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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Argument For the Double-FOC

AbusePuppy posted an article on Monday arguing that the Double Force Organisation Chart  (2xFOC) is unnecessary, bad for the game and pushes the game past its breaking point in balance.

It was a controversial post, as you would expect when discussing such a controversial change to the game, and caused quite a few arguments both for and against it. This post is a direct response, because frankly there are a lot of different points of view on this and on 3++ you deserve at least two.

I don't like having two Force Organization Charts available. That's the long and the short of it. I don't think it's necessary and I don't think it's good for the game nor for the players. It makes list-writing choices less interesting, it puts a major monetary constraint on list-building for one particular format, and it magnifies many of the problems that 6E already has to deal with to the point of breaking the game.” -AbusePuppy

As a disclaimer, when writing this I am playing the Devil’s Advocate, because frankly I agree with the first two of AbusePuppy’s conclusions. I think that the double FOC is unnecessary at 2,000 points, and that having access to it is potentially bad for the game. I’m going to argue against the third point; that it actually breaks the game.

And, I'll conclude with the argument for its inclusion.

Force Organisation Charts

Having a Force Organisation Chart has been good for the game, as it at least makes an effort towards forcing players to take a balanced army and makes the decisions about what to take in an army more difficult.

Quoting AbusePuppy again,
Why Does the FoC Exist?
To understand why doubling the number of slots available is bad for the game, we first need to understand why having a finite number of slots is good for the game. In 40K, you have three constraints on the list you write: the number of points available, the FoC slots you have, and the role each unit plays in the army to help you win the game. The first two are hard limits; the third is a soft limit. FoCs- they limit where you can spend your points, forcing you to make trade-offs.”

All true. In fact, if it were up to me:

If I were King

•    I would not have Allies in 40K
•    I would allow troops to control an objective whether they are inside a Landraider or picnicking outside it
•    I would not call the move a flyer makes Zooming. All flyers moves would sound more mature,  probably either ‘Weeeeeee!!’ or ‘Whoooooooosh!!’. Or I’d call the move ‘Flying’.
•    And I would not have allow a 2xFOC at 2000pts.

But I am not. Since AbusePuppy and I agree on so much of this issue, let’s get to the one we disagree on.

Does the Double-FOC Break the game?

I have seen some absolutely terrible lists people have posted to show how broken the double-FOC is. I mean incredibly poor list writing, as if you give the kids the keys to the candyshop and all they want to do is spill everything on the floor and roll around in it. It reminded me of that saying,

“We need Freedom of Speech so we know who the Idiots are.”

Having unfettered access to a double-FOC gives poor list builders a chance to really go wild and show how bad they are.

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about, the problems with a 2xFOC start when we look at actual competitive gamers who know what they are doing and can create good lists.

An exercise in List Equivalence

AbusePuppy posted about half a dozen 2xFOC lists that were just to show the concept – note he is not claiming that they are the best that can be done, so yes he is aware they could be improved on. All I am going to do in response is show whether similar things can be done without the 2xFOC, generally by using Allies.

Stating the obvious, having less options should always mean I have less options for how the lists are made. Having more options should always be better; the alternatives should not be quite as good, and they are likely to use the new user-friendly Squadron rules, but I hope to show that if a 1xFOC version can be almost as good as a 2xFOC version, it’s an exaggeration to say that the 2xFOC breaks the game and destroys it as a competitively playable system.

Here’s the challenge:
Allow me to show you a few of the more awful lists that I have conceived of and let you judge for yourself whether you think a "standard" 2000pt list with access to only one FoC could come anywhere near standing a chance against them.

My response will be to post similar versions made with 1xFOC with or without Allies, and see if I can convince anyone not that they are necessarily as good, but that the 1xFOC version could in fact stand a chance against them.
(Treat the points as approximate, since I don’t want to nitpick over non-optimised hypothetical lists; they should all be around 2k).

2xFOC Space Wolves

1 Rune Priest (Chooser)
1 Rune Priest (Chooser, Boltgun)
6x1 Lone Wolf (Terminator, Fist, Storm Shield)
3x5 Grey Hunter (Meltagun, Rhino)
2x5 Grey Hunter (Meltagun, Mark of Wulfen, Rhino)
6x5 Long Fangs (4 Missiles)
1xFOC Space Wolves
  • Drop 3x Lonewolves (240) 3x Longfangs (345) 2x GH+Rhino(290) = 875
  • Add BA Librarian PA (100) 2x ASM Melta Rhino (286) Dev Missiles (130) 5x Terminator Th/SS (220) = 736
  • Add 1x Missile Launcher LF to each LF squad (75)
  • Add 64 pts of gear where ever you like. Let’s go with HK missiles to make up the firepower deficit.
The 1xFOC Space Wolves/BA
1 Rune Priest (Chooser)
1 Rune Priest (Chooser, Boltgun)
3x1 Lone Wolf (Terminator, Fist, Storm Shield)
3x5 Grey Hunter (Meltagun, Rhino, 4x Hunter Killers)
3x6 Long Fangs (5 Missiles)
1 BA librarian
2x5 Assault Marines (Meltagun, Fast Rhino, 2x Hunter Killers)
1x Dev (4 Missiles)
1x 5 Terminatators TH/SS

Adding Deathwing Terminators might have resulted in a more powerful list, but the goal here is equivalence rather than optimisation.
Is that as good? Probably not, Devs are not as good as Long fangs and there are less missiles overall, the 5 TH/SS Terminators play a different roll than 3 Lone Wolves, and neither list is perfectly optimised. But which is the one that ‘Breaks’ the game? Is the difference so large it makes 40K unplayable for the opponent? 

Next up, Imperial Guard

2xFOC Imperial Guard

1x5 Company Command (3 Melta, Astropath, Chimera)
1x5 Company Command (3 Melta, Chimera)
1x5 Platoon Command (4 Flamer, Chimera)
3x10 Infantry Squad (Autocannon, Sniper, Chimera)
2x6 Special Weapon Squad (3 Melta)
3x10 Veterans (3 Melta)
6x1 Vendetta
2x1 Griffon
1x FOC Imperial Guard
  • Errm... Ok. Put the vendettas in 3 squadrons of 2. My work here is complete. Here's your version with just one FOC:
1x5 Company Command (3 Melta, Astropath, Chimera)
1x5 Company Command (3 Melta, Chimera)
1x5 Platoon Command (4 Flamer, Chimera)
3x10 Infantry Squad (Autocannon, Sniper, Chimera)
2x6 Special Weapon Squad (3 Melta)
3x10 Veterans (3 Melta)
3x Squadrons of 2 Vendettas
2x1 Griffon

Yes, I’d rather have the vendettas run as individuals instead of in squadrons, but the new squadron rules are much more friendly than in the past. If that change is all it takes to make a broken 2xFOC army into a socially-acceptable 1xFOC army, I think I can live with it.


Tyranids are the exception – they don’t get allies.  Below is the 2xFOC list AbusePuppy whipped up, but frankly while I could try make a list with a similar amount of Monstrous Creatures, I’d rather leave them up as an example of how not allowing 2xFOC is unfair to one race above all others – Tyrannids do not have the option to get 2+1 HQ and 6+2 Troops by allying, and banning a second FOC is disproportionately harsh to the bugs. 
Even Guard won't ally with the bugs.

2xFOC Tyranids
2x1 Tervigon (Catalyst, Cluster, Toxin, Adrenal)
6x10 Termagants
4x1 Tervigon (Catalyst, Cluster, Toxin, Adrenal, Talons)
2x1 Tervigon (Catalyst, Cluster, Toxin, Adrenal)

Grey Knights

2xFOC Grey Knights
1x Coteaz
1x Inquisitor (pick 20pts of gear)
2x3 Servitors (Multimeltas, Chimeras)
7x5 Acolytes (Storm Bolters, Chimeras)
2x3 Acolytes (Plasmaguns, Chimeras)
6x Psyflemen
1x Aegis Defense Line
  • Drop 2x3 Servitors (170), 3xAcolytes (SB Chimeras) (290) 3x Psyflemen (405) and 1x Inq (45) = 740
  • Add IG CCS 4xMelta Chimera (145) 1x PCS 4 Flamers (55) 2x Infantry Squads AC (120) 1x Squadron of 2 Vendettas (260) 1x Manticore (160)
1xFOC Grey Knights
1x Coteaz
4x5 Acolytes (Storm Bolters, Chimeras)
2x3 Acolytes (Plasmaguns, Chimeras)
3x Psyflemen
1x Aegis Defense Line
IG CCS 4xMelta Chimera
PCS 4 Flamers
2x Infantry Squads Autocannons
1x Squadron of 2 Vendettas
1x Manticore

The first list has a lot of Psyflemen and Chimeras. The second takes a ‘Best of Guard’ plug-n-play ally selection, and really should make you question whether it is the 2xFOC or use of Allies that test the limits of army building more. In a scientifically invalid blind Pepsi Vs Coke test, 9 out of 10 cats preferred the 1xFOC with Guard.

I'll do one last one, the impressively shootie-Orks list AP wrote.


2xFOC Orks
2x1 Weirdboy
6x5 Lootas
2x20 Shoota Boyz
2x15 Shoota Boyz
5x1 Dakkajet (Supa Shoota)
6x3 Kannons
1x Aegis Defense Line
  • Drop 3x5 Lootas (225) 1xWierdboy (55) 2x1 Dakkajet (270) 3x3 Kannons (180) = 730
  • Add IG CCS 2xPlasma AutoCannon Astropath (120) 1x PCS 4 Flamers (55) 2x Infantry Squads AC (120) 2x Heavy Weapon Teams –Autocannon (150) 1 Vendetta (130) 1x Manticore (160)
1x FOC Orks 'n Friends
1x1 Weirdboy
3x5 Lootas
2x20 Shoota Boyz
2x15 Shoota Boyz
3x1 Dakkajet (Supa Shoota)
3x3 Kannons
1x Aegis Defense Line
IG CCS 2xPlasma Autocannon Astropath
PCS 4 Flamers
2x Infantry Squads Autocannon
2x Heavy Weapon Teams –Autocannon

The lootas are replaced by ('Bring It Down'-capable) Autocannons, a vendetta replaces 2 dakkajets, a manticore takes some Kannon's space and the list ends up with more scoring units and a similar level of firepower. There's a moderate amount of horse-trading going on, but again  a casual observer might end up thinking it's the second and not the first that's going to wreck their day.

What about 2xFOC AND allies?

It's worth saying that if a list with Allies can be made almost as good or better than a list with 2xFOC, then a list with 2xFOC for both your primary and allied force has even more potential. Suddenly you have a shocking amount of slots available and a ludicrous amount of options.

It's also worth saying that at the 2,000pt level we're talking about you're going to run out of points fast, and that "IG + Coteaz x2 = 20 chimeras" just isn't as clever as it sounds any more. At this level, with that many force slots available, points cost becomes the factor most likely to moderate our enthusiasm/insanity.

The argument for the Double Force Organisation Chart

It’s a simple one: See page 110 of the Rule Book. If it’s in the game, it is in the game. 

Like it or not, those are the rules. I am still not a fan of 2xFOC even after writing all this, but there inevitably will be some events that use it, and I hope this has provided a useful counter-point to AbusePuppy’s earlier article on whether it actually breaks the game.

Would I organise a 2xFOC event? Probably not. In fact GW making this rule may backfired on them and reduced my enthusiasm for playing over 1,999pts.

Would I boycott going to a 2xFOC 2K+ event?  Also probably not, if there are wargames and prizes, I'd be there to try it at least once. Meet you at the sign in desk.


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