Sunday, June 29, 2014

FAQ, Updated Mission Catalog, Further Lords of War Considerations

So still pondering a restricted Lords of War allowance, as I think GW is going to continue to push them on us regardless (i.e., nerfing Ghazkull yet still making him a Lord of War).

I hope it is something we can all understand is meant to push Lords of War, but they are the designers of the game, and it's their game we play. Recognize that due to the bonus points due to wounds dealt / steal the initiative bonus for facing Lords of War, and the fact he lost an invul and gained ... nothing (he already had Eternal Warrior, for those who erroneously posted initial reactions commenting that he gained it), Ghazkull is substantially worse than he was before (and he was already a poor choice).

So taking a model, nerfing it, and making it a Lord of War, is sort of silly.

Regardless, the notion of allowing at least some Lords of War has been nagging at us, and we're still considering it.

We're working hard on the draft FAQ. We're also working hard to finalize the revised mission catalog ... updates to the missions in short-hand change notes ....

Mission #1 - Deployment Zone objectives only accumulate points (in the accumulation choice) on turns 3-5. Other objectives accumulate 2-6. There are now 6 objectives, in a hexagonal shape (2 in dep zones 24" in from short edges, 2 in midfield 12" in from short edges).

Mission #2 - Major changes; 5 objectives in play; center of table and center of each quarter. Center objective is the Relic. Goal 1 - Relic is now worth 5 points if held at end of the game, each objective is worth 2 points, max of 9 points as usual for the primary. Goal 2 - Points accumulation as per Mission #1, except the Relic (which, if you choose Goal 2, you cannot move) is worth 2 points/turn accumulated instead of 1. Still cannot accumulate homefield objectives except for Turns 3-5.

Mission #3 - Simplified wording of MKP, roughly the same mission; should be much easier to read and play.

Mission #4 - No major changes, aligned with others for the revised catalog to address "All score" / etc.

Mission #5 - Major changes for simplification and quality. Goal 1 - Points Superiority table quarters at end game; objective secured units are always worth full points.Units must be able to Score to count (thus no zooming / swooping / etc.). Goal 2 - Control Markers your units place down in table quarters, maxing at 2 per quarter.

We've also added a lot of language to make it easier to understand Mission #5, and make it much clearer how to play.

These will be updated ASAP. We are working hard and burning the midnight oil to get all this stuff codified and published for the July 1 newsletter; if for any reason that's delayed, we'll release a news splash very shortly thereafter.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why Maelstrom Missions are Good and Bad

This should be a somewhat shorter post than normal.

So Maelstrom Missions add a couple of things to the game that are generally good, but they execute it in a way that is generally not so hot, at least in this gamer's opinion (after all, this IS a blog!).

Progressive / mid-game scoring requirements are good. They require you to proactively solve problems on the board throughout the game, instead of focusing on simply structuring late-game grabs. This diversifies list design in a positive way.

Additionally, this encourages engagement and CAN (if executed correctly) broaden the value of more units ... after all, if the game is something other than "camp wherever you need with super unit, then snag late with hidden throwaways" that's probably a good thing for those units that don't fill one of those two categories.

Several folks have been modifying Maelstrom also in some basic ways to get rid of the rando d3 value components, and to allow for immediate discard of impossible objectives, etc. etc. This helps as well.

BUT it's not all good, unfortunately ...
Where I struggle with Maelstrom, both conceptually and from having played with them, is that they turn the "Maelstrom" component of the game into the picture that started this article.

They basically give you an assignment, and tell you to go accomplish it as efficiently as you possibly can, so as to continue drawing new assignments. It's like power questing in MMOs, written into 40K. There's a certain element of flexibility required in accomplishing them, and you need to optimize your list for the many variables for accomplishment that are involved. That said, it doesn't make accomplishing them a tactically or strategically meaningful accomplishment. At least personally, I find it diminishes the feel of the game when the game itself says "immediately go do this thing, right now."

Let's compare this to a situation where you have multiple fashions in which to progressively score points during a game (i.e., objectives across the board are worth points if held). In a situation like that, the game is still telling you "collect points during play!" but it is not telling you "collect points during play by going to this exact coordinate on the board as quickly as you can."

To help draw the comparison, imagine if instead of Kill Points or Points Destroyed, you randomized your opponent's army into #'s based upon each unit, wrote those numbers sequentially on a deck, shuffled it, and then drew randomly from the top. You would only gain points by killing the current kill-assignment. Now, instead of figuring out the target priority and risks that will best win you the game, you literally just do what the cards tell you in each and every moment. It's like the game of 40k is playing your models for you.

The difference is perhaps subtle, but it's enormous. In the case of Maelstrom, the game is basically telling you what your tactics and strategy are. In the case of more player-choice progressive scoring, you're selecting from the myriad of possible strategic courses which one you think will best accomplish a net win in the end. Both approaches impact list design in very similar ways, and both of them are better than a simple "grab points at the end and who cares what you do until then" environment. By being random, specific, and force-targeted, however, Maelstrom still pales next to the gaming situation created by more player-choice multi-route progressive-scoring mission design.

So we're halfway there. We'll see if we can't get all the way there while echoing some of the soul of the Maelstrom with our heavily revised mission packet, due out by July 1 along with the FAQ.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

GT-Level Organized Play Army Construction Guidelines for Early 7th Edition - Joint NOVA Open / Bay Area Open Format Announcement

The NOVA Open (NOVA) and the Bay Area Open (BAO) spent the past several weeks in close communication over the challenges and nuances of how to structure Organized Play army list constructionin the setting of a newly-released 7th Edition (7th) of Warhammer 40,000 (40K). This article was jointly written by Mike Brandt and Reece Robbins – heads of the NOVA and BAO respectively.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Final Leans and Thoughts - Army Construction Rulings for GT/Invitational



I'm serious here, these guys are incredible. Show off the compassionate force that gamers worldwide can represent, and also get yourself tickets toward some pretty incredible armies with some of the best-painted minis on the planet. Seriously, that Knight Titan is arguably one of the best I've ever seen anywhere.

It's an odd thing to "soul search" for a ruling on a toy soldier game, but some of this definitely happened over the last couple weeks!

Side Bar on the "Other" 40k GT at NOVA
In case you feel any of the restrictions below are too tight, keep in mind we have a 7-game, GT level event in the DC Narrative Warlords track complete with competitive and casual elements, and some really cool thematic but still NOVA-layout terrain tables, and more. While not wide open, this event has more of a 2-CAD/etc. style army construction layout, though more than half the spots are completely gone.

The Trios Team Tournament will continue to have completely unbridled Battle Forged Army construction rules for the Singles component. Lords of War, limitless Combined Arms Detachments, etc.

Back to the Rulings ...

We've been through hundreds of discussions with peers and gamers, listened to a great deal of feedback, evaluated the needs of the community and preparation times and the like, and also fielded a great deal of playtesting-based feedback and results from RTT level events held since the edition released.

We need to polish and finalize these in a professional fashion (Website, primer, newsletter, etc.), and we also will need to revisit Lords of War based upon potential rumors from how the Ork Codex is built (i.e., it would be hard to sell many people on banning Ghazkull Mag Uruk Thrakka due to him being a Lord of War ... hope GW doesn't do this anyway, and change an iconic hero of Calgar stature into a de facto Primarch level model).

Keep in mind that the following rules and discussions are in regard to the Grand Tournament and Invitational ONLY.

But, on the divisive issue of army construction ... Here's our informal ruling at present:

  • 1850 Points 
  • 2 Detachments (as described in the 40k Rulebook), maximum of 1 Combined Arms Detachment, Allied Detachments may be chosen from the same Faction as your Primary Detachment
  • No Lords of War* 
  • Force Structure Addendum - Detachments are built by FACTION as per the Rulebook, and not by source/codex 
  • Force Structure Addendum - Conjured units are under your control, but are not a part of the army selection process, and thus are not part of a detachment. They therefore do not benefit from things which affect the same detachment or army, and do not benefit from detachment-specific rules such as Objective Secured; conjured models will follow the Allies Matrix per normal (as it is done on a by-model basis, not a by-unit/detachment basis) 

*Lords of War may be opened up more based upon the way GW presents the Ork Codex. We are erring on the side of caution here, backed up by past survey results and output from pre- and post-7th events using Lords of War and the feedback revolving around their inclusion. 

Some thoughts

Double Combined Arms Detachments - 
There were a lot of mixed comments on these. Some people argue for allowing unlimited CAD per the BRB. Some people argue for random numbers like 4 (I think there's some New England tourney that arbitrarily chose a limit of 4). A two detachment limit isn't even really a 6th edition style (at the end of 6th edition, you could have a Knight + an Inquisitorial Detachment + a Primary Detachment + an Allied Detachment + a Legion of the Damned Detachment + a few formations + whatever), it's frankly somewhat arbitrary, but I'll stick by the notion that almost anything is. With a new edition on our hands, sticking with the 2 Detachment (similar to source) limit we were pondering pre-7th feels accurate, especially when there will only be one 7th edition styled codex released by NOVA. We will, however, heavily leverage event feedback and lessons learned in the interim to help guide other events within the NOVA format going forward, to make sure the format stays as up to date with the time as possible.

We found in feedback from local events that double-CAD armies were proving extremely troubling and difficult for average to beginner players - even more so than how the meta already was - while generally being a non-issue for more elite players. Similarly, more capable players broadly did not care which way we went, while many more inexperienced or "just there for a good time" players were increasingly concerned about having to feel frustrated by dealing with mass-barge, or double council, or other lists that a top tier guy might blow off or defeat, but that regular joes feel just push the game one step further. This feeling may change as the edition matures, and if it does, we'll change with it when the time comes.

For now, it's clear which direction we're headed, giving attendees the ability to settle in and finalize their lists. Coincidentally, for those who think this flies in the face of what GW wants, single CAD is exactly what they're doing at their HQ. I don't generally consider this to be meaningful precedent, but there are a lot of the smaller vocal Lord of War crowd who will often quote the GW HQ tournament rules in favor.

Allied Detachments Using the Same Faction -
We realized very quickly the pitfall to tweaking on this one :)
Games Workshop heavily modified the Battle Brothers rulings to be "fluffier" from their point of view, making a broad swathe of Imperials (some of whom weren't Battle Brothers in 6th) all Brothers with each other. This combo'ed with the ability of BB to ride in each others' transports, creating a situation where any kind of Battle Brother - same faction or not - is in most respects just an extension of your main faction (ICs can join each other, treat each other as friendly, can share rides, etc.). Games Workshop simultaneously desires players to be able to add infinite Combined Arms Detachments with minimum requirements to their armies - a situation we've (as seen above) decided to limit for the sake of expectation-normalized, fair, and fun Organized Play (something GW HQ, again, is doing themselves).

Problem, though, is this creates an issue resulting from GW presuming every faction would be able to self-ally through CAD as needed. The restriction on Allied Detachments not being from the same Faction is itself ALSO fluffy - if you want more models from your main Faction, just take another CAD! Allies are by nature different, right?! Well, sure, but then Imperial BB mass and non-Imperial dearth creates trouble.

To remedy this in simplicity, we're removing the same-Faction restriction on Allies. This creates a more normalized environment from a fun/build perspective for non-Imperials without introducing the full on crazy represented by mass spam of Combined Arms Detachments, effectively leveling the playfield between all codices so that list builders both competitive and narrative can access 0-4 in their add slots, and 3-8 in their troops, instead of only Imperials from a true "same army" styled perspective.

Lords of War - 
Lords of War are a tricky one here. We were uncomfortable - as was most of the player base and prospective attendee base - with unrestricted Lords of War. Furthermore, we are not using Forgeworld [yet] in the GT and Invitational, so the list of available models was by necessity somewhat shortened (Escalation). It was further shortened and modified by instilling restrictions (i.e, the C'Tran, which is a serious problem in all games ... one of those ones where more average players are playing against average uses of it and thinking "no big deal," but where top tier players are making life more miserable than even the vaunted 2+ stars for their opponents).

Discretion became the better part of valor as a result for this year. Many Lords of War were not meaningfully nerfed by the D changes, and the prevailing popular opinion is still heavily against their inclusion in organized play.

1850 Points - 
This is a pretty well-established standard, casual players who don't feel like changing their army much for 7th / NOVA this year don't have to, and it fits well within our new 3-hour round time.

Detachments by Faction
The Rulebook is exceedingly clear about how Detachments are built. They clarify that older publications than the Rulebook that are supplemental codices should be considered part of their parent codex for FACTION purposes (so a Farsight Detachment is also a Tau Empire Detachment, and is not separate as indicated by the prior supplement's publication statements). They further state that Detachments are restricted to FACTION, not Codex, for construction. All supplement/codex-specific army construction rules, restrictions, guidelines, etc., must be followed still.

If you build a Detachment or army in general out of multiple detachments fielding the same core unit entry but under different core rules, you MUST MAKE DISTINCTIONS CRYSTAL CLEAR FOR YOUR OPPONENT ON THE TABLETOP. Fielding, for instance, a Tau Detachment that is both a Tau Empire and Farsight Enclaves detachment, with models selected within the CAD that abide by each codex's restrictions upon unit selection and equipment, the distinct models must be noted and painted to match on the army list.

This seems a little wonky at first, but is actually no different than was the case just a month ago, with players able to ally the two together. The only difference is there are fewer FOC slots to work with. A need for clarity, and for following inclusion rules for any given units or equipment, is exactly the same as it was before.

Conjured Models as Not Part of a Detachment
The Rulebook makes it clear that nay units SELECTED for your army within the Battle Forged Rules must fall within a detachment. You may only select models not within a detachment if you are using Unbound.

Conjured models are not selected for your army, however, and thus are not included as part of a detachment. It is important for army construction purposes to know, therefore, that summoned Daemons will follow a few rules clarifications:

 - Since they are not part of a detachment, and are simply units under your control, summoned Troops do not gain "Objective Secured"
 - Since they are not part of a detachment, and are therefore not part of the army selection process, they do not benefit from warlord traits / etc. that apply to your "army" or rules that apply to a given "detachment."
 - Please note carefully that the Allies Matrix has *nothing* to do with detachment, codex, or unit. It explicitly refers to how to treat models from different factions. Thus, even though Daemons summoned by, say, an Eldar player are not part of a Chaos Daemons detachment, they are still models from the Chaos Daemons faction, and thus treat Eldar models in their army as "Come the Apocalypse" allies.

Any final feedback welcome here or at mvbrandt@gmail

Again, we'll be finalizing and taking final gut checks on these, but these should be considered the unofficial rulings for army construction. What did we miss, so we can polish it into the formal?

Next posts -

Frontline Gaming Mats for Presale to Pickup at NOVA - Save 17% off ordering them direct, and pick them up in person from their creators at NOVA!

Mission Catalog Revisions and Finalized FAQ by July 1

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Is Double CAD Actually "Bad?"

Until now, my bent has been slightly away from double Combined Arms Detachment legality, and slightly toward restricting to just one.

I'm going to try to challenge the community to tell me why 2 Combined Arms Detachments are any worse or better than the status quo.

Let's take a look here ...

First off, there are powerful lists available in 40K no matter what you do, short of over the top comp and rules rewriting. Even then, there would be new powerful lists, you just might make more codices capable of them.

But let's look at what people can do with it from a broad sense and see if any of it is really all that much worse or better than the status quo, while acknowledging that it broadens the meta of what you have to consider regardless:

6 Annihilation Barges, which to field requires a minimum investment of a cool 980 points (2 naked overlords, 4 naked walking warrior squads, 6 barges would be 980). Yeah, it shoots really well, about like a standard single CAD of 6 Wave Serpents does.

What about 4 warscythe 2+ armor MSS lord catacomb command barges?! Well, they have precisely 3 attacks + the MSS after the charge, can be locked in combat, the lord can be targeted and so can the barge once in CC, and cost 210 points a pop. Yes, they're much better, and no they aren't that good still. Unless they roll high on the charge, they average less than 2 marines killed in a round of combat, which means even 5 model combat squadded marine squads can hold them up and give them trouble (or even krak grenade hp away). So if you added those in to the above 980 for trying to get 6 barges, and wanted to spam 4 ccb, you'd be at 1640 with your objective secured / troop units being a grand total of 4 x 5 walking warriors.

Space Marines / Dark Angels
Obsec Drop Pod spam gets a little worse, and a little more focused ... though there's a limit to how dramatic and how effective that can actually be.

There are two concerns here ... one being getting access to more objective secured wave serpents, and the other being access to more farseers for the council.

Well, let's look at both ...
The only serpent advantage you get is 20 points less if you're trying to spam serpents after the first 6 (you can currently gain outflanking/infiltrating serpents for a 20 point premium on top of the avenger ones by using striking scorpions), and obsec on a few more serpents. So you're largely prevented from gaining MORE serpents, but the extra ones you get (going to normally cap at 3, at most, more) ... in fact even with just avengers, if you're taking ghostwalk matrices (and you've got more problems as a player in a terrain heavy environment than your list if you don't) and a pair of 70 point min costed HQ, you're looking at 8 total serpents ... and that's not a great list beyond the fact that it's serpents and they shoot pretty good / move around for objectives pretty good.

So let's look at the council idea. If you want to skip on 45 points of allied troops and 105 points of hit and run / stealth by not taking DE as your 2nd detachment, and want to take a second CAD instead, you're looking at a couple of things:
First, your troop tax went from 45 to 102. Second, you're probably taking at least one farseer (115 instead of 105). Third, you've lost stealth and hit and run. So if you want hit and run back, you literally have to spend 195 on Baharroth. If all you want is hit and run and not a third psyker, well, you aren't going to use the 2nd detachment anyway. Finally, if you do NOT take hit and run, and instead try some nonsense like 2 councils, you're going to lose the moment you run into an ork or tyranid player. Tough luck.

Someone brought up 6 Wraithknights ... which certain armies crap all over (looking back at tyranids, venomspam, etc.)

Alright, how about Tau?
Tau can spam 18 broadsides this way, but they can get pretty close to that anyway with the Fire Support Cadre, and in that situation 6 of the Broadsides are going to be much harder hitting. Tau could also throw out 6 riptides and/or 6 skyrays, but are we really that concerned about these things? Riptides without buffmanders and markerspam do not hit very hard and still are non-fearless low skill MCs just begging to draw any kind of assault army for the loss. You already can see 4, and with far better support, in a more balanced Tau list.

OK ... let's keep going ...
8 Level 3 Tzeentch Heralds turning into a bunch of Lords of Change!
If it hasn't been clear yet, the Daemon Summoning Factory list is not very good. Furthermore, it is extremely risky to take to a tournament. Here's a sidebar for you ...

If you show up to the NOVA Open with a Summoning Factory, and you throw down a bunch of identical-to-your-units model sets that can't be easily distinguished from your own models and create extreme difficulties for your opponent, you are at high risk of having those models removed from play by the organizers. You're also going to have your own struggles just placing and moving and keeping track of everything. Plus you're going to struggle on mission. If you bring a summoning factory, every model you place down must be fully painted, WYSIWYG, and clearly distinguishable from other units in your army (just as your own army should be). Don't push your luck, you aren't going to get a lot of freedom of "oh it's fine you can roughly tell" with this.

Chaos Marines?
6 dog-medicine-paper-coned helturkeys? Err ...

I mean, I could keep going ... but I don't know how any of this is any worse or more painful than "I have 8 wave serpents, 6 of them are objective secured and 2 of them outflank or infiltrate!" or "I have a big beast pack with invisibility, fortune, hit and run, and I can't get all those powers off every turn but whatever it's scary!" or "I have a jetbike seer council with hit and run and fortune/invis!" or "I have 3 Imperial Knights and a bunch of MSU AM in support!" etc. etc. etc.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Not for Lords of War // Why for Lords of War

Continuing to refine, the choices are down to this:

Army Construction

Either -
1) Two Detachments (meaning you could select two Combined Arms Detachments, etc.)
 - Sub-option: If you run 2 Combined Arms Detachments, they must be from the same Faction
OR ...

2) Two Detachments, with a maximum of one Combined Arms Detachment. If a Combined Arms Detachment is chosen, it must be your Primary Detachment

Lords of War

Either -
1) The Following Lords of War are permitted: List TBD

OR ...

2) Lords of War are not permitted

So let's talk about Lords of War, starting with Knights

Knights are going to be allowed, because they aren't Lords of War. OK, next.

Lords of War - Forgeworld vs. Escalation
We're keeping Forgeworld out of the GT and Invitational this year. There's plenty enough new to digest, and the vote went broadly against it back in Jan.

Broadly speaking, some Lords of War were nerfed (D weapon changes), and many were not (those that either have template / ignores cover D, or who relied on other powerful weapons to kill things). Please note - the D weapon nerf is not the decision-point for this. It's more nuanced, in terms of looking at how powerful each model is and how that might impact players who are not prepared. D was a problem b/c it caused you to simply remove large swathes of your army (something that jetseer councils and screamerstars and the like cannot do, and can be actively prevented from doing).

So let's look at the Escalation Lords of War one at a time ...

Baneblade - 525 points (fairly pricey), 9 hp with 14/13/12 av (so exceedingly durable), S9AP2 10" blast and S10AP2 5" blast, neither of which ignore cover
 - Verdict in Short: Baneblade isn't a big deal. It would be legal if Lords are legal.

Banehammer - 410 points (fairly cheap for a lord of war), 9 hp with 14/13/12 av (so exceedingly durable), S8AP3 7" blast that causes dangerous tests and does not ignore cover
 - Verdict in Short: Like the Baneblade, not a big deal ... would be legal.

Banesword - 430 points, basically a Baneblade light (AP3 instead of 2 on main gun), would be legal

Doomhammer - 420 points; basically a super tough Vindicator on slight crack (ap1 vs 2), would be legal

Hellhammer - 540 points; 7" blast ignores cover ... basically a Deathstrike that's extremely hard to kill and fires every turn reliably. NOPE. Against *most* targets this is effectively a D-Weapon in the old rules (ignores whatever their save is, no, most units don't have invulnerable saves, wounds them on a 2+ and kills most things).

Shadowsword - 455 points, 5" D blast, does not ignore cover, would be fine

Stormlord - 480 point land raider for assault purposes that carries 40 models, with a Heavy 30 (when needed) S6 AP3 gun and 9 hull points? People have already pointed out mini guard blobs loaded with charcters and enginseers/techmarines to make it unkillable. This is a borderline NOPE type model.

Stormsword - 485 points, 10" blast that ignores cover at S10AP1. LIKE THE HELLHAMMER, NOPE.

Thunderhawk Gunship - 685 points, with D weapons that don't ignore cover. Basically OK.

Khorne Lord of Skulls- 888 points is very expensive, but durable with a ton of attacks as the game goes on ... hmmm ... probably fine but ... wait ... A S9 Hellstorm template that inflicts instant death and is AP3. NOPE.

Necron Obelisk - 335 points, and is fine

Tesseract Vault - If you can't figure out the theme yet, large templates or blasts that ignore cover and insta-gib most of what they touch are not OK. This, therefore, applies to the Vault as well with its available Wave of Withering ... and also to the ...

Transcendent C'Tan - This is the biggest "no" out there, with a Hellstorm D, a D "line of pain," and 6d6 krak missile shots, just for starters.

Stompa - Stompas are fine, still.

Revenant Titan - Would either be illegal, or allowed with Sonic Lances banned, which like the Khorne Lord of Skulls are basically old D weapons vs. a wide variety of targets

Tiger Shark - Hitty enough and flexible, but fine otherwise for the points

Harridan - A badass, but fine for the points

So if we legalized Lords of War, it would look something like this on the list:

Necron Obelisk
Revenant w/out Lances
Tiger Shark

Which brings up the question - how many people would refuse to attend if those were on tables; how many people would refuse to attend if we just made it simpler and said Knights Only // No Lords of War?

That and the CAD question, which I'll address separately, are where we're at presently. We're taking feedback from across the community, so offer yours while you can!

Monday, June 9, 2014

7th Edition is Pretty Cool, Plus Some Thoughts on the Hot Buttons

So having had innumerable discussions with innumerable hobbyists and fellow TOs ... and having played several games now of 7th edition ... I'm a little more comfortable weighing in publicly on some of the subjects of note.

The NOVA is going to have a structure something like this for army construction in the GT/Invitational:

  • Two (2) Detachments to construct your army. We're still finalizing talks about whether that will include up to 2 Combined Arms Detachments or not.
  • Either NO Lords of War, or limited Lords of War. More discussion of this later.
  • 1850 Points
  • Come the Apocalypse allies and other new 7th edition rules will basically be allowed
  • No preemptive and kneejerk rules changes on the Psychic Phase or specific armies
  • Revised Asymmetrical Mission Catalog (Which now is actually more evocative of the edition due to Maelstrom, but still far better designed)
It bears noting that I have the following philosophy about "Broken" combos and army ideas ...
The most important players to consider are the "middle of the road" players. These are the guys who are the majority of your GT field and aren't the odds-on favorites to either tank terribly or win the whole thing.

Just because a really good player can handle a certain build or problem does not mean everyone can.

That said, if a certain build or problem is nonetheless unlikely to ever win an event, it is equally unlikely to ever be copied en masse. For this reason, it is important both to address what an "average" player can or can't have fun dealing with ... AND what excellent players are likely to take and win with. As you'll see later, Malefic Summoning intensive armies are extremely poor at winning well-designed missions. For this reason, they are unlikely to see long-term entrenchment in the tournament scene, and thus are less of a concern than some other builds might be in terms of their impact on an average player.

It's also important to note that I try to share opinions that are the "meta" assemblage of all the people we've spoken to, the entire group of NOVA organizers, the feedback of the community, etc. So while I may agree with many of the opinions espoused from a NOVA Open point of view, these are not broadly speaking my personal opinions. They are the opinions of the NOVA Open's Organizers, informed by broad discussion and playtest.

So let's just go right into some of the hot buttons flying about right now ...

Lords of War
A lot of people saw the change to "D" attacks as sufficient to merit the broad legalization and inclusion of Lords of War within the tournament scene. I'm not sold yet. The major problem with Lords of War generally revolves around "Ignores Cover!" and when it comes into play.

Highlights include Imperial Baneblade variants with Apocalyptic Blast S10AP1 Ignores Cover weaponry and the Transcendent C'Tan (hereafter referred to as the C'Tran). MOST armies do not have a prevalence of invulnerable saves across their units. As a result, being able to plow down large swathes of board area with S10 equiv or higher attacks that ignore all but invulnerable saves is basically the same as if they nerfed D only in how it impacted Invuls.

So ... the question then becomes - how many people are just chomping at the bit to add a Stompa or a Baneblade to their games of Warhammer 40,000 than before 7th Edition dropped? I don't know that it's all that many, and I do know there are some very serious problem children still in the Escalation book alone. It may be best to leave Lords of War out for GT/Invitational play for now.

Aside from Malefic Daemonology, Invisibility is the big problem child power in terms of peoples' immediate reactions. I was a little leery at first also.

Invisibility is in a sense a problem, and is in a sense not a problem. It has some hard counters, not least of which are that it is harder to get off than it used to be, and that it is exposed to any and all abilities without a roll to hit involved in their mechanics (for instance, Stomp Attacks, Screamer Slash Attacks, scattered blast weapons, Hammer of Wrath and related impact hits, sweep attacks, etc.). Units such as Imperial Guard infantry "blobs" and non-fortuned jetbike units do not have any special protection against massed twin-linked fire and the various non-roll-to-hit mechanics in the game. Speaking from experience, I had an invisible 10-model Jetbike unit w/ 2 Farseers last week, and was charged by 20 White Scar bikers. Needless to say, a lot of jetbikes fell over dead at the S5 impact hits.

Invisibility is a larger "problem" on units such as Jetbike Seer Councils ... to a point. These units rolled in 6th edition with 5's to hit them in close combat and re-rollable 2+ cover *and* armor saves. Now, a jetbike seer council army has a grand total of 16 warp charge. Mathematically speaking, if they actually roll both Fortune and Invisibility, they are quite often not going to be able to also reliably get off +1 Armor Save (and will also struggle to meaningfully boost their strength to tackle targets such as Land Raiders). They will require 6's to be hit, but the long and short is these units went from nigh-on invincible to ... nigh-on invincible.

In short, Invisibility may make units such as guard infantry blobs more durable than they were with Invisibility beforehand, to a point. It will continue to help make units such as Jetbike Seer Councils very difficult to do any meaningful direct damage to. Mostly, it won't change much of anything at all, and it will cost a fair # of psy points to cast reliably.

With regard to Jetbike Seer Councils and other deathstars, this also couples with another observation ...

Deathstars are Dead
It is going to take some time for this to take hold. The changes to scoring rules, however, coupled with the rise of the Asymmetrical Mission (something GW itself is even doing or attempting to do with the Maelstrom), has rendered Deathstars a major liability for their controlling player. Unless they can effectively engage and destroy a wide swathe of enemy units, they will struggle to assist their controller in actually winning games. Running around the board with a nigh-invincible, 500+ point unit is all well and good, until you realize it cannot effectively contest objectives, and cannot compensate for the push the game is now encouraging toward MSU (Multiple Small[er] Units) over big honking ones coupled w/ a last turn contest approach. The addition of Maelstrom also makes Kill Points as a primary mission pursuit effectively an 8% frequency mission occurrence. So, tournaments that heavily feature KP will certainly assist the Deathstar, but will not be playing 7th Edition Warhammer 40,000 in any meaningful way.

Endure those players who are still thinking 6th edition and spamming "Brostars" or some form of super psychic deathstar. Those lists' days are numbered with time.

Summoning Is Tedious, but Overrated
This subject is a bit of a hot button for me. There are some common arguments being made in favor of Summoning being "left alone" that are doing a disservice to their own cause.

Example: "Summoning is just the same as shooting, instead of my Horror Unit killing 90 points of things, it is summoning 90 points instead, what's the difference?!" The logical fallacies here are extensive, but they can be simplified by the following counterpoint: "When on Earth did a Horror unit short of max buffed by Herald contributions ever kill 90 points of anything?" Seeing a 90 point Horror unit successfully roll a "6" on Malefic daemonology and turn itself into a 230 point Lord of Change is as a general rule going to be disheartening for players. It's not balanced, it's not well-designed, and there is no trade-off. It's also not the same as shooting for the most part.

THAT SAID, Summoning is a largely ill-understood mechanic in terms of its impact on games. Furthermore, for MOST armies, summoned Daemons are COME THE APOCALYPSE models by rule, and thus incur serious problems the moment they are summoned. Furthermore, ALL summoned Daemons are by RAW not part of any given detachment, so summoned Daemon troops do NOT have the Objective Secured special rule. Furthermore, many summoned Daemons are not any good. Naked Lords of Change (the best bargain) take numerous rounds of combat just to reliably kill 5 marines (and combat squadded MSU marine squads are definitely one of the new hotnesses of the edition). These summoned units lack such common GD buffing combos as "2 x Greater Gift + 1 x Lesser." FURTHERMORE (and I could go on forever but I won't), Flying Greater Daemons deep striking (via summoning) count as Swooping upon arrival. So if you summon a Bloodthirster on TURN 1, it has to change flight modes on Turn 2, and cannot assault anything until Turn 3.

Regardless, armies that spend all game trying to Summon as many models as painted have a few problems. They do not perform well at progressive scoring mission scenarios where active involvement in the game from start to finish is critical to performance. They can be tedious to play with and against, due to the lengthy physical and bookkeeping processes required to build power pools, allocate resources for casting, scatter and place models/units, identify where the free upgrades are, generate new psychic powers for summons such as LOC and Horrors, and then of course move and interact in the game with more and more individual units. Running a "Summoning Spam" list is a quick way to have unhappy opponents and few wins. It is something we'll have to endure a bit in the gaming community, but not something likely to last.

Psychic Spam Grey Knight Armies Aren't That Great
Warp Charge spamming GK armies are primarily Psychic DENIAL armies. They are tuned to do a better job of shutting down things like the Daemon Factory and Jetbike Seer Council mentioned above. Psybacks are still not very good - they have 3 AV11 hull points and 3 S6 shots (both paltry figures in the current game). The concept exists that if those armies are good, this army is a trump card over them. The problem of course as highlighted above is that GK Psy Spam counters relatively poor armies from a contemporary / 7th edition viewpoint. Congratulations, you've successfully foiled that jetbike seer council or that daemon factory. What this means in all likelihood is that somewhere in the middle tables, some army foiled some other army.

There is NO "7th Edition" Force Org
7th Edition effectively destroyed the concept of a force organization chart. You are just as valid running 1 Combined Arms Detachment and 1 Allied Detachment as your tournament restrictions as you are running 2 Combined Arms Detachment as you are running Unbound as you are saying "only 1 Combined Arms Detachment." Some of these may resemble prior editions and some may not, but they are all 7th Edition army construction approaches, because there is no 7th Edition army construction approach.

Let's quote the Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition Rulebook:

Warhammer 40,000 may be somewhat different to any other game you have played. Above all, it’s important to remember that the rules are just the framework to support an enjoyable game. Whether a battle ends in victory or defeat, your goal should always be to enjoy the journey. What’s more, Warhammer 40,000 calls on a lot from you, the player. Your responsibility isn’t just to follow the rules, it’s also to add your own ideas, drama and creativity to the game. Much of the appeal of this game lies in the freedom and open-endedness that this allows; it is in this spirit that the rules have been written.
So there are a lot of people who are suggesting that if you do not permit, say, 2 Combined Arms Detachments, then you are "stuck" in 6th Edition. This is patently untrue. That said, you're also not doing some set version of 7th Edition either. [Un]Fortunately, GW basically left this all up to the individual.

Every single pick-up or other form of game of Warhammer 40,000 now requires COMPOSITION OF SOME SORT. You and your opponent must agree on how you are going to play - what kind of detachments, are you going to do Battle Forged or Unbound or both? There's a long list here.

Tournaments at this point, therefore, simply need to come up with what everyone is effectively agreeing to play by showing up. It's not unreasonable, and oddly enough anything they decide on is going to be "right." Stop looking at them and telling them what they've chosen is not how 7th Edition is supposed to be.

Terrain is Kinda Not Fully Written
I still am not really sure what a Hill does in 7th Edition. I get the strong impression if it doesn't have a model sold by GW, it isn't terrain as far as they're concerned. This isn't a long subject. Terrain rules need to be created either event-by-event, or globally, to explain how the heck all the terrain a tournament has works within the constructs of the rules. We'll be doing that (it may be as simple as calling everything a Ruin, or as complex as defining each piece clearly, but it will probably be somewhere in between).

Long and Short
There may be some things in the game that are "broken" beyond resolution without bans and restrictive rules. I don't think anyone's really effectively assessed them yet. We're not about to start off the edition saying you can't play with your toys and changing all the rules. We will have as few restrictions, therefore, as are reasonable without ruining the play experience of our attendees.

The cool thing is - the Edition is actually pretty sweet. MSU is more in play than super deathstars were, which pushes more turn by turn tactical play and less "Micromanage the big super unit better than your opponent does with his." The meta is also up in the air - "everything scores" combined with a really innovative Asymmetrical Mission Catalog makes for a much broader meta, and this is amplified by the fact many players are still stuck in 6th edition. A lot of people may show up with psyker deathstars to NOVA ... and it will probably be to their detriment. This is good for those who get more creative and focused on the mission and the nuances of the changes to 7th edition.

Also, while some people are upset about Come the Apocalypse allies and their fluffiness, sorry, but what?! Space Marine captains used to grant super better than fearless status to Tau Fire Warriors. If someone wants to ally Knights to Tyranid and convert up some sweet Biotitans, go for it! If people show up with ill-converted, ill-painted/themed armies instead ... well, that's no different than has been the case at Grand Tournaments dating back literally for over a decade (or really much more like two decades). Not everyone is an awesome hobbyist, but all CTA does is offer more opportunities for people to be awesome hobbyists. The opportunities already abounded for people NOT to be, after all.

A Note About FAQs
It is my long-held hope that the community as a truly global whole can come together to form what is effectively a "Flex" FAQ. In such a document, every event would subject to using it, and as always happens, 90-99% of the rules would be agreed upon readily / easily by all. In the case of places where there is extreme dissent, however, instead of the FAQ group effectively killing itself in argument or losing membership by forcing TOs to rule on a tight issue they don't agree with, the group would distill the complex question down to 2-3 possible answers with alphabetical designations (A/B/C yada yada). Thus, attendees would need to know only the one FAQ, and check the half-page tourney-specific options chart for how that event rules on the tweaks. The effect would be a more uniform and easily understood rule experience.

That said, such a FAQ is not fully organized yet. I've nevertheless been involved in discussions with a # of groups, including the most active / comprehensive so far - the ETC - in their FAQ discussions, and will probably draw from one of those as our start point for making sure we've addressed all the various questions inherent to a new edition. We'll then rule in conjunction with all these various groups, differing where we must a la the preceding paragraph, to create the 2014 NOVA FAQ.

The NOVA will have final rules calls in the form of a FAQ within the next 5-10 days. The NOVA will have final call on the army construction guidelines for the GT and Invitational imminently (as little as a few hours, as much as a couple of days).

Thoughts / feedback / questions / issues we should address that you're concerned we haven't?