Duplicate Formations: Anything to Fear?

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Double Formations: are they really something to fear?

Hey everyone, Reecius from Frontline Gaming here to discuss a hot topic: duplicate formations. Recently in the ITC, we voted in duplicate detachments, which includes formations. As anyone whose been paying any attention to 40k over the past year and change has seen, many of the most powerful combos in the game come in the form of Formations. Therefore, it is a relatively easy conclusion to draw that allowing players to take two of the same Formation–particularly a powerful one–may imbalance the game.

Let me just say first of all, that I get it. I was in this camp a while back and advocated for restraint as I often do. I feel that putting reasonable limitations in place leads to more variety in the game. As can be seen in many unrestricted formats you can get a lot of the same thing (such as multiple Wraithknight lists having higher win ratios than any other armies, or Flying Circus Daemons running the show at the end of 6th, etc.). Not to say by any means that that is objectively a bad thing. If you value playing the game with a more RAW interpretation of 40k, then that is the meta you will get. If you value more variety in lists then excercising some restraint a little bit will accomplish that goal as we’ve seen. Just different ways of approaching the game, and both are equally valid.

devil's advocate

That said, allowing duplicate formations seems to run counter to the goal of increasing diversity in the field, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought, too, until we sat down and really worked it out. The fact of the matter is, that you could already accomplish dang near the same things with a CAD+Formation as you could with duplicate Formations. The slight benefit you gain from the Formation bonuses is often offset by giving up a detachment slot.

For example, the big one that jumped out at us at Frontline Gaming right away was taking two Seer Councils. However, if you take a CAD+the Seer Council formation, you can essentially do the same thing and gain access to the insanely points efficient Wraithknight, Warp Spiders and ObSec Scat Packs, too. Yes, you cannot harness Warp Charge on a 3+ as you can with the Formation, but you can also split up a CAD Seer Council at end game to grab objectives, and as stated, it gives you access to other, incredible units. For me, taking a CAD and an Aspect Host provides  alot more flexibility and power to a list than simply doubling down on a Seer Council Formation.

Another example is the Skyhammer Annihilation Force. Yes, you can take 2 of these now, and double down on the benefits it provides, but this is an expensive Formation that comes with the “tax” Assault Marines which from my experience, add very little (as much as I want them to be good). And while admittedly, armies that are vulnerable to this Formation’s special rules will be doubly impacted by this, you are also doubling down on your vulnerability to armies that don’t care about it and increasing the odds that you draw a bad match-up. I honestly feel a more powerful list will be on that uses other units such as Centurions, to compliment the Skyhammer.

Spider-Man_This_isn't_even_my_final_form

Essentially, the more you invest into these often expensive Formations, the more top heavy you make your list. Yes, you can and will win games with extreme lists, but over the long run, a list that is more balanced will perform better on average, albeit at the cost of smaller wins compared to an extreme list that can utterly smash opponents that are vulnerable to its strengths. You also gain a more diverse and–in my experience–rewarding army to play. I think the fear of duplicate Formations is not irrational at all, but that ultimately, they won’t be the most powerful lists even if they do appear that way at first glance.

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About Reecius

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

48 Responses to “Duplicate Formations: Anything to Fear?”

  1. bigpig August 26, 2015 12:39 am
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    IMHO, they increase the potential for rock, paper, scissors match ups. Overall, that is a bad thing for the tournament scene as it increases the chance you will come up against “no way I can win against that” lists. Those same lists will have more hard counters against them since they are so specialized and overall simply won’t do that well. Basically, double formations will make the potential for more spoiler lists out there. I just don’t think it is that beneficial a thing…. but, if this is the will of the council, Gondor will see it done!

    • Arrias August 26, 2015 6:31 am
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      I completely agree with this sentiment, but I wanted to add something alongside your statements. You say that double formations, “…increase the potential for rock, paper, scissors match ups.” and while I completely agree with that assessment, my question is why is rock, paper, scissors bad? I mean, we all know rock, paper, scissors as an actual game is not really fun, but why is it unfun?

      It has no counter-play.

      In nearly every game system, what makes the game interesting and fun is counter-play. When you feel like any move you or your opponent make can be responded to viably in a sizable number of ways, the game is fun for both parties. When this breaks down, and one player is left with the feeling their opponent has full agency while theirs has been largely removed, an un-fun situation has been created.

      The ITC has largely done a fantastic job to mitigate this through mission design, where even if I have blobs of hormogaunts up against I knights I can attempt to play to the mission. Yet, it is my observation that with the rise of hyper-msu even the mission design aspect may be in danger of becoming an area without counter-play.

      The question ultimately comes down to, how can we best protect the facet of counter-play in our tournaments? After all, if we aren’t having fun, what’s the point?

      • Reecius
        Reecius August 26, 2015 7:50 am
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        You make some really good points, there.

      • MisterMeatball August 26, 2015 7:57 am
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        Solid analysis. I totally agree with the idea of agency in play. I need to feel like I have, if not the perfect answer, at least a reply for my opponents play. A lot of that starts with my army selection and list, of course. I also understand that, if I want to be competitive, there are lists that are an uphill battle. I just like an ideal landscape where the “power gap” between the gnarliest list and a list at the bottom of the “top table” rankings isn’t too wide.

        • Reecius
          Reecius August 26, 2015 7:59 am
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          Yeah, agreed 100%. I want variety, maybe even a little imbalance to create fun (after-all, we could just play Chess or Go), but not so much as to have these massive disparities in power levels.

        • tag August 26, 2015 11:14 am
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          While I like diversity of lists at an Event, I also like diversity inside lists. For instance a 6 flyrant list (now possible) would be good in certain matchups, but would lack internal diversity.

          The army comp has been changing to be less and less restrictive. I wonder at what point you start offering an alternative army comp at most events that is a bit more restrictive. If I had a choice between a ITC comp, and a more restrictive comp at events, I’d be picking the more restrictive one, and many GT’s would be large enough to run a second 40K event.

          • abusepuppy August 26, 2015 12:18 pm
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            Even events using the ITC scoring system are free to enact whatever list restrictions (or rules changes, or FAQs) they see fit. Frontline makes no attempt to force anyone to run an event a particular way, so if events aren’t restrictive enough for your tastes it’s because the TOs (and other players) don’t want them to be, not because of pressure from above.

          • Reecius
            Reecius August 26, 2015 2:34 pm
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            There’s always talk of multiple formats at events but it rarely seems to work for long. One event always becomes the “main” event. Like at Adepticon, it was the Gladiator for a long time, then the Championships eclipsed it in prestige and then the Gladiator shrunk dramatically.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 26, 2015 7:51 am
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      Well buddy, Battle Company is technically a duplicate formation list, too =P

    • abusepuppy August 26, 2015 9:07 am
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      See, the thing is, for a player looking to win tournaments, they don’t WANT their list to be R/P/S-y. You don’t want other people to be able to hard-counter you, because you don’t ever know who or what you’re going to play against. So from the perspective of competitive tournament players, doubling down on a formation is not really an attractive option.

      Just because the possibility _exists_ doesn’t mean people will use it. At TSHFT this past weekend I don’t think there was a single person in the sixty-strong field who brought any duplicates, despite it being entirely legal to do so.

      • fluger August 26, 2015 2:50 pm
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        That also might be more an artifact of this ruling being fairly new and people not having enough time to change their lists, but I don’t disagree with your assessment on merit.

        • abusepuppy August 26, 2015 7:48 pm
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          Eh. I found other tournaments with “recent” changes usually saw people adapting to them very quickly- people bring out new lists when a FAQ or codex drops within a week or two at most. Duplicates might take _slightly_ longer, but I doubt it’d be much- and from all of the folks I talked to at the top tables during TSHFT, very few of the high-level players seem to see duplicate formations making many waves in the format.

          There’ll be a few things it enables- multiple CADs for certain armies that didn’t have a unique detachment, duplicated formations within Decurion-style lists (especially the Canoptek Harvest), and a handful of other quirky little things, but I doubt it’s gonna have a major impact on the meta.

  2. umbo August 26, 2015 4:00 am
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    Overall I like the idea of formations and how they sometimes are quite fluffy. I haven’t really seen duplicates being much of an issue.

    Battle brother abuse is much worse. I’m looking at you DA SW SM thunderfriends unit of crazy powers

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 26, 2015 7:52 am
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      That’s a fair point, actually. A lot of Xenos players look at the Imperium with a little bit of envy for all the combos they can pull out. Duplicate Formations helps them more than the Imperium, IMO.

  3. Requizen
    Requizen August 26, 2015 6:54 am
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    I don’t see too much danger. Are there abuse cases? Yes. But plenty of abuse cases existed with the restriction.

    In my experience, the strong builds that existed before duplicate Formations will still continue to be good against the new strong Double Formation lists. So in that way, it promotes variety. Things like current Centstar, Summoning, DThirster with buffers, Eldar, etc probably won’t change too much, and should be able to hang with the new builds.

    I like it. I think there should be restraints on the game (especially where GCs/SHVs are concerned), but not so much that it becomes a chore making a list within the ruleset.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 26, 2015 7:54 am
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      Yeah, that’s the trick of it, isn’t it? Have reasonable restrictions to encourage diversity, but not make it a total PITA to write a list.

  4. TumbleWeed August 26, 2015 7:19 am
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    I just don’t get why a game system would want to reward copy/paste armies… Why can’t the units just be what they are? What was wrong with the standard FOC?

    The way I see it GW made up Formations and Detatchments to sell models to the tourney players that just want to pay-to-win.

    This is probably the main reason I have no interest in tourney play. I’m a competetive person, I love tournaments and have participated in other games. But 40k has some of the worst balance mechanics I have seen, and the rules are written by a company that couldn’t give a crap about rules writing or balance. They’re too busy trying to save their company from drowning with stupid “buying this equals victory, so buy it!” marketing.

    Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now… 🙂

    • Chip August 26, 2015 7:28 am
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      GW doesn’t target the competitive crowd with products or rules, so says the company. I think that makes your rant somewhat moot.

      • TumbleWeed August 26, 2015 8:13 am
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        Maybe not specifically, but they do target people that want to win games (and that includes tourney players especially). How else do you explain codex creep?

        • IndigoJack August 26, 2015 10:33 am
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          Well for one, codex creep could simply be GW responding to the customer outcry of bland early 7th edition books. Or it could simply be that someone in the design team said, “I have a cool idea…” The truth is, we’ll probably never know because we never get a peak into what the design team is doing or the reasoning behind their choice.

        • bogalubov August 26, 2015 11:00 am
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          My thought is that GW mostly just tries to make codices play like they do in the fluff. Eldar are crazy fast and powerful. Necrons are indestructible. Tau have superior technology. Guardsmen die in droves during last stands. That certainly makes playing guard frustrating, but hey, they’re not trying to make it equal. It’s just supposed to play like the fluff.

          The general codex creep is making units cheaper so that you need to field more during a game. That’s what they think drives sales, not have good the actual unit is.

          • Reecius
            Reecius August 26, 2015 2:36 pm
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            I think you’re right. They try to make armies that play like the background, the recent formations and books like KDK really show that off, IMO. We just see it as more or less powerful.

          • westrider August 28, 2015 7:41 am
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            Still waiting for my Nids to be an unstoppable swarm again 😉

  5. Warmaster_GIR August 26, 2015 7:47 am
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    I tend find that most of the most powerful formations tend to be fairly expensive pointswise. The number one duplicate formation that I keep hearing about is the “Double Firebase Cadre”. A firebase Cadre is like 600 points minimum. 1200 Points wrapped into 8 Models is super expensive, nevermind the fact that unless somebody already has 12 Broadsides I doubt many people will be going out and spending $300 on 6 new broadsides right before the rumored release of the new Tau codex.

    The only formation I can see myself running duplicates of would Double Culexus assassins just to super troll any psychic deathstars.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 26, 2015 7:54 am
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      Good points. Double Firebase will smash some people but then it faces something it is weak against and get clobbered.

      I think double Canoptek Harvest will be very popular, though, and duplicate Formation detachments just to get access to 2 different assassins or doubling down on 1 of them (as you noted).

      • MisterMeatball August 26, 2015 7:59 am
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        I’m toying with double Culexus in my DA list right now.

        • abusepuppy August 26, 2015 9:10 am
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          A Culexus Assassin is a Unique model, and thus cannot ever be duplicated in an army (even in an Unbound army.)

          • DCannon4Life August 26, 2015 9:23 am
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            Just went through my digital Officio Assassinorum dataslate, didn’t see ‘Unique’ listed for any of the assassins. Am I looking in the wrong place? They list as ‘Infantry (Character)’…

          • Warmaster_GIR August 26, 2015 10:13 am
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            Yea I checked that before I posted it, It no longer says unique anywhere I could see.

          • Warmaster_GIR August 26, 2015 10:20 am
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            Just Ctrl-F’d through the whole document for the word “unique” pops up once in the second paragraph in the fluff section of the Culexus Temple. So I’m pretty sure they aren’t unique anymore, I think that was back in the 5th ed Grey Knight book.

            Yay double Culexus!

          • abusepuppy August 26, 2015 12:20 pm
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            Huh, I stand corrected- I guess you can run them in multiples now. Interesting.

      • Warmaster_GIR August 26, 2015 8:20 am
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        I initially meant it as a joke, but the more I think about it with my Tau, the more fun it seems like it could be.

        I can just imagine all the Farseer/Librarius Conclave tears. Mmmmm delicious psyker tears.

      • Mike August 26, 2015 4:07 pm
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        Double harvest is actually the one I’m expecting to see really “stick,” being cheap enough to dupe and still not take more than a third of your army or so. It takes 54 freaking scatter lasers to down a 50 point spyder (assuming they turned on RP.) So if an eldar player plans on actually killing the wraiths, they need to blow over 100 shots into two 50 point models first. That is a gigantic opportunity cost (108 shots would wipe 20 opposing scatbikes or marines off the board, for example,) and that’s just the math from scat bike perspective, which are by all accounts awesome shooters. For the rest of the crowd, the situation looks even more bleak.

        So yeah I agree. Harvest will probably be the sleeper hit of this change. Maybe double CAD eldar for 12 obsec bike squads to really put up an obsec fight against battle-co’s.

        • abusepuppy August 26, 2015 7:51 pm
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          The Eldar player is much more likely to shoot Wraithcannons, D-Cannonrs, or other heavy weapons into the Spyder to kill it, since a lot of lists run one or more of those things. Scatter Lasers are typically a pretty inefficient way to kill MCs of any kind.

          But I do agree on the Harvest being the most likely candidate for duplication; as you say, it’s cheap and works well in multiples.

  6. winterman August 26, 2015 8:27 am
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    I think it was a good move but only with 3 detachment limit. When it was 2 detachment limit, only the composite formations and the few armies without their own detachment would get to make much use of it. Now that duplicates and 3 detachment limit is allowed I think there’s a lot of options out there for new lists and diversity.

    However it seems like there’s more low cost high efficiency formations then there used to be. The aspect warrior host, canoptek harvest, da shroudspeeder thing. Much easier to duplicate them then skyblight and the other earlier formations.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 26, 2015 3:42 pm
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      Yes, agreed. The more points efficient formations will be the ones we tend to see in duplicate.

  7. iNcontroL August 26, 2015 8:30 am
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    I largely in part agree. I think the obvious offender will be Fire Cadre as there are already a lot of people spamming riptides.. for the most part they will shrug and add in 3 more broadsides to the 9 they previously ran and give Marine players fits.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 26, 2015 3:41 pm
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      We’ll see some of that, for sure. But, the game already allowed you to do pretty much the same thing. You already could take Firebase Cadre and more Riptides and Broadsides. It honestly isn’t that big of a difference.

  8. DCannon4Life August 26, 2015 8:39 am
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    Double Aspect Host Formation: 42 Warp Spiders, 858 points.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 26, 2015 8:59 am
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      Yeah, that is certainly one of the most powerful examples of what can be done.

  9. Hotsauceman1 August 26, 2015 8:46 am
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    Reece, I really do think, with the change in this, reconsider side bars again like warmachine does

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 26, 2015 3:39 pm
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      I think it’s a great idea, the challenge is simply how do you implement them?

  10. PeterRabbit August 26, 2015 1:14 pm
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    I really don’t see the issue with just moving over to unbound at this point. I mean we are pretty much there anyways…I never understood why unbound was given such a bad rap. Why can’t I play a game and get to use everything I own. Tell the stories I want to tell. That is whay I play AoS…it is so awesome as a narrative game. We just create our stories in advance and set everything up. No one cares about winning or losing. Trying to make these games competatitive is the mistake.

    • fluger August 26, 2015 2:57 pm
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      Go ahead and run an event with Unbound. No reason you can’t.

    • Warmaster_GIR August 26, 2015 3:14 pm
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      People get different things out of the hobby which is why it is so great. Some like to smash face, some people like like to test there mettle against similarly minded opponents, and some like to create narratives. Heck some don’t even like to play much they just like building, collecting and painting.

      The only mistake you can make in this hobby is to make your opponent or other people feel bad and all that is required to make that happen is to have a basic agreement on what both parties want out of the hobby. If you are want to forge an epic story pitting two massive forces against each other make sure both parties are into that. If you want to try your face-smasher list out make sure both parties are cool with that. If your opponent doesn’t want the same thing out of the game that you’re looking for then maybe find somebody else to play with.

      In other words, we all spent way too much money on tiny toy soldiers. You have the right to go find other people who want to play little toy soldiers the way you do.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 26, 2015 3:40 pm
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      Well, playing competitively is only a mistake if you don’t want to play it that way. Some people are compelled to due to their nature.

      Some folks love seeing a narrative unfold, and that’s cool. However, some folks really dig playing to win, that is what engages them more, and the idea of playing a game with the outcome having no importance would feel like a mistake to them, too.

  11. DCannon4Life August 27, 2015 8:34 pm
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    Saw a pair of murderpack/murderbrute/hell pack murder things in action tonight. Brutal. Enjoy!

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 27, 2015 8:44 pm
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      Lol, sounds like much murder was had! =P