This story takes place in Gliwice, winter 1997. Long time ago. I am at the collage and of course I run a games club there. We play RPG and miniatures games every Wednesday and Friday evening. I run Warhammer Battle campaign for more than 10 players, with huge map of provinces, with additional set of rules, with development system (when you conquer province you are allowed to get magical stuff, gold, soldiers…). We have a great time.
One day doors open and we see a kid. He may be 15 years old. OK, maybe 16. Kid. He enters and silently says something like: 'I’ve heard you can play Warhammer Battle here…’
We look at each other and laugh. You know, we were at collage and this 15 years old kid…
Finally Tom points his finger at kid and asks: 'You play? I challenge you! My name is Tom by the way.’
Before we move on, few words about Tom. I met him few years earlier. He was 'munchkin type’ player. He exploited every single game he played. I met him when I was playing Doom Trooper CCG, then we played Warhammer Batle, then many other games. He always won. And always broke the system to do that. No remorse. No conscience. No honor.
Tom was exploiting my Warhammer campaign those days. He played Undead army. None of players in the campaign had a magical weaponry yet(because of development rules they needed to conquer lands with magical weapons before they could have them) so he used Wraights regiment in the campaign. Wragihts were immune to non-magical weapons.
Yeah. That kind of player.
That day when kid entered our club Tom had something about 10 wins in a row in a campaign and still no fucking idea about fair play.
So he challenged a kid. He saw it as a easy prey.
And you all probably know how the story goes then…
Next week kid came to our club with his Wood elves army. He set up his forces and in 20 minutes defeated Tom.
Just like that.Kicked his ass in less than half an hour.
Even today, when I am writing this right now, 17 years later, I am still smiling. That was amazing.
After 30 minutes it was over and Tom was defeated. He was standing in the room and couldn’t believe what just happened. Kid was looking at us not fully understanding why we all have big smiles on our faces. 'Someone would play with me? It was quite short.’ he asked.
How it was possible that he crushed Tom? He spent some time preparing to the battle and thinking what he can do best. And he did it.He approached Tom’s regiment with elven Wardancers unit, made a special dance and direct all 18 hits against one model – Vampire, general of the Undead army. Vampire was not a Wright. Was not immune to non magical weapon. Kid killed general and Wraights vanished. Simple. He hit precisely in the guts.
17 years later we are still friends. I play with Kid football every Monday. We play RPG games, we discuss games, we are really good friends.
With Tom we are friends too. In the meantime Tom has won couple of tournaments. He was European Champion in L5R CCG. Twice. And Vampire CCG European Champion too. Not to mention winning Polish Champion few years in a row in both games. He is winning every competition he starts. Fair play? Not too much. Exploiting holes in the rules? Oh yes!
As you suppose both of these guys are my testers. Most of my games were tested by them. Why? Because they are best players I met in my life. If my game has a winning strategy, they will find it and point it out.
I have Mst in my team too, the guy who three times in a row won our local board game league – beating all those nerds who love Brass, Agricola, Le Havre…
Michal Oracz goes to tournaments of NS HEX and looks for best players. If he sees a very good player, he adds him to his very own NS HEX team – group of best players in Poland. They help Michal test new armies.
That’s how it works. That’s what you need if you design games. You don’t have to be smart ass. You just have to know one.
I am not that good player. I can not play my games. I play and I got kicked every time. But this is OK, as long as I have team who supports me. Team of very good players who search for holes in my games, players who play very well and who can really find winning strategies that are brilliant.
I know there is a smartass living out there who will beat my team one day. I know it is coming. I will read on BGG that someone found a winning strategy in one of my games. And I will cry.
But you guys have to do your best to find it. Because my team found most of them before I published the game. And if there is a hole in one of my games, it is hidden really really deep.
I challenge you. Beat my team. Find a hole.