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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guest Article: Points Adjusted Army Selection System

Some of you may have heard of this. Some not. You've all hopefully heard of Swedish comp and the series of articles we've done looking at them. PAAS is very similar in attempting to make sweeping changes to 40k for 'balance' and IIRC is Dutch Danish. Davis has kindly written an article on it to give us a better idea of what this comp system does.

The Points Adjusted Army System is a prime example of the flaws of comp. Now, the reasons comp in general is bad have been done to death both here and elsewhere, so I won't be getting into that here-- to summarize, comp tournaments don't actually level the playing field, they just make it so that different selections become the new "power choices." This system is the epitome of this-- I'll be going through their post isolating a few particularly significant error.

First off, the PAAS people don't really know what they're doing when it comes to balance. As a result, there are some changes that are just boneheaded. Inquisitors with Mystics cost more-- 100 points more-- in Marine armies? Well, okay, if you really think that's broken (even though that's a 3rd-ed era complaint)-- but Marine armies, with their prized Elite (Dreadnought/Terminator/Sternguard) slots, are going to be fielding Inquisitor Lords anyway, assuming they want to take Mystics in the first place. This is also the only valid way for Marine armies to take Assassins, which you also seem to be against, since Callidus Assassins cost 200 points now (more 3rd ed stuff here), so this error is just plain dumb-- it punishes an "abuse" that was never good to begin with, and does so incorrectly to boot! If you had nerfed Inquisitor Lords instead of Inquisitors, it might offer a more balanced choice, but that's not what you did, and even in that scenario you would accomplish little since nobody actually takes Inquisitor Lords these days. Note that this change doesn't apply to Imperial Guard, which makes it even sillier, since the complaints about Mystics in IG are much stronger than they ever were for Marines.

PAAS also commits the cardinal sin of attempting to reward some builds while harming others. While this might appeal intuitively to one's sense of balance and fair play, the problem is that doing so basically means that you're enforcing your tastes and preferences on others. Under this system, if you want to have a drop Dreadnought army, that's all well and good-- in fact, the PAAS authors will give you a nice 15 point discount on all your Drop Pods in order to promote this style of list, But if you want to run a mechanized Marine army, prepare to cough up extra points for every transport, since the authors don't like mech. If you want to have Pedro, screw you-- he now costs 210, and costs even more if you attempt to take Terminators for some synergy. This is a particularly troubling element of the PAAS that is present across several lists-- synergistic choices are actually penalized! Bladestorm, for example, now costs an obscene 75 points when fielded in an army that includes Doom! Kustom Force Fields cost 200 points (!!!) if taken in an army that has more than 3 Kans, more than 4 Trukks, or more than 2 Wagons! This is terrible design-- good design rewards synergy, but this system intentionally punishes it. Is there any real reason for these sorts of sweeping changes besides simply rewarding the choices and list styles that the authors want to see on the field? Not that I can discern-- there certainly isn't anyone arguing that Pedro Kantor or Dire Avengers with Bladestorm are broken, at least not these days.

The tragic element of PAAS, as well as the part that might inspire some people to give it a second chance, is that not all of their changes are stupid. Many of them make sense-- if GW declared in an FAQ that there was a typo in Codex: Space Marines and plasma pistols were supposed to cost 5 points instead of 15 all along, for example, I think most if not all players would find this a welcome and appropriate change. But while some of these changes are indeed all well and good, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to compose a document that *only* has good changes, and such efforts will always be controversial. This problem is only compounded when the authors try to enforce their own vision of what the game should be on the players, especially since they don't seem to understand what is and isn't competitive.

And there's the rub, really. The authors of this document don't understand the state of the meta, and therefore they make changes that are behind the times and often either nerf things that either aren't good now or were never good to begin with or else buff things that are already good (oh hi, 20 point Telion). Their approach may seem appealing-- who wouldn't want a game system where all the problematic costs were fixed-- but, thanks to human error, it practically always ends up with silly results instead
Taking a quick look at the PAAS and Davis' article and we can see once again attempts at sweeping changes have been made to 'balance' 40k which I simply don't get. If you are that unhappy with a gaming system where you need to spend hours fixing it, well...why? Particularly in light of what the new 5th edition books have brought to 40k (consistency between books in terms of power) sweeping comp systems like this baffle me (mind you all comp does; let's dumb down competition!). Anyone have experience using this system? We'd love to hear your thoughts and thanks again Davis!

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