Every competitive game has the following format- a mission that needs to be completed over a limited number of game turns. A good example might be the winner of the game is the player who has destroyed the most opposing units on the table at the end of six game turns. And while of course just what the missions are, and what details a game turn will vary depending on your system the training for this is the same.
Your training goal is to set yourself up in a position to “win” the game by the middle of the allotted turns. So if our mission is to destroy enemy units over six game turns, but the end of turn 3 you want to be in a position where you have destroyed so much, there is now way your opponent can come back over turns 4-6 and tie or win. You are not looking to “win” the game buy turn “6” but rather by turn “3”.
Sure it will be played out till the end, but that end has already been decided. What this means in your practice games is that you will only be playing them till the middle of the over-all game turns and then stopping to ask yourself- if the game goes on will I win or lose? Here is the reason for that… Competitive player need practice on the table, and there is no way around this. If you only have three or so hours a week to grind away at practice games then you need to get the MOST out of them leveraging quality and quantity.
In the Warhammer 40,000 game if I play a 2000 point army from start to finish in a kill point mission I can reasonable finish the game in three hours if we play it from start to end. If I play the game to the middle (turn 3 of 6) and then ask, who will win, then I can probably get in 2.5 to 3 games in that three hour period. More games is more familiarity. There is also an honesty factor in this, and be honest, while in a casual game there is the social contract of always finishing the game out, how many times have you played a wargame and at about the mid-way point know who is going to win. Playing it half-way give you the maximum amount of game quantity, now let’s look at quality.
Again, go back to an active vs. passive player. You want to shift your opponent into a passive mindset right away, overwhelm them, get them to be all over the place on the table, bombard their tactical thinking with multiple threats they have to deal with, keep them focused on reacting to your massive and aggressive action on the table.
Get them to BLINK first and they will start to make mistakes. This aggression on the tabletop needs to be cultivated, which means delivered as quickly as possible to have that overwhelming feeling, which means if you play the game as if you only have 3 turns to “win” then all your units will be acting and taking action, working as a unified team, and your senses will be sharp and focused.
This forces you to play your best against a self-imposed timer which will breed quality in your games. When you can start “winning” a game in half the allotted game turns, then you are ready to start dominating at competitive events, which leads us to the next part- finding them, and the pre-planning before the event.