I played a surprise pick up game of 40k on Monday night. This is a rare thing for me as a grown up gamer – time is precious and so I normally just play against my two regular opponents or in planned tournaments. A friend of my girlfriend came over for dinner, and brought her boyfriend who is visiting from Brisbane. He rang me before-hand and asked if I wanted to play a 1000 point game while the girls hung out, and I said why not hey? He normally plays Warhammer Fantasy but has just started a Space Marine army.
Since he hadn’t played 40k much we played Annihilation with Pitched Battle on a 4×4 table. I suggested this on purpose, as he was shaky with rules, time was short, and I thought a full 6×4 table would have given my Guard too much of an advantage.
It turned out going easy on him wasn’t necessary, as he totally smashed me! He had Scout bikes, which I’d never faced before, and as usual the Scouts played havoc with my plan. They got across the 4-foot table and into assault in two turns. My best moment was when his inexperience caused him to ignore my Rough Riders, despite me explaining to him what they did, and their charge flattened his assault terminators and Captain. I often find that people who’ve never been on the end of a Rough Rider charge have trouble comprehending just how dangerous they can be, even if they understand theoretically.
Despite being thrashed by a n00b (it doesn’t really count in an educational game right?), I had a great game, and it got me thinking. I always enjoy small games. Always. Even if I lose, have an attack of stupidity, or am horribly unlucky, there is just so much carnage and they’re over so quickly that it feels like fun. Anything over 1500 points and I sometimes flag in my enthusiasm after a while, and for me there’s nothing worse in 40k than playing a game for five or six hours with few dramatic moments and just a slow grind to victory or defeat. I don’t mind the odd big game for a change, like in the campaign I’m currently playing, but I think if my opponents started demanding regular 2500 point games I’d lose interest pretty quickly.
I don’t know whether the game actually plays better on small tables and at small points values, but I certainly enjoy it more. I know I’ve read analysis online where people claim small tables or games upset balance, and this is probably true, but for me personally, I’d rather lose a short and bloody game than win a long and boring one. It’s probably a good thing I’m slowly building an Eldar army, as their widespread Fleet rule and grav-vehicles means I can move more quickly and decisively around the table.
What size games do you enjoy the most? Does balance matter, or are you happy to endure a little imbalance for the sake of a decisive match?