games just thinking your gonna get tabled every time, you have already stopped enjoying it, and you are just mentally trying to keep a positive mental attitude in the face of impending defeat. Go into each game expecting to win, or at least to put up a good fight. And don’t stop playing! 40k is a game of dice, and the dice can turn. Ask any veteran player….40k can turn in a heartbeat. So enter your games with positive attitude of winning.

BUT, be prepared to lose. Especially if you are new and bringing a less competitive list. This is the nature of competitive 40k. If you expect to win, but hate losing, you will have a bad time. Be prepared to lose some games closely, and others by getting tabled Turn 1. The meta in 40k is like that.
If you hit a bad matchup and an experienced player, you may well get tabled turn 1-2. Be mentally prepared to learn from all your mistakes and losses, you will learn way more than from easy wins. And whether you win or lose (but more likely if you lose), try and spend a few minutes with your opponent at some point to see what they think you could have gone differently, or how they think the game was going to go. One of my games last tournament, my opponent told me AFTER I lost that he had gone into it thinking he was going to get tabled. He went on to explain how he thought the game might go, and that was a great learning experience for me.

So there you go, just a few tips from experience of going into your first tournament. Don’t be afraid, they are great fun, you meet lots of like-minded fellow gamers to increase your circle of gamers, and you will learn lots. You will be inspired hobby wise from seeing fantastic examples of dedicated people enjoying their passion. And you can spend a day away from the kids!

Thanks to Darren for his advice for first time tournament go-ers and another great guest post. Anyone have some more tournament advice that Darren may not have covered? Comment below. 


  1. A good run through for new players. I learnt a lot of this the hard way.

    Just a few points from my experience

    There are plenty of quick reference sheets on the net, some are quicker than others, but they are very useful for quick checks and most times contain page numbers for the BRB. These are also useful for psychic stuff and usually have a turn order summary, which is always good when your under pressure.

    Also, hard copies of your army list is useful, running through the list every turn from top to bottom, this helps you not to forget to move/shoot any units.

    I've never bothered with display boards, just a4 sheets with the units blocked out so I can see what's what and what I'm missing.

    Practicing deployment can be hard, every table is different, but knowing what you want every unit to achieve during a game can help a lot with your choices during deployment.

    1. Some more great advice there Steven. Having hard copies of your army is essential for me. I hate at a tournament when I asked for my opponent's list and get handed their phone to check for a few minutes.

  2. Excellent advice. 19 years too late for me, but I wish I'd known some of this before my first Tournament ;)