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"Competitive" vs "Casual", are they really that different?

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This was prompted by the recent poll, and it struck me that I don't see a lot of difference between playing at home, on a games night, or in a tournament.

In all cases, I'm going to play a fun game, roll some dice and try my best to fulfill the objectives.

I guess the only difference is at home it's OK if we take 5 hours to play :D.

A learning game for a new or less experienced player is, of course, a very different thing.

Do you think it's a false dichotomy? Or do you play differently against experienced opponents depending on the context?

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In this game, IMO, there is no true difference between "Casual" and "Competitive" list build. Any list can score any result when the minimum of boxes are checked.

The real difference between Casual and Competitive in this game is, still IMO, the way you play it. If you play it straight, without thinking a lot, then you are a casual.
If in the opposite you put your mind in the game, you try to outplay your opponent, you play "seriously" and you don't take more than 2h for a game, then you are a competitive.

I am the perfect exemple of "I am winning without rolling dice". I play with the following fact in my head : I will never touch, nor really killing anything. So I play accordingly. But I am a competitive player in my soul (at least for this game).

If I was a more casual, I would go with my rebels right in the open, trying to fight back Imperial, and not playing "dirty".

 

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I personally stay away from tournaments like the plague. It's just not my thing. Too serious. Too much meta talk. Sucks the fun right out of the game for me. But in addition to time differences, I think the biggest difference is the armies that people play. In a casual game, you'll see a more variety. People testing and trying. I love that. In the few tournaments I've witnessed, it's just a handful of the same meta lists. 

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To me, there are a few but subtle differences:

Competitive players primary objective is enjoying the thrill or challenge of being the better player. The mindset is more about beating the others there. Competitive play often means taking any and all advantage - you’ve specifically chosen the units that mathematically give you the greatest odds based on some cold calculus and trying to only have the most efficient units by point value possible. It also means practicing with said list until you can get precisely what you want done in a time limit.

 

Casuals have a wide range of reasons to play - some are just having fun hanging out with other people who like Star Wars or minis. Some are just looking to move the minis around and chuck some dice. Maybe some of them are playing to win, but they’re doing so like Timmy or Johnny and not at all like Spike. Casuals are often less worried about time limit, because it’s just the one game anyway.

You can technically play a competitive list with a casual mindset, and if you’re a really good Johnny you may even be able to play a casual list with a competitive mindset.

While the lists change often between the two, the biggest meaningful difference remains the motivation to participate. Is it for competitive reasons and trying to be the best? Or is the value strictly in the mere participation for you?

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In tournament play, I might enforce rules a bit harder and try to optimize my list. If My opponent deploys a unit slighly outside a deployment zone or if we have a cover dispute, I will probably don't Care on a casual game Night however I might want to doble check mesaurments or los from both sides etc.

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I think there is a difference, but at an event you will see serious competitive players and casual players. Though its important to differentiate between competitive lists and players.

There certainly is a difference in unit choice. I don't think you see a competitive player take a T-47 in a Rebel list if they are trying to win an event. You might see a casual player take it to the event.

Equally, you might see a 'Competitive' player take an unusual list with some traditionally non-competitive elements to try something out, as the competitiveness of a unit will vary as the meta/terrain changes.

In short, yes there is a difference, but that doesn't make one 'better' than another, or mean they are not cross compatible. They are natural consequences of a wargame.

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Posted (edited)

Personally I try and play the same regardless of whether I’m just playing a game my kitchen table or at a tourney.  I might be slightly more serious at a tourney, but ultimately I’m still there to have fun, hang out with people, and roll some dice while pushing little plastic Star Wars dudes around the table.

I’ve always kind of resented the mindset that “fun and relaxed” and “competitive” are mutually exclusive.

I think people bring pre-conceptions about competitive play over from other games like 40k, which have a much stronger and more corrosive WAAC mentality.  That hasn’t been my experience at all with Legion.  I still remember during the LVO final cut games when folks were walking around with their shoes off, drinking beer, and eating burgers.

Edited by Orkimedes

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9 minutes ago, Orkimedes said:

Personally I try and play the same regardless of whether I’m just playing a game my kitchen table or at a tourney.  I might be slightly more serious at a tourney, but ultimately I’m still there to have fun, hang out with people, and roll some dice while pushing little plastic Star Wars dudes around the table.

I’ve always kind of resented the mindset that “fun and relaxed” and “competitive” are mutually exclusive.

I think people bring pre-conceptions about competitive play over from other games like 40k, which have a much stronger and more corrosive WAAC mentality.  That hasn’t been my experience at all with Legion.  I still remember during the LVO final cut games when folks were walking around with their shoes off, drinking beer, and eating burgers.

This.

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9 minutes ago, Orkimedes said:

I’ve always kind of resented the mindset that “fun and relaxed” and “competitive” are mutually exclusive.

I’ve always viewed it as more of a spectrum than anything else, but I see the point. I’ve seen the entire spectrum over in x-wing. I’ve also seen a few argumentative people in legion over at the LGS, but nowhere near the levels of x-wing try hard WAAC.

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38 minutes ago, Orkimedes said:

I think people bring pre-conceptions about competitive play over from other games like 40k, which have a much stronger and more corrosive WAAC mentality.  That hasn’t been my experience at all with Legion.  I still remember during the LVO final cut games when folks were walking around with their shoes off, drinking beer, and eating burgers.

I've played in the GW 30k/Heresy scene a little as well as 40k, and there was always a perception within that community that they played 'fluffy, narrative' lists and that it wasn't a competitive game, but its reached the point that you still need to bring certain units to be able to stand a chance at winning, which has ultimately killed my enjoyment of, and desire to play in, that system. (yeah, i know there are wider range of unit types and GW/FW rules aren't always the most balanced!). But there is a risk in saying 'We aren't like 40k therefore we are more casual and less competitive'. FFG makes competitive games. Some seem more balanced (Legion) and others less so (X-Wing 2.0 seems to be more swingy/polar), but they try and design each unit to be balanced, to make it appeal to gamers and generate sales. I'm not sure that GW's model is that tight! 

To put it in context, I have a colleague at work (a 40k player) who has won 90+ of all his games and insists hes not a competitive player, but measures everything in its points efficiency. How much damage it can put out compared to what it can absorb? What are the competing options in that slot in his list? Whether or not he likes the look of that unit has no relevance to whether he will use it. He takes multiple lists to the club nights, tweaked slightly to different opponents, but will complain about anyone who he believes is 'list tailoring' for opponents. His opponents list is really strong if he didn't table them until turn 3 or 4, and is using a 'broken' combo somehow if they win. My regular Legion opponent and I build to theme (so an Endor force would consist of things that weren't on Endor in the canon), but if we were to take a list and lose to him, he'd be full of advice as to how to make the army better by just taking unit X regardless of theme. 

Is he competitive? No, as far as hes concerned because he always has a unit that is slightly sub-optimal for him, and uses an army that isn't considered top tier in the competitive tournament scene. But to me? Yes, hes competitive. He just equates competitive to being one of 'those guys', slowplaying, bending the rules, calling a judge every vaguely contentious issue etc.

44 minutes ago, Orkimedes said:

I’ve always kind of resented the mindset that “fun and relaxed” and “competitive” are mutually exclusive.

This is completely true. I am not a competitive player at all. I don't want to lose every game, but i'd rather find a list that suits my play style and persevere with it for a while to understand how it works and have fun using that. I think the terms mean different things to different people and are often difficult to quantify.

Play with a fun and relaxed attitude and it doesn't matter how competitive you are, your opponent and you should both be having fun. After all, I'm sure that's part of the reason we play these games! (and to escape wives/partners/children/real life!!)

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I think the difference has to do with expectations. When I play at home, the lists will be sub-optimal and driven by character more than efficiency and expect the same from my son (or opponent when playing a pick-up game at the LGS). We are also willing to take the time to learn rules or play "close enough." At tournament, I expect to face optimized lists against players who try to follow rules with exactness.

I play at a very small venue in a rather rural area. I've never played against the common meta-elements, such as 3 sniper squads, because all the players purchase about one of each release. All the players care more about variety of units because the want to play Star Wars. That doesn't mean that when we have a tournament that players aren't optimizing their squads. The expectation is still that you will bring the best squad you can field.

The challenge seems to be about what your expectations are going into a game. If you face a highly optimized list when you built a less efficient squad just to try something new, it spoils the experience because you were expecting something else.

I don't think that there is a difference in player attitude when it comes to casual or competitive, however. You can be a good sport and pleasant opponent in a competitive environment just like in a casual one. You can be a poor sport in a casual environment as well; just a few months ago I had to talk to my son (12) after a game at home because he was displaying such poor sportsmanship.

 

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The difference is largely overblown vs reality.  Casual games are 90% of the time hardly distinguishable from competitive ones, since the competitiveness is baked into any game of this sort anyway.  Sure, the atmosphere will be more laid back, but the game itself is essentially the same. 

 

That said, I think there are 3 differences that IMO crop often enough to warrant mention.

 

1) list building.  If you know you’re playing “casual” games, people often bring less netlisty armies.  Competitive players often enjoy a few relaxed games where they can use units they want to but have little or no place in a tournament.   At home, the t47 comes out of its box regularly but otherwise stays put quietly if going to the store to play.

 

2) less than optimal/narrative  or riskier choices are made, cuz why not.  Larger gambles are taken, people will intentionally make a risky move with a large potential payoff they otherwise wouldn’t becuase frankly it’ll be cool if it does work.  

 

3) house rules can and do crop up and that just doesn’t happen, for good reasons mind, in a competitive or more formal game.  A few tweaks to a mission, some unique terrain, whatever.  Sometimes cool, sometimes bad.

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I play often with my girlfriend and 3 friends and went to a tournament cause i wanted to see variety.

Paradox: everyone was leia-luke+swarm and veers-boba lists. Too boring.

At least in my little group we saw vader, han, chewie, palpatine... you know the star wars character since this is a star wars game.

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I think the OP’s question is interesting but perhaps worded poorly.  Rather than using the ‘competitive’ vs ‘casual’ comparison (which is a bit of a dog whistle statement leading to inevitable  ‘I’m competitive but chill and friendly’ anecdotes), I would have gone “Strategist” vs “Cinematic” or similar.

The difference is simply the selecting of units out of nostalgia (like me and my Wookie minor obsession) vs. selecting units to fit a strategy - which at the moment is predominately maximizing activations.  The rules still work the same either way and the outcome is still a combination of skill and luck.  So you can’t tell either player type apart on the tabletop at a distance, and it is only when you get close enough to see their little army men that you get an inkling.

Nothing wrong with either play style as long as both players are in the same mind set.  It’s just only when we get crossed views that issues ensue.

Case in point: if I sat down to a friendly game and saw a netlisted 3 sniper,  Boba & Veers list across from me, I’d ask if they want to actually bother playing it out against my 3 core unit gaggle of fur. It would not be much fun getting tabled by turn 3 on the off-chance their dice went ice cold so I could squeak out a win, so why waste my limited free time?

tLDR: Put me down as a filthy casual

 

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6 minutes ago, Kwatchi said:

I think the OP’s question is interesting but perhaps worded poorly.  Rather than using the ‘competitive’ vs ‘casual’ comparison (which is a bit of a dog whistle statement leading to inevitable  ‘I’m competitive but chill and friendly’ anecdotes), I would have gone “Strategist” vs “Cinematic” or similar.

The difference is simply the selecting of units out of nostalgia (like me and my Wookie minor obsession) vs. selecting units to fit a strategy - which at the moment is predominately maximizing activations.  The rules still work the same either way and the outcome is still a combination of skill and luck.  So you can’t tell either player type apart on the tabletop at a distance, and it is only when you get close enough to see their little army men that you get an inkling.

Nothing wrong with either play style as long as both players are in the same mind set.  It’s just only when we get crossed views that issues ensue.

Case in point: if I sat down to a friendly game and saw a netlisted 3 sniper,  Boba & Veers list across from me, I’d ask if they want to actually bother playing it out against my 3 core unit gaggle of fur. It would not be much fun getting tabled by turn 3 on the off-chance their dice went ice cold so I could squeak out a win, so why waste my limited free time?

tLDR: Put me down as a filthy casual

 

This is really what I see as a "competitive" player in this game, max activations, or at least saying "I can't play a list without X number of activations," and loading up on sniper teams, or talking in depth about math.

All valid ways to play and enjoy the game, but that's how I would "define" a competitive player.

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Posted (edited)
21 minutes ago, Qark said:

For me the difference is really obvious. Playing for fun: don't include any strike teams. Playing competitively: include 3 strike teams before thinking about the rest of the list.

Well, maybe ONE strike team because you’re trying to use your box of minis and ran out of toys so you’re using both the full unit and the strike team (or you’re just shy on points for the full unit so you take one strike team as filler).

I consider myself casual, and I often end up with a single strike team depending on list composition with how points fill out. I prefer the big unit of scouts/commandos though when possible. 

Edited by ScummyRebel

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In my area there isn't any game store to speak of and the population of players is so small that the "competitive" scene doesn't really exist. I host the tournaments here, but the only prize is bragging rights and not needing to buy the beer. For everyone except me this is their first miniatures game they've ever played and only play this one because it's Star Wars (It would've been LoTR SBG otherwise), so I see a lot of what would be considered casual lists around here with stuff like Vader and the ST always showing up because people like them. I regularly use Wookies in my lists because they're a blast to play with, and they've won me games. Sniper strike teams have more or less been banned here not because they're too good, but because they're boring to play with and against.

All that being said, once the game starts the gloves are off. We're all either family or close friends so even though the prize is bragging rights, so the need to show your stuff is always on full display.

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It's really interesting to read the replies here.

There seems to be a subset of people who believe that strike teams = "competitive" and implicitly that "competitive" = jerk.

Personally I hate the idea of passing judgement on someone just because they include snipers or the Airspeeder or whatever. Just play the game and have fun, and judge people based on their actions, not some pre-concieved idea of what units are "allowed" or what is "netlisting". I just don't get all the perjoratives that get thrown around.

I think Ork summed up my thoughts very well.

I think the idea that being in a tournament gives you a licence to be a **** is wrong. That's not being "competitive", it's just being a ****, and that happens with T-47s, Exhaust weapons and no time-limit too ;).

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There is no hard line between competitive and casual, it's a continuum.

9 hours ago, TheDeathwatch said:

But there is a risk in saying 'We aren't like 40k therefore we are more casual and less competitive'. [...]

To put it in context, I have a colleague at work (a 40k player) who has won 90+ of all his games and insists hes not a competitive player, but measures everything in its points efficiency. [...] My regular Legion opponent and I build to theme (so an Endor force would consist of things that weren't on Endor in the canon), but if we were to take a list and lose to him, he'd be full of advice as to how to make the army better by just taking unit X regardless of theme. 

Is he competitive? No, as far as he's concerned because he always has a unit that is slightly sub-optimal for him, and uses an army that isn't considered top tier in the competitive tournament scene. But to me? Yes, he's competitive. [...] I think the terms mean different things to different people and are often difficult to quantify.

This is a perfect example...


Another thing to remember is that just like everybody thinks they are an 'above average driver', nobody will ever say they are 'too competitive'... oddly nobody is 'so casual' either that they don't try to win.

 

In my experience folks have a mix of competitive and casual attributes. Some times and situations I am more or less competitive... and if you have a good balance and we're aligned on the expectations, then I'll probably enjoy playing you... if not... then... well shoot at least we're still playing Legion and players are hard to come by!

Competitive behaviors in my opponent I enjoy:

  • Being knowledgable about unit stats and cost efficiencies, meta templates and counters.
  • Being able to talk about, appreciate, and use synergies. 
  • Cleverly designed lists with clever jank or elegant efficiency.
  • Trying hard to win within the rules and spirit of the game - don't tell me how you would win!

Casual behaviors in my opponent I enjoy:

  • Pew pew sounds and generally always pausing to appreciate the crazy narrative and thematic things that happen, "OMG can you believe how Vader was such a badass! makes light saber noises and pantomimes force choking"
  • Reminding folks of things to consider before making their move. "Don't forget my guys here have range 4 so I will be able to fire on you if you go that far."
  • Suggesting slightly more optimal choices to an opponent once their intent is clear. "Ok, if you're going there you could split fire..."
  • Being explicit about intent when measuring and moving. "I wanna get line of sight to shoot at that unit, but I'm staying out of charge range of your Wookies."
  • Beautifully thematic armies or lists.

Competitive behaviors in my opponent I don't enjoy:

  • Lack of appreciation or understanding for why I would choose to not optimize efficiency over theme/lore/jank/Timmy.
  • No table talk appreciating the battle that is being played out by our fantasy toys. General lack of Star Wars lore knowledge or interest.
  • Allowing minor but devastating play mistakes to pass without comment so they can be exploited in subsequent turns. As in, I say "Ok I'm gong move my Boba here behind this wall where there no LOS," then their turn they say "Aha, but you forgot to rotate the model so it points at your deployment zone, and I can actually see the tip of your barrel!"
  • Unpainted units.
  • Trick/skill dice rolling.

Casual behaviors in my opponent I don't enjoy:

  • Lack of appreciation or understanding for why I would choose to optimize efficiency over theme/lore.
  • Complaining about how the rules/units don't fit lore.
  • Complaining about tournaments.
  • Analysis paralysis.

 

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1 hour ago, CaptainRocket said:

There is no hard line between competitive and casual, it's a continuum.

This is a perfect example...


Another thing to remember is that just like everybody thinks they are an 'above average driver', nobody will ever say they are 'too competitive'... oddly nobody is 'so casual' either that they don't try to win.

 

In my experience folks have a mix of competitive and casual attributes. Some times and situations I am more or less competitive... and if you have a good balance and we're aligned on the expectations, then I'll probably enjoy playing you... if not... then... well shoot at least we're still playing Legion and players are hard to come by!

Competitive behaviors in my opponent I enjoy:

  • Being knowledgable about unit stats and cost efficiencies, meta templates and counters.
  • Being able to talk about, appreciate, and use synergies. 
  • Cleverly designed lists with clever jank or elegant efficiency.
  • Trying hard to win within the rules and spirit of the game - don't tell me how you would win!

Casual behaviors in my opponent I enjoy:

  • Pew pew sounds and generally always pausing to appreciate the crazy narrative and thematic things that happen, "OMG can you believe how Vader was such a badass! makes light saber noises and pantomimes force choking"
  • Reminding folks of things to consider before making their move. "Don't forget my guys here have range 4 so I will be able to fire on you if you go that far."
  • Suggesting slightly more optimal choices to an opponent once their intent is clear. "Ok, if you're going there you could split fire..."
  • Being explicit about intent when measuring and moving. "I wanna get line of sight to shoot at that unit, but I'm staying out of charge range of your Wookies."
  • Beautifully thematic armies or lists.

Competitive behaviors in my opponent I don't enjoy:

  • Lack of appreciation or understanding for why I would choose to not optimize efficiency over theme/lore/jank/Timmy.
  • No table talk appreciating the battle that is being played out by our fantasy toys. General lack of Star Wars lore knowledge or interest.
  • Allowing minor but devastating play mistakes to pass without comment so they can be exploited in subsequent turns. As in, I say "Ok I'm gong move my Boba here behind this wall where there no LOS," then their turn they say "Aha, but you forgot to rotate the model so it points at your deployment zone, and I can actually see the tip of your barrel!"
  • Unpainted units.
  • Trick/skill dice rolling.

Casual behaviors in my opponent I don't enjoy:

  • Lack of appreciation or understanding for why I would choose to optimize efficiency over theme/lore.
  • Complaining about how the rules/units don't fit lore.
  • Complaining about tournaments.
  • Analysis paralysis.

 

Well said.

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Posted (edited)

What I'm gathering is that everyone is simply different. There isn't a handful of categories to shove everyone in. I read through these replies and some of the 3 paragraph definitions of casual sound strait up competitive to me. Others say there's barely a difference, because in both cases they play by the rules with the goal of having fun and winning. And to them, that is the truth. Meanwhile someone is looking at them thinking "ease up you competitive jerk", and someone else is thinking "you brought Wookiees? Do you even want to win?" it's all perspective. Find the people who play like you and forget the categories. 

Edited by AldousSnow
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