Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Arrival of the Knights & Thoughts on Enhancing the Quality of the 40k Experience

Hey there everyone, and welcome back to Rites of Battle.  While my personal life has pretty much crumbled under my feet, I thought it unfair to neglect my responsibilities to those of you who return time and again to read about 40k.  While I have been somewhat detached from news, some things haven't completely escaped my eyes and ears, and it seems that these are sparking quite the discussion on the Wartrukk regarding the state of the game.  This got me thinking yet again on how to improve some of what I perceive as weak points, and even failings on the part of the Games Workshop design team, and while I won't claim to have perfect solutions, It has always been taught to me that you should try to present some alternatives or solutions if you are going to voice a dissenting opinion of the topic at hand.  Not only this, but I'd love to give a quick thought on the spark of the whole debate, as well as some shout outs to recent events.

It's a jam packed article, so sit down, strap in, and enjoy.



First up on the list is as I said a quick shout out to some recent 40k events I attended, and some I would love to hear more on.  There was a great write-up on Prey in 40k detailing a huge Imperium vs. Tyranids game which I had intended to hit up, but due to weather was unable to show for.  By the looks of things from the article, it seems the Imperium was soundly digested.  I would also like to throw a curious "so how'd it go?" over to the Indy crew.  I know FrostyCon was this past weekend, and I'll be looking around for some information on how that all turned out.  Props to the folks making that all happen.

Finally, to the event I actually did manage to make it to (and only by the insistence of my beautiful, loving, and tolerant girl), I'd like to thank Bloomington Game Preserve for making what I felt to be a successful run at a Triathlon.  It was a great time, and was a pleasure to face down old and new faces.  Hope to see that sort of event happen on a more regular basis.


So on to the topic which has drawn quite the crowd.  The pictures are out and the rules leaked, so it won't be long until the Imperial Knights walk again (for the first time) on the Grim Dark fields of 40k (not Justice).  Yes, the Knight Paladin and the Knight Errant have almost arrived, and with them comes a stirring new development in 40k.  Shockingly... another codex... another set of units... and of course, another huge kit with which GW can slap an outrageous price tag on.  So why all the fuss?  Well I can see why in some respects.

First and foremost I should hit up that the new kit is scheduled for release very, very soon.  The models hit pre-release on February 22, with what looks to be a March 1st release date.  This means that before the next big events hit, These bad boys are gonna be legal for play.  Now as for the rules, they feel pretty balanced.  I won't go into particulars to avoid the wrath of GW, but having looked over them, they feel pretty darn solid.  The two variants are about 5 points apart, so really the only determining factor for which will see play is what the list around it will need.  Basicall you'd looking at powerful melee weapons on both with one rocking a dual shot battle cannon and the other a long-ranged Melta cannon with a large blast.

It's unclear who will get the use of these models, but from the looks of the kit, it feels to be an "Imperial Only" type kit.  We may see Chaos have them, but it's unclear currently whats up on this front.  Personally, given the close friends Chaos Space Marines have in the form of Chaos Daemons, I'd be ok seeing this be for the Emperor-loving only.  Currently, there are nay or few "big monster kits" for the Imperium outside Apocalypse / Escalation units.  In either case, I like to see more options presented to players.  It means that lists have the potential to be more varied than not.  However, there is a slight caveat to this feeling that has me torn on the matter.

The kit has a massive $140 price tag on it, with an extra $20 for those who want the full blown decals you see on them (which is ridiculous in it's own right).  This already places a huge gap for players, as some people just don't have that kind of coin to drop on what amounts to a single model.  To me this unfortunately exacerbates the issue of Money-Hammer we already see today.  On top of this, evidently this kit is not just coming with it's own unique rules (not just stats but also a one of a kind set of rules for Force Organization and Allies), but it's own Codex.  These guys can be fielded on mass to form a primary detachment.  This means a whole new possibility in terms of armies has just spouted on us almost overnight, and sadly due to the price tag is only available to those with only the most surplussed of surplus income.  Can't say I'm a fan of this little notion, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in trying out the Knight Army.  I've always loved the Legio Titanicus, and the feeling of playing titans in Apocalypse.  I'd love to try this out, but there's no way I'd have the funds to even try it.

Overall, I think their release is very cool, ifs maybe a little out of left field.  Once again, having seen the rules, I don't think they're gonna be overbearing to the game, and the high price tag does come with the little edge of perhaps curtailing their abuse in the quite-likely event that I'm wrong and they are ridiculous.  But looking at this release, if feels very much like a move that Games Workshop has put out to help the Imperium "answer" other big monster models in the game.  Outside of the Dreadknight (once hailed as a giant, now dwarfed by the others), the only real monsters the Imperium can field are Titans, meaning Apocalypse or Escalation only.  With the Imperium just recently having just recieved a few tricks up their sleeves to help with the matter, I'll quote Nik's list of Coteaz (not sure he's really an answer to Monsters, but he is darn good.... and very undercosted), or lascannons (always been a thing, but are now affordable to spam thus well-suited to bring them down), or grav guns (limited platforms to utilize these weapons well, but damn good if given the chance to do so).  But even if these options are capable of handling other armies' monster units, it is not the ability to have access to your own monsters.  These kind of units really allow for certain types of game play options to exist, and well... frankly they're just darn good options.

Just about any of these units (for reference albeit late, I define Monster Units as the Dreadknight, the Riptide, the Wraithknight, and now the Knights [knights... knights everywhere]) These units usually share a larger scale in terms of sheer size, but mostly it is their power level in relation to their point cost, and the game.

But even if the Imperium does technically have the option to field one currently, it's only through Grey Knights. This means that the army is either the primary detachment, which is still capable, but feeling it's age in the new edition of cheaper, yet more effective units which pulp through the highly elite ranks by sheer volume of fire... or is the allied detachment, which means takes up that slot for the six current other Imperial armies out there.  The issue here is that they aren't battle brother with any of them which limits the army's iteration potential.  So in order to get that Dreadknight (which is in itself feeling it's age, with a 2+/5++ and only 4 wounds... thought for a decent price point both monetarily and point-wise), it usually means sacking other ally options to get it.
 


So, I'm okay with the existence of the Knight in the game, even though I do feel the rules are becoming a bit crowded and nigh impossible to manage all or even most of them.  But there's something else on my mind when it comes to the addition of this new unit/codex, and with Monster Units in general.  The simple fact is that these units are so potent because the rules allow them to be, and in many cases push for people to actively abuse them.

The game has really pushed for utilizing swap units, allies, or just using a massive amount of rules from what has now reached a staggering level.  It is in fact possible to run an army which uses upwards of 6-7 different books.  This is insanity!  I can't say I'm sad that the game isn't successful enough to allow for this amount of data to be produced... but there comes a point when too much bloats and deforms the core of the game.  I feel the game has become so much more about taking advantage of new, powerful units or combinations leading to increasing difference in the power level of armies as compared to other armies, and less about tactics and wits.  Several terms can be thrown around to explain my fears on this matter, such as Money-Hammer, Rock-Paper-Scissors, or just the plain business of pushing for quantity of sales over the quality of the produced content.  But in this day and age of monsters and mayhem, I still have hope and ideas on how to reign back in the runaway train of 40k, and see some balance return in such a way that the core of one's army is more important that the new expensive toys.

What I would love to see with the dawn of the "next edition" everyone is so keen on rumor-milling is a real push for an actual need for Troops.  I'd love to see more or less a dawn of an era which makes swaps more balanced and powerhouse units less potent.  If swaps were used to make units mobile on the FOC chart for the express intent of freeing up slots to play with rather than actually winning the game, I'd be delighted.  If units which simply are placed on the table to kill the enemy, and therefore lack some of the dynamics which scoring units have in the form of risk-reward and overall strategy, I feel the game would have an enhanced quality of life for not only the average player, but for the experience as a whole for everyone, including the highly competitive tournament crowd.  We've reached a point where top-tier events consist of the same or similar armies battling eachother with the same or similar lists.  Alterations to the core rules could really swing this stagnation back around and allow for armies to diversify while still remaining competitive within the next rules set.

I had a few thoughts on how to make the game a little more balanced for those armies which can't field big monstrous creatures, or rely on nothing but swaps, or for players who literally just can't afford to keep up.

1: Addressing the Abundance of FoC Swaps
While I can't say the existence of swaps is what I'd consider wholly a detriment to the game, I could stand to see it altered a little as the rules progress forward.  If Force Organization Swaps were limited from their current incarnation, I feel the game would move quickly back to a more balanced place from which to strike out from.  In my opinion I think Swapped units should still be capable of being made troops with respect to the FoC, but with one of the following "leashes" applied to them:
  • These units cannot be the compulsory Troops choices used to fulfill the minimum requirements of the force organization restrictions.  Unfortunately this is a very game-able solution, but it is at least something.
or
  • These units may be taken as Troops in terms of their force organization status, but they do not count as scoring.  I know this one is damn overbearing, and as such I think the former suggestion would be better, even though it can be gamed.
To me, swapping units to the troop section seems to be about building armies around swaps, rather than the swap being a tool used to alleviate certain army sections which may have an abundance of good or desirable options.  Basically I'd be hoping for a redefinition of what the swaps should do from altering core army design (creating even more balance issues on top of rapididly released alternative army supplements), to supplying players with means to work within the confines of the FoC easier, but still fostering core game play.


2:  Overhauling the Use of Mission Objectives
Objectives need a lot of work in my honest opinion to limit abuse, while at the same time being expanded upon in other ways.  The rules need to be cleaned up to allow for far more balanced positioning of the actual objectives, and it all needs to happen BEFORE deployment zones are established, not AFTER.  This shouldn't have to be a house rule to prevent abusive placement GW...  Additionally, in order to make Troops far... far more prevalent than simply watching the game revolve around big units which kill everything, and then win the game... I propose that objectives be scored at the end of each turn.  As for whether this is game turn or each player turn (as in each player gains points at the end of their own player turns [of which both of these variant styles do exist in the Battle Missions book]) I am not sure which would be better as they both have their own sets of pros and cons for balance.

Making the game more about holding objectives throughout the game would improve the game's quality in my opinion, and mated with the proposed alterations to Troops, should make armies which exist only to spam the biggest and scariest units, then plop cheap troops in at the last minute a little less potent.


3:  Expanding the Interaction with Mysterious Objectives
Ok, so I enjoy these rules, as they add the spice of life to the game... Variety!  However, even I'd say they are a bit underwhelming in how non-interactive they feel.  Basically it's not real variety... but simply adding a completely random variable which could be very unbalanced, over-punishing, or overly-helpful to the players.  In my opinion, this rule needs a little more flushing out.  Perhaps having a more expansive table, with balance factors for the probability of the roll occurring relative to buff gained would help create balance.  I may try my hand at writing up a house-table for this in the future.

Additionally, I think it'd be cool if we saw some iteration with this aspect of the game.  Perhaps a way to re-roll or maybe even select upgrade wargear which helps with this part of the game may help increase the rule's presence in the game as a positive element, rather than a minor annoyance which is often disregarded by many players or events.  It also helps improve or increase the desire to hold these objectives earlier and longer.  Considering we've seen several warlord traits interact with units which are within 3" of an objective, it's be nice to see those objectives be a little more interactive than just last minute thoughts.  Reward players who dig in and hold objectives, especially mid field (providing bonuses for objectives held in mid field, and further bonuses for ones held in the enemy territory might be a good idea).  In any case, I feel this would really bring the game back to tactics, rather than kill the enemy, then run for objectives later.  This is supposed to be a strategy game after all.


4:  Reign in the "Extra Slots" Bloating the FoC
Ok, so lets look at the insane number of slots which now exist within the game.  I feel that it is important to understand this since it underscores my thoughts on the Bloating effect 6th has had on this element of the game.  Remember also as you read on that prior to 6th edition, there really wasn't anything other than the Primary Detachment, with the exception of the old Codex Daemonhunters or Codex Sisters of Battle, which were rare at best.

Primary Detachment
     HQ x2
     Elites x3
     Troops x6
     Fast Attack x3
     Heavy Support x3

Allies Detachment

     HQ x1
     Elites x1
     Troops x2
     Fast Attack x1
     Heavy Support x1

Fortifications
     Fortification x1
      (This slot has increased in options presented with the introduction of Strongpoint Assault)

Inquisitorial Detachment (Imperium Only)
     HQ x2
     Elites x3

Lord of War (Escalation)
     Lord of War x1
       (Increased options with the introduction of Forgeworld's Additional Lords of War List)

Date Slate Formations
     Formation x1

Now we hear tale of the Knights Also coming out, but thankfully... they have a built in solution to how I feel about all of these extra slots.  If what I hear is correct, running the Knight is not simply a Lord of War, but rather takes up all of the additional slots.  Now this may only be if you run multiple Knights (if that is actually an option), but it does help keep these slots cleared up.  I'd love to see this become the norm for the game.  You have your Primary Detachment, and then a few other slots at your disposal which allow you to chose some additional tricks.  While I doubt GW would ever do this as it could possibly detriment their sales, I feel it may help to keep things a little more manageable for players to keep track of what it is they are facing down.  At the very least, I'd like to see certain things placed in condensed slots.  An example would look like the following.

Primary Detachment
     HQ x2
     Elites x3
     Troops x6
     Fast Attack x3
     Heavy Support x3

 

Battle Support Branch (Choose any one of the following)
       Allies Detachment

          HQ x1
          Elites x1
          Troops x2
          Fast Attack x1
          Heavy Support x1

       Light Fortifications
          Fortification x1
            (Fortifications chosen may only be taken from the list of options presented in the BRB)


Escalated War Branch (Choose any one of the following)
       Lord of War (Escalation Only)
          Lord of War x1

       Date Slate Formation
          Formation x1

       Heavy Fortifications x1
          Fortification x1
            (Fortifications chosen may only be taken from the list of options presented in Strongpoint Assault)


Command Branch (Choose any one of the following)
       Inquisitorial Detachment (Imperium Only)
          HQ x2
          Elites x3

       Misc. Detachment (Specified Army Only)
          (This slot would be used in similar ways to the Inquisitorial Detachment for other armies as released)

I feel by wrapping choices into groupings, it allows for armies to still utilize more than one additional force or model, but still keeps things in relative check.  This helps promote balance, and possibly curtails the abuse of using data swamping as an advantage.  If nothing else it really helps clean up the game.  Keep in mind this is just a theory of one way to address this, should it be noted as being something in need of being addressed.


5:  Addressing the Allies Matrix
So, this is something I feel like many people would like to see happen.  I won't go into a whole lot of detail, as frankly I just am not sure how exactly to approach this... there's just so many possibilities and means with which to alter or tweak it.  Regardless... I feel there needs to be a far greater level of balance put forth when dealing with how supplements interact with their origin codex.  In many ways you see the ability to ally completely bypass intended balance or design aspects... Looking you you Farsight/Tau.  And sadly while we're on that note... most of the issue is fixed by simply fixing Tau...

They have a much to forgiving matrix for how damagingly potent their core codex, data slate formations, Monster Unit, and interaction with core rules can be in the current rules.  Make them a little more in-house, or create some balance with how the core allies rule work... and the game benefits dramatically in this players opinion.


So... after all of that, I think I'm out of thoughts.  There's a lot here to chew on I know.  Recapping current events, to my slight review of the upcoming Knight, to the State of the 40k, to the ideas or thoughts on how to re-introduce a little more balance into the game... it's been a long read.  If you made it this far, I salute you.  As always, comments are welcome, and discussion is something I long for when it comes to Rites and 40k.  I'll see what I can do to write up that expanded Mysterious Objectives list as soon as I can.  Hope to see you all in the grim dark soon.

Cheers!

2 comments:

  1. 1. Your first option is a much more forgiving option than your second, the second seems to be a straight penalty to armies that use FOC swaps. The first option is something I would agree too, even if it does penalize some armies that are characterized by really only one unit that is pretty self reliant (WS, RW, DW, to a degree FS Tau). In a lot of cases, it is about building the army around a unit and there are people who love that one unit.

    2. I'm right there with you on the value of changing objectives to being scored through out the game and when they should be placed, but I have two concerns. The first one is that it would further incentivize shooting troops over assault troops because they can contribute to their army's firepower while being stationary. The second is that it would swing the balance of troops toward more durable units. Usually I'm down on marines, but I see this being a problem more with xenos. This incentivizes more wraithguard, tervigons and crisis suits because unlike their native troops, these units can stand to weather the barrages that will be coming their way.

    3. It was my assumption that mysterious objectives/terrain were generally abandoned by the community because they were a generally superfluous part of the game. The flood of information that GW has released has made knowing every rule nearly impossible and keeping track of relevant rules more difficult. Part of my concerns in 2 carry over here and I can see there being the same shifts, if of lesser magnitude. Killing then securing is a tactic, right now it's just the strongest tactic, but this isn't anything new with 6th. Fritz started pushing that tactic when I was just getting started.

    4. I'm not sure I'd lump light fortifications in with allies, as the benefits aren't equivalent (I'd rate allies significantly more powerful than a fortification). Call me cynical, but I don't think we'll ever see something like Knights or Inquisition for non-imperials (still waiting for terrain). Solid groupings other than the first bit.

    5. Allies is a sticky issue, but I think it will start balancing out if GW will go back and update what they have rather than throwing new books out that will need more maintenance. Neglect damages armies more the longer it lasts. Farsight is a problem, thought I would specify that it's primarily just the riptide that's the problem. Tau would run more suits if they didn't have it (we used to) and the option to have scoring suits (not troops) would fill a gap in our ability to have mobile troops.

    I'm not as miffed as you are about Tau's allies matrix as it changed from "I can borrow anyone's toys" and needing support (pre-update) to "I have to share my toys with everyone" and being able to prop up other armies (post-update). One the whole I think the allies matix is a boon on net because it allows the armies that are suffering to have an option to get what they need. It's demeaning, absolutely, but not having the matrix means there isn't any help to be had at any price. Still miffed about all the terrain being Imperial, though.

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  2. Knight_of_Infinite_ResignationFebruary 21, 2014 at 6:06 PM

    I think the main problem is Battle Brothers. Make all allies into allies of convenience and most problems will be solved. Other than that making the troops from allied contingents non scoring and making force org swapped units non scoring would go a long way.

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