Perhaps It’s Time to Shut Down the Soup Line

PT here, with another reason to be mad in the comments!

The concept of Allies in Warhammer 40k isn’t exactly a new implementation. Introduced in ye olde dayes of 6th Edition, the advent of the Alliance system has brought a lot of controversy. On one hand it’s a kind of cool way to play narrative games by bringing in elements of friendly factions to augment one’s list (not to mention an excellent marketing strategy by which GW can sell out-of-faction models to consumers who might not otherwise buy them); on the other hand it’s a disruptive piece of crap that screws up competitive play because it’s never been dialed back or balanced.

While I understand the intuitive marketing strategy behind the introduction and promulgation of Allies in Warhammer 40k and agree that it can create imaginative narrative fun, it’s time to bring the dog to heel. I didn’t play 6th Edition, so I can’t speak to that, but 7th Edition was a nightmare in this regard, and in some ways, 8th is even worse. This is primarily due to GW’s seeming unwillingness to develop a balance for it as a game mechanic.

The simple problem with Allies – or “Soup” armies, if you will – is that the concept isn’t even remotely balanced, mechanically speaking. Some factions get Allies and some don’t, which creates an inequity in game balance and fairness. And while life isn’t always fair, the rules of a game that we all pay lots and lots of our hard-earned money to play should be. Can you imagine the outrage in the Magic: The Gathering community if only White and Blue decks could take out-of-color cards and everyone else was forced to play with mono-color decks? And it would be justified, because there is no good reason to create arbitrary rules that specifically target some players with a distinct disadvantage. Especially, if the only real gains are a few more dollars for the manufacturer.

Arguably, some factions have no narrative reason to ally themselves with other factions, but competitive 40k isn’t exactly about telling a story. Typically, we get a 2.5 hour window of time to play an often intensely competitive game against another random person at an event. Often enough, we won’t even get to finish our game, much less divert our valuable brainpower to the deliberate chore of cooperative storytelling. Again, this is a fine and interesting thing to do among friends engaging in casual play, but for the sake of competition, it tends to simply become disruptive and unfair to the folks playing factions with no Allies.

The gathered, if outdated, data on the subject (the disparity is actually larger now that more Soup codices have dropped) illustrates the statistical advantage of playing a Soup army. Simply put, you have more options available for list building by choosing a faction with sister factions. The math just works out in your favor. Hypothetically, let’s say that 30% of the units in any given codex/index is top meta for that faction. For the non-Soup player, that yields about 15 units; however, for the <Chaos> keyword, we’re looking at 34 units, <Aeldari> has 30, and <Imperium> yields a whopping 97 units. The disparity is pretty clear. It’s hard to argue that having less strategical/tactical options is equal to or better than having more.

Now, I’m not claiming to have a rock-solid solution to this issue. I think there are many creative ways that GW could handle this. They’ve recently shown us some very imaginative and elegant solutions to mechanical problems within the game system, so I have faith that they could do something if they wanted to.

Dear 8 pound, 6 ounce, newborn baby Jesus…

An easy solution would be to go the Age of Sigmar route, which allows faction Allies, but places a limitation on how many out-of-faction units can be brought to a game. For those who don’t play AoS, it’s 20% of your total list value, which comes out to 400 points worth of allies in a 2000 point game. And it works, from what I can understand (I’m admittedly fairly new to AoS). It’s fluffy insofar as it allows your faction to bring in narratively logical allies, it’s sensible in that it allows you to bridge a gap over some of your chosen faction’s weak points, but most importantly it’s not game-breaking since you’re only allowed around 1-3 units from another faction.

Such a solution would rely on another AoS mechanic: Grand Alliances. This would call for all of the factions to fall under the umbrella of a larger alliance. Narratively, I don’t like this but story narrative typically takes a backseat at most tournaments, anyway. I guess it’s a matter of what’s more or less annoying: certain factions having access to hundreds more units than everyone else, or Genestealer cults teaming up with a Necron dynasty to give some Dark Angels a reason to be angsty. And I guess there’s not an easy answer, there.

This much space crying has to be heresy, right?

Another alternative is to simply balance the game around Soup armies. This would essentially involve taking the fact that some “factions” are just going to have access to more units into account and buffing everyone else’s unit’s accordingly. In such a scenario, the <Imperium> strength would lie in its vast stable of units and the inherent tactical and strategical advantage of having more options, while Necrons would be able to draw more strength from the 50 or so units they have in their single codex. To be fair, this could actually be what we’re seeing develop in the game as the new codices are slowly being released, though it’s entirely too early to make a call like that.

GW could also incentivize playing pure factions by throwing out some bonuses to detachments that don’t mix factions. Nothing silly or intrinsically time-consuming like giving a bunch of free points (thereby effectively increasing the size of a list and the game beyond 2000 points) like the old Space Marine Battle Companies. Lots of tactically interesting game mechanics could be implemented this way, which would also steer the typical game fix away from simply being a points increase on the current units upsetting our community’s angry mob.

Literally, the last place game developers should be harvesting actionable data.

While I don’t have all the answers, I do think something should be done to curb the advantages of Soup lists, or at least dissuade players from using them. Certain factions having hundreds of more unit options than others without access to Allies is a striking disparity that I’m actually a little surprised made it into the published version of the game. Outside of a marketing advantage, I’m not really sure what building such a mechanic into the game brings to the table. Narrative fun, perhaps, but even the current core rules make a distinction between narrative games and matched play as GW moves back into the role of a “gaming company” and is actively pursuing the path of community support and interaction. So, why are we sacrificing game balance in matched play for the sake of narrative fun and marginally higher model sales? It seems like the wrong trade to make if the whole point of matched play is to create a fair and balanced atmosphere for competitive Warhammer 40k.


As always, thanks for reading and responding. The comments and discussions have been mostly excellent. If you have any ideas, or suggestions for topics, please post it in the comments section.



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55 Responses to “Perhaps It’s Time to Shut Down the Soup Line”

  1. Avatar
    rvd1ofakind April 15, 2018 9:28 am #

    I hate no-drawbacks allies and mixing so much. It’s by far the worst thing about this edition, IMO.

    1. MIX>MONO in tournaments. Non-mono faction lists outnumber mono faction lists 10 to 1 (at least) on top tables of major tournaments.

    2. VARIETY. Every faction has a set of units. About 20-60% of them are viable. Some might not be great, but if you don’t have any other deepstrike/psyker/artilery/whatever in your army – you have to take them to fill the gap. However with the unrestricted access to all the armies in your faction, the number of viable units shrinks even more. The sub-par units that would be taken to fill a role are just replaced by optimal units from other factions, which leads to a lot less variety. Especially relevant to screens.

    3. CP FARM. You take a CP hungry army. It’s really great with some CP. Then you take a cheap brigade/2 batallions of another army, you take warlords that give CP/restore CP. Suddenly the main faction becomes so much stronger, it eclipses the same mono-faction by a ton.

    Lack screens? Tough crap.
    No psykers? So sad.
    Bad long range shooting? Sucks to be you.
    Is the solution to this just to me them overpowered/overtooled to compensate for their lack of allies (making the mono-factions even worse by comparison?). It is the easy solution. But it is not the solution that’s healthy for the game.

    5. Auras, Stratagems and buffs being more effective on other factions than your own. Yeah. Is that not the weirdest thing ever? Nurgle Daemons have a tree/epidemius. +2 to cover save/get buffs on kills. You know what that’s best on? Death Guard(get bonuses by shooting turn 1, not bad “meh” melee damage when you get there) and CSM(0+ oblits).

    • PT Taylor
      PT Taylor April 15, 2018 4:06 pm #

      Great points, couldn’t agree more.

    • Avatar
      Anon April 15, 2018 5:04 pm #

      That first one is a bit of an exaggeration and deliberately overlooks a broken mechanic(that would also invalidate your point 4.

      The truth is, at the moment, Chaos and Imperium aren’t really capable of competing against the top two Xenos armies without souping.

      Tyranids are pretty decisively the best army in the game, able to stomp any mono or soup list of any faction EXCEPT:

      Eldar. Eldar are the only other mono-faction contender for best army in the game and they also have absolutely devastating soup combos(and get much more out of their souping than imperial or chaos lists do due to Ynnari).

      • Avatar
        rvd1ofakind April 15, 2018 9:50 pm #

        Eldar are NOT mono-faction. It’s Ynarri and Eldar FFS. Why are people forgetting this?

        • Avatar
          rvd1ofakind April 15, 2018 9:52 pm #

          And tyranids can take GSC and Militarum too. Ally-less xenos are: necrons, tau, orks. Sure eldar and nids have less allies but that’s why they’ve been made just straight up too strong.

  2. Avatar
    Laurence April 15, 2018 9:39 am #

    I can almost hear Pablo getting triggered as he reads this…

    • Petey Pab
      Petey Pab April 15, 2018 9:19 pm #

      I take a lot of soup armies because I really love the Imperium faction. I don’t think reigning in soup armies is the answer so much as giving single codex factions more options. Why the hell haven’t the Tau been more developed? They have a bunch of Xenos races under their empire’s banner. What about Necrons? Who awaken fresh new robotic horrors with every woken tomb world?

      I think the biggest problem is GW spreads too much love to Chaos and Imperium, (which to be fair does make the most business sense).

      • PT Taylor
        PT Taylor April 15, 2018 10:23 pm #

        But that’s a chicken or egg situation. Last I heard something like 50% of players were playing some sort of Imperial faction. Is GW pumping more effort into that faction because of the higher rate of play, or is the higher rate of play due to the extra effort GW has always pumped into it? The world may never know. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  3. Avatar
    Spera April 15, 2018 10:08 am #

    Aliances in old style would be pure cancer. I already dread on thought of ynari and what it does to Eldars.
    Lets use what we do have in game and modify it a little bit. For example, if army is battle forged by or keyword, it doesn’t get free 3 cp. Furthermore, If whole army is battle forged by 2 keywords(you take full farsight army/ or only salamanders, or pure saimhan.) it gets 6 free cp. Now this is MONEY. It frees you from many restrictions since you need worry less about cp economy during list building. Now you may think “do i need guard battalion in my custodes list?”

    • Avatar
      Spera April 15, 2018 2:12 pm #

      It ate bit of my line here. I meant that if you are battle forged by emporium, chaos or aeldari keywords, you should not get 3 cp.

  4. Avatar
    bogalubov April 15, 2018 10:09 am #

    “Marginally higher model sales”. There is nothing else for GW. Tournament support by GW is not an end of itself, it’s additional advertisement to sell the product. Besides, the two biggest tournaments of 2018 have been won by xenos. Is this even really a problem?

    • Avatar
      rvd1ofakind April 15, 2018 10:12 am #

      Eldar was soup…
      And, at least, my problem isn’t imperium>xenos cuz soup. My problem is that imperium is strong so xenos have to be made even stronger. Which leaves mono-faction imperium armies being a joke

      • PT Taylor
        PT Taylor April 15, 2018 4:06 pm #

        I’m dreading having to take Soup units to compete with my Space Wolves when the new codex drops.

    • PT Taylor
      PT Taylor April 15, 2018 4:05 pm #

      1) You can’t justly hate on a company for serving its purpose, which is to create wealth, but ethically that should be tempered by that company also investing in the consumers’ best interests. Sadly, this hasn’t always been the case for GW, historically speaking.

      2) 5 of the top 8 at Adepticon and 6 of the top 8 at LVO were Soup lists, so maybe.

  5. Avatar
    Ujayim April 15, 2018 11:00 am #

    They could have simply made faction bonuses actually powerful and worth using.

    Unfortunately, so many abilities are bland and or useless, so it forced your hand to mix factions.

    Do I want to run blood angels or imperial guard with my Custodes?

    No, not even a little bit. Unfortunately, my basic troops cost 52pts and can only move 6″, and my only option for long range shooting is a 400+ point goddamn land raider. The army physically cannot function without it.

    Hell, even further, could I run Daemons? No, not really, because either TZAANGOR or CULTISTS are better options than anything Tzeentch could muster.

    GW wrote these rules. People play tested. GW either chose to ignore feedback, or accepted how these armies played out. Unfortunately, people will always gravitate towards the most powerful options they can in a competitive setting (which is obvious and encouraged) but those options need mixing, due to the drawback of their basic rules.

    • Avatar
      Ujayim April 15, 2018 11:06 am #

      And to add:

      The way CP works is backwards as hell. Elite armies should have MORE CP not LESS.

      Stratagems can fuel the disadvantage of less models than your opponent, but instead you’re starved for a resource they’re drowning in, in a world where anything in the game can wound anything in your small army.

  6. Avatar
    black mage April 15, 2018 12:15 pm #

    simple solution…. play single codex, no alliances problem solved…but when u get sweet marmelade with alliances is hard get back to simple untasty water and play mono codex

  7. Avatar
    Salty Dog April 15, 2018 12:57 pm #

    6th edition? I know us old timers have bad memories, but I swear Allies was in 2nd formally and RT at least informally.

    • PT Taylor
      PT Taylor April 15, 2018 3:51 pm #

      That’s what the internet told me. There were no Allies at the beginning of 3rd, when I started playing. I dipped out for 5th and 6th and it was a thing for 7th.

    • Avatar
      Marius Xerxes April 16, 2018 3:08 am #

      There were allies in 2nd edition. It was done like WHFB was at the time. A list was given in each codex of which other books that faction could ally with.

      Then up to a certain percentage (25% iirc) of your total points could be invested into said allies if you wanted.

  8. Avatar
    Rob Butcher April 15, 2018 1:05 pm #

    As a long-time player, I prefer to play one Chapter or one Regiment competitively. I hate seeing different “factions” taken for assault and gun-line – are those extra -1s really worth it? You’re just ignoring the limitations of your “base” faction by taking units/detachments from a different faction to cover those deficiencies.

    Part of the solution is to make all units easily identifiable. At GW Warhammer World simply painting the bases in a different colour is not enough … they require different uniforms / shoulder pads etc. This is a lot more than ITC currently requires.

    I like the idea of the maximum non-base faction size of allies. AoS uses 20% which should be more than enough. It would though make the Genestealer Cult armies extinct.

  9. Avatar
    Jerry B April 15, 2018 1:41 pm #

    Sure, Soup armies are just cleaning up competitively. Never see Tyranids or Eldar winning anything. The new Necron and Dark Eldar codexs clearly can’t compete. The Assassin and Guard battalion spams just walks away with all the awards.

    • Avatar
      vybert April 15, 2018 3:33 pm #

      You do know that those powerful, winning Eldar lists tended to be soup armies (Ynnari)? Dark Eldar will spice up that soup even more.

      Nids brief time in the sun is working around leveraging the Flyrant with its cost advantage and versatility. It is pretty much accepted that is going away with the FAQ.

      Hyperbole is unbecoming.

    • PT Taylor
      PT Taylor April 15, 2018 5:56 pm #

      5 of the top 8 at Adepticon 2018 and 6 of the top 8 at LVO 2018 were Soup lists. Glad you agree!

  10. Avatar
    Dakkath April 15, 2018 1:52 pm #

    The problems come from not only taking detachments from multiple factions within the same soup list, but also detachments of different “chapter tactics” within the same list.

    • Avatar
      vybert April 15, 2018 3:34 pm #

      I agree that there is something to this point. Why am I running both Kraken and Kronos in my nid list. I do it to be competitive (without running flyrant spam), but it hurts my heart every time.

  11. Avatar
    vybert April 15, 2018 3:43 pm #

    While I agree with you in principle, I feel like you need to present some factual data to support your thesis that Soup armies are inherently OP and breaking the balance of competitive play. Otherwise, it gets dismissed as one guy’s anecdotal experience.

    I also like the concept of varied CPs for tighter faction, but do you have anything to support that doing that wouldn’t make balance even worse?

  12. Avatar
    Subclavian Steel April 15, 2018 4:02 pm #

    Make it so you only get the initial 3cp for being battleforged if you are playing a single codex. If you mix, then you only get the cp your detachments give you. It’s enough for it would nudge people toward single codex except for the truly broken combo’s.

    • PT Taylor
      PT Taylor April 15, 2018 4:08 pm #

      I kinda like that.

  13. Avatar
    Anon April 15, 2018 4:55 pm #

    For the record, very few Sigmar armies use allies. The way codexes are written means a 100pt unit from a battletome army is usually only worth about 60pts outside of that army. There are some exceptions like with mixed order and chaos lists as well as specific units like skinks and fyreslayers cheap troop guys, but most battletome armies end up being single faction.

    • Avatar
      KRQuinn April 15, 2018 6:37 pm #

      I completely agree, AoS armies and their Battalions function completely differently from 40k and there is little boost from Allies as you pointed out.

  14. Avatar
    Ty April 15, 2018 5:00 pm #

    This assumes factions are balanced against one another without allies. I think it’s very flawed thinking to make that assumption.

  15. Avatar
    Shas’O April 15, 2018 6:28 pm #

    I agree 100%
    Getting rid of soup would be by far the best thing for the game since 8th debuted.

  16. Avatar
    KRQuinn April 15, 2018 6:31 pm #

    I think the overall question is whether getting rid of ‘soup’ for all the eligible factions right now would help balance the game or make it even more imbalanced. I believe that both Chaos and the Imperium were designed with mixed factions in mind and removing that ability would cripple them. Eldar and their cousins maybe an exception, although they were obviously designed with
    it in mind also.

    I think you leave it alone, let the rest of the armies be released and if GW wants to tweak it a bit in the next Chapter Approved then fine. Personally, I think the force org and CPs associated with it are way bigger issues than Soup.

    • PT Taylor
      PT Taylor April 15, 2018 6:50 pm #

      That could very well be the case. What do you think are the biggest problems with CPs and force organisation?

      • Avatar
        KRQuinn April 15, 2018 9:06 pm #

        Well, on a basic level I think most of us will probably agree that the reason we take multiple Detachments is to spam effective units and/or generate additional CP. It can also be used to utilize additional stratagems or relics that effect other Detachments or provide a specific benefit..such as different hive fleets in a Tyranid force.
        So, let’s just stick to the CP issue for a minute.
        One of the obvious problems is that certain factions can fill a Detachment really cheaply, take AM for example, and that is definitely an incentive to run Soup. It’s not the only reason but definitely a big one. If you eliminate Soup for CP then you are really crippling armies (usually point expensive and elite) that need the CP to operate.
        So, how do you fix it? Do you tie CP to actual HQs and give HQ units a ‘CP Generation Stat’? Where a SM Chapter Master would generate more than a AM Company Commander? Might work and would be more accurate, but probably too complicated and easy to game. Do you just give each game point level a set CP (2K games are 9CP) and maybe a 1CP bonus for additional dets past the first one?..regardless of what it is.
        I don’t know the answer but think a lot of the perceived problems in the game are tied to the Force Org and the need for CP. I also think it’s pretty easy to change without rewriting rules or repointing everything in the game. I need smarter people than me to think about

  17. Avatar
    Jason Wolfe April 15, 2018 7:58 pm #

    This article is just gaslighting until it starts naming lists that it wants banned. I ask that this article is reposted next week with the top 8 at Adepticon and the top 8 at LVO in the article with lists identified that must be banned. Does the writer seriously propose eliminating Allies because they are Soup? All allies?

    • PT Taylor
      PT Taylor April 15, 2018 8:11 pm #

      I’d like to reply, but this comment is a little B-A-N-A-N-A-S. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      • Avatar
        Laurence April 15, 2018 10:32 pm #

        Because he’s asking you to evidence your claim? That really is bananas

        • PT Taylor
          PT Taylor April 15, 2018 10:35 pm #

          Because it’s all over the place and doesn’t make sense. The article contains lots of evidence for the points it actually makes. I’m not even sure what he’s talking about. Do you?

          The main thrust of his comment seems to deal with some sort of strawman argument about list banning. Then he seems to be demanding evidence to support his fallacious list banning argument. There looks to be some kind of confusion about Allies and soup lists at the end. And don’t forget the gaslighting comment, whatever he meant by that. Like seriously, this comment appears to be essentially nonsense wrapped in a strawman fallacy.

  18. Avatar
    cayesq April 15, 2018 8:49 pm #

    I haven’t quite understood the term “soup.” When I think of soup I think of all the ingredients being thrown together in the same bowl. With the exception of Ynnari, the other “soup” lists are really combinations of separate detachments (to keep the faction bonuses) linked together by a common keyword. Really, it’s a “pu pu platter” of armies and units made possible by the extremely forgiving detachment system. The problem might be improved by requiring troops units to be taken in any detachment – no more 0+ for Vanguard, Spearhead etc. At least then if you’re going with he pu pu platter approach you have to pay a tax and get the crappy appetizer nobody likes, like the carrot sticks as mandatory before you spam onion rings.

  19. Avatar
    Venrex April 15, 2018 9:14 pm #

    Having different detachments can really add som flavour to list like csm and deamons also without you would end up with more top list beeing the same. Its the soup detachments that really needs to go those are horrible.

  20. Petey Pab
    Petey Pab April 15, 2018 9:21 pm #

    I think this article’s points need to wait until after the FAQ to be made and solidified.

    • PT Taylor
      PT Taylor April 15, 2018 10:25 pm #

      Assuming it’s to be addressed at all. I assume nothing, especially since, historically, there’s more evidence to suggest it won’t be addressed at all. The Allies inequity between factions isn’t a new thing, anyway. The points have been made for a long time, now. The only thing that has changed is the edition, which just seems like more of the same in that regard.

      • Petey Pab
        Petey Pab April 16, 2018 10:30 am #

        FAQ’s out. What about now?

        • Avatar
          cayesq April 16, 2018 2:02 pm #

          I’m still a bit confused by the new FAQ — were there problematic lists that actually involved “soup” i.e., mixing units of different factions within the same detachment? I’m not being rhetorical, I’m genuinely not aware of any non-Ynnari “soup” that was crushing it. The problem to me has always been linking multiple detachments and that remains unchanged. No?

          • PT Taylor
            PT Taylor April 16, 2018 2:18 pm

            You’re exactly right. The FAQ was a nerf to some extent, but the underlying issue still exists. Progress though! 🙂

        • PT Taylor
          PT Taylor April 16, 2018 2:15 pm #

          All the points I made are still applicable. However, I’m glad GW stepped up to rein in some of the abuse. #progress

  21. Avatar
    Mirko April 16, 2018 12:12 am #

    I’ve got no problem with having alliance correlated to the Bg, I think I would hate to see necron-gs cult alliance on the table, even on tournament ones, but I agree that that’s not balance.
    What I think gw could do would be something in the line of:
    “If your only common word is imperium/chaos/aeldari, you get 1 bonus CP instead of the usual 3 that you get for a Battle forged army.”
    Maybe I’d put some exception like on inquisition and such, but I surely would prefer a “nobody allies” to a “everybody allies”
    At least that’s my 2 coins on the subject

  22. Avatar
    Xenos Player April 16, 2018 12:27 am #

    Maybe this is why the FAQ is taking so long. If they were just hitting Hive Tyrants with the commander nerf I wouldn’t have thought it would take this long. I like the AOS idea. I don’t like the idea of the mixed armies of hives or dynasties. I’m not a competitive player though, although I am going to the London Grand Tournament and imagine I’ll get a kicking in every game with my book competitive Tyranid list from one hive and no Hive Tyrants.

  23. Avatar
    Anggul April 16, 2018 2:08 am #

    I would at least make it so you have to have ‘pure’ detachments. That way you would have to invest in a lot more to include a new faction. So if you wanted to mix Ultramarines, Custodes, and Sororitas, you would have to take three selarate detachments of each.

    • PT Taylor
      PT Taylor April 16, 2018 2:14 am #

      Would definitely be a step in the right direction.

  24. Avatar
    Zool April 16, 2018 9:04 am #

    It seems the biggest problem is not the soup list but the term “competitive 40k”.
    U can play chess if u want a fair competitive game. Everyone has the same models and terrain in chess. U dont need to balance 1000+ units, 20+ races and factions, 200+ stratagems.

  25. Avatar
    WestRider April 16, 2018 11:36 am #

    Well, that was a quick turnaround. You asked, and GW delivered. Maybe not 100%, but they definitely just handed down some restrictions on Soup lists 😀

    • PT Taylor
      PT Taylor April 16, 2018 2:19 pm #

      Indeed it was! I should write these articles more often! 😛

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