Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Re-Post: Sun Tsu And The Art Of Stupid

by SandWyrm

(sigh...) I suppose the 11-month reprieve in Sun Tsu quoting 'tactics' articles out in the blog-o-sphere was too good to last. With the general downturn in 40K morale/interest pre-6th, the stupid is starting to surface again. This time in the form of an article on Fantasy. Next we'll start seeing meaningless lateral-thinking articles. Oh wait, that's happened too.

So here's a blast from TB40K past. Anytime you need to point out the stupidity of someone quoting Sun Tsu in the context of a miniatures wargame, just link to this post. :)

Sun Tsu And The Art Of Stupid

Do you want to sound more intelligent than you actually are when discussing 40K? Do you want to give your half-baked theories an aura of respectability that will shield them from proper scrutiny? Do you want to read an old Chinese book instead of playing actual 40K games and learning from your mistakes? Well, have I got the thing for you. You see, there's this 2500 year old book called the "Art of War" that you can use to do just that.

The formula is simple:

1) Find A Properly Ambiguous Quote

Just open the book to a random page and look for a quote on military strategy that contains no specific information or examples. Quotes such as this one won't do at all:
"Generally, operations of war require one thousand fast four-horse chariots, one thousand four-horse wagons covered in leather, and one hundred thousand mailed troops."
Ugh! That quote is obviously out of date and not applicable at all to 40K. What about this one?
"Those adept in waging war do not require a second levy of conscripts and not more than one provisioning."
Better. I can almost hang an Imperial Guard article on it. But surely there's something even simpler and more ambiguous that I can use.
"The reason troops slay the enemy is because they are enraged."

2) Twist The Meaning Of The Quote Into Something 40K related.

Hmmnnn... Enraged. That sounds a bit like 40K's 'Furious Charge' rule. Orks get furious charge... I've got it!

I'll write some drivel about how important Furious Charge is to an Ork Army. Always be the one assaulting! Never be the one assaulted! Wowza! Ain't I smart? Look! I quoted Sun Tsu!!!

But You're Still An Idiot

The enraged quote above is actually from a part of the book that talks about motivating your own troops by tricking your enemy into maiming their prisoners and desecrating your graves. Can you do that in 40K? Nope. Because being a game, your options are very limited both on and off the field. If the designers didn't think of it, you won't be doing it.

So look... The Art of War is a fun, interesting read. There's lots of old, outdated info on waging war the ancient Chinese way. But there's also a lot of timeless wisdom that will make you think philosophically about the things you already know.

Miss that? I'll say it again. It will make you think philosophically about the things you ALREADY KNOW.

If you're say... a commander of a modern mechanized infantry company, or a corporate executive, or any sort of leader; then reading the Art of War will help you think philosophically about your day to day operations and help you to pull together the separate strands of your knowledge and experience into a coherent whole. To step back from the details and see the forest instead of the trees, so to speak.

But what it won't do is generate new knowledge out of nothing. If you've never been in the army, run a business, or played a wargame before, then you have no trees in your forest to step back from. Without knowing the details of a particular system like 40K, you can't properly interpret what you're reading in that context. Because the examples and commentaries used in Sun Tsu's book to illustrate the concepts are all about ANCIENT CHINESE WARFARE; not modern warfare, business, or 40K.

And... Not only is the 'Art of War' about Ancient Chinese Warfare exclusively, but since it's a book of strategy, it's also devoid of actual tactics. So... Do we worry about our faction's civilian populations in our games of 40K? Do we have to worry about motivating our troops (beyond randomized leadership tests)? Do we get to outnumber our opponents (beyond having a more efficient list)? Do we have to feed and cloth our armies? Do we have to worry about reprisals and opportunistic attacks from other rivals while we're out campaigning? Do we get to pick our battlefields? No we don't. Not in any meaningful way.

That's why there's very little information in The 'Art of War' that someone playing an abstract game like 40K can actually use. While the relatively few philosophical points that might carry some weight to a 40K player are so obvious as to be worthless to anyone with twenty games under their belt.

So do us all a favor. Read Sun Tsu. Enjoy Sun Tsu. But dammit!... stop quoting him when you talk about 40K. Because to any experienced player, it makes you look like an complete idiot. You're only fooling the newbs.


  1. Excellent article. People trying to quote Sun Tzu as justification for anything in Warhammer 40,000 make my left eyelid start twitching again.

  2. I LOLed pretty hard !!


    : )

  3. Anytime I hear people quote anything or try to give me the odds on w/e, my eyes start to glaze over. Just get your army set it down and then we can truly get down to what matters. I don't buy into anything anyone says. I don't care how long their book/blog/website etc etc has been around. I do what I do and it works, anyone who knows me knows I do pretty well for myself on just about any level of 40k. So that's my advice, don't listen to the others. Do what you do and never give up.

  4. Ok, yeah...
    But Paris Hilton could still catch it.
    I know she's just pretending to read that book....

  5. Hahaha the problem isn't that quoting Sun Tzu is stupid, it's that stupid people are quoting Sun Tzu.

    The later parts of section 6 are pretty much a manual of "how to win a wargame". Too bad they're too dense to just give a link.

  6. ;) Thank you for expressing my sentiment towards that kind of crap.


out dang bot!

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