Monday, January 6, 2014

Escalation, Stronghold, Formations, and thoughts on them.

So, this post got really long. I'm going to break it down into 4 sections.
Thoughts on people trying to "fix" the game
My own thoughts on stronghold / Formations / Escalation / Data Slates
The Stupid Cheese Army of the Future
What I suggest

I want to caveat one thing before you get started on this rant wall. I am talking about competitive, tournament style playing. I am not talking about casual beer and pretzels play. I encourage everyone, to be as thematic, epic, awesome, and bring in as many crazy models / units / rules as possible in non-tourney play. I love both tourney play, and casual; so I am not looking to poo on anyone's private games.
  I myself have already used escalation to run around (and be run over by) my khorne lord of skulls. It's a thing.

Also, before anyone gets on their high horse and accuses me of not wanting to change things because I'm one of those eldar/tau/ whatever players who are looking to lose a lot, I'm not.

I play assault armies, almost exclusively, you know, that part of the game that everyone claims is dead.

Orks, CSM Spawn-tide, I only use one helldrake ever, never more than one.. That's pretty much it. All of these Tau/Eldar/ New stuff are seriously difficult for my armies to play against.

Thoughts on people trying to "fix" the game

So, first, as I mentioned in my previous post, I allowed the formations and data slates at my previous RTT, with the caveat that formations must be 0-1. Some people indeed, brought formations, and data slate guys.

Now I should mention why I allowed them. Simply put, to the extent I can run as "fair" as possible a tournament, I don't like telling people which official GW models they can use, and which they can't. Before people go into a frenzy about forgeworld, let's save that can of worms for another day, I have allowed limited forgeworld into my RTT's before and have mixed opinions on it.  I get as excited as anyone else about buying up all these new models, terrain, and putting them together. I don't want to crush other people’s enjoyment of the same. I myself own /built / painted every new piece of GW terrain, including the expensive Aquila strongpoint, and also a Khorne lord of Skulls.

We all know and agree that some of W40k is inherently unfair; some codexes are more viable than others. Any trust in the "points" system, as GW uses it, is flawed. We have no basis for assuming GW assigns points or rules for models on anything but an arbitrary basis, or if not arbitrary, at least a very loose set of guidelines.

On top of that, list design and execution can play a huge part of the game. It is often true, that a games outcome can be more or less guessed accurately based on the armies / players in the game. Stereotypes exist for a reason.

We can't shut our eyes and pretend this is not so. This is not public school, not everyone gets a sticker for doing a good job.

So what can we do as TO's and players in general? We need to use our reasonable judgment on what's fine, and what's not fine, in as unbiased a way as possible, and key point not changing explicit GW rules unless absolutely necessary.

Key there, I do not agree with for example, the proposed FoB approach. I found the ranty post on 3++ about the rules changes and rational, to be disingenuous and childish.

That said, I also do not agree with  people from BOLS who seem to have embraced escalation / stronghold giddily and without thought, nor do I agree with naftka and his posts about how great they are. Their opinions also have huge problems and implications, for varying reasons outlined later.

We all play this game; we clearly all have this love/hate relationship with it enough to post on blogs, read each other's blogs, attack each other for our opinions, and once in a while, actually play the game.

We should try then, in the interest of not sparking further drama, to keep the manipulating of core rules, to a bare minimum, as those definitely cause the most contentious arguments.


Don’t change a second re-roll on a 2+ save to a 4+.

D-Weapons should not become S10 AP1 Ignore cover/ ect ect /


I've seen some other bad suggestions, lowering the average points of a game to 1.2k or 1.5k ect. This is in "answer" to escalation. To lower the points level of toys we play with, to prevent the models we all know are broken-good, from making an appearance in our games.

Why not... just ban the broken expansion book those models came from? Doing otherwise just comes off as perverse logic.

I think the best answer I've seen to this thus far, came from MVB, posting about using the missions to change game play incentives. Changing incentives, is how we drive economics, it follows that it'll work in 40k too if done properly.


My own thoughts on stronghold / Formations / Escalation / Data Slates

So then, moving back to the RTT I just held. I had some thoughts as I watched the games play out. Notably, while it’s crazy to have 4 armies on the table, I can say I don't feel like it "broke" the game; so much as it drunkenly stumbled through the streets like a dejected whore.

What do I mean by that?

I think GW is muddying the waters of game play. Allies are one thing, near unlimited use of models that may or may not be part of your army (or allies) and FOC's are quite another. This tends to have an affect of cheapening the brand of armies. To pick on a friend of mine, Why am I playing an IG army, with space wolves, inquisition, and then tau to top it off? What army am I really playing? I feel like this cheapens some of what really makes the game near and dear to our hearts. That "ownership" of an army, sort of like owning a football team. You play that "army", you identify with them, you associate with their tactics and fluff, even if marginally. You're proud of them when they win, dejected when they lose. I personally think GW is gaining sales short term, and hurting long term prospects, that's just me though.

So moving back on point:
If you've followed some of the internet arguments. You'll note that a lot of them boil down to: that because GW allows allies, and allies are "optional", then by that logic, the supplements’, dataslates ect, are also "optional", therefore, all GW "optional" are good to go.

Except it’s a fucking stupid argument. Contrasting core rule-sets with expansion/supplemental rule sets that fundamentally alter the rules of the game are comparing apples and oranges. The reason these books are released later, rather than FAQ'd or released into say, 6.1 edition rules, is because they are expansions. People may choose to play with, or without them. Trying to twist the use of allies as "optional" into saying anything "optional" is required, is asinine.

What's hilarious is, if you browse the archives of BoLS and other prominent blogs / forums, you'll find the same people promoting allies / ect when 6th first came out, bitterly cursing them, and/or promoting escalation / forgeworld / whatever, as means to "fix" issues caused by allies. It's like they didn't learn the first time around.

1) Formations -

These had a lot of potential, but are ultimately a flawed creation. If formations were a good idea, they ideally should have been included directly into the codexes of the army. You can essence make your own formations in some cases anyways (buff commander anyone?).

That aside, if GW had done this properly, they should have released it as a mini ally. Take this "formation" which is this exact group of models you take in the normal ally "slot" and you get some bonus, or they bend the ally FoC to include something cool. Think IG lemon russ- detachment, or artillery ect.

Even on their current form, formations have some potential if reigned in, but there are serious problems atm. Why ? Because this squad, is breaking your FOC. There needs to be some negative consequence for taking a unit of models that essentially lives outside your FOC. What is the rational for allowing me to place 12 or 18 broadsides + 3 riptides, in addition to my normal heavy support, which btw, are now all skyray's, for extra cheese and marker lights. There is none.

A simple solution to that Tau Formation for example? Make them all have to fire at the same target. If the target dies / is out of line of sight, the others in the formation simply don't get to shoot. It'd explain the tank hunters in a fluffy way (focus firing the shit out of stuff with missiles is going to soften it up a hella a lot).

You have this squad that's frankly better in every way than the normal units, with no real negatives.

2) Codex Inquisition

I have no beef with the codex itself, that's fine. It's the problem that it’s essentially allowed to ally in as a 3rd... Ally...


There is no logical reason for this abrupt shift or change. It simply punishes those who can't ally with the codex, rewards those who can, and breaks rules in the core rulebook for allying factions in.

3) Escalation

I could write an entire thesis on why this is a bad idea. Suffice it to say, it’s not just because of D-weapons, though those are definitely a huge factor. Part of this problem, is the "balance" for this book, hinges on using Stronghold. The other part is, quite simply, you can create some of the most broken lists this game has ever seen, using this book. People tend to "escalate" as it were, towards the most powerful lists / builds in their own codex, and codex's in general. This book in one easy pass eliminates anyone but Eldar and Necron (with tau allies, if any) from being tournament viable armies. Why? Because their Lords of War are powerful on such a scale, as to render everyone else’s armies impotent, and it gets even worse if you allow stronghold. See the cheese list section for why.

4) Stronghold

Stronghold in and of itself, is not broken. I am in fact, allowing its use, with the caveat of NO AV15 buildings, and no D-weapon buildings and no networked systems, at my next RTT. Stronghold is needed to allow escalation, but escalation is not needed for stronghold.

So why am I allowing stronghold? Several reasons, I love terrain, the more I see on the table the better. The terrain in the book is hardly much different from what's currently available. The automated fire guns are actually pretty bad. Then finally, fortifications are one area GW is seriously lacking in model support and rules. I'm not going to shit on a book which finally puts more into the game, even if minimally.

Also lets be honest, some of that new GW terrain is frankly amazing looking.

So, what's wrong with this book?  Lots!

Let's cut to the chase though, the big daddy of rules problems. Void Shields

You find me one person out there who knows entirely how they work, and I'll show you someone who is making up their own rules.


What happens if I fire 4 Lascannons at a broadside squad inside a 2 level void-shield generated bubble? Let's say for the sake of argument, they all hit, but only 2 glance/pen, so the shield collapses, and the next squad fires at them... Ok. That's clear fine and well.

What happens if there are three pens? Two pen's collapse the shield, then what? Is the third pen lost? Does anyone even know? If it’s not lost, how would you apply it against a broadside model? You rolled to penetrate armor, AV 12, and now you’re hitting a T4 2+ model.

Let's take it a step further, what happens if you’re shooting at an AV14 vehicle? You rolled to pen vs. the AV12, and pen'd, but you rolled all 4's, so would have failed your pen rolls vs. the AV14. Is your penetrating hit lost there?

What happens if it’s a blast weapon? Do you count / roll for every model under the template? What if it’s a D-Weapon? Do you roll to blow it up, and then roll to... wound?

No one knows, this is unclear, and it’s definitely not FAQ’d anywhere.

Now obviously, I'm sure someone is angrily posting a response right now to the void shield question with their "answer", the solution is to roll void shield pen's one at a time, until it collapses, then roll the rest as normal. That's probably the RAI, but is it RAW? no. Someone please point out if they found a RAW somewhere I over-looked (and quote it word for word with a page number)

I really want to allow void shields, then hide my 6 broadsides, riptide, and jetseer council behind them

Size of the buildings without official models is also a serious problem. The void shield generator itself is a building, AV13, and a bubble of 12 inches. So, how big is that building? Why not make it the size of a land raider, and then have yourself a 12 inch bubble o' awesome. Don't sit there and tell me people wouldn't do that either, people totally would, and where are you able to point out that they are wrong? You can't.

Other buildings also don't have models / sizes / dimensions, /face palm

The Stupid Cheese Army of the Future

If we allow this, here’s what the game scene will look like at around 1850pts.

Anyone going to a tournament, who doesn't want to get their shit pushed in, will play.... 

Eldar farseers

Eldar Seer Council

Eldar Revenanant

Void Shields network, maximum capacity. or Skyshield!

Lots ' jet bikes

Oh what, you mean you can't ever, no matter what you bring, ever beat that army?
Yeah, you'd be right. Good luck, you'll lose every game. That's the future these guys are promoting, without even thinking about it. Now mind you, there may be some variant around this theme... like...


Zombies x6

4x Helldrake

1x Khorne lord of Skulls

Void shield network - maximum capacity, or hell, even a skyshield, why not right?

Daemon allies to bring the book, and give the Lord of Skulls a 3+ invuln.

Oh wait, what about..... No I won't brutalize you with even more broken combinations that all of these promoters of the expansions have yet to think of.
Total side note, I've seen people referencing some BR's posted by Naftka/others as proving that escalation is not OP. Those BR's for the most part are rubbish, taking a TAU list specifically designed to kill Titans, and then waving it around as proving titan's arn't op'd is nonsense.

Why not take some "fluffy" lists, or an ork army, or IG, or ravenwin, or ... hell, anything but tau farsight bomb, and see if you can replicate that result. I guarantee it'll be much harder.

A lot of people are also saying, oh, with a lord of war, you can't afford to have much else in your army so just kill everything but the LoW and it'll be fine. That's great if your opponents a bad player. When you play someone good, they'll reserve what's delicate,  deploy appropriately, and push your shit in with a unstoppable lord of war. Especially since they'll probably be doing some reserve manipulation to keep their delicates off until your stuff is to dead to do anything about it anyways.

Reminds me of people thinking that somehow more government regulation and oversight, solves every problem, including past inadequacy in ....wait for it... regulation and oversight.

People fall for that every time.

What I suggest

We clearly should not be in the business of modifying the game, to the best extent possible. I am not proposing we make core rules changes. I would expect, as reasonable and rational TO's, to review every expansion/supplement release as they comes out, and decide on the merits of that books rules, if it should be allowed or not.

I hate comp, I think I've ranted about comp many times in the past. But clearly, some banning or establishment of what is collectively "acceptable" for tournament settings is in order.

Game modification list like this, ready?

Forgeworld - Ban

Escalation - Ban

Or if that's not good, lets try

Banning by Model


Networked systems

Aquila strongpoint

Fortress of Redemption

All Lords of War.

Modifications to game

Formations are now 0-1


How much have I just changed the game?

Basically none.

I've disallowed some retarded strong / game breaking models which were never even present in the tourney scene previously, I've avoided rules dilemma’s about stronghold and I'm reigning in the OP aspect of formations.

Have I changed anything else in the game? No.

Have I changed anything that was previously part of the game? Not in the slightest

Have I kept an open mind, and allowed new toys to be used? Absolutely.

You know what else is super easy?

Ban list

Limit formations 0-1

Done, no game controversies.

Here's the bottom line, (quite literally!) People can QQ / Rant / Bitch all they want, about the right way to play 40k. We all see comments  all the time, trashing people for proposing, or denying their style of what they consider 40k acceptable.

However, at the end of the day, people PAY money to attend these events, these tournaments, ect, and there is an obligation, as a TO, when taking someone elses money, to ensure they get the best time you can give them, and making sure they are playing  in a realm of reasonable expectations.

It's one thing to have a social contract with a club or a group of friends to come over and play beer and pretzels with you. It's quite another when you take someones money. They are buying a service from you, whether or not you keep the money or plow it right back into prize support / food / venue ect. There is an expectation that service is a well run - fair as possible - game system they can compete in, and be competed with.

It is our responsibility, to live up to that expectation.


  1. What if I want to run my Raptors and Lias Issodon in a tourney? What are your thoughts there? Are those chapter tactics and character too broken? Just curious where stuff like that falls for you.

  2. I'm trying to figure out if your trying to troll or genuinely interested. Especially considering I mentioned this discussion isn't really about forgeworld. So i'm guessing your just trying to troll.

    That said, I had to go look those things up as I have no idea what they were. They look like they are out of forgeworld IA9. I'd have to see the rules for them, and determine if they are crazy.

    If their rules deviate from one of the standard space marine codex's in any meaningful way, I'd say they weren't allowed, sorry. Play your raptors counts as a GW published codex.

  3. Wasn't trolling. I get the concerns about some FW stuff, but the Badab tactics and characters are just rules and dudes, nothing special. When I see blanket FW bans proposed it bums me put because there's plenty of stuff like that which would be fine for a tourney but often that fact takes the back seat to the few tough nuts people want banned. Since you mentioned a blanket FW ban as one of several comp options you'd explore as an organizer I thought I'd pick your brain about that.

  4. I am on the east coast. Verfy few Gt's here use forgeworld. I don't know where you are situated, but it's normal for their not to be forgeworld.

    I actually do run monthly RTT's and events for the NOVA, so its not a hypothetical on exploring ideas as far as forgeworld goes. I have flat out banned forgeworld from my RTT events, with a qualifier, that you can come to me and make a case for allowing specific forgeworld units. I will make a review of that unit, and the player can provide the rule on the spot to their opponent, and if it's not something crazy/unexpected outside the normal GW 40k game., there is a slight chance I will allow it.

    In general, if the units behave in such a way that it would be within the realm of expectations for the specific army type the models originate from /and/or/ game play to occur, then they should be o.k.

    It runs into substantial balance issues though when people pull in forgeworld models that do things well outside the norm.

    I'm all for you playing forgeworld models outside of events, or in events when everyone knows they'll be facing forge world using players. As a TO, you basically have to run it all- or nothing. There isn't really a good inbetween. players attending your event need to have their expectations of what they could be potentially facing known ahead of time. Otherwise you end up with pissed off players who do not come back.

    Unfortunately, a few rotten apples do spoil the barrel. There are quite a few forgeworld models, and rules, that can be very abusive. So if i allow it, now i need to start coming up with ban-lists for those specific models. It just creates a huge wall of complications for me, and for players. Additionally, i have to spend a ton of time research and learning the rules for a wide variety of models well beyond the GW normal, which is alerady substantial, learn their various FAQ's, and play rules... ect. It becomes a huge headache, as if normal 40k wasn't bad enough.

    It's far easier to let people approach me, get a yay or nay, then play from there.

    I always of course, let people use any models, as a counts as.

  5. Hey james, spelling police here. It's "etc" for et cetera not "ect." I learned that in public school but never got a sticker for anything. :P

  6. "Why not make it the size of a land raider, and then have yourself a 12 inch bubble o' awesome"

    Land Raider? Pleeez that bitch is as big as a Baneblade.

  7. I think we found a new candidate for the "rage" :)

    Less coffee James.

  8. "...there is an obligation, as a TO, when taking someone elses money, to ensure they get the best time you can give them..."

    I'm sorry, but I disagree with this statement, James. The theory behind free-market economics is that the consumer can choose to buy, or not buy, whatever they wish dependant on the virtues of the product. The TO is under no "obligation" to provide a good tournament. If they provide a bad tournament (or even a mediocre one), people won't buy tickets and won't attend, so it is in their best interest to provide a good tournament. This does not equal an obligation.

    This is important in terms of tailoring a tournament to the needs of the likely buyers. If there are people that will simply never go to tournaments, why should the TO be beholden to an "obligation" to make sure they have a good time. I went to BFS in the first year and I had a terrible time, so I have never gone back. I don't hold any judgement against the TOs. They didn't fail in their "obligation". It just wasn't for me. They seem to be doing fine without me, which is great for them.

    My $0.02.

  9. Thank ye Tim, i'll correct my spelling for ETC in the future.

    I don't know about a candidate for the rage, but I was getting very annoyed with all of the posts I kept seeing thoughtless promoting these expansions.

    As far as obligations TO's have. I guess my point of view on how events should be run is different. I have made choices not to return to events before after seeing how poorely they've been run, of course (The Conflict for example). I've also attended very well run events that are a blast and I make it a point to return to (11th company).
    So of course, there are free-market choices, no one is saying anything otherwise. Just like someone who demands forgeworld won't show up to a no-forgeworld event, and vice versa. I'm not at all suggesting catering to a minority of people who are not interested in attending.

    My point is this, I've been running events for a while now, when people show up to my events and are willing to fork over cash, I personally feel obliged to them as my "customers" (even though i'm obviously not making a single penny, and usually losing money) to give them the best event I can. This means the rules of the event are clearly defined ahead of the event, expectations on rulings or FAQ's are laid out and consistent, and units in play are known. I'm not suggesting I go out and cater specific rules to some vocal minority, not in the slightest.

    So it really depends on what you think people are purchasing when they plop down money to play 40k. Are they buying the right to play with new people? Are they purchasing a rules judge to help their disputes? Are the paying money in the hopes of winning some glory? Maybe they are purchasing the "event" itself and the competitive rule-set its using in order to lock into that specific meta/ruleset/environment? Or maybe they are paying because they just want to support the hobby with their attendance.

    It's really hard to say. I would tend to argue that given people could just as easily play with a group of friends in their basement or at a game store with whatever rules or models they want to, they must be purchasing the ruleset/environment of the event. The tone and character of which is set by the TO. Thus, if the TO feels obliged to run a good event, with fair rules, most likely you'll get a good event and people will return to it. TO's who expect return customers, have an obligation to provide a good environment. Otherwise there will be no return customers..

  10. So official Warhammer world events are now going to be allowing everything including FW. Does that change anything for events you have planned? Again, no trolling.