It’s Like Tactics: My little problem with Flyers
My Tactical article pledge: I am not the greatest player, nor am I seal pup, I will endeavor to speak from my experience and always be honest about what is theory and what is play tested. Never will I assume to know better than anyone else, unless to call out ego or pretension.
As most people know, I tend to give GW the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their rules. I often find those not practiced in making wargames find ways to tinker with the system and accidentally invalidate some of the balancing aspects they misconstrue as being broken. When I first saw the addition of Flyers I was excited about the idea of having another way to play the game.
Instantly people went crazy proclaiming just how broken flyers could be. As always, I discounted such knee jerk reaction, because I knew gamers like to nerd rage before trying to figure out a ways around problems. Truth be told there are many ways around flyers especially all flyer lists. Using the built-in 90° turn mechanic against flyers is a primary way to get flyers off the board or in hover mode. Castling and surrounding objectives is another way to make sure flyers cannot drop off their scoring units where they need to be.
What if you end up with Purge the Alien mission?
Purge the Alien mission solution relies on you having specific things in your list. Fortifications and torrent of fire units are the surefire way of removing annoying flyers from the board. We also know the problem of flyers will be resolved over time; with every new codex, more units will pop up having ways to take down flyers.
My problem with Flyers though is based on one of their most basic rules.
Flyers cannot be assaulted while zooming.
That means for the most part you must rely on 6s to hit flyers from shooting only. What this rule does is crap on a whole type of army. It means you cannot take a pure assault list and hope to have fun.
Fun is exactly what I want to talk about here.
It creates games where for four turns one player shoots and shoots while the other person only rolls armor saves. Then if you are lucky enough to avoid Purge the Alien mission, one side’s only hope is killing the scoring units that sprung from the flyers in the final turn.
It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, but if you take away the possibility of hurting flyers in one of the major phases of the game, you have a problem.
Now of course, you can say take flying monstrous creatures, one can do that, but what if one doesn’t want to or doesn’t have the option to. Should their entire army be invalided because Games Workshop made units altogether immune to a major portion of the game?
This might sound hypocritical of me, especially when I am always telling folks to quit crying and change their lists to fit any new meta. This is different; you are saying to a player that unless they put in shooting they cannot destroy flyers. It is one thing to ask a player to take out lascannons for more autocannons, it is another thing to ask a player to utterly change their lists or play style because they cannot hurt flyers.
I understand the logic in flyers being immune to assault; it hardly makes sense for Ork Boyz to be leaping into the sky-high above to take down a Night Scythe. But if it means that certain match ups are downright unenjoyable, it is unfair for everyone and doesn’t forge any meaningful narrative.
In “bad matchups” you want the illusion each side has a chance, but in the case of flyer army vs. assault army that illusion is broken Most players want is to feel like they have a chance– even if it is miniscule. Even in 5th facing an Imperial Guard gun line was sometimes a reenactment of Charge of the Light Brigade at least it felt heroic and worth the time trying. When the illusions are broken it gives an impression of poor design mechanics. It also gives Comp heroes a concrete example to exploit and use to change the game to fit their unbalanced visions.
Now of course, I could be eating crow once new units arrives that assault zooming flyers, but until then it is just a pain in the ass to create lists where I cannot take the units I want, because if I don’t take that Aegis Defense Line I am always one Necron flying circus from a 30 min snooze fest of a game.
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It’s Like Tactics is rated theory hammer because these are general observations and assumptions based on only few tested games.
For tactical articles feel free to email me to continue the discussion or if you discovery inaccurate interpretations of the rules– edits will be made accordingly.