Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Which Game Wins On Complexity?

by SandWyrm

Brent did what he does best yesterday, by throwing out a hand grenade on BoLS. In the flood of comments about the 'success' of 40K, Zingbaby made a comment that 40K's rules have every other game beat on unit/weapon variety. I just can't let that go without a detailed reply. :)

Zingbaby Said:
"No way dude other game's ruleset has to juggle so many different armies/codex with so many varied units and weapons and alternate ways to play and arrange the game. No other game even comes close. It's not even possible to make an apples to apples comparison here, because no other game is in the same ballpark.
Cut 40k down to 4 codex with uber-simplified rules and then it would be feasible to create a better overall ruleset; but nothing else currently compares."
SandWyrm's Reply:

If you really believe that, you need to get out and play other games more. Let's look at the Army/Faction complexity of 40K, shall we? I'll then compare it to Flames of War as we go.


40K has 16 different codices/armies, which is a fair number. But in reality, five of those are Marine books with only minor differences between them. So 12 really.

Flames has the following major & minor factions, depending on what part of WWII we're talking about:
  1. Britain (including Canada, Australia, India, and other parts of the empire)
  2. France
    1. Pre-Fall
    2. Free French
  3. Holland
  4. Germany
    1. Lehr (regular army)
    2. SS
    3. Luftwaffe
    4. Herman Göring Division
  5. Czechoslovakia
  6. Finland
  7. Greece
  8. Hungary
  9. Russia
    1. Guards
    2. Red Army
  10. Poland
  11. Italy
  12. America
I'm missing some, I'm sure. But in terms of major factions combined with the larger sub-factions, Flames has it all over 40K. Especially when you realize that most of these factions exist in 3 different time periods (early, mid, & late war) too. With different units, rules, and points costs for each.

To say nothing of force variety. In Flames you don't just have one FOC, like 40K does. You have a custom FOC for each list that defines what you can and can't take in each kind of force. Plus, each type of force (tank, mech, infantry, fortified) has different rules for who gets to go first and how they deploy. If you take a tank list, you're more likely to always be the attacker. While if you take an infantry list, you're more likely to be the defender. 40K has nothing like this ability to choose your preferred play style at list-creation time.

So cracking open my new Hellfire & Back (early war North Africa) book, what do I find?
  1. 4 Italian Lists (1 Tank, 1 Mech, 2 Infantry)
  2. 9 German Lists (2 Tank,  3 Mech, 4 Infantry)
  3. 10 British Lists (4 Tank, 3 Mech, 3 Infantry)
So that's 23 different FOCs total. For just one of many campaign books Battlefront offers. They usually release at least one such book every 3 months.

Unit Variety

Looking at my shiny new Chaos Space Marine codex, it has 30 unique unit types listed, the most of any GW codex that I know of (IG have 27). It also has 7 special characters.

Looking at just the Germans in Hellfire & Back, I see 43 distinct unit entries, plus 2 special characters. The Italians have 30 units and 1 special character.

The British have a whopping 52 units. Most with 3 (and sometimes 4) different point costs and special rules. Depending on whether the troops came from the 8th Army, the Grenadier Guards, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or India. They also have 2 special characters.

Flames wins here too, hands down.

Model Variety

Ok, so Flames has more units. But what about model variety?

The back of the Chaos Space Marine book lists 50 individual troop/vehicle types (including special characters), and 49 ranged & melee weapons combined. The IG have 61 different kinds of troops/vehicles, and 49 different weapons.

Let's look at the Germans again from Hellfire & Back:
  • 11 Tank Types (including some captured British types)
  • 1 Tank Destroyer
  • 3 Armored Cars
  • 1 Anti-Aircraft Truck
  • 18 Infantry & Gun Team Types
  • 3 Dedicated Transport Types
  • 9 Different Transports, Tractors, APCs, & Recovery Vehicles
  • 4 Fortifications
  • 1 Aircraft
  • 2 Characters
Total: 53 distinct model types. With about 26 different weapons. A bit more models, and just over half as many weapons as the Chaos Space Marine Codex.

The Italians have 31 model types, with 27 different weapons. The British have 58 models & 33 different weapons.

So 40K wins on the weapons variety. At least if you ignore all the heavily shared weapons like Bolters, Autocannons, and Missile Launchers. Exceeeeept... When you add in each Flames faction's weapons from other books in the same period like Blitzkrieg. Or later books for the same campaign, like the mid-war North Africa book.

Heck, let's just limit ourselves to Germans in North Africa. A part of the conflict that didn't get all the best toys available to the Reich. How many additional weapons and models are there in the mid-war North Africa book?
  • 11 More Tanks & Assault Guns
  • 5 More Tank Destroyers
  • 6 More Armored Cars
  • 7 More Self-Propelled Infantry Guns & Artillery Models
  • 2 More Armored Flame Throwers
  • 1 More Anti-Aircraft Truck Type
  • 16 More Gun Teams
  • 8 More Transports & Tractors
  • 3 More Aircraft
  • 3 More Characters
  • 38 More Weapons
So if you're talking Germans in North Africa from 1940-43, you have a total of 89 different models to choose from. With 65 different weapons. Spread across 17 different FOCs. If we were to add in all the late-war options, I'm sure that we could easily double those numbers.

Ways To Play The Game

Fifth Edition 40K had 3 deployment types and 3 objective types. So when you randomly rolled up a mission, there were 9 possible combinations. And funnily enough, I actually liked them all.

Sixth Edition has... (looks in rulebook)... 3 deployment types and 6 mission types. So that's 18 possible combinations total.

Flames has 12 (actually 13, but one is for fortified companies) completely predefined missions in it's rulebook. You don't roll for deployment and objectives separately. You just roll up the mission.

That's not as many overall mission types as 40K. But Flames does offer a lot of deployment mechanics that 40K doesn't have. Like Ambushes (and the recon units to counter them), delayed reserves, multiple deployment zones, and fighting withdrawals. So 40K has more missions, while Flames' missions are more individually complex. 

In Flames, the bad mission (Cauldron according to most folks) is also less likely to come up (1 in 12 chance) than the often-panned Relic (1 in 6 chance).

So I'll call it a draw. ;)

So In Reality...

Flames, overall,  is a LOT more complex of a game than 40K in terms of factions and forces. 

Which isn't necessarily better if you're trying to get into it. But let's not imagine that 40K's problems come from it's army complexity. Rather, they come from GW's unwillingness to do the work required to manage that complexity properly. Both in terms of high-level overall complexity, and the balance of complexity between different parts of the game.

Battlefront has demonstrated that you can balance the factions of the game to within a few points of each other. You just have to figure out how people want to play the game and take that into account. Instead of leaving all the hard work of figuring out the game to the players.

And I'm talking about system complexity here, not variety. 40K has Daemons, Robots, Aliens, and Supermen. Flames doesn't. It's complexity is tied up less obvious places, like hundreds of different types of tank. But in terms of organization of information, it's all the same basic set of problems.


  1. Pretty hard to beat GW games on customization though - in FoW, you can't kit out your commander with different close combat weapons, or shooting weapons, or different types of armor. Nor can you really do that for the units - you can take add ons of units with different weapons, but as far as being able to customize a squad or unit, 40k has it beat.

    That's one of the reasons it's so popular - it supplies a game that fits rather nicely in between a traditional mass battles game and a skirmish-level game. There's really no competition for that kind of game available, other than from other categories.

    Plus, I like my variety, and 40k and Fantasy defintitely do that in spades. I also really enjoy playing PP games as well for my skirmish/hardcore tournament game fix, so go figure.

    My 2 cents.

  2. Well yeah. You can customize your generic hero Captain or Chaplain, or whatever with different weapons and whatnot. While in Flames you might get to swap an HQ's tank or add a couple of weapon teams. That's not much on the surface.

    But think about this too... How many useful variations are there really for 40K heroes? Nobody takes Captains anymore. Mostly Librarians and the occasional Chaplain or completely predefined Special Character. Guard Commanders always take either laspistols or plasma pistols.

    So overall, at the end of the day, I see the same, if not more, actual variety on-table from Flames HQ's and their abilities than I do from most 40K HQ's. Unless the 40K players aren't playing competitively and just add gear to their Commanders for the hell of it.

    40K's real strength for casual players is that you can take their system and make anything you want with it. See something you like in a movie? Here, take this guy, add this and that and... you can pretend it's whoever you want.

    It won't win, but you can customize your fantasy character to your heart's content. :)

    1. No maybe it won't, but we're still having fun so does it really matter? A close game that comes down to the wire is all I'm really looking for. (quote): 'Unless the 40K players aren't playing competitively and just add gear to their Commanders for the hell of it.' There's a lot more of us out there that do that than 'teh interwebz' would lead you to believe.

      Oh, and for the record, my libby like all of my psykers in general (barring the farseer with DOOM!/guide/fortune) tends to suck wind & die on the tabletop. Whereas 'Captain I killed Draigo' is always at the helm of my SM army!

    2. No, if being maximally competitive isn't your focus, it doesn't really matter. Because you won't be fighting 40K's design philosophy so much. Roll dice, have fun, be happy.

      But I also remember my frustrations in trying to be competitive with something a bit different than the 5th-Ed IG/BA norm. Every solution to my list problems required using a type of build that I really didn't want to play. At some point the triangle of competitive options for all 40K armies narrow from a reasonably wide set of build options at the more casual end, to a very restrictive point at the more competitive end. While Flames is more of a trapezoid.

    3. On the competitive front, in 6th the 'new meta' (god I hate that term) for IG is the good ol' fashioned gun line (albeit, often as allies). Towards the end of 5th, my renegade gun line IG was labeled a 'leafblower' of all things as it could blow the chimera parking lot off the table in short order. That and vendettas suck when targeting platoons. It amused me to know end to show up at a game shop weekend tourney with a 'fluffy' army that was more feared than the so-called competitive ones.

      In the end its a moot point, as game preference is a 'to each their own' kinda thing. I do enjoy your commentaries on the subject though, then tend to be far more well thought out than the usual internet nerd rage rants so often seen on say BoLS, or even my blog for that matter...

  3. Without knowing anything about FoW (or why a blog post in response to a single comment on BoLS exists) I'd like to at least ask that you consider 'complexity' beyond the most shallow format of "count the dudes with different unit entries because it suits my theory."

    Again, I don't know anything at all about FoW, but given the respective contexts of the games involved I'd be willing to bet that there's not quite as much rules difference between an American Soldier and a German Soldier and a French Soldier and a British Soldier and a Russian Soldier all combined than there is between an Ork Grot and a Grey Knight Paladin. Or from American HQ Guy and French HQ Guy compared to a Tau Ethereal and Fateweaver.

    40k's complexity isn't remotely based in number of distinct units, it's based in the fact that most of those units don't bare the slightest resemblence to each other outside of the Marine Codexes--Marine Codexes being what I would most expect Flames of War armies to look like. There's no huge difference between a Tactical Marine and a Devastator besides what gun they're carrying, and I bet "the guys/tanks with the other guns" represent a fair portion of FoW's entries.

    A Termagant, Ripper Swarm, Tyranid Warrior and Tervigon are all Troop choices within a single book in 40k. That represents a bit more complexity than Machine Gun Guy, Rifle Guy, Rocket Guy, and Mortar Guy.

    1. Eh... The post exists because I wanted to address the issue in detail. Can't do that in a Disqus comment box very well.

      There's more difference between Flames units and factions than you would think.

      Germans are VERY hard to hit if they're hiding in cover or dug in. They also have the ability (on a roll) to do a Tau-like move during the assault phase. You also can't kill their unit leaders and gimp a unit because everyone in the unit knows the mission. So they're elite and reliable. But always few in number. You're also forced to make a lot of tradeoffs at list creation time because you can't bring everything you need.

      Russians have numbers. Holy crap do they have numbers. Often with better tanks and guns than the Germans. They're also VERY hard to run off, as they're motivated and have Commissars to give them extra re-rolls. Think Orks with Guard equipment and characters.

      British forces are the most diverse of all the allies. They have large numbers of weaker units combined with some excellent shooting abilities and troops that are very stubborn in combat.

      The French have excellent artillery and tanks (and crazy-good scout cars). But they don't like moving around. Farmpunk is still trying to figure out how to play them best.

      The Americans have absolutely sick artillery, Tank Destroyers with Romulan cloaking devices (they just appear out of nowhere), and all sorts of little gadgets on their tanks and vehicles. They're not really exceptional at any one thing (except artillery), but they are extremely reliable and can always bring a little of everything they need.

      The Italians are the gambler's army. You have to roll up the training and motivation levels of your troops before each battle. So they might be awesome, or they might be kind of sucky. What guys love about them is that you never play them the same way twice. You have to adapt to what the dice give you.

    2. As for units, the changes over time (because everyone kept upgrading during the war) reflect both increases in gun size AND armor. Here's the progression for the Panzer III tank in the game.

      Panzer III F

      Armor (F/S/T): 3/3/1 Range:24" Rof: 3 Pen: 7 Firepower: 4+

      Panzer III E

      Armor (F/S/T): 4/3/1 Range:24" Rof: 3 Pen: 7 Firepower: 4+

      Panzer III G

      Armor (F/S/T): 5/3/1 Range:24" Rof: 3 Pen: 7 Firepower: 4+

      Panzer III J

      Armor (F/S/T): 5/3/1 Range:24" Rof: 3 Pen: 9 Firepower: 4+

      Panzer III L

      Armor (F/S/T): 6/3/1 Range:24" Rof: 3 Pen: 9 Firepower: 4+

      Panzer III N

      Armor (F/S/T): 6/3/1 Range:24" Rof: 2 Pen: 9 Firepower: 3+

      American tanks start getting stabilizers that make them better able to shoot on the move. The Germans have protected ammo, which reduces their ability to be stunned by non-killing hits. Later, other armies start adding that to their tanks as well. Some tanks have slow turrets, the inability to fire on the move, the ability to move through terrain without risking as many immobilizations (wide tracks), some can't see very well to their sides, some might break down if you push them too fast, etc.

      So imagine if Marines in 40K had dozens of different armor levels and gun combinations available to them. If some could run faster than others. If some got hung up more easily on walls or fences. If some could move and fire more easily. Or lob shots high into the sky in indirect fire. Or if some had the ability to shoot smoke and others didn't.

      That kind of complexity isn't obvious until you get into the game. But it's actually much deeper in terms of strategic decisions before-game, and tactics in-game, than 40K.

    3. "So imagine if Marines in 40K had..."

      Let us imagine!

      "...dozens of different armor levels and gun combinations available to them..."

      Like a Razorback, Predator, and Land Raider and the associated weapon combinations? With the added fact that these vehicles will tend to have 3-5 weapons apiece. Working from the same basic rules (Vehicle+Tank and sometimes Transport), they're just three different armor levels and guns. With likely hundreds of possible combinations.

      "...If some could run faster than others..."

      Like Jump Infantry and/or Bikes?

      "...If some got hung up more easily on walls or fences..."

      Like Move Through Cover (and/or the absence thereof by comparison) on Scouts?

      "...If some could move and fire more easily..."

      Like Relentless and/or Bikes?

      "...Or lob shots high into the sky in indirect fire..."


      "...Or if some had the ability to shoot smoke and others didn't..."

      Okay, infantry in 40k don't have Smoke Launchers. You got one! Woo.

      For the sake of reference, I only post these things on your 40k "comparison" blogs (which have a tendency to turn into FoW makeout sessions) because I know you actually ARE smart enough to consider questions like "what if complexity isn't just counting up unit entries," but you're willingly allowing yourself to be biased and ignore the voice of common sense in your head. Every one of these things tends to be a revolving circlejerk of being willingly ignorant or over-analyzing one specific angle at the cost of overall context solely to arrive at a conclusion that allows you to talk about how much better everything that isn't 40k is.

    4. Predators, Land Raiders, Razorbacks...

      Let's discuss Armor Levels and guns. How many armor levels are there in 40K? Answer: Five (AV10-14). Theoretically you could have AV 5-9 on something, but GW doesn't do this because that would make vehicles too easy to kill. Which is why fliers run around with armor equal to or exceeding that of a medium tank (Chimera).

      How many are there in Flames? Answer: Sixteen (AV 0-15), and all of those values are used. Based on vulnerability to normal infantry (40K S3, FoW AP1) rifle fire for penetrations, a Chimera in Flames would be AV 4/2/1 (Front/Side/Top). A Russ would be AV 6/5/1. A Panther-A tank is 10/5/1. A Tiger tank is 9/8/2. Armored trucks in Flames are 0/0/0 and infantry still have trouble penetrating them with normal rifles.

      Weapon strength values in 40K range from 2-10, and the useful values are 4-10. In Flames, the comparable value (AP) ranges from 1-16. Normal rifles are 1.

      So yeah, you can field various sorts of slightly different Land Raiders and whatnot. But if they all feel sort of same-y. Well, that's because there's really not much variation in movement values or armor facings. Just weapons. And how many of those variations are competitive, anyhow? Two, three, for the Land Raider? Two, three, of the Russ variants? One, maybe two, for Chimeras?

      How many alien weapons in 40K are just slightly different variations on a bolter or a missile launcher with one special rule added? I think that there's a lot of false complexity/variety in 40K.

      As for the rest...

      You're switching unit types here. Yes, you have much of that variety across multiple unit/model types. But what if one unit type (tanks or Marines for instance) had those kind of variations within the same model line? That's what I'm talking about.

      Making out...

      I try not to 'make out' with Flames too much, as there really are things I don't like about the game. BF has also stumbled on a few things recently, like the new 2nd Infantry Division lists and their interaction with the existing Tank Destroyer rules. Which I could make a whole other post on if you'd like.

      But when I'm trying to point out how 40K could be improved, or how even very complex games can be balanced better than GW manages with 40K, well... Flames is the best example that I can point to. Not a perfect example, but it's out there, it's a relatively successful multinational product, and it proves the points I need to make better than anything else I can think of.

    5. (quote): 'you're willingly allowing yourself to be biased and ignore the voice of common sense in your head. Every one of these things tends to be a revolving circlejerk of being willingly ignorant or over-analyzing one specific angle at the cost of overall context solely to arrive at a conclusion that allows you to talk about how much better everything that isn't 40k is.'

      To a 3rd party reading the above argument, it amuses me that the person who made that accusation is just as guilty of this viewpoint him/herself (albeit in favor of 40k).


    6. Hear hear Cheef. Simple answer is that anyone playing 40k and Flames knows that 40k is the less tactical and strategic game. Although everything in both games comes down to stats, FoW has surprisingly more space for tactics, flanking, outmaneuver and 'cunning plans'.

      The irony is that 40k has more 'freedom' than FoW in eternally fiddling with endless units - but this freedom doesn't generate a great game. FoW on first glance looks less varied (the absense of monsters and power armour being the obvious look) but the reality is that the gameplay of 40k is very narrow - you're running a army of varied sized 'tanks' who are all hurt by a premium selection of weaponry. Vehicles are slow, armoured trrops are more durable than tanks etc etc. Everything is on a sliding scale of effectiveness, with only price being the arbiter.

      Flames does this better (and more realistically) as they is no 'perfect' weapon or ideal specification that you can take. The FoC shown above force you to sacrifice units if you take others. You are limited in resources, access AND points in a way 40k players cannot guess. Meanwhile, not only can troops barely scratch a truck (let alone a tank), but tanks are limited in effectiveness against dug in troops. In this way the 'tic-tac-toe' of the game design is a constantly shifting morass of moving and covering units - taking risks or sitting tight.

      As a great example let's look at the T-34 1942 and the T-34-85 1944. One is a super fast, low armoured, under gunned tank which is great at overcoming obstacle (wide tracks), has an awesome top speed of 32". The 85mm has better armour, is slower, but has an awesome gun. It's like comparing the play style of a Valkyrie and a Leman Russ.

      Dodger 3 - I'd encourage you to play FOW. I love 40k, but it's unreserved lovers 'doth protest too much' - it's limited.

    7. Are you playing Flames now Sun? If so, we need to get some games in. Farmpunk and I need more North Store competition/variety.

    8. If Suneokun lived on the same continent...

    9. ??? I thought he was local. Must be thinking of the wrong guy.

  4. Complexity is not reallly correlated with the number of units available to a player, now is it? Chess has all of 6 unit types, and is certainly a complex game. Go has all of 1 unit type available, and again, is certainly complex. WH40k has alot of units, which makes it complicated, in the same way that a Rube Goldberg device is complicated :P But complicated is not the same thing as complex, is it?

    Ultimately for me anyway, 40k degenerates into moving lots of pieces, and rolling lots of dice. I remember playing that game when I was ten years old. Only it was called Risk ;) YMMV.

    1. The original assertion that I was responding to was that GW couldn't possibly balance 40K because it was far more complex in terms of unit and weapon variety than any other game. So I was taking exception to that.

      Go and Chess are certainly complex in terms of strategy. But they have a small number of very well defined things that you can do with a playing piece. Plus both players are always mirror-matched.

      While the wargames we're talking about have hundreds of units/models, with various degrees of randomized behavior, to take into account when you're trying to balance one faction/list/FOC against another. While Flames isn't perfect in this regard, it's an order of magnitude more perfect than 40K is. While arguably being more complex in terms of the number of units/models that the rules and point costs have to take into account.

      Which is all I'm saying.

  5. Quick comment, since I have to leave for work...

    Just a bit of devil's advocacy, but wouldn't saying "you can play in multiple time periods" as a "we get more" thing be a bit of a fallacy?

    Yes, you have more options, but you choose one or the other time period to play in... in terms of "having more with good balance", mid war is not balanced against late war, for example, to my understanding. It's kind of like saying "I can play 2k or 1500! Bigger variety!!"... except they're mutually exclusive.

    And the same can be said of the force orgs... sure you have more, but 40k's one encompasses (probably) just as many options.

    Because it's a completely open system it's hard (if not impossible) to perfectly balance. If I were to tell a Guard player "You can only take 3 Chimeras"... I wouldn't have played against many guard players for the past 5 years or so.

    Hopefully a better response will be in the future, but I'm already late for leaving >.<

    1. More restrictive army creation in 40K wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

    2. 40K's system is more generic, in that you can take a Guard or Chaos Marine FOC and build all sorts of different lists. But reality being what it is, certain options will be inherently more useful or efficient than others.

      Guard used to have 7+ good builds when the book dropped. Because they had more (and cheaper) options than the other books. But as more codices came out after Guard, the number of competitive builds dropped until there was really only variations on the basic Leafblower towards the end of 5th.

      All 40K books go this way. Some faster than others. Eventually there will be Marine books out with better/cheaper anti-flier options than the CSM currently have. Even the new ally options are starting to shake out into a relatively small number of standard army combos. Grey Knights + Necrons being very popular right now.

      So essentially the one-list/FOC system leads to less and less variety as time goes by and the most effective power combos are found. If you were a competitive Marine player in 5th and didn't like Las/Plas Razor Spam, for instance, there really weren't many other options for you to go with. Sure, there were cool options, and ones that were good some percentage of the time. But if you wanted reliability, Las/Plas was it for a while.

      But in a multi-list/FOC system, such as Flames, variety and interest can be preserved. Because the designers have identified the most desirable force types and carefully limited their support options for each. So that none of them automatically overpowers the rest.

      Want tanks? Then you don't get many infantry options. Want heavy tanks? Cool, but you're going to get ambushed a lot because you won't have any recon units. Want infantry? Few tank options then, and you'll almost always be defending instead of attacking. Etc.

      It's as if Space Marines were split into Tactical Companies, Drop Pod Companies, Scout Companies, Mechanized Companies, Tank Companies, etc. Each with their own limited support options. Their own strengths and weaknesses. Such that 4 years on, you'd still have at least 5+ competitive builds available. One per list type. So you could buy what you like the look/feel of, and remain reasonably competitive. Instead of buying what you like, and then buying what really works later. Putting the cool stuff on the shelf instead of the table.

    3. Granted I can see the perks to having more FOC's, each more limited than the One Chart to Rule Them idea of GW... but, out of curiosity, does it ever hit a "rock paper scissors" moment?

      I've heard that about WarmaHordes on and off... it's a fine line.

      Now I'm not up here trying to say GW is perfect by any means. Codex creep at least was a thing. I think it's gotten better, and I've heard tidbits that they're trying to develop more books together to further combat it (which is good).

      I suppose it would be interesting to try to mimick a Flames Force Org on a GW army to see how it would actually look. What would a Kabalite Dark Eldar force be able to (and not able to) take? How many cult/coven units could I have? Would there ever be a restriction on mercinary factions?

      What about "generic SM army"? Companies are made up of pretty much 100 dudes of X type, so that'd be too limiting... what does a 'real space marine 1k force' include?

      In truth, I was always interested in the fantasy (or old fantasy maybe) way of list-building. For every 2 troops, you can take 1 X. For every 3rd, a Y... or however it worked. More basic stuff unlocked more fancy stuff.

    4. (Take note Dodger, this comment is critical of Flames. :P)

      RPS exists in Flames (one of my major gripes), but the degree of RPS varies according to faction. It's not the same across the board.

      Depending on the points level and the mission, the Germans are so elite and their units so specialized, that you can't cover all of your bases. Sometimes you just have to leave out infantry/air/whatever support. Or have your choices limited to specific FOCS/lists that contain multi-purpose units.

      Americans are the opposite. Their units are so cheap and general-purpose that they can cover nearly every base easily with points to spare for cool toys. They don't excel at any one thing, they just swamp you with units that are decent at a lot of different roles.

      Whereas Germans have to buy dedicated anti-aircraft units, for instance, almost all American armored vehicles either come with AA machine guns, or can upgrade to get them for 5 points each.

      There are tactical counters to aircraft and artillery threats that you can use to mitigate the inability to take everything you need. You could even call it characterful and an accurate portrayal of the problems German forces had fighting the materially superior allies. This is probably how I SHOULD feel as a German player. But it still rankles my feathers. These problems mostly disappear at 1750 points, but the tourneys all run about 1550-1700 points.

      The big hubub in the Flames community right now is how overpowered the new Late-War Battle of the Bulge American lists are. 2iD lists have been sweeping 4/5 of the top spots at recent events. Partly because the American tank destroyer rules seem to break when you can take more than one platoon of them.

      It's been enough to keep Farmpunk and I out of Late War. The best I can say is that Battlefront is communicating with the player base and attempting to resolve the issue with some rules changes. Which everyone can comment on. Exact resolution TBD.

      So you know, BF makes mistakes like anyone else. But they also admit and attempt to fix them. My Hellfire & Back book actually came with 'correction stickers' to fix various rules and point values from a similar such issue a year ago. I expect they'll be doing something similar for the bulge books.

  6. I agree with the premise the 40K is not the most complicated game, but I don't think FoW is the right example to show it. FoW started as essentially a stripped down version of 3rd edition 40k, and the units in the game are specifically created to be homogeneous.

    Warma-hordes is a better example. Units tend to be more rules crunchy on average than 40k ones. All 11 factions have around 50-ish distinct units each. It's a much more difficult system to balance, but Privateer manages to keep their heads mostly above water.

    GW could make 40K better balanced if they wanted too. But it would require a 3rd edition style re-boot on all the codex's to properly do.

    1. I don't play Warma-hordes, so I can't really comment on it. I have heard it said that Infinity is more complex than 40K too, but I don't know if that's true either.

    2. Not really a good comparison since Infinity is a skirmish game (generally not more than 12 models or so), but here's some info:

      Each unit type is standard, but have several weapon options or "roles". To put it in 40K terms, you could have an Imperial Guard Trooper with these options:

      - Basic trooper with Lasgun and Laspistol
      - Basic trooper with Shotgun and Laspistol
      - Basic trooper with Missile Launcher and Laspistol
      - Paramedic trooper with Lasgun and Laspistol
      - Psycher trooper with Lasgun and Laspistol
      - Lieutenant trooper with Lasgun and Laspistol

      Each option would have different points values along with a "special weapon cost" and special rules for the weapons and the roles, but the basic stats for the trooper would be the same (WS3, BS3, S3, etc.).

      Now the rules for actually playing the game are by degrees more complex because of the reaction system and the way all of the different roles (doctor, Hacker, etc.) add rules to that model, but again, I don't think i is a good comparison to 40K.

  7. The issue is not just of variety or choice, but how do those choices interact within the framework of the rules? I haven't played FOW, but I've heard the ruleset is very tight. I've played 40K for 15 years and "tight" is never a word I would ascribe to any edition, book, rule, or paragraph ever issued from GW. Yes, they have hundreds of different units, weapons, and special rules to govern them, but there are equally as many loopholes and paradoxes that create a poor experience. I, for one, don't like 6th Edition and it will probably mark my end of the line with 40K and largely because the "complexity" is a complete and utter failure. Their desire to grow the game in terms of models, weapons, unit types, and armies is solely mercenary: they need to consistently sell product for stakeholders. THE END. They care not about balance and whenever this issue is raised, it is not met with a FAQ or resolution, but defensiveness and some bullshit response from Jervis about social contracts and forging a narrative.

    Anyone can create complexity, by which you mean a multitude of options, but if they don't interact well, if they aren't even close to internally balanced (resulting in default choices over and over again), then the complexity is an illusion. To me, 40K's complexity by this standard is an illusion. Most books with 30 units in them really only have 5-10 really worth taking and then there's usually amongst those choices a near default set-up with maybe a token piece of wargear like a combi-bolter that generally doesn't differentiate the unit in a substantial way unless done en masse like Sternguard. Allies have compounded this problem as you now often see the exact same 500 point contingents of Guard, Daemons, or Necrons shoehorned into other armies.

    IMO, GW, through its sloppy design and haphazard rules, actually creates LESS choice than comparable games because you can sweepingly write off huge chunks of the units as substandard or poor, which, therefore, defeats the desires of many to be fluffy AND competitive.

    1. Creating complexity is very easy, and 40K's designers have always favored 'immersion' over balance. It would be cool if... So just roll a die and imagine something happening. They don't care if it's balanced any more than an RPG designer cares whether some equipment table in the book they're writing is balanced. Because the point is immersion. Need to figure out if weapon X is sold at this Dwarf's shop? Here's a table for that. Roll on it. Oh, that result was cool!

      The really hard part of designing anything isn't coming up with cool, complex, ideas. It's deciding which ones to keep, and which ones to chuck in the bin. Producing simple rules that lead to complex tactics & thinking is pretty hard work. It's much easier to just use every weird idea you come up with. Which is where 40K is right now.

    2. Agreed, 100%. And honestly, it's where GW has always been. Most of their games have always been loaded with random table after random table, and if you're just having a laugh, who cares. But the second you want something more than that, it does matter and the house of cards comes tumbling down. They don't base point costs on math, but intuition. They don't design units, then build models; it's the other way around. They don't test their own rules to the point you see if 54 flamers and screamers or 12 flyers breaks their rulesets because they can't imagine anyone playing like that, yet it's fully permitting by their rules, if not encouraged when so much other stuff in their books are underpowered or pointless, at least in comparison. Throwing poop against the wall to see what sticks doesn't leave you with a better game; it leaves you with a room full of poop... which is where 40K is right now.

  8. Haha I don't think it's quite fair to group the Marine codexes together then subdivide all the FoW factions! Heck some of the smaller nations just use equipment from the main factions.

    I'd just grant 40k the point that it has more diverse units. You can make pretty much any FoW army using units from 40k but you'll never recreate anything like jump pack marines or chaos daemons with FoW units.

    The edge Flames has is the scale. Dropping the scale to 15mm pretty much quadruples the board size. We had a game the other day where we had a curtain wall across the back end of the table using the desert fortress. There was barbed wire, trenches, minefields, infantry dying everywhere - it was... epic!
    You can do things in flames that 40k just can't replicate without feeling cramped or descending into chaos like in games of Apocalypse. It's a much more flexible system that can support a much wider range of scenarios.

    1. I think it's fair. The Czechs are about as different from the Germans as the Dark Angels are from Ultramarines (not much aside from a couple of units). While the Blood Angels, Wolves, & Templars are about as different from the Ultramarines as the SS, Luftwaffe, or Herman Göring division are from regular German troops. Or as different as Eastern Front German troops are from North Africa.

      There's a lot of complexity hidden under the name 'British' too. It's a big empire with lots of auxiliaries to choose from.

      And while Flames doesn't have 'Daemons', it does have deep-striking assault troops. They're called paratroopers with gliders. They land like drop pods, they assault right away, and if the dice go your way you've wiped out half of your opponent's army before they get to react.

      Jump pack Marines are pretty well represented by units with the ability to march at the double through woods. Or by motorcycle/Jeep & light tank units that can zoom 16-24", depending on the terrain.

      Ignore the scale for a second and mentally replace every tank with a Marine, every infantry stand with a Guard trooper, and every heavy tank with a vehicle. Thought about that way, 40K and Flames really aren't that different at all. At the very least, they're tied for complexity. Which was my original point.

    2. Well, you grouped all the marine codexes as one "type" to drop the number of 40k factions down to 12, but allowed for national and factional subdivisions to gain incredible granulation for Flames builds. It'd be just as easy to start subdividing the 40k codexes...

      I think the plethora of FoW books and supplements is necessary due to them wanting people to build historical lists. 40k takes a pick-and-mix approach to lists whereas Flames is more restrictive about what units you can take together. To get around that they issue themed lists as pdfs and supplement books.
      Although it means arguably less complexity the edge that Flames has is that all these lists are pretty well balanced against each other.
      In 40k you can build crazy combinations but if you want to play a themed list you generally sacrifice your competitive edge. In Flames you just pick a list you like and run with it and you know it'll probably be okay.

      I guess my point was more that complexity on the mechanical level is a red herring. Flames has the edge on 40k in the complexity and range of games that can be played. Because the rules are really flexible and the lists are all pretty well balanced you can think up a scenario, pick some forces that seem appropriate for it, put it down on the table and go.

      If you did that in 40k you have to start worrying about whether or not the forces you picked are going to be balanced against each other. It's easy to get a mis-match and end up with a slaughter. And woe-betide you if you want to add in tank obstacles or bunkers or barbed wire. How do these things work in 40k? In Flames that's all integrated into the rules.

    3. No, I only grouped up 5 of the 7 Marine books.

      Grey Knights and Chaos Space Marines are different enough to be their own thing. Taken together, the other 5 Marine books are only about as different from each other as the various groups within the German army in Flames. Wolves being the most divergent of the 5, and Dark Angels being the least. Wolves are SS, in that they get all the best gear and play slightly differently. DA are basically Free French + Vichy French. A couple of unique units and a few characters. But otherwise they're just the same as all the other power armor dudes. You don't take them unless you're doing Ravenwing or Deathwing.

      The plethora of Flames books comes from Battlefront... wanting to sell books! The restrictive list system is there because it promotes army variety and makes for a better game overall.

      Sure, Battlefront COULD just release one list/FOC/book per faction and be done with it, 40K style. But then you'd have the exact same problem that 40K has. Over time, the best units would be filtered out into a small handful of power lists. Causing variety, at anything but the casual basement level, to go right out the window.

      The different lists, having different deployment priorities/rules, also allow players to pick the style of army that they like. If you want to always be attacking, pick tanks. If you always want to defend, pick infantry. If you want something in-between, go with mech. Instead of pushing everyone towards one power-list playstyle, everyone can enjoy the game in their own preferred style.

    4. It's worth keeping in mind just how restrictive Flames' list building really is. Let's say I want to have a Soviet tank force with two T-34 companies and two IS-2 companies. It sounds simple but I can't do it. You pretty much pick a unit type that you like and want lots of then all the rest are generally 0-1 support options.

      Flames has a lot of options when it comes to which list you want to play but it doesn't have much flexibility once you've chosen one. We both know the good reasons for this choice but it's really not true that Flames has this amazing breadth of list choice and 40k list building is a restrictive cul-de-sac.

      The proof of the pudding is always in the eating. The lists are just there to support the final game. The key standout for Flames is that it supports a range of gameplay that 40k can only dream about.

    5. Well yeah. Just like you can't bring 6 units of IG Valkyries in 40K. Any system with limits will restrict what you can bring. At least in Flames you can pick your favorite unit type as your 'troop' choices.

      40K has more choices for the casual player who just wants to come up with cool combinations. Flames has more choices for the competitive player because of it's multiple list/FOC system. It speaks to the design focus of each system.

    6. Squadrons don't suck any more though, so you'd probably run out of points before you ran out of Valk slots :P

  9. Agree quite a lot with your analysis, FOW is getting very complex. Many special unit rules. This is one of the difficulties to game WWII, its many different theaters and armies (we are not even talking about Asia Pacific front!)

    FOW could be simpler by focusing on just the generic stuff but then we wouldn't get the possibility to explore many aspects and periods of the conflict.

    So I don't think it so much a deliberate aspect of FOW but rather a consequence of world wide conflict that had very many different facets at many different period of time.

    1. The complexity in Flames is a turn-off for a lot of folks. In terms of appeal, I think it's what keeps more players from trying it out. It can be hard getting your head around all the periods, lists, and unit choices, let alone the combined arms tactics that it takes to assault an infantry position successfully.

      What I see again and again from new players in Flames is this mad rush to get a power unit up into the enemy's face without support. It's a 40K habit that doesn't work in more tactical games. So a large percentage of new players get confused, mad, and end up selling off the new army they bought before they get over that hump.

  10. I have entered the room......

    And well nevermind. But I will say that a 3+ is a 3+. And I guess that makes every infantry model in FOW the same thing regardless of their guns so I guess you just dropped a ton of 'units' from FOW.

    And in 5th I didn't use las/plas and did fairly well with unconventional list building. I didn't take what everyone else did to win. I took what I enjoyed even though it wasn't optimal. I still won...a lot.

    In case everyone forgot, we like UFC more than tennis, football more than golf. Most people like their wargames to go and push a unit into the face of their opponent, not to sit back and play cat and mouse games. Otherwise it is just chess, but decent article. I agree I am not smart enough to hang with all you genius types.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. If you're going to 'drop' a bunch of units for having the same roll, might as well apply that to 40K too. Most 40K models hit on a 3+. Some on a 4+. Orks on a 5+.

      Fact is though, that having a modified to-hit roll and a standard save gives more odds variety than a standard to-hit roll and a comparative toughness/save.

      Explained here:

      I wouldn't try and categorize all wargamers into just one or two types. We all like different things, and that's OK too. :)


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