I’m now firmly on the path to mastering my own force, and I feel I can actually share some experience and advice on how to make your introduction to wh40k more enjoyable and shorten the learning curve!
Chaos has much to teach.
1 – You will get mauled
Everyone loves puns.
You will get crushed. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Necron decurion detachment or a fluffy Thousand Sons Chaos list, these guys have played wh40k much longer than you and are familiar with not only their own codex and units, but yours as well.
2 – Set realistic goals
The Romans set unrealistic goals with the Antonine Wall.
Leading on from point 1, you should set realistic goals for what you determine as success. Winning a game isn’t the only measure of success – Improvement is. My first goals simply not being tabled, then to score a few points, then to make it an even game, but enjoying myself throughout. After a good streak (relatively speaking) where I didn’t get tabled and played a series of very even games, and even won one (against another beginner), I started getting tabled again. I’ve now gone back to basics after experimenting with a few tactics.
3 – Don’t take things personally
Bear in mind you are maneuvering toy soldiers with imagined personalities on a board with plastic trees and hills. There is absolutely no reason to get annoyed. If someone is gloating about his intelligence and superiority because of winning a game it says a lot about him.
4 – Learning about codices and units
Essentially, you don’t know how to best utilise your own units, never mind counter your opponent’s units. For example, the first time I played against Grav, I tried charging them down with Chosen. As Grav weapons wound on my armour save (3+), I got destroyed. Or the time my Chosen got ruined when playing AdMech/Skitarii, where they had a formation where, if one unit causes an unsaved wound on my unit, the unit loses its cover save against the rest of the unit in the formation. My Chosen (who were run with Cypher and were camping a ruin for a 2+ cover save) got wiped in T1.
You are at a handicap, as your opponent will immediately know his target priority, whereas you’re fumbling in the dark and will need to respond immediately to threats rather than having a general overview of which of his units you need to take out. Maybe you don’t know how dangerous his Wyverns can be against light infantry and that you should rain down some S7 shots on them ASAP, hoping that one pen goes through, thus preventing their blast weapons from firing due to only being able to fire Snap Shots due to being shaken or stunned. However, because you’ve never played against Wyverns, suddenly you lost an entire squad of infantry turn 1. Turn 2 you will focus on the Wyverns, because you have more infantry, but you’ve already lost a squad.
This is probably where you will have the biggest issue. Due to the variety of codices and types of lists, this can be quite overwhelming, and even if you did well against one Imperial Guard opponent you’ve played against 20 times that means nothing when coming up against Orks for the first time.
5 – Note down your experiences
After every game, I note down my army list, what I faced, the mission and score, what went wrong, and what went well. Talk to your opponent and ask him what caused him problems and what you did wrong. Be humble, don’t complain, and people will help you improve your game quickly. This will help you identify weaknesses in your army list, tactics, and strategy.
6 – Don’t blame your codex
Don’t bother blaming anything else but yourself, and keep in mind point #3. I’m not saying to ignore the fact, but it isn’t a source of complaint. Your codex, like my CSM codex, may be scrub-tier at the moment, but this’ll change sooner or later. It is better to learn how to use these units and wait for their costs to drop or their power levels to increase.
7 – You can learn from anyone
If someone turns up with a tournament list vastly stronger than yours or whether they’ve brought a themed list, you will learn from it. If they are merciless in the execution of the rules, e.g. if you forget your psychic phase after having shot once, or forgot to roll for reserves, this will all help improve your level of play. For a lack of a better word, the emotional pain will be a sharp reminder.
8 – Don’t worry about the rules
You will make mistakes due to wrong interpretations of the rules – I recently though I could shoot through my own units without giving my opponent a cover save, but it’s only my own squad for example. An opponent pointed this out, and now I’m not going to make that mistake again – I think. Everyone makes mistakes!
I think that about wraps it up for now!