Monday, May 4, 2015

Advancing Conclusions - GT/Invitational Changes Due to Game Changes

So, we're getting there. Feedback continues to roll in on blog posts, e-mail chains, and the like. Please keep in mind that all of the following are just continuations of the current discussions, not finalized rulings, and we're still fielding enormous discussion and feedback here.

We have survey results from last year's NOVA and community surveys like LVOs to help us with some of our decision making. We're not there yet, but we're working to get there as quickly as possible.

The motivations here are developing as simplistic a set of changes and army construction rules as possible, and also developing a set that anticipates FUTURE releases by GW to better handle them (and avoid being so specific or now-focused that we have to make more changes in another month or two).

For example, one of the proposed concepts below targets both the Guardian Warhost and Decurion Formations. The Guardian Warhost is a slightly larger motivator here, but we can all anticipate similar Detachments comprised of tons of detachments in the future (e.g., w/ Adeptus Astartes in June).

Based upon survey results from NOVA, feedback, and other public polling, there are a few things that stand out as being problematic in the game, many of which were "straw that broke the camel's back" with the new Eldex.

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

1) "Invinsible" Units - Units that either have 2+/3+ type re-rollable invul/cover/armor saves or units that have strong saves/t/wounds and are very easily rendered Invisible. Examples include Screamer Stars and Seer Councils in the case of the former (less durable by model but great saves that are re-rollable), and Centurion Stars or Flesh Hound Stars in the case of the latter (usually do not have re-rollable saves but are more durable / have more wounds, and hard to hit in the first place).

2) Super Heavy / Gargantuan units - Between Stomp and a variety of long range attacks with the "D" rule or high strength / ignores cover, use of these units requires a variety of modifications to the game, as seen in the events that use them. Legalization requires an extensive ban list, though banning comes with a downside of complaint from players that want to see them in the game. The big issue with these units, between Thunderblitz, Stomp, and D, is the extremely negative reaction from the "Average" player to what happens when their opponent rolls a "6" (either from very long range, or from a Stomp that they aren't even in combat with, etc.) and tells them to just pick all their models up off the board. Nowhere was it more evident that "average" players can't stand this than in last year's NOVA Open Narrative, where feedback from a casual /  theme-heavy event was, in the case of one quote, something like this: "Why are we allowing Super Heavies and Gargantuans in the Narrative? I thought this was supposed to be a fun event and not one with a bunch of WAAC big units and competitiveness?!"

3) D Weapons [on Eldar basic units] - It would be folly to presume Eldar are the last codex you'll see receiving D weapons on non-SH/GC units. Whether it's the vinDicator or something else, expect to see this start to repeat itself elsewhere. GW really likes abilities that completely eliminate things when you get lucky and roll a 6.

4) Summoning. This is more mission specific, but most missions start to break down when players can add scoring units wholesale to the game, especially late when opponents cannot do anything to counter.


So what do we do to address these things in the simplest way possible, while changing as little of the core game as possible?

First off, army construction:
Detachments
It is looking more and more likely that we will move to a 3 Detachment limit. IN doing so, we will likely make the third Detachment "limited." So you'd have 2 Open Detachment Choices and one Limited Detachment Choice. Limited would most likely just eliminate the selection of a potential third CAD or CAD-like detachment (i.e. the codex-specific CAD-like choice in the SW dex). Additionally, we're considering making "Guardian Warhost" and "Decurion" style detachments take up both Open Detachment Choices (or all 3).

What's the point here? First off, based upon public polling done by the LVO, a higher % of players prefer 3 or more detachments to 2 or fewer. The ITC is going to 3 detachments generally as a result. This doesn't directly impact us, but it's a fool who fails to listen to the largest majority when two groups are at odds.

Secondly, allowing a third detachment dramatically increases the freedom of players - including Xenos - to select Culexus Assassins. This increases the risk in building a psychic-power-based deathstar with super saves (see #1 above) without changing game rules for things like Invisibility, Fortune, etc. We don't like rules changes, and there are good reasons for this. I.E. if you change Invisibility so that it allows units to be hit by Templates and Blasts, the release of Wraithguard with D-Scythes is suddenly WAY scarier to the game as a whole, because they have no direct counters - units that can survive them or prevent their use, for instance.

Super Heavy Vehicles and Gargantuan Creatures
We need to get the Knight Dex in hand, but rumors appear to show images of the new Knight standard detachment being comprised of 1-3 Super Heavy Lords of War. This would imply the new Knights are all SH Lords of War and not just Super Heavies. If that is the case, they would become illegal under NOVA's current rules the moment they are released. Wraithknights experienced this same "fate." So, what do we do about these units? People own AdLance Knight armies and trios of Wraithknights. If we allow all SH/GC LoW to be 0-1, people can bring an iKnight or a Wraithknight. If we allow iKnights to be the exception to the rule, we certainly continue to persist with our double standard. If we changed all our rules to allow Wraithknights, we'd be making a change to something our players wanted and that we decided on just to make Wraithknights happy.

There are a LARGE # of units that are unplayable as a direct result of SH/GC being in the game. The advantage to these models is that Stomp scares Deathstars. Nevertheless, the increased ability to MSU by 3 detachments and the dramatic increase in Culexus likelihood (inclusive of Culexus riding around in Vendettas) does a lot to make Deathstars a riskier buy to begin with.So ... the current lean is increasingly to simply leave SH/GC out. Adding them in mandates a ban list of SH/GC that we do not want (i.e. ones with massive cover ignoring attacks, etc., as per the way LVO/ITC does it) and also blatantly changes an existing GT/Invitational ruling in direct response to Eldar players wanting to be able to field their Wraithknights. This also would mean Eldar players wanting to field D Scythes with WWP or Raider transports or similar would have to field them as Elite selections in Eldar CADs (the formation w/in Warhost that lets them run 6" and shoot all the time requires a Wraithknight), limiting them under the proposed Detachment change above to only 6 units ... and still able to use their Allied Detach to snag a WWP delivery system in there. I know some Eldar players will be unhappy that they cannot field D-Scythe units that no-scatter deep strike out of LOS of interceptors before auto-running 6" and killing w/e they like, but they still just received one of the most powerful codices released since ... well, Eldar, and still will be able to pull off this and many other shenanigans.

Now, onto rules ...
D Weapons
The only thing we're considering changing rules wise in the game is the use of D Weapons. Based upon LVO polling data and survey feedback from our various events, the biggest complaint is about people vaporizing things from across the board with template/blast D weapons and rolling 6's. Easy references are Eldar Lynxes sitting on Skyshields.

The new offenders are Hemlock Wraithfighters, Wraithguard w/ Wraithcannons, Wraithguard w/ D-Scythes, and Distort Platform Artillery.
Wraithguard w/ Wraithcannons are not major concerns; they are single shot units ... and so, as they used to with their previous guns, will tend to kill single model units they shoot at and do very little to any kind of higher model count unit. They are also still Wraithguard, and without flame weapons cannot reliably overwatch to stop even marginal units from pinning them and/or killing them in combat (or simply with shooting).
Hemlock Wraithfighters *do* drop D small blasts, but they are affected by the D-Scythe rule. Thus, they fail to wound 1/3 the time and can never ignore cover/invulnerable saves.
Distort Artillery is a bit problematic, as once you are within 24" you risk them rolling 6's on stacked blast attacks. That said, they are also largely instantly dead once engaged in combat. They are at their most game affecting in a bad way when we talk about their max range, more so than their existence as a fact.
Wraithguard w/ D-Scythes are also a bit problematic, sitting between Wraithfighters and the Artillery. They are quite short-ranged, but they are somewhat more difficult to pin in combat (Requiring a sac unit or LOS blockage to force all the overwatch wounds onto a single model). They are no more difficult to simply shoot to death than Wraithguard have always been. They hit extremely hard against basic units and multi-wound units without strong invulnerable saves, but they also fail to wound 1/3 the time and cannot ignore invul saves.

So what is our thought? We're talking a lot with Reece of LVO/ITC, we're also talking with a lot of players. We're fielding a lot of feedback. The prevailing through right now is to simply rule as follows:
D shots originating from greater than 12" away treat all "6" results as "5" results instead.
D weapons always inflict only D3 Wounds or Hull Points (even on a "6" result)

That would be it. So close range and close combat D would remain as it is, helping moderate Deathstars somewhat (less so with the removal of SH/GC if we go that route). Rolling a "6" at closer range would not be quite the 7+ wound/hull point hit it currently is, but would still ignore invul/cover. Units wishing to ignore invul/cover with their D shots would require being danger close to the enemy to do so (i.e. Distort Artillery is far better moderated, as units can stop 13" away from a potential charge and remain safe from their "6" results).

Missions
There are 2 changes being considered for our Mission layout in order to address some of the concerns above. One would be to make units that Summoned or were Summoned be unable to count toward Mission Points until the next Game Turn. This reduces some of the problems with the missions (both accrual and late game choices) with regard to the Summoning Mechanic. It's a pretty minor change otherwise.

The other would be to add a new Secondary available that awards points for completely eliminating an enemy Detachment. This helps balance some of the issue with people broadly selecting minimal detachments just to add key buffs (i.e. Culexus, WWP DE, Tiggy/5Scouts, etc.) by giving opponents this enables them to outmatch the ability to score an easier 2 points back by targeting their tiny detachment add.



So how does this affect our 4 big player concerns while minimizing the impact on players who like to play those very concerns?
1) Invinsible Units (typo intentional) - We do nothing to change the rules here. These units remain powerfully durable and excellent counters to a number of things. On the other hand, we've increased the risk of relying entirely upon these super units to play by making it much easier for players to tack Culexus Assassins and other tweaks on to the armies they wish to run.

2) Super Heavy / Gargantuan Units - This one might cause the biggest sticking point. The right call *Feels* like sticking to our guns and the broadest player feedback and not making a change to our rules to compensate for GW changes that affect the fieldability of WK and iK within this year's format. Furthermore, Admantine Lance / Knight Primary armies are statistically one of the biggest problems in the game from a parity perspective, holding somewhere around a 65% win-rate in all Torrent recorded games ... this compares to a 45-55% win rate for most of the rest of the field (coincidentally, Eldar are at the top of that higher #). It is a fact that AdLance/Knight spam armies tend to run rampant over average players in the middle tables, despite not winning much on the GT/top table front. There's been a lot of commentary over not allowing people to play with the models they own, but that's a difficult subject to sell in any direction. No matter what your format is, a certain spectrum of owned models will be unplayable within it (either because it isn't legal or because it isn't worth taking). Furthermore, most complaints orient around wanting to take units that people believe they will win with. Those who want to take their Wraithknights typically do not, when told they cannot, take some fancy Eldar models sitting on their shelves that they don't think are any good competitively. Similarly, there'd be almost no complaining or even notice if we banned Pyorovres or Hormagaunts. By leaving SH/GC banned for the NOVA this year, we avoid the major complaints against them from last year while reducing the concern regarding "I rolled a 6 and you picked your models up off the table." The lack of player engagement here and the feel of the game moving away from company-level wargame to more of a skirmish-with-big-bots game is one of the most often-cited complaints we receive from players today.

3) D Weapons - Reducing longer ranged D shots and the massive 7+ damage impact of 6's is our path of least resistance right now. It is also closely aligned with what the ITC is discussing. It would also constitute one of our only changes to the actual rules of the game. Furthermore, it helps address potential future D weapons releases more elegantly than targeting specific units for tweaks one at a time as they come out. If suddenly every Space Marine Lascannon is a D shot, this rule would address it in advance instead of requiring us to specifically rule on each thing as it releases.

4) Summoning - Summoning is less complained about than many things - this isn't an issue with the mechanic in the eyes of the average player. The major issue was the interface of our existing missions with the summoning mechanic. By making our tweak to the missions, we correct for an over-balance problem from last year. Simple.


Thoughts?

48 comments:

  1. Always appreciate getting your insights, Mike!

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    1. Why don't you both just kiss already, geez!

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  2. When you say "D weapons always inflict only D3 Wounds or Hull Points (even on a "6" result)" does that apply for rolling a 1 as well? Or is it basically only intended to change the result of a 6?

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    1. It is only intended to change the result of a 6.

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  3. I like it, though I'll be sitting my 10-12 gc/superheavies on their shelves it'll be with the knowledge that 1)the game requires more thought than 'ha rolled a 6 get rekt' and 2) that other people can't say 'ha rolled a 6 get rekt.'

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  4. What sorts of detachments would be allowed for the 3rd: limited detachment? Assassins, obviously, but what else might qualify?
    Inquisition, Legion of the Damned, Militarum Tempestus, Ally detachment. How big can it get?

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    1. It's likely to be more what's not allowed, IE cad and codex special cad.

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    2. The problem is that a Codex Special CAD is poorly defined - there's not really a difference mechanical between Company of the Great Wolf and the LotD/Assassin detachments.

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  5. If a super heavy is hit with a destroyer weapon with your current change, will it only be D3 hull points removed end of story?

    Or will it allow the penetration roll to be rolled as well, with a possible explosion result from AP1/2 weapons to cause a further D3 hull points to be removed on top? (as per the destroyer weapon rule causing a penetrating hit)

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    1. The pen result is a different mechanic I don't think they are touching. So if your lucky to roll a str d 6 then are lucky to roll a pen table 6. You should be able to roll 2d3 which is not really that overwhelming.

      However I think you missed the point. Super heavies/gargantuan appear they will be banned so it shouldn't be much of an issues.

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  6. wk and wk sound about right to ban the 6 on D table but not the rest of SHs who spent 500+ pts for them

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    1. They said they are leaning to keep the current ban on super heavies so that shouldn't matter.

      If any itc tournament does allow suoerheavies and gargantua like lvo did I am sure they will have a detailed ban list as well.

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  7. So far, I like the thoughts, and appreciate how much work you and everybody is putting into this problem with the game. I should be meeting up with a friend or two over the next week, and we'll talk about it. But knee-jerk reaction: looks like a solid plan.

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  8. I really like what you've come up with here! You've managed to address the biggest issues with minimal rules changes with a nod toward future-proofing as best as possible. Well done, Mike!

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  9. Mike I appreciate your efforts but throwing out an entire new codex (Knights) seems too much to me. I like what you are doing with the d weapons and not allowing stomp on unengaged units however not allowing a full codex is just way too much IMO

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    1. Are are knights now lord of wars? So far the only confirmed lord of war I saw was the new warden dataslate. And that one and the castigator one are the only ones with the assault cannon. Maybe those are the only lord of war versions and you may still be able to play errant and Paladins.

      However it does makes sense to keep things balanced by making an across the board ruling on all superheavies, the alternative is a complicated ban list on which superheavies and gargantauns should be allowed.

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  10. Mike,

    Bravo. I still don't like the unkillable units but I definitely think this is a giant step in the right direction,

    Awesome

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  11. Morten B. JensenMay 4, 2015 at 11:35 PM

    From across the pond: Looks good and allows for MSU as a way to fight deathstars and limit destruction.

    Do you plan on using Kill Points?

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  12. Mike you should have titled this post as "how to polish a turd"

    Thanks for trying to make something workable out of this god awful shitty mess of a ruleset.

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  13. The problem is obsession with death stars. Learn to shift away from the sense that they are somehow the default goto when building a list or the game will continue to be successful as it does now.
    You talk about banning or nerfing elements of the game but all they consider are alternative playstyles that are different to running death stars.

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  14. If you really want to allow MSU to compete with deathstars you need to remove kill points from the game. It has always been a bad game mechanic that makes killing a marine combat squad count as much towards victory as killing 10 paladins.

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    1. Kill points have never been a good idea. Total agreement here Troy

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  15. The thought of three detachments just made my buddies glee in excitement. They have been dying to do a eldar triad list (harlies, dark eldar, and eldar) and can finally do so!

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  16. Interesting. I'm not sold on the need to rearrage the D weapon results if Lords of War aren't allowed. At this point there is 1? non-LOW D-weapon with range greater than 12 inches. I'd keep this in mind but not implement unless a lot of new ranged D come out. Post as it as a warning that it might but don't knee jerk it. Also the problems with LOW aren't LOW's but superheavies and GCs. I'd consider banning Superheavies and GCs, but allow the LOW characters like Logan and the Avatar.

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    1. That is largely the plan. With re: the D mod, yup, the only current issue is the Artillery, which isn't going to be broken by not being able to 6 people at 24" away. In fact, this will probably help so they can't create "no fly zones" that cover half the width of the board. This ruling also, however, insures us against crazy D drops in the new SM dex. A lot of the point of these thoughts is to protect us from future releases, rather than being so targeted (i.e., well there's only one over 12"!) that we end up having to make yet another set of rulings affecting list design when each new dex drops and throws another wrinkle at us.

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    2. Just a counter point is that the artillery isn't broken as it (as you say it is problematic BUT ...) and having something like it that discourages deathstars isn't a bad thing in moderation. Limiting it to 12" effectively makes it one shot, if that which most stars won't care about (too much). If bolters become D weapons, this is obviously a different story but I wouldn't try to predict what GW will screw up next and fix it preemptively.

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    3. Hard to shoot D blasts at invisible units.

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  17. Looking good. I definitely support the no GMC/SHV LoW ban. I definitely support the change to D. I definitely support missions changes to make Summoning less powerful.

    What about making 2+/++ Rerollable only successful on a reroll of a 4+/++? Solves the invulnerable unit problem.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I think Mike is trying to mirror (or work with) the ITC rulings since Nova open is now an ITC event. The ITC is currently voting on detachments, the poll closes today.
      https://www.frontlinegaming.org/2015/05/05/2015-itc-mid-season-update-poll/

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    2. Quick and hard negatory on that, Greg. Reece and I spoke about this at length, and while many of our discussions influenced the narrow bracket of things we each considered in a positive way, our constituencies and idea for how each event should go are different enough to warrant something other than mirroring one another (IE super heavy and gargantuan).

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    3. I also try to minimize rules changes, as they can lead to unexpected problems, IE the over powering of wraithguard with dscythes due to nerfed invisibility, etc.

      These aren't critiques, just a different approach. I would not consider voting on EJB, for instance, or any other specific codex, since most voters by rule won't play that codex and are biased toward the vote. This isn't to say such changes aren't necessary, just can be misleading to vote so specifically.

      What is true is that we take Reece's poll results into account, and he and I speak daily on gchat about where we can align, where we must differ, and how we can mutually support each other.

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    4. I understand Mike, I believe "mirror" was the wrong term. More along the lines of collaboration and communication.

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  19. Mike,

    Why limit the third source? ITC and Adepticon didn't limit the third source. There are a lot armies that need that third source. If the source can only be a data slate, or small formation then is that really providing the flavor players who voted as you stated above?

    Aaron

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  21. Really supportive of this, Mike. Super heavies are a TON of fun against other super heavies but they make you feel like a d-bag when you're playing against a fun opponent with a fluff army that can't handle them. I'd rather put the points into preparing for AA.

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  22. I am reading this and I have to say... its a step backwards. I understand what you all are trying to do but I honestly think its too little to late at this point. Models I have already purchased for other GT's are now illegal for one of the biggest GT's in the country. I understand the strength D can be broken IF you roll a 6 to hit. Lets remember that roll has a 16% chance of success. I was actually welcoming the change and more strength D in the game. You might be thinking... He must be joking! After playing a few games at Adepticon I was almost sick to my stomach with all the combo's I have seen out there. Your ruling do nothing to stop super friends and/or invisible/unkillable death stars. The best way to fight death stars is with GC/SH/LOW. It seems the event is being tiered towards the lowest common denominator. It is a grand tournament. I ask that at least the Invitational be in line with the other GT's that have already happened this year. At the beginning of this edition I would of loved these changes... but now to revert back for just one event would be a little painful. Just my two cents.... I will say that I had plans to play eldar but with them being one of only two armies being restricted I might have to mix it up. I dont have 60 bikes. :\

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  23. Here are a few of the units I had to face at my last gt:
    Invisible thunderwolf cav + thunderwolf characters all with 2+ 3++
    Invisible Screamerstar with a 2++ re-rollable
    Superfriends bike squads with 2+ cover saves hit and run and fnp
    Invisible cent star
    Adlance knights + Lynx on skyshield (Yes same army)

    The top 3 tables at adepticon:
    Daemons with unkillable units
    Daemons with unkillable units
    Super friends bike army with thunderwolf cav support

    There are units in the game right now that statistically cannot die in the course of the game. There are now weapons in the game that can kill anything. They are starting to counterbalance each other. Your looking to only nerf one.

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    1. Problems orient around a) believing there are no other ways to deal with said units, and b) believing "Hope I roll a six and then you just pick up your models lol" is an effective counter or even a well liked mechanic.

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  24. I had a big post and it got ate. So, this is much shorter and not nearly as eloquent.

    In short: If knights aren't even a contender for the top tables, why ban them? Because people don't like playing against them? No one likes playing against super-friends, cent-stars, invis-stars, multi-cad nids with only 2 spores as troops, or wolf-biker ridiculousness either. So what? Those armies go against lore more than any IK army, so that argument doesn't work either.

    If people want to just play "for the love of the game" then a GT isn't for them, isn't that the whole point of the narrative? Instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator, why don't we just encourage people to be better?

    I love my knights. I had a lot of fun last year, and I was looking forward to it again this year, and I hope to be able to bring them.

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  25. Banning IK, completely, is a step backwards I think. People love their IKs and it hurts a little to see them banned completely. Also, an IK army is travel-friendly which could affect some people's decision to attend the event.

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  26. I like the ban on SH/GC and I have in the past played them.

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  27. Absolutely pathetic. Nova bans GC/SH but leaves in tons of BS units named above. Real smart guys... Why encourge people to bring COMPETITIVE lists and strong units to a GRAND TOURNAMENT, lets just ban stuff that might be strong some % of the time, but leave in all the other ridiculous cheese combos that really cant be countered very effecively now... Sweet Job.

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