General hellos to everyone. So my musing on 40k continue, and hot of the heals of looking at some of 6th edition's effects on 40k, some unique and others revisiting old rules (just for you Chris!), I now turn my gaze back a little at something that really started becoming a big thing in 5th edition. While yes it is something that has existed for quite some time, 5th edition started something... and 6th has taken it and run with it. The ability to swap units from one section to another, affectionately coined the Force Organization Swap.
As you can see above, the game was designed around a central balance. I say was for a very important reason. That time is long gone. Gone are the days when troops were pretty standard fair, seeing many of them in your armies, with some unique units spiced in to make the army your own, and give you some powerful units amidst the troops. Generally speaking in days past, your deadly or high powered units weren't scoring. Their job was to protect the troops by either shielding them, or simply smashing the enemy units into submission for them. This (to me) presented a tactical challenge for players. How to utilize units that need to survive to hold points, vs. powerful units that are more than capable, but in the end won't win me the game. This was an important challenge that really rewarded strategy and the ability to think in the big picture sense of a battle.
Possibly in order to make games go faster, maybe a need to shake up the game design, or most probable the need to sell more expensive models, this changed. At some point the idea came about that players should be allowed to take units from one slot on the Force Org. and run them as their troops. There are several reason why this could be a good idea, as some armies are based on wholly different units than the basic units. White Scars for example love bikes, and could run them decently out of the old codex. That said no one did because they were too expensive. Now that they aren't... bikes are sprouting up everywhere, but that's a discussion all it's own. But Space Marines aren't the only ones pulling the trick. And it has been a long time in the making.
Now we enter 6th edition... and this painful trend seems to continue. Again we started with a decent move, and ironically it's actually one that actively removed choices and utilized the FoC Swap intelligently. The Cult Troops in Codex: Chaos Space Marines, formerly all troops natively were moved to Elites, and allowed to be Troops if an HQ sharing their mark was taken. This is intelligent, and smart design. This rewards players for the fluff, and presents challenges for the player at list construction, as well as on the table. You can bring the cult troops regardless, but you have to plan for if you want them scoring. There is a drawback to this, but we'll hit that later.
Then comes along Tau. Hizzah! A codex that really doesn't have any FoC play to speak of. It didn't need it, since the codex is pretty potent already... What's that? A Farsight Supplement? Oh... Suit Troops. *insert a long, frustrated sigh here* Coupled with the potent ability of the new Riptide, and some of the Eight who are just crazy good, as well as allying the codex with Codex: Tau... removing just about every weakness built into the choice and you start to see the issue.
Eldar show up, and suddenly Wraithguard are swappable with the touch of a button, or in this case the adding of a single Spiritseer. Again, a swap that existed before, but 6th made insanely easy to do, and dirt cheap. These guys are actually more than capable of replacing fire dragons, and are infinitely more survivable, if a little more expensive. Now we move to Space Marines... and bikes. Oh god, the bike lists haven't stopped spewing forth from the internet since it hit. The bandwagon of bike lists which never existed before is a constant reminder of how many people play this game for no other reason but to craft the ultimate list, and win. And if that is how they derive their enjoyment from 40k, more power to them. Far be it from me to stifle their flair.
Almost every codex has a unit that is not a native troop, that somehow finds it's way to that section. There are very few codexes out there with the option of FoC swaps, and probably for good reason. Imagine if you could take Leman Russes as troops in Imperial Guard. I would, but that's the point. Why should anyone bring troops when GW is making Elite units troops with something so simple as taking a single character? Are the FoC Swaps really promoting more options, or limiting the viable playing field? While it isn't a sure thing, it's a fair bet most tournament lists out there have some swap element to them. Having played the swap units, I can see why people want them, and how they can be a great incentive for certain choices. But in most if not every situation, there's no cap to limit the number of units you can swap. About the most balanced I've ever seen is the Ork Warboss making a single Nob Squad troops, which may be changing soon. I'll be honestly surprised if Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka doesn't unlock any number of Nobz as troops. It would fit with the trend...
|You need only look into a mirror.|
So does the FoC Swap alter the game for the better or worse? In my opinion it's a double edged sword, but sadly, from the looks of it, it's starting to tip towards detrimental. Does the option to swap really promote balance? Well, looking at a lot of event winning lists, it would seem that most contain at least 1 potent swap to Troops, and some are nothing but swaps (SM Bikes winning Feast of Blades for example). The last question I'll leave on is this.
If Games Workshop introduced Allies to help sore up the weaknesses in a codex by teaming up with another army to alleviate them, then why are FoC swaps still seen as necessary to a codex and still so prevalent?