Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's Not The Edition, It's The Variety

by SandWyrm


As we enter the new year, something is starting to grate on me. There's been a collective pall descending over competitive 40K for the last 6 months. Ever since the release of the GK codex, the release of Finecast, and the price rises. Most seem to be blaming this stagnation on the aging of 5th Edition. But come on, that's not it at all.

No, the real problem with competitive 40K right now is that nearly all of the non-Marine choices are no longer competitive. The list of good, competitive armies right now is pretty much as follows:
  1. Space Wolves
  2. Grey Knights
  3. Blood Angels
  4. Imperial Guard

Though everyone loves the book itself, Dark Eldar are still struggling to prove themselves in competitive play (Finesse = Suck IMO). While the new Necrons still have to prove themselves.

Where are the Orks? Where are the Tyranids? Well, the new Grey Knights killed them both off for good. Sisters? The PDF Codex killed them off. Eldar? Tau? Those players hardly bother coming out to play anymore.

So when you go out to play, you see Marines, Marines, and more Marines.  Plus the occasional Guard player who has the deep pockets needed to collect all those tanks. How boring compared to just a year or two ago!

The economy plays into this too. If you collect Marines, your costs to run a variety of forces are much lower. Just buy a new HQ, a couple of signature choices, and you're good to go. Last week's Blood Angels can become next week's Grey Knights very easily. So all the incentives are there for Marines to dominate all.


And Then There's The New Edition...

So will 6th edition somehow change all of this? Will it re-introduce variety into the game? I can hope so, but the precedents are not good.

The change to 8th Edition Fantasy has killed that community here in Indianapolis. It's simply gone. Oh, everyone was jazzed at first and there was a real surge of interest. But 6 months on, it was obvious that GW had not fixed the balance problems produced by their crappy Army Books. Instead, they had attempted to level the playing field by introducing bucketloads of randomness into the game. But that randomness means that there is no reward for learning to play the game well.

So Fantasy died here in Indianapolis. Except for 'Ard Boyz, I haven't seen a game of Fantasy played in a local store for a year or so now.


So will 40K be randomized like Fantasy? 

There are elements in the new books (Grey Knights, Sisters, and Necrons) that give me a lot of pause. Justicar Thawn is one. Saint Celestine is another.

You can't stop them. They die and come back to life on a 4+. There are no ways to counter this with tactics. You can't dog-pile their bodies or block them in any way. So you can auto-lose (or win) a close game on a single 4+ roll made by your opponent. Thawn will creep towards your objective inexorably. While Celestine can simply pop up, jump 12", and hit whoever she likes with her heavy flamer. On one roll, she takes away a kill point, claims another, and contests an objective all at the same time. Sure, the rest of the Sisters PDF Codex sucks, but that's not the point. As a game design element, Celestine (and Thawn) should never have made it out of the design studio without some interesting ways to counter what they do.

Of course there are other exceedingly bad designs from the new books. From Jaws of the World Wolf, to Blood Talons, and Imotekh the Stormlord. It clearly seems then that randomness is the direction that GW is increasingly going in. Which is why I see 6th not as the savior of competitive 40K, but rather as the bullet that may irreparably damage a hobby that's already ailing. Pushing the community from the game stores back to the basement.


So What Then, Are The Long-Term Trends?

Let's sum it up:
Less Variety In The Competitive Scene (Marines Everywhere)
Less Reward For Learning To Play (More Randomness)
Increased $$$ Costs To Play (In A Bad Economy)
And THAT'S why the competitive 40K community is gloomy.

33 comments:

  1. The rest of the Marine variants are great too, but that doesn't deviate from the main point of the article.

    There's also the other point that assault sucks hard against vehicles and being good at it means that you get shot and die next turn, so the game is a shooting gallery.

    Honestly, if the message of Fantasy sales being down doesn't sink and 6th edition sucks too, then the game deserves to die. That's life.

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  2. OH I desperately hope that GW does turn 6th Ed into a complex game with lots of new rules that bring the game in line with "Real" wargames that involve actual tactics not predicated on using rules to win but stronge simulation of military doctrine.

    Please let 6th Ed put a bullet into the heads of all the childish card gamers turned miniature gamers that have been ruining 40K for years now.

    All it sounds like to me is that you are terrified of a game that is not simple enough to easily exploit.

    BTW: 8th Ed Fantasy has been surging in sells and play since shaking off the competitive former card gamers that had been plaguing it for years...That it has no players in Indy just says there was never a strong community to start with.....

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  3. @Stucarius

    Troll much? Calling me a card gamer is worth a laugh.

    I don't mind complicated games. Love them in fact. It's useless randomness that I object to. Because I like to play games where I can improve my skills over time. Ever try to get good at playing Candyland? You can't. Because the randomness gets in the way. So nobody over the age of 5 really enjoys the experience. It's banal.

    So yeah, after spending hundreds of dollars and hours on an army, I have trouble with the prospect of 40K turning into an overpriced version of a toddler game.

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  4. GW's idea of a balanced rule would be, "Roll a d6 before the game. On a 1, you lose. On a 6, you win. Pack up your models and go home." While it's equal odds, it isn't fun or good game design. GW's theory has always been that if you roll enough dice, things will 'average out', which again is a sign of bad game design.

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  5. Does Thawn and Celsstine really break the game for you? What about Yarrick who has been in your Codex for how long?

    I believe you are arguing what you don't like in the game instead of what is an overall 'real' issue. You said you like games where you can improve your game over time but don't like randomness....40k is a game of dice, probablity and random results.

    We will see what 6th edition brings us, but is it all really doom and gloom like you suggest? Maybe or maybe not....

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  6. I do think that Thawn and Celestine go a long way toward breaking the game... It's not so much the randomness for me, it's the 4+ they come back no matter what I do. I cannot prevent it no matter how well I play the situation, they just stand back up... So more of a process thing than a random dice roll...

    I am also finding the real lack of viable armies when played against a fairly well constructed "top tier" army... Locally we have a few lads building really impressive Marine Bike armies, but they are getting frustrated playing against armies they feel are just better in every aspect... 'course, just my observations and opinions as always :-)

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  7. Increased $$$ isn't really true. You can get a Dragowing with all GK models for fairly little. If you're willing to use AOBR figs then the cost is possibly less than $100.

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  8. @Spags

    Yes, Thawn and Celestine do break the game for me. Their inherently crappy design simply pisses me off to the point that I don't want to play them. It takes the fact that GW just doesn't give a rat's arse about good game design and shoves it in our faces.

    As a Guard player, I could mostly ignore Blood Talons and Jaws. As a Blood Angels player I can beat down the Thunderwolves that gave my Guard so many fits. But nobody can ignore these stupid immortals. There's no counter to them. Whether they stay dead or pop up and win a game has absolutely no bearing on what I do as the opposing player.

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  9. @Korona

    To re-create my old Guard army in plastic would cost roughly $750.00. Tyranids and Dark Eldar cost at least that much. So if we can all have Draigowings for $100.00, um... why play anything else?

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  10. Thawn is objectively stupid. I've been telling people he's the dumbest thing in that Codex since the .pdf leaked while everyone else was having fits about Pyschotroke Grenades. He's an unpreventable gameplay mechanic with no margin for skill or tactics to intervene on the part of EITHER player--you just chuck him at something and he'll either get there or he won't, and nothing anyone does has any bearing on whether or not he succeeds at this. The fact that he's a scoring model almost makes it seem like they sat out with the specific purpose of making the worst special ability ever.

    Comparing him to Yarrick--or any other similar ability that actually exits the game on a failure--is just incorrect.

    Obviously Celestine is, mechanically, just as bad. But she's a non-scoring HQ with at least some measure of justification for having such an ability, and gets by to some degree with the same excuse the old Monolith/Living Metal had--the rest of the new SoB 'Codex' is so horrific that Celestine alone is unlikely to cost anyone any serious games, in the exact same way that the old Necron book was so bad that it was unlikely the near invulnerability of the Monolith (or complete invulnerability against plenty of lists) was usually made completely irrelevant because the army itself was so bad.

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  11. When was the last time you saw thawn on the table? ......crickets.,,,,,,, waiting.....

    I have only played him in a few test games and don't like him. For his point value he isn't worth it to me. Is he a good gimmick? Maybe, but if 1 model means you are going to win or lose the game, then you have lost already. In all the games i have played against there have been other choices in the Grey Knight codex that are tougher to deal with than Thawn. Grey knights don't have an issue with having enough scoring units so there is little reson to take him.

    So if a model that is very rarely used anymore breaks the game then I am sorry. And since SOB suck anyways, well they need all the help they can get so I don't see why you are complaining about them. Necrons get back up, are they broken too?

    @Dodger,

    The point was made these models come back. It is the same comparison. Everything can fail. It 2 of the 2 games I played with him he didn't do anything..... He isn't that impressive. I would be more worried about Draigo and Paladin's, Fortitude, and Dreads with Psybolt autocannons.

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  12. Just one point: There are still 20+ people in the Indy area playing WHFB in the Circle City Circuit tournaments. There are also a number of folks showing up at the GP North on Tuesday nights to play.

    That's not to say the game is not ridiculous, I'm just saying it's not altogether "dead".

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  13. @Spag

    Whether you see these models on the table or not isn't the point. The point is that they portend the direction that GW's design team is moving in. A direction that potentially makes the idea of any sort of competitive play laughable at best.

    Necrons and Yarrick get back up or they're destroyed. In the old rules, Celestine came back, but had to deep strike instead of standing up and moving normally. It's not the same thing at all.

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  14. So because they made Thawn and St. Celistine, that is the way the design team is going? Where is the Necron model that will always come back even if the roll is failed?

    I think what I am having an issue with in regards to your statement is that these two characters make competitive play laughable.

    Competetive people will always find ways to be competitive. If it isn't 40k, it will be Flames of war, or fantasy football, or poker, or trying to pick up that hot chick before your buddy can do it, or racing cars, or whatever. The competitive spirit in my humble opinion cannot be squashed by the likes of Thawn and St. Celistine.

    Now to bring a different topic of competitiveness is when competitive people continually get bashed in the head with something they like and don't find it fun anymore because either they don't win, or win but don't have fun, or don't like the people they play with, then that is when I see a competitive problem with something.

    An example I have is when I played my Nidzilla list for about 6 months. It got boring really quick because it wasn't fun anymore because it wasn't a challenge for me. People couldn't find a way to beat the list and stopped wanting to play me. I then realized one week when I couldn't get a game with 8 people because it wasn't fun to play my 5 Carnifexes and 2 hive tyrants anymore. It stopped being fun for me and others. So I changed and went to something that was more fun for me. Space wolves. At that time, they were the old space wolves.

    This represented for me a time where I lost the DESIRE to play with what I had and decided to be competitive in a different way. The game will survive. It will adapt and change just like we do. The only thing yet to see is what parameters or rules that GW will give us to decide if we will compete within their world or someone else's.

    Respectfully,

    Spaguatyrine

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  15. SandWyrm....
    I too worry very much about 6th edition, and the new Tau book, too.
    I'm sorry to say I don't think any of the 5th edition Xenos Codexes have been very impressive, 'power wise.'
    And, yeah...that includes Necrons.
    Gimmicks, tricks and power combos are no substitute for reliability.

    I'm trying hard to 'think positive,' but yer right...the signs are ominous.
    Sigh....

    Oh, well...I guess I can go back to Yu-Gi-Oh, or find some other mini game to 'ruin,' huh?
    Wait...what?
    0_o

    But I never played any card games....

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  16. I'm pretty sure it's a bad idea to look at a handful of mechanics in a vacuum and say "THIS IS THE DIRECTION THE GAME IS HEADED". Not only because that's kinda outrageous in general, but also because the designers never maintain any degree of consistency at all.

    I just like to point out how stupid Thawn is any time I'm given the chance.

    Saying that he's never played isn't just untrue, but it's also missing the point. It doesn't matter if he's a "competitive" choice (in the most competitive book there currently is, that's a pretty high bar to reach anyhow) because that's not what we're talking about. He's a terrible decision from a design standpoint, and should not exist. It doesn't matter if he cost double what he does and nobody ever used him--the ability, in itself, is still terrible and should have never been published.

    You used a statement like there being "tougher things to deal with" in the GK Codex--which I guess is either technically true or technically impossible, because you CAN'T "deal with" Thawn at all. That's the whole point, and that's why it's such an unfathomably stupid mechanic. You can certainly kill him all you want, but killing him has absolutely zero impact on whether or not he succeeds at whatever he was trying to do.

    And again, the Thawn/Celestine abilities just absolutely cannot be compared to Yarrick or Reanimation Protocols. There's a difference between having a chance to be removed from the game and having no chance to be removed from the game--a rather large one. It's not a matter of "Yarrick gets up on 3+, Thawn gets up on 4+, Imotekh gets up on 5+" because two of those three don't get to keep trying until they succeed--i.e., your opponent can increase the odds of them ACTUALLY dying by killing them multiple times, in the event they actually get up at all.

    It's not like this just makes them theoretically different abilities that are mostly the same--they flat out play nothing alike. Put some wounds on Yarrick's squad when he's down to one wound and see if anything gets allocated to him, or if somebody wants to risk Imotekh eating an ID wound from a Demolisher wound to save a Warrior.

    And then put some wounds on Thawn's squad, and see if he's not the first to be allocated to, every time. In the case of Yarrick/Necrons, you're facing the risk of losing a special character if you fail. In the case of Thawn, you're facing the risk of gaining a scoring unit if you fail.

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  17. The point is Dodger these two special characters shouldn't 'break the game' for anyone by themselves. And you stated in your first paragaraph is that we cannot state with any certainty that this is the way GW is going because of Thawn and Celestine alone. I am fine with an statment of change based upon other factors in a conversation. Thawn and Celestine ruining the competiveness of the game is a huge stretch in my opinion.

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  18. Build good terrain. You'll see less SM based armies.

    Oh, and I disagree with pretty much your whole stance on 40k as a whole and the competitive scene in specifics.

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  19. Have to agree that marine dominance is causing a tumbleweed effect on the game. I myself have stopped playing regularly (I only own an eldar army) whereas others have simply taken up the marines. It's not that I particularly dislike marines but seeing all these Imperial armies facing off at 3/4 of tournament tables is disheartening to say the least.

    I worry about 6th ed in light of viewing 8th ed fantasy. The few things that give me some hope would be that GW realised they can't get away with piling massive costs onto us for the sake of it. When the Ogre book came out they heavily marketed just how cheap a full army was monetarily. Also fantasy is going a similar path to 40k 4 years ago. The rulesbook turned the game on its head and they're attempting to address power imbalance one book at a time.

    However if GW start introducing super heavies and AA batteries and the like into 6th ed it will suffer enormously. One thing that also isn't said enough is just how much this edition is riding on the basic missions too. The rules need to good and competitively able but without good missions to back them up it'll be a waste.

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  20. Hulksmash,

    Good to see you on here man! I agree with your comment on more and better terrain. I like the piece on you starting over with Iron warriors. They look nice!

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  21. Spag,

    Thanks man. Glad you like the way they look. Looks like I'll be making it to Indy Open too unless something crazy comes up.

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  22. @ Sand, with the megaforce and online discounts I think DE are pretty midrange pricewise. I got a competitive 1750 DE army that could probably max out (full upgrades blabla) beyond 2.5k for £220 ($350)

    My point really was that 40k doesn't have to be an expensive hobby if you don't want it to be. Just scale back the points until it's affordable. Even at 500 points it's still really fun.

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  23. @Spags

    Thawn and Celestine don't break the game in the "I ALWAYS WIN IF I TAKE THEM!!!" sense. They break it in the "It's no longer a game of skill" sense. Because as Dodger said better, you can't counter them. They're a bad design in the most basic sense.

    Every other crappy thing that GW has designed can be countered in some way. But Thawn can't. Then GW went and did it again with Celestine. 2 books in a row, with different writers.

    That's a disturbing trend. Taken with all of the rumors about 6th it gives me pause. The Necrons aren't so bad, but they are more random than the norm.

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  24. @Hulksmash

    It's fine to say "build good terrain", but in practice you play with the terrain that's available. If the game can't function without five 6" high hills on the table, then there's something wrong with the game.

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  25. @Korona

    I personally consider 40K unplayable below 1000 points. Sure, Guard can do it. But few other armies really can.

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  26. @Sandwyrm

    I disagree. The game is designed for real terrain. 90% of the issues with variety and shooting dominance would be fixed with 25% terrain with a decent amount of it actually being LoS blocking. But it's more easy to say the game is designed poorly than to build terrain designed for the newest edition.

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  27. Yeah if our club only had members with 500 point armies then we'd probably move to doubles matches as the norm.

    Maybe you play someone at 500 points then team up to play another pair. We'd easily get two matches in an evening then.

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  28. Sandy, GP has a good bit of Fantasy. Whenever I pop in on Tuesdays I see around 4 different games going, so it's not entirely dead in Indy

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  29. You'll never SEE a good competative game of 40K 'by the book'...because there is little profit in it. For example: Why make halberds +2 to Init and not +1? Because this makes Init 5 furious charge types too competative and along with things like GK termies getting frag grenades to one-up other termies...not harping on GK, just looking at how every codex does not MARGINALLY overshadow msot of the previous armie's books....if there's not much edge to playing and buying all those new models, who's going to lay out the cash?

    The same goes with a unit's effectivness on the battlefield being some indication to GW pricing....for example, the Ogre Magi figure from Reaper looks better than the Obliterator from GW...yet you can buy two for the price one oblit. Why are wraithguard $15 a pieece, when their metal content is no better than a assault marine?

    GW KNOWS people love 40k Tourneys yet refuse to say 40k is a competative game. Why in Krist's name does it take years to get codex out? I believe they think a smaller consistant company with a captured audience is better than one that targets more folks with faster turn around on their game books. There's no reason new updated codex shouldn't come out every 3 years, period, and updated minor rules yearly. If they did a large Codex official rules update book for 4+ armies every year, a lot of the gamer tested balance issues would be fixed.

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  30. Too much Doom and Gloom. I see 40k growing. Adepticon selling out events in record time is pretty good testement of that. i have never had so many chioces for GT's to go to, and I'm in Iowa!!
    40k may have declined after GW dropped the GT circuit, but it is definately going stong in 2012. What 6th edition and the nnew 2012 codex's bring to the table will be interesting.

    Fun part about being old is seeing all the changes this game has gone through. I still miss 3rd edition and my chapter approved sisters of battle, but the new WD sisters are way better than people are giving them credit for.

    Here is to the new year and changes! Huzzah

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  31. Agreed Sandy, I fear 6e will see me end my 18-year association with Warhams. :(

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  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  33. I have a SOB army, i gone agaist Tau, SpaceMarine, GKs, and IG. the new rules out 2 magz -_- are NOT overpowered, we have 1 Greatd HQ, rest of army is good at best, lets all remba that the Saint as always had come back to life rule. and giving it to IG and GK was just wrong.... yes u can put Yarrick down. but The fact Saint could come back to life made the army more Diff and following back-ground story.

    We have lost Storm Troopers/Henchmen/Inqistors/Land raider. we got 2 more HQs and 1 Heavy tank made Transport.... we got burned. My Saint dont win me battles. but a one game Close combat with GK. she is only one could do anything to them!! with force weapons 1 Wound failed she is dead (again)

    They gave everything to GKs. lol we only got 1 Tank thats NOT transport. hope when full Codex is out we get some new stuff. yes maybe make Saint worth more then 115 points, other then that ppl should NOT think SOB/Saint is OP. we got "3" across board apart from BS. Close combat is no fun.

    i have won like 2 games out of 8 with new rules. 1 was Tau 1 was IG. i may not be best player but it just seems SOB got bad deal!

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