Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Blog Wars Army Lists and Self Moderation

The worst part of putting together the rules pack for any Blog Wars event is, without a doubt, the army selection criteria. Of course this is becoming more and more difficult with each change GW makes to our beloved game. I want to talk to through some of the decisions I've made for BWX (coolest acronym ever?) and also discuss a few things that I'm unsure about.

The most important part of the process for me is consulting you guys. I have a certain point of view on everything 40K related and army selection is no exception. Inevitably part of the identity of Blog Wars comes from my own beliefs about what makes for a fun event. I originally created this event as a means of bringing the blogging community together to roll some dice but it's grown from there and I never thought I'd achieve the 48 player attendance we had at BW9. Community aside, the key for me was that Blog Wars should be the kind of event I'd want to attend if I wasn't running it.

At the time I created Blog Wars I'd only recently entered the tournament scene but what I found most frustrating was that the GW events had such appalling prize support and that the independent ones seemed to reward WAAC gameplay more than actually enjoying the games and meeting new people. This can be a pretty lonely hobby at times when you're sitting in a room painting miniatures by yourself (or blogging endlessly about the minimal hobby you actually get time for). Tournaments should be where we all get together in a relaxed environment and throw some dice.

Why am I talking about all this? Well, it's important to understand my motivation for "banning" certain things. The perpetual "comp" for the event, the compulsory special character, was put in place to shake up the scene at the time which was banning SCs rather than making them compulsory. Of course they can be exploited for their rules but I see them as bringing character (pun intended) to what can easily become a stale scene of spamming of the strongest units. You don't talk about how your 24 broadsides easily gunned down an opposing army in two turns. You talk about that time when Arjac Rockfist took on a Bloodthirster and two daemon princes in combat and lived to tell the tale.

It's difficult to translate that ethos into army selection criteria though. For every restriction I make to limit the use of a particularly nasty combination, I seem to prevent someone doing something fluffy and/or fun. A prime example was the introduction of supplements. I originally wanted to ban them to prevent the use of O'Vesastar etc. Trouble was that I had a couple of people who had designed their Tau army around the Farsight Enclaves book. I therefore decided that every time I run an event I will try to keep restrictions to a minimum and trust people to write their lists in the "spirit of the event". I throw that phrase around a lot but it's right at the heart of why I created Blog Wars. I want people to bring something a bit different, something that wouldn't necessarily do well at a mainstream event but might surprise some people at Blog Wars.

Where am I going with this?
Good question! I often wonder that when I'm writing blog posts! Anyway, there are a couple of issues that have surfaced since I published the BWX event pack so here goes:

Exclusive Dataslates
Games Workshop have taken the sickening step of releasing bundles that come with their own exclusive formations. Paying for rules is nothing new and frankly it's what the game boils down to even without these new offerings from GW. However, it's yet another source of rules I have to be aware of and make a decision about. For those of you not familiar with them there are currently three in circulation:

  • The Exalted Court of House Terryn
  • Cohort Mechanicus
  • Skyhammer Annihilation Force
I'm sure GW will have added more by the time BWX comes around but let's look at the current crop. Well we don't have to worry about the Exalted Court because it requires 5 IKs and BWX only allows a maximum of two per army. The Cohort Mechanicus is a nice way of brining together the Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus books which I'm all for but basically it allows both Canticles and Doctrina to be used for the entire formation and adds a couple extra. One gives upto a 4++ save for a turn and the other gives +3 to BS and WS for a turn, both of which are pretty powerful. Still, all of the AdMech stuff is reasonably flimsy so I don't think it's too obscene.

The Skyhammer Annihilation Force is a bit more difficult. This a formation for the new SM book and includes two assault squads with jump packs and two devastator squads in drop pods. The key bonuses are that the whole formation arrives together automatically on either T1 or T2, the assault squads get to assault when they arrive and the devastators get Relentless when they arrive. That basically negates the drawbacks of reserving them. Not only that but the Devastators can force a morale check on 3D6 for any unit they target. A failure forces them to go to ground and prevents them firing Overwatch. Not only that but if the assault squads charge them they get to re-roll to hit and to wound for a phase. 

Just writing that out makes me feel uncomfortable about allowing it but I want to hear what you guys think. There's an extra avenue for abuse too with the Combat Squads rule. You could easily cause 4 units to Go To Ground and charge four separate units. As I say, I want to hear your thoughts but it doesn't sit right with me.

Flyer/FMC Spam
This is trickier to call. I received a few comments about the list that came second at BW9 which was a Tyranid list with multiple FMCs. It's difficult because on the one hand I think that there are only a limited number of "viable builds" for Tyranids to be competitive and FMCs are part of their identity. The other side of it is that there should be lists like this as a counter to things like three Imperial Knights (which were an issue at BW9 but aren't allowed at BWX). 

There should be lists with lots of flyers so that there's a rock to some scissors. Obviously in a three game event it might meant that a list seems over the top but in a longer event it would meet it's match. Players should design their lists expecting to play at least the odd flyer and meeting multiple flyers should present a challenge to attempt to overcome. Again though, I want to hear what you guys think.

Special Detachments (e.g. Necron Decurion, Eldar Warhost, etc)
These are a whole new can of worms opened up by GW. My first objection to them is that they bypass the "two detachments/formations" only by allowing your to take multiple formations whilst still only taking a single detachment. That seems unfair on armies without them for a start.

What makes them worse are the bonuses which apply to the whole detachment. Using the Decurion was an example, the whole army gets +1 to its RP rolls. That means a 50:50 chance of negating any damage for the most part. It's better than FNP even before the bonus. What that basically means is you need twice as much firepower to kill a Necron unit than you would without RP. You may disagree with me but I really don't think Necrons need any help. There similar issues with the Eldar and SM detachments and again I really don't think those armies need help being competitive.

Let's be clear here, I'm not saying the individual formations aren't allowed. I'm just saying that a detachment of formations isn't. Nothing is completely final though, I really do want to hear what you think.

Conclusion
Ultimately the decision on whether something is too filthy or not can't be properly made until I've seen the general standard of the lists. I try to ensure that there's a decent mixture in there. I don't want everything to be crap but nor do I want everything to be incredibly strong. Neither situation makes for a fun event.


Hopefully the missions help to moderate things somewhat as certain types of army simply won't do well at every mission. There are some exceptions to this of course. The other thing to consider is we're not talking about what's good in a normal tournament setting. Blog Wars will inevitably be a bit softer than the usual independent events so something that feels underpowered there might actually do well at Blog Wars. Banning the Gladius when 5 Imperial Knights are permitted would be unfair but when other armies are restricted too the overall power level is lower and the better codices will still rise to the top.


On the other hand I hate telling people that they need to change their list. Even if they submit it well in advance to check if it's alright. I hope this post goes some way to expressing how difficult it is to keep things friendly without losing the competitive side of what is, after all is said and done, a tournament.

38 comments:

  1. Hey Alex,

    I think you're right to say no special detachments - id love to take the gladius but i can see that its really not what the tourney is about. im also happy that it means i wont face the necron one :)

    with regards to skyhammer in particular (i dont know anything about the other two) I think it's a good formation - I don't have much to base it on because I haven't paid much attention to some of the other formations before the marine dex. I think it might be a sign of things to come, and for me the thing id like a clear community consensus on is if its allowed or not. i dont want to build 15-20 assault marines and then not be able to play with them.

    I think it's good, probably near the line of what's ok if not on it. It does mean you have a one trick army list, you're probly looking at a minimum of 500-600 points off the board, and if you're making proper use of it it's more like 800-850. I think it has the potential to get out hand as an ally to a guard army or other non codex space marine force that can spam troops or cover its weaknesses. So 1000 points of guard is probly a filthier addition than 1000 points of space marines (if you max out the formation.)

    For me, the devastator ability is more powerful than the assault ability. You can mitigate the assault one with screening and average to good player skill in deployment, through castling, reserving etc. the devastator one has a longer impact, and appeals to me as it plays into a control style of list, my fave kind. Being able to basically pin a squad of 30 boys is great. But if you're fearless or don't care about leadership stuff you've basically got 30-40 tasty marines to gobble up. plus to make it good you really have to invest points into normal marines- assault marines got more expensive for instance. And if you read the rules for “leave no survivors” and “supressing fusillade” then you may notice that they are every turn. Not just the one you arrive on.

    I imagine people running it well would face other stuff that's doing well, like high leadership or imp/wraith Knights. I think these would be hard match ups, especially in the third game- half your army is basically a sacrificial distraction, and you've only really ever got one unsubtle play.

    I think I'd say it was right on the line. I played with it badly the other day and lost, but I could see for a casual pick up game it was a little to much. I think blog wars spans that gap, it's not adepticon but it's not a beer and pretzels event either. In those circumstances it has the potential to do well.

    I would support either call honestly, I know you've not allowed other formations that could be used uber competitively. I'm the kind of player that won't buy a whole new army to compete on what I think is the top tier. I guess I'm enjoying the prospect of having some shiny new tricks to play with. The styule of it also appeals to me –ive been running 20 sternguard in drop pods for a while now and its quite fun!



    All the best

    Luke

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    1. It's refreshing to hear someone saying they're happy either way I rule on the formation, especially coming from someone who is considering using it. I agree that it's still just marines so they aren't too hard to deal with but it's the impact they can have on arrival. I don't think they're as "glass hammer" as other things.

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  2. I strongly believe you should outright ban any extreme limited edition rules like the skyhammer annihilation force thing. Yes we buy our rules, but for the most part they are freely available to all and limited editions just grant you a shiny thing.

    But these are just whether or not to you click spammed and bought them or have specifically gone out of your way to pirate them and I feel both are against what you seem to promote at blog wars.

    The other issues I agree with you but that one I feel very strongly about.

    I look forward to building my army and attending whatever you decide on though :)

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Rob. I'm not a fan of them but I was never a fan of formations in the first place. Sadly they've become a significant part of the game and I'm keen for BW to reflect the current state of play as much as possible.

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  3. *grumble grumble* my precious decurion *grumble*

    :P Having played against the skyhammer and beaten it - I for one found no fun in being forced to go to ground every time i was shot at by some bolters. The devastator ability would probably break down a decurion list through unit control.

    I for one would be against the skyhammer but thats because I dislike having 3-4 units forced to go to ground just for being shot at. personal preference however and I do not mind having to go against it.

    I find myself that although I had great fun with the Decurion at the last blog wars; it is rather strong on the survival front - perfect counter to the Knights but every other list seems to struggle against it - I fully understand the need to ban the multi formation detachments and I am in agreement with the rules pack as it is and trust your judgment on the formations.

    -Peter Barrett

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  4. From what I understand GW has stated they will only let the Skyhammer be used at their events if someone has actually bought the limited edition bundle, I believe there were only 200 and the rules are numbered so you have to show up with it and everything. So, on the one hand I believe if you've shelled out that money you should be allowed to play it,

    However, I believe that line of thought doesn't sit with your approach to Forgeworld, which is being able to 'buy to win' - paying for the expensive kits to get better rules. So that argument might suggest the Skyhammer has been bought for that specific set of uber rules.

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    1. Interesting insight on GW's policy but frankly I've fallen out with them for putting Unbound into Battle Brothers. They're obviously going to insist people produce an original copy of the rules as it encourages people to shell out for them. If I were to allow it I'd be happy to allow a printout!

      Inevitably you could boil all of 40K down to "buy to win" though. I originally owned Tau but when the new codex came out I bought a riptide because the rules looked good. When I saw how good they were I bought another!

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  5. A few things on my mind since BW9:

    I comped myself and in my games felt like I was punished for it.

    With so many this now one man's cheese is another's bread and butter.

    I did want to take a fluffy Marine company and now I can't for BW 10. ten free rhinos is nothing compaired to summoned units in the long run of a game.

    As for the sky hammer it still has crappy Assault Marines in it and isn't that great really.

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    1. You could still take a fluffy marine company but you'd just have to actually pay for the transports. That's a part of the Gladius that I find a bit ridiculous as people will simply take transports for everything and use them to spam the field with vehicles. It also creates a bit of a nightmare for Blood Points too.

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  6. The Cohort Mechanicus one totally isn't an issue either. The minimum requirements for it are over 1850 Points (I think it's like 1910), and at anything less than maybe 2250, you can't do anything worthwhile with it.

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    1. Thanks for pointing that out. I did consider trying to add all the bits up but never got around to it.

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  7. Alex, maybe rather than picking and choosing what can and can't be bought formation wise - why not ban all 'special' formations and simply stick to FOC (1 HQ 2 TRP min. plus upto 3 HQ, 6 TRP, 3 EL, 3 FA, 3 HVY etc..).
    If the formations such as Skyhammer "doesn't sit right with me" then maybe it shouldn't be used. If it is not in the spirit of BWX, maybe we shouldn't be using them. This is not (thank god) a WAAC tournement and I never want it to be. Look at the 3 Knight lists and the ill feeling they may stir up. So a simple FOC and let people Ally to fill the 'weaknesses' but stick to a FOC and nothing more? No Skyhammer, no Baron Court, no 'pay-to-win', just plain old simple to use, simple to play and simple to understand BWX FOC?
    And BWX is an excellent arcronym! ;)

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    1. In some ways I'm tempted to go back to 6th edition with just a CAD and allies but frankly the game has moved on from then. I don't want to simply be playing a variant of 5th/6th edition. I may not like a lot of the things in 7th but I want to embrace it as much as possible.

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  8. I think a return to a standard FoC would be a good idea, really simplifies things. However, it does leave some armies such as Skitarii where they can't fill the slots as they have no HQ for example.

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    1. Skitarii would be an issue yes but also some of the faction specific detachments have useful things like extra HQ slots for Orks since painboys moved there. The unit type assignments are based on using the Ork Horde Detachment primarily and so forcing a CAD would limit them quite a bit. It's the same for other armies.

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  9. In terms of the FMC situation, I find it hard to complain about this as if you ban an army because it has four flyers then you would have to limit everyone from taking lots of flyers which is a shame. 4 FMC is no different than anyother list of extremes, all bikers, all terminators, 150 ork boys etc. I personally only have a problem with any unit or combination if there is nothing in my codex to counter it. If there is and i didn't take it in my army list then that's my fault. And i think that is the situation with the FMC list, if you didn't take any flyers or skyfire then you are going to have a hard game, learn from it and bring some anti air next time, every codex has it or has access to it...

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    1. I do think 4 FMC is worse than 4 flyers but I agree that they're just another thing you need to think about countering. There aren't any all comers lists that can perform well at everything and hopefully the missions make some of the tougher lists less useful.

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  10. Iv not really played 7th edition 40k at all since it came out, and so I guess I dont really have a valid opinion, But this edition really didn't sit with me, I am returning for BWX because I know from previous events that a lot of the rubbish that goes with playing 40k semi competitively will be nullified and therefore a fun day can be had by all.

    From this pespective, I look at all the discussion of formations and I just think why? I may be cynical but they just dont seem to add much to the game. Sure, use 3 units and get a special rule. But a lot of them are just additional rules for taking units that you would take anyway with absolutely no downside. Add that combined with the latest GW trends of released formations not everyone has access to, and using them specifically to sell web bulk orders, its clearly not been designed with any thought involved on an overall level.

    Another gripe I have is with formations being essentially exclusive to the force org chart, "Oh I have taken 3 brilliant units in heavy support but I want more, so ill take this formation giving me more brilliant units"

    I think if we took the game back to start of 6th, end of 5th and just said: 1 force org chart, and up to 1 allied detachment (debatable) then a whole lot of the issues disappear. If players want to use specific units there is absolutely nothing stopping them. I just think this whole formation issue causes a lot more problems than it solves.

    p.s. I know some armies don't have the correct choices for a force org chart, e.g. mechanicum, but i'm sure a quick fix such as picking a unit to count as your HQ should be simple enough.

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    1. I originally had banned formations for I think BW7 (maybe BW8), when there were very few around but some of the arimes at the time relied on the formations to make themselves competitive. I think we're too far down the rabbit warren now to take them away completely. Like with the new detachments I think the codices are written with formations in mind (as much as GW ever thinks about these things).

      I'd love to go back to 6th or 5th but they weren't perfect either and there were still horrible combos! As I've said above, we're in 7th edition whether we like it or not. I'd rather try to embrace it as much as possible than take things backwards.

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  11. Hi Alex,

    Firstly, BW9 was my first Blog Wars and I enjoyed it immensely. I brought Skitarii with only a few games under my belt and learned alot from my games on the day. I don't think any of my opponents were particularly overpowered in any way and in general they seemed to be competitive but not dirty lists.

    I can only imagine how much work goes into organisation before you even think about policing lists so I take my hat off to you for that. I like the policy of self-regulation especially coupled with the prize system. The best prizes being random and just for being there is great. From what I can tell there were a few lists that were 'legal' but far from fluffy. Whatever. I can't imagine why people would want to get ultra competitive over a voucher that while a very nice prize, is going to get you a new squad or something, at the risk of being pelted with left over sandwiches by the rest of the field (maybe that should be a part of BWX?). Each to their own. I will be keeping my BWX list bound and fluffy. I probably won't get on well but lore trumps all for me (and BW was just fun anyway).

    Limiting and banning the few things you do will also limit the potential for food-flingery and keep it as fun as it can be. GW just screws the pooch with rules and formations every now and then and those elements can suck the fun out of the game. Because I stay bound and fluffy, I doubt the restrictions will affect me at all next time out but from reading over the pack, it all seems good to me.

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    1. I'm glad people get what I'm trying to do with the prize system. I really don't understand why people want to run something completely filthy and have miserable games for the sake of a net profit of £7.50 (ignoring travel costs etc). There's a balancing point though, you don't want to have miserable games because you're list is too weak either.

      It ends up being an arms race. You know there'll be something strong so you make your list stronger and everyone else then adjusts to beat that list etc.

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  12. As an extra note, I think a standard FOC is a terrible idea. Aside from the HQ-less forces, it removes so many special rules from play that have steadily been making 7th a hell of a lot more interesting to play (if not necessarily balanced). Standard FOC might stop the one or two nasty lists but it penalises more than necessary in my humble opinion.

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    1. Going FOC only will Only make eldar better vs everyone else.

      The problem with trying a limited comp is that it makes something else broken. When I spoke to Matt he said the key to blog wars is to bring something broken but doesn't look it.

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    2. I do think things are more interesting than everyone running the same FOC. There were still armies that benefited from that chart (basically those with good troops). There's always going to be something broken no matter what I do. Any "broken" is very subjective. If the general strength of armies is low then even a decent list can seem overpowered.

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  13. well although there will be more books and rules out before BWX that will probably cause problems, as it stands I`m not fused either way as personally dont think the eldar or marine one is that bad although the necrons are pain in the butt these have prenty of other ways to make you cry for example a ghost ark and chariot army .

    As for the pay for formation , well it easy enougth to get rules for the money shouldnt come into it and personally the assault marine part isnt that bad but the devi part is good if not expensive but in end they are just marines so easy to kill back , again Im happy either way they do hit hard and can see how this would take the fun out of a game "specially with ultramarine devi doctrine" for allot of armies so prob best to ban, (barring in mind i wanted to use it ).

    FMC , well i was one of the guys who played against them and so was my mate "we did not enjoy the game" and another friend just entered 6 fmc on his list BWX list , personally feel that most armies cant feind enouth anti air to stop that many with out tailouring there army to it, they are allot harder to kill then flying vehicles and any sane monster would kill the anti air first so likely only get one turn from them. so i would love a limit of 3/4 mfc .

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    1. I'm actually hoping with the Age of Sigmar stuff that we get a breather with 40K releases. Never thought I'd say that but I actually want them to slow down.

      I'm loath to limit FMCs to a specific number. There's a danger there of making the list worthless as it's strength relies on minimal ground units. It's not a particularly filthy combination but rather a strong list from that particular codex (plus extra formations). That's subjective though.

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  14. I think that its an interesting one. Often alex has allowed us a chance to try things, piloting things responsively to whatever GW thinks is a good idea. In the past that’s been forge world, maelstrom missions, many detachments or other things. Some have stuck, others haven’t. Could we pilot these areas without abusing them? Can we self-regulate this by not taking “power” lists?

    Another option could be to limit your second detachment to say, 600 points ( I don’t know enough about individual books eg knights to know if that’s an appropriate point limit). OR, do something left field and reward players who only use one source/detachment for their whole army. Give them bonus, be that army wide or unit specific. Examples might be, re-roll to seize, one unit gaining objective secured, +1 to one reserve roll. This promotes players who don’t use a second source, giving them a leg up and also promoting what I believe are “blog wars values”.

    I don’t think FMC/fliers are a big worry, the player of that nid list who came second is a good player and a good guy- he generally does well from memory. A good player has the potential to get more from an average list. That’s always been the case – so a good player with a good list will do well. Not to overly barge in on something that didn’t affect me – I tried to build my list to take on knights as best I could. But it was probably weak against multiple fliers. But fliers have been around since 6th, they are a valid play and aren’t new, so I would have struggled against that too, because I hadn’t built my list for that – I preparing for the “meta” as I perceived it.

    So yeah, my two cents 

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    1. Giving a bonus for using a single source will just make some of the strong armies even better e.g. Eldar/Necrons/SM and the rest comparatively worse.

      As with everything at Blog Wars a lot of it comes down to the player himself. A horrible list only makes for a horrible game if your opponent is a dick (most of the time anyway).

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  15. Have you thought about skimming the lists and putting people into two categories? I think it takes about 30 seconds a list to see if it's a WAAC job or not. If the WAACs get to play the WAACs, then everybody else can have fun. I know it's extra work, but I remember frontline doing this for their casual bracket last year. They were of course just telling people it was too serious.
    Otherwise, I totally support no decurion style lists, because if nothing else it puts the armies without them at a giant disadvantage.

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    1. I've considered this in the past but I think it's incredibly difficult to get right. At a bigger tournament with more rounds this happens naturally of course. The problem is you can't actually tell if the list is WAAC or not. I obviously have a fair idea after doing this for so long but sometimes a combo isn't obvious from the list and what seems like a dirty list won't be because the player won't play it to the full extent.

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  16. Thanks for all of the comments so far folks. Please keep them coming. I'll try to respond to them all individually tomorrow but I'm really pleased with how involved everyone is with the decisions I make for Blog Wars.

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  17. Exclusive Dataslates - I'm not a fan of them for a number of reasons and don't really think they should have a place in BW.

    FMCs/Flyers - I see them as part of 40k now and there is no difference between a Nid list full of FMCs and an IG list full of big tanks - its unlikely a balanced list will be able to take on either that well (other than playing the mission).

    Decurions - unless everyone has them, again, I'm not sure if BW is the place to run them.

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    1. It would certainly make my life easier to give a list of legal sources e.g. the main codices only It's a nightmare keeping track of all the formations that were WD only or part of a campaign supplement etc.

      I agree on the FMC thing. A lot of it is luck of the draw. There were lists in there that could've dealt with the list that came second but he didn't play them.

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  18. Hi

    Isn't it better to minimize the restrictions and trust the players ?
    This then in combination with some extra guys to help you prepare and run the event ? This way you have a sort of counsil to approve te lists and if you motivate the decision i'm convinced that everybody will agree with this.

    Just my few euro's on this ;)

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    1. Yes and that's exactly what I'm trying to do here. I don't want to just ban things for the sake of it or because I don't personally like them. If I did all on my own opinions we'd be single codex and one detachment but I don't want that.

      I don't think extra people are necessary. I have a pretty good grasp on things at the moment and a council doesn't really make bias that much less likely. I'd previously thought about publishing all the lists and seeing what people thought but it'll come down to "I don't think I could beat that so I'll complain". A "council" would need to be made up of people who weren't playing and good luck finding another sucker who's prepared to give up two Saturdays a year to give everyone else a good day out!

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  19. Hi Alex, had a great time at Bw9, was wondering how yourself and people felt about the ravenwing special detachment in C:DA? Also would you be of the opinion that other characters as opposed to sammael and sableclaw could be taken if no faq is forthcoming soon, as this seems to be a very big ommission definitely requiring an faq?

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  20. Hi Alex, heres my 2 cents.

    As far as flyers go, yes they can be annoying but I dont think restrictions are necessary. Its a part of 40k and there are lists that can muller such lists.

    With formations I would say skyhammer is fine. It can be a lethal alpha strike but after that itll likely get hit back hard, particularly the assault marines. Same with War Conclave (wasnt mentioned but should be considered in this category due to its own free upgrades).

    As far as detachments like decurion go it may be best to see how other codices do as theres still other 6th ed codices that might get updated before November including Nids, Tau, Chaos and Guard. If these are similar then banning such FOCs may need a rethink. Though Decution is OP and Free Drop Pods for my marines does make a big saving points wise.

    Regardless Blog Wars X will be a gooden if 9 is anything to go by :)

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  21. https://www.frontlinegaming.org/2015/06/30/analyzing-the-skyhammer-assault-force/

    This article might help give insight on Skyhammer and whether it should be considered or not

    ReplyDelete

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