Playing a Best of 3

It takes more than just trying to win.

Today I’ll be going through all the tips and tricks when you play a best of 3 set. While more important for tournament play, it will still be useful to those outside of that realm. Giving you more ways to explore playing the game.

So what is a best of 3? Basically you play until a player wins 2 games out of the pair but can lead up to 3 games if both players win a game each. Ideally you want to win 2 games in a row, although you have the freedom to lose 1 game and not automatically lose.

When approaching this format, there are many options open to each player as well as the risks and rewards for how you play. These are:

  • Figuring out your opponent’s game plan
  • Trying to not show too much in the first game
  • The “free” loss
  • Adaptation
  • Consistency

Figuring out your opponent’s game plan

Probably the most important part of the best of 3. The sooner you identify what your opponent wants to do, the quicker you can try to stop them achieving that.

This may be identified simply by what warband your opponent plays as a lot of players stick to the particular archetypes of each force. For example Steelheart players will either be defensive or aggressive, Orruks will run at you and Sepulchral Guard will sit back for objective play. However this can be a risky gamble due to the variation Warhammer Underworlds allows in player choice.

How your opponent deploys is also a major tell. This can be from:

  1. What board they put down
  2. How they choose boards to be setup
  3. Where objectives are placed
  4. Cards mulliganed
  5. Which starting hexes are used

The earlier you can identify these steps, the quicker you can figure out what your opponent’s goal is and how to counter it. When combo’d with what warband is being used, it can become even easier.

For example, the reason I rate the Chosen Axes so low is because of how easy it is to identify your gameplan with them. Depending on just where the objectives are placed reveals what is going to be done. If the objectives are placed very close to or in enemy territory, then the Duardin will be aggresive and aiming to quickly get to you. If the objectives are as far back as possible, then this time it will be a very defensive and drawn back affair with possibly Grimnir used as a keep-away distraction.

In the above example, it can obviously be a cover with the objectives if the opponent is playing the Fyre Slayers in a mixed approach but such a form is so rare and sub-optimal that is not really seen. Still, just from that you can already gain so much information.

Boards are also a big tell. Plain open boards with many forward starting hexes? Great for aggro play. Blocked hex or lethal hex board? Aiming to slow you down or deter you from coming to them. Long board deployment? Defensive play 99% of the time.

Discarded cards are the biggest tell and not something everyone does or notices but you should always take note to what your opponent throws away. Even upgrades tell a lot about what your opponent plans to do.

Starting hexes are a big tell, no doubt. Yet the main issue with identifying at this step is almost too late due to being that now you won’t know for sure until your opponent finishes as well as the fact you can’t really do anything with the cards you have in-hand. Still, you’ll be able to identify what the opposing playing wishes to do depending on where fighters are placed.

Trying not to show too much in the first game

When it comes to a best of 3, there will always be at least one more game. Defeating your opponent in the first one is great but not if you reveal all your tricks.

This is a difficult area as it comes down more to your own judgement and willingness to take risks. Sometimes you have to judge whether you can beat your opponent without using all you tactics to do so but this could also mean losing the game as your opponent overwhelms you while you try to hold back. You also have to gather the risk of cycling through your entire objective deck in the first game, thereby showing your opponent everything you want to score with.

There are simpler ways around this however. One can be just by not playing cards once you’ve already won. There’s no need to show your ploys and upgrades when you’re at a point that your opponent can’t come back from such as a wipeout. Many a time I’ve held off playing certain cards like Hidden Paths or Great Concussion when I’m in a dominating position in game 1 and haven’t needed to play those ploys. Sure my opponent could assume I have them in the deck but nothing is for sure until I actually play it.

Doing this when you’ve already lost is also applicable. Me and my gaming friends do it all the time in a best of 3 if we are losing the first game and can only really draw cards. Sometimes it’s worth it for objectives like Ploymaster but is it really worth playing 3 ploys for a single glory when you’re already not going to win the first game? Especially if they’re very strong cards that can potentially change how your opponent reacts to you in game 2 or 3.

It still isn’t an easy idea to grasp. When tournaments are involved, you really need to decide what is more important: giving your opponent more data on yourself or trying to maintain a decent glory differential.

The “free” loss

One of the greatest things about the best of 3 set is that you can afford to lose a single game without losing everything. It’s a lot less riskier (and fairer) than a best of 1 game.

It is daunting to think about trying to win 2 games in a row against the same person but not if you approach it from the viewpoint that you can potentially have 3 chances to do so. Obviously winning 2 games in a row with no losses is ideal and the preferred option but I found it a lot less stressful when I started to remember that you can still afford to lose a game to win the set.

This can be good and bad for tournament play depending on the format. If you are attending a “Swiss” event (eg: a tournament with players in 8, 16, 32, etc) with the appropriate number of rounds, then winning games 2-1 is completely fine due to the fact that there will always be one true winner. Yet if you play in events with different player numbers or Grand Clashes where only the top 2 go into the final, then going 2-1 even once could cost you a spot in the final. Sadly there is no real way around this and comes down more to your judgement on the day of the event as well as your drive to win it.

On the other hand, you need to remember that your opponent has the same “freedom” as you. They can also afford to lose the first game and then beat you 2 games in a row. Getting that early win is great but keep in mind the potential game or 2 ahead of you.

Adaptation

Evolve or die. Nothing takes into account all the previous points more than this. You have to use all the information you’ve gathered on your opponent in the previous game(s) and use it to your benefit. Sometimes the most daunting question in the game can be you asking yourself “How do I beat this person again after already defeating them once before?”

Such a question can be very intimidating, particularly when facing off against a strong opponent. You could panic or stick to your guns and try the same tactics as before but if your opponent is smart, they’ll be able to change things around on you unless you have even more hidden tricks. Beware though, as even ignoring the possibility that a player you crushed could turn things around in the next game can also spell defeat for yourself.

A good example of this is playing defensively in the first game and then going for an aggressive play in the second after having won. It puts your opponent on edge. If they were expecting you to perform as in the previous game, they now have to adapt or be overwhelmed. Flexibility is the key to success and if you can master it then you’ll be on your way to greatness.

Another tip is picking up an opponent’s habits. Sometimes it as easy as telling if they drew a good hand or not. Other examples include whether your opponent is willing to take risks. Will they charge your character with Soul Trap and 2 to 3 defence dice or will they go for a less important fighter who is easier to kill but actually puts them in worse position? Subtly encouraging your opponent where to go or who to target is incredibly strong but not easy to pull off.

Being able to adapt to your opponent’s adaptation is also something not easily accomplished via simple card combos. It takes time and practice to master as it’s a combination of game knowledge and experience. While I’m known for rolling a lot crits, I’m also famed for my crazy comebacks which have been built up over many months of gaming through familiarity with my own playstyle, game knowledge including tournament experience.

Consistency

Once you’ve taken all the previous steps into account, consistency is the last part. It involves doing what the name says, making sure you can regularly win best of 3 sets.

This can be accomplished in many ways. Usually it’s by making your deck consistent. Trying cutting out “gimmicky” cards like ones which rely on roll-offs such as Daylight Robbery or Frozen in Time. While those cards have nice effects, they only really work well in single games because they can catch opponents offguard but become worse in best of 3s due to the more opportunities to fail and now your opponent is aware of them. For example, Daylight Robbery is great in the first game (if it works) but then in the next games your opponent will just spend all available glory straight away and shut down the card. Sure it could help you score Escalation but your opponent would be running it too and stopping the potential glory steal is more important.

You also want to get more practice in as always. Master how you play while also learning your deck inside and out so you know what cards are left once you’ve drawn out a certain percentage. Find what works and remove stuff that doesn’t. First try going for winning best of 3s, then once you’ve got the hang of that try going for winning sets 2-0 consistently. When you’ve done that you’re on you way to being a better player, perhaps even going on to win a tournament.

Hopefully that gave you some tips as well as a deeper understanding at how best of 3 games operate, specifically in Warhammer Underworlds games. Combining all the points together will make you a gaming beast, especially when combined with crits.

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