Thursday, March 29, 2012

Game Theory: Opponents

It's always worth considering what kind of player you're facing. An opponent might look aggressive but be easily intimidated, or look disorganized while setting three layers of traps for you.

Treat your mother right!
I've stolen the definitions from an article I read about poker players a while back and it places everyone on a tight/loose and passive/aggressive scale.
Tight players
A tight player calculates odds and determine his chances. Rarely will a tight player commit to the Hail Mary attempt unless there's absolutely no other options available to him. This makes a tight player dangerous but predictable.
Loose players
A loose player goes on instinct and gut feeling. The loose player is unpredictable and defending against him is incredibly hard. Loose players tend to do poorly in tournaments because their crazy plans inevitably blow up in their faces.

Opponent types

Combined with the Passive/Aggressive scale this produces four types of players. Recognizing these types will help determining the best ways to apply pressure in a game, but like most things in the Game Theory section this is just a tool that might give you a little edge, and not the answer to every question in the book.
Tight Passive
This is me. I run math and scenarios in my head and never play the long odds unless I'm forced to. I design my lists to absorb an impact and then sucker punch him when he fails to do me any real harm. The weakness is that an opponent that knows me can rely on being safe from long shot attempts, and that frees up some resources he can use to hit me harder. I wish I could play Tight Aggressive and I'm working on getting better at it.
Tight Aggressive
This is probably the strongest type of player. They calculate and apply pressure where it hurts the most, and a good TA will keep you off balance until it's to late. TA players are usually highly skilled because it takes a lot of mental resources to dictate how an entire game plays out, which makes them incredibly dangerous opponents.
Loose Passive
I think these are the weakest types of players. They never really get into the game and usually end up doing something silly with no real chance of success. There are very few successful LP players and they're complete cakewalks for a TA player.
Loose Aggressive
These guys will come for you without much planning, cannot be reliably predicted and it only takes one of them to knock you out of the top five in a tournament. It bothers me that they throw away game after game and then luck out and nuke someone. Recognizing a LA player is vital because you can dedicate a mountain of resources to defense and hope they mess up.

Spotting the types

The easiest to spot is the Loose Passive player. Look for sloppy deployment and lists with no offensive tools, no thought given to activation sequences, and an army of questionable choices. Don't let your guard down as they might still have teeth or be Tight Aggressive players in disguise, but unless you're also a LP player you're in for an easy ride. The one exception to this rule is a LP Menoth player, as several of their builds can pull a LP player through.
  • Low offensive power.
  • Key models/units missing.
  • Sloppy deployment.
  • Sloppy activations.
The Loose Aggressive player is next up, and sloppy deployment is key here as well. The LA player usually brings "up in your face" models with lots of power and very few tricks, but make no mistakes because these guys will come straight for you. The LA player is also marked by his sloppy advances and lackluster defense of their casters.
  • Very high offensive power.
  • Little thought given to survival.
  • Sloppy deployment.
  • Extremely aggressive advances.
The Tight Passive players are nearly impossible to spot before they deploy, but impossible to miss when they do. TP players often have systems they adhere to and I've even seen a guy with a sheet full of little formations (I've made them but never brought them).
  • Armored and Tough lists.
  • Lists with many deterrents.
  • Organized deployment.
  • Calculated advances. 
The Tight Aggressive player is a right bastard because he often disguises himself as a Loose player. There's a system you're probably not seeing and when the hammer drops it's to late to act. I've worked really hard on identifying these guys but so far the only thing I've come up with is to look for discrepancies.
  • Streamlined lists with what looks like sloppy deployment.
  • Balanced lists playing very aggressively or building castles.
  • Cards, dice, tokens etc. are ordered and prepared.
The second part of this article will be up soon (I hope) and will deal with the best way of taking on the different types of players.


  1. Lamoron, I just want to say as new player to warmachine and cyrx your continuance to the community is amazing. I find myself reading this website over the pp forums because no one explains anything. I have no doubt I am making huge mistakes each game but i find myself catching them (sigh of coarse after the activation) but at least now i am seeing these mistakes and with any luck correct them next game.

    Thanks keep up the great work! I want to see a spotlight on scrap thralls theres got to be some use for mobile exploding bombs

    1. I'm finding it hard to make time these days but I try. Thanks for the kind words :)

  2. Adapted from Brunson's Super System, I see :)

    1. Indeed though the "tight" definition is also a negative in that system. I just wanted a simple system for a simpler game :)

  3. Cool stuff. Now I'm going to go categorize my entire local gaming group. :D

  4. hmm... useful. Your article brought to mind something I'd read earlier in the year.

    Here's another guy's take on sorting player types, though he tends to favor a reactive approach rather than an aggressive one.