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Monday, May 13, 2013

Aggressive and Passive Personalities and their Correlation to Play Style

Originally I was just going to reply briefly, but I think Finecast's comment prompts some interesting questions about how different players approach the game. It's not actually about offense and defense the way that meme above depicts it. I just thought that was adorable. Anyway thanks for your thoughtful comments, Finecast. Here's his original comment for reference's sake:

"I believe I came in at the tale end of this match up, I was pretty shocked that you guys had to face off against another clone army. Which yet again stressed the importance of cooperation and collective battle strategies to help push you guys to the top even if it was a few points over(which after going over, didn't matter much)I predict that game had a HUGE influence on the style of play for many of the players who were serious about winning or refining there styles of play. I am even working on a secret army now that i can relate to the most and utilize with my own creative tactics. After looking at some of the video footage that I was able to take I am really beginning to see the breakdown of a persons philosophy in there gaming. There we few aggressive players which used the head strong tactic, those who were unsure of there armies strength and build were very forgetful of abilities and powers that they could have utilized. Passive players keep there faith in one stratagem because that's probably all the feel comfortable with using. Those who had experience and flexibility were easy to point out as they turned what seemed to be book closers to eye openers. Even my match up with DNA.Noodle was educational for me, as I am Xenos illiterate."

Of course I can't really speak to what the other players were influenced by, but at the least I expect they realized that if they weren't pushing hard for maximum points there was no way they could pull ahead. In the third round a number of teams seemed to be vying toward that, where in the second round there were a lot of ties and fewer people achieved all three secondary objectives. There is the mission type to help produce those results, however. Home base objectives makes for lots of ties without very quick armies.

Interesting analysis of how players' experience and attitudes affect their play. I think there is some truth in that. Something I would add is that players' confidence shows most in the movement phase. That's the phase that wins games. It controls what your opponent can shoot and assault. And it determines whether and when you can reach objectives or advantageous firing positions. I think a player needs to have experience to know their short and long term goals so they can be in the right place at the right time. And it takes knowledge of the roll statistics and some confidence to put your units in danger when it's time to do so. Passive players are probably most comfortable with armies that can win without moving much. The strategy that is most familiar and comfortable, then, is the one where they just roll dice and make the enemy die.

I've read before that aggressive players gravitate toward assault armies that push straight ahead and attack, but I think that simplifies the issue too much for the analysis to be useful. Aggressive play can be found in unit choice, target selection and statistical evaluation among other places. I think you could say more accurately that aggressive players play for more definitive results. In assault that would be to wipe the enemy out utterly with lots of armor-denying attacks. In shooting it would be to strive toward killing whole units even if that means putting yourself a little close for comfort.

Aggressive unit choice would be units that you put at risk when using them, but that decimate the enemy. Howling Banshees, Warp Spiders, Fire Dragons, IG Veterans, Genestealers, Vanguard Veterans; I think those are all good examples. It takes some confidence to get them in place to do their damage due to their short range and the likelihood they will get killed whether they succeed against their first target or not; but the pay off is huge. This is very different, I think, from cramming a powerful assault unit down the enemy's throat. Something like a huge unit of Wraiths with a tricked out Destroyer Lord doesn't fit my definition because it's such a safe and comfortable choice. There is little risk in taking it because it has amazing defense, incredible movement a tons of high strength attacks that can probably take out anything it's thrown against. In my opinion the risk isn't present for me to consider it an aggressive choice in general. Harlequins are another that I don't think fits my definition precisely. They used to be a liability at short range, and I would have considered them an aggressive choice. But after picking up Stealth and Shrouding, most armies don't have enough stuff that ignores cover for me to feel like there is any risk in running a unit that relies on a 2+ rerollable cover save. These two units might appeal to aggressive players too, but I don't think a passive player is likely to favor the other examples I gave of aggressive choices.

Target selection and statistical evaluation go hand in hand in my opinion when it comes to playing aggressively. If you are trying to destroy a unit completely,  I think you are going to match your most efficient unit against it and play toward taking advantage of the high end of the bell curve. What I mean is that you're going to play at high risk for high reward. For example, I have a unit of Warp Spiders and they're very short-ranged. I have to move a lot and/or deep strike to get in firing range. Already I've risked a lot just to shoot once. With the changes to how range works I can't kill guys that are not in anyone's 12" range. In my groups, taking the Rifle doesn't magically extend my other guys' range either so there is nothing more that I can do than estimate how many kills I will do and approach the target accordingly. An aggressive player might position against 10 Tactical Marines with the intent to wipe or nearly wipe the squad because that's certainly within the realm of possibility. I've done that where the only alternative is to die. But more often than not I position myself to kill about six marines because that's slightly better than average and gives me the best chance to avoid heavy return fire.

I'm not sure where I might fit in with Finecast's analysis. In list-building I tend to take what I'd consider a mix of aggressive and passive units. It depends for me on the army and how it is intended to play as a whole. The army that I played in the game he referred to was a mix, I feel. Movement was very important and I had a lot of 24" range guns that needed to be put in position to fire from about turn two. I think a purely passive player might be daunted by the movement options and the risk inherent to not being able to hide behind BLOS terrain. But an aggressive player might not like the balance required in staying at sweetspot-range. These are some of the reasons that I think Eldar and Dark Eldar have come to be known for having a steep learning curve. It does take experience not to overextend yourself, leave units stranded and unsupported or to know when it's time to close in for the kill.