Hello 40k fans, Captain Morgan from Forge the Narrative here. On the edge of the new 40k meta post-FAQ, I wanted to take a moment to bloviate a bit on something that I’ve been making the rounds discussing in several groups and chats. Namely, I have observed a trend in the last two FAQ’s since the launch of 8th edition. It is my opinion that GW is wanting us to soup our armies and that we are long past the days of single-codex viability. I also think that this is bad for the game in general, and have prepared a preponderance of pontification to please your peepers. While in a large sense I’m speaking from a matched-play perspective, the problems I am addressing have an impact on non-matched play games as well.
Ok, Mr. Smartypants. Why?
On paper, with a ruling like this, it would seem that the trend would be contrary to my assertion above. So, let’s break down some of the reasoning behind why the change was made. 8th edition, in its original form with the indexes at least, allowed players to mix detachments as long as they had one of the faction keywords in common (Imperium, Aeldari, Chaos, etc.). The term ‘soup’ as coined by my buddy Paul in editions past was how people would just slap whatever the best units that were available among factions together to make a super-optimized mega-detachment. We’re talking about seeing Celestine and Guilliman in the same detachment as some Imperial Guard. This created a game experience that was not fun for enough people that GW decided to reconsider, and focus the attention back on single-faction detachments (but not armies). Simply put, it was working too well, and it was killing the fun a bit too much. Thus the Big FAQ and the Battle Brothers ruling was born. I really shouldn’t have to do this, but I have to preface the rest of what may sound critical with a huge expression of appreciation for GW, the playtesters, and the new way they go about addressing concerns. Without these FAQ’s I couldn’t bloviate at all, and nobody doesn’t want that!
Even so, despite what Big FAQ 2 says about soup ‘still’ being off the menu, soup is definitely still on the menu and has been since 8th launched. Now you just have to serve the ingredients on the side instead of putting them in the same pot. In fact, one key difference to note between the Big FAQ 1 and Big FAQ 2 is that by the time the big FAQ 2 came out, most of the codexes in 40k have been released. In Big FAQ 1, we still had a relatively high proportion of index-only armies, which were certainly on the back foot when it came to rules and stratagems. The one exception being the Ynnari, who despite not having a codex (or perhaps by virtue of having two plus an index) remain an incredibly powerful enigma soup.
Soup: The Healthy Alternative to Your Index Army
The indexes were a stop gap; something to hold us over until our codexes were out. Having the ability to mix in a little flavor to make up for a deficiency in rules sounded like a great option. After all, didn’t GW promise us that we would be able to play how we wanted and still be viable, and all we needed to do was wait for our codexes to come out? It certainly seemed to be working after a fashion, since the addition of army bonuses like Chapter Tactics and the plethora of stratagems that codex-released armies got was making a huge difference on the tabletop. That success led to subsequent nerfs of characters like Roboute Guilliman and units like Dark Reapers. It wasn’t what these faction could do on their own that was causing the problem, however. The problem was the result of how the growing number of armies with multi-codex rules were fusing to stomp the mono-faction lists.
Battle brothers may have limited soup a tad, but it didn’t solve the key issue: Soup is always doing better than mono-faction. Mono-faction became the new ‘hard way’ to play (again) despite our hopes from the 8th edition pre-release promises. Even mono-faction armies with a codex were still struggling against soup-style armies. Ynnari is a big example of an army that despite several changes has remained a powerhouse on the table with an extremely high win rate. Seen any pure Ynnari lists around? Guard had/have an excellent codex, but even mono-guard are not making the cut at the top tables at tournaments and major events. Instead, guard are now the ‘loyal 32’ models that unlock command points and provide board control for the nice, easy price of 200 or so points. That’s from a good book! All we are seeing from a strong codex at events is the same 32 dudes mixed in a soup rocking up the rankings with a loyal, dejected mono-faction milieu dinking around the middle and bottom tables? Does that feel right? Unless you are an Adeptus Custodes player (a book designed with multi-faction tricks in mind, and more proof that GW wants us to soup more than it doesn’t), the answer should be ‘no.’
I think its time that we really look at the situation. If GW wanted us to do well with mono-faction lists, then we would be discouraged from bringing multi-detachment armies consisting of up to three factions. We would have Codexes that could function relatively evenly with each other instead of the giant imbalances we have between books like Grey Knights and Dark Eldar. We have to decide if we are on board with this or not. I feel confident in saying that GW wants us to soup, and I think we need to be honest about what accepting that means for the game. Before we do that, let’s pick some low hanging fruit so I don’t have to waste time with it in the comments:
1. GW is out to make money (like all of us) and having people buy stuff from different armies is good for business.
2. Codex Creep and imbalanced armies have always been a thing in the game.
3. GW have addressed soup in some ways, GW 2.0 is much better about feedback etc.
4. People playing non-matched play can, have, and will continue to do whatever they want and make up whatever to balance it in their own garages.
There, we addressed that. Let’s move on.
Soup Is Bad for Armies With Allies
If, in a large multi-faction ‘race’ in a game system like 40k with an incredibly diverse arrangement of unit options like the Imperium, your Blood Angels/Imperial Knights/Ultramarines/Dark Angels/Space Wolves army list building starts with 200 or so points of Imperial Guard – just so you feel like you have the bare minimum of tools (i.e. board control, command points, screens) – then there’s something wrong with the game and your codex. If 200 points of guard does more than 200 points of Scouts, then we need to re-evaluate its place in the game and its points value. It’s not just what the units do, but what they unlock – an entire faction’s worth of relics and stratagems to dice together. The iconic and unique units we like and love about a faction shouldn’t be sitting on a shelf or in a box (looking at you Baal Predators, GK terminators, Chaos Astartes, crisis suits, and Tyranid Warriors).
They don’t have to be the best, and they don’t have to be all equivalent and perfect (perfect is a journey not a destination), but they should at least matter. In an era of soup, they don’t matter. Worse, you as a player feel less like you are playing your army when you start your list with another armies’ units just to feel like you can keep up. How profitable can it really be when people are discouraged from buying products that you put money into developing? How worth it developing strong rules for an entire army like Astra Militarum when people are only using three unit profiles and 32 models from that army? It’s not creative, its not cool, and its not fun to have a cursory inclusion that your army can’t function without.
Soup Is Worse For Armies Without Allies
The armies doing the worst right now are mono-faction armies without the option to ally. We have pretty much relegated armies like Tau, Orks, and Necrons to the middle and lower tables because they can’t keep up with soup armies. The sad part (especially in the case of Orks) is that these players are incredibly passionate about their armies. These books, lacking soup, need to at least have access to adequate tools to keep up, which means a meaningful boost in power to their respective books (Orks are still up in the air with their impending release, but I have high hopes). If we are going to do that for them, then we need to do that for everyone. Like acupuncture, just because codex creep has been around for a long time doesn’t mean that it has value beyond a placebo.
One Thing Affects Another
While GW is paying attention to us at tournaments (and I think that is wonderful), the damages from soup affect non-competitive players as well. Non-competitive gamers are a major target audience for event organizers, since despite GW’s attention to the competitive crowd, we are still only a small margin of all the hobbyists around. The non-competitive crowd are the people who will benefit and detriment probably the most out of all of us from imbalances in book strength, and they make up a good portion of what we (too often dismissively) consider the ‘middle tables.’ If you are an event organizer or a T.O., then you should care about these people. They, not the high-stake competitive crowds, are the people who are filling the most tables and buying the tickets and goodies. They represent the majority untapped market for potential attendance and traffic at events, and the more they feel like they can even just start a game on a relatively even level, the more they will show up. I’m not just talking tournaments, but narrative events and ‘Friendly’ events will sell more tickets, we will get more foot traffic, and we will have more friends to game with at our local stores.
Never Point Out a Problem Without Offering Ideas for Solutions
If you asked yourself earlier, “Hey, doesn’t boosting all armies make all soups even better?” then you should have, but are OK because I just made you ask that by reading it to yourself just now. You’re welcome. Yes, this creates a problem, but not a problem impossible to solve. We’ve seen GW target specific and broad problems in their FAQs. Let me just say that banning soup is not the answer. We’ve have allies for three editions now, and there are some very valid hobby and lore-friendly reasons to keep the idea of multi-faction lists in the game.
I don’t think that the narrative and competitive have to be (or should be) separated even at the competitive level. Soup is one of those things that can be allowed to exist, but it should be limited in scope to make it useful instead of the only obvious choice for staying relevant on the table. Doing things like making players choose a main faction, make it consist of a large portion of the army’s points, and only giving them access to stratagems/warlord traits/relics from that faction and/or reducing command point generation in the pre-game for detachments not of that faction can still allow soup armies to have relevancy without making the fusion of their codexes too much to handle. This, combined with better starting balances between codexes, leads to greater list diversity, which leads to more creative ideas and positive game experiences.
Sometimes the best way to discourage something is to encourage another thing. People like to compete at different things. Some people want to win the big prize, and will play whatever to get there. Some people (like myself) like to remain true to their army and still win. One thing that has caused contention among player groups since allies became a thing is how soup armies win ‘Best in Faction’ awards. Encourage players who want to play pure armies to come to events by rewarding them with best in faction awards instead of soup armies.
Are you really playing the faction better when you are using it as little as possible? Reward soup players for best Imperial Soup or best Aeldari soup as applicable, but show respect to players who are committed to their armies by judging them by the standard of their own real faction, not the mix of a bunch of others.
Yes, I Talk Too Much
If you made it this far, then you’re a champion! Congratulations! I know that was an eyeful. There’s even more that I want to say and get into, but I’m going to cut if off now. I am genuinely interested in what you all think about this. I want to end with this thought: In every show, for every codex that I review with Paul and the FTN crew, the first and most important question we want to know is if the book will function well as a stand-alone codex. It’s also one of the top questions we get from fans and listeners, and its not just us. I hear it from everyone on pretty much every 40k podcast or broadcast I listen to, including in questions directed to great players like Nick Nanavati on “which is the best mono-faction book out there?” This is a question constantly hanging on the community’s lips, so lets hash it out.
Decide if you like soup and how you want it to be a part of the game. Think about how it affects all players and factions, and then RESPECTFULLY make yourself heard by submitting feedback to Games Workshop. In the meantime, before then, I challenge you to pull the issue apart and figure out the goods, bads, and uglies here among people in this forum.
Cheers, and thanks for reading!
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