Is FAQ Bloat Worse than Rules Bloat?

by | Jun 18, 2021

Last week I talked about the monetary cost of the constant new rules for Warhammer 40k 9th edition, and the effect it has not only our pocket book, but also the game itself, this post will tackle the other head of the rules bloat monster and that is FAQs.

Games Workshop for its history has typically had a poor relationship with FAQs, and what I mean by poor, is by completely avoiding them. The brain trust inside Games Workshop for the longest time thought any Warhammer 40k broken or bad rule was easily settled by players either coming to an agreement or by dice roll off. Games Workshop never thought humans being humans would eventually take Warhammer 40k so seriously that errors or “unforeseen” rule combinations would need an arbiter from the top. 

So Games Workshop chose to mostly ignore rules complaints unless it was a printing error that needed correcting. Sure time from time an intrepid Games Workshop employee would poke his head out and make a statement, but for the most part the interpretations to the rules were left to the community to decide. This got so bad, notably in the era of 6th-7th edition, that the multiple large community bodies across the world formed to errata Warhammer 40k because Games Workshop refused to it. 

What changed? Well first off Games Workshop realized that with minimal effort they could make the competitive Warhammer 40k community happy and thus sell more models by being more transparent and answer questions. They also could use the community to do all the work, by providing feedback and data to make informed decisions on what didn’t and did need to change. Today, this means typically we get an FAQ for a new codex about a month after release, along with launch FAQs for new editions and large releases. This of course has made the community addicted to FAQs. 

While Games Workshop’s intentions generally speaking are good by providing us with FAQs for their rules. This has shown us how bad Games Workshop still can be at writing the rules in the first place. It also sucks that for many players who by a $50 codex, see parts of it invalidated a month later because Games Workshop forgot to playtest or listen to playtesters when told something is broken or doesn’t work. It doesn’t help that Games Workshop can’t keep rules written consistently, like how an entire FAQ document was dedicated to just fight first abilities.

Beyond the nitpicking one can make about the rules team for Warhammer 40k, it is the volume of FAQs required to play your army legally becoming the biggest problem. This goes from the delivery of it to the actual FAQs themselves, in other words it is a cluster f**k. Let’s set aside the whole why not make the rules free and digital argument for a second, and focus on what it takes for you play your average army, by using these two examples, one 9th edition and other 8th edition based.

To play Adeptus Custodes without cheating you will need the following FAQs…

To play Iron Hands Space Marines without cheating you will need the following FAQs…

As you can see both require 5 different FAQs to get the complete rule errata for those armies, some armies do a little better like Necrons needing only 4 FAQs. Now you may think this isn’t too crazy, if you are Games Workshop supplicant, but the real toll it takes on a player is not the number of FAQs, but the number of rules answered/changed inside of them.

First, it means everyone needs to know what rules in a codex, then cross reference it with the FAQs for changes, you will also need to know what core rules have been changed with the same cross referencing. That doesn’t even go into trying to track all the other armies.

Let me take the Adeptus Custodes FAQs for example and break them down into the number for specific rules changes or questions answered you need to know. 

  • Warhammer 40k Core Book – 53 
  • Designers’ Commentary about 40k Core Rules – 1
  • Imperial Armour Compendium – 1
  • Codex: Adeptus Custodes – 16
  • Psychic Awakening: War of the Spider – 8

So you are supposed to memorize 79 additional pieces of rules to have a complete idea on how to play Adeptus Custodes. Imagine now, doing the same for the every faction? 

This is asking a lot from players in any game, but especially for a majority of players who only get few games in every few months. It is no wonder you might think your opponent is cheating you at every turn even when they have no intention to do so, or you are just a paranoid prick, but you get the point. 

So how can Games Workshop fix this, the most important thing they can do is write tighter rules; hire a outside editing team would be a good start, making sure all the rules line up with each other and inconsistences taken care of. Next they can listen to playtesters or dare I say give the general populace free beta rules before books are sent to print? They can still hide the rules for unreleased new models if they want, but giving the community free reign to playtest saves a lot of work, and creating a simple feedback portal would do wonders. 

Another option is go back to not given a rats ass and let the mob eat itself correcting GW mistakes, but the biggest question to ask, is this all done by design? Now I am not saying this is a general governing principle, but for the case of new models or some old stock kits, Games Workshop might be making certain things over powered to sell them. While it is more likely things are just blind randomness on Games Workshop’s part, I though can remember vividly a story way back when they released the Wraithknight, and being low point costed, only for it to be revealed later that designers wanted it pointed higher, but someone in accounting came down and said no because they needed to guarantee a certain amount of units sold. 

I imagine on some level this is sort of thing goes on, but what is dangerous is if Games Workshop codifies this practice; by making broken combos to hype a release for a few months, have players gobble up all the models, and then nerf them after GW gets the proper cut. No matter what the situation is, Games Workshop needs to figure out how to balance the game without going to the extreme of constant FAQs, because while the community wants them, we don’t need to be drowning in them.