Tuesday, August 6, 2013
The FOC and Army Design
How many of you remember playing against Dragowing and Loganwing in fifth edition. I'm sure if you were the one playing those armies to win tournaments, those were satisfying armies. For the rest of us, those armies were oppressive to play against. I know my coauthors have no love for those types of armies, but I would like to propose that the fault, dear readers, is not in our codices, but in our FOC.
I'm sure you all are as familiar with the 40k force organization chart, so let's look at how that compares to how Fantasy armies are structured. While 40k units are classified into five categories, fantasy is divided into lords, heroes, core, special, and rare units. I'll refer to the Fantasy system as 'percentages' for ease of contrast. The FOC requirements you know, but percentages dictates either a minimum or a maximum percentage of your points that can be spent on any classification and a maximum number of iterations of any rare and special units you can have per 2999 points. Specifically, you must have at least 1/4th of your points in core units that count as core (compare to fenresian wolves for core that don't count as core), no more than 1/2 of your points in special units, and no more than 1/4th of your points in each remaining category.
While I'm all for allowing options in army composition and player choice, but I'm also agains creating units that are massively under-costed or over-powered. Sadly, Games Workshop isn't against those type of units and any game has composition restrictions. So the question that has to come out in the discussion of how to set up those rules is how do you encourage armies that are representative of the background story for casual players, while preventing abuse in tournaments.
The percentages system would be more capable of preventing that abuse and allow armies to be better represented rules-wise than the current FOC does. The root of my problem with the current FOC is that there are only two levels of rarity outside of headquarters units, 2-6 or 0-3. While space wolves can be annoying with their four 'lords,' for the most part headquarters units aren't generally the problem units that break armies. The problem usually comes when a the undercosted elites units become troops or there are three of some monstrous creature.
40k might be improved if seventh edition would transition toward the percentages system. Our objections to the 'X unit becomes a troops choice' system could be mitigated by this change. For instance units like terminators, riptides, trygons, etc could be classified rare while units like IG veterans, devastators, and crisis suits would be special. Force organization manipulation to represent different sects (Armageddon, Blood Angels, Saim-Hann) would only involve changing the rarity of units (e.g. assault marines become core, tactical marines become rare) and adding a rule (e.g. any veteran or infantry squad must take and begin the game in a chimera) to specific units to modify the army.
Now, percentages are far from blameless. They force armies to revolve around core units that are not created equally or even pointed evenly. Fantasy does play very differently from 40k and taking objectives isn't the backbone of the game like it is in 40k. It's that emphasis that makes the change in classification to troops that makes such a contentious issue. If a unit could either be brought in greater numbers or become able to hold objectives while not being troops, that might alleviate some of the problems that came into the game in fifth edition and persist.
What do you think about this idea? I'd love to hear whether or not you think those troop swaps are/were a problem and if you think this or some other system like Warmachine's theme lists might help make 40k a more competitively balanced and casually fun game.