The Problem With the Commander Problem

Abuse Puppy here to talk about how GW solved the problems with T’au Commanders– because there was a problem, but the solution they chose was not really the right one in my opinion. And just to be clear, I do not work for Frontline Gaming but am a contributing author to this blog.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the Tau codex, unsurprisingly. A lot changed with the new book, and of course people are eager to explore and examine it, but one constant thread has been the changes to how Commanders are handled- limited to no more than one per detachment in matched play games, this has a lot of Tau players up in arms as a result. Now, I will preface this whole thing by saying that I am not going to try and make a case for- or against- this change being necessary in the first place; this is not that article, nor am I going to try and argue about just how strong the Commander could’ve/would’ve been. Whether a unit is powerful enough to warp the meta (the way that, say, Warp Spiders or splitting Horrors did) is an entirely different discussion than whether a unit is more powerful than it should be. Would Tau Commanders really have been a meta-defining feature if they had been allowed unrestricted? One would guess not, but it’s not something we will ever know at this point, since it’s not going to happen- but I think it can be generally agreed that the Commander was too efficient for its point cost overall (though no doubt there will be some people who insist otherwise.)

No, what I want to talk about is the way that Games Workshop decided to solve the problem- and, indeed, the problem they chose to solve. I don’t think it was the right way to go about things, and while it may not cripple the game (or the Tau codex) it sets a bad precedent and shows that their understanding of how the game works and what incentives different changes give players will change how the results pan out. There are plenty of things that they could’ve done that would  fix the problem in varying degrees, and while I don’t think this was the worst possible choice, it also definitely was not the best.

The Problem

Before we get into analyzing all of that, though, let’s stop and ask ourselves: what is the problem that Games Workshop was trying to solve with this change? Because the answer to that is going to inform everything else we talk about here, and I don’t think it’s as obvious as most people believe. If you ask a random person, you’ll probably get a pretty simple response along the lines of “the Tau Commander was too good so people were bringing a bunch of them.” But let’s stop and think about that for a second- if Commanders were so good, why weren’t Tau placing in the top ranks at tournaments? There certainly were a handful of GT-level wins by various Tau players, but they never made it to the top 8 of any events like LVO, NOVA, or Adepticon, nor did we see consistent high placing from them at any of the smaller events. If Commanders were really as good as that statement implied, we would have seen a lot more of Tau at tournaments and played by good players- competitive players will, after all, play armies that are capable of winning.

So we can’t just say that the Commander was “too good,” because it (and the army supporting it) did not measure up to the meta as a whole. So let’s make a more precise pronouncement instead: the Commander was undercosted compared to the rest of the options in the Tau army. If we look at things from this perspective instead, things make more sense- the Commander might have been the best thing available to the Tau, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was better than everything that other armies had access to.

As a consequence, what you tended to see in Tau armies during their Index phase was a large number (4-8, typically) of Commanders armed with some mix of Fusion Blasters or Cyclical Ion Blasters and supported by other units to screen for them and prevent them from being shot, most notably Gun Drones- and often very little else. Although not all Tau lists fit this mold, nor even all of the most successful ones, even most of the higher-ranking Tau players gravitated towards this general build in varying degrees and it was a rare thing to see a Tau list with any fewer than three Commanders. Naturally, neither the Tau players themselves (who probably would have preferred to play with a more diverse army) nor their opponents (who probably got tired of shooting at frisbees while the real firepower stayed untouched in the background) particularly enjoyed this state of affairs very much, so it was pretty inevitable that Games Workshop was going to do something to upend it once the codex finally came out.

The Solution

And Games Workshop did fix it, after a fashion. With Commanders limited to no more than one per detachment, it was literally impossible to field the old Commander Horde armies that people disliked so fervently. The absolute limit ensured that no one could game the system in any way and try and squeeze more in than would otherwise be possible in a list- at 2000pts, three was what you could get and there was no amount of wiggle room or points-eking that could change that. You got three Commanders or fewer, end of story.

A lot of Tau players were, unsurprisingly, rather unhappy about this change- and at the broadest level, I can understand that. But I think their rationales for why it’s a problem are often pretty bad, and foremost among those bad rationales is “it’s not fair that we are the only army in the game that has this limitation! you can bring fifteen Space Marine Captains if you want and the rules don’t stop you, it’s just punishing Tau players for no reason!”

So let’s be clear here: you certainly can bring almost any other HQ in the game in large, even absurd, numbers. But you don’t see anyone doing that, do you? That’s because the Tau Commander was different from those other models in a variety of relevant ways and thus needed to be treated differently. If you had seen people bringing 8+ Captains to tournaments, you can damn well bet that GW would be instituting a rule or change that limits that, but that wasn’t an issue the game was happening, so it wasn’t something that Games Workshop needed to deal with.

The Precipitate

So why do I believe that the Commander solution was a bad idea, when I admit that such a solution is necessary? Because it doesn’t solve the problem. Remember, the issue was, as we stated earlier in the article that the Commander was costed too low compared to other options in the army- hence why people took it over those options. And while the Tau codex certainly did improve many of the other options in the book, it didn’t change the price of the Commander any- and indeed, the XV85 Commander itself is now largely invalidated by the existence of the XV86 Coldstar Commander, which for a token increase in price is vastly more maneuverable.

Limiting the number of Commanders you can take doesn’t solve the issue with their being a superior choice- it simply makes it so that you have an artificial limit on how many times you can make that choice. As it stands, every Tau army is heavily incentivized to bring three detachments to the table so that they can field three Coldstars; it’s still greatly superior to virtually everything else in the codex and thus a near-mandatory option to max out on. The limitation doesn’t change how good the Commander is, only how many you can bring. Limiting their numbers is like stanching the flow of blood from an injury- it might mitigate the damage somewhat, but in itself it doesn’t actually do anything to solve the underlying problem.

What Games Workshop needed to do was to change the pricing on Commanders (including the XV8 and XV86 versions) as well as Crisis suits and other battlesuit options that compete with them (such as the XV88, XV95, etc.) By adjusting these units pricing, abilities, and synergies- as well as the prices of the weapons, which I think are also askew in a number of places- it should have been possible to find a better balance that left all of these options as plausible choices for an army without making any one of them blatantly superior (and thus a candidate for being spammed) than the others.

The distinction between Games Workshop’s solution here (ban people from doing the thing that we don’t want) and the alternative (change the incentives so that doing the thing they don’t want is less attractive) is absolutely fundamental. The Commander is still quite probably the best unit in the Tau codex, as it hasn’t really lost anything at all; comparing a Commander to something of similar cost (such as a Broadside or Ghostkeel) is so vastly in the Commander’s favor as to be laughable. For 130-180pts (depending on the exact loadout and variant) a Commander offers not only a superior statline in every regard compared to those other suits but also the character keyword (to avoid enemy shooting), a very relevant ability in the form of Master of War, and superior mobility in the form of the Coldstar option. A Commander kitted out to be the same as a Ghostkeel is not only more survivable (immunity to shooting > penalties to hit) but also more accurate while actually being cheaper. That’s absurd.

Now again, to reiterate: I’m not trying to argue that the Commander, if it hadn’t had the limit on it, would’ve “broken the game” or anything like that. But certainly it was undercosted compared to many of the other options- or perhaps they were overcosted; the distinction is essentially irrelevant for our purposes here. In either case, what GW needed to do was to adjust the relative price of the various units and options to make most or all of them viable, not to set an absolute pronouncement about how many you are allowed to take. The latter approach shows only that you don’t know how to balance the game properly- and we know GW can do better than that, because it has been over the last six months. While I don’t think anyone will claim that 8th Edition is perfect, it certainly is more playable than 7E was and I would argue that it is a better game than 6E and even 5E (other points that people tend to look back nostagically on.) They have made huge strides in keeping the game balanced and playable and while obviously more effort needs to be made, the point is that they are actually trying to put that effort in, something that was never the case before.

We haven’t really seen what the Tau codex can do yet; whether it will rise to be a competitive choice in the environment that we have following the presumed changes of the Spring FAQ release is yet to be seen. Perhaps it will sit down in the bottom tiers with pure GK or AdMech armies, or maybe it will struggle its way to the top with some unexpected star players. But regardless of how the book as a whole functions, I think it should be obvious to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the faction that the design philosophy for Commanders is fundamentally flawed and is mistaken in a way that I hope GW does not repeat. What they did was bad for the faction and bad for the game as a whole- perhaps not in a way that will devastate it, but certainly in a way that will detract from people’s enjoyment of the game, in both tournaments and in casual play. I believe that they want this game to be good and fun and playable just as much as all of us do, and I hope that they will take this advice not as a rebuke but as a chance to understand things better, to gain a window into the players’ minds and view of the game. Will they even read this article? I can’t say, but I hope that they do, and I hope that they (and all of the players who read it as well) come away with a better understanding of why good game design matters. We all- every last one of us, from the clubbiest of baby seals to the WAACiest of tryhard tournament players want to have fun with this game, and the design of the game is critical to that.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About abusepuppy

AbusePuppy is the one who has been ruining 40K for everyone this whole time. He is also searching for the six-fingered man and is one of the three people who know the secret recipe for coke (not the soda, the illegal drug.)

61 Responses to “The Problem With the Commander Problem”

  1. Avatar
    Dakkath April 11, 2018 3:09 am #

    Thank you, AP, for making the points I had about the issue so eloquently. I agree 100% with everything you’ve said here.

  2. Avatar
    Victor April 11, 2018 3:25 am #

    Facing 3 Tau Commanders in a 2000 points game is still a pain in the ass. My solution to the problem would have been reducing the maximum weapons a Crisis Suit can carry to two. Doing so, the Commander has more of a support role instead of a main battlefield unit, like most HQs in other factions.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy April 11, 2018 8:03 am #

      I feel like allowing Commanders and Crisis suits to take any combination of weapons and support systems (up to their max of three/four) was a mistake, because it’s almost always better to take the maximum weapons and no support systems (except for ATS, with certain configs.) I feel like they should’ve had 1-2 slots dedicated exclusively to support systems, like the Broadside/Ghostkeel/etc and had a slightly lower point cost.

      • Avatar
        Ethan April 11, 2018 11:26 am #

        Yeah, I feel like returning crisis/commander suits to how they used to be (2 weapons, one support system each) would have gone a long way to solving the problem and allowed them to reduce the cost, so everything was more reasonably balanced.

        I also think that forcing crisis suits to be taken in units of 3 minimum was a big mistake – that massively drives up the starting cost of the unit, and if people were able to take 1-2 monat suits to do a job they have to use a commander for, that might have help ease the problem as well.

        I think this article also reinforces the idea that GW doesn’t fundamentally understand Tau. The codex isn’t necessarily under or over powered, but it’s a badly written/designed codex.It still feels like a codex of missed opportunities, mistakes and bandaids rather than a elegant, well written codex.

        • Avatar
          abusepuppy April 12, 2018 7:51 am #

          I wouldn’t say it’s “badly written,” but it is definitely problematic in places. I think there are some very poor choices in it (especially with regards to the Crisis and a few other units), but that is true in almost all codices.

    • Avatar
      bytestream April 11, 2018 9:49 am #

      Facing lots of things is not fun if you don’t have the right tools to deal with it. Just ask a Tau player how unfun it is that there is a fight and psychic phase for example.

      As far as your solution is concerned: If it comes we a drastic redesign of the Commander itself as well as pretty much all support systems and a noticeable point reduction for the Crisis Suits (given that they are underwhelming even now) it might just work. The Commander itself would defintively need a standard buff aura like most other faction’s primary HQ choices, not a once-per-game-and-army buff that restricts your whole army. Support systems would need to unique stuff and not just be redundant with markerlights.

  3. Avatar
    Visitor April 11, 2018 3:25 am #

    In addition it’s just far to easy to spam HQs. It’s ok if they compete with each other but not if they replace troop, elite and other choices.

  4. Avatar
    Ujayim April 11, 2018 4:18 am #

    8th is an edition of no nuance. It’s similar to ages past, where we would go no input, except now we have almost too much input, to the point that these things come across as incredibly heavy handed.

    Before I get a “lol calm down bro” or “give it a break” response; there is absolutely a happy medium on balance. It exists in a world where we consider that “problem” units are a problem because the rest of the units (See Custodes) are pointed at a horrible level compared to the rest, and a possible solution is to make those other units better at their jobs, instead of banning the “problem”.

    • Avatar
      Víctor Yanguas April 11, 2018 5:28 am #

      When the OP units are fewer than most units its a lot easier to nerf the few than compensate the most, man

      • Avatar
        Ujayim April 11, 2018 8:00 am #

        It is undoubtedly easier. It is, however, perhaps not the correct choice.

        Custodes Shield captains and Bike are more powerful than all their other options. If you nerf those, you neuter the entire army.

        This is an easier option, but also a worse one.

  5. Avatar
    Amof April 11, 2018 4:43 am #

    One of the larger issues is how Commanders are good without marker lights, While XV8, Riptides and Broadsides all fill roles they’re constantly chasing those 5 marker light hits. If XV8’s were BS3+ baseline you would see much more variance in builds.

    TBH after looking at the Tyriands/Necrons/Dark Eldar/Tau you can see where the effort went into designing deep codexes went into.

  6. Avatar
    General Nemesis April 11, 2018 4:54 am #

    I am routinely impressed by the depth and intelligence of Abuse Puppy’s articles. Well done sir. Keep up the great work.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy April 11, 2018 8:04 am #

      That’s, General. I try to make my articles informative and well-considered without being overbearing.

      • Avatar
        Jstart April 11, 2018 9:12 am #

        “So let’s be clear here: you certainly can bring almost any other HQ in the game in large, even absurd, numbers. But you don’t see anyone doing that, do you? ”

        Uhh…Flying Hive Tyrants.. So yes, you do see people doing that.

        • Avatar
          Messy0 April 11, 2018 10:03 am #

          …didn’t Flyrant spam win Adepticon?

          • Avatar
            Huskywarhammer April 11, 2018 10:36 am

            Yuup. He also didn’t mention Custodes jetbike captains, another HQ that gets spammed. So we have at least 2 other armies that spam a specific HQ that get selectively ignored in this comparison.

          • Reecius
            Reecius April 11, 2018 11:24 am

            AP doesn’t need me to defend him, but just FYI this article was drafted before Adepticon.

            And yeah, all HQ spam is lame, it was lame with Malefic Lords and is lame with any other HQ unit. It feels weird to T’au players I am sure that you are getting hit with a limitation when all others have not but I would be confident that if an HQ is getting spammed that GW is aware of it. Malefic Lords got addressed, T’au Commanders have now been addressed by GW (although you may or may not agree with how they handled it) but if these new issues have come up, trust they are aware of them and will address them. A little patience is all that is required, this is a dynamic game after all.

          • Avatar
            VIth April 11, 2018 4:39 pm

            Limiting Shield Captains to 1/detachment would prevent Custodes from taking battalions, so… yeah. Go ahead and destroy that faction. More so even than Tau Commanders, Custodes need an “other unit price reduction” to address their commander spam issues before raising prices on the JSC. And all indications suggest Flying Hive Tyrants are getting the nerf bat, so… yeah again.

  7. Avatar
    Rob Butcher April 11, 2018 7:29 am #

    It was not fun playing against multiple Tau Commanders! It comes down to something as simple as that.

    You also can not base your thoughts on three tournaments in one country … you can’t just consider the small number of competitive players – 7000 play ITC compared to millions who play at home. So 200 – 500 in a tournament is a drop in the ocean. Yes, that means more folks play in my small town than in the LVO!!

    GW are also a company that makes toy soldier armies. Of course, they want you to buy screening units, artillery, flyers etc NOT just a few models.

    The interesting thing now, whilst waiting for the FAQ, is IF the commander spam solution gets taken over to flyrants, shield captains etc. That’s why it’s taking a while.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy April 11, 2018 8:06 am #

      Sure, that’s definitely part of it- GW often nerfs armies that people don’t enjoy playing against as much as they aim for armies that warp the environment. But the article wasn’t trying to argue that they shouldn’t have changed Commanders (they absolutely should have, the lists they built were often unfun to play against and I say as much in the article.) What they needed was a more thoughtful approach to limiting how many of them players would take, not just a hard limit.

      That said, I would rather see “one per detachment” than “we doubled your price so no one will use you.”

  8. Avatar
    Huskywarhammer April 11, 2018 7:37 am #

    Uhh…wasn’t it FLG who provided feedback for GW that caused this change?

    • Reecius
      Reecius April 11, 2018 7:41 am #

      Lol, what? What makes you think that?

      • Avatar
        Huskywarhammer April 11, 2018 7:58 am #

        Did your group not have a role in playtesting the new codex?

        The same codex in which this change happened that your website is now complaining about…?

        • Avatar
          Ujayim April 11, 2018 8:01 am #

          To their credit, their company didn’t write the article. FLG Routinely hosts articles written by contributors, of which even I have done and had posted.

          • Avatar
            Huskywarhammer April 11, 2018 8:11 am

            True, true…I got a kick out of Reese’s (the guy who’s been none-too-quiet on his dislike of Tau) reply. Note that he didn’t deny it, just asked, “What made you think that?” I assume there’s some sort of GW confidentiality agreement, but still.

          • Reecius
            Reecius April 11, 2018 8:40 am

            Lol, what are you talking about? I don’t like T’au? Says who? You? If so, you are wrong and I have no idea where that is coming from. Perhaps you missed the fact I am in the middle of starting a new T’au army? It was on the Warhammer-community site and FLG, lol. I don’t dislike T’au at all, I love the models and lore and am excited to play them.

            Anyway, there are some T’au players that have gotten it in their heads that I am out to get them, or that FLG somehow controls GW (a billion dollar company, lol, which is so ridiculous) or some other crazy nonsense. It just isn’t true and there is literally nothing to support it. I think this bizarre conspiracy theory comes from a time back in 7th ed when the ITC made some controversial rules calls about some very poorly worded rules in the T’au Codex that upset some T’au players and they now blame us for everything from global warming to Santa Clause not being real, lol. It’s crazy. And, the most ironic part about all of this is that the rules calls we made as the ITC community were ultimately vindicated when GW’s own FAQ finally did come out and we got all but one of the rules calls right. However, this inaccurate stigma has stuck in the minds of some T’au players.

            But no, lol, no we don’t dislike T’au (two staff members here play them) Abuse Puppy is not on the play test team (in fact, NONE of the contributing content producers is and we allow them to express their opinions freely, even if they disagree with us or our policies), but those of us on staff who are playtesters did everything we could to make T’au fun, fair and good in the small way we can influence things. However, we do not write the rules and GW ultimately has no obligation to listen to the play test group’s input (and there are a lot of us, FLG comprises only a small portion of that group). So, in some bizarro world where we were out to get a faction (which we are not, our livelihoods depend on selling models, lol), we wouldn’t even be able to override the other play testers. So unless in this fantasy you think EVERYONE is out to get T’au, including GW, lol, it simply does not stand even the lowest level of scrutiny.


            Hopefully that makes it crystal clear for you.

            And, on a final note, if I really am some evil, Illuminati, Free Mason, anti-T’au mastermind secretly pulling all the strings…wouldn’t it make sense to try and work with me to try and help fix things instead of throwing around unfounded accusations about me, lol?

          • Avatar
            Ujayim April 11, 2018 8:19 am

            I’m sure they have a NDA, but your comment is now veering into ATT Conspiracy Theory levels of concern.

            His reply was entirely valid.

            There’s a time and place for critique, my dude, I think you’re reaching on this one.

          • SaltyJohn
            SaltyJohn April 11, 2018 10:13 am

            Where did you get your tinfoil hat? Seems like a good quality one.

          • Avatar
            Ty April 11, 2018 12:52 pm

            Reese as the secret arch-nemesis of tau players is one of my favorite things.

            What if he made Commanders op in the first place just so they’d get nerfed!

            Clever. Very Clever. I’m watching you Reese.

          • Reecius
            Reecius April 11, 2018 12:53 pm

            lolol, don’t even joke, their are some wackadoodle people out there that actually believe this stuff.

          • Avatar
            zyekian April 11, 2018 1:51 pm

            I heard Reece was booted off the playtest crew until he got that big “I H8 Tau” tatoo burned off his forearm.

          • Reecius
            Reecius April 12, 2018 9:00 am


          • Avatar
            Cy April 11, 2018 2:12 pm

            I think his point wasn’t so much about who wrote the article or even if FLG “controls” GW.

            I think he’s implying that their playtesting and feedback about the faction is is a direct cause of the commander change.

            This is a knee-jerk reaction and assigning blame to the only group that he is aware of play testing the game. If he realizes that REECE&FRANKIE AREN’T THE ONLY 2 PEOPLE IN THE WORLD TESTING THE GAME or not is completely oblivious to me.

            GW has put more effort into Warhammer 40k in 8th edition than they have in decades. They are actually play testing the game… and actively balancing it.

            Stop throwing hate at people who are only 2 in a numerous group providing feedback for the game. If you genuinely believe that the 2 playtesters at FLG are dictating every rule you get _ SEEK HELP _ you are delusional.

          • Avatar
            David April 11, 2018 2:26 pm

            This conspiracy bullshit comes from Advanced Tau Tactica which is the InfoWars of the 40k Community.

          • Avatar
            VIth April 11, 2018 4:46 pm

            @David: LOL, true and hilarious! Advanced Tau Tactica is definitely one of the main sources, and that is an amazing comparison. Haha, cheers!

          • Avatar
            abusepuppy April 11, 2018 6:37 pm

            “The Way of the Water Warrior is TURNING OUR FROGS GAY. IT’S HAPPENING, PEOPLE!!!!”

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy April 11, 2018 8:09 am #

      A. It wasn’t. Some (but not anywhere near all) of the Frontline personnel are playtesters, but playtesters by no means have absolute authority over what happens. From what I have heard from some of the folks I know- and not the ones at FLG, mind you- they are often frustrated by GW failing to fix issues that were brought up in playtesting.

      B. I’m not a part of Frontline. I write articles for them, but I am neither a part of the company nor a part of the ITC.

  9. Avatar
    Leth April 11, 2018 7:56 am #

    The issue is that they are attempting to balance one version of the game while the tournament crowd plays a different version of the game.

    Look at adepticon versus LVO versus NOVA. The MISSIONS and TERRAIN are primarily what determine what type of list is going to do the best. Add in time limits and suddenly the range of things that need to be balanced around is artificially restricted.

    What is one of the best counters to some of these armies? Hordes, however hordes are not conductive to a 2.5 hour game limit. So now the “Meta” armies are built around the assumption that people wont play hordes which limits the range of units that are super effective.

    Now we look at missions and missions that are 100% based on board control? Well that pushes for things that are different from missions that are focused on killing.

    Focused on killing? Well that means that most of the offense will be spent on things that are killy. Which now means that if you

    No longer auto go first for having fewer units? Well now you cant plan your army/deployment around going first which means that only units that are reactive can survive things like a strong alpha strike. Now deep strike is almost mandatory.

    Not to say the core game is balanced perfectly obviously, but it is important to see the cascading effects on the game even minor things cause when looking at tournaments.

  10. Avatar
    Zain April 11, 2018 8:17 am #

    The Commander issue was just one aspect. Personally, it sucks having to take three commanders to ensure something hits. The -1 to hit armies are a constant pain: only way to prevent it is to get in close- which for Tau is a death sentence.

    Having to pay around 300 points for a suit that hits on 3+ at best (markerlight support or if lucky velocity tracker against a fly unit) just sucks, with the direct opposite of hitting on a 6+.

    I am not saying Tau is underpowered as it’s too early to decide that, but when we have to pay 160pts for a 1D6 wound shot a turn, I’d say that’s strange.

    So yeah.. I take 3 commanders. Not because I want to, but because it’s one of the very few trump cards I do have available.

    Still it’s nice to see you acknowledge the problem. Hope it helps against the Reese and GW hate Tau and our laughing at our problems attitude.

  11. Avatar
    Txeptsyip April 11, 2018 8:24 am #

    the issue in the index is that the only time standard XV8s were more cost effective than a commander was flamer suits

    any other weapon and you are dealing with the markerlight tax (BS4 on our elite battlesuits featuring the best technology t’au can provide piloted by the best of the fire caste – how is this making any sense?)

    commanders were (and technically still are if it was not for the limitation) more cost effective than standard crisis suits

    if in the codex standard suits got a buff (BS increase or points cost – the fact we saw no points cost drop fucking astounded me) then the commander limit would not have been required because the standard suits would have become cost effective

  12. Avatar
    black mage April 11, 2018 8:47 am #

    if GW just used the old 4th/5th edition FOC now lot of problems would be solved, in particular spam, no more 7 flyrants, no more 15 oblietarors no more psikers spam and so on, let get back to 1-2 HQ 3-6 troops 0-3 fast 0-3 elite and 0-3 heavy and bye bye spam, isn’t that difficult, a 5yo kid understand that

  13. Avatar
    Zool April 11, 2018 9:48 am #

    The 2 BS and same weapon cost on all platforms was the obvious problem. Paying 21 points for a 4BS fusion blaster on crisis suits and same 21 points for 2BS commander is stupid. Of course u take the commanders if u dont have limits on them. Astra militarum have different price depending on WS.
    Also they could add a markerlight weapon choice for one commander type. U would give up shooting for 3-4 2WS markers. He would be just a support commander. Other wise the only support commanders give to units is the onetime montka kauyon. They could also change both buffs to be constant but weaker so u have a reason to stay near units and dont fly off to quad fusion blast from 40″ range.

    • Avatar
      NinetyNineNo April 14, 2018 12:10 pm #

      The FW XV84 Commander doles out Markerlight hits whenever it shoots something. It could make for a good support unit with something like a Drone Controller, Through Unity Devastation WT and use of the Command and Control Node stratagem and Mont’ka/Kauyon abilities. But I was a bit disappointed that most relics were either a niche benefit or a better gun for Commanders rather than any sort of true supporting option.

  14. Avatar
    Sarc April 11, 2018 10:37 am #

    The article states that no other armies were using HQ spam.

    That’s objectively false – Adepticon was absolutely rife with single unit spam lists. 4 of the top 16 lists were Flyrant spam lists, and there was custodes jetbike spam as well – both HQ slot spam. That’s ignoring the other single-unit spam lists, such as dark reapers, hive guard, plague crawlers, and heavy weapons teams, all of which placed in the top 16, and others like the stream-highlighted razorback spam lists, which didn’t.

    • Avatar
      black mage April 11, 2018 2:21 pm #

      read my reply above, play just the old 5th edition FOC and no more savage spam, is simply impossible. But when u got gold is hard get back to silver 🙂

  15. Avatar
    happy_inquisitor April 11, 2018 2:35 pm #

    Other than the slight miss on HQ spam (Flyrant spam has been big across the pond for a while due to not playing ITC missions & terrain rules) that article is spot on.

    The thing is that while we can all come up with our dream way to fix the original problem the people who actually had to do it chose this. Such is life. We can only make the best of it which we can and get on with playing the game. For 99% of players who are not attending loads of tournaments every year and seriously contending for the top spots the Tau codex is just fine – and only a few copycats from outside that 99% felt the need to take lots of Commanders in index Tau anyway.

    Realistically it may or may not affect the 1% of Tau players who are serious tournament players. It surely does affect some of the copy-cats but I think we all know that taking those sorts of lists to your FLGS for a random pick-up game was pretty poor form anyway. For everyone else it probably helps – if you were not spamming commanders then making them better (hello new Coldstar) for the same cost while stopping you spam them is all positive. Maybe that is why GW went this route, we will never really know but it does appear to have that affect.

    So if you are a top tournament player this might hurt – but I have not seen any top tournament players actually say so yet.

    If you are the sort of person who thinks it appropriate to take the dirtiest spam list to your FLGS for pick-up games then maybe it hurts you. Sadly I suspect all the loud vocal complaints are really coming from this group – losing out on their ability to go seal-clubbing little Timmy while pretending that its OK because they are “practicing for a tournament”.

    For anyone else its seems like a non-issue. If you are a mid-table player in the one or two tournaments you attend per year its not exactly life-changing. Other than FSE players who really have almost no HQ choices now which does seem very poor – give named commanders a free pass and I think that issue would be fixed.

  16. Avatar
    WestRider April 11, 2018 3:10 pm #

    I find it kind of amusing how many commenters managed to completely miss the point of the article. Especially since the article itself was right on point. 0-1 limits are a lazy approach to “balance” that do nothing to address the underlying issues.

    I’d also note that there is a strong commonality between the Tau Commanders and the other HQs that have been called out as spammable since the post was drafted: Durability, Speed, Fly, and good firepower. Even more so, I’d note that that HQs that hit most, but not all, of these points are not getting spammed, or if they are, aren’t becoming a problem. I haven’t heard anyone complaining about lists with multiple Biker or Jump Captains, or ThunderLords. I suspect that GW is basing their pricing for these Units by comparison with what came out as reasonable pricing for Units that lacked some of these capabilities. Two Units with very similar statlines can have very different values with just one or two added capabilities, and the Fly and Character keywords are two of the strongest.

  17. Avatar
    Bedmond Loans April 11, 2018 3:21 pm #

    Actually I think the problem is a lack of resources. I suspect the GW balance team didn’t really get enough time to fix the problem but were aware that it was a problem.

    The quickest ‘clearly balanced’ way to address commander spam was a quick and easy fix. There were certainly better and more elegant ways to do it. Reprice them or change their role. But that requires time and playtesting resources that they may not have had in this rapid release schedule.

    If you read any comments from ex- GW balance team people, a lack of time and resources is what they complain about. Seems that little has changed with the tau command ‘nerf’.

  18. Avatar
    AnonAmbientLight April 11, 2018 4:35 pm #

    Commanders are a rock and a hard place situation to be sure. Point cost increases are not the only way to fix issues in the game, there are more knobs that can be turned in that regard. Take Stormraven spam, for example.

    Players spammed them because they had decent survivability, great mobility, and great offensive capabilities. GW could have increased the price on that particular unit, which could have probably killed that type of list, but it would have also inadvertently limited its other roles as transport and gunship for other armies too.

    So the choice for them there was to change how the game works outside of point changes themselves. The solution, IIRC, was making it so that units that were flyers did not count as “troops on the field” and also could not capture or hold objectives. Killed the list over night.

    Another thing to keep in perspective is that 8th edition is literally a new game all together. There’s nothing else to compare it to because the other iterations of the game just simply do not match up. This means that balance issues and other problems with the game may not be worked out just yet.

    “Why haven’t they figured it out in testing though!” you might say. Again, keep in mind that a dozen pairs of eyes is nothing compared to thousands of people that play the game, or a tournament of players looking to maximize the effectiveness of a particular army. There’s just no way that any developer of any product could ever work out all the kinks before shipping it. Often times they have to release the product with the expectation that they have to fix it as problems occur.

    If I had to guess, and this is conjecture, the Commander limitation is very likely a “knob” that GW has been wanting to test for awhile now. Not specifically FOR T’au, just in general. Like many people have said, there are some armies that spam certain units too, and they may need such a rule restriction.

    “But this is unimaginative!” Maybe. The solution is not always point increases / decreases because that effects other things as well. A lot of the signature systems and stratagems require a commander. Increasing the cost of the Commander is, in a way, a tax to be able to access those other options, wouldn’t you agree?

    The thing that has me bothered is most players agree that Commander spam is not good or fun. The Commander limit basically fixes that issue and it’s relatively easy to achieve a three commander limit. Two to three Commanders is about what you would be taking and even in 6th and 7th edition you rarely took more than three. So, why continue to worry about HOW they got to that result?

    It might also be worth it to let the game play out with the commander limit and see how it affects gameplay. The thing that GW will never have enough of when testing things is data. Putting a change out into the wider player base (tournaments for example) allows for more points of data to be gathered. If the information shows that this change was not useful or effective, it will be addressed at a future date.

    In the meantime, the army is very much in a playable state. If you feel like there’s something missing, gather the data, present an argument, and send it off to GW.

  19. Avatar
    Wigglefish April 11, 2018 5:56 pm #

    I think one of the bigger issues with the Tau commanders that I haven’t seen mentioned is the way they gain more from the protection granted by the character rule than (almost?) any other character unit in the game.

    Because they are actually a good shooting unit, and Tau have a variety of cheap screening units, it wasn’t just their low cost that was making them so good, it was their ability to preform at full capacity without being exposed to any danger. This, more than anything else about them, is what i would consider to be un-fun to play against.

    At least one of the main reasons you don’t see Marine Commanders spammed is that in order to actually kill things, they have to expose themselves to some damage. If they could throw those thunder hammers 18″, then you might see it.

    Similarly, it seems to me that the reason hive tyrants are so good is that they are something like the best unit in the game when it comes to doing everything fairly well. They shoot well, fight well, have smite and other powers, and are very durable. Their main weakness is that you can ignore their character rule and shoot them, but this is avoided by having them deep-strike in where you need them so they use powers, shoot at, and charge exactly what you want them to. And they are so good at everything they do, that it is foolish not to take a lot of them.

    Because of these strengths, I am not certain there is an easy points cost fix that would magically make either good enough to still want to use, but not so good you want 6+ of them. It isn’t really their points cost that makes. For tyrants, either limiting them or taking away the deep-strike ability (so they are more like Demon Princes and have to at least run/fly up to you) seems like the main options to fixing them. For Tau suits, I definitely think they should balance points and buff other things, but the cap of 3 seems okay to me.

  20. Avatar
    Shas'O f3n1x April 11, 2018 10:38 pm #

    I respectfully disagree with your approach that the commander is undercosted for what it brings and does, and its the reason it is spamable.

    The are many reasons Generic commanders (otherwise Shadowsun and Farsight would be seen more often) were spammed and if I have to resume it is that the rest of the army is garbage for their cost and what they do.

    They are not as crap as many units were in the index and do not need annoying amounts of gymnastics trying to coordinate markerlights, CP and stratagems to bring the army to a usable level.

    Add to this that the character targetting dynamic is busted and needs redoing.

    Even with the point changes in the codex, the army is the same as the one in the index with more nerfs to ML (I can’t believe they made ML worse just switching levels 4 and 5, freaking impressive), One less mortal wound option by changing seeker missiles (seriosly we already had incredibly limited options for this)

    There were not that many point reductions, manly Broadsides and Riptides which were massively overcosted and were DEFINITELY NOT SELLING (Come on this is the real reason they got a point fix, GW is a business to sell pretty plastic) and they barely justify their cost and you are forever married to bring copious amounts of CP and Markerlights. See what any dreadnought does and cost vs what the broadside does.

    Riptides got a point fix and one of its weapon profile is just good and now you will see them far more often, which will most definitely translate back into hating Tau because riptides are sort of back, they are still expensive and still depend on the ML/CP tax to function and in my opinion not worth 280 points for a platform that is T7 so any melta can wound it with 3+ and shoots at 4+ and still taxed with the target lock.

    All other units in the army barely got changes, mostly only weapon costs, hell longstrike got a point increase on the default setup due to gun drones being more expensive. The changes were limited on weapon profiles, of all units only 1 got a change in their profile chart, Krootox getting 1 more wound and.that’!

    That is not balancing, that stuff could’ve been done in the freaking chapter approved book.

    Some Sept tenets and stratagems are nerfed versions of what other armies have at the same cost, e.g. Sa’cea Tenet (Repeat hit Failed hit rolls) vs Salamanders Chapter Tactic which includes Wound Rolls and Da’lyth vs Raven Guard.

    If a Tau player runs out of CP they are back to the index with some very limited buffs.

    All of this is why commanders are STILL the unit of choice, again they have independence by being able to shoot at 2+ and have the mobility, the only ones that have either in the whole army, add to this the character targeting which needs rework and stat! and you have a pretty obvious choice.

    There is A LOT of spam on any army and GW needs to address it, just with Tau it casually happens to be an HQ choice which is not unique (Tyranids and custodes).

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy April 12, 2018 7:54 am #

      >The are many reasons Generic commanders (otherwise Shadowsun and Farsight would be seen more often) were spammed and if I have to resume it is that the rest of the army is garbage for their cost and what they do.

      You might want to read the article again, because that is literally the first major point I make and I spend three full paragraphs talking about it.

      • Avatar
        Shas'o f3n1x April 12, 2018 9:38 am #

        I did read the article before posting my reply.

  21. Avatar
    Sneggy April 12, 2018 1:05 am #

    I personally like the fix and hope its applied to more of the ‘big’ HQ’s.
    Shield captains on bikes, flyrants, daemon princes, grand masters in dreadknights.

    I also think a decent solution to this problem would be to simply remove the supreme command detachment from matched play. Then at least people are having to pay a detachment tax to take the crazy character spam which will discourage a few.

  22. Avatar
    JOSHBOB1985 April 12, 2018 4:23 am #

    I may be stating the obvious here but there is a significant difference between Tau Commanders and any other character in the game that I’m aware of, and it’s the reason they may require special treatment:

    They are shooty characters.

    Characters can be expected to deal more damage per point than units which perform a similar role, but for almost everyone else that role is in close combat- where the character rule does not offer protection. For other characters to do what they are designed to do they have to expose themselves (hehe).

    The only other examples like this I can think of are sniper characters of which only the Vindicare can be spammed.

    I imagine this difference will always make them hard to balance and the solution, as others have said, would be to change their role to one of support rather than pure damage output.

  23. Avatar
    Cheesey B April 12, 2018 9:43 am #

    I’m a fan of the fix! 😀

  24. Avatar
    IW Raptor April 12, 2018 12:43 pm #

    “And while the Tau codex certainly did improve many of the other options in the book, it didn’t change the price of the Commander any- and indeed, the XV85 Commander itself is now largely invalidated by the existence of the XV86 Coldstar Commander, which for a token increase in price is vastly more maneuverable.”

    Hi great article and I agree with much of it! Just on this point I’d counter that the cyclic ion blaster gives the standard commanders a role I think. That weapon was already good and received a buff in the codex. The Coldstar for presumably balance reasons can’t take it.

  25. Avatar
    AngryPanda April 12, 2018 11:49 pm #

    , I don’t have the time to put this out in enough detail but Id like to quote one of my favorite writers of tacticas etc. Who said the wise words “Cruddace is a hack”. Goes be the name of Abusepuppy, you may have heard of him. Anyway, the point is, these are still the same people who produced 7the Edition. Who wrote that Nid codex. Which thought “hey you know who needs the most powerfull item in the game?

  26. Avatar
    AngryPanda April 12, 2018 11:51 pm #

    Just because the now do the bare minimum to keep the game functional after almost sinking there second flagship game in a row doesn’t mean they suddenly aquired a skillset they obviously didn’t have before. Im honestly not sure the basic understanding of game design necessary to see this point is even there.

  27. Avatar
    NinetyNineNo April 14, 2018 12:03 pm #

    “So let’s be clear here: you certainly can bring almost any other HQ in the game in large, even absurd, numbers. But you don’t see anyone doing that, do you? That’s because the Tau Commander was different from those other models in a variety of relevant ways and thus needed to be treated differently. If you had seen people bringing 8+ Captains to tournaments, you can damn well bet that GW would be instituting a rule or change that limits that, but that wasn’t an issue the game was happening, so it wasn’t something that Games Workshop needed to deal with.”

    The problem with this, I think, is that it draws a supposedly-objective line between “this generic HQ is too powerful and needs to have a special ruling limiting them and these others aren’t”. Nobody is spamming Marine captains, but what about Hive Tyrants? Custodes biker captains? Daemon Prince?

    I’m not trying to come across as a butthurt Tau player here, I wholeheartedly agree with almost all of this article. But my problem with this bit in particular is that the Commander limit is drawing a hard qualitative differentiator between Commanders and not just other generic HQs, but *every unit in the game*. Nothing else (except for FW Relic units and DE Beasts, I guess?) is hard capped this way. It’s saying “this unit is overpowered and instead of balancing it, we’re preventing you from taking more of them”, and what’s more, it’s saying *nothing else is*. It being far and away the most competitive Tau option is secondary.

    This might change if the (eventual) FAQ fits some of the rumors floating around, but as of right now, it’s not only an awful balancing decision, but kind of a slap in the face to Tau players.

Leave a Reply to Huskywarhammer