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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Forum Paradigm

In my introductory post here I mentioned having trouble with coming up with ideas for articles, so imagine my joy when one just jumped at me. In the Eldar Tactica thread over at Warseer there was a bit of a row when TKE and Kuolema came along, low post counts and all, and had the audacity to make the outrageous claim that Howling Banshees were crap and that dedicated close-combat units had no place in a competitive Eldar army. Or at least that’s what I think was going on. I stopped reading after the quote-wars took off. Eventually the 8,000+ posts monster of a thread was locked by a moderator to investigate reported posts. As I said, I’d stopped reading so I don’t know whether or not that was called for, but I don’t really care, because that’s not what this is about.

TKE’s query on why the thread was locked, however, got me thinking. Around and about the 40k blog world there seems to be a consensus that forums are pretty much worthless, something I’m not completely disagreeing with. There is quite a lot of crap advice and shitty ideas floating around on forums that are considered the Lord’s Gospel by a lot of the posters. But why is this?

I think this has a lot to do with what I call the Forum Paradigm: Eloquent explanations with crap conclusions trump poor explanations with good conclusions.

Let’s take an example; TKE posted a while back a list of what he sees as good and bad in the Eldar codex. The list of bad units got, predictably, rather long. For most of you reading this there was nothing that particularly stood out and it was all rather uncontroversial. Right? Not in forum-land. This particular blog-post has been picked up and “dissected” by tactical geniuses. By dissected, of course, I mean listed “reasons” why the units are actually quite good. Along with a good old argumentum ad hominem and the ever-popular argumentum ad populum; the vast majority of all Eldar players can’t possibly be wrong, can they? So, let’s review this scathing condemnation of TKE’s abilities as an Eldar player and his personal failure to “get the best out of these diamonds in the rough.”

Avatar – WHAT? Do you even play? The Avatar is one of the biggest components to a solid mixed Eldar list (sic). Blah-blah-blah, I win all the time etc etc.

Note the lack of any actual arguments. Instead we get the accepted fallacy that anecdotal evidence trumps reading ability. Then, of course, there’s the implied statement that mixed Eldar lists are not only viable, they are also highly competitive. As long as you include an Avatar, of course.

Obviously, most of you will immediately call bullshit on this, but for those of you about to buy an Avatar, thinking it will make your army the shiznit, here’s why it blows:

Target saturation. There’s a finite amount of anti-tank weapons and there’s a finite amount of anti-infantry weapons in your opponent’s army. So, if you’re completely meched-up your opponent’s anti-infantry weapons are worthless until your tanks are down. If you’re mixed, everything in your opponent’s army has a good target. And while this is not an instant auto-lose, it makes shit harder for you. Which, with an aging codex, you really don’t need. And aren’t we talking about competitive armies, anyway? So why are you making things more difficult for yourself? If you’re so good that you’re creaming everyone you play, why are you even reading this? Oh, and for those of you smart-arses who are thinking “what about going all infantry, then? That way all the opponent’s anti-tank will be wasted!” Fuck off over to BoLS.

Moving on, we’re treated to this gem of wisdom:

Howling Banshees – They wipe out a unit of Marines on average in one round, and the can have Counter Assault for 5 points. They play the same roll (sic) in a Mech list that Scorpions play in Mixed, and to be honest I use them both in my 2k list to excellent effect. (TKE’s list on bad Eldar armies) excludes (sic?) every single melee unit except Seer Councils that are better at shooting than assaults. Really?

Yes. Really.

Can anyone spot the big, glaring rookie mistake here? You can? Brilliant. You’re now officially smarter than Warseer.

I’d go on about why Banshees are crap, despite their AWESOME ANTI-MARINE SUPER POWERS, but apparently TKE is writing something about them specifically (and now he’ll have to) and I don’t want to steal his thunder.

Instead, I’ll get back to talking about the Forum Paradigm. Specifically, how it affected me.

When I was a young strappin’ lad of 13, 3rd edition was released with a bang and I got tricked into 40k by a friend in school. It was all very nice, much fun was had, but I was an absolutely terrible 40k player. I had no idea what I was doing and an army list had nothing to do with winning games, it was merely a list of the stuff I owned. Then, a few years down the road, I discovered (which later turned into Warseer), a forum which had a tremendous impact on my 40k skill level. I was no longer crap at 40k, I became mediocre. But that was where it stopped. I remained mediocre for a long time. Until I discovered YTTH, Fritz and that pack of thugs. Shortly after, I had developed into a bona fide good 40k player. I’m not the best, and I don’t really care about that, but I’m at the top tables in tournaments, and when I play with other good players the games are close and interesting. Awesome. Right? WRONG! According to forum-land I’m having fun wrong! But that’s another article for another time.

So why are the forums arresting development at the mediocre stage? Take a look at that argument in favour of Howling Banshees again. What’s going on there? You can’t really argue with what’s being said, can you? After all, Banshees will destroy Marines in close combat. And you want to kill Marines, right? Of course you do. But wouldn’t you rather win games?

And that’s where the competitive blogs differ from forum-land. No one cares about killing Marines with your Eldar; there are a thousand other ways to do that. Or you could just ignore them and tank shock the little fuckers off objectives. Killing the Land Raiders they drive around in, however, is another kettle of tea entirely. There’s pretty much only one Eldar unit which does that with any semblance of reliability. Wanna guess which unit that is? But then you’d be spamming, and that’s a vital part of having fun wrong!

So, what happens at blogs then? Well, you have someone who knocks about telling you what’s great and what’s shit in a cohesive, over-all manner. Doesn’t get bogged down in mini-games within the game and useless “but then I do that”-theoryhammer. And if he’s talking out of his arse, people stop visiting his blog (unless the blog has become an unstoppable monster of footslogging space elves wielding electric and/or diesel powered gardening equipment, obviously). On a forum you just have a bunch of up-until-recently crap players who think it’s perfectly reasonable to blame their humiliating defeat to the fat guy with the Nob Bikers on dairy products. And then twenty other scrubs come along and chime in about how that douchebag in their local club/store/prison also creams everyone with his Nob Bikers. There can only be one conclusion; Nob Bikers are destroying the game! Awesome. Right? RIGHT! Now you’re having fun right!

Oh, hang on...

PS: I’d like to pre-empt you fickle lot with your negativity; I’m well aware that a certain blog disrupts my entire “what’s wrong with forums”-line by personifying it to the last letter in their hilarious “articles.” Well, most of them anyway.
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