If you have not read my first article, it was posted just a few days ago on this blog. You should read that, before you read this one. For those of you who did happen to read my first post, or those who don't mind... read on.
One thing I've known my entire gaming life is that regardless of what game you play, you have not mastered it until you understand your opponents’ options and strategies as well as your own. For board games this usually means a simple understanding of the mechanics, and how to best leverage them in a given situation. For games like warhammer and almost all collectable games, this gives rise to the "metagame".
For a long time, I had a firm grasp of what any given faction I was remotely likely to see on the other side of the table was capable of, and how it could be overcome by what I had brought to the table. It has now been two and a half years since my last serious endeavor into a competitive setting. I found myself staring at the army builder screen last night, trying to think of a solid build for what I expect to face. As I sat there, I remembered the last tournament build I had done. I had built a list for that day in less than five minutes, at two in the morning, the night before the tournament, based on who I knew would be competing. I didn't have my opponents specific lists, but I knew that Joe would have his Necrons, and they'd look something like this, and that Mark would have Dark Angels built about like that, and so on. I was so in tune with what worked and what didn't that I could probably have built that list in my sleep. I came in second that day. Missed first by two bonus points. :(
And then, in a moment of horrified realization, it hit me:
I no longer understand the metagame.
The enormity of the task I have set for myself is now fully apparent. As I sit here and think about what I do know, I realize that I have never played against a 5th ed Guard list controlled by a skillful player. I have never played against a Dark Eldar player, nor a serious Grey Knights list, nor really any Blood Angels, and only one Space Wolves player. I am not fully aware of what Tyranids can do anymore.
Oh sure, I've done a pretty good job of keeping track of what the general abilities of each army has available to it, but I haven't a clue anymore how these factions prepare for each other, nor if there are new tricks that are becoming popular. I have ten days before I am set to compete in a local tournament, and now realize I am going to be walking in blind, prepared as I am now. I guess I have a lot research to do between now and then to fix that...