Greetings bannermen! A new season of Song has arrived and with it comes new opportunities for events and tournaments to test your skill and make lasting friendships.
“The talk in the yard is we shall have a tourney, my lord. They say that knights will come from all over the realm to joust and feast.” -Jory Cassel
I’m Luke Hartman, sometimes known as Lucus Aurelius, Stark/Targaryen enthusiast and current US national champion. I have been playing tabletop miniature games for over 20 years and for the majority of that I have been competing in tournaments. I strongly believe that great habits produce great results. Below are my 10 tips for attending your next Song event:
1. Make sure your Tactics cards and War Council App are up to date. The current version is 2021.S02 and all the card changes done since the 2021 update are available HERE. Print all currently valid Tactics cards HERE. The updated Game Modes are HERE (they were updated in the 2021.S01 update).
2. When you design your list(s) for your event, be sure to consider the terrain type your event is running (Player’s choice or Randomized) and if there are any Game Modes that won’t be included. Having a plan for each scenario is ideal and your lists can be designed with those elements in mind to take full advantage of them. If the event description doesn’t state terrain type or Game Mode restrictions, check with your TO ahead of time just to be sure.
3. Practice your lists before you play them in an event. If at all possible try to get at least one game in your all the elements of your list prior to taking it to an event. A list can look powerful on paper, but on the table when all elements are present, you may find it does not perform as anticipated. Sometimes it’s the list and sometimes it’s your understanding or inexperience, but practice and repetition will reveal which and forging a list can be like forging a Valyrian steel, it must be folded on itself again and again until it is ready. Don’t give up, the perfect list for you may be just a tweak away!
4. Be conscientious of activation count in your list building. I see it most frequently in new players who want to bring lots of the expensive and powerful units. But Song is still an activation-based game, and having too few activations can make it easier for your opponent to prevent you from doing what you want, while doing what they want with little to no counterplay from you. A competitive 40 point list should contain anywhere from 4-6 combat units with 2-3 NCUs. I personally prefer 5 combat units and 3 NCUs, as this feels like plenty of activations and units to deploy, tactics board control and covers my needs in most scenarios. In a two list format, where each player chooses one of two lists prior to the game starting, try to ensure your lists cover a variety of matchups and preferably each other’s weakness when available.
5. You may be a Free Folk fighting machine, but your body is still human, don’t forget to take care of yourself! I bring medicine for headaches and/or if my feet get sore from standing too long. I bring deodorant and breath mints, more for my opponent’s sake than my own, and I always try to get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before an event.
6. Own your tournament experience. That’s a phrase that was said to me at a young age by my friend and mentor Keith Hoffman and it’s always stuck with me. To me that phrase means understanding that your tournament experience is what you make of it. If you suspect your opponent is cheating or behaving in any way you feel jeopardizes the integrity of your game, it’s on you to inform your TO.
7. Evaluate your games with your opponent. This can be after a practice game or a tournament game, but it’s a good habit to get into for you and your opponent’s benefit. Discuss what you saw from your side of the table, from deployment to a critical mistake in round 3. This discussion can often reveal opportunities that were missed or counterplay you can take into your next game. Learning from each game, win or lose, is the fastest way to improve your decision making. Try to avoid situations that could have been different with a die roll, the dice are arbitrary and under no players control, we have to evaluate our decision if we have any hope of improving as a player.
8. Review the rulebook and tactics cards on War Council leading up to the event. I like to open up my War Council app and navigate to the Tactics Card option where I can see every tactics card in the game sorted by commander or faction. I re-read every card, starting with the faction cards and then each commander. When time isn’t available to be that thorough, I will only go through the factions and most popular commanders, and if that seems like too much, just focus on the faction cards, these will give you a solid foundation of the faction identity of your opponents and insights into how they may counter your strategy. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” - Sun Tzu, The Art of War
9. Don’t succumb to group think, be creative and play the units you enjoy. Net listing is the art of taking someone else’s homework changing the order of the units and calling it your own. But there is a reason you don’t do as well as they do with that list, because it’s not your playstyle. Playstyle can be determined by risk tolerance, aggressiveness, preference, bias, experience and local meta. If your gut tells you go left but the internet tells you go right, I’m here to tell you to trust your instincts and do what works for you.
10. Remember to have fun! That may sound like a cat poster, but when you’re actively reminding yourself that you’re playing a game and it’s supposed to be fun, you will relax your mind and be able to focus. If you feel yourself getting stressed, just take a deep breath, and remember that no one is getting paid professionally to play this game, we’re all just here for fun.
This game is growing every day and new players from all over the world are joining in and bringing their unique perspectives and playstyles, perhaps one of you reading this article and following these tips will be the next national champion! I look forward to hearing about all the events we have this year and I wish you good fortune in the wars to come!