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Old October 10th, 2018, 02:49 PM
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Orc's Tips to Improve Fast

As a member of the competitive Scape community since 2011, I've made the rounds a few times. I attended my first GenCon in 2012, and have been to GenCon every year since (except for 2016). I was blessed to be able to play tons of games against my dad, who is also an accomplished player in the competitive scene. In this article, I'll introduce eight concepts that will quickly up your game. Note that it takes years of practice, and EVERYONE (except maybe Matthias) still has room to improve.


The first eight are general truths that are generally the same from game to game.

1. Don't Blame the Dice
Don't blame the dice. Don't blame the dice. DON'T BLAME THE DICE!

It's almost certainly not your dice. There is a high correlation with bad players complaining about "bad dice." I've seen it time and time again. To quote MajorQ23, "in only 1% of losses did dice make it unwinnable."

Look for your mistakes. If you can't see them, ask your opponent. Most of the time, the opponent won't say anything unless you ask.

But my opponent said "I had hot dice and your dice were bad?" Certainly I lost because of dice? I can almost guarantee you that they are saying that to make you feel better.

I've played almost 200 tournament games of HeroScape. I've seen dice decide a game a grand total of three times in all those games.

Please note that this section in particular is the coldest and hardest of all the truths, but is not intended to attack anyone or make them feel bad. Rather, I hope you learn from this, and stop making excuses when you misplay (we all do that from time to time).

2. You've Never Played a Perfect Game
I've never played a perfect game. I don't think anyone has; there are simply too many decisions in each game for you to have executed every single one correctly. It could be as small as "I should have had this guy one hex to the right."

Look for your mistakes in your wins as it will help you clean up your play and tighten your fundamentals. Once you reach that higher understanding, you'll continue to elevate your game. This is the number one way to avoid the Skill Plateau that most hit at some point. You don't want to stay where you are, keep climbing!

3. Building An Army
So what do you play? Play what you like and are comfortable with. Bringing a B+ army that you know the ins and outs of will give you a better chance than an A- army that you've played once. That being said, don't dip too far below a B+. Talk to other players and bounce ideas off them, and ask veterans for advice.

I'm going to leave this one at that because it should really be a whole article on its own, and it depends so heavily on the format.

4. Range on Height Fallacy
A huge mistake that I see players, new and old, make is falling into the Range on Height trap. True, it's often good to get height. Range figures are good on height. However, it is more useful for Me-Burq-sa to stay behind the wall of Romans and plink from afar while remaining safe rather than running him up onto height where he is exposed just to fire off a marginally better shot.

Maximize your range. Kite. Utilize screens. These are incredibly important concepts that will let you keep your range units alive longer and get more value out of them.

5. The Odds Fallacy
A few years ago, I would have said that smart play in HeroScape is about playing the odds, or maximizing your odds. I think that's true.. to an extent. I am actually convinced now that smart play is about reducing the opportunity for variance.

In the above example, if Me-Burq-Sa is exposed and your opponent runs a Knight of Weston adjacent to him, he shouldn't die from that swing. However, there is always the chance that the KoW 3 for 3s and MBS whiffs, dying in the process. In that situation, you were "playing the odds." However, if you had instead kept MBS behind your wall of Romans, the OPPORTUNITY for a kill based on variance wouldn't have been there.

This summer, I was testing out my main event army vs a Zombie build on Draugur. I put Concan in the shadow under the single hex of snow on my side of the map. My dad put a single Zombie on it and made 3 attacks on 3 separate OMs, killing Concan. Now, statistically, Concan should not have died from that; 3 3v5s shouldn't deal 5 wounds. However, had Concan not been there, the OPPORTUNITY for it to happen would not have even been there.

6. Time for Change
If you're behind and standard "safe" plays won't help you at this point, it's time to get ballsy. Take those chances because you'll lose if you don't. If they pay off, you're back in business. The same applies if you have a bad matchup, except you may take risks earlier in the game when you're still even on points.

7. Do the Math
"HeroScape, 5 minutes!" Nathan yells. The game looks pretty even. What do you do?

The math, of course. Figure out exactly where each of you are at points-wise, and figure out exactly what pieces you need to take of theirs, as well as what pieces of yours that you can't afford to let them take.

Most games don't go to time, but if you have one that does, follow this simple rule to make sure that you don't lose by 10 points simply because you let them kill that last 4th Mass or didn't see that they had a Nagrub hidden behind a ruin.

8. Play to Win
Don't play to not lose. Don't let your foot off the gas pedal. Even if you're ahead, give no quarter. If you have the advantage, press it and stomp out any hope they had of coming back. Even if a game is lopsided, the other side can still win if certain things happen: some good dice with some unexpected and great plays, as well as mistakes by your opponent.


The next three are points to consider when you sit down from the table across from your opponent.

9. Analyze Unit Roles and Matchups
Know your units. Know all of the units and how they function. You need to know what your army wants to do, and what each unit in the army wants to do. You also need to know what your army's weaknesses are, as well as specific matchups that each of your units struggle in.

10. Find Comparable Advantages
Take the previous concept and apply it to this matchup in particular. If you have 2x Warriors of Ashra, 2x Phantom Knights, and Eltahale, you want your WoA against their melee units, your PKs against their range, and Eltahale against their special attackers. Threat sequencing becomes important here to make sure you get the matchups you want and your opponent doesn't. This is extremely important especially in the RtW meta.

11. Analyzing Maps and Glyphs
Figure out how the above applies on a specific map with a few specific glyphs. Figure out where you want to engage and where they want to engage. If you engage on your terms you are on your way to victory (assuming you've mastered the other topics covered in this article). Maps and glyphs are another thing that will be covered in future, more specific articles.


I'll add more if I come up with it (as well as adding good comments from others), but I think that's most of what I wanted to say. As always, feedback is welcomed and happy Scaping!

Last edited by OrcElfArmyOne; October 17th, 2018 at 12:39 PM.
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Old October 10th, 2018, 03:03 PM
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Re: Orc's Tips to Improve Fast

Good read. I know for certain that I am not a high-level player. I'd probably alternate between 2-3 and 3-2 at GenCon. I play many games against others around my skill level, though, so I'd offer some insight on the "Don't Blame the Dice" (which is a good insight for me, I definitely do that too much).

Dice don't win or lose you games per se, but they do screw with your margin for error. It goes along with "You've Never Played a Perfect Game": Whatever mistakes you made can be covered over or amplified by one or two rolls. I also think it's dependent on the armies to some extent. Good armies are built on throwing the most dice on the most consistent basis. The fewer dice you throw, the more variance is introduced, and the more likely it is that your game was affected (not decided, but definitely influenced) by the dice. The more dice you throw, the less variance there is, and the less likely it is your "luck" had anything to do with the outcome.

Higher level of competition -> more dice more consistently -> less variance -> don't blame the dice.

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Old October 10th, 2018, 03:31 PM
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Re: Orc's Tips to Improve Fast

Quote:
Originally Posted by superfrog View Post

Dice don't win or lose you games per se, but they do screw with your margin for error. It goes along with "You've Never Played a Perfect Game": Whatever mistakes you made can be covered over or amplified by one or two rolls. I also think it's dependent on the armies to some extent. Good armies are built on throwing the most dice on the most consistent basis. The fewer dice you throw, the more variance is introduced, and the more likely it is that your game was affected (not decided, but definitely influenced) by the dice. The more dice you throw, the less variance there is, and the less likely it is your "luck" had anything to do with the outcome.

Higher level of competition -> more dice more consistently -> less variance -> don't blame the dice.
Maximizing your dice and minimizing your opponent's = Win

When that's just not possible due to whatever reason (map, bad match-up etc) High Risk vs High Reward comes into play. If you're losing anyway, then you have to make a change: Disengage your one life Nilf, retreat and regroup, give up the glyph, etc.

I've seen players over they years just stick to their guns because, "It should work". Well, it's not buddy so what's your plan B? Don't be too stubborn to change your game plan.

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Last edited by Matthias Maccabeus; October 10th, 2018 at 03:32 PM. Reason: When do you get to the part where you start playing mind games with the opponent?
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Old October 10th, 2018, 03:50 PM
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Room For Improvement

I generally agree with these points, although I'd quibble that you can drop below B+ in some tournament formats (especially the one kevindola ran that was literally nothing above B- ).

One of the biggest ways I improved my game was I watched players who were stronger than me play. It's not always easy to do since people might be limited by who they can actually watch, but online scape gave me a lot of opportunity to watch as players like kevindola or dok played and I could understand why they did what they did.

I also think on the other end of the odds fallacy is when your opponent gives you an opportunity to make a low odds attack and you don't really have a large opportunity cost you're giving up, go for it. I did this a lot the year I ran straight blasts.

I've also noticed that if I'm behind or in a bad matchup, I'll make riskier plays to take advantage in case the dice break my way. Conversely, if I'm favored or ahead, I'll play more conservatively (it's definitely hurt me in the past when I didn't do either of these)

Of course you may be going over those points soon. Solid read.

~Dysole, undefeated against OEAO (the power of statistics)

Last edited by Dysole; October 10th, 2018 at 08:35 PM.
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Old October 10th, 2018, 05:06 PM
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Re: Orc's Tips to Improve Fast

Good read. I think this is a great thread idea! So great start!

I agree with a lot of what has been said as well. I've only been to 1 Gen Con (and without trying to sound boastful) and was able to go 18-7 in all the tournament games I played, winning one of the tournaments undefeated. I also play a lot for my channel and go to monthly tournaments in Utah where we have a pretty competitive scene. I don't usually lose more than one game at those tourneys and it's usually round 3 or 4 against the better players if I do. That all said I think 2 keys to my success have been:

1) Number of attacks is better than power of attacks. I won't say there are exceptions to this because I've seen even Rats carry a decimated army to a win because of the number of attacks per turn. I've just seen too many low power attacks go through that statistically never should have, simply because I made my opponent roll 4 or 5 times in a row. The more attacks you can get in on your opponent the more likely to sneak past their defense.

2) Don't trust your defense. I've seen so many players pick armies based around high defensive stats, and the truth is they will betray you eventually. If not the army, then also the playstyle. Certain armies can lend themselves to slow rolling and trusting defense (Legos and any army with Raelin) and for me those armies just don't work very well because I play with the mindset that defense will statistically fail me and if I depend on it too much and don't get in enough attacks (trusting my defense to hold) then I will lose. This is more based off of playstyle preference but it's worked for me really well in any and all games I play. There are times when you can overextend and get a little too greedy, but all-in-all the mindset to get attacks when attacks present themselves is a good way to play in my book.
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Old October 10th, 2018, 08:58 PM
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Re: Orc's Tips to Improve Fast

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthias Maccabeus View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by superfrog View Post

Dice don't win or lose you games per se, but they do screw with your margin for error. It goes along with "You've Never Played a Perfect Game": Whatever mistakes you made can be covered over or amplified by one or two rolls. I also think it's dependent on the armies to some extent. Good armies are built on throwing the most dice on the most consistent basis. The fewer dice you throw, the more variance is introduced, and the more likely it is that your game was affected (not decided, but definitely influenced) by the dice. The more dice you throw, the less variance there is, and the less likely it is your "luck" had anything to do with the outcome.

Higher level of competition -> more dice more consistently -> less variance -> don't blame the dice.
Maximizing your dice and minimizing your opponent's = Win

When that's just not possible due to whatever reason (map, bad match-up etc) High Risk vs High Reward comes into play. If you're losing anyway, then you have to make a change: Disengage your one life Nilf, retreat and regroup, give up the glyph, etc.

I've seen players over they years just stick to their guns because, "It should work". Well, it's not buddy so what's your plan B? Don't be too stubborn to change your game plan.
Excellent points, will be updating with what to do when behind.
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Old October 10th, 2018, 09:00 PM
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Re: Orc's Tips to Improve Fast

Quote:
Originally Posted by superfrog View Post
Good read. I know for certain that I am not a high-level player. I'd probably alternate between 2-3 and 3-2 at GenCon. I play many games against others around my skill level, though, so I'd offer some insight on the "Don't Blame the Dice" (which is a good insight for me, I definitely do that too much).

Dice don't win or lose you games per se, but they do screw with your margin for error. It goes along with "You've Never Played a Perfect Game": Whatever mistakes you made can be covered over or amplified by one or two rolls. I also think it's dependent on the armies to some extent. Good armies are built on throwing the most dice on the most consistent basis. The fewer dice you throw, the more variance is introduced, and the more likely it is that your game was affected (not decided, but definitely influenced) by the dice. The more dice you throw, the less variance there is, and the less likely it is your "luck" had anything to do with the outcome.

Higher level of competition -> more dice more consistently -> less variance -> don't blame the dice.
My thoughts mirror MM's on this. Part of it is army construction, but a large portion is the tactical decisions that you make with your army to create disparities in red dice thrown.
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Old October 10th, 2018, 09:04 PM
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Re: Orc's Tips to Improve Fast

Sure. The more dice you throw, the better, and the less likely it is that dice decide your game. If you're not throwing enough dice, that's probably an army construction issue, or a gameplay issue, but it might mean that the dice you do throw can change the game outcome.

I guess I kinda just did say that if you have made one of two mistakes, then dice can lose you the game. And that proves your point: dice don't lose you the game, your mistakes do.

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Old October 10th, 2018, 09:05 PM
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Re: Room For Improvement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dysole View Post
I generally agree with these points, although I'd quibble that you can drop below B+ in some tournament formats (especially the one kevindola ran that was literally nothing above B- ).

One of the biggest ways I improved my game was I watched players who were stronger than me play. It's not always easy to do since people might be limited by who they can actually watch, but online scape gave me a lot of opportunity to watch as players like kevindola or dok played and I could understand why they did what they did.

I also think on the other end of the odds fallacy is when your opponent gives you an opportunity to make a low odds attack and you don't really have a large opportunity cost you're giving up, go for it. I did this a lot the year I ran straight blasts.

I've also noticed that if I'm behind or in a bad matchup, I'll make riskier plays to take advantage in case the dice break my way. Conversely, if I'm favored or ahead, I'll play more conservatively (it's definitely hurt me in the past when I didn't do either of these)

Of course you may be going over those points soon. Solid read.

~Dysole, undefeated against OEAO (the power of statistics)
Good points on taking a low-odds attack without risk (as a melee player this doesn't really happen much for me) as well as playing differently depending on some circumstances.

And you're a strong player, I don't have a losing record against many people, and only a few of those have played more than a single game against me. Your 2-0 vs me is certainly impressive, although my play at GC 2017 was sloppy after a 2-year hiatus from the game.
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Old October 10th, 2018, 09:10 PM
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Re: Orc's Tips to Improve Fast

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sir Heroscape View Post
Good read. I think this is a great thread idea! So great start!

I agree with a lot of what has been said as well. I've only been to 1 Gen Con (and without trying to sound boastful) and was able to go 18-7 in all the tournament games I played, winning one of the tournaments undefeated. I also play a lot for my channel and go to monthly tournaments in Utah where we have a pretty competitive scene. I don't usually lose more than one game at those tourneys and it's usually round 3 or 4 against the better players if I do. That all said I think 2 keys to my success have been:

1) Number of attacks is better than power of attacks. I won't say there are exceptions to this because I've seen even Rats carry a decimated army to a win because of the number of attacks per turn. I've just seen too many low power attacks go through that statistically never should have, simply because I made my opponent roll 4 or 5 times in a row. The more attacks you can get in on your opponent the more likely to sneak past their defense.

2) Don't trust your defense. I've seen so many players pick armies based around high defensive stats, and the truth is they will betray you eventually. If not the army, then also the playstyle. Certain armies can lend themselves to slow rolling and trusting defense (Legos and any army with Raelin) and for me those armies just don't work very well because I play with the mindset that defense will statistically fail me and if I depend on it too much and don't get in enough attacks (trusting my defense to hold) then I will lose. This is more based off of playstyle preference but it's worked for me really well in any and all games I play. There are times when you can overextend and get a little too greedy, but all-in-all the mindset to get attacks when attacks present themselves is a good way to play in my book.
Thanks for chiming in! You're another strong player.. but I can't agree with your second point. While defense will fail you at some point, if you are consistently throwing the same number of red dice as your opponent yet are consistently throwing more blue dice, you're probably going to win. Don't sacrifice offense for your defense, but defense is what enables a good offense.

Also not sure on your first point. I simply look at number of dice. 4 attacks of 3 from KoW and 2 at 5 with Alastair is pretty obviously amazing for a single OM. Top armies in general maximize both the number and quality of attacks.
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Old October 10th, 2018, 09:36 PM
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Re: Orc's Tips to Improve Fast

I believe Sir Heroscape meant that 4 attacks of 2 from 4th Mass is better than Jotun’s lobe attack of 8.

Edit: Here’s another tip. Learn the units in the game. Play a game or two with each one. Get an idea of how to play them and how to beat them. Firestorm, for example, is brutal if you’ve never played against it before.

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Old October 10th, 2018, 09:39 PM
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Re: Orc's Tips to Improve Fast

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Originally Posted by flameslayer93 View Post
I believe Sir Heroscape meant that 4 attacks of 2 from 4th Mass is better than Jotunís lobe attack of 8.
Gotcha, makes sense and is generally true (except good luck with that vs a Q9). It's worth noting though that most competitive armies are competitive because they are able to combine the two worlds.
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