Hello everyone, the crew from TFG Radio here (also your LVO Judges), to talk about changes, specifically how list building works.
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With the coming of Dark Imperium, a new age of Warhammer 40k is dawning. Along with this new age comes a multitude of changes to the game: Model range changes and additions, rules-bloat cut, and the game redesigned to be far simpler. We are seeing a complete drop of new faction rules the day of release, something entirely unprecedented in the history of Warhammer 40k in the 21st century.
The most consequential changes though comes in the form of list building. Games Workshop provided us with 3 basic ways to play the game, a completely open format, a format based on granular points like they’ve had in previous editions, and Power Level points, something entirely new. The two formats relevant to Competitive 40k are granular and Power Level.
The Problem with Granular
8th edition has brought us a clunky granular points system, one that requires much more work than before. It is a system where mistakes are easily made, a system that will prove difficult and unwieldy from a Tournament Organizers perspective, a system that will lend itself to less than honest players taking advantage to make their lists illegally with even less chance of getting caught. Having to buy units and then purchase all of their equipment separately adds an additional step, and this step will likely cause players to stumble, intentionally or not. You need only check the various social media groups to see a constant barrage of questions about how much a unit really costs.
This does not at all address the fact that if a player so wanted, they could easily skim points out of their lists by forgetting to tally certain mandatory equipment, and it would take far more investigation than most TOs/Judges have time to commit to fully vet each list. As events get larger, this is even more true. A friendly FLG RTT with 12 players is one thing, but what about a GT level event with over 40 or an ITC Major with over 100?
In the Power Level points system, we have an easy to use, easy to verify system that provides the basis for a more competitive and healthy tournament scene; it lends itself to simple list formatting for verification, simple player by player use, flexibility in lists, and an overall simpler way to run the list building side of things in the new era of 40k, all while adding an entirely new level of strategic thinking between games.
Ease of Use
Using Power Levels to build a list is just plain easier than using the new granular points system. It’s easier for the players and easier for the Tournament Organizer and Judges. You remove several steps in terms of adding lists up, and just about anyone with a basic grasp of arithmetic is going to be able to quickly build and verify a list. The counter argument to this tends to be that it also is easier to cheat by having things change from round to round in a tournament. To be honest, this is actually not a bad thing if embraced as a whole, but even then, if you are concerned about dishonesty, there are certainly mechanisms in place already for this. One is mandatory list submission to the Best Coast Pairings App, on a game by game basis. When building a list using Power Level, you need only mark down the basic points cost and if you’re taking additional models which increases the cost. Then, mark on the list which weapons options are being taken and you’re done with that unit entry. No further addition, no making sure every bolt pistol, grenade, etc is paid for in points.
You can do this without technology by simply having several army lists without the upgrades selected, and before the game, you mark the upgrades and give this list to your opponent. It will add no more than 5 minutes of time, and really, players should have printed copies of their list for opponents anyway. Let’s not forget that we are already moving towards this idea of modular abilities as psychic powers and warlord traits are selected each game, not randomly rolled or assigned for the course of a tournament.
If you need any more evidence that points and list building are a problem then you need only search the internet. Several major events had problems with illegal lists due to point mistakes and wargear option inaccuracies, and that is with the simpler 7th edition system of points and list building. There was the instance of Apothecaries and their Bolt Pistol not being properly pointed, the older/cheaper version of a Forgeworld Land Raider being taken mistakenly, wargear changing between rounds, and the list goes on and on. A simpler, easier to correct version of list building would be a great advantage to Tournament Organizers and the Competitive players, creating a Tournament scene with more integrity.
The Fallacy of Optimal Choice
The most common argument against using Power Levels is that it means only the best options will see use. This counter doesn’t make a lot of sense seeing as how we just left an edition behind us that saw 3 Riptides, Wraithknight and Jetbikes, Magnus, Pink Horrors, White Scar Centurionstars, in some combination, on almost every table at major tournaments. Competitive players will always seek and find the most powerful units to spam. Some say the most powerful units are even more powerful in a PL format. It’s not that they’re more powerful in PL format; it’s just that the clearly more powerful choices stand out immediately rather than needing people to really dig into the granular points and crunch the numbers. Again, this is not really different than it is now. People will always find the best combo(s) and use them, and in the PL system, it is just more obvious which units are better.
That said, balanced lists are working well in 8th edition not because players are using the granular point system but because balanced TAC (Take all Comers) lists are what 8th edition is designed around. My impression was that GW was aghast at what they saw the game had become when they went to Adepticon and LVO, and as a result, it’s more balanced all around which is why balanced lists are working well, not the point system you’re choosing to use. Plenty of units have less utility in granular points because the cost of their upgrades make them points inefficient, particularly because they are frozen into a specific role that may not be applicable in each game, but if they are given the ability to switch between these upgrades at no penalty, they become far more effective on the tabletop.
This is why it is not accurate to say that PL encourages only taking the “elite” units when units can have a fundamental impact on the game if they were allowed to alter their wargear round by round at no cost. A lascannon may be a less points efficient weapon in the granular system for a unit, but PL removes that distinction, making the unit more inherently viable. We’ve been using this system for so long that we’ve forgotten the simple truth: a granular, static points system is part of the cause of some units being weak and others strong. Heavy bolter teams for Astra Militarum may be points inefficient for the dakka, but against certain armies, they are far more valuable than autocannon or lascannon teams.
Another common argument against using Power Level points for competitive play is that Power Level doesn’t accurately account for the different weapon options. That simply isn’t true. Power Level gives a great average for how powerful each unit is potentially. If you look at an Imperial Knight for example and compare potential wargear options, it is still well costed no matter the options taken. The difference between the options is also relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of granular points.
|Unit||PL Cost||Load Out 1||GP Cost||Load Out 2||GP Cost||Load Out 3||GP Cost|
|Knight Errant||23||Thermal+ Sword||426||Thermal+Gauntlet||401||Thermal+Gauntlet+Meltagun||418|
|Knight Warden||25||Gatling Cannon+Sword||445||Gatling+Gauntlet||450||Gatling+Gauntlet+Meltagun||467|
|Knight Gallant||21||Sword+Gauntlet||385||Sword+Gauntlet+meltagun||402||Sword+Gauntlet+meltagun+Rocket Pod||464|
|Knight Crusader||27||Gatling+Thermal||491||Gatling+Thermal+metlagun||508||Gatling+Thermal+Meltagun+Rocket Pod||553|
As you can see, the PL score between different Knights very much accounts for the discrepancies in total kill power. A Knight Crusader is by far the most expensive to account for its ability to lay down a heavy amount of firepower at range while the Gallant is the most inexpensive as it is primarily dangerous in melee, but this means that it cannot necessarily impact the game immediately. Yes, when fully loaded with a carapace weapon, it is starting to approach the cost of other Knight versions, but then this isn’t really a fair comparison as the above calculations do not factor in the most granular points expensive builds for each other variant, namely taking a carapace weapon and the most expensive weapons available.
Looking at another way, assuming 100 Power Level game versus a 2K granular point game, a Knight Gallant with all the upgrades is going to make up 21% of your overall army in a PL game while a in a granular system, it will make up 23.2% of your army. That’s a difference of 44 points if converted to granular. A Crusader is going to account for 27% regardless of configuration in Power Level while a maxed out Crusader is going to still take up about 27% of your army in the granular system.
The difference in points in terms of the granular, are nearly irrelevant in a 2k list. The decision point between taking one over the other, or “shaving” points to build a specific list isn’t tactical: It’s just list building. Yes, shaving a few points here or there can net you an extra unit or two, which is what creates the idea of “tuned-lists” where you maximize every single point, but this is just playing a game of numbers and efficiency, and again, it creates more of the dichotomy between efficient and inefficient units. If you want a truly competitive game, then it should be the player skill in game that matters, not the ability of a player to be the better accountant and risk management analyst.
How Power Level makes the game more competitive
If you want a truly competitive game, Power Level games using the full panoply of that style of play is what is needed. Yes, instead of being worried that meltaguns will turn into flamers game by game, embrace this and give all players the opportunity to do such if they have the appropriate models to do so.
Allow players to choose each game what those units will and won’t have. By freeing the players from the confines of the minutiae of a detailed item by item list, we introduce a more flexible and therefore competitive environment. Allowing players to use the best weapons options on their units for the given game they are playing will move us away from list building being one of the most important parts of the game and move towards player skill and choices in game being the most important. The way this would work is simple:
A player builds a 100 Power Level list and populates it with the units they want to take. In their first game, they choose which weapon/wargear options each unit will have for that game and mark it down, they then deploy the appropriate models. They play the game with the units/models being armed in whatever manner they think is best for that game given the mission and their opponents army. In round two, they can then choose the best load out for the units based on their round 2 opponent and the round 2 mission, and so on and so forth, round after round. You as the general of your forces can actively reassess the situation and adapt, if you’ve built a list that is capable of adaptation, meaning a combined arms force rather than a skew list.
This creates a tactical/strategic flexibility in the game that is more akin to what you find in Magic the Gathering and in Warmahordes where each player is allowed a sideboard of a certain number of points so their list can be tailored game-to-game to help mitigate the rock/paper/scissors syndrome. For quite some time, the 40k community has discussed how to mitigate the hard-counter nature of competitive lists, and GW has given us one.
For a specific example, a 4 Knight army in 7th edition essentially meant that some armies could never beat them as they lacked the ability to hurt the Knights. In 8th, if you can choose which upgrades you have at the start of the game, all of those autocannons become lascannons or Impaler Cannons become Shockcannons, and suddenly, you have a chance to win. In the next game going against a Tyranid swarm, you can swap back to Heavy Bolters and flamers. Again, this may make certain spam armies worse, but that’s what we want. Everyone wants balance, but balance means that skew armies shouldn’t work because they lack too many tools. Power Level rewards list design that has modularity and variety, thus ensuring that in-game decisions matter far more. If you have ever screamed about 40K not being balanced, this is a mechanism to allow for that balance far more than a static army list using granular points where the very nature of its immutability offers avenues for exploitation.
What You See is What You Get, or WYSIWYG, would be an absolute necessity in a format like the one outlined above; so players can easily see what each model is armed with for the game. Yes, this would mean TOs would have to be more strict about custom conversions and 3rd party bits. WYSIWYG was once law of the land, and really, moving away from it only opens up more avenues for potential abuse. Also, the benefit of PL and WYSIWYG is that it gives players a greater opportunity to use their collections, not just the best units and weapons. How many times has a newer player been excited and built a box with all the upgrades, and then when he/she is finally ready to hit a tournament, he/she finds out that plasma pistols on sergeants sucked and were an active detriment? Now, any model has a chance to see play because yes, some loadouts are suboptimal in a fixed points system, but they may shine brightly in certain situations, and if you can actually adapt to that situation, you get to use them. In essence, granular, fixed equipment cost systems (like what we’ve had for several decades) encourage the kind of list building metas that most decry, but Power Level is a remedy to this where skew armies are less impactful and player skill is more meaningful.
To sum up
The benefits to a full use of Power Level as the list building format far outweigh any other negatives. If PL is fully embraced and players are allowed to change their unit(s) wargear/weapons from game to game, the scene not only becomes far more competitive but the amount of worry over cheating via list building goes down dramatically.
In the end, 8th edition is looking like an amazing version of our beloved game, but for those of us who enjoy playing in/running competitive events, it also offers a completely new way to do so, one that has distinct advantages over the previous method. Yes, we’ve been used to this system for 20+ years, but perhaps it is time to try something new. By allowing flexibility in army construction, you empower the individual player to determine their success far more, and by streamlining the list building process, you make events easier to run, easier to participate within, and more accessible to a wider audience, which means more opponents and more thriving communities. As they say, don’t knock it til you try it, so we would encourage you to try running a tournament using Power Level instead of points, and let us know how it goes.
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