Army Composition and Other Random Thoughts

Saturday, February 21, 2015


The 2015 Grand Tournament season is now underway with LVO kicking things off this weekend here in the States. Many are watching, especially other Tournament Organizers, to see not only which army combinations come out on top but to also gauge how attendees feel about the event format, the missions, army composition and more. There's no right or wrong format; the 7th edition rulebook makes that much abundantly clear -- it's up to the players / TO's to agree upon these things before the game begins. But the format does matter, especially mission design (victory conditions) and army list restrictions which can drastically shape the playing field (meta) by favoring some armies/factions over others. The big question, particularly for these larger events: is there a better way?

I don't envy the TO's who have the difficult task of determining which format is fair and fun for all who attend their events. The problem of course lies in what is considered fair, and since all armies are not created equally, this will vary depending on which army you play. I think all TO's honestly strive to make their events as fair as possible and are aiming to please the majority of potential attendees. Most of the big GT's now offer a variety of game formats for players to choose from so fun can truly be had by all, and I think it's great that players have more options at the large, convention-sized events across the country and around the world.

But for the purposes of this discussion, I'm focusing on the larger "open" tournaments, you know, the Main events with hundreds of players which put these GT's on the map in the first place. Nearly every week there's a new article on one of the big 40k Internet hubs lobbying for one format versus another, and while it's true any joe shmo can easily voice their opinion on the Internet or disagree just to disagree (because it's the Internet), I think this particular debate rages on because we haven't arrived at a better format for these large scale events, and we can actually do better.

I'll cut right to the chase: limiting army composition to 2 detachments is inadequate and unfair.

This limitation was a carryover from 6th edition where the classic decades-old Force Organization Chart was first blown up, which gave way to Allies and Formations which further changed the landscape of 40k as we knew it. It's understandable that it took some time for everyone to adjust as this one change exponentially increased the number of options available for army construction. A lot of people still seem to be confused which is why we are seeing how to guides 2 years into this edition. But it's time to adjust again. Just look at the most recent 7th edition codexes & supplements, specifically the formations which now range from just a few models and a small points cost to the excessively large ones that don't fit into games under 2000 points. Placing a 0-1 restriction on Formations makes no sense, especially when you consider a lot of these books now contain a massive Formation made up of all the other available Formations in the same book.

It's unfair to me and every other Dark Eldar, Coven, Harlequin, Ork, and Necron player (and probably even more 7th edition armies that I just haven't gotten around to reading yet like Blood Angels etc). Why shouldn't I be able to take a Dark Eldar detachment + Grotesquerie + Scalpel Squadron or Artisan or any other number of Formation combinations from the Coven supplement? They are all from the same Army Faction, so don't try to tell me I'm cherry picking across armies to make an OP list... and I triple dog dare you to say anything about the Dark Eldar Faction being OP in this edition!


I realize Dark Eldar are a niche army and in the minority compared to Armies of the Imperium (which is a VERY broad category) which everyone likes to cite as the worst offender and why detachments should be limited; and they are the same category that makes it so limitations aren't tied to Factions instead of detachments, it's the same example and it's not a good one. All you're doing is limiting a lot of Xenos options due to a concern with Imperials (who are already quite capable on their own right). If the Imperium is the problem and you're already comping the event, then address the actual problem instead of wholesale ignoring the direction of all new 7th edition updates and inadvertently hurting armies who don't need any more disadvantages as it is.

-Rant over-

What are your thoughts or what other examples can you think of where this restriction is hurting the variety we might otherwise see at a GT? If you disagree with me, that's cool! Share your thoughts on the matter, illustrate to me why you think 2 detachment limit is a good thing for the game. Cheers!

8 comments:

  1. The tricky part here is finding a good healthy common ground. It's difficult to do with what GW's released in terms of the game as it is today. For every person who wants to build a creative 3+ detachment list leveraging formation options from his codex (Tyranids come to mind as one I'd personally love to mess around with in limitless detachment), there are plenty of other situations where you have problems. Cherry picking legality is arguably as bad as cherry picking detachments.

    I will say that there is a point where it gets utterly ridiculous. We did a lot of playtest locally to help players get ready for AdeptiCon and the fun meter went crashing into the Disgusted Zone in a big hurry when folks were dropping all sorts of crazy combinations down.

    I do hear what you're saying here - the trick is finding a solution that goes beyond the walls of any one individual player ... just bout everyone has their own personal idea of where the limit should be (and very few people think there should literally be no limit unbound running everywhere).

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    1. It is definitely a tricky problem to solve and I know the current state of all codexes doesn't allow for a clean one size fits all solution. I wanted to throw my .02 into the ring being as I play an army that stands a lot to gain from more than 2 detachments, and personally I'd love to show what pure dark kin can do without any crutch from a wave serpent.

      I have mad respect for you Mike and all the other TO's who keep this community alive and thriving. No one expects you all to solve GW's balance issues, we can only hope they go back and hit all the armies with a reasonable 7th edition treatment. I'll be trying to attend NOVA this year regardless and I think the Highlander Quickening idea is brilliant!

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  2. As you know I've had a back burner Ordo Xenos based army simmering for awhile now, and the 2 detachment limit really hamstrings me when I want to run primarily henchmen units. 2 HQ's and 6 elites is not enough when the henchmen units are geq!

    Ideally I'd be able to take my 2 inq detachments with some AM or Scions, or even Lamenters or Angels of Vengeance (both known to hate Xenos) with some vets modeled as Deathwatch (I'm still not buying DW rumors lol)

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    1. Absolutely, although seeing what they just did for Harlequins, that certainly makes it a little more believable that they could give a little love to Deathwatch and other lesser-known factions! I hear they are coming right after the plastic thunderhawk kit ;-)

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  3. An easy solution would be to eliminate the detachment restriction, but lower the points. As each codex gets released, and each army drops in points cost, do we really need to adhere to 1850 points for tournaments anymore? We are all just bringing more stuff. The old 1850 point limit is closer to 1500 points these days (for a similar amount of stuff).

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    1. That's a good point! Avg. points per model has only come down with each edition, and 1500pts used to be the norm (around these parts anyway). With a lower limit, players would have to pick and choose what they really want to field; it wouldn't be as easy to cram in all the super efficient combos. This would also help more players finish their games and ease the tournament schedule a bit. Less things to transport for those traveling great distances. Seems like a win all the way around, I'd be happy if GTs went back to 1500pts.

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  4. For our local tournies and regular play we just play the 7th edition rules. If you want to make an army with four detachments go ahead. Haven't seen anything yet that is rivaling the admantium lance/serpent spam combos or any of the other top dogs currently. Detachments open options. Those who abuse combos aren't exactly bringing "soft" or themed list now, how exactly are these restrictions preventing any of that? I understand that these big events are a far bigger pond than most of us little fish ever swim in, so they have to contend with seemingly different issues, or on a larger scale say. I just look at the top lists posted at any of these events and have a really hard time understanding how a detachment limit for everyone does anything but keep ensuring these same handful of netlists dominate tournaments. What ever happened to playing the game as written? I can get no one wanting revenant titans on every table, but the 7th edition books are written WITH detachment rules in mind. It's kind of a thing now. Limiting it based on saying some imperial armies will abuse it is like saying we're not having knights or eldar because someone is going to Adlance or serpent spam. Just doesn't hold water in my limited view.

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    1. I agree! All the limit is doing at this point is artificially keeping the meta exactly where it was 1-2 years ago. It doesn't encourage variety as most competitive players will only consider the limited selection of detachments that pack the biggest punch; most of the recent releases (in the past 6+ months) seem intended to provide a ton of options that when used in certain combinations can be every bit as competitive as the older mono-2 detachment power builds. That's what it seems like to me anyway. Thanks for commenting!

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