Every now and then I come across something that completely blows my tiny little mind. I don't mean this in a positive way either; what fun would that be?
Early last week, while I was deep into finals and having my dog's leg x-rayed, Maxx* sent me a link to one of the most entertaining Internet fights I've seen in a long while. It has it all: Multiple personality disorder, belligerence, and statistics. I really really wanted to use this for the Friday Night Fight last week, but couldn't figure out a way to get the Reader's Digest version of the offending poster's epic wall of text rants to be anything approaching coherent. You'll see why. So sadly, this became my first of two failed attempts to write FNIF last week that will be materializing throughout this week in various forms.
Now we all know how fun dicking around in the BoLS Lounge can be. Well, it's fun if you think that sitting in a Judas Cradle sounds like a good time... But Judge is responsible for what may possibly be one of the craziest posts I have ever seen, in which he provides a battle report for a game he played against himself, in his own head! I'm aware of at least one top player out there who also employs this technique, but I'm calling bullshit on it. More on this after the aside...
As an aside, this gives me a rare opportunity to talk about one of my all time favorite books: Schachnovelle, written by Austrian author Stefan Zweig while in exile in South America during WWII.
Once he comes back down again, he is cleared for release from he institution. Wanting to get away he soon finds himself on a steamer bound for the US, I believe. Unfortunately, the steamer is full of Chess enthusiasts and the reigning world champion from some eastern block country. Eventually there is a game between Dr. B_ and the champion. B_ wins easily, given his ability to play as both players and think many many moves ahead of even his skilled opponent, analyzing all of the possible moves with lightning fast mental agility. Recognizing how quickly his opponent makes his moves, the champ challenges the Dr. to a rematch, employing a new strategy. The champion begins taking as long as possible to make his moves, to throw off his opponent. This strategy ultimately works as B_, with too much time in between moves, begins to play all of the potential moves in his head over and over again until he suffers from a short nervous fit/mental breakdown. When he recovers from this he makes a bad play and loses the match, giving us our happy ending#.
So there's a lot in that aside that applies to Warhammer, but specifically right now I'm concerned with playing with yourself (ummm, what-fucking-ever laugh all you want you plebes). I'm not saying or implying that playing a game against yourself is the result or cause of some form of insanity, even though it is funny to think that it might be in Judge's case. What I would like to address is that this doesn't fully represent a real game of 40k. Just like Mathhammer is only part of the equation, self-Warhammer love only approximates what a real game is like. Mathhammer doesn't take terrain or your foe's behavior into account. Playing yourself leaves out a number of important factors too, the most important being your opponent.
To use yet another example, take my own experiences with poker. I am an epically bad poker player. I'm no Kenny Rogers, for sure, since I certainly don't know when to hold 'em or when to fold 'em. I've never really taken the time to try and figure the game out and only play once every few years. This has actually worked to my advantage on a few occasions. My play is so erratic and poorly strategized that the other players at the table can't make any sense of my actions and get thrown off of their game. Then I take their money.
What I'm driving at above is that no matter what you think is going to happen in a game or how certainly you "know" how your opponent will behave, you're likely to be proven wrong. Not just a little wrong, but really fucking wrong. When playing with yourself, you get the unfair advantage of complete omniscience. Knowing how your opponent will react puts a very unrealistic slant on the game. So theorize in your brain all you want, you will never be able to predict your enemy's actions to a 100% certainty.
Self exploration of this kind can also be affected by any other number of variables from your own prejudices to your incomplete knowledge of strategy. You don't like the white chess pieces? Black will probably win the game. You hate Space Marines? Looks like Tau are going to whoop the Blood Angels' asses in the game in your head. ...and don't even get me started on how presumptuous brazenly declaring that you know what the best move is in every situation. If you really knew the optimal play for each piece in any game 100% of the time, you'd have a perfect record. Oh you don't, then get the fuck out of my face with that shit and go diddle yourself away from my corner of the Internet.
I think it's about time I stopped ranting and just gave you the goods. Judge's post and the ensuing fight can be read here. If you can make it through all 7 pages of that shit you are a far bigger man than I. Good luck with that...
By way of coming to some type of conclusion I will simply say that there is some value in playing out mock games in your head. It is a very imperfect system, though. If you come at me saying that because you worked something out in your head X cannot possibly beat Y, then you can fuck right off. What do you guys think? How much value do you put in this type of Theoryhammer? Did I miss any easy cracks at masturbation jokes?
*Big ups to Maxx for sending me another e-mail of some good shit even after being snowmobiled over the last one :). I think I figured out his screen name** and don't feel too bad about hurting his vagina during FNIF, I was much nicer to him than anybody else in that thread.
**I'm not stalking him or anything, I just like watching him shower ~wait, what?
#Well at least this didn't end in the death or suicide of the main character like 75% of the other German language novels I've read.