Improving With Time

Last time, I discussed why I think playing with a clock is a good thing for the game, and good for players in general.  What I didn’t get to was how to get better at it, especially if you are someone who is anxious about the timer, or feels large amounts of stress around the timer.

Disclaimer

I should note up front – I have biases that lead me to like to play fast.  I have strengths in thinking fast, and these come from my experience of learning how to play fast, but also from discussing and listening to people who are more deliberate thinkers.

While I firmly believe that just about anyone CAN learn to play fast, not everyone WANTS to.  And that is OK.  Seriously – it is. You can play leisurely games, for fun, at any time.  In fact, if that is the only way the game is fun to you, I WANT you to play those leisurely games.

If you want to play competitively, and learn how to make the clock work for you (or at the very least not against you), some of the following tips and tricks may help you.

Biases

I have biases towards playing timed events.  I have biases towards playing timed in general.  These inform my thinking, and inform the way I look at the game.  If you are having trouble understanding why I feel this way, the following might be instructive.  Otherwise, feel free to skip down to where I start to talk about techniques and tips for playing faster.

Fast Thinking

This one is hard to explain, but most people who know me will probably agree with this statement: I think quickly.  I think too quickly sometimes.  I was that jerk person who always finished test first (or close to first) in an exam.  During my undergraduate studies, I had a fellow student who confided in me that he used me as a gauge.  If the time for the test was halfway over, and I hadn’t left, he knew he wouldn’t finish and started looking for the questions he could quickly answer, to get as many points as possible.

So, I have learned that I think fast.  This means that I can, generally, think well (or well enough) on my feet.  So assuming I understand the rules and models as well as my opponent, and we generally are equivalent at strategizing. a timed game will generally not be to my disadvantage.

However, this fast thinking has a downside.  That downside is that I have a hard time being deliberate when I need to be.  Just ask any of my coworkers who have done a code review on my code.  There is always something small, some minor detail, that I miss.

I do this in games too – sometimes I forget about the fact that I can’t charge AND shoot with the same model, so there goes that plan.  Of course, I don’t realize it until the plan is starting to be executed…

Boredom

Related to the previous one, I get bored easily when there isn’t much going on that I am directly interacting with.  This means if someone is taking a LONG time on their turn, I will get distracted.

This is a side effect of my adult ADHD.  Yes, I am diagnosed.  No, you can’t see it.  No, you can’t have my medication “just to try it,” stop asking.  Thanks.

ANYWAY, this leads me to be easily distracted, and thus shorter turns are always better for my attention span.

More Games

As I mentioned in the last article, the faster the games are, the more games I can get in.  This is always a plus for me, because I love getting in two (or even three!) games in an evening.

Playing Faster

So, with all of that in mind, how can one play faster?

Here are some tips, tricks, and practices that can help people to play faster, think faster, and improve their game.

Learn Your Army

This one seems obvious, but I am amazed how many people don’t know the MAT or RAT of their most common units.  Or don’t know their DEF and ARM stats of their common Warjacks and Warbeasts.  These are generally stats that are the same across a unit type.

As an example of how to think about this, I will talk about the Protectorate of Menoth.

  • All Exemplar units have a MAT of 7.  This is generally true of any elite melee unit.
  • All Flameguard units have a MAT of 6.  This is generally true of any “grunt” melee unit
  • All of their heavy Warjacks start at an ARM of 19, DEF of 10, barring other bonuses (like shields, ashen veil, etc)
  • The heavy Warjacks on the Crusader chassis are generally SPD 4, while those on the Reckoner/Castigator chassis are SPD 5

I should note – this is all from off the top of my head, despite me not having played Protectorate seriously in over two years.

Know your army.  Know their abilities.  One thing I recommend is that if you have War Room, or the codex, or even the cards, read them when you have some spare time.  Just pick some units, and read them.  Read their abilities, warcaster spells and feats, try to find patterns in their stats.

If that feels too much like homework, then whenever you make a list, make sure to look at the abilities of the cards you are bringing.  Try and focus on one stat, and look for the patterns.  You will quickly learn what the patterns are, and how they map within the faction.

Learn Your Opponent’s Army

This one is harder, and less obvious.  Once you have learned your army, you might be thinking you are set.  Well, if you can know what your opponent’s stats are, you can be calculating averages, percentage chance of killing, etc without asking your opponent to see their cards.  Less moving around of physical pieces, more thinking and planning time.

Breaking down models into elite vs. non-elite helps.  It also helps to know things about the opponent in general.

  • Generally all Trollblood troops have a DEF of 12.  There are exceptions within the Pygs and Scouts, but those are not commonly played
  • Most Khador Warjacks have a base ARM of 20, SPD of 4.  The Devastator and Demolisher have ARM 25 when closed, and the Berserker is lower (17? – That is one I would have to ask my opponent for)
  • Cryx Bane Thralls are MAT 6.
  • Bile Thralls will purge 6″ out and wipe out your units

If you have an opponent you play against a lot, you can try and say what their stats are back to them during the game (assuming they are amenable) to see how close you get.  This is similar to doing flash cards when studying, but WAY more fun (because you are playing a game at the same time!)

Play With Relaxed Times

If your anxiety is about how you are going to possibly move enough models to finish a 50 point game in an hour Death Clock, try an hour and a half per person.  Then work your way down.

Unfortunately, the best way to get used to a clock is to use a clock.  But no one says you have to go from not using one to using one at tournament level without any transition time.  If you are not sure where you fall in that, try just timing yourself.  Just keep track of how long you take during a game.  See where you fall.  You might be surprised – many players who think they play slow actually play just fine during their games.  You might also find out you take two hours to finish a game.  If you want to improve that, try giving yourself an hour and a half, or even an hour and 45 minutes on the timer, to try and focus yourself.

Play Timed Turns

If your problem is that you don’t like the overall timer bearing down on you, practice with timed turns.

Most games do not last past 4 or 5 rounds.  If you can consistently have your turns be shorter than 10 or 15 minutes, you can pretty much handle Death Clock at 60 minutes.  This can help you gauge how long something takes you, and how far away you are from playing under a Death Clock scenario.

This can also help you figure out if you have a set of situations (or even one type of situation) that makes you take a super long time.  Say you have a complex feat turn, where all of your models move and attack again.  In that case, you might find that you do fine on every other turn except that turn.  So, you can either make that turn go faster, or make all of your other turns faster to get you extra time on the Death Clock for your all important feat turn.

Ignore The Clock

This is one that seems counter-intuitive, but it works for some people.  Play with a Death Clock, but turn it around.  You still hit it to end your turn, etc.  But you don’t look at the time itself.  Many players, knowing that there is a clock, will often play faster and at a better clip.  But some players get flustered by the numbers ticking down, and it makes it harder for them to concentrate.  Doing this can ease yourself into the idea of the clock, while still allowing your to practice keeping your times down.

Know Deployment

Since deployment is on the clock with Death Clock, knowing how you will deploy your forces can save you tons of time.

Before I headed out for a tournament a few years ago, I actually practiced my deployment at home, timing it, to see how fast I could get it.  I was able to deploy in under 3 minutes in most cases, and it saved me a ton of time on my clock at the tournament.  If you are taking more than 5 minutes to deploy consistently, practice your deployment.  When you make a list, think about where the different pieces will go when you deploy, where they belong, what they need to be by.

Let Go of Perfection

This one is the hardest one for many people, myself included.  When you are playing under a clock, you will make mistakes.  Unless you are literally a machine, you will mess up.  A model will move slightly to far, or not quite far enough; order of activation will be slightly off; you will box yourself in; you won’t realize that a model has shield guard until after you hit their Warcaster with Eiryss.; etc. etc.

Many players I see struggle with the clock are often struggling against their perceived imperfection in play, and they often struggle to get the perfect game while under the timing gun.

I don’t have any great suggestions for this.  Mistakes are OK, and they are how we learn as individuals.  In general, the community is very nice, and will help us see our mistakes and get through them so we don’t make them again.  Additionally, accepting that you will make mistakes will make you better at recovering from those mistakes.  This will make you a better player in the long run, whether or not you are using a clock.

TL;DR

These are some ways to work on playing faster, under a clock.  Some of these tricks I have used personally, others I have seen or heard of from people who struggle playing timed games.  The biggest thing I can recommend, above all else, is play as many games as you can, as often as you can.

If you have any other suggestions on ways to work on playing against a clock, please feel free to leave them in the comments!  I am certain others will appreciate and use your advice.

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