Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why I Am Not Blogging About 6th Today...

...too busy painting.  Going to try to get my 6th Edition Templars painted up to the (admittedly mediocre) standard of my Grey Knights.  Since I intend for those two armies to share Rhinos/Dreads/Razorbacks I want them to have matching color schemes.  Plus there are those times where I will feel like doing some Vulkan Vanilla lists and the uniform paint scheme will be an asset.

So I have applied the Boltgun Metal basecoat to my entire super secret 6th edition BT list and the next step is black wash, follow by mithral and skull white highlights, and then blue/red energy effects.  I'm guessing the painting will be done by next weekend, and then hopefully basing shortly thereafter.  Who knows, if they are ready you may see them at NOVA.  

If you want to hear my initial thoughts head over to Laeroth's blog where a good discussion of Templar related fun is happening.

Not bad for 5 hours of work

Monday, June 25, 2012

Black Templars and 6th Edition Rumors Part 2

I’ve kept an intentionally low profile on the 6th Edition speculation, because previously I was awfully pessimistic.  I would rate my current outlook on competitive 6th Edition as “Very Cautiously Optimistic.”

Without going into a whole ordeal, I have a mere three gripes with everything I have heard.  However, what my gripes lack in plurality they gain individual potential to ruin the game. 

First, I think allies have the potential to totally break the game.  If the rules are handled properly it could be done balanced; but it’s far more likely that allies will either be out of control, or never worth using.  I don’t know yet exactly what the restrictions will be, but I can’t think of many ways that they would be GOOD for tournament play.  While they may not harm it, they certainly can’t help it.  Even if the rules for allies prevent all broken combos, except one, that one is enough to spoil the whole thing. 

Second, I think buying fortifications are super dumb.  Look at the all the drama around the blogosphere surrounding NOVA’s terrain and how it matches up with individuals’ conceptions of how 40k terrain should be.  Terrain is, clearly, a very touchy issue and incredibly difficult to balance.  So any rule that lets a player manipulate or place his own terrain is bound to create all kinds of balance issues.  Again, fortifications might be balanced for 90% of the lists that would take them, but the 10% that are wildly imbalanced are enough to ruin a tournament.

Third, one of the deployments is short table edges.  This is so scary, because it puts certain armies at an immediate disadvantage while greatly benefitting others.  Of the three issues, I feel this is the easiest to mitigate, especially since most tournaments use long edge deployments for each scenario anyway regardless of the alternatives.

In summation, the things I listed have the potential to be OK if handled absolutely perfectly, but if handled wrong could be a disaster.  I highly doubt the risk is worth the reward, but the allies and fortifications rules seem like something that the sales wing of the company forced the design portion of the company to include.  Top down game design from non-designers is usually bad.  And I’ll leave it at that with my fingers crossed.

On a positive note…

Many of the rumors I thought would make Templars awesome are confirmed.  Er, as confirmed as they could be at this juncture.

Re-rolling ur misses, and sometimes ur wounds
Let’s list the things that are stronger in 6th that Templars have the best of already…

1.  Terminators.  Ours are the same price as everyone else’s, shoot at vehicles better, and fight in close combat better than everyone else’s.  Oh yeah, power weapons are “confirmed” to be AP3 last I heard.  Game on.

2.  Skimmers.  Our Typhoon speeders are cheaper than everyone else.  And now they can get a cover save.  This isn’t a huge upgrade, but if I’m reading correctly they can go flat out, get a cover save, and shoot their weapons at BS1.  Fine by me.  Two frag missiles at BS1 can still do some decent damage to infantry.  This is just a strike upgrade.

3.  Preferred Enemy.  The re-roll of 1’s to wound is great, since 1’s are the only thing Thunderhammers don’t wound on.  Since vehicles have weapon skill now, I also assume this works on vehicles, though I wouldn’t be shocked if they word it to say “non-vehicle” units or something to that effect.

4.  Land Raiders.  4 Hull Points and the new vehicle damage chart means that the only thing killing them quickly is a lot of melta.  This means that a Crusader will likely get to deliver it’s payload, and a godhammer can shoot at range all day.  What long range weapons will someone bring that can reliably pop a Land Raider now?  It is pretty darn hard for a Lascannon to do it since glances don’t mean much to a Land Raider anymore.  I don’t know if that will be enough to get people to bring Godhammers, but it might.

What are my initial thoughts?  Tough to say.  All the things, except the Typhoons, that I mentioned are not cheap.  You could write a list with terminators and land raiders that is really bad.  Too many shiny toys.  But in a tournament like NOVA, we’ve seen kp/vp denial lists do rather well. 

On the other hand, I could also envision a list with three troops sitting in dedicated transport Land Raiders just holding objectives all day with Terminators providing shooting and counter charge duties.  It would probably not be the ideal way to do a BT list in 6th, but we have seen that 2 or 3 nearly indestructible troop choices can be as good as 6 cheap ones.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Games Workshop Webstore and the Tournament Scene

Games Workshop doesn’t allow 3rd party companies to sell their products on the web, and the end result of this is we have a national Grand Tournament scene that is patchwork at best.  How are these concepts related?  I’ll explain.

Running a Grand Tournament now is a labor of love.  I’m fairly sure Mike Brandt isn’t quitting his day job anytime soon, and he isn’t paying for Christmas with the tremendous NOVA profits.  And while the prize support is admirably large, and the Invitational does have a cash prize, we are still far from a “Pro Tour” or anything resembling it.  Kudos to the sponsors of the current Grand Tournaments, I’m sure their return on investment is not lighting the world on fire.

Let’s compare it to Magic.  Magic does have a professional tournament series, but it also has several semi-professional cash tournament series.  How does Magic support tournaments that give away $25,000 a weekend in cash prizes?  They allow 3rd parties to sell their products on the web, and they don’t sell theirs on the web.  The major 3rd party Magic sellers ( and are able to generate tremendous market share by supporting their respective tournament series.  While I’m sure they turn a tidy profit on their tournaments, I’m also sure that those profits pale in comparison to the profits they make from their webstores, which is fueled by the publicity of their tournaments.

If GW changed their policy, we could have a major US web-retailer, like thewarstore, sponsor a tournament series.  It would make economic sense for them to organize the entire U.S. GT circuit, even if the tournaments themselves are a breakeven or slight loss.  If there was a 128-256 open tournament every other weekend with significant cash prizes, and live webstreaming coverage, attendance would be exceptional.  And you can imagine the sales they would make if, while watching someone destroy their opponent on the streaming coverage with Thunderwolf Cavalry, they were able to quickly add one to their checkout cart.

Why would GW go for this?  Because in the long run, they would sell more product.  Tournaments generate interest in the game.  Tournament coverage sells more specific products as the streaming coverage shows the top players in the game winning with the best lists.  Eventually a critical mass is reached where the tournament series becomes big enough that the 3rd party web sales dwarf Games-Workshop’s current proprietary websales.

Why would we, as players, want these changes?  Foremost, it will increase the level of competition.  Having a tournament series were the top 32 players can reasonably expect to at least break even on their travel expenses every weekend means that there will be much less of a barrier to entry.  As of today, Grand Tournaments attract locals, and die hards.  About 3 Grand Tournaments per year attract a national audience.  And of those, only the absolute die hards attend all 3.  Being able to have a positive EV for the good players will encourage the best players nationally to show up to the events, which will increase the level of competition.  All the current “best players” claim they want more competitive games; this would ensure it. 

What about the normal, average players?  They buy the dream.  Maybe they play in a local GT and determine they can be competitive with the top players nationally, they will start traveling to an event or two.  Maybe they are a top dog at their LGS but never considered ‘making the jump.’  Under this system, they have a huge incentive to up their game and make the jump to a national tournament circuit. 

Lastly, the game system benefits.  Right now we have 455748574 tournament organizers each playing a slightly modified version of the game based around their individual FAQ’s and errata.  If there was a unified, national tournament circuit fostering an inevitable level of professionalism, you can imagine it would not take long for the rules to be unified to a level where people are “playing the same game” in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.  This is a huge benefit to casual players that don’t even intend to play in tournaments, since unified tournament rules are essential to fostering a fair game that everyone understands even in their beer and pretzels games.

Do I expect any of this to happen?  Probably not anytime soon.  Games-Workshop’s unspoken policy is to discourage any sort of competitive gameplay, and to continue to exert draconian control over their websales.  These two are not likely to change without a change of the CEO and board of directors; either of which will most likely only occur if the company is purchased by a major player like Hasbro.  And even then, there is no telling that Hasbro would run the game the same way as they do Magic. 

Nonetheless, the path has already been laid out by Magic’s independent tournament series, and all it would take to duplicate it would be a single corporate memo from the CEO.  So hope is alive.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Black Templars, 6th Edition, and Close Combat

I've tried to stay away from everything coming out of the rumor mill in regards to 6th Edition, but I think some of the recent stuff is solid enough that it's worth speculating on.  Two things I've read recently seemed to scream out "Black Templars" to me, and that's a good thing.  Good Black Templar news has been pretty slim lately after the codex rumors were proven to be fake.

Fingers crossed, but we're coming back!
First, AP is a thing in close combat so we hear, and we also hear that power weapons are AP3.  Terminators rejoice!  This is a huge, huge deal.  In most armies, the dedicated close combat units are armed with power weapons.  These units are no longer scary to terminators.  Thus, the tier system for close combat is much different.

Close Combat Tiers 5th Edition:

1.  Storm Shield Terminators
2.  Rending infantry units with lot's of attacks
3.  Power weapon armed elite infantry of various sorts
4.  Non-dedicated units that can still beat normal troops (shooty terminators)

Now it's safe to assuming that Rending is going to be AP3 which would give it parity with power weapons.  I could be totally wrong, and it could be AP2, but it would seem odd to me for Rending attacks to be superior to power weapons.  Time will tell.

Close combat tiers 6th Edition

1.  Storm Shield Terminators
2.  Power fist armed 2+ infantry (shooty terminators, mega-nobz)
3.  Lightning Claw Terminators (these are usable again because while they still lose to SS terminators, they beat power weapon and rending infantry now, where they used to lose to.)
4.  Shooty terminators
5.  Renders
6.  Power weapon armed infantry (these guys dropped way down the ladder.  Sure they can take out basic troops with ease, but so can everything above them on the list.  And they lose horribly to everything above them on the list.  In a world full of Paladins (who become insanely powerful in close combat now to everything except SS terminators) these things are practically unusable.)

These changes put BT in a pretty good position, if true.  While Preferred Enemy is likely catching a nerf, our SS terminators are likely superior to anybody else's except Vulkan.  Our Lightning Claws terminators are also superior to most others' with the ability to get Furious Charge; so if they turn out to be a usable unit, they could see play.  The problem is it would be hard to think of a situation where you'd want the LC guys when you have the choice, maybe against horde armies, but that's about it.

Also, since our shooty terminators are the best in the business.  Yes, hi we get 2 Cyclone Launchers, Tank Hunters (which will do something good in 6th we can assume) and we no longer have to fear getting assaulted by power weapon armed infantry.  This puts BT in a very good place.  Our shooty terminators literally only fear TH/SS terminators, which is something they already feared.  Since fearing TH/SS terminators is nothing new, and BT players still usually took 2+ squads of the shooty terminators I don't see why you would take fewer now.  In fact, an argument could be made to bring a 3rd squad over the usual heavy support choice of Predators/Vindicators that people bring.  Really, the only thing that could slow it down is if Tank Hunters is useless.  If it remains the same, it will be a no brainer to load up on these guys.  If it comes lame, we will have to re-evaluate.  But even without Tank Hunters, 2 units of these are still one of the best things a BT list could be doing.

Moving along.

The next 'rumor' is a bit more speculative.  Stelek has been stating that Land Raiders will be competitive in 6th Edition.  What will the change be?  He hasn't said specifics, but the reason why they are unplayable now is that they die to cheap crap melta units.  So we can assume that anything which makes them good again means that either melta gets some kind of a nerf, or AV14 gets some kind of a buff.  No real need to speculate.  But let's assume that Land Raiders are competitive again.  While I take that with a grain of salt, Stelek has been known to be not talking about of his ass about upcoming releases.  

So who has the best Land Raiders?  That'd be Black Templars.  Our Land Raiders don't die to Lances, and if AV14 is somehow melta-resistant, that means our Land Raiders don't die to very much at all.  This is good for BT, obviously.  Remember the new close combat tier list I made up there?  Our dedicated CC units are better than almost everybody else's.  And now our delivery mechanism is better than everybody else's.  This could be very good.  Since our Heavy Support section has, since our Typhoon Land Speeders got buffed, been the weak link in our FoC we have the points to spend on a Land Raider.  The hard part will be deciding between CC terminators in a Land Raider or 3 units of Shooty Terminators.  

The answer, I suspect, will come down to what they do with Tank Hunters and Preferred Enemy.  I haven't heard anything about those abilities, so it's hard to speculate further.  One thing I will say, if AV14 is hard to kill, and Kill Points stick around, that could be something to consider.  BT can do a kill point denial list with 5 Land Raiders very easily.  If the switch is made back to VP, there will be a lot to figure out.

For the first time in a long time, I'm excited to be a BT player.

Thoughts, comments, questions?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Culling the Weak: Fixing The Bad Dark Elf Units Part One

This series might come off badly.  The Dark Elves are undeniably one of the most competitive books in Fantasy and transitioned very well to 8th Edition.  So complaining about the bad units might seem to some folks like a 40k player complaining about the crappy Grey Knights units. 

Fair enough.

That said, some of the Dark Elves bad units have exceptionally cool models or flavor.  It is hard to describe how badly players want Executioners to be playable models.  They are so cool that people jump through insane hoops just to turn them into a mediocre unit on the tabletop while gimping the rest of their army in the first place.  People are willing to ignore reality in order to maintain a false hope.  Don’t believe me?  How do you think organized religion rakes in so much cash? 

Note I am not a game designer, so I can’t argue that the proposed changes are perfectly balanced, but I’ll do my best.  If something seems amiss, let me know in the comments.

First up, Executioners.

How can you not want to play models this cool?

Why they are bad

They are the worst imaginable version of High Elf Swordmasters.  For 12 points a piece, they are strength 6 with killing blow and hatred.  Sounds great!  But they are toughness 3 with 5+ armor and Always Strike Last.  Sounds fucking awful!  The Swordmasters get uber strikers first, which by eliminates the strikes last, and also gives them Hatred.  Killing Blow, unfortunately, is irrelevant when you are Strength 6.  Nothing that can be killed with Killing Blow is going survive your hits anyway, so it’s a useless ability.  Don’t yell at me, I know that mathhammer-wise, it combos well with Hatred to result in a lot of extra kills.  Irrelevant.

The main reason why they are bad boils down to simply this: they are squishy elves who strike last.  Very lame.  The only way to make up for the fact that they die before they get to strike is to buy more of them.  That is what my friends in finance call “throwing good money after bad.”  When you have a bad hand, you don’t double down on it, especially when your opponent knows you have a bad hand and will call your bluff.  Just dumb.

Design Philosophy

So how do you fix them without making them ridiculous like Swordmasters?  Good question.  Allowing them to take 35 point banners so they can take the ASF banner is the most frequent suggestion.  But that’s dumb, because you shouldn’t have to buy a specific magic banner in order to make your unit do the basic task that it was designed to do.  That would be pretty poor game design, and I’ll immediately dismiss it. 

Another limit to set is that they can’t be better than Swordmasters.  If our goal is to fix them, I’m not going to ‘fix’ them in a way that makes them better or equal to some other broken unit. 

The last limit is that I can’t make them better than Blackguard.  Blackguard are the best infantry unit in the army book on the table top and from a fluff perspective, they ought to be.  So if I make a unit that immediately outclasses them, why would anyone bring Blackguard outside of some theme list? 

Fixing Them

Har Ganeth Executioners 17 points per model

Unit Size

Heavy Armor
Draich (counts as a great weapon)

Special Rules
Eternal Hatred
Cold-blooded Killers

Cold-blooded Killers:    Executioners don’t slowly torture their victims like most Dark Elves; they are trained to kill exerting the minimum necessary effort, ideally with a single blow.  A unit of Executioners must decide at the beginning of each round of combat between the following two options: Always Strike Last but gain Killing Blow, or to strike at their normal initiative.


I limited their unit size to prevent people from making hordes.  Being able to attack with a third rank is a little too good when you are I5 and Str6.  I wanted to limit the amount of potential casualties they could inflict in a single round of combat to a maximum of 20, assuming they rolled perfectly.

I upgraded their points cost, since they did receive a power boost in order to keep Blackguard competitive.  The changes overall fully distinguish the roles for each unit.  Executioners are designed to put out a small number of accurate high strength attacks.  They are best at cutting down enemy heavy infantry.  Blackguard are designed to output tons of medium strength accurate attacks to mow down medium and light infantry.  Now their roles are more distinguished.
Additionally, I kept them much less powerful than Swordmasters.  You might argue that they are now overpowered.  Compare them with Chaos Warriors armed with Halberds and Mark of Khorne.  They are probably a little worse overall than Khorne Warriors for about the same amount of points, which is fair since Chaos Warriors are supposed to be around the power level of other armies’ elite infantry.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?