Time is running out!
By Mike Corkhill
The Deathclock. This item is one of the most Anxiety producing parts of the game. Sometimes it feels like New Year’s Eve and the countdown to next year. Other times it feels like a classic action movie trope of disarming a bomb, which wire do you cut, the clock is ticking away, and one bad decision, it’s all over. To newer players, it’s the prospect of purposely signing up for a timed test and calling it fun. They ask “why would you do that to yourself”? It is pointed at as one of the things that drive the Casual/Competitive divide. What to do about the Deathclock? Use it and get acclimated to it. The benefits outweigh all the anxiety, gnashing of teeth, and grousing that come with it.
What is Deathclock?
To understand anything we have to define what it is and what its purpose and role is. The deathclock is a chess clock. That’s it; nothing more, nothing less. Each player gets a set amount of playtime, usually an hour for each player in a standard 75 point game. If a player uses up all their time then they lose the game and it counts as an Assassination Victory.
It is a standard part of the Steamroller tournaments, as well as all other competitive events. For Tourney Organizers, it is a time management tool. They have a defined knowledge of how long the vent is going to run and can make plans accordingly. For players, it ensures that they get an equal opportunity to play their side of the game.
Problems, Acclimation, Tips, and Tricks
When playing on a clock there are several problems that can arise. Here’s what to watch for
Overzealous clock flipping
This is when your opponent is flipping the clock back to you on every little thing like tough checks, continuous effect damage rolls, etc…
The solution is to be ready with those rolls, it is within their right to flip it to you if you are taking longer than reasonable for these checks. If you aren’t dilly-dallying and they are still doing it: Call a Judge over
When the clock is winding down and you and/or your opponent are under 5 minutes you will find the play will start becoming sloppy. Players are rushing to get their activations completed and you’ll start seeing things like not measuring moves, banana charges, etc…
The solution here is to call a judge over and have them proctor the game if possible. Having them keeping an eye and holding both players to a clean standard will keep the game state clean. They can also confirm the scoring for both players to keep things on the level.
If you find yourself clocking out often, or under certain situations, the cause maybe several different things. Unfortunately, they reside with you.
Analysis Paralysis: if you are going into the tank for a very long time you are eating up your clock. Try to make plans on your opponent’s turn. Most players take a sectional approach to plan making. Whether it’s left to right, frontline to the backline, units, solos, beasts, etc. you’ll find that they will be done with one section of the table and then move to another. When they do that, you can make plans for dealing with those models without it having to change much.
You don’t have to kill everything. Prioritize your order of activation on what has to be done to win versus what would be nice to have if everything goes south. Focus on the goal for the turn
Slow play: this usually come in a couple forms. Disorganization, or lack of knowledge. You shouldn’t be spending your clock looking for tokens, cards, dice, widgets, or anything else. During your Opponents turn, clean your area up. Collect your widgets, spent tokens, move cards where they need to be. As far as lack of knowledge, if you are still in the learning phase of your army, keep the army consistent and make only small changes. This will build up a muscle memory of what your army does. It also doesn’t hurt to review your cards before the game, or before the tourney, hell even when sitting on the porcelain throne. On the clock should never be a time to be looking for a rule that your army has.
If you’ve been playing events, you’ve already put the time in under the Deathclock. You’ve probably clocked out several times, nearly pulled your hair out by missing a win because you were too rushed to see it, and had butterflies doing a Royal Rumble re-enactment in your stomach waiting for the clock to wind down on a really close win.
How to acclimate to playing on the clock
First is to put it on the table and use it. It won’t bite or bark. As you play you’ll start to notice where you’re at as time goes. You’ll be able to see where you’re taking too much time. Maybe that’s during your deployment, trying to figure out where things go. Maybe it’s during your assassination turn where you’re trying to make a 20% six model assassination run work. Having the clock there will help identify it. I suggest writing down your times like so:
End of turn 1: 51minutes
End of turn 2: 38 minutes
End of turn 3: 18 minutes
When I start playing a new army list or faction I will play the full game past the clock out until me and my opponent have a defined winner to see where I’m at with the list. I will have them play one of their standard lists on the clock to see how much time it takes for my opponent to deal with my list. If after 10 games I am still clocking out with the list, I will add another timer to the list and play timed turns of 10 minutes to help dial the army in.
Tips and Tricks
Deployment: In Dayton, we have a practice routine we do at home I’d call dinner deployment. Spread out 4-5 pieces of terrain on your dinner table as you would see on the regular game table. Nothing within 6″ of the table ends and no two pieces within 3″. Then with a timer, deploy as you would. 99% of armies can deploy in a 24″ length of a table. Then work on unboxing your army. Turn 1 is usually your army running to get into position. Do it. Measure out and move those models. See how much time it takes. Put rough terrain in front of your models and see how much time it takes to maneuver around it, go through it.
Consistency: Our vets are a big proponent of consistency. Play the same army at least 10 times before making changes. Any changes should be small, maybe a solo, a beast, or a unit, not half of the army. We’ve found that most of the time spent is usually either trying to look up stats on new unfamiliar models or trying to get the most out of models we’ve never put on the table before. You will play faster each time you put those models out. You’ll also play faster if someone puts those models out against you.
Goal setting: Each turn should have a goal set. Whether the goal is to clear a zone, score 3 CP, or assassinate a caster you should set a goal for your turn. Then all activations and decisions are based on achieving that goal. This saves time when you know this turn you have to kill 3 models to clear a zone and kill an objective. Unlike if you’re looking at a table of 30 Banes, and their caster thinking you have to kill them all, assassinate their caster, score 5 CP more than them, where am I going to eat after this round, Man, I have to pee, I wonder how my buddy is doing…You get my drift. Kill 3 Banes, destroy their objective, I score 3 CP is so much easier to digest.
You have to remember the clock is a tool to help you make better decisions and to make the most of your time in the game and hopefully help you get more games in a night. It is an inanimate object, that has no personal feelings, and does not judge you. Don’t fear it, embrace it.