Monday, March 4, 2013

The Symbiosis of 40k

Greetings, tidings, and general hellos.  A topic has been rattling around in my mind with regards to 40k, and that is the element of symbiotic relationships.  While my first encounter with the thought was working to explain the weakness of the Imperial Guard to Corvus and Heretic, I recognize now that it extends much more progressively in the new codexes we've seen since the dawn of 6th edition. So what exactly is this topic referring to...?

Symbiosis: (from Ancient Greek σύν "together" and βίωσις "living") is close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species.  Some symbiotic relationships are obligate, meaning that both symbionts entirely depend on each other for survival. For example, many lichens consist of fungal and photosynthetic symbionts that cannot live on their own.  Others are facultative, meaning that they can, but do not have to live with the other organism.

In this particular example, let us remove the element of restriction where it specifies "biological species" and substitute the term "units."  This allows us to extend the term more freely into the realm of 40k, as it tends to utilize a mixture of both biological and mechanical units.

The origin of this theory again stemmed from trying to explain how Imperial Guard do have shortcomings here and there.  Corvus and Heretic were having a hard time seeing the weaknesses of I.G. based on their experiences with my Death Korps of Krieg.  I can understand their points, as I.G. tend to have a high number of units on the table, while keeping relative costs low and allowing for quantity to provide the quality.  Additionally, their tanks provide a heavy amount of firepower with some very reliable armor values to keep them safe.

That said, those tanks tend to form what I feel is a very dependent symbiotic relationship (s.r.).  I myself am not a fan of the chimera army... or even transport spam armies in general.  It's just a personal view on how I like to spend points.  I enjoy putting points into units that have an active role in pumping out shots, and/or taking up and holding points and objectives.  I understand the merits and values or using transports, I just don't like spending vast amounts of points doing so... especially with guard, where I feel the infantry can be safe enough hiding in terrain.  This explains two things to me.

1.  My army specifically relies heavily on the elements of s.r.  My infantry is weak and vulnerable to enemy fire, and so need tanks to apply needed pressure to the enemy units to allow my infantry to "mop up" what is left with relative safety; while vicariously, my tanks rely on the infantry to help keep units away from them, as well as draw fire away by being the active units which hold points.  This demonstrates a perfect example of s.r. where units rely on one another, often by virtue of different roles and or uses on the battlefield.  My list is an extreme case where I put more tanks on the table, and infantry in several unorthodox units like penal legion to skirt a flank, and veterans in a vendetta to provide mobile units to move forward with, thus allowing my static units to remain static without hindering my ability to obtain objective control.

2.  There are varying degrees of how s.r.'s effect an army, but no army is free from it's presence.  Whether it be by virtue of needing a transport to get you to a particular place, or by need of a unit to bolster or support another, every army relies on every unit to achieve victory.  While this is obviously nothing new to anyone who plays the game, it does allow us to better understand not only our own army, but also shows us how to approach an enemy's as well.

So where does 6th fit in?
From what I have seen, every codex in 6th edition has created some form of s.r. internally with their unit choices.  Barring the obvious element of certain characters providing FoC alterations, I'm looking to more subtle, deeper connections.  Chaos Space Marines introduced several new units, including the blinding Warp Talons, crippling the enemies around them for a turn.  These provide quite a bit in terms of support for the rest of your force.  The inclusion of the mark and icon system allows units to form more specialized roles to cover for the weakness of another unit which has also specialized itself.  Dark Angels have several banners which are utilized to bolster surrounding units.  Chaos Daemons now have units like the Skull Cannon and the new Heralds which are used to bolster or assist another unit in doing what they do best.

We can see a subtle, yet consistent push for new units to be introduced which can aid other units in the army by more than the virtue of just killing the enemy.  They provide support elements, which allow for powerful synergies to emerge.  While it is speculation, I can very easily see Tau and Eldar (rumored to be releasing within the year) to continue this trend.

Beyond simply designing new unit styles, 6th also included a huge new mechanic to the system: Allies.  This alone allows for potent mixtures of abilities to be created and allow for some armies to really gain some improvements to cover their weaknesses.  Heretic is talking about utilizing some Dark Eldar tricks to really bolster his Eldar forces until the release of a new codex.  It's that line of thinking that allows s.r. to occur naturally.

What's important about recognizing s.r.?
As I said before, no army is without the symbiosis of units.  It is a key feature which could have minor or major significance to the ability of the army as a whole.  Understanding how each codex works, and where the s.r.'s are found is something I consider a good gamer, and a general of an army to be able to see.  Knowing when a situation arises which might apply more emphasis on one side or the other of the relationship is what I'm referring to.  Perhaps it's wiser to fire at a unit which is briefly exposed rather than the obvious shot against the support unit (like a tank).  Using your own support units effectively, while protecting your main units is crucial as well.  Sometimes it might even require more risky plays like sending heavy weapons teams into mid field to claim a point when the unit meant for the job suddenly fails to do so.

Everything from the units you take in the list, to the positioning of those units, to how you use the units forms the relationships we see in every army.  If you really stop and view an opponent's list, you should be able to understand roughly how each unit will play, and even denote some tells like where you think their I.C.'s will go based on the units in the list, and the wargear of the I.C.  These tells can allow you to potentially understand your enemy, and how they will play before you even see models hit the table.  Of course, understanding what a unit will do based on where they are deployed is also indicative of a skilled player.

So there you have it.  I feel that this simple, yet complex idea may help to create a new way to view an opposing army... and maybe even you own.  I suggest opening your own codex, and really reviewing the units inside, as well as maybe even the other codexes you own (if any) to see what you might find.  You never know when a new relationship could be discovered.  Know your units, know how they play, and know how you can use the relationships with others to alter the flow of a game.  You never know when that skill might just come in handy at outwitting your opponent.



  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Spag.

      I was wondering if there was any part of it you enjoyed in particular? I know you play with a higher degree of skill than I, so I was wondering if you think similar to this, or if you have a wholly different approach.