Looking for a way to speed up how fast you master the new edition of 40K? You might want to consider trying Vassal.
For those who haven’t heard of it, Vassal is a program that allows users to play turn based games online. It’s very basic, and rule-system agnostic (a fancy way of saying it doesn’t know what you’re playing and what the rules are, but just lets you get on with whatever it is). Despite looking like a 1990s Amiga game at best, it has grown to be a huge hit with competitive gamers -especially for FFG’s X-Wing and Star Wars Armada.
In X-Wing in particular, tournament gamers from around the world have credited Vassal as a key contributor to honing their skills and improving their game, for reasons I’ll briefly cover below. I must have logged hundreds of hours worth of games on Vassal back while I was an avid X-Wing player, including participating in several Leagues and international tournaments.
So here I go again with a little proselytism in an attempt to show some reasons why so many people have though it is worth the effort of installing and getting the hang of, even though it looks -and is- so primitive and could never come close to the joy of playing socially with real solid models.
You can get more games in
In a gamer’s world, more games are better than less games. Having a totally different way to get games in means you have the opportunity to get more practice, try more things, and experiment more. I had to stay home this morning to wait for a delivery -resulting in a game with a chance to try a new Eldrad psyker list I had whipped up earlier.
I hadn’t actually expected to be able to try it out until next week, but one game vs a player from across the country already showed me some tweaks and improvements I could make.
Screenshot from this morning, and a little shout out to the players who were online:
You can try before you buy
Models are expensive, and it’s not just the money. Building and painting them is a major commitment, and not all of us are swimming in free time. I’ve played 7 games of 40K on Vassal in the 2 weeks since 8th Edition was released, and I’ve gone through a lot of test models and units. By this I mean at least a thousand pounds worth of toys tested, of which only some have made the cut and onto my orders from Gamesworkshop and Forgeworld, for a saving of… well actually, I kind of ordered more than I had originally intended to, but at least it is all stuff I now know I will use!
Want to try a super heavy? 100 conscripts? Flyers in the new edition? Fortification rules? The new sane version of the Eldar Wraithknight? A whole new army from a codex you have never even played before?
You can do it all on Vassal, for just the cost of the rule books.
You can play people outside your local ‘meta’
This is the big one, and part of why Vassal caught on so quickly with X-Wing players. Your local club will have a set of armies that is a combination of the original ideas people have come up with, netlists and armies made with a combination of influences and ideas.
It may have a very healthy, varied mixture of armies and archetypes, but I can guarantee it won’t have anything like the rich ecosystem you see online. The Vassal players in Xwing were going through lists and builds and counters and upgrades and tweaks at a speed that purely offline players could never match, and sometimes seemed to be months ahead.
The same should be the case for 40k, where seeing armies that have developed thousands of miles away can give all sorts of new ideas and inspirations to your own list building.
You can watch recordings
Now there’s a strange thing about watching vassal recordings; they give a very dispassionate view of the way the game unfolded. Clicking on individual units displays a line of where they started, how far they moved and where they ended the game. You can see a whole 2 hour battle in just minutes.
This may not sound like a big deal, but I found it actually changed the way I thought about some units and tactics, and it gives you a way to review your own strategies that you might not normally get in the heat of the moment. You can also clearly watch other people’s armies crash against one another in ways you wouldn’t normally, even in a video battle report.
You can practice against some of the very best
And finally, it’s generally only the more committed players who make the effort to install and learn Vassal. That doesn’t mean they are all great, but it does mean that the quality of average player is likely to be higher than the quality of the average player in a local pick-up game.
It also means you might have to adjust your expectations – you are probably more likely to lose a game on Vassal than at the local shop. Now that may sound like the strangest form of advertising for an online game ever, but it means you are likely to learn more from each game, and that each victory you do secure will be harder-fought and worth more.
In Xwing, I played the World Champion, Australian Champion, Aces champ, several European GT winners and a host of other people who had excelled in local events. 40K Vassal probably offers many of the 3++ readers their only realistic chance to play some of the other people who frequent the site but come from different countries. It’s still the only place I have played Kirby, despite both of us going to a couple of the same inter-state events.
Play the best, lose games, eventually win games, and get better. Hopefully having some fun along the way 😀
What do I need?
You need vassal, which is a small program that runs all sorts of table top games.
And you will need the 40K mod for it, the latest of which is 7.1:
(thanks for the link, NoOne)
Watch Vassal 40K
If you interested in trying some games, please feel free to post below. Maybe we’ll even organise an event of some sort in future!