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:
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 ...
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).
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.