Archon Timatron: Does a good player ever reveal his sources?

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Archon Timatron writes an article on detachments in 7th ed 40k.

These days, we as 40k players, are spoiled for choice when it comes to the variety of choices that we can utilise to create our army lists, yet the majority of tournaments have a limitation of only two or occasionally three sources that each army list can include. The ostensible reasoning behind this is to encourage game-balance, fairness and limit the uber-powerful builds from being possible. Does it actually do this though, or does it, in fact, increase the disparity between the top and bottom tier codexes?

For many of the less powerful codexes out there, using alternative detachments and formations from supplements and the like can raise the competitiveness of the army by a significant degree. Equally, adding a dataslate, like the assassins, to an army can cover weaknesses in mid-tier lists and elevate them to being able to run with the big dogs. Most of these, also, represent ‘fluffy’ choices for their respective armies. I’ve been experimenting with a 1650 list incorporating nothing but a variety of Covens formations, for instance, and while far from being overpowered, I would feel a lot more confident going to an event with that list than a generic Kabalite detachment. Many players have already shown the potential of formations to help make a less-regarded army a force to be reckoned with; Frontline Gaming’s very own Geoff Robinson, for example has taken Tyranids to a whole new level.

At my local club, Brighton Warlords, we have just held an experimantal tournament utilising a highly experimental ‘comp’ system, very reminiscent of the ‘Swedish comp’ that has become well known in Warhammer Fantasy Battle tournaments. Every unit and upgrade is given a value towards an overall you can’t exceed, certain things give a minus score. This was only a test-run of the system, but by all accounts it went very well. 

All it would take is incorporating a version of this kind of system into events to open the door to all sorts of awesome combinations and start playing the edition as it was intended, rather than the incredibly limited formats we’ve become used to so far.  It wouldn’t encourage power-builds, it would act as an impetus to inject more power into the weaker codexes whilst preventing players of the powerful ones from adding to the imbalance: Want to spam Wave-Serpents? Fine, but because of your comp-score you can’t have more than one Wraithknight. Obviously there would be more to it than that, but you get the idea. 

With a fair bit of careful balancing, detailed discourse between events organisers and a commitment to enjoyment for all players, not just those playing certain armies, by everyone involved, this could become a reality in the not too distant future. We could see events where every race and army is equally represented, where nobody is a clear favourite before the first die is rolled and where players are rewarded for bringing a more themed list. What does everyone think? Just a pipe-dream, or could this be the future of 40k events?

By Timothy Kaye (AKA Archon Timatron)

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About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

21 Responses to “Archon Timatron: Does a good player ever reveal his sources?”

  1. bogalubov November 4, 2014 11:05 am #

    So the solution to an overly restrictive source selection format is to create a comp system that needs to be updated weekly as new units come out and possibly require re-evaluation of previous rulings? If we can’t agree on the source issue, how in the world are we going to agree on a unit comp system?

  2. Robert November 4, 2014 12:28 pm #

    I don’t think comp every works because as players we are inclined to break the system and some players thrive on breaking the “system”. I think requiring painting would stop a lot of this but TO’s are leery because it drives away new players. Also I think TO don’t put enough emphasis lately on soft scores ( painting/sportsmanship/theme).

  3. Rau November 4, 2014 1:40 pm #

    Agree on the source issue? How can we agree when there is no discussion taking place. The torney organisers and the ‘top tier’ players who are afraid of not being able to calculate ever possible threat are calling all the shots. What the players actually want is a mute point. Whether comp is the answer or not, bravo to the man for taking a stand and saying ‘why are we all still playing like its 6th edition ?’

  4. Timatron November 4, 2014 2:01 pm #

    Just for the record: The original title of this article was
    ‘Does a good player never revel in his sources?’

    Maybe trying to be a bit too clever with a multi-layered pun like that, Reecius? I can see why you simplified it!
    The main point was that, with careful control, letting MORE sources into events could be good for balance.

    • bigpig November 4, 2014 2:31 pm #

      I disagree Tim. I think it decreases variety. Without comp or soft scores, tourneys are an environment where success is all about being as efficient as possible and combining the best options together. With limited sources people are forced to make choices on what to include rather than cherry picking and placing the best of the best in their slightly different from everybody else’s base army.

      When you can only choose one additional, you are forced to make a tough choice on whether or not to include that assassin, Inquisitor, etc. When there were not limits on sources, how many armies had Coteaz in them? If there were not limits, how many armies would have an assassin in them? So cheap, there is little reason not take such an effective tool in a bunch of Imperium or even Xenos armies.

      With source limits, lists look different. It seems counter-intuitive that less choice means more variety, but that’s how this system plays out. Yes, you will still get net listers and spammers, but at least they aren’t all fielding the same elements.

      That being said, there may be some room to have certain sources not “count” as your source. An example might be one or some of the “less effective” or smaller formations. I know you commented about not being able to take something else if you took the Scalpel Squadron, so you’ll never take it. Maybe some of the less “must take” options could not count against your limit? Then it becomes an issue of TOs trying to decide what those are and that opens up a whole new can of worms of course 😉

      • Von Crown November 4, 2014 2:55 pm #

        I always see that argument brought out when the source limit is discussed, but for the most part, it’s only applicable to imperium armies who are so spoiled for choice with regards to ally options.

        At the same time, a lot of players, particularly I suspect in the US, rail against the level of micro control in a lot of comp systems. I think a good medium exists between the two systems- a comp system that operates at the detachment level. Something that can force similar consideration of limits for imperial players, while still giving things like coven armies enough choices to work.

  5. Joe November 4, 2014 2:52 pm #

    I’m glad someone is bringing this up. The Coven supplement is a great example of how this made up source limit doesn’t cut it — all it means is you can’t use the majority of what is in the new book, none of which is over-powered to begin with. What about these new Tyranids… are we seriously going to count the White Dwarf that their rules appear in as a second source, or any other one-off dataslate that should have been in a parent codex? That would be absurd. This arbitrary source limit ends up hurting the newer, updated armies (which are arguably a lot more balanced) more than the older OP armies which the limit was aiming to address in the first place.

    • bigpig November 4, 2014 4:14 pm #

      Dataslates don’t count as an additional source under the current tournament format. They count as a part of their source faction. Its the same as taking a FW model. The FW book doesn’t count as a source. The new tyranid rules will be the same way.

  6. DarkLink November 4, 2014 3:14 pm #

    We’ve been using this comp system for the last two years in our rather large local tournament circuit. It’s terrible. Everyone hates it, but the flgs owner insists we must have comp. No one can agree on what should be comped and what shouldn’t be, everyone either gets screwed over or pissed off they can’t take the army they want to play, the meta is still poorly balanced, and it just generally doesn’t work for shit. It’s only driven away players, as we dropped from regularly fielding 40 plus players down to maybe 20 or so, and most of the players that quit going said comp was the main reason. So, good luck.

  7. DarkLink November 4, 2014 3:46 pm #

    The idea of opening up sources to bolster weak codices is a fallacy. All you’re doing is basically saying players should only play that codex in name, but in practice take a bunch of units from other books to do all the heavy lifting. If you play sisters, but you spend 60% of your points on space marine allies, an imperial knight, a few assassins, etc, you’re not really a sisters player anymore.

    On top of that, lots of detachments buffs powerful books as much, if not more, than weaker ones. You won’t actually do anything to level the playing field.

  8. Jason Brown November 4, 2014 4:01 pm #

    I disagree with Darklink above a ton. There is a solution, some folks just dont like change, and because a certain fix isn’t the best dosnt mean that there isn’t a good one out there. What Timatron is trying to say is that some codexes become stronger with multiple formations from its own book, that I tend to agree with.

    Link, if I take say Realspace Raiders with a Dark Artisian and Scalpel Squadron, I am pulling from my codex but it allows me to play in a more dynamic way. Orks could take the kammando one and the rokketboy one with a CAD from orks; same thing.

    Here is what I think is a very simple fix that allows more freedom and diversity:

    All formations have to come from the same broad faction (DE, CSM, SM….you get the picture)
    No repeats (So no three Tau Fire base thingie bullshits or 6 vindicare assassins.)
    Total of two sources.

    What this gives is a simple system, and more flexibility without power charging some of the “sweet” units.

    I for one dont thing that giving the nids both skyblight and living artillery (whatever its called) in the same list is OP….scary, yes, OP no. Likewise the affore mentioned Dark Artisian and Scalpel Squadron give a ton of tactical shenanigans without flopping the game.

    We could also as a community discuss formations like we do with LOW. Just because for the past year we have done something a particular way dosnt mean, nor should we allow it be inviolate, stay that way.

    • DarkLink November 4, 2014 6:52 pm #

      I’m not actually sure which part of what I said you’re disagreeing with.

      The main point of disagreement I supplied was that allowing multiple detachments outside of your codex wasn’t actually helping out your codex at all, it was just allowing you to play a different army while pretending you still played whatever your “main” army is. I feel that particularly strongly, since as a Grey Knight player my army is now pretty terrible on its own. I want to play Grey Knights, though, not Draigo, a Dreadknight, and a bunch of allied Space Marines or something.

      You propose allowing multiple detachments within the same codex. That isn’t really disagreeing with anything I said. I guess technically I did say no to lots of detachments, but again, my main point was in regards to allies and not detachments within the codex.

      After a while playing playing 6th, it’s evident that allies in limited quantities aren’t a big deal, but that certain combos can be game-breaking. 7th improved this a little, but a number of combos still exist and Unbound is quite solidly outside the realm of what works well for a quasi-balanced tournament setting. It’s fairly easy to deduce from this that going outside the old-school force org chart a little bit (e.g. two detachments) isn’t a big deal, but that allowing unlimited detachments basically allows you to ignore the FOC and codex boundaries and won’t make for a good tournament format.

      Two detachments works well. Three might, but you’re not going to get any sympathy from me if you try to tell me you need to take six CAD’s and five formations in order to win.

      • Prindlehaven November 4, 2014 8:45 pm #

        His point is that material from supplements shouldn’t be counted as a separate source from the codex. Taking a Realspace Raiders Detachment, a Covenite Coterie, and a Scalpel Squadron Formation is totally different from playing Grey Knights with Space Marine Allies. In the case of the Dark Eldar, all detachments are from the same faction, whereas GK and SM are different factions. With the new system of codex and supplement releases, supplemental codices should be considered part of the parent codex. I agree with the OP in the sense that limiting detachments hurts the weaker armies more. Serpent Spam will spam serpents no matter how many detachments they have access to. However, Orks have no chance in a competitive environment without multiple detachments. This is because they were specifically designed to be played with multiple detachments.

  9. Jural November 4, 2014 4:06 pm #

    Honestly, there is no way to make a judgment without seeing the actual comp proposal. OK, in theory it could be interesting, but in practice it tends to divide players and the community over the details.

    Or am I missing the details?

  10. Brian November 4, 2014 4:26 pm #

    I’m personally fine with the two source limitation, forces you to make some tough choices, but definitely limits the spam some armies could pull and limits how many stupid rule combinations can be thrown into a single army. I play sisters with an assassin and can do just fine with that, without needing to pull in Coteaz, and Marine Bikers and Space Wolf drop pods.

  11. Timatron November 4, 2014 5:37 pm #

    What I’m proposing would be a gradated system, so the power-level of your first source and the units you chose from it would use up points that you then couldn’t use to score yourself a formation or dataslate etc. ‘Softening-up’ your base force would free up points to use elsewhere. To give a really over-generalised example: dropping down from 5 Waveeserpents to 3 and 2 Wraithknights to 1 might allow you to take a Dark Artisan Formation, taking Howling Banshees rather than warpspiders might allow you to take a scalpel squadron, etc. The system would still force tough choices without limiting sources. Of course, this would take a lot of work, I’m not pretending it wouldn’t, by any means.

    • bigpig November 4, 2014 6:16 pm #

      I’m not opposed to the concept. I just think that if you had a graduating scale it’s going to be very difficult to do a true assessment on what level different things should be ranked as. You certainly will never get everyone to agree and ultimately you may be just increasing people’s dissatisfaction with the system because they think unit X should only be worth Z points instead of Y.

      You might be better off with the idea of identifying smaller and lower level formations that don’t use up your source slot. For example for Tyranids the living artillery or skybe light certainly should use a source but something likeone of the lictor or Genestealer formations which are not very powerful wouldn’t. that would allow Someone Like a Dark Eldar player to run some of those lower powered coven formations. The difficulty is going to come with identifying which ones should be free and which ones use up your slot. Even though, that is probably still easier than assigning varying values to the different potential formations or detachments

  12. AbusePuppy November 4, 2014 6:34 pm #

    I can’t speak for the Fantasy version of the Swedish comp system, but the 40K version of it is an absolute disaster. I would be strongly put off by any tournament that chose to use something like that.

    • DarkLink November 4, 2014 6:54 pm #

      See my comment above. Our gaming group has been forced to live with it for the last few years, and despite the fact that we get extensive input it’s still a terrible, terrible, terrible system.

  13. rexscarlet November 5, 2014 4:31 am #

    Comp in Fantasy make things fair, with the addition of stagnation, kind of like 5e 40K was.
    (and constant power shift, but that is another topic by itself)
    .
    BUT.
    .
    A new player, not in “the know” has an extremely daunting task trying to build an army list.
    .
    This leads players to the Interwebs for army builds, which creates same stagnant lists.
    (a full circle created by Comp)
    .
    Please, go try and build a Comp Fantasy list from scratch.
    Or just calculate an Empire Battalion Box.
    http://buckeyebattles.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Swedish-Comp-System-v1.13.0-beta.pdf
    .
    40k army list building is already a confusing daunting pain in the ash (as seen here, and Reecius trying to bring the community together with a set of standardized rules), now add Comp (and a governing party to publish and maintain it) the madness will ensue, and by the time it is all figured out, 8e will drop.
    .
    Wait until 8e, if at all.

  14. Anon40k40k November 5, 2014 2:02 pm #

    All comp does is change which units are overpowered.

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