GW Grognard: The Ghosts of OP Past

Hey everyone! Adam, from TFG Radio, here to drop some old knowledge to you young’ins!

It has been a couple of exciting weeks. Between the supplemental codex releases, the dominance of an army that has never really had it’s own book before, let alone actually played as an army outside of 30K, and a double helping of FAQ to keeps the chattering home-fires burning. I’m glad all those people that “retired” from 40K until Games Workshop “fixed” the game are now coming back. They were sorely missed the the hours between the first real results of a weekend’s worth of tournaments and the FAQ. I don’t know how we could have continued without all the people that quit the game for a whole five minutes. Be that as it may, there have been times in the past when we had similar things happen.  In our latest podcast episode we discussed a few of these instances and, because I am feeling a bit nostalgic, I will discuss a few of them here.

In the early days of 3rd edition Blood Angels were terrifying. Not because of their sparkly hair or nipple armor, but because they could reliably get a first turn charge, which was almost unheard of. With the overcharged engines of their rhinos, they could move twice, essentially, and then their guys could get out of the vehicle and charge your line. Heaven forbid if the unit is Death Company. There was even a mechanic to increase the size of your Death Company right before the battle began. There were many a time I preferred to face charging Khorne Berzerkers, that the fury of blood rages Death Company. If you played the army, or against it, you know the terror and I, for one, do not mourn its passing.

Although I consider this codex to be Games Workshop’s most balance and fair codex ever made, the 3.5 Chaos Codex will always be loved, and loathed. This is the standard by which all other Chaos Codexes are measured. This small 80 page book gave chaos players all they needed and wanted in having 9 unique legions and renegades. They gave us such gems as the Dread Axe that didn’t allow invulnerable saves. When combined with a Daemon Prince, this relic didn’t give you any saves at all. Who remembers minor psychic powers? With such gems as the Slaanesh power “Siren”, you were literally unstoppable, as this power cause that psyker to be immune from shooting or being assaulted.  Makes Invisibility seem like a minor inconvenience. Even the summoning rules were good as the units being summoned landed in a random direction, using the directional die, and then could still charge. This was back when units normally couldn’t charge after they had arrived from deep strike. See? Nothing but balance. I really don’t see how anyone could think this codex was overpowered.

Remember when Eldar were good? Of course you do because they were never really bad. In 3rd edition the Eldar were strong but the Starcannon was king. Both cheap and able to be fielded on almost anything in the Eldar army, it was odd to find an Eldar army with fewer that 10-12 minimum. They were very anti-marine and could easily clear squads of marines at a time. If you were playing against Eldar you were in for a world of starcannon hurt. Don’t even get me started about Wraithlords. Thats right I said wraithlords. They used to actually be a thing. They used to strike the same fear and loathing that Wraithknights had in 7th edition. When you combined starcannons with the wraithlords, you had an uphill battle before the game even started.

These are just some of the examples of units and armies that were a little over the top, at the time. And in time they were overshadowed, either by other armies or simply by changes in their codex. The common theme among all this was the fact that Game Workshop did not take any measures to adjust these until , literally, years later. We were stuck with  these types of lists for a while. Luckily today’s Games Workshop is a bit more responsive and willing to work with the community. Hopefully they can continue this for the far future as I don’t really want to go back to the days of yore. Unless I get something similar to the Chaos 3,5 Codex 😉

That’s all for this week, I hope you enjoyed the read. Let me know your thoughts, and what OP combos you remember from the past, in the comments section. Don’t forget to visit our Facebook, Twitch, and Patreon pages to stay up to date on what we’re up to and when episodes drop!

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







About Adam

Adam, aka Latin Gandalf, has been gaming since the early eighties and has played 40K since Rogue Trader (among a number of other games). He listens to more podcasts than any healthy person should and is currently the host for TFG Radio. He also is judges for LVO and head judges other major 40K Grand Tournaments.

25 Responses to “GW Grognard: The Ghosts of OP Past”

  1. Kitani October 19, 2019 3:55 am #

    Kinda mixed signals article. First you mock IH complainers, than tell about how awful similar situations were in the past. So which is it?
    Also, another legend of the past I heard about was Tau “Fish of Fury”. Since I joined late 6th and read only latest 3 Tau codices, it’s very curious for me how a thing like that worked and was so powerful that Tau players remembered it through the times of Riptide wings

    • Dakkath October 19, 2019 5:52 am #

      copied from
      “The general gist is that a player would park 2 Devilfish close together in a chevron formation, have the troops disembark, and fire from a basically assault-proof bunker caused by the pair of Devilfish. Units couldn’t charge around the ‘Fish (because they were too big and due to the rules on assaults), and while they could assault the ‘Fish itself, Skimmer rules only let you hit on 6’s, so it was likely to be a futile gesture.”

    • WestRider October 19, 2019 4:57 pm #

      Fish of Fury wasn’t killed by Codex changes, but by Core Rules changes. Skimmers used to be all but untouchable in CC, but you could draw LoS underneath them.

      • abusepuppy October 21, 2019 10:49 pm #

        Also it was never a particularly good strategy to begin with.

  2. WestRider October 19, 2019 5:02 pm #

    2nd Ed had a couple of monsters as well. I never actually ran into the SW “Single unit of Terminator Wolf Guard plus Terminator Characters” that could wait until the bottom of the last Turn to drop in and wreck a couple of things, giving up 0 VP regardless of how things went, and even being fairly strong if they were forced to go first.

    I did run into Pulsa Rokkit spam a couple of times, tho. There was a lot of randomness involved, but they were cheap enough that it ended up being pretty reliable, and pretty much nothing in the area of effect could take any actions whatsoever. Very rare to get more than a single Turn to do anything against that list.

  3. Rob Butcher October 20, 2019 12:27 am #

    already in “Dark Imperium” (GW never use edition #) we have had unbeatable armies … for a few weeks/minutes … yet clever players have thought “outside of the box” and won with armies without Codex.

    Orks won the GW GT without a Codex in 2018. Tau won the GW GT in 2019. The first heat in 2017 was won by Spider’s Ultramarines as they were the onlya rmy with a Codex !!

    For a year, 3 smash captains, loyal 32 and a knight were unbeatable .. yet now aren’t seen. Prior to that it was Ynarri SOUP or flyers/scouts.

    The game is continually evolving …

    • Reecius October 20, 2019 7:44 am #

      Yeah, but didn’t that Ork player s,ow play all of his games? Like, he didn’t go past turn 3 or something.

      That aside, I agree that any army can win. There are some really bad match-ups out there, but any army on a good day can take it.

    • Trasvi October 20, 2019 8:32 am #

      The difference is in how those things get addressed.
      The castellan list didn’t fall out of favour because people worked out how to beat it; it got hit 6 different ways with a nerf bat. Ynarri similarly got shafted with multiple nerfs.

  4. Ohlmann October 20, 2019 1:27 am #

    Might be a bad case of small meta, but I remember the necrons as being utterly ridiculous when introduced. At least until Craftworlds were introduced.

  5. Zweischneid October 20, 2019 10:18 am #

    Sure there’ve been some horrendously broken stuff in 40K’s past. And Nu-Marines clearly fit in with that pattern.

    Which is why the 6 months or so of post-Castellan nerf to Nu-Marines release probably deserves to be remembered as a special time, a fluke in history, a unique and perhaps never-to-be-seen-again miracle time, when the often-repeated-claim the skill mattered in the game actually might’ve had a little bit of merit.

    Events were actually won by people actually good and practiced with their army, rather than the people who could 3-colour-minimum the newest releases and rules-oversights the quickest.

    Alas, it was a good time to have been in 40K.

  6. Michael Corr October 21, 2019 12:54 am #

    God, I hated Wraithknights in previous editions. They were almost unkillable to most units in the game thanks to their T8. If one charged you, you pretty much had to sit there till your unit was dead or fell back from a failed morale test.

    • Pyrothem October 21, 2019 8:35 am #

      The whole Wraithknight thing was completely on the greedy hands of the higher ups.

      James Hewitt did a AMA and was asked this:

      Question: “Now what about those Wraithknights? 295pts! What’s up with that?”

      His Answer:

      “The Wraithknights… well, that was a thing. The Eldar codex was designed at a time when we were told to make things a) exciting and interesting and b) reflect the narrative at all costs. So D-weapons, right? Because that’s clearly what the weapons are. So we did it, and we tested them loads, and the points values shot up (I think the Wraithknight was about 450?). Then they went to review, and someone in a position of authority (who has since left0 said “I love it, but don’t increase any points values.”

      Because, obviously, that means people need fewer models, see?

      So I said “Ok, so I’ll put the rules back to how they were,” and was told “no, keep them, just don’t change the points values”.

      Makes me wince, just thinking about it.

      As I say, though those days are over :)”

      I hope that the toxic people in higher up positions have left so we don’t get that again but as the old saying goes: Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice shame on me.

      If you find some thing seemingly obvious broken by itself (not stacking rules from multiple books to break something) rules wise some times you just need to stick to science to find the answer. Using Occam’s razor works for most things.

      Did something truly broken rules wise just get past multiple people play testing, the rules team and editors? Or did someone with a higher pay grade force it?

      What scares me is only after leaving the company could he talk and while he was there even though he was part of the RULES Team he was powerless to do anything to help the game he loved. That is the sad truth revealed by this.

      • Ohlmann October 21, 2019 10:06 am #

        And probably relevant to the analysis of the whole space marine debacle. (not just Iron Hand ; being the worse of the bunch don’t mean the rest is fair)

        that being said, you should also factor in that most people are less competent than they seem. It’s rather probable that an exterior intervention made the marines and their founding chapter way more powerful than needed, and then a bad power level evaluation make them significantly wilder than expected.

        On the other hand, I would not dismiss the concept that the absolutely ridiculous bad datasheets for the new eldar kit is partially or entirely due to bad power level evaluation. Eh, maybe the higher up wanted the Phoenix Aspect overpowered but that nudge was entirely absorbed by someone, somehow, thinking that her anti-horde ability was worth anything.

        • Pyrothem October 21, 2019 10:36 am #

          In the AMA he talks about this and says that it was rare for the higher ups to pull rank and force something in and when they did it was obvious. The new SM books do not have that kind of finger print to it (aka make this model sell damn the rules).

          This feels like they want the game to be at this level. As you said ALL the SM codex’s seem over the top of the others. The true test of this is if the next Codex 2.0 release does the same. If so then this is the plan if not then it is just a failure of game design.

          We shall see. Remember in the past it was YEARS into an edition before a army got their rules so there is a real president for GW rolling out a new vision of the game over codexs that take forever to release.

          • Ohlmann October 21, 2019 11:10 am

            It’s a subjective matter, so it’s hard to be sure, but I see that as a clear “WILL YOU BUY THOSES DAMN PRIMARIS STUFF LIKE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO ?” move. I can understand people seeing that in another light.

            Part of the sentiment come from the fact the Psychic Awakening book have dispelled any notions that the game is supposed to be at that level.

          • Pyrothem October 21, 2019 12:17 pm

            PA are not codexes. They are just narrative campaigns with a bit of detachment options so I do not ever expect them to lift or sink an army.

            I believe there are separate rules teams for codexes. I am just hoping that most armies get out of FineCast junk. With the amount of new plasic figs released in the last 2 years in is astounding there are armies still stuck in the past.

          • Zweischneid October 21, 2019 1:45 pm

            The myth that “the game is supposed to be on that level” is just dumb for two reasons (at the very least).

            a) People with armies such as Orks, GSC, etc.. waited patiently for 2+ years (including through times of insane SM/CSM dominance with Guilliman, Alpha-Legion-Rush, etc..), because it was a new edition and the promise of a new clean slate after 7th. I don’t think as many will just jump onto the 2+ year-train again, just because.

            b) If all armies are on the Space Marine level, the game is simply decided by who goes first in 99% of the games. It’s balanced, I guess, but just no longer a “game” that’s playable for 6 rounds with meaningful stuff to do after turn 1 or 2.

          • Pyrothem October 21, 2019 3:34 pm

            I have no doubt that codex 2.0’s are in the works. The first SM codex was thread bare and had no real difference between the chapters and now they really do and are dripping with character that has the lore to back it up. There are quite a few codex’s that need that kind of help as well; Necrons, Nids, Orks, ect.

            I play Necrons so any love our way feels like rain in the desert :P.

            As for the who ever rolls first turn wins I think that would only apply the Iron Hand V Iron Hands. Most of the other SM armies take correct maneuvering of models and strats to pull out a win.

            With SM codex 2.0 I have to say it IS like 2 years ago. Everyone else is stuck in Index and will have to wait till they get their turn in the spot light. Does that mean it is impossible to win against SM now? No, there were people pulling wins with index armies against codex but just concede that playing with out a 2.0 codex means you are on hard mode and it will be a struggle.

            This is not a undercosted unit or one broken strat or formation, it is the new books on a whole that are on that level so I stand firm that this is the new direction they want to take the game. (If it is not then the game really is in trouble balance wise and could crash the wave they are on.)

          • NinetyNineNo October 21, 2019 8:38 pm

            I think pre-nerf Feirros at his 110 points could be argued for having a giant “GW WANTS THIS MODEL TO SELL” sign flashing neon above his head.

          • abusepuppy October 21, 2019 10:56 pm

            People keep talking about this whole thing like the Space Marine codex was the first “2.0” book released. It… wasn’t. Remember Chaos Space Marines? They’ve already gotten their 2.0 codex, and it made them _worse_ rather than better. Between that, SM, and PA, there is absolutely no indication that the “updates” are going to have any kind of consistent power level, and certainly not all on par with the SM releases.

          • Ohlmann October 22, 2019 1:01 am

            The chaos Marine Codex, as said before, show that there is no comparison in power.

            But even without that : it might not be a codex, but the new datasheets in PA would be *much* stronger if they were supposed to be an entree for the 2.0 eldar codex. Instead they are on par with the chaos codex.

            To wits, both the new chaos marine codex and the PA book follow the same template : slight datasheets alteration, and a tons of additional options who vary between cute and quite powerfuls.

            All the marines book, on the other hand, alway added at least one disgustingly powerful army-wide rule, in *addition* of slight datasheet change and additional options.

            Until we see something like “all Eldar gain -1 Ap” as well as “All Alaitoc units get +1 to hit”, I would not really believe GW try to be equal. There is a clear bias, and the fact the errta is so minimal don’t help with that notion.

          • Pyrothem October 22, 2019 10:52 am

            Playing devil’s advocate if there is a true bias and the SM Codex was designed to be heads better then all other armies and they are intending to keep it that way the question you have to ask it why.

            The company has been around a long time and has been successful, especially in the past 2 years, why would they deliberately kill off the golden goose?

            Even if those at the top have never even touched dice before they will see a sharp dive in sales after Chapter Approved does not address the imbalance. They will demand action and ask what was done in the 4th quarter to cause the down turn.

            The price of the hobby is high and with other companies equipped with great looking models now options are out there. All it takes is for GW to stumble hard and an other more balanced game could rip out their customers base.

            Pathfinder did it to DnD when 4th came out and the same could be done to GW.

            So I don’t think SM dominance of the meta will last that long they have other book cooking. Of they do not they deserve to fail as a company. I hope it does not come to this.

          • Ohlmann October 22, 2019 1:21 pm

            For good or bad, the higher up in GW seem unearthedly focused on making Space Marine a Thing, TM. Perhaps because among the army, it’s the less distinctive one with the Tyrannid. (as in, every single SF universe have equivalents to the tyrannides and Marines, but it’s less true for the other W40K armies).

            So, the easy answer is “in their continued quest to make Space Marine more popular, they asked to overtune the Space marine”. Note that it don’t mean that the Iron Hand weren’t overtuned even compared to this goal ; credibly they may want the Space Marine to have a solid advantage, but not an overwhelming one.

  7. abusepuppy October 21, 2019 10:54 pm #

    >Remember when Eldar were good? Of course you do because they were never really bad

    Certainly not for the entirety of 5th edition, because people would remember that and not constantly forget about or gloss over it.

  8. rvd1ofakind October 22, 2019 2:26 am #

    What is this “every army can win” argument?
    You don’t go “Grey knights have 1% to win so they’re fine since they can still win”. It’s all up to how often armies can win when on an equal playing field otherwise.
    IH had a ~78% winrate when disregarding mirror matches. When looking at the worse end of the match-ups against IH, it gets pretty damn close to 1%. Which is why they were changed in the FAQ.

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