Comp40k Players. R-E-L-A-X

Hello, fellow Warhammer 40k aficionados LVO Senior Judge, SaltyJohn, here to discuss everyone taking a step back for a minute.

If you’re reading one of my articles chances are you came to it from a link having to do with competitive 40k because that’s generally all I write about. Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, I wrote a weekly article about the standings in the ITC for a little over 2 seasons. I took a hiatus from that for obvious reasons but decided to come back to you now at the coming of 9th edition to implore everyone to relax. I know, it’s an odd stance coming from a guy who makes outrageous salt fueled memes and is known for the “rant” schtick on TFG Radio. Yet, here we are.

You’ve no doubt seen the 40k 9th edition Grand Tournament missions and packet. It is partial by the way. You also probably saw some of the vitriol over them on Facebook, Reddit, maybe even DakkaDakka (is that still a thing? I don’t want to try logging in to find out so someone let me know in the comments). You may have even found something about it on *checks terrible 40k memes from last week* Pinterest? That can’t be right. Anyway, there is a lot going on out there around the new GT missions from GamesWorkshop in 9th edition and it’s important some of this gets addressed in a calm and reasonable manner. So naturally, it fell to… me?

So there are a few issues combining to create the vitriol we’re seeing on this topic and I want to go through each of them. Firstly the GW teasers and release. It’s safe to say consumer confidence in GW is not high right now. The constant drip drip drip of out of context rules over the course of months of hype, followed by a botched Indomitus release has many people confused over the rules and mad about their models. Not a good combination. That said, and remember I made a ton of memes and ranted about the Indomitus debacle at length, allowing anger about Indomitus to spill over into the rules and GT packet isn’t really warranted. The out of context slow rules leaks though are problematic. Rather than create interest and excitement the out of context rules created an ever-increasing amount of anxiety and argument over the rules. Then GW would try to correct it by releasing something else related to the initial rule causing another round of arguments and it would inevitably cause more issues. Why? Well, for the very reason we’re having people freak out over the GT packet. Very few people have seen the actual rules of the game, let alone played it and attempting to analyze rules out of context is not going to yield positive results.

Here is a big problem. Very few people have seen the rules for 9th edition, including the GT packet, in their totality and an even smaller group has actually played it. Yes, there are a lot of leaks out there. Yes, there are a lot of “playtesters” putting out a lot of content to get that sweet YouTube ad revenue. Yes, there are a lot of paywalled articles and podcasts giving people the “scoop” on 9th edition. Have you played it? No, I took the free rules that were published and the leaked bits we’ve seen and played a game of “9th”. Have you actually gotten your hands on the full pantheon of 9th ed rules and played several full games? Has anyone played an actual tournament with the actual new rules? Have we had, as a community, time to play and digest the game competitively? No, again and again, the answer is no. I run a Summer Camp, and routinely the kindergarteners have a difficult time with new things. A not uncommon meltdown is when introducing a new game, say four corners, to them they meltdown at the mention of the name. Not because they don’t like the game, they’ve never played or even heard the rules, but because they don’t like the way the name sounds, or because their friend said they didn’t like it, so they know they won’t like it too. Now, I am not calling you a child if you dislike the missions based on partial information or other’s opinions of them, it’s just an example. This is the problem we’re having with 9th edition though. Opinions are being formed based upon partial information, not real experience, and it’s easy to look at the partial information and perform some tried and true confirmation bias to your worst fears about the direction the game is taking. Even if it’s not true.

That’s the next issue. Our world, particularly online, currently lends itself to hysteria, bias confirmation towards what’s false, and internet mob culture among other things. The 40k community is not safe from these detrimental issues. No matter your social or political alignment it’s obvious that the internet has led to a more divided and less factually informed population. What holds true for society as a whole holds true for our small subculture. So it only makes sense that there would be such a visceral reaction to the partial rules, especially when they run so contrary to what was the norm.

The norm for Competitive 40k has been what the ITC, and Frontline Gaming events, have done for several years now. I remember playing the 4th edition Games Workshop Rogue Trader Tournament missions. Missions like “This is Heavy Doc” where the “gravity” on the battlefield would randomly fluctuate from turn to turn, having a huge impact on the game. I remember the shift to 5th edition and the adoption of BRB style missions for tournaments, playing in the first Bay Area Open with 5th edition style missions. I remember the changes made to certain missions in 6th. I helped write and refine the ITC missions in 7th edition, compiled a massive FAQ for the last Las Vegas Open of 7th edition. I was trusted with the task of rewriting the 7th ed ITC Missions for the first Bay Area Open of 8th edition because the new official ITC Missions, what became the Championship Missions, wouldn’t be ready. I helped to test and write parts of the 8th ed ITC missions, some of the Secondaries added after season 1 were my idea. My point is, the ITC missions were around for a long time and we were used to them. Attached to them even. Letting them go isn’t easy for many in the community. They are safe. They are a known quantity, and we as humans get attached to those types of things. But if I can put them aside and be ready to move on after years of helping mold them into what they were, so can you. They were also the standard by which all mission sets were judged by the end of 8th edition. Which is why they are being used as the standard to measure the 9th edition GW Tournament missions. While tempting to make that comparison there are a few reasons to just let it go.

The GamesWorkshop 9th edition Grand Tournament packet is not going to be the 8th edition ITC Tournament Packet. Nor can you truly hold the two up for a proper comparison. The ITC Missions were not designed with 9th edition in mind, but the new GW missions were. GW also had input from many people in the competitive 40k community when making them. Do I think they are perfect? No, but then again neither were the ITC missions. The complaints about the ITC missions were many and varied, but they were a good set of missions because we as a community used them. They were a standard set. Yes, sometimes they were a solvable equation for certain armies but all missions can be that way. Whether the GW Missions are ultimately better, or worse, than the ITC missions isn’t the point. The point is we all know the ITC missions because we spent years playing them. We’ve spent 0 years and 0 tournaments trying out these new missions, and anyone saying they can “just tell” they’re bad is being disingenuous. Let’s deal with these new missions the same way we dealt with the ITC Missions at their inception; which there was vocal resistance to when they were first introduced. By giving the new GW Missions a chance on a large scale, providing relevant feedback, and helping evolve them into something we can all be happy to play. That’s how we get a set of tournament missions that are going to be a standard set to live by. Not by posting incessantly, deriding a game system and competitive rule set that hasn’t even had a chance to be used on a small scale, let alone on the largest scale of competitive 40k. A Major.

Change represents something that most of us are resistant to. Most people, me included, prefer when things remain somewhat constant. Just look at the response when something as simple as an App icon is changed, or a change is made to a phone/computer/gaming system OS. The initial knee jerk is almost always reluctance and negativity. We’re changing to a new edition of 40k. Things are going to change. The game was designed differently. They took 8th edition and began to mold new terrain rules, recommended layouts, missions, and core rules intrinsically with consideration for each other. That means that 9th is going to be different than 8th in many ways and looking at it through the same lens won’t yield positive results. Your 9th edition lists and strategies will be demonstrably different than those you had in 8th edition. Because you’re not playing 8th edition anymore, you’ll need to adapt and change. Which will be hard initially but it’s necessary, rather than agitating online for an immediate return to 8th.

One more thing. We’re all angry and on edge in some way or another right now. We live in times that are nearly unprecedented in living memory. Many of us have spent weeks, if not months, on end living a minimized life. We’ve been stuck inside, stuck online, stuck in neutral. Even the things we love, like Warhammer 40,000, are little respite from social distancing, cancellations, and the general unease of life right now. Some of what is making us so hysterical about 9th edition might be that we know even once it’s released we won’t have a true test of what it will be like competitively on a large scale for some time. Even worse, we may not get our personal experience with it for an indeterminate amount of time. I understand all the frustrations and anxieties around a new edition of 40k coming out right now in 2020. The fact that one of the biggest changes to competitive 40k is that it’s biggest constant, the ITC Missions, are seemingly going out the door with the old edition only turns those anxieties up a few levels. I wish we lived in other times; I wish we were getting this new edition and its new possibilities under different conditions. I think it would be received completely differently. But that is not our reality, it is out of our control. All we can do is choose to give this edition the chance it deserves, or render the discourse and testing of it intolerable. I beg you to take the flexible and not the intransigent route in this, you may just find you can actually enjoy your hobby after all.

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About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

28 Responses to “Comp40k Players. R-E-L-A-X”

  1. Robby July 19, 2020 2:17 pm #

    You’re my hero. I love you to pieces.
    Fan since forever,

  2. Jimbojambo July 19, 2020 2:46 pm #

    Just out of curiosity, why do you people write articles with the aim of calming reactions that GWs actions caused? I mean seriously what’s your contract?

    • SaltyJohn July 19, 2020 3:08 pm #

      Who is “you people” I am an individual with no ties to GW. I am not a playtester, I don’t work for them, and if they saw the memes I make about them they’d probably ban me.

    • TheRealJohnWilliam July 19, 2020 7:30 pm #

      What’s interesting to me is that this kind of human reaction is consistent with other games and events as well.

      It’s not found solely within Warhammer 40K.

      It’s the same story almost every time. Information is released, players try to connect the dots, and the absurd gets championed before all of the information is even available to make a rational conclusion.

      I think it is a product of our natural inclination to find patterns and extrapolate outcomes. It was an advantageous survival trait, but it doesn’t really serve us well here.

      And so people should check that reaction before they start their crusade. Articles like this help to put that in perspective I think.

  3. Dakkath July 19, 2020 2:57 pm #

    So, I haven’t actually seen the rules leak or the memes, so I have no idea what’s going on.

  4. Shas’O July 19, 2020 4:41 pm #

    You are the hero we need and the hero we deserve! So done with all the overreacting.

  5. David O' Leary July 19, 2020 6:13 pm #

    This is rubbish, we have had comprehensive rules leaks and it’s doesn’t take long at all to see there are glaring issues with the secondaries. Which makes you wonder how much imput did gw really take from their playtest team. Theres also plenty of examples online of top tier players playing 9th (Art of War, Steel Legion, Glasshammer Gaming for eg).So you can certainly see how 9th plays out.

    That’s before we even get into the points changes which are hamfisted and for some factions actually a death sentence, Good luck playing GSC with these new points (and no Vigulus hah). I think competitive people are rightly mad because we have to fork out money for a half finished product and when we point out the glaring flaws its ”WAIT FOR THE CODEXES GUYS” great so maybe in 2 years we can have GSC playbale again, that’s nice isn’t it :))))).

    • Yarium July 20, 2020 4:07 am #

      I was livid at all the changes that GSC have to suffer, as pretty much every rule change has made us worse. That said, GSC were already on their way out, competitively speaking. If you want to play to win events, there are other factions that will do so more easily – you’ll see a rainbow on Cadia before you see that happen with GSC as they are now. However, there are other ways to play, even competitively. Remember that ITC does track best in faction too! Throughout 8th, Grey Knights were seen as the absolutely worst faction, but there was a list of players who were the best players of that faction. Well, if you’re committed to GSC, you can try to be at the top of that list. If you’re committed to being at the top of “all others”, then play a different faction. What list do you want to be on?

  6. Casey H July 19, 2020 7:56 pm #

    Old edition dies, number games fall off (covid Stay-Home not withstanding).

    New edition. Releases, confusion, leaks, arguments, Rage Quits heard as “Guess, I’ll come back for the next edition”. ITC gets maligned for interfering or, this time, for *not* intervening.

    Old trope of Reece “Having it in for Tau” is flown, but doesn’t catch, not until the first BIG FAQ and/or 6-months-later-Chapter Approved. Then it gets legs and Tau players start 20 page rage thread on dakka.

    FAQs get released and grammar teachers head for the whiskey cabinet (the tequila cache from the initial rules leaks is long gone).

    FLG posts some (filler) articles about new edition, mostly self-aggrandizing the author(s).

    Snarky jerks post unhelpful comments in comment section.

  7. Adam Vollrath July 19, 2020 9:06 pm #

    This is all good advice. And I like all of the changes in the main rulebook.

    But it’s hard not to see a loss of the progress made over the past few years in competitive missions. I’d love to be wrong but I think the player who wins the roll to go first will have a statistically significant advantage. Getting that to 50/50 was a big accomplishment in mission design that I feel kinda protective of. I don’t think it’s too soon to predict this.

    Once we get some actual data (2021 lol) I do expect organizers to tweak the missions, and I don’t think it will take much to even it back up. It’s pretty easy to imagine a simple mash-up of popular 2019 missions and the 2020 GT missions that would combine the best of both.

    • abusepuppy July 19, 2020 9:48 pm #

      It’s fairly inevitable that either first or second player will, broadly speaking, have an advantage in the game; at the end of 8th it leaned significantly (55-60% or so) towards second player for most matchups, though of course there were exceptions. The nature of balancing disparate factors against each other means that things are likely to be slightly tilted one way or the other.

      That said, it really does feel like 9E gives a very strong advantage to going first and very few advantages to going second, which doesn’t feel good at all. We’ll have to see how it pans out, but my first impression is definitely that the bias is pretty major and the fact that you can’t plan around it at all when deploying makes that even more of a feel-bad. Basically, every game is gonna feel like a Seize game, and I don’t think people will enjoy that.

      • Casey H July 19, 2020 10:39 pm #

        Srsly, off of abusepuppy’s response –
        I was enjoying the “I know I’m going second/first” element of 8e; it was possibly the best part of 8e’s evolution, at least with ITC missions.

        To lose that … I mean I remember doing alternating deployment in 4e, and I was happy enough then, but now to have tasted that certainty of either cowering in shelter for the alpha hit or knowing that I was going to have to hit as hard as I could *FOR* the alpha …
        Well, that’s okay.
        I’m sure that John, Reece & crew will step up and integrate some ITC ‘Um, we need to make this enjoyable and playable’ elements and reintroduce sanity saving ingredients like those deployment methods.

        Here’s looking at you, SoCal Open.

        -Casey H

        • Michael Corr July 20, 2020 1:20 am #

          Yeah, not a huge fan of going back to the roll off for going first. I liked it when you knew you were deploying second and going second, or vice versa. Also, no seizing was amazing at the end of 8th edition.

          • Johan July 20, 2020 1:58 am

            Agreed. i wholeheartedly dislike the roll off version.

            Best thing in 8th was knowing if you went first or not before you deploy.
            Keep the other changed (decide transports / reserves beforehand and whatnot), but please get rid of the rolloff.

          • AngryPanda July 20, 2020 12:15 pm

            They had this in 6th already and somehow gave it up. It really feels like they don’t want to hold on to this one reasonable thing they took from other games. Having alternating deployment to waste everyone’s time while not even skirmish games tend to do that while still having the first turn murder issue is such a weird, reverse way of doing things.

      • red3_standingby July 20, 2020 6:04 am #

        Luckily, the state of the base rules are in a much better place, mechanically, than at the start of 8th edition. Things like who goes first are easily changed if in a few months it seems like the games aren’t as competitive as the ITC would like them to be. It’s a much better problem to be having than, say, the FLY keyword needing to be rewritten.

        • Reecius July 20, 2020 9:55 am #

          We have found in play-testing actually that you often want to go second in this edition. A lot of the play testers are chuckling a bit at the crazy knee jerk reaction some of the community pundits have had about going first being auto-win. Time will tell of course but in our experience it’s just not the case.

          • Ohlmann July 20, 2020 12:54 pm

            To be fair, I trust more people that explain what happen when you don’t go first, which match with game experience, than the playtesters that just chuckle at the people who see the result.

          • Reecius July 20, 2020 1:19 pm

            If you do, you do. I think with experience playing the missions everyone will see that that is an overreaction outside of fringe cases but eh, you will draw your own conclusions regardless.

  8. Alistair July 20, 2020 1:29 am #

    I agree with your points about prejudging, but as it’s apparent that the “market” will behave like children (as is your analogy), which they do in many contexts. Do you not feel the bulk of the blame should fall with the behemoth that is GW, the releases over 9th have been shambolic and it appears this is by design. Maybe as fans, we should be better, but maybe GW should lead the way, and be better themselves?

    • SaltyJohn July 20, 2020 6:19 am #

      I do agree, I made that point myself in regards to their botching the Indomitus release and the ridiculous way they do rules leaks.

  9. Tomguycot July 20, 2020 9:56 am #

    The thing is, we have seen the full rules. We have seen the full points values. We have seen what the app is going to be. No amount of context changes that and no amount of context puts the Vigilus detachments back into the GT packet.

    No amount of context changes deployment and the determination of who goes first that we currently have.

    No one wants to wait two years for all of the Codexes and a couple of chapter approved updates when 8th was already in a pretty good state. This all just feels like a series of unforced errors when GW could have just tweaked a few things like terrain and released 8.5 instead of 9. I get why people are mad and I don’t blame them.

  10. Matt July 21, 2020 1:01 pm #

    We are the grimdark. One does not simply relax. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

  11. Jeff July 25, 2020 11:46 am #

    GSC came out right before 8th and we had to wait 2 years for a new codex. They just released our codex last year. Based on all experience we will be an afterthought for another two years and our army will have a year (at most) shelf life before 10th. So yeah maybe a lot of this applies generally to everyone. But it’s been a garbage time as a GSC player, if we have to wait 2 years for a codex starting around the bottom as everyone else gets their faction specific secondaries let alone just their new rules, we will only become more and more unplayable in that time. If GW could just acknowledge us, give us a hint that they have any plans for us I wouldn’t be so pissed off. They’re a billion dollar company that sells plastic and rules for the price of a cell phone, they can do better to show some appreciation to people who have invested a lot of time and money into their company. Video games require vastly more work than is required for 40k, and they’re much cheaper.

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