I started into competitive gaming, as most people do, with Magic: the Gathering. It's an easy game to get into (especially with a Dad like mine who was a competitive player) and because the other men in my family all played, that was my main form of recreation from the age of five until I was eighteen.
One of the things that the MtG community does really well, which I think we as a Warmachine/Hordes community have difficulty with, is empathizing with and accepting all kinds of players.
They have even gone so far as to identify the three "core" kinds of Magic player, and adopted them into the Canon of the Magic universe.
I've changed the names a little bit (except Spike, that name is too good), but if you've heard of this concept with Magic the Gathering you'll see them reflected here.
Here, I'm going to do a quick overview of the three with my ideas about how each plays. It's interesting to see which category you fall into (spoilers: I'm a Spike with a touch of Jerry in there) and I thought it would be good to get a discussion going about how better to integrate all three kinds of players into the community.
A Tommy/Tammy is characterized by their love of playing models that have a story behind them, even if that might not make an optimal list. Tommies love huge stompy robots and big monsters and are most likely to play fully painted since the models looks are more important than how good they are.
Precision on the tabletop is not as important as beautiful terrain. Tammies will go out of their way to make sure that the table is gorgeous and immersive.
Tommies are less likely to enjoy Steamroller Scenarios, preferring something with a storyline or preferring to pit their army against their opponents with no pressure to abide by another win condition.
Tommies like to win, but they like to win big and they don't mind if they lose. A Tammy would prefer to lose a really fun, close game than to win a bland game.
Tammies don't understand Spikes very well, and the two often don't get along as their opposing goals for the game collide. That being said, they can be great friends, filling in the missing bits of eachothers experience.
There are some subgroups of Tommies and Tammies, including but not limited to:
- Stat Skewers: These gamers love to stack up their stats as high as they can get. How hard can I make my heavy hit? What ARM can I get up to? What's the most ridiculous threat range I can come up with? These are all questions that they will try and answer, usually building an entire list around it. They might lose 9/10 games with it, but if they get to pull their trick off or use it win their one game, it will be worth it.
- Fluff Builders: These are the players that will love theme forces and play them with the least amount of optimization solely for playing the story behind it. Grayle in the Wild Hunt with two units of Wolves of Orboros and the Death Wolves is a more compelling list to them than Grayle in the Devourer's Host using a bunch of Tharn, even if that list is better, simply because the first follows the storyline and background of their character.
- Fully Painted (even if not optimal): These guys and gals won't play with anything they haven't put paint on, even if that means not playing a good list or even not playing at all for weeks at a time until they can put something on the table they can be proud of.
Jerries love to design lists. They do it all the time, they do it constantly, and they're always trying to make their lists do something really cool.
A good example of this is the pre-power attack change Arkadius lists that could throw a War Hog two-three times and then feat to make it stand up (you knocked it down the turn earlier with a headbutt) and charge the enemy Warcaster and then get a full activation into it.
Jillies tend to be more competitive than Tammies in terms of knowing the rules, as they spend much more time thinking about the game and the various interactions than the other will. On the other hand, they tend to play sub-optimal models in an effort to do something neat, and while that can be very useful as a dark horse in an event, tend to be playing less powerful lists.
Jerries are the ones that come up to you at the game store and go "I JUST THOUGHT UP THIS CRAZY LIST I NEED TO PLAY IT RIGHT NOW".
Jillies are more likely to play with bad models on purpose to try and break some interaction. Most of the innovations in the game come from Jillies.
These players also tend to have some sub groups:
- Combo Lists: These players like to take a variety of models and then put them all together, often to make one thing work really well. A great example of this is the martialled Hydra with Arcanists fueling it up with focus, putting it with Thyron and sending it halfway across the table to kill a colossal out of nowhere.
- I'm gonna make this work!: Here people have taken something really off the wall and slammed it together into a concoction of insanity. These are the people that are most upset about thememachine since it limits their ability to innovate.
- This is the worst huh?: This variety of Jilly likes to take the worst models in their faction and try to make them work. It doesn't matter how much you dissuade them from it, it doesn't matter how little it works, they get it in their mind that they can break whatever it is and stick with it until they either have to give it up or they find a new project.
Warmachine is a game built for this gamer. Spikes play the most efficient, potent, powerful combination of models they can and they practice playing them. They treasure clean play, precise measurements, and playing with Scenario.
Spikes will netlist and then make improvements based on their meta. They care a lot about numbers and statistical probability. They prefer quantity of games (and wins) over quality. They have an eye on the next tournament. Spikes typically don't mind playing unpainted, since that isn't the part of the game that resonates with them.
Spike gets a rush of adrenaline when a game is incredibly tight, both players know what they're doing, and he or she can feel the game becoming a mental struggle with their opponent, looking for a tiny opening to break it open.
Spikes have a hard time understanding Tommies because they enjoy the mechanical and mental parts of the game over the cinematic and narrative parts of it. They are the most likely kind of player to discourage other players from getting and playing models.
They don't care about the way models look as long as they have good stats, they don't mind playing on felt if that's the only option, and they love love love to win.
A quick note - true Spikes are courteous and polite, as the best way to get better is to work with other players, and the only way to do that is to get along with people. Unfortunately, Spike Wannabes ruin that image by being confrontational, emotive, and difficult.
Spikes can fall into different categories, just like the others:
- Honers: These are the guys and gals that take a list that just won a big Masters event, take it, play it, and then change 4-10 points of the list or the ADR to bring it up to the finest edge for their meta.
- Discussers: These Spikes tend to play less than they talk, but they also know the theory behind the models really, really well. Usually they cannot translate it as well on the tabletop as they would like (which is frustrating for them) since they do not have the muscle memory, but they know the rules inside and out and can usually quote your models rules better than you can.
- Mentors/Collaborators: A lot of Spikes end up being extremely positive forces in the community as they give advice, provide voices of reason, and work together to improve the game. Some of them even end up working for Privateer Press (*cough* Pagani *cough*).
While most people will identify strongly with one of these, almost everyone will fit neatly into more than one type, with one of the three being dominant.
Lots of different people play this game, and they all play it with different motivations, different goals, and different things they enjoy. Understanding that you are coming from a different perspective than someone else is the first step to understanding, and, ultimately, empathizing with their point of view (or at least not dismissing it outright).
This is something that I believe we as a community can improve on a lot. While there are lots of positive things happen, there are still lots of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and derision or scorn thrown around as people don't understand the different perspectives and goals of the people that we are talking with.
Play the game the way you want to - it's a game, so have fun with it! But also remember that someone else might have fun in a completely different way, and that's alright too.