I am a hardcore tournament player who has played in Rogue Trader Tournaments from Salem, Oregon, down to San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego, California. I have also played in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa, Florida. Right now I am playing and living in Phoenix AZ, but the tournament scene is rather dead for a city of this size, so I might need to join a league.
I try to attend as many large tournaments as I can. Although the GW Grand Tournaments get a bad rap, I enjoy them, and my goal is to win a GT one day. Also I attended Adepticon in Chicago every year and if you are a fan of 40k, this is a must because there is no other event quite like it.
My beginning with 40k
I started to play 40k about 15 years ago or so. I started by playing a game called Space Hulk that I really liked at the local game store. One thing I did not like though was the miniatures that came with it. So I went to the wall of blister packs looking for Terminators and I came upon the Space Wolves. I really like the cut of their jib, with their wolf iconography, and Norse runes. I ended up buying enough for Space Hulk, and from there I learned about the Space Wolves, and that lead me to 40k. I started to buy more and more figures that added to my Space Wolves collection and before too long I had a full space wolf army. From that I read about their hatred of the Thousand Sons and I read about them and I took an interests in that army. Something about the Thousand Sons resonated with my more than the Space Wolves. They have the best fluff in 40k (although it has been compromised lately) and after a while the Space Wolves were retired and I became a full time Thousand Sons player. The Thousand Sons lasted me all through 3rd edition and part way through 4th when the rules for scoring units came into play and I could no longer win with that army. I could beat people in victory points, but the Thousand Sons army was so small because it was so many points for their units, that I lacked the number of scoring units to hold and contest objectives. By the end of the game what units I had left were all chewed up, and below half strength and unable to hold anything. After the Thousand Sons I ended up experimenting with a lot of different armies.
What I find it that most people play with their friends at home or at their local shop, but I was always a tournament player. I traveled all around Los Angeles and parts beyond for a good game of 40k. Far as my 40k record goes, I have won many RTTs. Then starting about 2 years ago after a long layoff from the major GW tournaments because of GWs cancelation of them in 2007, I was on a tear in the major tournament scene. At Adepticon I was 3-1 in the Gladiator, and 2-1 at the Adepticon Championships with a well rounded Word Bearers army. Then I switched to Eldar and stepped up my game by going 4-1 at the Las Vegas GT and 5-0 at the Baltimore GT and the only thing that stopped me from winning Best General there is that I misread the rules and I thought I needed to keep a unit alive, when what I needed to do was to get it killed and I missed a perfect battle score by 3 points. I finished off the year by winning the Los Angeles semi-finals of the 'Ard Boyz and ended up going 2-1 at the finals.
Since then I have played lists that I want to, and that are less competitive. I have been playing a lot of Demonhunters, SoB, and Thousand Sons. I could play Orks, and 2 Demon Princes with 9 Oblits, but that is not my style. What I like to do is not only play armies that no one else is playing, but play armies that can compete against the top tier lists. This is not that easy because the top tier lists are there for a reason, and if you get them with a good general, they are even harder to win against. What I find is that you can win with a 2nd tier or even a 3rd tier list if you are good enough, but that is about it…you will just win (barely). If you are in a tournament that has graded wins (Massacres, Major wins, Minor wins, ties, etc) you will not go very well because the top tier lists are massacring. That is why I like the UK standard of only win/loss/tie because it rewards armies that can win, but not massacre.