Kirb your enthusiasm!
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Posted by Kirby Enthusiasm
This is prompted by an e-mail in from jasonc which you can see below. Although I've posted this email out of order this has been a potential article for ages with the internet's propensity to throw around the word 'meta.' I therefore thought it appropriate to post jasonc's email for a reference point.
Just a thought; what do you think the hardest lists on the Aus tourney scene would be?
I mean, US and ETC are mech-mech-mech, but Aus isn't. Is Mech still the best way to go about taking on Aus (harder) lists?
Following up from seeing your FNP blood angels assault marine army for example. An eldar shooting/tank force surely would struggle, relying on prisms, dragons, wave serpents and vipers?
Or a Guard list that spammed hydras and autocannons (again vs Blood Angels FNP).
Do you have any thoughts on this in general? I guess you could say that armies in general would struggle vs FNP BA :) Or maybe they aren't as hard as I imagine them to be. But the basic point is do you think max-mech is still the way to go for hardest armies in Aus?
So first let's review what the metagame is (again) and why it doesn't exist as strongly unlike in other gaming systems. From the lovely source of wikipedia:
Metagaming is a broad term usually used to define any strategy, action or method used in a game which transcends a prescribed ruleset, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game. Another definition refers to the game universe outside of the game itself.
Notice 'transcends a prescribed rule set.' This is very important for 40k (and Fantasy) because at appropriate point levels (generally 1750+) balanced lists can be built (see my balanced lists post within the next day or so). In a lot of other gaming systems this is not true and 'predicting' what your opponent is most likely to take based upon the metagame can be beneficial. For example, let's say in Magic The Gathering green lists are very popular and beat gold, blue, black and white lists but not red lists. Red lists trump green lists but suck versus black lists, etc. This is obviously a very black and white situation and unlikely to be so simple but assume a player realises green lists are very popular and takes a red list and then wins. After a couple of tournaments or games people might start making red lists until someone brings a black list and so on and so forth. This is using external information which goes beyond the game (your knowledge of popular opposing player decks in this example) to 'affect a game' and basically gain an advantage. I'm going to be very clear here.
This does not exist in 40k.
I'm going to be very black and white here I know. After some conversations I thought I'd put this in here to make it absolutely clear what my thoughts are on this. Balanced lists do evolve over time (look at psychic powers) but rather than evolving around what other players find popular or are likely to turn up with at tournaments, balanced lists change in relation to rule releases. Specifically in 40k & fantasy, new rule editions and army books. This is also not to say there is a metagame paradigm amongst un-balanced armies (as you'll find there is) but rather there should be no such thing at competitive events. Furthemore, articles about the metagame aren't productive for the hobby as a whole and I think should be leaned away from (i.e. what does tourney X show us about the unfolding metagame, etc.). So, back to your regular article :).
For example, someone thinks pure mech lists are going to dominate tournaments so takes a mass meltagun army to counter this. Like the red list in the MtG example, it has weaknesses against horde armies (which are more likely to run against compared to a single color in Magic but not the point here) so if he runs into any of those his day is over. Unlike the MtG example, if he runs into a balanced mech list (let's use my SM mech list as an example) it's not an auto-win even though he's 'tailored' against a mech list because the SM mech list can handle the anti-mech army no matter what platforms it is based on (i.e. infantry, tanks, MC, etc.). Whilst the anti-mech list may have an advantage in terms of damaging the mech list, the mech list is still very capable of damaging the tailored list because of its balanced nature. The anti-mech list is part of the design philosophy for alpha strike lists NOT metagaming.
No matter how much external knowledge you have of likely opponent lists at tournaments in 40k or Fantasy, it will gain you minimal advantage over a tournament setting against balanced lists because balanced lists are designed and capable of dealing with whatever is placed on the table before them (again see my article shortly). What this means is metagaming cannot exist when people are running balanced lists (I will freely admit it does exist when people don't) because you cannot 'affect the game' by using 'external knowledge.' It is important to note there is some advantage gained (i.e. the anti-mech list will do well against mech lists) but
What is amazingly unique about the 40k community is the willingness to believe in a metagame and accept the outcomes and reasoning behind this. However, if an opponent has prior game knowledge of what his opponent is likely to run and he changes his list accordingly, it's tailoring. Consistency please. Metagaming is tailoring based on expectations as you are looking to gain an advantage. It still doesn't exist in 40k/Fantasy due to multiple balanced lists and army books but I thought it interesting to note the divergence in acceptance for tailoring/metagaming. Community wide and it's okay but not so singularly.
So, what does this mean in relation to jasonc's email? There is no 'top list' style for any tournament. I can take all of the armies found under My Armies to any tournament, in any country and be confident in my ability (holding generalship and dice constant) to do well (i.e. based on lists only) because my lists are balanced and can deal with any opposing list with a reasonable degree of success (still waiting for that balanced army article aren't you?). So to jasonc's question, there are a lot of top armies and army types but no singular army that I think is any better than any other. The aforementioned Blood Angel lists do well due to their balance whilst the linked SM list will also do well. They are both balanced lists but opposite ends of the spectrum (foot vs mech) and can do well because they focus on 5th edition game mechanics rather than 'metagaming' against popular armies.