What Do We Do With a Broken Codex?
What Do We Do With a Broken Codex?
What Do We Do With a Broken Codex?
Early in the morning!
(FULL DISCLOSURE: Though I’m writing this article for Frontline Gaming, my opinions here aren’t representative of FLG as a whole nor of what Reece- nor any of the others- intend to do for the ITC format. My purpose in posting it is just to raise what I feel are important points of discussion so that the players are better-informed about the types of options available when it comes time to make a decision, and the pros/cons to each of them.)
So we now have a full leak of the Eldar codex and… it’s a doozy. It’s got bikes with Scatter Lasers everywhere. It’s got Str D guns available on all sorts of platforms, including blasts and templates. It’s got a cheap gargantuan creature. It’s got an AP3 apocalyptic blast. It is, as the kids sometimes comment, cray cray.
Of course, not everyone believes or agrees with this, but I think the consensus from most of the strong tournament players is that Eldar are going to be completely out of hand if left untouched. 40K players like to complain about “broken” and “overpowered” stuff, but the reality is that the game has never seen a real broken unit before, not like many other systems have. Even during the worst of 5th Edition, when people bitched about Grey Knights and Space Wolves and Imperial Guard, none of those armies ever exceeded 33% rates of appearance at tournaments. And sure, when you’re there in the thick of it that seems like a lot, but games like Magic: the Gathering have endured 50% and even higher rates of single decks being played- indeed, there have been championships where almost every single one of thirty-two players were using one particular card. Can you imagine how much bitching that would draw in 40K? Well, if Eldar are left unchecked, I think that may be what you’ll see- they are just so superior to any other codex that you’ll see not just Eldar predominating, but Eldar as omnipresent at the top tables.
So. Something needs to be done- but what?
The issues are actually relatively simple to pinpoint, although beyond that it gets tricky. Many of the things in the codex are potentially powerful, but not game-breaking; we already have Gargantuan Creatures in the game, we already have Stomp as a mechanic, we already have huge low-AP blasts, we already have powerful psykers, and we already have abusive Invisibility shenanigans. All of those things ITC has addressed already and, while I may have some issues with how they handle a few things, I think by and large their solutions work. So the first thing to recognize is that not everything needs to be fixed. In fact, very little of it does. In general principle, the fewer changes made the better. As tournament players, most of us have accepted a certain number of alterations for the sake of playability already- no Unbound lists, the ITC FAQ, etc. I think Adepticon’s example also shows that without the 2+ rerollable nerf, very abusive things will also happen on that front as well. So let’s be clear: these changes are not the first ones we’ve made to things.
The big issue, the one that needs to be dealt with, is the presence of Strength D weapons on so many- and so cheap of- platforms. The Wraithknight (with Heavy Wraithcannons), Wraithguard (with Wraithcannons and D-Scythes), Hemlock Wraithfighter (with Heavy D-Scythes) and Support Battery (with D-Cannons) all have Str D weapons available to them, and they can come as cheap as 32pts each. While some people might argue that having such guns around with discourage Knights, superheavies, and deathstar units, the truth is that it will also discourage the use of vehicles, MCs, and HQs of any meaningful cost- not something that most folks want to see happen. Str D is not just an anti-LoW option, but rather a gun that is superior against almost all targets short of basic infantry units- and VASTLY superior. The upgrade to Str D from S10 is an increase of anywhere from 2x to 5x the overall effectiveness, depending on the target; it’s one of the biggest changes in statlines that you can see in the game.
Compounding this problem is the fact that Eldar have extensive options to mitigate the problems these units might otherwise face; Webway Portals can bring them in precisely where they are needed and in range of the enemy, negating one issue. Twin-linking (via Prescience and/or Guide) can mitigate accuracy issues for the blast varieties. High rate-off-fire weapons on other platforms (including, but not limited to, Windrider bikes) render concerns about being overwhelmed by horde units pointless. While Str D weapons certainly have their limitations, the codex is set up such that those limitations can largely be bypassed by other means and thus multiplying the problem.
So, I think that unless we want the game to devolve into a game of “who brought the best Eldar army for killing other Eldar armies,” something needs to be changed. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have any kind of magical solutions to the problem that aren’t going to raise a lot of contention. However, a number of potential ones have been proposed, and I think it’s worth talking about them.
Solution #1: Ban all ranged Str D weapons.
This would be the most drastic and final of options, and one I really don’t like the idea of. While it certainly works- units can’t be a problem if they’re not in the game- it also cuts out a lot of options from the book without any recourse for people who want to use them and is heavy-handed at best (and tyrannical at worst.) While it does keep in line with the existing policy of banning Str D ranged weapons already in place, the policy specifically exempted non-superheavy units that had access to such weapons (via Vortex of Doom, Powers of the C’tan, etc) probably for this very sort of reason.
I think enacting this sort of a policy on the subject would result in some major splits in the community acceptance of ITC guidelines in addition to larger divisions in the 40K community as a whole. Of all the options presented so far, I think it’s easily the worst simply because of its absolutist assumptions and complete lack of consideration of any other factors.
Solution #2: Limit ranged Str D weapons to being a 0-1 choice in the army.
This is one that has been tossed around a number of times, and like the first possibility it has the advantage of being relatively simple: prohibit armies from containing more than one unit with a ranged Str D weapon. It doesn’t wholly eliminate the problem, but it trims it down to a more manageable size without outright-banning anything from play. Players who want to use any of the new units are free to do so- in moderation. It also avoids any sort of issues with altering statlines and whatnot; everything is still just as printed in the book, but with the caveat that you can’t have more than one of them (which is a pretty simple thing to remember.)
The downside here is that this very potentially doesn’t actually solve the problem, it just limits it. Like stanching the flow from a cut, you aren’t really doing anything to fix things, just trying to stave off the damage a little bit in hopes that something else will come along later and fix it for real. Str D weapons will still be incredibly powerful and I guarantee you that, even with this change, ever Eldar player will still field a squad of them in their army (and many armies will take Eldar allies specifically to get access to Str D guns), but it at least prevents the absolute ubiquity that would otherwise be the case.
Solution #3: Ban all Str D weapons that use a marker or template
This can essentially be considered a variant of the above; basically, it says that the real problems with Str D are not the single-shot versions (the Wraithcannon and Heavy Wraithcannon), which are subject to all the usual limitations of single-shot guns and that can’t affect more than one target, but rather that it’s the ability to strike multiple units and auto-hit (in the case of templates, at least) that make such weapons dangerous. So, the thinking says, don’t ban everything, just the problems, and let players continue to use at least some of the stuff they like.
The upside here is that it’s a less wide-ranging ban and allows almost every one of the units in question (excepting the Hemlock Wraithfighter) to choose at least one setup that doesn’t violate the ban, thus allowing people to use them if they choose. The downside is… well, I don’t think it really solves the problem. While it does remove arguably the worst offenders (D-Scythe Wraithguard and D-Cannon Batteries), I think that the single-shot guns are still very powerful options that will overshadow many other things. You’ll still see lots of people bringing 5-15 Str D weapons in an army, and I don’t think that’s a good sign.
Solution #4: Make Str D weapons roll at a penalty on the table.
Now we get into the slightly more complex solutions. The idea here is that Str D itself is not inherently problematic, but rather that it’s simply undercosted for what you’re getting- thus, the best solution isn’t to remove Str D from the game but simply to make its effectiveness more in line with its cost. Rather than trying to readjust all of the point costs of a bunch of different units and bicker and argue over a dozen little things, it’s easier just to change the Destroyer table itself. The real problem is the ‘6’ result, which auto-kills almost anything in the game without recourse; the typical proposal is to simply give Str D weapons a blanket -1 penalty when rolling on the Destroyer table, preventing them from ever getting the autokill result and making them slightly less effective as a whole. D-Scythes in particular, with their innate -1 on the table already, can find this quite painful. Some versions also limit the penalty to non-superheavy targets (so it’s still possible to vaporize a Knight, for example, but not a Land Raider- something of a way to limit the units many people dislike seeing around.)
Unlike the solutions presented thus far, this one is hard to evaluate- which, I think, is a good sign. Will this be enough to reign Str D weapons in? Does it make them too weak? It’s hard to say. But where all of the others have obvious flaws, I think whatever problems this solution has are at least subsurface enough to require a bit more thinking and discussion, which is itself a starting point.
Solution #5: Make Str D weapons function as S10 with bonuses
This was proposed a lot back during 6th Edition (when Str D weapons were even more broken, if you can believe that); essentially, it proposes to make Str D less of a “leap” from Str 10 by not treating it as its own special unique snowflake and making it play by everyone else’s rules. Typically the proposal was for something like Str 10, Instant Death, Sunder (reroll failed penetrations), and reroll failed cover saves- although in light of the “new” Str D the latter part might be dropped. This makes Str D still dangerous to heavy targets, but no longer has it penetrating them on a 2+ (and stops it from automatically killing them on a result of 6, regardless of defenses.)
The upside here is that this absolutely will solve the problem; it is a pretty drastic shift down to the power level and can hardly be argued to be much worse than existing units. The downside is that it’s complicated (requiring players to remember exactly what abilities replace the usual Str D rules) and arguably not an even change, as it hurts MCs a lot worse than it does vehicles. That will be the real problem with implementing something like this- getting people to agree which changes are “good enough” to solve the problem, as no two people are going to agree on exactly how severe a problem it really is.
Solution #6: Revert the Eldar weapons to their old profile
This is the other end of the spectrum from simply banning everything, albeit in a very similar way- to simply ignore what GW did with Distort weapons and revert them all to their 6E profiles, which were generally-agreed not to be particularly powerful. Unlike the above solution, this doesn’t give them any special bonuses above and beyond regular Str 10, under the assumption that they really don’t need it- Str 10 was good enough before and it’s good enough now.
The obvious plus side here is that it prevents Str D from being a thing in the normal game while not actually prohibiting anyone from using their plastic spaceman toys if they want to; the downside is that it’s a wholesale rejection of a new edition in favor of an old, which is not a good path to tread down. Like the ban-everything solution, it acts with such a heavy hand that there is very little grace to it and it will probably result in more than a little bit of community division on the subject.
EDIT: One of our commenters, Bellerah, has proposed an additional solution I think might be very valuable to consider: leave Str D the same, but change the ‘6’ result to be like the 2-5 results, but ignore saves (i.e. no extra damage, but unstoppable.) I think this is definitely a good idea, but I question whether it’s enough- it doesn’t stop Str D weapons from picking apart heavier targets (like tanks and MCs) of all kinds pretty horrifically still, though it does remove the “it just dies” problem.
What Do We Do With a Broken Codex (reprise)
So- we’ve seen the major categories of solutions presented thus far. As I said, I don’t think there are any easy answers to any of this, but there are more than a few concerns and priorities that we ought to be keeping track of. First of all, whatever we do we want it to be something that works and keeps the game as fun as possible for as many people as possible. That means not making games into one-sided murderfests where possible and not letting it devolve into a “play this army or build specifically to beat this army” scenario. But we also want for people to be able to use their expensive plastic toys- the Wraithguys aren’t some flash-in-the-pan unit that no one cares about yet, but rather a venerable part of their codex with a lot of history behind them. Lots of people like using them and I think they add something interesting to the Eldar faction as a whole, breaking up the similarity of their other units; to lose that is not just unfortunate, but is going to put a lot of people off. That brings me into the third point: whatever is done needs to be something with a strong community backing, or at least acceptance; ITC, though not a democracy, is also not something with any sort of authority or power over players to enforce itself- and if they don’t like it, they will abandon it for other solutions. Lastly, we want a solution that doesn’t require jumping through too many hoops- the simpler it can be made, the better, because it’s something that players will likely need to remember many times during play.
In light of these factors, I think that solutions #2, #4, and #5 are the most likely candidates for being feasible. All three are limited in scope enough so as to allow players some options, but also significant enough that they address the issue. While each of them has their individual quirks and potential hurdles, they do not strike me as insurmountable ones.
That leaves the final step in all of this: reaction from the community. Although there is a bit of time yet to get in some play experience with the new book (either in its pristine state or with one of the proposed alterations) before a really major event happens, I think gauging the initial reaction of folks is certainly worthwhile. What problems do you see, looking at the proposed ideas? How much do the potential changes bother you? Are there any solutions I missed that you think are viable?
Reece will, of course, be making a post of his own about this in the near future in a more official capacity, but I think some discussion before then is a good thing. So, have at it- but try and keep things civil.