The back end of a year customarily sets one thinking in a state-of-the-system, stock-taking kind of mould. New possessions are acquired, room must be made, consideration of how they’re to fit into collections undergone. Doing so invariably indentifies a certain amount of absolute tat that just has to go, and a certain amount of stuff which might be perfectly valid in its own right but reduces efficiency in that of which it is a part. Chaff, in other words.
For instance, there’s my Magic deck. Well, my old Magic deck. My very old Magic deck, which I borrowed from a friend who happened to have a stash of Tempest-era cards lying around. Seventy-five cards, mono-green, and I lost my first five games with it on the trot through hopeless mana-screw and overcomplex mechanics that my aging brain, unexposed to the Magic system for eight years, misplayed appallingly. I sat down with the deck, went through it, and removed everything that I didn’t understand the tactical applications of, everything that felt too situational, and everything that wasn’t anything special, just generic creatures with generic stats. That pared it back to fifty-seven cards, so I added a few fun situational bits back in to meet the sixty-card standard. Clearing out the chaff here, involves selecting elements to remove, and one or two to restore.
Ironically, I now have a shiny new starter deck from the 2012 core set. Came with a booster pack. I’ve already swapped a few bits in and out – identifying what doesn’t have a use, to me, and replacing it with things that do.
Then there’s Herr Doktor Shiny, and his Tau army. He’s been having some trouble with his Tau army, which came to a head in a situation not entirely dissimilar to this one. Now, it can’t be denied that a dual-Solar-Pulse build is not going to make yr. average Tau player the happiest of bunnies, but it also can’t be denied that Shiny’s army is, well, all over the place. Units tend to fight their enemies one-on-one, to scatter all over the board, and seldom supplement one another’s capacities in any sort of defined plan.
One hesitates to say ‘ur doin it rong’ to one’s longest-serving friend, but there you go. We’ve had a long conversation about redundancy, concentration of fire, the importance of not overestimating the assault phase and suppression vs. elimination roles for units; I’ve had a flick through the Tau book and looked for units that can split fire and units that are better off combining it. It’s mostly been duplicating stuff that Shiny already runs – he can pick a decent unit, it’s fielding it more than once that he seems to have trouble with – and choosing which of his existing units are best left to games larger than those he’s in the habit of playing. Clearing out the chaff here, involves selecting elements from an existing collection and planning a few duplications to make.
And finally, there’s the small matter of my dice problem. “What dice problem?” ask I, but Hark insists that I have one. I am hardly drowning in d6s or anything, but I do have a few discrete sets of dice and I have ordered some custom dice for my Necron army. I’d previously ordered a set of thirty-six, a full dice block in two colours like the red and green ones I use with my Lizardmen, but then I a) had that conversation with Hark and b) read this, and it set me to thinking about the chaos of dice and counters and cards and books that tends to accumulate around me when I play games. Most of those are called for by the rules system – Warmachine requires that various things be tracked with cards and tokens, for instance – but that doesn’t mean I can’t do something to reduce the amount of clutter that’s around my table and my head while I’m playing. The upshot of it is that I’ve tried to stop the chaff appearing at all; I’ve ordered five blue dice, three green and two gold, and they’ll be riding in the figure case with the ‘crons. We’ll see if that works, and if the principle can be applied sideways to my Lizardmen.
All this chaff management has come just in time for the announcement of a new Vampire Counts range. Sigh. I seem to be drifting back into my old undead-crazed ways and frankly I’m not sure I have the energy to resist. Let’s hope I get one of the jobs I’ve applied for, eh?