Sunday, December 5, 2010

WAAC vs. Competitive

by SandWyrm

Let's define properly what a WAAC (Win At All Costs) player really is.

A WAAC is a player whose fragile ego will not allow them to lose a game to anyone. To this end, they will purposefully lie, cheat, and bully their opponent to avoid losing.

If they do lose a game, they will think of every possible excuse for the game to "not count" as a loss. They may even just lie and say they actually won a game that they really lost in order to save face. When they win a game, a WAAC will crow about his victory to anyone who will listen, even if the matchup was obviously unbalanced in their favor. Stoking their ego is the primary reason WAACs play games. They love to grind other players into the dirt because it makes them feel superior.

Some common WAAC behaviors:
1) Using loaded or especially large dice.
2) Using practiced die rolling techniques.
3) Making "mistakes" in their army lists that give them 100+ more points than their opponent.
4) Slow playing and/or rushing their opponent.
5) Verbally abusing and/or intimidating their opponent (especially when losing).
6) Verbatim use of net-lists (they don't understand how to build their own).
7) "Mis-remembering" or reinterpreting rules in such a way that they give an unfair advantage.
8) Claiming that they've never lost a game (because they only play baby seals).
9) Always using unpainted and/or unassembled models (to confuse their opponent).
10) Purposefully sloppy measuring that always adds 1-2" to their moves.
11) Not adding up their kill points properly at the end of the game.
12) Unsophisticated tactics (they like to keep it simple and brutal).
13) Threatening or yelling at the other player when they get caught cheating.
Though many players (especially new ones) will try a couple of these tricks, true WAACs are actually fairly rare. In the greater Indianapolis area, we only have a single bona-fide WAAC player, who Farmpunk and I call Donkey. Donkey's behavior at the local game stores was so bad that he's been permanently banned from four of the five stores in the city, as well as stores in both Lafayette and Bloomington.

The only other place I've seen true WAACs is at the 'Ard Boyz semi-finals. Where they come out of the woodwork due to the large prizes, random missions, and flawed battlepoint system that encourages winning through seal-beatings.

WAAC =/= Competitive

The antithesis of the WAAC is the competitive gamer. Competitive players love to be challenged. For them, a win feels empty unless it was against an opponent they respect. While a loss to a good opponent is considered a challenge to be overcome.

Some common competitive behaviors:
1) Avoiding new players or those with poor win records, because they're not challenging.
2) Seeking out the best player in the room to see how they match up in a game.
3) Keeping detailed win/loss records in a spreadsheet to track their improvement.
4) Taking less optimized lists when facing newbies to increase the challenge of the matchup.
5) Giving advice to newbies they play mid-game, in order to improve their skills.
6) "De-briefing" an opponent after the game to try and figure out how they could improve.
7) Helping a new player with list building.
8) Absolute hatred of WAAC players.
Competitive players can seem like WAACs to new or less skilled players. But this is because they're not playing the same game. A hobby-centric player who only fights 8-12 casual battles a year with friends simply doesn't have the same understanding of the game that a competitive player who fights 50 - 100 battles a year does.

For one, competitive players know their rules. Two competitive players will almost never have to look at their rulebook or codex during a game. Top level players can craft entire army lists in their heads, as they've memorized all the common options and costs in the army book they use. They also know their enemy's army fairly well. Either though playing them over and over, or because they've bought and read the codex. Even if they don't play the army themselves.

Second, competitive players know how to build an effective list. Whereas a new player will craft a list based on what looks cool to them, an experienced player has tested every option. So he only uses the units and options that both work for his strategy and which are efficient for their points cost.

And speaking of strategy, competitive players have one. Whereas less experienced players will simply line up on either side of a table and pretty much just shoot at each other, competitive players know how to move. They have a plan for what they'll do in each of the first 3 turns and a pretty good idea of what they'll do after that. The best ones can read an opponent and know exactly what they're likely to do as well. They'll also know by your body language exactly when you've given up. Even before you do.

The result of all this is comparable to what would happen if Michael Jordan were to play a pick-up game of basketball with someone who plays once a week at their church. A newbie/hobby 40k player will be dazed as his units are hit with an unbelievable amount of force in just the right place by an army that seems to be way too large for it's points level.

Nothing he does in response seems to make any difference, as his best units get beaten down in a single turn or less. He may also find that the actual rules of the game are stricter about things like assault movement than he's used to playing. Or he may not have realized that true line of sight means that a unit in cover can shoot at another unit without giving it cover in return.

And so the dazed newbie will often throw out the term "WAAC" or "Cheesy" to describe the player that just thumped them. But the real issue is that a low level player didn't enjoy his game against a high level player because his skills were not up to the challenge.

But the competitive gamer hears "You're a cheater!". When all he's guilty of is being a better player.

The real answer is just to be honest about the kind of game you want to play before you throw down. That way nobody's expectations get disappointed.


  1. I think you are being too generous here - a lot of those habits you attribute to WAAC player, I would only only attribute to a cheater.
    I personally consider WAAC player to be those who play within the game, but bend the rules and play with complete disregard to their opponent and their opponents fun. Only slightly better than a cheater, but I think NOT calling out cheaters as such just enables them.
    Thankfully, I have only encountered a handful of cheaters, but, by my definition, I have played against, or seen, WAAC players at probably 50% of the local tournaments I have been to.

  2. Caanaan: I think SandWyrm has it on a T personally.

    You can play hard, to the letter of the law, and win without being WAAC. As a competitive gamer attempting to play at their best, being called "WAAC" insinuates that you did something outside the rule to win. This is, for 99% of competitive gamers, just not the case.

  3. @fester: While my definition of WAAC may be slightly different than you, i totally agree that you can play hard and competitively and not be a WAAC player. My point is that a lot of those things Sandwyrm lists as 'WAAC habits' shouldn't label someone as a WAAC player, but instead as a cheater, instead.
    I think people who are too polite with people cheating in game, and justify those actions as someone just 'being a WAAC player' just make it easier for those same people to continue to cheat and give competitive players a bad name.
    My point is that cheating should be called as such, rather than euphemistically calling it WAAC or 'overly competitive play.

  4. The primary difference is the attitude. The competitive player plays to be challenged so that his win means something.

    The WAAC player, on the other hand, doesn't care how empty the win may be. He's just as happy beating up a 12 year old's battleforce army as he is winning against a strong 20+ year old player.

    Cheating commonly follows because he doesn't care about anything but the win. Hence the "at all costs" part of the label. The baby seals typically don't know the rules that well, so it's easy to get away with bending them.

    Competitive players, on the other hand, aren't Win-at-all-costs because they place restrictions on their efforts to win such as staying within the rules, or not beating up kids.

    Some go further with more arbitrary restrictions like full WYSIWYG models or not taking commonly used units. They may even go against the norm and take (as an example) all-foot lists to make any wins they get all the sweeter and prove something to the community at large.

  5. *pictures Michael Jordan schooling him*

    now that's an analogy :P.

  6. I for one kind of resent the remark about unsophisticated tactics. I have a what seems to me to be an efficient, and brutal tactic. Get there, get the job done. If they outclass me in hand to hand, Stand back and shoot them till they are not there any more!

    But you only accredit this to a WAAC Gamer. Which I find to be very off. I do not under any circumstances think that I am a WAAC gamer, if I am wrong then the people on here that actually know me will be more than happy to let me and you all know about it.

    Past that, I feel a little differently about tournaments than most people, as I grew as a gamer in the MTG community, which is so much more cuthroat than the 40K universe is. Go to a high end tournament in MTG, there is constantly the following word being thrown around: JUDGE! No kidding, I think that if you are going to be going to a tournament, and you want to play your tenth company scout army, then more power to you. It is probably a beautiful army. But when I crush you because I came with a competitive army, that brings my Codex's potiential, then do not whine and cry about it. I didn't build your list for you, I built mine not tailored to one specific army type, but to all comers, if don't, that is your problem.

    If this makes me a WAAC person, then whatever. I will be glad to sit down with people and help them out with their armies. I will sit and talk with people after a game, stomping by me, or them kicking my face into the curb the whole time, and talk the turns out to see where the game went where it went. I like to understand why I lost the game, and it is always a fun challenge, and objective to play those who are better, and smarter players than myself. that is what I want to do.

    I'm not against the whole 'fluff' aspect of the game. I play my army most of the time, as just something to laugh at. It is far from good when a single troop choice is costing me over 1K in points. Then I'm staring down an entire army, and all I have are two troops and a predator. thats real fun. But when I'm playing someone I have yet to have a one sided game against, I'll play the best thing I can conjour up. Now I'm rambling, but never the less, I resent the remark about unsophisticated tactics. That is just unfair, even my pathetic tacitc is one that needs to have alot of thought put into it...otherwise I'll just lose.

  7. Agree with fester, Sandwyrm has hit it on a T.


  8. @ZerkeX

    Got ya covered. Duplicate comments removed. ;)

    Second, I didn't mean to imply that all simple tactics are WAAC-only. All Simple Tactics players are not WAAC, but most WAACs are pretty straightforward on the field. Reason being that they don't actually play the game very well.

    Their usual MO is to invent (or more likely download) some uber-list that's meant to run up and smash their opponent into dust. If their opponent beats them, then the WAAC moves on to another uber-list instead of learning to use tactics themselves.

    It's their outlook at work. They want easy wins, not to learn from or overcome a challenge. Because that requires losing some games while you improve. Which their egos can't handle.

    Donkey, for instance, loved to play me in my early days of 5th edition. Because I would line up on one side of the field with my gunline and just shoot him up without moving. This allowed Donkey to simply run straight across the field with his Orks and smash up my line in a bloody orgy of destruction which was very much to his liking.

    I also didn't know the rules or Ork codex well enough to know when he was cheating me blind.

    Farmpunk though, would drive Donkey absolutely batcrap insane with his drop-guard because he'd use tactics and baiting strategies to chew him up without letting him get the mass kills he wanted so badly.

    We even set up a game once where Donkey got to use Farmpunk's guard vs. his Grey Knights. I had to deploy his forces because Donkey's eyes glazed over when I tried to advise him on how to set up his squads. When the game started, Farmpunk tabled him in 3 turns, causing Donkey to throw a fit and go home. :)

  9. Article - {^}

    ZerkeX - If you're opponents out think themselves, then they aren't providing the level of challenge needed for you to have a cohesive strategy...this doesn't mean you don't have one in your head, you may even have it subconsciously, never forced to actually go quite that far.

    This is by no means an insult to the other players, ofc, not least because the majority of my opponents are no better. I have a strategy because that's how I function, not because I need it for several of them.

  10. My personal definition of WAAC is very different... but that could just be me. I would agree that, for my own use, the proper term for what is described here would simply be "cheater". Probably proceeded by "dirty".

    But, if that's the consensus, then I'll use it... I'm not picky.

    I think the best thing I can do is emphasize what really matters to me - sportsmanship.

    What I've considered WAAC in the past, boils down to someone who will throw out any sense of fun and good sportsmanship in order to focus entirely on the win. Not to the point of purposefully cheating, per se, but still enough to leave a bad taste in your mouth.

    This is, yet again, why I avoid tournaments. Spag's comment on a previous post about how it's wrong to expect people to keep common sense when money is on the line sums it up nicely.

    My response is something along the lines of:


    I can fully understand wanting to win more than usual when it's more than just bragging rights on the line, but to go that far... that, to me, is bad sportsmanship, which quickly leads to an un-fun game.

    If we play a game, bring a solid list. Bring your A game. But please, leave the petty arguments at the door.

  11. @ Sandwyrm Thanks boss, appricitate it.

    @ Ellesar: I think you read into the comment to far. I playa asimple strategem, which is to take and get my Wolves across the board where they can do the max amount of damage. But for some reason while it is a simple little tactic, for some reason over half of the people that I play against are looking for something much past that to happen, so I get the added benefit of not having to be much more strategic than that, as they have lost the game by out thinking themselves. Which is just fine with me, as I didn't want to have to try that hard anyways.

  12. To qoute Wil Wheaton: "Don't be a dick."

    WAAC means different things to different people, redefining it once more won't change anything per se. I choose to read your list as:"The first type of player I don't like, the second I do". The first one sounds like he(she?) needs professional help. Acting like that is disturbing social behavior.

    Also wanting to play well is not a bad thing. I want that (which drives my wife bonkers as she doesn't have a drive to win and I most often beat her in any and all games). Heck I have yet to play my first 1500p or more game but I can build list on the top of my head for a few codexes. Not all units but still, I've thought about armies a bit:)

    A random thought. Has anyone played point handicapped games with noobs? Could be a fun idea:)

  13. Very Nice write up guys. Sadly we have a den of these yahoos. every time we hold a tournament at our FLGS they come out of the wood work. Its sad really.

  14. @Flekzo

    I will often play a dumbed down list, or leave units off the table when playing new players. I also constantly help newer players and give them tactical advice as I see a few other of the strong players in our club do. Unfortunately some people just don't like to listen. :)


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