Hacking the Cortex: The Pendulum

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Today, I’m going to get started on the Tempo series. There have been several abandoned attempts to write the first article in the series, but in the end the only way to write something is to put one word after the last one until you’ve got a thing. To hell with organised thoughts, I’ll organise them after they exist, not before!

So onward, to the first of what will likely be many metaphors/analogies/similes wielded in my attempts to articulate tempo.

You see, articulating it really is the problem. Tempo is something I think I’m really good at in games. I get it. I can see it changing throughout a game and generally know what I need to do to change it.

But I find it really hard to explain any of it, let alone what “it” is.

Wait, didn’t I just say I was done with excuses?

Right. Pendulums.

WMH is a turn based game.

This, in itself, not a revelation.

But it leads me to the visual metaphor of a pendulum as the core idea in tempo. On your turn, it swings right-to-left, on theirs it swings back. However, this pendulum is not one that’s running a clock. It’s one you can apply force to in one direction or another.

In  a game where neither player is paying particular attention to Tempo, it acts mostly like a real pendulum. Trade, counter trade, and so on. Like clockwork.

(Hey, this metaphor’s actually kinda working!)

However, you can manipulate the pendulum’s swing to some extent – at least, when it’s at the top of its arc on your side, you have the opportunity to give it a push.

Of course, if you push it harder, it’ll swing back harder – that is, if you commit a lot of troops forward, then you’ll lose more in the return. If you push up the board aggressive, the opponent has to do the same.

With that push, you’ve changed the tempo of the game, accelerating the speed of engagement and the speed at which the back and forth of trading has to go. Bigger swings. Faster swings.

Similarly, you can slow the pendulum. Commit less, sandpaper away at the enemy forces. Kill what you can kill without losing much in return, but don’t do anything that forces the enemy to take any particular action. Play Warders that will never die, but don’t kill a lot either. That sort of thing.

Here’s another thing about Tempo –  whether you’re aware of it or not, your list has a tempo it prefers to function at. A lot of lists dictate tempo by accident, like the aforementioned Warders. Being aware of this factor on the table helps you keep the game at the pace you want it at. So give the pendulum some thought. What speed are you comfortable at? Are you a player who scoffs at turn 4 being for wimps? Or the sort who likes to watch the opponent’s clockwork bunny prove it ain’t no energizer as he hits turn 8 and winds down to nothing, allowing you to stomp all over his drained and hapless models?

What I hope to do with this series is either a) articulate the concept of Tempo and how to control it well enough you learn something or b) talk enough nonsense with evocative enough analogies/metaphors/similes (I’ll alternate between them without apology, and often mid sentence) that you start to think about it for yourself and then explain it to me in the comments better than I did in the articles.

Know Yourself, and Go In Swingin’


5 thoughts on “Hacking the Cortex: The Pendulum

  1. The Harkevich 5-Jack list I’ve been playing with a lot of enthusiasm is definitely a slow tempo one. Too many things happening too fast, and I just might be at a loss for options.

  2. Excellent article. Tempo is a concept that is very hard to illustrate or describe for a game like Warmachine, but it’s a very important concept to understand when your’e trying to crack mid-to-high level play.

    Along with your statement of identifying what style of tempo you like to play, I think its very important to identify what style of tempo your opponent is going to try and play, and try to disrupt or adapt to it as best you can. If you’re set up for a sprint and your opponent’s list is a marathon, you do not want to get dragged into his quagmire (Warders seemed to be designed around this entire idea.)

    Hacking the Cortex is always a great read. I look forward to more articles on this particular topic. 🙂

  3. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on determining the optimal tempo of your list, as well as any thoughts you have on how to design a list to a certain tempo.

    Wouldn’t hurt to try and articulate what, if any, are the categories of tempo.

  4. I really like where this is going. Explaining things when you basically just ‘feel’ them while playing is damn hard, but I think your pendulum metaphor works really well (and few metaphors are perfect anyway).

    I used to be a slow tempo guy, though I never really thought much about it until you began this series, but I’ve recently begun an adventure in insane speed tempo, and it’s catching a lot of people by surprise, as balanced tempo lists simply cannot achieve the tempo needed to compete.

    One interesting thing I was considering while reading, is that the higher your tempo the greater effect a mistake will have. If you push the pendulum really slowly a slightly crooked push won’t mean much as the pendulum can right itself, but if you push as hard as you can it will topple if you don’t do it right.

  5. Pingback: Hacking The Cortex: Spacetime. | Overload Online

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