40K Deep Thought: A New Approach to Competitive Gaming



Black Blow Fly has been running 40K tourneys for over ten years and has some words of grey haired wisdom.

Black Blow Fly here swinging through your hood to spread some more mischief and be a big nuisance. You probably would never know that I’ve been running 40k grand tournaments (GT) for over a decade now. I’ve seen a lot of things come and go and the first thing I’ll say is no comp is the best. Comp is always subjective and there is no getting around that by any means because all TOs are human.

What is Comp and Why It Sucks

Do you really want someone telling you what you can bring to a tournament? Remember the old saying Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Comp is a means to restrict what people bring and it used to be very popular over a decade ago in the US… But really not anymore here in a truly competitive environment.

By the way in case you were wondering…

Comp = Army Composition Restrictions


let me just change this one little rule…

Changing Core Rules

The flip side to comp is changing actual rules which by some including me is also considered a big no no. Changing rules can effectively and easily effectively induce comp since by very specific rule changes you can nerf the units you don’t like for whatever reasons such as Death Stars.

Recently there has been a lot of work to hold down the assault phase in favor of super shooty alpha strike armies for whatever reason. Ideally all TOs should strive for the ultimate balance rather than infuse their own personal biases and agendas into the game – especially at a very broad level.

One of the things about changing core rules is no TO is an actual developer so there is no way they can really predict or see the collateral damage they will inflict on the tournament scene… And they do.



The Beaky System

So I spent a lot of time this year thinking how to develop a system that would make for the most fun overall for everyone attending my GT. I have illustrated some of the pit falls above in regards to comp and outright changing the rules. I decided that I would design my own system this year exactly how I think best and not necessarily follow in the foot steps of the big boys.

1. The first thing I want is one day as opposed to two so people traveling from far away have more time to go home after the event is over. This year the event which is in central Florida has people coming away from as far as Miami and Louisiana plus it’s sold out yet again.

2. The second thing I want to do is eliminate Gargantuans and Super Heavy Walkers in favor of 1650 points and more rounds to determine a true winner. This is comp straight up but I think it’s fair in the regards to how it’s applied overall – there are no big winners or losers. A lot of people have told me they really like this aspect.

3. The third thing I want to do is blend the new and awesome GW errata and FAQs with ITC. ITC is very popular this year in the USA – the proverbial 666 pound gorilla that can do no wrong. If something is popular there must be a good reason and I can get behind that for all the right reasons. The main thing we should all be aiming for is the ultimate fairness. It’s so amazing to see GW getting back into the game at this level and they are absolutely addressing everything including many of the rules abuse that falls out from some unnamed poorly moderated 40K rules forums.


The Way Forward

While there is no perfect system some are way by far much better than others. You can’t argue with success either… While people are fickle if you’ve got something good it works and at the end of the day that’s what players want – especially when they are paying their hard earned dollars and spending time to attend your event.

A perfect system would require a very balanced rule set. I think GW realizes they need to clarify 40k even though there is no intention on their part to develop the game into a truly balanced system, hence the popularity for the Aussie HATE and the US ITC systems. It takes some real work to develop a system that appeals to a wide spectrum of players that want to travel and play. My new system can easily be incorporated into a multi event… Think about it.

~What’s your take on the three point Beaky system?

  • Frank O’Donnell

    So last week you told us the deathstar was dead only then to tells us that it wasn’t & now you tell us comp is wrong & you don’t agree with it only to tell us your adding more comp, comfused I’m

    • vlad78

      Current 40k is a very confusing game, Black Blow Fly being an expert of the game has to be confused, or he wouldn’t be able to understand 40k underlying lack of logic.

      • ZeeLobby

        Lol. This pretty much sums it up.

      • I’m not confused and offer a solution

    • Zingbaby

      The Peterman Reality Tour. You get a bite sized Three Musketeers for dessert.

    • Think about it Frank

  • Bradley Macduff

    and once again u flop like a pancake on a daily basis, and you wonder why nobody ever takes these editorial garbadge seriously that you throw up on this site

  • David Metcalfe

    i’ve said it before: 1500pts and Malestrom (maybe supremacy). you don’t need another set of (house) rules to “balance” the game

    • Charon

      Because it randomizes the result so much you dont actually need to play but roll 2 dice to determine who won by what amount?
      Even maelstorm needs houserules as GW went the lazy route of replacing the first few objective cards with srmy specific ones (which was “hold objective X”) while they kept “cast a PSI power” in the deck for DE or KDK armies.

      • ZeeLobby

        Yes! Winning through randomization is a lot less fun IMO.

      • Zingbaby

        Winning by WAAC net-builds pretty much means “you dont actually need to play”.

        Playing with random requires a heck-of-a-lot more skill than playing with every single condition controlled and planned for and literally ‘won at the list-build phase’.

        Playing with random means you need to react and think, over-come obstacles and actually ‘play’ the game, not just wait for your WAAC list to sweep the table without anything unexpected happening.

        • Can you give an example of random in the context of 40k ?

        • Charon

          You make the wrong assumption again that just one player is “armed” with a “WAAC net-build”.
          If you actually think random is an utterly impoirtant factor in the game you are doing it wrong.
          You also don’t need a tournament list to minimize random in your game. You do this as an automatism.
          You don’t assault with your heavy weapon tems into Khorne berzerkers get all your AT killed and think “oh that was unexpected I need to overcome this unlikely situation now”

  • Heinz Fiction

    tldr; comps are bad except of mine.

    • My only comp is no gmc or SHW which will totally dominate at 1650. While your comment got a lot of likes it just comes across as appealing to ignorant which apparently you are.

      • Troy G

        I get it, you play in a limited meta, but what are you thinking?

        If you have a problem with SHW or GMCs, you can ban them, nerf them, or even write missions to mitigate them or make them a hindrance. Lots of people have used these approaches.

        I’m all for banning SHW and GMC’s, but if you do, and then claim that limits on list building are evil it just makes you look like a naive hypocrite.

      • Huntard

        That’s at least where my opinion differs from yours. Things like Wolfstar I feel necessitate SHWs and GMCs to threaten them, while tying up enough points that MSU armies can outplay the army that skews too much into superheavies. Superheavies are like a cooler and much better utilized version of Mega-Magic was in 8th ed Fantasy as a tool to discourage deathstars.

        My prediction is that 1st place at your event will be either Wolfstar or a similar ‘all-in’ deathstar list.

      • Heinz Fiction

        Maybe I am. Or maybe my limited understanding of the english language doesn’t let me comprehend the fine but importend differences between your system and all the others out there(?)

      • Shiwan8

        Eh? Deathstars are make more problems than even the stupidly broken individuals of SH/GC families.

  • DHettNeck

    Seriously….you say that comp sucks and that rule changes are even worse, and then you want to play ITC with MORE restrictions??? Talk about being inconsistent.

  • Cooky

    The ‘Aussie HATE’ system isn’t even popular in Aus just a couple of tourny organisers over here are forcing it on the comunity.

    • Yep, propaganda does not reflect reality

  • wibbling

    If by ‘competition’ you mean a group of gamers getting together to play lots of games, make new friends and have fun with the outcome being irrelevant then that’s great.

    I fear, however that you intend to make a game of chance into a fixed, formal competitive system. It is immediately obvious why this is impossible and unfair.

    • ZeeLobby

      The black and white argument is a false one. Just cause there’s some level of randomness in any game doesn’t mean balance should just be forgotten. There are plenty of good board games whose replayability usually relies on good challenging balance within a randomized system.

    • Charon

      If you actually think that this is a game of chance you are not a very good player.
      There is a random element to not make an outcome a given at any time but this is minor and you try your best to maximize your chance. You do not run a singe lascannon as your only AT waeopn because it is a game of chance and there is a chance you roll nothing but 6 and blast every vehicle with this lascannon.
      You dont attack a melee specialist unit with your melee specialist unit because you could be more lucky than him.
      Most of the time you roll enough dice to mitigate the random aspect. there are only a few instances where a few dice decide an outcome.
      If you run in these instances very often, you probably messed up a lot on your way.

    • It’s an annual tournament…

  • Drpx

    Why 1650?

    • Five rounds in one day going to 1650 points makes for faster games.

      • Severius_Tolluck

        Not to mention todays 1650 is like 1850 from ten years ago because things got so cheap!

  • ZeeLobby

    Lol. Comps are necessary, and Highlander is the most fun I’ve had competitively in years. The thing is most comps just introduce new broken combos, and do little to fix armies where EVERYTHING is Eldar… I mean… good. For a comp to really balance they field they’d have to literally go in and start messing with point values or skewing whole army point caps based on factions. The problem is that formations and detachments have made any attempt damn near impossible at this point.

    • Formations indeed make event comp near impossible. For our last public campaign we removed formations for that very reason.

    • Troy G

      Community Comp is an example of a comp system that works pretty well without touching points per se. Instead they introduce Comp points. You get comp points for certain units, wargear, formations, or combos.


      • ZeeLobby

        I’d def be willing to give that a shot. Organizers seem hesitant to go down that road, maybe because it’s the same road a lot of fantasy events went down before the AoSing. I guess there’s also more chance that arguments from players would occur. Its much easier to point to GW and their points cost then to try and defend your own.

      • Community Comp makes a complex game even more complex for no benefit: it doesn’t prevent hard armies stomping soft armies, it just changes which armies are hard. Which is great if you’re part of the clique which manipulates the Comp system to their advantage, but kills the community by deterring new players with all the added complexity.

        • Troy G

          We’ve seen quite good benefits. Our games are often considerably closer and more interesting when we use Community Comp scores to build our lists.

          It definitely changes what is good, and my expectation is that as people become more accustomed to it, it will greatly strengthen our community.

          At our Most Recent tournament, the most junior participant (Someone who has been playing for less than 6 Months) took 2nd place because of the community comp rules favoring his style of fluffy army builds.

          I’m not sure the basis of your negative experience, but I’ve had plenty of negative experiences with GW’s army Comp, and I feel like most modern and tested Comp systems do a better job, and you definitely need to embrace some sort of non-GW army comp if you want to have a happy and healthy 40K community.

          • You are not creating a 40k community, you are creating a community of people too scared to actually play 40k without Comp training wheels.

          • Shiwan8

            While I have not used the comp yet I’ve looked at the lists it produces. Honestly, it’s the best thing that has happened to competitive hammer.

            But hey, if you enjoy everything being 2+ to cast, hit and wound/pen and 2++ saves rerolling everything then 40k without comps is perfect for you. Some others might want to actually play the game.

          • If you actually knew how to play the game then all those things you mention would not intimidate you. Comp just encourages mediocrity and becomes self-fufilling over time; Comp breeds bad players who can’t survive without Comp.

          • Shiwan8

            If you actually knew what the difference between present day 40k and any skill or even luck based game is you would not get your panties twisted when someone questions the WAAC style being sensible.

            The things that in your mind intimidate me, they make the game boring. It’s not scary to face broken units. The result is simply that one player tries to run with his/her units while the WAAC player just deletes few of them per turn. I’ve been on both sides of that game and I have no idea why you people would want to repeatedly waste hours of your time to repeatedly play those kinds of games.

            What comp breeds is players who can manage with units that are not broken. You know, people who win with skill, not by choosing the most broken units and being lucky enough to not encounter the hard counter to that particular combination of WAAC menatality. Why does this scare you? Do you not think that you have what it takes to compete on a roughly level field instead of the constant easy mode you so much enjoy?

          • If you can’t deal with hard armies then you are a bad player. Accept it or GTFO of tournaments. “I could beat it but it’s boring so I don’t bother” is a total front for your inadequacy as a player. And your solution is Comp to make other players just as inadequate as you, so you are not as comparatively bad. You disgust me.

          • Shiwan8

            Apparently you think everyone is a bad player since no-one can deal with broken units with CSM. Also you are a liar, I never said I could beat the broken units with my armies. No one can. It is statistically nearly impossible and as far as evidence goes no one has done it in this edition. I only said that those games are boring, which they are, because there is one gamer playing the game and the other has nothing to do.

            It’s cool to be against comps that make your win button balanced against other armies. I get it, you have to win no matter what. This is why you are WAAC player and I am “just” a player. It is hilarious though that you claim that I am bad when you are infinitely worse as a player. 😀

          • What makes you think that CSM should be able to beat a superior Faction? Only clueless scrubs think all armies should have an even chance of winning, no matter how bad they are. You are clearly demonstrating your failure to understand the fundamental concepts of 40k. In other words, you are a fool, and so it is not surprising that you would think that Comp could ever be beneficial.

          • Shiwan8

            So, you realized that you do not have any valid arguments left and decided to take the fallacy road. It’s ok, not all of us are mature enough to admit that they are wrong.

            Besides, if you had any understanding of what 40k is, at all, you’d know that nids and chaos are the superior factions. Going by your logic which, if followed, makes 40k a fundametally dumb concept and anyone defending it a blind idiot, nids and chaos should be where eldar and marines are now but roughly double in power.
            Even GW has more sense than that though. Even they understand that a game with predetermined winner and loser is not a game. Even they know that half of a games worth comes from the balance between the factions. They are just incompetent.

          • What are you smoking? Nids and Chaos superior Factions? Do you actually live in an alternate reality? Any credibility you may have had as a 40k player just evaporated. Scrub.

          • Shiwan8

            Well, the other is unstoppable with the resources of 40k galaxy and the other stops when nothing that has a soul is alive anymore.

            But hey, I get that your ego just does not let you admit that you are wrong.

    • Highlander can be easily a used such centstar.

      • ZeeLobby

        Oh, no doubt. I find that highlander events also attract a different crowd. And the game is actually fun when not facing 30 scatbikes, multiple WKs and 3 units of warpspiders.

  • I’ve been running events for a very long time myself (this summer marks 18 years!) and I’ll say that as long as competition means listbuilding and abusing bad rules means more than actually playing the game, then I’m not interested in that competition.

    I’m all for houseruling the living **** out of a game if it means that listbuilding and loopholes are lessened.

    • ZeeLobby

      Can completely agree with this statement. I just feel bad for any TO, so mad props to you. The current game with its 200+ formations and detachments would be a nightmare to sift through. Each one released is just another chance at broken lists and loopholes (BA drop pods for everyone!).

      • Very true. There is no perfect fix. I stopped worrying about perfect fixes ages ago… and instead opt for fixes that bring us closer to the game having more meaning than the listbuilding phase.

        Our last campaign event we got rid of formations, you had to run a CAD, and we have a “no spam rule” which is similar to highlander except you get two units instead of just one (troop choices and transports do not count toward this)

        Was it perfect? No – but it ended very well and we had an 85% happiness rating which is pretty high for an event (meaning that 85% of the players reported that they had fun and would play this format again) and I felt that the listbuilding was still present but less a “thing” than uncomped 40k would have been.

        The overall winner after five months was an iron hands player.

        • ZeeLobby

          Nice! Sounds like it was a success. I like the sound of that format. Might try it in our group at some point.

          • Let me know how it goes

          • Simon Chatterley

            I’ve played in a similar style event in the past. The issue is the strong codexes tend to remain strong whereas the weaker codexes that unfortunately need a bit of min/max get worse.

            It’s tough as I run an event myself but having played recently in a near uncomped event my conclusion is that 40k needs to be burnt to the ground and rebuilt.

          • Our final tables had:
            Chaos Space Marines (Khorne)
            Iron Hands

            This mix is not something you’d see at a tournament typically. Removal of the formations made a big difference, though yes some codices still are head and shoulders above others (eldar)

          • Simon Chatterley

            The nail on head. Eldar.

            They broke the game and codexes that followed have all been (IMHO) trying to compete. It’s lead to a very steep cliff for the older books.

          • Shiwan8

            The sad thing is that if we force cad, make all alliances AoC at best and make eldar/tau/marines (all kinds of marines) use their 6th edition codices we are in a lot better balance situation compared to the present.

          • Pyrrhus of Epirus

            glad your campaign was a success, but your eldar players must not be good, as the rules you layed out (no formations and only 2 of each unit type max), should still heavily favor eldar. Eldar CADs in that enviroment should be dominant still. Wraithknight, 2 scatbike squads, 2 warp spider squads and 1 farseer is around 850 right there, and is better than basically any 850 points any othercodex can throw together in this ruleset.

        • ILikeToColourRed

          enforcing cad is a step in the right direction for “balance” in my opinion, as most of the things people complain about seem to stem from formations + allies

  • Malevengion

    I think the question that needs to be answered is the goal of the tournament to crown the best player or the best planner? What’s more important to reward, preparing your force to be as effective as possible (list building) or skillfully using it once the battle is joined (table top tactics)? Tough question for me so I don’t really have an answer.

    • ZeeLobby

      I think a combo of the two is what you’d really want. No reason you cant have both. Plan for your meta, play for the title. The biggest issue right now is that planning is heavily hinged upon which faction you pick, and whether easily switching factions is an option. That really involves no skill and is more a product of money.

      • Malevengion

        From the posts I’ve read (and using the winning list at last year’s Adepticon as a prime example) it seems like planning is stressed over playing.
        In my group, we like to play with a narrative. That way we each know what our mission and objectives will be before making up our forces and we bring what we think will be needed to achieve the mission. It’s a fun way for us to have satisfying games but I don’t know that it could be scaled for a tournament.

        • ZeeLobby

          Normally I would say that’s true, and looking at any singular tournament would imply that, but the top 10 of major events has the same players many times. It’s still not enough to bring the meta list if you want to win. There is still definitely skill involved. Ive beat many a spamming Eldar player who don’t play the objectives. The problem is if they do, my army has no chance.

          The issue right now is that people want to compete with the faction they like, and right now the factions are just stretched between a massive power divide. If you accept the fact that you’ll have to buy the latest cheese and play it well to win, that’s an option. Personally I find it extremely boring, which is why even though I think I play a very tactical game, I will never be in the tip 10.

          Both list building and skill are very much alive in current tournaments. But obvious power faction selection skews everything so that neither of those 2 have as much impact as they should.

          • Malevengion

            Warhammer 40K has always had some factions that were more forgiving to careless players than other. (I’ve found vanilla Space Marines are usually user friendly in almost every edition). It’s a shame though that some factions need a die rolling Sun Tzu at the helm to be effective. No faction should be that hard to use.

          • ZeeLobby

            Haha. Well put. A lucky die rolling Sun Tzu at that.

          • Malevengion

            At the risk of being pilloried for a truly bad pun, perhaps you could say that the winners are often a General Von Claus-list? :p

  • Shiwan8

    – allies are AoC always
    – CAD (+ AD) only
    – max 1 IC per unit
    – at least one infantry troop choise per one other choise
    – only BRB psychic powers
    – no SH/GC

    Competitive 40k…

  • My only comp is no gmc or SHW which will totally dominate at 1650. While your comment got a lot of likes it just comes across as appealing to ignorant which apparently you are

    • Troy G

      You are also comping it as battleforged and 1650. Those are also comp. You are also allowing unlimited detachments (Comp). Duplicate Formations (Comp), and any number of other army composition rules.

      In your rush to ascribe a negative connotation to the word Comp you find yourself misunderstanding what it actually means, and compromising our ability to share a common semantics.

      • Armies must follow the ITC restrictions for list building. Almost no event allows unbound… Seriously.

        • Shiwan8

          Not allowing unbound is pretty hilarious since the winning formations are better anyway.

          • You can’t make a case against not allowing unbound since it’s a universal standard.

          • Shiwan8

            Actually it’s an universal house rule in tournaments. It’s not standard. On top of that, have you seen the chart that shows us how much we are technologically behind our potential because during the dark ages church had the same argument as you do now?

            Progress means change. Stagnation, the idea you are now supporting, does not necessarily mean regress, but it can never mean progress. Since the balance in this game is what it is I’m in favor of progress. You can stagnate all you want.

          • A defacto standard is still a standard. If the majority is against something that’s not necessarily an indication they are repressed or unenlightened.

          • Shiwan8

            Sure, but it’s not standard.

            I’m not saying people should embrace unbound. I’m saying that people who allow formations but not unbound because they think unbound is broken have absolutely no idea of how the game actually works. It’s like saying that IK is broken and thus not allowed but still claiming that WK should get a point’s reduction and be allowed everywhere. Someone said “rock is broken, paper is ok. – Scissors”

            Anyway, why is gameplay that rewards skill over codex choice a bad thing in your opinion? I mean, it clearly is since you are so adamantly opposed to favoring skill over codex/luck.

          • Suppose a TO allows unbound then say 6 out of a possible 24 players turn up when otherwise it could have sold out. Perception is a thing. I’m not necessarily against it but don’t have time to make a good case for it. Unbound is perceived as power gaming at the tourney level for whatever reason… Sure the formations are more broke but the way it’s all perceived it what it is. Not allowing unbound is not a big deal imo.

          • Shiwan8

            Well, if the TO has so little faith in his/her target audience then playing it safe is the way to go no matter if it makes sense or not.

            “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” -Twain
            I agree with Mark right there. Same goes with the side that is the most vocal. One has to remember that most people who go to tournaments aim to play at the middle tables and on that level unbound does not matter. The whiners are all WAACs that just do not want other factions countering their win button.

          • You should submit an article about the virtues of playing unbound armies.

          • Shiwan8

            There is no virtue of playing unbound armies. There’s just no virtue of playing formations either.

          • I think you know that l really meant

          • Shiwan8

            Sure. I redirected for the sake of accuracy.

          • If you can’t handle Death Stars then maybe you should play Go Fish or soemthin

          • Shiwan8

            You can’t handle them either with the codices I use. No one can. It is more likely to win the lottery with one ticket than it is to win against deathstars with codex CSM or nids. Essentially you are now saying that you should go play Go Fish or something.

            It’s comical how all of you pay to win gamers think you are the sh*t but at the end of they day you are actually less of a gamer than the average beer & pretzels hammerist. You just can not manage in an environment in which your win buttons are not allowed. I mean, come on, there’s one thing that can oppose your stars and you are banning it just so that you do not have to have any skill in use at all. 😀