Monday, November 12, 2012

Deeper Dive - Internet Army Balance Whines

So, I'm going to go off the top of my head here a little bit.

In August/Sep, Space Wolves won the NOVA Open 6th Ed; foot Dark Eldar, screamer/flamer Daemons, mix-and-match Necrons and Sisters all came exceptionally close to being the winners instead

In October, Grey Knights won the Battle for Salvation 6th Ed, against Eldar in the final; Tyranids and old Chaos placed among the highest, with Nids as 2nd Generalship

In late October, Daemons won the Feast of Blades 6th Ed, handily

In November, Grey Knights won DaBoyz GT, with Tau/Eldar at 2nd, pure CSM at 3rd, and Cron Air as Best General
On the same day in November, Orks won the 11th Company GT (all of these events are at least 64 players, btw, and nationally or internationally attended), over Tyranid in the final

Can we please stop freaking out about the game being broken or needing comp? Good players win with good lists, and every codex can put out at least a good list or two with that codex as the Primary Detachment.

What needs to be understood is that people will still always choose to take extreme builds in 40k. Extreme builds are much more difficult for some codices/lists to deal with, and much EASIER for others to deal with. They are a gamble, and it's INHERENT to Warhammer 40,000, and always has been. Just as Draigowing and Nob Bikers and other lists were natural gambles in 5th Edition (while lists like Strakenguard and Coteaz GK were more natural "balanced" lists), screamer/flamer spam and Cron Air are gambles in 6th Edition.

Certain tournament formats also ENCOURAGE GAMBLING, which isn't a criticism. It's just natural that the points level, mission format, scoring systems, etc., all contribute to what lists are slightly better or worse (note: slightly, these things only impact the game but so much) over a given weekend. If taking a loss but crushing a bunch of people is rewarded, people will take gamble lists more frequently. If winning is winning and it's not valued beyond that, you'll see less gamble lists.

Either way, understand please that a) a HUGE variety of codices are performing well AND winning at the GT level already into this edition, and b) No matter what you try to do to the game, nothing will ever stop people from bringing list STYLES that suit them - big crazy swing for the fences rock-paper-scissors gambles, or all-comers balanced builds that trade max battle points for min losses.

I'm not prone to all too many list-build "this is great and you're bad" articles, but I'd happilyrespond to e-mailed requests with lists that can tackle all of these types of gamble lists at a tournament (or go toe to toe with them). Just understand that 6th Edition is still the wild wild west ... your local playgroup is NOT the be-all and end-all of what's good and not in the game ... and there's a MILLION ways to play a game that's by nature heterogeneous. There isn't one set points level by game design, there isn't one set army build per codex, and now there are literally dozens of competitive "codices" due to the allies system.

To give an explanatory strawman here, by the way - if I brought a guard list with nothing but as many flamers as I could possibly afford, I'd TOTALLY WRECK an ork foot horde without vehicles. That Ork player might come out of it going "there was no way for me to beat that list!!!!" Well, true. But no one would claim it's a good list, because there are a ton of bad match-ups for it. The same is true to an obviously lesser extent for some of the extreme builds out there right now. Points levels only impact WHAT the extreme build is or may be. One way or another, if someone brings a hammer to deal with any problem he runs into, he'll seem ridiculously well-equipped if he only runs into problems he can solve, but will instantly fade into obscurity if he goes up against a problem he CAN'T solve with just a hammer. Toolkits are always relevant and useful, but less flashy and less overwhelming when they work. Yada yada.

In short, internets, chillax ... the evidence is mounting that you're WRONG about certain codices or armies being unbeatable and/or totally broken ... and yeah, I'm specifically looking at anyone losing their mind about Daemons or Cron Air.


  1. Completely agreed, Mike! I feel that 6th has provided us a much more mutable meta game, and that instead of whining about Cron air or flamerspam daemons, people need to start looking into allies and unconventional list. Hell, at the NO2012, Cron air lists were in abundance and didn't end up touching any of the top tables (that I saw/played on) on Sunday. Really looking forward to next year's event... Are you still thinking about doing it at 1999+1? Just my two cents, I think it would be interesting (and easier for you guys to organize) to try 1750 and see how it's received.

    On another note, do you live in/around the NOVA area? I'm going to be up visiting from College next week and I'm sure me and my friends who visited the open would love to get a few beers and a few games in with you, if you're interested.

    1. I do live in the NOVA area, Falls Church, VA. I'd be happy to grab a few brews on a set night or something similar; send me an e-mail to let me know what your schedule looks like, and we'll figure it out.

      As for next year's NOVA, we're looking hard at 1750 and 1850 right now ... it certainly obviates the pettiness of the internet about trying to force people to play at 2k vs. 1999, etc.

  2. I agree also, 6th I think opened a few new doors, still the abuses are out there but people have yet to figure them all out yet. What I agree with most is good players with good lists (and a great deal of luck) can win an event with most armies. What amuses me is when I see a list get posted on the internet (as I call them Netlists) of a winning list you see people rush out to buy these lists because they have had some success. I sigh and laugh at this as it stuns me that people can't think on their own to write up their own concept and list instead of just grabbing the most popular army of the month.

  3. Interesting read...I thought allies solved this. and people are still bitching? Hmm, good thing I stay away from forums.

    I have my issues with allies...I feel allies has sapped some of the character of armies. I'm an aesthetics guy and something about seeing orks and Tau, or Eldar and Tau or two factions with entirely different imagery in the same army as an offense to my artsy sensibilities. They just don't look like a cohesive force...

    I feel they went a little far with allies, when they should have been more limiting.

    1. I think allies did solve this ... and people are bitching because they always do, but I worry when some of the more influential sites and players start with the whining ... they can impact the beliefs of a lot of average gamers in a way that isn't positive for anyone's gaming experience.

      My thoughts on allies both align with yours and don't; I think GW could have gone about them another way, but what's key for me is how you execute it.

      If you just take a bunch of stock Tau and stick them alongside a bunch of stock Orks, I agree with you completely. That said, both 40k and non-40k themes galore are opened up by allies if you pursue enough of an aesthetic commitment to execute them properly. At that point, it's largely the same as before allies - red space wolves, wait no red grey knights, wait no red chaos marines! was always a problem ... and it's the same with allies, when people just throw together completely non-thematic pairings purely for the sake of the latest competitive craze.

      Nothing prevents you from modeling and theming an army to an extremely unique/high/awesome standard ... but being lazy about it ruins the aesthetic experience for anyone you play against.

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  4. I think some of the complaining about 40k is, at it's core, complaining about list-building being so crucial to the game. As you point out, smart list building will help you win games - which also means you have to have the models to support it. So often times, those who've been smarter about their purchases do better.

    It's inherent to 40k and just about every other wargame is the same way - good list building is crucial to winning. Not that it is the ONLY thing that wins - game play is important as well, though in some lists against certain other lists it is less so, and in other situations more so.

    Though I would challenge these folks to imagine a game where list buidling were not as important. I imagine a game were most armies are similar and in fact more units are similar to each other. For my strawman, take chess, which is about as balanced as you can get in terms of army lists. The "armies" are identical.

    40k is not and never was intended to be this way.

    I'm not certain that game-balance is a huge consideration when GW writes codices...I think there is some level of it, but it isn't the main goal. Is it balanced when tyranids get no allies, and every other army does? Is it balanced when Tau are ONLY good at shooting, while SMs are good at shooting and fighting? No...but game balance is not their goal anyway.

    It's up to the players to build lists to a certain level so that their games can be decided by game-play, rather than by list-building. Which I think might be your point...

    1. This was an exercise in our codex re-tooling process we did a while back, and it's a good one to talk through.

      You don't necessarily need homogeneous codices/units, but you need to be able to use most units to construct powerful lists. The game CAN be balanced in this capacity, and still remain characterful, it's just not done with that mindset. There's too much influence from things like model design and sales push.

      I agree with you, in short, and think the game, while still balanced and fun - if it's your kinda thing - is not nearly as well-balanced as it could and should be.

      The thing to consider is what you hit on - there shouldn't be such thing as a "bad" choice, within reason. You shouldn't be ABLE to make a unit that's truly too expensive or incorrectly equipped. You should further still have enough variety and depth that list-building and having your own unique army is still a possibility.

      Chess is a perfect back-up to this example, in that not every model has to be identical to accomplish this. You can take it further than chess as well, people just don't.

    2. It's so easy to tip game balance in 40k though, terrain, who gets first turn, model design, conversions - there are infamous conversions in our gaming group ;) - heck terrain design, time spent building lists, etc.
      So I guess, another question...maybe a philosophical question one should ask themselves, game balance really important? and is it really worth fretting over and striving to correct?

      If you're rewarding players for win-loss record, as in tournament, then yes, game balance is REALLY important...but for the rest of us, does it really matter? I guess everyone has to consider that for themselves as they collect their army...accept that there is inbalance in most situations or build your list that is dictated more by achieving balance than hobby.

  5. I'm on board. Black Templars is the only non-viable codex right now. Even lowly Eldar make for some solid allies. 6th Edition may or may not be balanced, but it's certainly true that it has made more codices viable.

    Now, if GW could figure out how to balance shooting and assault, we'd be in great shape.