16 Days Later
It is finally here, 16 days after the supposed release month, the promised Warhammer bi-annual FAQ. Games Workshop to my surprise delivered some sweeping changes and updates, holding pretty close to their intention all along when the new rule update model was released back in mid December 2017.
Big, Twice-a-year FAQs
Major game-wide questions will be answered on a biannual basis each March and September when a wider set of FAQ updates will be released. These will be focused on anything that might emerge as more codexes, and thus more unusual interactions, make their way into the game and will address issues across multiple factions and publications. We’ll also use these to address balance issues in the game, so these might include a few changes to rules for overly powerful, or underrepresented units.
The thirst for this update was palpable from memes to server crashes the Warhammer 40k community was waiting with baited breath for the changes, with many holding off on making any purchases before they knew the details. The delay was understandable from Games Workshop’s standpoint, but it created an unnecessary headache for Games Workshop representatives across all channels, as no matter the topic, players attempted to turn any subject back to asking when the FAQ was going to be released.
Now that is it here, what can we expect? Well for starters, focus should be squarely on the big changes, because codex specific ones were for the most part tweaks or point adjustments. The self-styled Big FAQ 1 is really where the game has changed, so now that we have a few days to digest the FAQ, looking past most of the insane knee jerk reactions, what will really happen to the Warhammer 40k meta?
First off we got the finalized match play rules, not changing much, but added some protection to Thousand Sons and Grey Knights. This leads us into the newest set of Beta rules, which we all know are just going to be the real rules when the next big FAQ cleans them up.
First is Tactical Reserves which on the surface is a great idea…if this was 5th edition, as it is it will penalized Assault armies and just shift assault units to more shooty ones. It was funny listening to the Warhammer Facebook stream using a bad example of Hellblasters blowing up a Tesseract Vault in one volley, then realizing it was a terrible example without giving an actual good one. Worse, Games Workshop is still really trying to get competitive players to use power levels and already folks have found fun ways to exploit the half and half army mechanic, by mathing out random unit sizes to maximize what units need to be deployed or not.
Tactical Reserves will really limit fun tricks many armies have without adding much to intended tactical play. The real fix should have been a return of a Night Fight mechanic by making all units -1 to hit and maybe even extending the -1 to the Fight phase, that way players get into position for the later turns with most of their armies intact.
If Games Workshop is going to stick to this beta rule, it also could mean future codexes will feature ways to exploit the Tactical Reserves rule, making it worse for older armies.
The second beta rule on the other hand has been a long time coming: Battle Brothers. Finally, the soup army era is coming to a close, with some specific carve outs for certain units/armies. This change if it sticks will hurt a bit for a few fringe Imperial armies, but overall this will just make the game look and feel better. No more cherry picking the best units and a host of armies. While Games Workshop did have a decent fluff argument to keep certain soup combinations in place it was just too unwieldy and caused way too much trouble for what it was worth. I hope Game Workshop sticks with this change.
Next is the interim balance review, here we get a host of changes that should do wonders for the game. The first was boosting the amount of command points you get for taking a Battalion or Brigade. This is a step in the right direct, the Battalion CP increase seems about right, but the Brigade is still lacking. If you take two Battalions you are only 1 CP behind a Brigade without many more requirements. Honestly, the Brigade should be an insane bonus like +20 to make it tempting.
Then we get some minor tweaks, that should only be the corresponding codex FAQs, but why not here! The Ignoring Wounds change, doesn’t seem really necessary beyond speeding up the game.
Finally, the biggest change of all is Organized play requirements, which now includes limits on identical units you can spam. Once again this is all an attempt to make armies look like actually armies, with different units. The only problem is they still carved out a exception for troops and dedicated transports. It is fine, but it won’t stop anyone from taking the next great transport (Termite) and spamming them, it also only encourages cheap troop choices to continue to be over represented in the current meta. I though can’t think of a better solution, beyond really getting into the weeds and setting limits by power level or point costs of units.
All these changes though feel like half measures by a company struggling with rule balance along with profit margins. The easy fix should have been a return to the old Force Organization, with maybe a minor expansion to allow more HQs. Then you could tie in bonus command points for filling out Force Org slots, with even more command points if you take a highlander approach unit selection approach. Still, limiting the amount of single spamable units is bold for Games Workshop who have gotten fat on selling out whatever model became the next hot thing.
Then we have the full on hate reserve unit hate, claiming it was done to prevent alpha strikes, when all most reserving units did was prevent one from being alpha striked. It is like they thought every army had a Tau Commander spam equivalent. I guess between that and assault units actually assaulting it was just too much for Games Workshop to handle.
This really gets to the not so hidden big problem. Shooting armies got better, because in the 40k rulebook and various Codex FAQs is even more things to hurt assault armies. Stratagem tweaks being the easiest to find, but the big change is not allowing any power or ability to units to move twice out of Deep Strike or similar end of movement deployment conditions.
Q: Can such a unit move or Advance for any other reason
e.g. because of an ability such as The Swarmlord’s Hive
Commander ability, or because of a psychic power such as
Warptime from the Dark Hereticus discipline, or because
of a Stratagem like Metabolic Overdrive from Codex:
Even this insane rule change hurts assault armies.
Q: If a unit declares a charge against an enemy unit that is
entirely on the upper level of a terrain feature such as a ruin,
Sector Mechanicus structure, etc., but it cannot physically end
its charge move within 1″ of any models from that unit (either
because there is not enough room to place the charging unit, or
because the charging unit is unable to end its move on the upper
levels of that terrain feature because of the expanded terrain
rules for it – as with ruins, for example), does that charge fail?
So expect some shitty games as opponents fight over which models can and cannot engage in a combat over terrain.
The design team disconnect between units dying in the Fight vs. Shoot phase is really mind boggling, but it has been going on for four straight editions so why stop now? Dying from Shooting is less interactive for both players, while dying in the Fight phase has a lot more interplay, so I find it hard to understand why Games Workshop doesn’t try to at least balance the game towards more interplay. Things like Deep Strike and Assaulting is what makes this game not just a static gunline shootem up, which requires less skill and ability, so limiting those facets of the game only makes things duller and predictable.
Of course I could be wrong, but from the looks of it Games Workshop did everything it could to hurt Beta Striking, while only making the problem of Alpha Striking possibly worse.
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