This week I’m going to discuss how to go about going to your first event for Star Wars: Legion. So you’ve had a couple of games under your belt and feel ready to take on a couple of strangers. I will open up by saying you absolutely should! Even if you are a novice at the game, going to events is the best way to learn more about the game from people with much more advanced knowledge. This isn’t going to teach you how to go first place at a tournament – that sort of thing requires time and practice. What I will be explaining is various tips and tricks to maximize your enjoyment at the event and maybe improve your chances of winning games ever so much.
But even a novice should be prepared. This will help you along with some of the most important bits of knowledge I wish I had known before going to an event.
Before The Event
Do some research on what’s happening locally. While it can be fun to travel across your country (or to another one entirely) for an event, that might be a lot to do for your first time. If you have a local game store, check if they do any events. These are often one day events so you can dip your toes into an event without committing two whole days with lots of travel.
Phone a Friend
I also recommend bringing a friend if you can. While not necessary, I’ve found that people who go to events alone have less of a good time. Even if they’re not playing, it’s good to have someone who can commiserate with you about losses, cheer about your wins and go grab dinner once things are over.
If you can, get some practice games in. This is (technically) optional but will pay off more than you think, even if its just a game every week or so. Learning your list rotation is essential. If you’re able to play your list without thinking about it, it frees up higher parts of your brain to focus on dealing with crisis. When the rote stuff is just second nature, you understand everything your army can do and can adapt quickly to a novel situation. Make minimal changes to your list, if any. If you question your list up until the day of the event you’ll never truly get comfortable with something. Try and lock yourself into a list as early as you can and just keep running that list against locals. It might be tempting to sit on your laurels during the build up to an event with multiple games back to back coming up but you will thank yourself if your list is comfortable for you to play.
Easily the most important thing about pre-tournament preparations is getting everything packed right. Timbo wrote an excellent article about learning to play legion faster which has a lot of great advice on how to organize and transport your essentials and you definitely should go read that. To sum up the advice though, if you want to have any chance of success with your games at tournaments you need to come organized.
Pack your stuff up a week before if possible. Painting up until the day of will just leave you frazzled and give you difficulty planning out your games and focusing on strategy. If your stuff is ready to go the week before then you can spend more time relaxing and thinking about how your opening plays might need to go down.
If you’re not magnetizing your models so they can be easily attached to a piece of metal in your carrying case, I highly recommend bringing a tray of some kind to move your models from table to table. It can just be a cookie sheet, which is a nice low-cost option for beginners but if you end up going to a lot of events there are better collapsible trays you can get. A cart is also viable if you aren’t flying, so you can put all your other necessities in the bottom racks. The reason you want to do this is that putting your models back into a case or bag can quickly become time consuming, and you won’t have as much time between rounds as you might think. By having everything out on a tray it’s much easier to carry and you won’t need to dig through your bag’s pockets to find everything.
Arrange your stuff
Once you get over to the table, even if your opponent hasn’t shown up, start setting your stuff up. I say this as a disorganized person: place everything in easy to access locations. Over the course of the game you will start to slowly become disorganized as entropy takes over, so that means putting all your stuff out in an easy to access place in order to mitigate this. Ideally you will try and put these things back where they started but that may not always work out. So that means setting yourself up with a strong start.
Be Ready to Learn
When you greet your opponent, you should naturally show basic courtesy. Introduce yourself, show your list and ask if they need you to go over anything about what your list does. This is the most crucial advice I can give you about this stage: don’t be afraid to ask questions. One of the biggest hurdles it took me to get over was accepting that it was not weakness to ask an opponent about their list. You may be thinking that by asking what a unit can do gives the game away. If you ask what a unit does then you expose yourself as ignorant and maybe even reveal a little bit about your strategy. Alternatively, you may feel like asking questions is just going to overwhelm you. After all, how can you hope to retain that information? Doesn’t that mean there isn’t really a point in asking?
Even if you only absorb a fraction of the information, it’s still vital to know. Reading everything a unit can do is one thing, getting a narrative from an opponent can do vastly more for your ability to comprehend what you’re up against. What a unit does in a vacuum is not very indicative of everything it can do. When someone explains to you how the puzzle pieces fit together, you’re going to walk away with a better appreciation for how to better counter it and build your own list.
This isn’t poker. The challenge is not in deception but understanding what opponents are trying to do and how you can either prevent it or overcome those obstacles. The stereotype of the Win At All Costs tournament gamer is, in my experience, not as common as you may have been lead to believe. Most are looking for a good game and are confident that even if you know what their strategy may be, they can still win.
During the Game
Playing by Intent
The first few points is about the game itself and the rest will be about your general well-being. The first is that during the game, play with intent. Again, I previously linked Timbo’s article who has a great summary of this but the basic jist is that you should always be clear about what you’re doing if there might be able misunderstanding. If you move a unit and it could trip a Standby token, make sure to tell your opponent the intent is to stay outside of that. That gives them a chance to point out if you need to stay a bit further back or not. If you don’t ask, and you end your action inside their zone, it is not on them to ask you if you want to take it back (though it could be seen as good sportsmanship to do so). It bears repeating: This is not poker, hiding your intent isn’t going to win you games any faster so don’t be afraid to share if you think what you’re doing might be confusing or unclear.
Always be Ready
The next point for gameplay is to always be ready for your next action. It can be very easy to take your moments to just sort of zone out and not focus on what your opponent is doing. Legion is less prone to this than other games, since activations alternate and there are a lot of reactive abilities (like standby) that require you to focus, but the less time you spend hemming and hawing about what to do next the more time you have to focus on more delicate decisions like which targets to fire at or fine tune your movements.
My final point for during the game is to keep an eye on yourself. Keep hydrated (with water, not just soda and beer) and be aware of your posture. The human body is not well designed to be leaning over a table for several hours and trust me you’ll be doing a lot of that. Stand up, sit down, stretch, whatever you need to do to keep yourself in a good and comfortable state. If you’re comfortable you’re less likely to make bad decisions.
After your first game
The thing that is going to strike you immediately when you finish a game is that you will be tired. This game is more exhausting than it’s given credit for. Think about it: you spend an extended period of time in uncomfortable positions, stretching in awkward ways across the table and your brain is running a mile a minute as it tries to figure out which action to take next and react to an opponent’s possible moves. The adrenaline that rushes through you is going to suppress a lot of the soreness and fatigue you are feeling but that will all go away once the game is over. You also don’t get a lot of time before you have to pick everything up and do it all over again!
Between games you should definitely get up and move around. Stretch, grab some food, rehydrate yourself. You’re going to be in this for the long haul and doing it for the rest of the day. Possibly tomorrow if you do well, so that’s even more the reason to pace yourself and make sure you’re rested up. Chat with some friends about how things went to keep yourself engaged.
Learn to Lose
If you learn nothing else from what I say today: Learn to be a good loser. Unless you’ve had a lot of practice or get matched against the right people, you are probably going to lose a lot! Learning a complex game like Legion requires a lot of experience. The odds are pretty good you will be matched with people much more experienced than you in your first event and they will trounce you. That’s ok! The most important thing you can do for your own mental health at an event is get comfortable not only with losing but losing badly and learn to sit with that sensation. Don’t see it as a failure on your part, see it as a place to improve. You can learn from an opponent who pulled a trick you didn’t think was possible and integrate that into your strategy going forward or be prepared for it so it doesn’t get you a second time. The best teacher can often be getting your butt kicked, because youll learn to avoid making that mistake a second time.
I don’t want to scare you off from going to tournaments. If anything I want you to take the plunge. It’s a very big first step to make yourself vulnerable and put yourself across the table from someone who you don’t know and may absolutely beat the tar out of you. Learning to accept defeat and learn from those mistakes is the biggest, but most important step to getting better at competitive Legion.
Let me know about some of your first tournament experiences. What do you wish you had known before you went? I’d love to hear about it.