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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Thought About Learning 6th, and Feast of Blades Tournament Restrictions

At this point, I kind of doubt anyone has played more 6th than me.  Excluding, of course, GW's staff.

I had to get the Feast of Blades missions ready in a week, which meant a LOT of playtesting, and a lot of figuring out what does and doesn't work.  And there's one conclusion that I've come to that seems extremely, extremely obvious to me:

All these people telling you what's "good in 6th"? They have no idea what they're talking about.

The thing that hit me really strongly, that made me realize just how uninformed everyone is at this point, is the armies that everyone started posting to try to prove that double FOC at 2k is a bad idea.  Most of these lists would be terrifying in 5th, but frankly, are pretty bad in 6th.

And I'm not saying that I'm an expert on the subject, but I've played enough to realize that cute little armies of light metal boxes and tiny marine squads are probably a pretty bad way to play 6th.  When I see chimera-spam armies full of meltavets squads, I'm no longer saying "that's a pretty good base for an army" like I did in 5th, I'm thinking "what a great way to lose a game".

People are looking for a lot of black and whites now that this new edition is out: what army is the best?  Who's the worst?  Did deathstars get better or worse?

You shouldn't look at the game that way, because you're seeing it through your 5th edition mind.  You are going to make mistakes, and you are going to lose a LOT of games because of it.

One of the most common questions is "did vehicles get nerfed"?  And everyone sort of jumps on "short answer: no" while it's actually much more complicated than that.  Vehicles are just as dangerous as ever, providing the same firepower and protection they always have.  As far as the squad inside the Rhino is concerned, little has changed when the enemy is shooting at them.  But the fact is, vehicles DID get nerfed: while much remains the same, vehicle attrition is not nearly the strategy it once was.  What made that a good strategy, and why it's not nearly as good, is something that is very complicated and not easily answered. (And that we won't go into here.)

The point is this: don't try to figure this game out by comparing it to 5th.  It's frankly very silly.  It's like going to Warmachine, or Dystopian wars, and trying to figure out what's good based on it's difference from 40k.  If you REALLY want to find the best stuff in 6th, leave your preconceptions at the door.  Learn it from scratch.  Experiment.  Play.

I'm willing to bet a lot of people will immediately make the counter-argument that 6th is still 40k, and a lot of stuff didn't change very much.  I would say that's exactly the sort of thinking that's going to hold you back in a big way.

A good example might be flamers: people tend to still look at them with a last-edition mindset, where they were, frankly, terrible.  They're a lot better now.  Maybe not better enough to take over your anti-tank options, but good enough to at least look at.  Having a good overwatch (wall of death) is a HUGE boon this edition: remember that overwatch is done BEFORE charge movement, causing a few casualties can very often be the difference in an enemy reaching you or not.  Flamers deserve s second look on a lot of squads.

And even with this article, don't take my word for it!  Play and try it yourself.  We are ALL noobs again with the new edition out.  Lot of obvious choices last edition are "sometimes" choices now.  Lots of builds just aren't too good anymore.  A lot has changed, so change with it.

Finally, really, stop the whining.  I am serious shocked at how many people I've seen who scream that 2 FOC is really unbalanced who haven't played or seen a SINGLE GAME WITH IT.  They certainly aren't experts.  Don't tell me that you know what's going to balance 40k when your less than a dozen games in, you have no fudging clue.  Stop calling yourself an expert, because you aren't one anymore.  Stop trying to force your bunny drops down the throat of every tournament, screaming that 2 FOC/allies/fortifications/psy powers need to be banned.  YOU don't know, WE don't know, NO ONE knows, and we won't figure out this gumdrop for a while.

That doesn't mean, of course, that you shouldn't be listening.  We're figuring this out, and there's a lot of smart people posting stuff.  Get involved in the discussion, hash things out, and advance your knowledge and play.  Just do it with skepticism.  And whenever you see ANYONE talking about how something clearly isn't balanced/fair at this point, treat it with a lot more skepticism than before.

Even me.  Especially me, since I'm very involved in the making of tournaments.  So let's open up with criticizing me.  Here's the restrictions Feast of Blades is instituting for their qualifiers, which I had a lot of input into:

First, the goal.
The idea behind every tournament is to create the most fair and balanced rules set possible, that adhere to the core game as much as possible.  A good tournament should not change the game in dramatic ways to create artificial balance, but simply create a battlefield where both players have an equal chance of winning.  Ideally, this means that two players of equal skill using armies of a similar competitive tier should have very close games that are characterized by their play and lists, and not by external effects.  Skill should be amplified, randomness should be toned down where appropriate.

1999+1 points.  This is a fancy way of saying "2k with one FOC".  I personally thought we should just do 1999, and make everyone lose a point for WHINING, but alas, we did 1999+1.  I pushed for 2k and double FOC here, actually, but we were flooded with complaints, and just about every other TO and event out there is restricting to one, so we were a bit tied.  This is probably fine, but I'm a bit sad double FOC got just nuked so early, before anyone actually really tried it.

Mysterious Terrain is out.  This isn't surprising.  It's incredibly random, and while it will probably "even out" is blessings and curses over many games, it can very much screw a player in a single instances.  Players have no control over it, it's time-consuming, much more damaging to some armies than others, and it frequently doesn't make much sense.  Matches in a tournament should be decided primarily through skill, so something like this is right out.  (This also include Mysterious Objectives.)

Warlord Traits are out.  This is actually only partially due to their random nature.  Warlord traits are, in general, pretty minor, with a few very notable exceptions.  The more major issue is that we don't know what store terrain and board setups are going to look like.  We have little control over a lot that happens at our qualifiers, and we really don't want to see someone lose a match because they got to play on an all-ruins-all-the-time board against the guys who's warlord trait is army-wide Stealth (ruins) and Move Through Cover (ruins).  Or who plays on an all difficult terrain forest board against he guy who's army now has Move Through Cover.  Things like that.  You all know your FLGS, you've all seen some terrible tournament terrain setups, no need to exacerbate them.  That being said, because we DO have standardized terrain in the finals, and have complete control over it, we may be allowing Warlord Traits in the finals.  Still working on this one.

The rest is in.  Take your fortifications.  Use allies.  It is all with our blessing, because despite all our playtesting, we still don't know what's really balanced yet.  People flip over the Fortress of Redemption, but I say "so what?".  Play the thing, see what happens.  Don't just freak out over a statline and the relics in your mind from last edition.  And if you think that something is really broken, well, I've just handed you a golden opportunity, haven't' I?  Use the rules, abuse them, and prove to me that it isn't balanced, and you can bag yourself a tournament at the same time.

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