Guest writer Fluger brings us an editorial on the idea of ITC Formations to boost up weaker armies. Jump in and share your thoughts on the topic!
Let me just open by saying that I am not in any way, shape, or form part of the illuminati of ITC. I have no sway, I have no power, I just have ideas! With that out of the way, let me jump into my proposal.
For those of us who are wildly supportive of the ethos of ITC (in case you didn’t know, encouraging closer, more balanced games), we tend to be quite happy about most (if not all) of the straight up rules changes ITC has made with an eye towards a better game experience. Whether its nerfing re-rolled saves or changing toe-in-cover for GCs, we see WHY those things are done and we see the effects on the meta.
Now, obviously there are a good number of folks that aren’t fond of rules changes no matter how wise they are because they believe in GW being the ultimate arbiter of the rules of 40k. For those of you, this suggestion is probably going to sound like heresy, but bear with me at least long enough to flame me intelligently.
My opinion, and the opinion of several people I’ve talked to, is that while the ITC does a decent job of curbing some of the truly egregious potential armies, it isn’t a perfect system, and not even remotely. For as much as 7th edition has led to a lot of diversity in power armies over, say, 5th edition with the minor variances of Razorspam of various colors, there are a series of codexes and specific units that dominate the top tables or bully the mid tables. At the end of the day, unless you are willing to play one of say 5 or 6 list archetypes and master playing them, your odds of getting into the top tables are pretty low. Most good generals can get away with a decent showing even bringing a mid-tier codex (IG or Orks) or a top-tier dex picking from mid-tier choices (a serpent spam Eldar list for instance), but they are probably going to get beat out by one of the good generals running a power list. Now, those who show up to ITC events but have no chance nor really any desire to compete for the top generalship prizes, they might bring some of the real down-trodden dexes and get ROFLstomped by a power list. That’s no fun for anyone involved, we all know it, but them’s the breaks when you’re dealing with a game that is so fundamentally imbalanced almost by design.
Now, one thing that GW has introduced that has breathed life into various dull units and made them competitive is formations. Thanks to stellar formations like Skyhammer Annihilation and Battle Company, the more maligned elements of the space marine army Assault Marines, Devastators, and Tacticals are all seeing a resurgence in use in competitive lists. Even relatively mediocre units can become potent if given the right rules and the right synergy.
My proposal? (or, rather, MarkDawg’s suggestion that I read and started day dreaming about almost immediately) Let’s have the ITC come up with a few really good formations to give some of the weaker dexes and units a bit more luster and give us a reason to dust them off and bring them to a competitive event. We already saw a version of this with the Ork Big Mek Stompa, taking a pretty obviously outdated rule and letting it go in order to give a mediocre dex some extra competitive options. That change was met with a mix of joy and relative indifference. That’s kind of the ball park I’m shooting for here.
I also really like how some of the really good formations are also very much oriented towards fluff. It’s a nice way to have your hobbyist cake and eat it competitively too. The Decurion LOOKS like a Necron Warrior force. The Pinion Battle Company acts like how Ravenguard fluff has always represented it. Etc etc.
What I want to do is find a way to marry fluff to the units and really beef them up appropriately to the point that taking those dexes or those units wouldn’t take you out of the running virtually immediately.
There’s a couple of simple ways to do this and they can really give some cruddy units a real shot in the arm.
- Give units USRs that they are really lacking or fix some kind of flaw in their design. If not USRs some kind of other rule that gives them a buff, like being able to assault on turn 1 or coming out of reserve.
- Give units some kind of statistical bump that allows them to function better. Even just a pip more of WS or BS can really make a unit so much more effective.
- Give the units some kind of force multiplier that perhaps won’t make them better but will make other units want to have them around. Perhaps something as simple as +1 to reserve rolls, or maybe leadership bonuses in range.
- Give them access to a specific warlord trait to help shape their game play to match the fluff better. Like how Lias Issodon has a great Warlord trait that informs how the list will play.
- Give them free unit upgrades. Basically make the cost of taking those units lessened by giving them more stuff to boost their abilities.
Let’s take a wild shot in the dark at making a formation that will help a terribad unit be, at least, mediocre or maybe even good.
Let’s start with something simple: Genestealers.
Everyone can virtually agree that Genestealers are overpriced and bad for most tournament play. There’s a variety of reasons why, namely that they are easy to shoot to death, they can’t get into combat with regularity, they suffer from lack of assault grenades, and they don’t hit hard enough to justify their cost. Genestealers are an iconic unit of the 40k universe and should be way better than their current ghastly iteration. How to fix them?
Let’s keep my proposed formation relatively simple, along the lines of the Aspect Shrine one.
- Genestealer Infestation:
- 3 Genestealer Units.
- Restrictions: all units must have a Brood Lord.
Xenos Infestation: The Genestealers have infested the area and created havoc behind the scenes. Nominate one enemy unit before rolling for deployment, that unit must start the game in reserve. Additionally, any force using a Genestealer Infestation formation can steal the initiative on a roll of 4+.
Reconnaissance: The genestealers have chosen this ground for their strike and have carefully reconnoitered it. All units in this formation gain the Scout special rule. All units in this formation treat difficult terrain as open ground and are not slowed by it either in the movement phase or in the assault phase and do not have their initiative reduced to 1 when assaulting through cover. They still do receive cover saves. Additionally, all units in this formation can assault on the first turn of the game even if they infiltrated or scouted.
So, what does this do? It really makes genestealers scary on the assault. They can now get up close and personal to their foe, they have a good chance of going first and getting a nasty turn one alpha assault off, disrupting their opponents army from the get go. Having the ability to send one problem unit to reserves also gives them a real edge as they can force a dedicated counter-assault unit like a wraithlord to wait until at least turn 3 before it can start assaulting.
What doesn’t it do? It still doesn’t fix the fact that genestealers are going to get shot up outside of melee and as they are assaulting. Overwatch from heavy flamers or even flamers can put a real damper on them. While rending is nice and all, they are still going to struggle against good armor both of vehicles and good saves.
What would it do to the meta? Probably not terribly much, Eldar would have a real hard time with it probably unless they really dedicated themselves to having anti-infiltration tactics like maybe actually using rangers to create a screen!? On the flip side, battle company would generally laugh at this force as they scratch up their metal boxes and then get killed. Daemons might not like getting assaulted before they can get in the air, but they have a lot of good assault units that can smash the stealers back pretty hard.
Is this a perfect formation? No, I came up with it in a few minutes so I’m sure there is room for improvement, but it gets at the core of the idea I’m shooting for. Its a pretty safe formation because it is solely composed of a unit that is generally considered bad and doesn’t really go to far out of the box (other than the unit in reserve thing). I’m sure a group of people could hammer out a way to make it better then put it to a vote!
Where this could get much trickier, but also more fun is in more larger-scale, CAD-esque formations. Let’s tackle another codex with garbage units and try and make those garbage units less garbage.
Dark Eldar. Man, that dex is just so in need of major help. Last time I saw abusepuppy in the flesh we talked about how awful it was. I think that Dark Eldar are some of the coolest looking models GW has ever made and that they have bad rules for the most part (outside of the formation-heavy Coven supplement) is a tragedy. I don’t own Dark Eldar (nor Nids for that matter), but I’d love to see more of them on the table as something more than just a useful addition to Eldar. I had some ideas about a Kabalite formation, but I think there’s an even blacker sheep in that dex…
The Brides of Khaine
- 1-3 Succubi
- 4-6 Wyche Units
- 1-3 Hellion Units
- 1-3 Reaver Jetbike Units
Legendary Fighter: If your warlord is chosen from this formation they receive the Legendary Fighter Warlord Trait from the Personal Warlord Trait list in the main rulebook in addition to any other Warlord Trait they would normally roll for.
Arena’s Best: All units in this formation roll twice on the combat drugs table and receive both results (reroll to get two different results). All models in this formation gain Rage, and Shred for their melee attacks. They can also assault even if they ran in the shooting phase. Additionally, when in an assault, they gain +1 Attack for every point more of initiative they have over their enemy. Finally, all units in this formation gain the Scout special rule.
Speed of Khaine: When any non-vehicle unit in this formation is shot at, reduce the number of hits by d3 each time a unit resolves shooting against them. This includes shots from overwatch.
Brides of Blood: All Wyche units can be upgraded to Blood Brides at no extra points cost.
Choreographers of Murder: Any unit in this formation that is within 12″ of at least one Succubus counts the turn as being one higher for the purposes of Power from Pain. This includes the succubus herself.
Sacrificial Target: At the start of each game turn, choose a unit in your opponent’s army. Choose from the list below to determine what effect will happen on the targeted unit.
- The unit can only fire snap shots.
- The unit cannot overwatch.
- All units in the Blood Stage Formation gain preferred enemy against the targeted unit.
So what does this do? It makes Wych units kinda scary, but probably not even enough to matter. While they are still extremely fragile even with getting a gimmick to surviving shooting, they at least hit like a freight train (more or less) on the assault. Against MEq units, each blood bride is chucking out at least 7 attacks on the charge with shred and the possibility of more through drugs (better melee through science!). Like the other special rule I concocted out of thin air for the Genestealers, being able to get a bonus against specific parts of the opposing army will help them either neutralize a shooting threat (like a unit of 2 Stormsurges) or help them bring down something with shooting/melee.
What doesn’t this do? It still doesn’t help them enough to make them survive against shooting and they still don’t have a great answer for high armor save units or vehicles. There is also no help for dealing with leadership, so pinning and morale are still going to be a problem.
What would this do to the meta? I can’t imagine it would have much of an effect as Craftworld Eldar could still murderize these brides with a portion of their shooting, and Battle Company can still hide in their metal boxes until it’s safe to come out and shoot up the girls. What it would do is give other mid-tier armies a bit of pause and a new potential bully to vie with.
Again, this is something I came up with over a few minutes of thought, I’m sure we could come up with something better and put it to a vote, but I suspect that anything that could buff wyches in a fluffy context would be widely appreciated.
Anyway, I think this is a great way for ITC to give some love to some maligned units and codexes and add more variety to their events. It shouldn’t drastically affect the high end game any more than some of the crazy formations GW released have.
Obviously, I know that any proposed change to anything is going to be met with howls of rage because nothing 40k related can exist without someone taking a moral stand against it, so I’m sure if ITC ACTUALLY proposed home-brew formations we’d get a series of snide comments from a bunch of people, or, outright jealousy from others (“My Tau haven’t won a tournament, but Frankie hates them so he nerfed them and he loves Sisters of Battle and that’s why they got this overpowered formation and WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.”). Just the thought of that kind of internet vitriol gives me a pre-emptive headache, but I would hope that most people would see the value in lifting up some crappy units/dexes and giving them help. We already have a very clear division between what works in ITC and what works outside of ITC based on rules changes or even just FAQ rulings, why not steer into the slide more. Would it really be all that bad if ITC was a bastion of Sisters of Battle, Dark Eldar, and Grey Knights?
What are your thoughts? Can you think of some units that could benefit from some formations? Do you think this is going too far, or something that would make the game more enjoyable?