This is a little awkward. Been a while. Um. How’s it going? Cool, cool. I’m good, too. Anyway…. uh, so here’s an article if you’re still cool with that sort of thing.

This article is about an aspect of the game that can go overlooked by newer players, especially at tournaments: the psychological game. I’ve wanted to write something about this for a really long time. There are a ton of reasons why it’s taken me this long to get around to it, but only two of them really matter.

The First Big Problem: Going into this has the potential to make me look like a huge fucking douche bag. Which I am, you know, to like, a limited degree. There’s definitely a stigma associated with playing the psychological game when it comes to toy soldiers. People seem to think its indicative of a win-at-all-costs attitude. I think this is one of the many places players tend to immediately assume the worst case scenario. As you read on, try to keep and open mind and maintain some level of perspective. I think most of us, even unconsciously, play the game on a psychological level. I’m just pointing out specific examples and strategies.

The Second Almost As Big Problem: I’m not a fucking psychologist and I’m not particularly great at articulating my thoughts when it comes to this sort of thing. I’m pretty good at reading people and a lot of the shenanigans I know I’ve pulled happen reflexively. God, that sentence makes me look like such a fucking tool. Anyway, I’m doing my best to explain things I’ve never tried to put into words before. Turns out it sucks trying to turn intuition into text, so bear with me.


So, with the above stated, why write this article with a completely obnoxious introduction that will probably be longer than the actual content? Oddly enough, it’s largely because of the First Big Problem. I dislike how playing your opponent rather than his army is considered unsportsmanlike by a number of people in the community. I dislike that these tricks I’m going to point out are some sort of occult secret that top finishers know but don’t really talk about. I consider it part of my ongoing assault against this idea that being competitive somehow makes you a bad person. My blood is starting to boil now that I’ve typed that last sentence. The online community has turned “competitive” into a negative word like talk radio has done to “liberal”. Uhg. Fuck it, I need a break. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Paul Simon.



Whew. Can’t be mad after that one. Let’s do this.

Generalship matters a lot in Warmachine; probably more so than most miniature games. Therefore, it can be incredibly important to know how to play against your opponent and not just his army list. Your own psychology is also important to keep in mind. I’m going to list a number of things that pretty much rule when you get them down pat.

  1. Be confident. This may seem obvious but it is critical to success. Going into games with the expectation to lose will do nothing but encourage sloppy play. Set your sights high and do what you think it will take to attain that goal. Practice your lists against a variety of opponents, time your turns, and think about what you will probably have to play against. You’ll find yourself in fewer unfamiliar situations and maintain control more easily. This leads us to…
  2. Never let them see you sweat. The cliche is annoying, but it is good advice. You want to limit the amount information you give your opponent. Looking distraught over a decision they made helps them plan further activations in their turn and lets them in on your potential game plan. That’s pretty bad. No matter what, act like everything is going according to your plan. Aside from limiting information, there’s a significant intimidation factor that cannot be underestimated especially when timed turns are involved. Projecting your confidence can often make an opponent miss the correct move. Simply by remaining calm and acting like everything was happening the way I wanted it to, I have had opponents concede to me when I was dead on the board.
  3. Putting your opponent on tilt (while following Wheaton’s Law) is a good thing. This is pretty discretionary and can be difficult to do without crossing some lines. However, if you can do it while being polite, you give yourself a large advantage. A tilted opponent is usually so frustrated that their plays are seldom optimal and, if the tilt is bad enough, they lose all confidence and prematurely decide they have lost. Everyone gets thrown off by different things, so you need to look for clues. Certain units can make players feel like they’ve already lost the game, some players get tilted by being consistently reminded of certain rules they have been messing up, and with others it can be as simple as pointing out how hot your dice are.
  4. Confirm your opponent’s fallacies. If your opponent claims to have intimate knowledge of what your strategy must be or that your list definitely revolves around a specific model, do not dispel his delusions. Obviously, if he has rules wrong let the poor bastard know, but if he decides that your eGaspy list is ALL about Deathjack, tell him about how amazing he has been for you. It will make your true game plan that much easier to pull off.
  5. Being friendly and nice will win you some games. This is probably the most two faced shit I will ever write, but its true. By interacting with an opponent in a friendly, casual way at a tournament, you can lower their guard. You can get them into a beer-and-pretzels mindset instead of a competitive one and watch the mistakes pile up. You should be doing this anyway, but its definitely less reason to be a douche bag.


Game psychology is a pretty deep topic and I’m probably not qualified to go a lot further than what I’ve written. The most important thing to take away from this is that the above are tools; they will not suddenly win you tournaments. At the very best, they give you that extra 3-5% you need to go from second to first. And seriously, don’t be a fucking asshole with this shit. You can do this junk without crossing the sportsmanship line. Don’t make nice-guy competitive players like me get lumped in with the dregs of game store society.


One Response to “JEDI MIND TRICKS”

  1. This is a great article and you bring up a very good point. When it comes down to it, Warmachine, like any other competitive game, is about winning. Like you said, playing the psychological game is another tool in your arsenal, and not using every available tool is…unwise…

    I often use the same tactics that you have highlighted in my games. So far my only caster is PDenny, and her “tricky” play style seem to fit well with these psychological “tricks”.

    A question for you. Have you ever been on the receiving end of the psychological game? If so, how did you react? I can only assume that understanding how to manipulate your opponent and play on their weaknesses helps you identify when they are trying to do the same to you.


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