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?


  1. Great article. Look forward to seeing the FAQ soon. :)

  2. Thanks for being sane and keeping sales pitches out of your breakdown. We love you mike!

  3. Interesting thoughts. Seems fair, actually play tested and rational. I didn't expect to see the drop from 2k to 1850. I know 1850 is common. Is there a scaling issue or is it a matter of smaller points = faster games. ..or something else?

    1. We shifted to 1850 last year. Just staying the same at this point.

  4. Calm and rational response? This is the Intertubewebz...such thoughts are not welcome here!!11!

    Great article and looking forward to a great GT.

  5. I think one of the biggest issues is the FoC choices.

    I don't want to play 6th anymore. So if I'm stuck doing one Combined arms and one ally I feel like we might as well be doing a 6th ed tourny. Allowing a max of two detachments of any variety is the best way to go if you're lookin to limit craziness

    1. While I'm not set yet, one CAD + 1 other nonCAD is 7th in every way. There is no "feels like 7th" with army construction. Single primary FOC is as 7th as it was 4th, for instance.

  6. Really good article, all sounds sensible and well thought out.

    What are your thoughts on the various dataslates?
    A two detachment ruling works well with the formations and is my prefered method.

    1. Dataslates are factional, thus simply chosen within the faction CAD.

  7. It is nice to see you are excited about 7th. As one of those hobbyists who will benefit from the new alternate force building rules, I am really excited about what we might end up seeing on the table. Kroot mercenaries and knarloc's fleeing Imperial Knights, who've come to slay the large beasts, is playable know. The FOC chart felt confining to me as a painter. Sometimes I just don't want to pant another tac squad, but would rather have my Ultras fielded as an assault company.

  8. So this is sort of an edge case, but its something I'm definitely concerned about (though not for this year as I recently had a kid and can't manage 3 days away from home!), I've lately been running an Inquisition based list with 2 Inq detachments, 2 inquisitors, and 6 henchman squads, plus an allied detachment of Militarum Tempestus for my Inquisitorial Stormtroopers. This obviously would not be possible in the 2 detachment format, since I'm taking 2 Inquisitorial detachments. I doubt anyone has posed this particular army as a primary detachment, after all it isn't exactly the most practical list on earth, but I'm curious whether any accomodation would be made for Inquisiton primary (such as potentially allowing them to take 6 henchman squads). Thanks.

    1. How is it not legal in the two detachment format? Don't have rules in front of me.

    2. Ian I'm pretty sure you can take your list as a single CAD for Inquisition, then allowing you to take the military tempestus. When you take Inquisition as "primary" you get up to 6 troop choices.

    3. Mike, I should be more clear, the list is Primary: Inquisition, Allies: Militarum Tempestus, Inquisition allies as a 3rd detachment, thus breaking the 2 detachment limit.

      Andy, the issue is that Inquisition uses the detachment that comes in its Force Org section, which is 2 HQ and 3 Elites, the book actually has no troops. If taken as primary the Elites are scoring (it is expected that when the book is updated, which BL staff say is coming in the next few weeks, they will become Objective Secured instead).

      Even before 7th opened up the force org, you could take inquisition allies on top of an inquisition primary, which allows you to take 6 henchmen squads as long as you have 2 inquisitors. Even with 6 total squads, the extremely limited FOC for Inquisition makes filling 1850 points very difficult, as a result I generally need an allied detachment to complete the army.

      Obviously, this is a particularly weird issue caused by the very limited FOC offered by the Inq book.

    4. If all you're running are 6 hench squads and 2 inquisitors, why not go with Coteaz in GK?

    5. The main reason is people tend to not like Coteaz, and its an Ordo Xenos list, so an Ordo Malleus inquisitor is out of place. Admittedly, its not the most competitive thing on earth, I'm just curious since I'm one of the few people I'm aware of doing Inq as primary.

    6. I think that the response, "Why are you running Inquisiton when you could be running GK?" is not very charitable. As Ian admits, it's probably not the most competitive list idea (although you could be taking 8 Valks or 6 Land Raiders). But it does seem fun, and Inquisition should not be discouraged as a Faction any more than Soroitas should.

      On another issue, I wonder about NOVA's choice to count Formations as part of their Parent Detachment (although perhaps I misunderstood). I would say that Formations should instead count as their own Detachment when list-building.

  9. Please oh please oh please let it be 2 CAD, my poor brodar are sick of having to fight over who gets stuck in the allies side >_>

  10. I just wanna know if I can bringy Revenant in a timely manner. We're cutting it close

  11. With all due respect, the notion that limiting the number of detachments in any way is just as 7th edition as not is disingenuous and patently false. You quote some obscure passage and make a week argument that it supports your position, but let me quote the book and see which argument has more merit:
    From "The Rules" book, under detachments, IN BOLD:
    "There is no limit to the number of detachments a battle forged army can include" (that sentence not in bold continues) and you can use any mixture of detachments you have available, within the restrictions of the rules that follow.

    Now what do we know about BOLD text in "the rules" book? Well it clearly states:
    "As you read through the rules, you will notice some of the text is BOLD LIKE THIS (I can't actually make text bold here). This highlights "the most important elements of the rule in question"(further emphasis mine) and helps bring it to your eyes when skimming a page.

    Now, which is more in keeping with the intent of 7th edition, a broad ranging statement about the "spirit of the game" or a specifically worded emboldened portion of the specific rule in question?
    I'd say the bold text wins, and limiting the number/type of detachments is very much NOT 7th editions intent and IS very much an attempt to maintain a 6th edition perspective of how the game should be played.

    My first game of 7th had Tau primary teamed up with a couple dark eldar and a necron detachment. Why? Because I could, and I had the models laying around. It was the funnest game I've played in a long time.. If you want to limit the number of detachments to prevent big superfriends lists or enforce some notion of "balance" by all means feel free.. but don't pretend it's anything other than just that.

  12. ^ Luv a good righteous rant :D

    You tell em buddy!

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