What happens when an immovable object meets an irresistible force? Fireworks! When you remove one of those from the equation, what you get is more predictable outcomes.
Hey everyone, Reecius here from Frontline Gaming to discuss why I believe Lords of War and more specifically, D weapons (with moderation) are good for the game in a general sense.
Recently, the very awesome sounding NOVA Open wrapped up; one of the premiere tabletop gaming events in North America. I missed it (I was off at Burning Man this year), but it sounded like an incredible event. They have a meta in which no Lords of War were allowed and ranged D weapons (those that remained sans LoW) were nerfed to be less powerful past 12″. Also, they had missions with Kill Points as an element to each of them. So, gamers being gamers, many attendees gamed the system (as they do in any system) and in this given meta, brought hyper powerful Deathstar armies with low unit counts as there were few counters out there to those style lists.
Now, before I go any further, I just want to emphatically state that this is in no way a criticism of NOVA, I would have loved to have gone and am sure I would have had a blast had I been able to attend as I did last year. I am simply using the results and format as an example to illustrate my point. The event is a great one, and we support them fully and attend annually. It was also made quite clear going into the event what the format would be, so everyone going was on the same page in that regard and as always, the event was won with skill and luck, not just a list.
So, that said, back to my point! We had a fantastic performance from Aaron Aelong with his Thunderstar winning both the Open and Invitational. Well done! His list revolved around a hard as nails unit that was most of his army, with Space Wolf Characters, a Librarius Conclave, and a Ravenwing Command Squad with Dark Angels Characters in it. Massive points investment! It also had a smattering of MSU scoring units for objective grabbing. With rerollable Jink saves of a 3+ or better, 2+ armor and in some cases 2+ invul saves, FnP, LoS!, and other such shenanigans, the unit is ultra durable and also very fast, shoots well, has H&R, and hits like a hammer in melee. Add into this powers like Invisibility, etc. to further enhance their resilience, and the unit becomes neigh unkillable. The strategy of the list revolves around crushing your opponent’s army with this one unit which is very difficult to hurt, while your support units play to the mission. There are a lot of units like this in the game that have come and gone, Lychstars, Centstars, Seer Councils, Screamerstars, etc., etc., but they are all essentially the same: overwhelming force.
I have never enjoyed these style units on a personal level as I feel they lack tactical finesse (and no, my Ork army does not have a Deathstar in it, lol). For me they simply boil down to bashing someone on the head with a unit they can’t hurt. However, that’s just my opinion (and again, I am not trying to take anything away form those who play them, just expressing my personal opinion). Some people love them, and that is totally cool. More importantly: they are a part of the game, so we must learn to deal with them. The trick to that is, that when you have units this powerful, it can be very difficult to counter them with “conventional” weapons. When the odds of hurting a unit falls to under 3%, simple math tells us that the other guy’s army quite simply lacks the amount of shots and time to actually hurt the Deathstar. A 20+ wound unit that has a 90%+ wound absorption rate means you need literally buckets of shots to destroy them. The unit effectively becomes invincible. This lack of participation in the game is a bummer, for me, as the other player often experiences a sense of hopelessness and futility. The, “why did I bother to play” feeling that can really turn people off. I’m not saying that applies to everyone by any means, but it does to many.
Now, a wise player simply chooses to not engage the Deathstar, or just contain it. Assuming you can’t punch a unit to death, don’t waste resources trying, right? MSU armies, for example, are quite good at doing this. They have more units than the Deathstars have turns to destroy them in. And of course, that is what savvy players do. You can defeat Deathstars by simply focusing on the mission objectives and playing to them. For me though, simply hoping to score enough points before being killed isn’t super fun. It’s better to be able to engage directly, if at all possible. Or, to at least have the option to engage directly.
That’s where LoW come into play! Ranged D weapons (reined in a bit, as pretty much every major tournament does) really do help to crack those mega durable units. Stomps, as frustrating at they can be, do the same thing. Melee D does the same thing. They force the Death-star player to reconsider investing so heavily into a unit that–should they draw the wrong match-up–could turn into a liability, quickly. A weapon that bypasses the mega durability some of these units get, is a good thing for the game at large. Just as the game would be odd if you didn’t have any weapons that could hurt tanks, for example, as everyone would just take load of tanks; so is it a bit odd to have a meta where Deathstar units don’t have a counter. It creates situations where one style of play becomes clearly superior. However, to be fair you can make this argument about any system. I acknowledge that, but feel that what we are really arguing is to what degree these types of situations occur in a given system.
IMO, allowing some super heavy and gargantuan LoW into the meta, Ranged D (again, toned down a bit) help to bring a bit of balance to the force by introducing a counter. You get a more diverse meta where there is no “obvious” choice for a list when every move has a counter-move. The nice thing is too, LoW aren’t a hard counter to Deathstars. Deathstars can take out LoW effectively, but they may take heavy damage on the way and, more importantly, the other player feels like they at least have a chance to fight back. Deathstars don’t become unplayable by any means, they simply become a bit of a risk which is a good thing. One lucky stomp attack, and a unit like a Wolfstar can be neutered, changing the course of an entire tournament. And while it is fluky, I strongly believe that it is good for the game. There should never be a “best” style of list. It will lead to a stagnant meta.
So what do you all think? Do LoW help bring in game balance or do they themselves become yet another Deathstar style unit? Are LoW fun or not, in your opinions? Do you think Deathstars are good for the game or not? Fun, or not fun? Am I crazy and irrational in my dislike of Deathtars, or do you agree?! Let us know!
And once again, a huge congrats to the NOVA crew for running such an awesome event and to Aaron for such an impressive performance, winning both the Invitational and the Open! I plan on going next year regardless of format and am sure it will be another awesome event.