Friday, June 14, 2013

What is "WAAC"?

     Among wargamers, there's a "dirty word" generally reserved for the worst type of player at the table-  "WAAC."  It stands for "Win At All Costs."  It is also perhaps the stupidest thing to ever come up in gaming, and that's not an easy prize to win.  

     Win at all Costs.  

     This is a dirty phrase used to describe "bad players."  Please note that was in quotes... the problem is, the phrase is very poorly defined, and everyone seems to have a different definition of what "all costs" is.  None of which are actually correct.  See, the problem is, WAAC is generally assigned to anyone who played more severely than you do... regardless of if that's actually WAAC play or not. It's the "socially acceptable expletive" used to denigrate someone who plays the game a different way than you do.  While sometimes there may be well-warranted issues if your opponent's play style and the venue do not match up well, unless they came to the table wearing a bomb vest or showing you pictures of your loved ones being held captive until the end of the game, "all costs" I think can be fairly safely ruled out.  

     Instead, let's take a moment to look at how people actually play:

     (Note:  Use of male pronouns is for ease of writing. In no way do I feel the Hobby is or should be all male, nor do I doubt that there are female players in all the following categories.)

The Cheater-
Come on, did you really expect anyone else?

     This guy is generally accept by everyone as a WAAC player.  There's a bunch of ways to fit into this category:  Intentional mis-measuring, intentional "forgetting" of rules, sweeping dice before your opponent can tell you told him you made more saves than you did, to even using loaded dice or incorrect measuring devices.  This guy is no good, and ruins games for everybody, because it's all about him.  Once you identify the Cheater, your best bet is to simply ban them from playing with your group (if you have the authority) or refuse to play them yourself.

The Ultra Competitive Player-
Strike First. Strike Hard. No Mercy.

     The Ultra Competitive Player, or UCP for short, is the guy who lives and breathes for tournament play.  His belief is often that "if it's legal, it's playable, so don't complain if I use it."  The UCP is often- but not always- in the realm of "over powered," "cheese lists," and "Rules as Written" loophole tricks. To less competitive players, they may sometimes appear "WAAC,"  which as discussed above is incorrect- they just play their game a different way than you. They are generally the best versed in the rules of the game, have studied every army or faction book simply to know what to expect, and will likely know your own rules better than you do.  As far as banning these guys... there's really no leg to stand on, and for good reason- they're actually not doing anything wrong.  If you know for a fact you're not going to enjoy playing them, then generally don't.  They're pretty easy to avoid, as they tend to play (and want to play) tournaments, tournament players, and people prepping for highly competitive environments- so if you avoid those environments, and politely turn down "friendly" game requests form them, there's really never any likelihood of playing them.  

The Competitive Player-

No, really... a cybernetic platypus?
Who thought this was needed?

     The Competitive Player, the CP, is a strange hybrid creature, a duck billed platypus of a gamer.  They are generally a Story player or a Painter/Converter who either grew up surrounded by Ultra Competitive Players and adapted, or they are an Ultra Competitive Player that hamstrings himself by using "fluff based lists" or "rule of cool" models.  This guy is less likely to be considered WAAC, but can stumble into it without realizing it- aiming for a "themed" list and not realizing the underlying theme is "beat the other guy senseless." Competitive players have generally skimmed all the different factions... but not really memorized their rules, more likely just read the stories and looked at pictures. Against other CPs he'll always be a good game.  Against UCPs both players may or may not have fun due to his list not being "strong enough", and against Story Players or Painter/Converters both players may not have fun for the exact opposite reason.

The Painter/Converter-

Some armies almost look too good to kill. Almost.
     This guy is in it for the models.  The Painter/Converter, or P/C, is all about building his army to look the coolest on the table.  All too often, this means they "look good dying."  This guy generally gets offended if you ask what studio he bought the painted figures from. While he is fairly non-competitive, let's face it: we all like to win.  However, while his generalship may be superior, all too often his lists will be under powered as models are chosen based on appearance not statline.  Now there's a few P/C's that'll surprise you and give you a serious run on the table... but for the most part this category of gamer tends to prefer pick-up games of a friendly variety.  The P/C is generally your least WAAC-ish kind of gamer... unless he particularly fancies the look of the single most killy unit in the game, in which case he probably has the max number of units of them and doesn't necessarily realize it's unfun for you- "'cause they're so darn pretty!" As far as not having fun playing this guy... it can happen, especially if you were trying to test out some killer UCP list- all you accomplished is proving you can beat up a list you already knew wasn't as aggressively built as soon as you deployed .  If you're less interested in smashing face, this guy is a great play, in that you're guaranteed to have some fantastic soldierdolls to look at.

The Story Player-
It's not a wargame... it's three dimensional fiction.
     This guy is in it for the background of the game, more so than the game itself.  He may or may not have all the rules perfect, but he's sure as the day is long going to know every bit of fluff about each and every unit on the table- yours and his- and might even offer to show you some fanfic before or after the game.  This type of player lives and breathes for campaigns, or "themed tournaments", or any avenue that focuses on the world view more than the statline or the models themselves. Much like the P/C, the SP is unlikely to drift into WAAC-ville, except to build "historical lists" based on certain unwinnable battles against incredibly killy forces. "Hey, remember in the 'Jerks of the Galaxy' supplement the Nigh Impenetrable Poobah's Unbeatable Hoarde?  Yeah, I recreated it, let's play!"  His hobby is telling movies on the tabletop.  Oddly, he's often okay with loosing so long as the backstory supports it, and sometimes upset at winning when the army was "supposed to loose." Generally, games against the SP are "friendly" games, so you're not likely to run into many problems.... just avoid him taking the Nigh Impenetrable Poobah out of his case.

     So, there you have it.  Five generic over-arching archetypes of gamers... and "WAAC" isn't actually one of them.  To be fair, I also don't think there's many players who are 100% of any one archetype, and most are generally a mixture of two or three with heavy "tendencies."  Next time you're ready to toss that expletive out... stop and think.  Did you opponent actually deserve it, or did you maybe go into the game with an unrealistic expectation of what kind of game you were going to get?

See you on the other side of the table.

The Second Class Elitist.  


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  2. Your article actually WAS very interesting. I googled WAAC and your page came up. (and a note - johnson is a spammer)

  3. You completely left out the archetype most likely to be a WAAC gamer: the Rules Lawyer. And I don't mean the UCP who knows all the damn rules forwards and backwards, I mean That Guy (tm) who spends most of the game bending a rule at a time to favor themselves so they can win no matter the cost (in time, energy or their own face). If you think they don't exist in tabletop, I have to wonder if you've really gotten around much, because they seem to exist at every wargaming shop I've ever spent more than 2-3 nights playing games at. And they are the epitome of WAAC - you will never have an enjoyable game with this archetype no matter which archetype you are yourself.