Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Encouraging Balanced Lists

First, yay!  My first article.  First post that isn’t about what I’m painting, or planning to paint.

I feel the need to write some thoughts that have been in my head for over a month, and it has to do with the current state of competitive 40k.  The ideas began to formulate after a Death Worlds tourney run by Tastey Taste of Blood of Kittens at Endgame, but it wasn’t until a recent forum posting by Reecius of Frontline Gaming that I decided this had to happen.

Reece’s post detailed 6 things he thought should be changed to “fix” the game.  Those points were:

1.) The Baron cannot join a unit of Warlocks.
2.) A Tau Commander can only use one signature system at a time.
3.) Riptides always count as a unit of 1 model and therefore cannot be joined by another model with the exception of it's own drones.
4.) Fateweaver's reroll cannot be used on the Grimoire.
5.) Heldrakes have a 90 degree arc of fire to the front.
6.) Chaos Space Marines characters may choose to challenge, but do not have to.

The idea was to apply targeted nerfs to trouble areas, rather than a blanket nerf which may hurt lists built for fluffy (or other) purposes that aren’t causing trouble.  This was met with both positive and negative replies.  I can see both sides of the coin, but what gives me pause is that this just fixes what we have now, and does not prevent something similar happening again with new codex releases.  

First I am going to rewrite the list to simplify it a bit:

1.) An HQ from one book is joining a unit from another.
2.) An HQ has a piece of wargear that makes a unit stronger.
3.) A unit is being joined by an HQ which is making the unit stronger.
4.) An HQ has a special rule that interacts with a piece of wargear.
5.) A Flyer has a strong weapon.
6.) A codex specific special rule.

I am going to drop #6.  It is a proposed buff to a unit, and this article is being written about leveling the playing field in the game.  I could write a lot about Chaos Space Marines, but that is for another article, and perhaps I’ll write that article if this one is well received.

So it boils down to HQ choices interacting with units and wargear, and flyers.  Or more simply, Deathstars and Flyers.  The recent Adepticon results only correlate this with a flying circus playing another flying circus for the title.  And yes, I’m lumping Flying Monstrous Creatures in with Flyers.

These lists win so consistently because of the win conditions which is mostly objectives and sometimes kill points.  I like the objectives and the occasional kill point game is good, so I do not want to change them.  I also don’t think changing them will solve anything since you can win by being more killy, which the meta is good at.

So I don’t want to change the missions or issue out any nerfs, but I also want to create changes that are broad and not specific.  What’s left?  As I mentioned in the beginning, this idea started forming after playing in a Deathworld tourney.  Each round had a few different special rules.  Two really stuck out to me as they really attack the current meta.  

Before I go on, I am going to use the LVO tournament format of 5 games which creates the final 8 who playoff in a single elimination tree for the championship, for my example.  The idea should work with other formats.  

When should these special rules happen during a tournament?  The weeding should be done before the finals, and I feel the finals should be straight up 40k.  Also, I feel at least the first game, possibly the first two, should be straight up 40k, as it would really suck to be knocked out of the running by a special rule first game.  This leaves us with 3 or 4 games to toy around with.

Now back to those Deathworld rules.  One game, at the beginning of your turn you rolled and on a 4+ the highest model (physically) would be hit by lightning, which is a S8 AP3? (don’t remember if it was 2 or 3) hit (I think it was d6 or d3 hits).  The other rule was during one game you had to subtract the turn number from your leadership anytime you needed to test on it.  These rules occurred during separate games.

Those rules work against some of the troublesome meta.  Flyers are typically the highest model and psychic tests become unreliable.  I would certainly tweak the rules.  For example, create an order to follow so that these lightning blasts would affect zooming flyers and swooping FMC before moving on to  other monsters and Vehicles.  Also, adding a random number of lightning blasts since most of the problems are when these type of units are spammed.  Maybe a different way of subtracting leadership rather than turn number, or any failed test is a perils.  The specifics are for the TOs to sort out, but this will give losses to the current meta lists, which means they are out of the running.  Players will stop using these lists, as they need to win all their games.

But wait, the Tau Buff-mander and the Riptide!  The above rules (if you can call them that at this early conception) do not take either of them into account (or at least not nearly as directly as they do the other perpetrators).  This I came up with myself, but since a lot of offenders involve an HQ choice acting as a force multiplier, or stacking USRs, what if during one game your HQ must start in reserves and cannot join a unit until they have entered the table.  Or, adding on to the rule, what if they must outflank by themselves?  Or entered from the opponents table edge, but don’t begin rolling to come in until turn 3?  Lastly, what if for the game you couldn’t have more than 1 IC in a unit at a time (b/c they feudin’)?  The last few sentences are spit balling, but to summarize, one round should cause players to play with their HQs differently.

There is some overlap in the rules penalizing certain current meta lists, but that is intentional to aid in the chance there is a mirror match during one of the weeding rounds.  Players will adjust their lists if one round seems like a real uphill battle and is a near guaranteed loss.  It does not prevent anyone from taking flyers, psychers, or other powerful HQs, but the choices will have to be well rounded so they can still help in the games where they won’t want to fly, cast powers, or manipulate another unit.  This should result in more balanced lists.

Some will undoubtedly object to this, but can you really respect a professional sports team that only plays in the most ideal weather?  If a 40k champion falls apart during a warp storm, or because his leader is hung over, then they are no 41st millenium champion of mine.


  1. I think the idea of point 6 was to make up for point 5 given that Chaos Marines are pretty weak compared to a lot of other armies out there. Nerfing their one truly good unit without giving anything in return sounds pretty harsh.

    1. First, thank you for responding.

      I agree with you 100% and voiced the same concerns in the thread. In a vacuum the Heldrake is crazy, but in context of the book the Heldrake is trying to make up for a lot of dead weight. I don't think it is the Heldrake that is the real culprit, but the torrent rule, as the flame template is pretty big and the torrent rule has few restrictions on how it is put down.

  2. A big problem with changing things these days is the rate at which GW releases products. Especially if 6.5 comes out we just don't know what will be the new hotness and how the meta will change. I think some of the biggest problems are ICs joining mixed codexes and not every army having access to shut down spells even blessings. I like the leadership debuff in the Death Worlds mission made folks really think and the fact becomes worse as the game goes on really changes the balance of the game for magic heavy armies .

    1. Yea, if a new edition came out any modifications would need a reboot, just like any other edition roll over. Ignoring that, something should change, and I really liked how the Death Worlds missions affected the tourney. I decided to roll with heldrakes anyways, well aware of the risks and I placed 3rd. The Tau player dropped his Riptides b/c of that lightning round and placed 1st.

  3. Nice post!

    Some other folks have suggested changes like to missions that impact models in play. The only issue is that you can end up with the mission beating the player instead of their opponent, which can be frustrating. I once lost an HQ to a random in-game barrage that hit and killed him, lol! I was not a happy camper.

    1. Thanx!

      I see your point, and I should of mentioned that these rules would have to be given out prior to the event, that way people would craft their lists knowing that one round their flyers wouldn't be strong, and another psychers wouldn't be as strong. The top [infamous] lists right now put all their eggs in one basket rules wise. People take these lists to go undefeated. If they don't think they can go undefeated they will stop taking those lists, though some of the tools of those lists will still be very good for the tourney as a whole. Also these other effects should not be left up to the opponent. Narratives need to be forged harder than deathstars.