40K Editorial: Balance is Boring


In a perfect Grim Dark Future Warhammer 40,000 would be perfectly balanced…or would it?

Warhammer 40,000 is not a balanced game. Yeah – shocking I know. But I think deep down players and Jr. Game Designers everywhere knew that already. Why isn’t it balanced? Because perfectly balanced games are boring. But before I get into that I think we need to establish some definitions or we’re all going to say or read words that have different meanings. If we’re not communicating using the same terminology, then we can’t have a discussion on this thing that is “Balance” can we?

Common Terms

Balance (in Game Design) the concept and the practice of tuning a game’s rules, usually with the goal of preventing any of its component systems from being ineffective or otherwise undesirable when compared to their peers.

Perfectly Balanced – All choices are equal in effectiveness and relevance.

Dominate Strategy (Game Theory) – Sometimes called strategic dominance – when one strategy is superior to any other strategy. “Occurs when one strategy is better than another strategy for one player, no matter how that player’s opponents may play.”

Hard Counters – aka “Rock-Paper-Scissors” effect. “Option A” counters “Option B” but is countered by “Option C”  etc… A>B>C>A.



Balance is Boring

Imagine a turn-based game where everyone had the exact same pieces. They brought the same pieces to every game and, while they might have different types of pieces, they agreed to always bring the exact same “forces” to every game. I bet a lot of you are thinking “He’s talking about Chess” – and yes, that would fit the description. But even in a game like Chess, the game is imbalanced. “What, that’s a lie!” you say, but I’d point you to the First-move advantage in chess. It’s the fact that the first player (white) has an inherent advantage by making the first move.

Every good game will have an inherent imbalance because people like to win. If every game ends in a stalemate (which a perfectly balanced game should result in all else being equal) then people wouldn’t want to play that game…because it gets boring. That’s why people get bored with Tic-Tac-Toe. Or Global Thermonuclear Warfare.

defconTurns out not playing IS winning…

The Illusion of Balance

Players will say they want a balanced game but really they want the Illusion of Balance. They want the game to be as fair as possible; Game Designers should want to minimize any inherent advantages as much as possible, but they still want it to exist in some form or fashion. When the perceived imbalance is minimized players feel like it’s their skill that won or lost them the game. That should be the goal of good game design.

The second goal should be that there should be no Dominate Strategy in a game. Because once that strategy is discovered players will use it to their advantage to win. And without Hard Counters to that strategy players will just continue to use it – in PC games, developers will often “nerf” these uncovered Dominate Strategies. That can take time and upset the player base. It’s a constant balancing act of tweaking one variable and adjusting another.

mexicanstandoff_fullpic_artworkI love this Tee Shirt

Let’s talk about a real world example in PC games. The classic Shotgun vs Sniper argument. The Shotgun players will say Snipers need to be toned down because they are getting killed before they can get there to fight back. Sniper players will say that shotguns need to be toned down because once they get there they kill them instantly. So the developers will go in and tweak all these different variables – ranges, firing times, accuracy…in some cases there are literally thousands of variables. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to eliminate both guns and give them both an assault rifle? Absolutely! But that removes variety and choice – it makes the game bland. And bland is boring.

nerf rock

Balance: So Who’s Responsible?

This is a tough question! The short answer is that it’s really up to both the player and the game developers to take the blame. For years Players have already done things like create house rules, create different formats of play, International FAQs – official and unofficial or just created their own game without the original game developer’s support (but sometimes their blessing). And that’s not exclusive to 40k – Magic: The Gathering has had formats like Highlander or Two-Headed Giant become popular and even host their own tournaments.

All of those things came from players finding that something was imbalanced or “broken” and deciding to do something about it. Re-writing rules or applying artificial limitations on themselves to make the game more enjoyable is something players do constantly. Or you can bury your head in the sand and blame the game…

frustrated-faceWhy you no fix this?!

On the flip side, it’s up to the developer to strive toward that Illusion of Balance. Obvious Dominate Strategies should never make it past the play-testing stage of game design. However, that requires a lot of resources and some very creative players. You actually need those players who “break games” to make the game better in the long run – you just have to let them break it early enough so that the developers can fix it before it goes to the masses.

Frustrated Face 2We’re Trying! Stop exploiting it!

It’s impossible for a team of testers to catch what a possible player pool of a million or more gamers will do. But that’s where feedback and FAQ/fixes come in to play. It’s not a hopeless situation where players and game developers should just throw-up their hands and quit. By working together both parties can make awesome things happen.

What Can I Do?

If you’re a player there are things you can do to help with these issues:

  • Contact the Developer… but in a polite way – You know what Developers have to ignore to do their job: Internet Rage Threads. Even if you’re 100% right and you’re idea is genius, relaying that via facebook, twitter, on an official forum or email in an angry way will get your idea sent to the bottom of the pile (aka the trash bin).Game Developers are working on your favorite game and they have a lot of feedback to filter through. They have to separate out the bad ideas from the good ones to find real feedback. And just because you think you’re being ignored when you’re polite, you’re probably getting more eyeballs from the people that matter than the angry fanboys who are agreeing with you.
  • Set Expectations With Your Opponents – I’m not going to talk about the Social Contract of Gaming and I’m not going to get into Sportsmanship. I don’t want to get into a WAAC vs Fluff-bunny debate either. But, no matter which side of the fence you’re on, you need to make sure you’re opponent understands what they are getting into when they play you. Both parties will have a much better time if they are both upfront about it.
  • Stop Doing That! – You found a Loophole/Exploit/Advantage or perhaps you’ve magically discovered a Dominate Strategy. Congratulations – you broke the game! Now you have a couple of options. You can be “That Guy” and keep using it to win games. Or you can stop yourself and try something else. Now if you’ve set proper expectations and you’re opponent is okay with you bringing the pain then go for it. But if you know it works then try something else – challenge yourself to win without it. Don’t be “That Guy” because it will make your group hate you.
okay with this

If you’re a Game Developer (or an aspiring one) here’s what you can do:

  • Listen to your play testers – QA (or Quality Assurance) is your first line of defense against balance issues. Hopefully you’ve got some smart, creative testers putting your game through it’s paces. Listen to them! They can prevent you from having a terrible launch and help you catch major issues before they hit the masses.
  • Ask for feedback – This part is painful. No one likes to be told they are wrong or that something about their game is broken. But asking for genuine feedback or questions from players can allow you to crank out effective FAQs. Communicating with the player base will pay off long term in the form of generating some goodwill. Heck, you could even invite some active players in on your play testing. A fresh set of eyes can do wonders! Or you can have them read the hate mail and filter out the garbage from the good stuff – that’s what interns are for, right!?
  • Be transparent on your plans to address issues – Players LOVE this stuff. Even if you’re still in the “we’re working on it” phase, acknowledging that you’ve heard their cries and are actively working on addressin the issue will do WONDERS to ease the collective nerves. Plus, they will hopefully stop sending you the same feed back about whatever you’re fixing – you’re intern is tired of reading about broken flyers. I promise.


fine___54679f3e2a6b2244a0753e8cIgnore the problem…That’s works, right?

At the end of the day Balance is Boring. Players want variety and choices in their tactics and strategies. It’s the strive toward the Illusion of Balance that players want. If you find yourself growing weary of perceived imbalances and Dominate Strategies then talk to your opponents and set some limits on the game you want. You’ll have a much better time and it’s a lot less painful than smashing your head on the wall of frustration you’re facing.

Oh – and before anyone says “What about Points! If it’s pointed correctly it should be balanced!” To that I say, “Yes, I agree. Points should be good gauge for balance. But currently, they are not.” Exhibit A: Formations. Exhibit B: Allies. Exhibit C: USR sharing & synergies.

Morkanaut with KFF and riggers is more points than a Wraithknight with two wraith cannons. Yay points!Exhibit D: “Morkanaut with KFF and riggers is more points than a Wraithknight with two wraith cannons. Yay points!”

Yeah – I don’t think points are balanced at all.


For REAL a balanced game you could try mirror matches…A TRUE test of player skill!

  • Mira Bella

    Strangely enough, I play a lot of games which are all better balanced then 40K. Non of them is boring. 😀
    The autor also fails to recognize that there is a middle ground between totally unbalanced and perfectly balanced.

    • ZeeLobby

      That is what EVERY poster who argues against balance struggles to comprehend. “I don’t want to play Chess!”… Well good, neither do I, and that is no way/shape/form what I’m saying. Lol.

      • Muninwing

        i think that’s what articles like this are missing — a larger sense.

        chess is simple balance — everyone has the same pieces that can do the same things.

        extended balance (which seems the strawman he’s presenting) is that everyone has the same options, but the difference is in what is selected… or else, there are at least equivalents. your big dudes might be different from my big dudes, but we both have big dudes, added to the list of little dudes, light and heavy cavalry, a flyer, and the like.

        that would be chess-plus — the idea that you and i chose from our available stuff and throw down as we want, roughly equally, everyone with a choice or two that are rough equivalents of each other. it’s like playing chess with any twelve pieces, but you each pick yours, and you choose setup. from a tactical view, it means that what you do with the troops is far more important than what those troops are.

        but that’s all simpler than what 40k has tried to be from the beginning. by adopting a points-based balancing (with all its flaws and benefits), there’s been a chance at tackling more. having different armies with drastically different flavors rated and scaled in equivalence to each other. that takes complicated math, trial-and-error, and playtesting. what it yields, when balanced, does not resemble chess in any way. or it would, if you played on a board twice as large that included “dead squares,” pawns could move sideways too, and each piece was worth a certain number of points (pawns one, knights two, rooks/bishops three, queens six), and you had the same number of points on a side and could setup however you chose.

        i just want a general, better evaluation of overall effectiveness. some people might do better with certain choices, but i’d rather that be because of style than math. if certain units are no-question takes because they are so much better than anything in their point-range, they need to be nerfed.

        MMOs do this all the time, and are probably still a thing because most have striven for balance since the start (despite the anger and the complaining). their medium meas they can issue a patch quickly and universally, so it’s not exactly the same — but at the same time GW has mechanisms that would work similarly (FAQs, new books, etc) that have classically made things worse instead of better.

        having a game with a functional points-based algorithm for pricing units wouldn’t be boring.

        it’d just mean that you would need to learn how to play, instead of spam-tactics. for a lot of people, attracted to the game because of its strategic nature, that’s a benefit not a drawback. and for others… maybe they aren’t ready for it yet. let them stick to simpler games until they can handle it. isn’t that what AoS is for now (instead of WHF, which was the step-up from 40k)?

        • Sam

          I think AoS has more depth than you’re giving it credit for. I honestly think it has the potential to be a step up from WHFB. The simple rules allow for a lot of weird stuff like unit formations (phalanx, wedge) and strategic unit placement/movement, etc. 40k at larger points than like 1000-1500 is an exercise in who gets the first turn and can alpha strike their opponent.

    • Thatroubleshootah

      yeah, bolt action, infinity, firestorm armada, antares etc are a lot more ballanced and fun while having forces that have a lot of different character elements.

    • Yeah, this x1000. Infinity is incredibly well balanced and nowhere near boring, it’s fun and dynamic, while also very well balanced and fair.

      I also play Antares which is very nicely balanced and enjoyable. Even Age of Sigmar is far more balanced than 40k in it’s current incarnation (probably due to AoS points being developed by the community, but still).

    • Kami

      He said perfectly balanced games are boring. Not more balanced. If you are the lord of darkness you can say hitler is less evil but hey that doesnt make him good. The tic tac toe game is the perfect example. No matter what you do no one can win in perfect play. Even chess it usually comes down to someone messing up.

    • Raven Jax

      That is something I have always enjoyed about Star Trek Attack Wing. I can tailor a list and it will still be pretty balanced. I can know that my opponent is bringing Romulans, and I can build a fleet specifically to defeat Romulans, and I can still lose to Romulans because the game is pretty well balanced and very dependent on player skill level.

    • V10_Rob

      No game with asymmetrical factions will ever be perfectly balanced, but you can come close.

      Of course, you have to actually make the effort.

      • euansmith

        Asymmetric games are great, so long as the objectives are asymmetrical too.

    • Skathrex

      What, how? What do you read? Did I read a diffrent article than you did?
      The author doesn’t hinge his article on 40k.
      He even does acknowledge that game should “thrive” towards the illusion of balance” which suggest he knows that its not easy, any many games are happy with the middle ground.
      At no point he states that 40k is better/worse balanced than anything else.

      • Jamie Richard Micheal Seddon

        erm the title is 40k editorial: balance is boring

        with a picture of some 40k models showing how points are imbalanced

        so I think as well mentioning 40k in the opening 2 lines that this probably is a 40k article

  • Zingbaby

    Playing against a super OP Eldar codex is boring… otherwise I generally agree.

  • Mr.Fister

    “Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked ‘Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.'”

  • Xodis

    Even the “perfect balance” system would still be fun as each player’s skill difers. Plus, even if balanced, each army is different in flavor and mechanics, so would still lead to amazing and fun games.

  • Talos2

    Just because the current points values are widely off the mark doesn’t mean points don’t work. It’s just a case of better play testing, better rules designers and no input from the money men. It’s hard to get right, but if it’s all you’ve got to do at work for a few years it really shouldn’t be as hard as they make it look

    • Frank Krifka

      Protip #1: If it looks hard, it probably is.

      Protip #2: If it looks easy, it’s probably not.

      Protip #3: It’s always easy if you’re not the one doing it.

      • Talos2

        “It’s hard to get right”, I said it right there. Gw always tell you they take around 2 or 3 years from concept to shop. You don’t need a model to play test with so they’ve got 2to 3 years to get it right. Easy questions to be solved, can the big robot take out the other big robot, can the big robot be killed by other big robot, is it capable of satisfying what it looks capable of doing? Does anything it’s going to be alongside change any of these answers significantly, what mission types does it suit? Just a few things that clearly don’t get properly addressed. Maybe more than one points costs for different army compostions?

        • Kami

          You can see a lot of things in edition changing. Remnants of leftovers that you just cant get rid of easily. Its not that they cant get addressed but that the scope is far larger than anyone realizes. Such as the 16 slot back pack in wow. You think it would be easy to change until you learn more about it.

          But they are doing a much better job with FAQs and moving to new rules models

        • Frank Krifka

          You say clearly, but I think less so. They’ve always said that models are pointed based on how the model “feels” on the tabletop; not based on how it fits into a points-efficient tournament tuned list.

          Also something worth mentioning. I don’t GW takes into account “all comers lists” when they do their play testing. From what I’ve seen even some of the “bottom tier” armies deal fairly well with most things in a “one-off-game” scenario, but can’t write a single list that handles everything equally well. I really think that GW’s play testing philosophy leads to models being pointed in a way that drives the tournament scene crazy; because they test their concepts with how they envision the game being played, and not how tournament gamers see the game.

          • Charon

            Well possessed fell like garbage on the table. So do warp talons or Forgefiends and darl apostles. they still cost a lot of points.
            On the other side Warpspiders, Wraithknights and Scatterbikes feel amazing and are dirt cheap.

          • Frank Krifka

            ::Shrug:: I have watches that tell time that are crazy cheap, yet I’d still wear a broken rolex. What’s your point exactly?

          • Charon

            “They’ve always said that models are pointed based on how the model “feels” on the tabletop”

            If that was the intent they failed miserably.

            “because they test their concepts with how they envision the game being played, ”

            If that was their intent. They also failed miserably.

            And even if you tone down your lists to a super friendly environment: Eldar are still cheaper and better.

          • Troy G

            In many cases I’m pretty certain GW doesn’t playtest at all. For instance, play a single game with the Badruck’s Flash Gitz formation. Attempt to roll 21 separate Master Crafted Assault 3 guns.

            If you playtest it once…. Just put it on the table, and attempt to use it a single game, you will see why it doesn’t really function on the Tabletop, why that mechanic is a fun killer. How many other special rules besides Mastercrafted could they have given that formation that would have been fluffy, statistically similar, and yet not incredibly unwieldy to use?

            The fact that it has now been included in 2 different books now is a clear sign that nobody at GW has ever played it or seen it played.

            Here is another example. Put a Maleceptor on the tabletop with any other tyranid army. Now try to use it’s psychic power 3 times. How many dice did that take? How many times did it go off? How many wounds did the Maleceptor do vs how many did it suffer from perils. One Game, and you would see that that unit doesn’t function correctly.

            So GW can talk about “Inspiration”, and pointing models based on “How they feel”. I think generally it comes down to never trying the models or wargear out in a game of any type, Casual, Competitive, or some sort of weird narrative. I think they try to imagine how it *would* play, if they did *test* it, and point it accordingly, but because the people designing the points are people who rarely or never play the game we get a massive trainwreck of incorrect pointing.

            Also we Know that Jervis Johnson who has been the lead rules writer during most of the worst excesses (7th ed main rulebook, Eldar, Space Marines, Tau, Wulfen) doesn’t believe that we should be using points, doesn’t use them himself, and feels like players who rely on points are doing it wrong. He created Age of Sigmar to demonstrate it to the world, and hopefully we’ve seen the end of that rancid philosophy, but what a trail of carnage it left behind.

          • Painjunky


            ANYBODY who has ever played a couple of games with or against drop pods read the FAQ regarding the doors and instantly knew this is a giant cockup.

            Obviously this GW rulesmith has not played this game.

          • Frank Krifka

            I think that’s just speculation. It’s clever speculation; but speculation nonetheless.

            I remember not too long ago when the 8the edition codex dropped for Wood elves, everybody spent about a week lambasting a bunch of the changes. It wasn’t until nearly a year went by and people found how to make certain units effective on the tabletop the started to see them in competitive lists on the tabletop.

            We’ve also seen units made ineffective by edition changes, and vice versa.

            And, just for the record, I played Age of Sigmar without points (or fan-based comps) happily for well over a year. I never had any major problems with balance or gameplay.

          • Simon Bates

            Have to agree about points. I think it’s nice to have a rough approximation of one unit’s value vs another though, which is why the GH is a good compromise. It doesn’t sweat the small stuff, but does give some sense of orders of magnitude.

            It occurred to me a few months after AoS came out that, for all that I love list-writing now, my first games of 40K never bothered with points. We always just put armies down, decided they would be about right and got on with it. Especially in 2nd ed when army building was way more time consuming than it was from 3rd onward.

          • Troy G

            You misunderstand me. I’m not citing examples of bad units. I’m citing example of unit and formations that don’t function.

            To illustrate that let me explain the problem with Badrukk’s Flashgitz. It is 1 unit with 21 models. Each shoots 3 shots. Typically that would mean rolling 63 dice to hit, and rolling the hits to wound. 2 Rolls.

            They gave them the mastercrafted special rule. That means that instead of 2 Rolls we now need to roll each model separately with rerolls for a total of 43 rolls. 43!!!! For one unit.

            It isn’t a bad unit. In fact it is a pretty good unit, but it is logistically unfeasible to use it in the game. After 1 turn having to make 43 rolls with that unit, you are either disregarding that rule or asking your opponent if you can abstract it so that you can do 3 rolls instead of 43.

          • Frank Krifka

            Perhaps we have different understandings of the phrase “doesn’t function”. There’s a tangible difference between “cumbersome” and “non-functioning”.

            Aside from that, I wills ay Gw is rather limited what it can do in a 20+ year old game based on a D6. Between the all they actions added over the years, all the supplements and special rules, there’s only so many permutations that don’t involve just rolling buckets and buckets of dice. While cumbersome, I actually thought the rolling buckets of dice with that formation was fairly orky…

          • Troy G

            We are still talking past eachother. It has nothing to do with the quantity of dice. It is the number of individual rolls required. Green Tide is functional on the table even though it frequently rolls 200+ dice. But it does so in 2-6 rolls.

            The Flashgit formation meanwhile has to make 43 separate rolls. Count out dice, Roll the dice, evaluate results. Pick up specific results and move on to the next roll. You have to do that 43 times each shooting phase with that formation.

            It has nothing to do with the age of the game. It was a brand new formation, and could have gotten any benefit they wanted. If they had given the formation preferred enemy it would have had a similar buffing effect, but would have only required 4 rolls to resolve it’s shooting phase.

            This is a perfect example of something that would seem to work on paper, and it isn’t until you actually play the game that you realize how unplayable that unit is.

            I promise that if you put that formation on the tabletop, and resolve it’s shooting phase even a single time you will be trying to negotiate a house rule with your opponent so that you don’t have to do it a 2nd time. It doesn’t even take a whole game to realize why it doesn’t work. Just 1 shooting phase.

          • Frank Krifka

            Ah. I see what you’re saying.

            I’m not super family with that particular formation (not an ork player) And perhaps, in this particular situation, you may be right. But by and large, I don’t think it’s good theory to extrapolate the entirety of GW’s playtesting from a few examples.

            I say this because it is quite possible that the rules were individuality tested, but maybe not in this particular combination. It’s very possible that the this particular set of rules was written based of a tested mechanic, and then was altered before publication because somebody thought it would be “cool to give them mastercrafted”. Nonetheless, I find it hard to believe that GW doesn’t do ANY play testing because a small obscure section of the rules is clunky as hell.

          • Simon Bates

            Sanguinary guard have had the same issue since late 5th edition. Whole squads with MC weapons (and multiple attacks per model) is a terrible mechanic. It would be so much better if either MC re-rolls were aggregated for units (though this would make multiple MCs very powerful in the few instances where they occur) or just change it to re-roll 1s.

          • Troy G

            Yeah, some tweak to that mechanic would be nice. The way I’ve played Badrukk’s Flash Gitz is to abstract it.

            If the Flash Gitz haven’t moved they are BS:3 so statistically 2.5 of them will hit with all 3 shots. I round that up to be in my opponent’s favor. So I can reroll 17 failed rolls to hit. If they have moved or are snapshooting I get 19 rerolls.

            My buddy who runs the formation in tournaments, rolls the Gitz in 4 heats of 5. He has 5 different colors of dice, and puts 3 of each color into a cup and rolls them, then picks up the rerolls.

          • Troy

            This is really interesting. I didn’t know Jervis had created age of sigmar, but your explanation makes a lot of sense.

            Having played D&D a lot, I’ve seen the furor there around ‘balancing encounters’ (which is basically the same arguments in Warhammer). But I’ve also played fast and loose with “points”, so I guess I can see both sides of the argument.

            My guess is ultimately it’s going to come full circle and will go back to “humans cost X points” and “swords cost X points” and basically you build your own force.

            But on the other hand, you can never make the internet happy! But we definitely love in interesting times.

          • Talos2

            Yeah that’s pretty much the problem. How people ‘feel’ about things are not facts. Rules should be written based on facts and proper experimentation.

          • Frank Krifka

            Normally I would agree with you. In 2nd or 3rd edition (?) points were based on a formula involving stats (with certain number of points giving you a “baseline” set of stats and every point over the baseline had a set amount of points added to the base cost.) But eventually 40k grew into such complexity, with addition of armies and special rules, that creating points based on that type of metric is nearly impossible.

            Hell don’t we complain about points and rules because they don’t “feel” right to us?

          • Talos2

            No, I complain about points values and rules because things are not even close to being as effective as another thing, and sometimes you even seemingly pay for a disadvantage. Some armies you seem a new codex come out and things go up in points and get worse, others always get cheaper and better. Usually the already poor codexes get the former and the already strong ones get the latter

          • Frank Krifka

            If you use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail, of course your going to ask why you wouldn’t just use a hammer. Maybe you’d be pissed every other carpenter gets easy cheap access to hammers and all you want to do is build a damn house.

            The point above being that it’s my impression codex designers intend a codex to play with certain strategies and unit choices/points costs a arraigned accordingly. It’s not a huge surprise to me that players get pissed whether DE don’t do well when you try to play them like space marines; they don’t do well because they’re not Space marines.

            Case in point, everybody cry and moaned re: the four tor the archon until somebody figured out you could take a 20pt Lahmian as a HQ choice. Sometimes you have to look past raw point costs compared to other codexes and design an army around strengths rather thing to fit every square peg into a round hole.

      • Thatroubleshootah

        so making a peanut butter sandwich is probably not easy? brain surgery someone else is doing is also easy?

        • Frank Krifka

          If you’ve never made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before? Yeah it can be quite tricky. I remember being in 2nd grade, and our teacher asked 30 kids to write down a supply list and then instructions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Then she followed the instructions 30 times. One kid forgot to include bread. Another forgot to list a knife. That teacher made 30 sandwiches and they were all f’d up in some way.

          So yes. yes they can.

          • Thatroubleshootah

            Sounds like that class was special.

          • Frank Krifka

            If by “special” you mean “advanced classes for gifted children”. Then yes.

          • Ben_S

            Writing instructions for doing something can be harder than doing the thing in question.

          • Frank Krifka

            Oddly enough that was exactly my point. Writing instructions/rules for 40K is probably a hell of a lot harder than playing it.

    • Ross Allan

      Let me run this past you….no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. A company can play test all they want, and still get it wrong. As soon as that game is released into the wild? Thousands upon thousands of gaming hours occur, against all the possible variables.
      And that is largely what we’re seeing. Yes, there are some real clangers out there. But many of the broken lists depend upon dubious rules interpretations (often fixed via FAQ), and unsportspersonly conduct – the sort who put their win over and above any other consideration, like the game being fun.

      • Talos2

        This is true. But things aren’t even close in some cases. The morkanaut compared with the wraith knight or imperial knight for the example given at the bottom of the page, similar points, vastly and blatantly differing power levels. There’s no way that’s just due to the “contact with the enemy” conundrum, it’s just poor rules design. I suspect it isn’t a super heavy to give relevance to the stompa, but that doesn’t excuse it’s points value or complete ineptitude at fulfilling its role.

  • Joka

    Bet he plays Eldar or Tau.

    • Angel Grinder

      and has been thrice cursed by the gods of dice

      • lorieth

        He used to just be cursed, but he hardly noticed that because of all his re-rolls.

  • nurglitch

    There’s also the particular equilibrium that games such as 40k reach where the hard counters to certain ‘good’ units aren’t taken because the hard counters are considered ‘bad.’ Due to players mucking around with the basic game rules, winning conditions, and so on, the original balance is thrown out of whack. Take the ITC on D-weapons, or pretty much everyone’s insistence on making special snowflake missions for tournaments instead of simply running Maelstrom missions out of the book. Then there’s the question of terrain, in that terrain and its arrangement has an incredible impact on games, but it’s generally ignored or glossed over.

    • Charon

      Maelstrom is totally random and heavily favors faster MSU armies, which are already favored enough.
      Modified maelstrom may be a way but currently it is another proof of the lazy game devolopment department.
      Each new book came with new mission cards. And instead of replacing the mission cards the army inherently cant fulfill (cast a psi power with DE or KDK armies) they just replaced “secure objective 1 – 6”

      • ZeeLobby

        As I’ve always said, maelstrom is balance through luck. If you flip a coin enough both sides will win close to 50% of the time.

        • Charon

          The issue is that the top armies flip the coin more often as they are more fit to fulfill the card requirements

          • Skathrex

            I really don’t think Deathstars are any good in Maelstrom, Eldar yes, Demi yes, but on the other hand you have Dark Eldar, KdK, Orks. All Stuff that likes Maelstrom

          • Charon

            Nobody was talking about deathstars. But you basically answered it already.
            Space Marines and Eldar are the top tournament armies atm. Both are extremely good in maelstrom too. So Maelstrom would not shake up anything but tighten the grip these 2 armies have on the top table.

          • Skathrex

            Demis are not really the top anymore, or at least it doesn’t feel that way.
            And it won’t cement their rule, but 1 small thing can’t change the whole meta, but maybe you wild give some armys more of a fighting chance (like the later I listed).
            And you could maybe kill on of the greatest anoyances in current 40k with deathstars

        • Skathrex

          Well than I must got quite lucky, we have argued this before I think, but besides from favouring fast MSU armys (the only OP one beeing Eldar), Maelstrom is a luck dependend as throwing dice, so not really, you can draw bad cards, your opponent can draw bad cards, you can roll bad, your opponent can roll bad

          • ZeeLobby

            True. But the more luck-based components you throw in the game, the less skill matters as well. Pretty soon you might as well just be guessing which number of fingers the opponent has up behind his back. Best two out of three wins. That just totally defeats the purpose of playing a wargame for me.

          • Skathrex

            Well true, but more luck =/= less fun.
            Oh and by the way your example sounds like the opposite to “I don’t want to play chess” 😉
            And Maelstrom is way better than eternal war, which was often basically who got 1. Blood wins.
            I think I would like the tournament missions wouldn’t they have been so bloated. It feels like I need to get a calculation going to see who wins.

          • Nameless

            Personally I prefer Maelstrom missions as they force the players to adapt giving more weight to the players tactical abilities. having said that you only need so much strategic thinking if your army moves twice as fast as you opponents and is functionally unkillable.

          • ZeeLobby

            And there lies the rub. It’s why balance becomes important. Elder are just a prime example of a faction that dominates both game types completely. You “might” beat them more in Maelstrom, but only because of luck.

          • Skathrex

            Don’t assign everything to luck, you can outplay them in Maelstrom (against a worse opponent obviously)
            Against an equally skilled opponent it doesn’t matter anyways, because there is a definitive Power diffrence between races.

          • ZeeLobby

            Which is definitely a problem, although maybe at this point it’s become the expectation. Though it’s never been this bad before.

          • Skathrex

            True, all changes in the end just shift the scales, the question is in which direction.
            From the tactical perspective I really like the placement of Mission objectives, because if your opponent is really fast, and you are not, just deploy them close to each other.

          • ZeeLobby

            True. Luck doesn’t have to mean un-fun. But the inherent underlying proposition of a wargame is that selecting the right troops and making the best tactical decisions should decide the winner. Once you get too far away from that you might as well pay a lot less money and just roll dice, highest wins. I know that’s an extreme example, but i think it’s an important distinction to make from games like Sorry. You go into those knowing that luck is a massive component of the game. When you go through the process of building the list, deploying forces, moving units, shooting here, falling back there, etc. You’d like to think what you’re doing is having a significant impact over blind luck.

          • Skathrex

            I am always swaing from one side to another on this point. For example my gf won’t play strategic games with me anymore, because I “overthink” stuff (or she just doesn’t want to) on the other hand I played less luck based games against friends (who are clearly better at strategic games than I am) and find it increasingly frustrating.
            So its all a point of balance between luck.
            Somewhere between Chess and a dice roll lies a sweet spot, problem is, that sweetspot changes form person to person.
            I find it doesn’t change to much (sometimes even counteracting bad dice rolls with good cards, so the extremes become less frequent).

          • ZeeLobby

            Very true. I guess when playing a wargame I just tend to run into more people who favor games promoting tactical thinking then I do looking to have fun. Clearly it’s a fair portion of the market though, as AoS has had success for a year without points values. I’m just not sure GW could stay as profitable and popular as it’s been if it takes 40K in that direction as well. I guess we’ll see what happens when 8th edition drops.

          • Skathrex

            I am not sure it will drop anytime soon.
            And when it comes soon it won’t be much of a change, as 7th was just 6,5 too.
            I think it has to do with communitys to.
            The somewhat toxic enviroment has driven portions of gamers away. The fluff Chaos or SM players went for 30k and the fun players are pretty happy with AoS.
            In fact one of the biggest advantages of AoS is in my opinion the crowd, because of the restart, the people playing AoS are mostly pretty relaxed and just wanna have a fun game and aren’t really toxic (compared to the toxicity towards Aos)

      • nurglitch

        I’d rather see it shake out on the tournament table.

        • Charon

          What do you think will happen?
          Player 1 draws: destroy a building, cast a psi power (with an KDK army) and supremacy
          Player 2 draws: secure objective 1 (in his deployment zone), secure objective 1 (it is 3 times in the deck) and cast a psi power (as eldar player).

          Gratz player 2 won as the system lets you redraw fulfilled or discarded cards. That is how it plays out. And now imagine this mess on the final table. Yawnfest.

          You can hevily modify it and mix it in (which is done in a few local tournaments). the more interesting use for maelstrom would be collecting mission points (different from VP) that you can spend on stratagems.

          • Skathrex

            Imagine Player 1 only rolling 1 and Player 2 only rolling 6.
            I know its an extreme, but so is yours, and for Maelstrom there is a simple fix (actually there are a few):
            1. Let each player take x cards out of their deck (3 for example)
            2. Objectives that can’t be achieved can get redrawn (psi, destroy building, maybe kill a flyer etc).
            3. Let every player discard up to 2 at the end of the term
            4. etc.

            I have won games where my opponent played Demi, we played with the reduced number of cards (6,5,4,etc). He scored 6 points on 5 Cards in his first round i scored 2 points on 2. I won the game, because I got all my objectives turn 2.

            Just learn to play with it, its the best improvement in the game from 6th to 7th.

          • Charon

            Which is still a modified version of maelstrom. Why waste time to discuss on points I was not arguing?

            “You can heavily modify it and mix it in (which is done in a few local tournaments).”

          • Skathrex

            Well, I may have misread your point.
            I think Maelstrom is fine with a LITTLE modification, it doesnt need a lot.

      • TenDM

        I wouldn’t mind trying Maelstrom with a rule that says ‘at the end of every turn, instead of discarding a card, you may trade one card for one point if you control the objective corresponding to it’s second digit’. Ie, if I have objectives 1, 3 and 4 and cards 24, 65 and 11 I can choose to trade either 11 or 24 for a single point.
        That way I can potentially do something with the rubbish cards beyond throwing them away and hoping for a better hand next time. It won’t be handing out points but Maelstrom draws tend to be ok more than they’re awful so a little nudge like that might offset the impact a bad draw has on the game.

    • babelfisk

      Except the original balance is worse than the result of everyone mucking about.

      Some armies are simply better at scoring Maelstrom missions than others. Some armies can’t handle D-weapons. People muck about with these things because there are obvious issues, and they want to fix them.

      • Charon

        On point.

  • JJ

    You know what else is boring?
    Seeing games that are won or lost in the “list building phase”!

    • Raven Jax

      One of the reasons I quit Magic: The Gathering.

      • Skathrex

        Then you never played MTG in a competetive envirmoent. Yes there are better/worse matchups, but when you play competetive T2, and you play on of the top 5 decks there is rarly an auto loss.

        • Raven Jax

          I played MTG competitively for five years. I played during CawBlade, where there was only one deck to beat and the cards hit $400 and most of them were banned. I played during Jund, when no one could beat Olivia. I played during Pack Rats. I looked at the world championships and noticed that everyone is playing Bant right now.

          Certain decks have no chance against some match ups, something even Mark Rosewater has admitted.

          You suggest I play one of the “top 5 decks,” which is the 40K equivalent of telling me I have a choice between a Space Marine deathstar, a bunch of Knights, or Eldar.

          In competitive MTG, very few of the cards are actually useable in a competitive environment. You basically just told me that if I want balance, I should never play the MTG equivalent of Orks, DE, or Tyranids. That is the exact opposite of what most 40K players want.

          I have found the exact opposite of your statement to be true. In casual MTG, it was much easier to bring any deck I wanted, any build I wanted, and have fun with my friends.

          • Skathrex

            I played in a similar phase, and to this day CawBlade was the deck with the highest Matchups.
            That time was kinda bad I admit and I forgot about it (mostly because I didn’t want to think about it).

            But we try to metagame it every time. Because if you played the best deck you had to be sure to win the Mirror Match. And that was no fun.
            And they were always Meta Decks, like MonoRedAggro in the Jund Meta etc.
            And the healthyer Metas always had some sort of Rock/Paper/Scissors with 60-40 Matchups.
            But the players mattered so much in most cases, especially in the top lvls.

            I guess you are kinda right though, if I think back more, it was just more of a case of me always playing underdogs which worked to a certain degree. And it was never bad, because changing Decks and colors in MTG is way easier in Magic than it is in 40.

            I just would have never considered quiting magic because of playing the best decks.
            It was also always emphasised that you had to know your Deck (and I think its similar in 40k). Knowing your Faction greatly benefits you.

            I quit magic because it was to expensive (haha now I am playing Warhammer), and because I didn’t have the time to get as good as the top players, which is a definite factor, which most people in 40k completly forget. The player that plays 1 game a weak is going to be better than the one playing 1 game per month and weaker than the one playing 1 game per day.

            In casual I always had the problem, that I had to specificaly tailor decks against casual opponents, because my optimised T2 decks would win most of the time. (Except when playing Extended/modern or Legacy players)

    • ILikeToColourRed

      its the same in any strategy game, computer or table top. The units you buy (with points or whatever currency youre using) have just as much a part of your strategy as the way you then move / use them

  • vlad78

    Adame harry, I sentence you to play other games than GW ‘s own.

  • Admiral Raptor

    I’d sacrifice 90% of the “choice” in 40k if it meant that the factions we’re all balanced well against each other. Most of the choices are boring micromanagement anyway. Do we really need a different profile for each type of power weapon and a hundred slightly different plasma guns?

    • Mr.Fister

      yes we do 😛

      • Mr.Fister


    • ILikeToColourRed


  • ZeeLobby

    Balance does NOT have to be boring, but achieving balance with a wide variety of factions and options is VERY difficult. Blizzard struggles to keep the 3 Starcraft factions balanced for competitive play.

    Regardless this whole balance = bad mentality is just astonishing… And desiring greater balance does not mean the same thing as desiring perfect balance.

    • ChubToad

      Partly agree. The problem lies with the definition of balance, which at this point it has become something of a personal feeling than an actual concept. I like how this article really sets the definition straight before going into business. But certainly the Internet will ignore that and critizise what comes next.

      • ZeeLobby

        Agreed. My comment was definitely not a criticism of the article, but instead countless times when people try to defend a lack of balance by stating things like “I don’t want to play chess” and “the game can never be perfectly balanced” or “points are bad, look how badly balanced 40K is”. I guess you’re right that these people are operating more off of feeling then what the definitions of balance, partial balance, and perfect balance are.

        • Skathrex

          I don’t think people are mad that you want GW to fix their balance, everyone wants that!
          But as so often I had the opposite experience with people not wanting to improve anything themself, like houseruling oder cutting back on units.
          And to your points: “The game can NEVER be perfectly balanced” (however it can try to achive the “sence of balance”).
          This article perfectly sums up my points in these discussions.
          Balancing 40k is really really hard, and everyon should do their best to do so.
          Yes GW itself has been lazy to this aspect in the past, but moaning about it won’t help if you don’t atleas try to fix it yourself

          • ZeeLobby

            There gets to be a point where were basically rewriting the game though. It’s ALWAYS been an imbalanced game. And there’s always been the pregame discussion of “should we build fun lists or competitive ones for this game”. But this is the first time, with several armies, where a discussion over ban lists is required, certain unit entries need to be tweaked to see the table, and fluff games have gone horribly one-sided because of these balance issues.

            There’s nothing wrong with their being a point when the game simply becomes a bad game, and I’ve been playing GW games for 15+ years. I’ve never seen it be this bad before, to the point where finding games locally has been tough, and friends have sold their armies because of the state of the game. I know this is anecdotal, but a yearly drop in sales can’t be attributed to the game getting better.

            We’ll see. GW looks like they’re trying to fix things, I’m just not sure they’ll do what they need to do and actually rehire seasoned game developers.

          • Skathrex

            I agree, 40k never was balanced, and I hope GW tries to stear it in the right direction.

            I disagree how ever that it is in the worst state it ever was, becaus that pure subjectiv. It is loosing players though, but that can be attributed to a lot of things (The game beeing built on 80’s punk culture not really adapting to 201X for example or the very strong competition).
            What you see might just be friends growing up. I have seen a lot of people come and go and return again (me included).
            Some frustration may come to the time in the game and just some form of fatique towards 40k.
            Personely I am not all against a rewrite from the ground up, because I am not attached to the rules. But this step is always a risky one, and they won’t do it unless really needed.

            And I totally agree, with hiring new people. New blood is always good, you just have to find the right people.

          • euansmith

            Rogue Trader was unbalanced; everyone had a chance of rolling up a Vortex Grenade 😉

          • ChubToad

            Oh good times indeed…

    • Skathrex

      I don’t think the author meant balance = bad mentality he just emphasised that it’s not only up to 1 Part, both partys (Players and Developers) have to strive for balance.
      His point was :”Don’t go pointing fingers unless you try fix it yourself”.
      Many people here on Bols always react to :”Lets communicate and housrule” with “thats not my job, GW should have done it”.

      • ZeeLobby

        Well, because they should have. Having a more balanced game would mean it’s just simply a better game. Whats wrong with desiring that?

        • Skathrex

          Its true they should, but it’s the mentality of a small child to be angry and refuse to do something yourself, bevor GW does something.

          Thats why I liked the article so much. It doesn’t point fingers, it states the problems with balancing (in general, not limited to 40k) and gives examples to all sites how to fix it.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah. I mean I mention (elsewhere) that I have nothing wrong with the article. Just that there tends to be knee jerk crazy responses whenever anyone expresses a desire for GW to do a better job with their game.

          • Skathrex

            My point was, that everyon Knee Jerks from time to time. Some people love the game and get defensive, some people love to “hate” the game and get defensive when their “hate” gets targetet.
            I just wanted to clarify that I don’t think the article wanted to balme anyone. Everyone likes balance, and anyone who does, should try to achieve it, regardless what others do.

      • Lewis Everitt

        They sell the rules, and not particularly cheaply either.
        They should work with a minimal need for house ruling. as they stand they need a massive amount of work from players to make the game fun.

        It’s a shoddy product with terrible quality control and I think it’s too often defended by blaming the players.

  • Thomas Gardiner

    Yeah, it’s just so FUN to get wiped on turn 2 or 3 by a Wraith Host or a War Convocation or a Battle Company.

    It’s so FUN to play Orks or Dark Eldar and lose games during the list building stage before a model was ever placed.

    So many choices, so much FUUUUUN.

  • shiwan

    Repetition is boring. If one faction wins roughly 10% less than the other the balance situation is fine. At that point it’s enough about skill to make sense. Now we have a situation in which some factions practically can not win some other factions.

    • Skathrex

      And what are you doing about it?

      • shiwan

        What I can, which is nothing as long as I’m not the one that decides the design directions for this game. GW has yet to give any indication that it cares about our wishes so there is no point in asking them to fix the situation.

        • Skathrex

          When there is no point in asking, why are you always complaining?

          And maybe read the article again, the author clearly suggest steps to balance the game as a player. Its just that I know from our previous discussions you don’t want to do these things.

          Personally I think you are just taking the easy way, but on the other hand I really don’t understand why as a 30k player you complain so much about 40k.

          • shiwan

            Is a complaint a question?

            It’s not about what I want. It’s about what the community wants and the community wants to flood the table with broken things. I’d be perfectly happy with my CSM and Nids if they were viable in the environment the community provides.

            What you are suggesting is that I single handedly just go in front of thousands of people and announce that the game is from this point onward played like I want it to be played. GW does not achieve that and they are the company that makes the game. What makes you think that a random customer without any status as an authority in this context could achieve that?

            I have one 30k army and 6 or 8 armies in 40k. Out of those in 40k none are viable at the moment. Yes, I am a bit disappointed that I’ve spent thousands of pounds and more hours that I know to get those armies and now GW just decided that they are not playable in any way that makes sense.

          • Skathrex

            Your post suggested that you don’t play 40k anymore and just played 30k.
            Now it is a bit more understandable why you are upset, but again you are not doing a lot about it, just complaining on bols posts.

            I don’t expect you singlehandetly change 40k, but (we had this before) a bit of communication goes a long way.
            With 6 armys! not findingt one you enjoy playing is a strange thing. Maybe your community just really sucks, or maybe is really competetive.
            I have no problem finding fun games with Nids, Orks, Eldar, Dark Eldar etc as apponents, while I play CSM or DE myself.

            I really don’t know how to help you other than to encourage you to look for likeminded opponents.
            We seem to play similar things, but for you its aweful, broken and unfun and for me its fun.
            Maybe its just the aproach, but I don’t know

          • shiwan

            Communication does not fix codex power level differences.

            My armies are Nids, CSM, KDK, Daemons, SW, GK, yet not assembled DW, footslogging pure melee wraith eldar plus there are enough GSC to fill 2 cads with the available units.
            None of these ca go toe to toe with the good armies.

            The likemindedness of the opponent is not a meaningful thing. The game is either worthless or it works with pick up games without hours of intentional nerfing discussion to bring the other faction down to reasonable levels.

          • Skathrex

            Yes likemindedness is a meaningful thing if your goal is having fun with your opponent.
            The rest is irrelavant. You don’t need to nerf anything as long as both partys know what and how you wanna play.

            As far as I see your armys:
            Bottom Tier: Nids, CSM
            Middle Tear: GK, KDK,
            Top Tier:SW and Daemons

            Just because you don’t play Deathstars, Spam-Eldar (Speldar) or SM Demi Companies, doesn’t mean your armys are bad.
            You have enough potential. Maybe you won’t reach Tournament top seats but the rest should be fine.

            Not everything is Black and White, not everything is Broken/OP or Crap, the game isn’t either worthless or perfect. There is a lot in between.

          • shiwan

            I can have fun playing in silence if needed. The likemindedness is required only in hyper social environment.
            Balance however is a minimum requirement if the goal is to have fun.

            The armies I play can not stand against the good armies. It is what it is. You do not call an automatic loss a bad thing. I do.
            I do not need to win. I need to have a roughly equal chance to win provided that I’m roughly as good as a gamer than my opponent.

            It’s not black and white in the sub par range, true, but units are either viable or not. Units that are not viable are not played and thus mean nothing. No end user discussion will fix this.

          • Skathrex

            You and your facts….everything you say is said in stone, or at least this it how it feels, which is kind enfuriating, especially when its just oppinions of yours.

            Why is likemindedness only required in hyper social environments? What is a hyper social environment for you?
            2 people playing 40k outsite a tournament?
            If I can play with 3 opponents, the one who has a similiar view towards the game as I have will most likely be more fun to play, and with discussion or just basic communciation both can convey what they expect from the game, so both people have fun.

            Balance is a range not a fix point (see the article). In theory in ranges from perfect balance (boring to not achievable) to No balance at all (not beeing able to compare). 40k is somewhere in between, maybe its a bit off to the broken side but not to much not to have fun.

            And your armies are not bad, at least 2 of them are considered top tier. Maybe not the way you play them, but thats with you then isn’t it.
            I could argue that maybe the whole problem lies with you but I won’t go there because that will achieve nothing.

            And no army has an auto loss in a vacuum.
            If both sides build competetivly then yes, CSM will lose 8 to 9 games out of 10.
            But thats still not an auto loss.
            That brings be back to my former post, you deal in absolutes.
            Every Troop choice that is not Eldar-Jetbikes is crap. Thats an aboslute. It may be not far of the mark but its still a very simplistic way of looking at it.
            I have had a Necron player complain about his Warriors, and that they are his Tax Unit, and how bad they are, while fighting against my KDK with Bloodletters and Cultists. Yes they are worse than Jetbikes, but they are still better than Bloodletters and Cultists.

            I again recommend to you, stop playing tournaments and/ or competetive environments. Thats where your absolutes may be right, because at the top 10% the margain gets really tight. But outside of that much more Units are Viable, because everyone plays worse Units

          • shiwan

            To me a hyper social environment is, in this context, a game that on top of the usual chat about what is happening has an element of constant verbal exchange. In a situation like that, if the opponent is not socially compatible, it’s really tedious. Otherwise it’s pretty much insignificant factor.

            I suggest that you go to play with a hyper competitive crowd, use a fluffy list and after losing 100 games straight we can discuss about how important the balance is. I have not gone through that, I opted out before, but that is what the game is with my armies.

            CSM vs. any significant tournament build = auto loss for CSM even in a vacuum. That is the usual setup in a game with top codices and CSM.

            You do not compare sub par units to other sub par units. A worth of a unit is exactly the utility value it has in a hyper competitive environment. I used to look at units from the point of view of an average unit but, while it works in a very limited environment, comparing things to what is the best the game has is the road to balance. If GW did this they’d end up a relatively good game. When all things are well balanced with the best units there is no real balance problem

          • Skathrex

            Interesting, I would have called your hyper social environment just a normal social one, but thats just person diffrences I guess.

            The thing is, if I know its a hyper competitive crowd I won’t bring a fluffy list, thats what the communication is for. And I will certanly try to win with what I like, and if or when that fails I am left with a choice and a few options, starting to adept with changing the faction to a competetive one, asking my opponents (if I befriended them) to play a less competitive game from time to time, leave the competitive scene find one better suited for my army or preferde playstyle or quit the game alltogether.
            I know that I would take the first 3 options depending on a few variables and the fourth only when I can’t make any of the other work.

            I will say, I agree with most of your Unit assesments when it comes to the hyper competetive environment.
            CSM won’t win anything soon in these environments (or at least not wich actual CSM in the army).
            And in an hyper competetive environment you absolutly HAVE to compare anything to the best, because thats where you want to be. Of course you have to compare in the right categories (Cybots vs Knights and not vs Marines for example).

            But these assesments are ONLY applicable to hyper competetive environments.
            Shure Eldar-Bikes won’t suddenly be crap, but if you play Necrons vs KDK its not important how much worse your Warriors are compared to Jetbikes, the question is how do they fare in this matchup.
            And if you play Crimson Slaughter vs Ulthwé you compare CSM against Guardians not jetbikes.
            As to how limited that environment is, I would say there are more casual player than tournament player.

            But I think your right, the best way to achiev objectiv balance from a game developers standpoint is to balance the hyper competetive environment, because in anything else the balance and imbalance comes without a great influence from the developer. (If my opponent like to play 10 marines with flamer and Heavy Bolter it will never balance out against Min/max squads. And imo it shouldn’t be balanced)

          • shiwan

            I went by your 4 step program and now I’m not playing 40k untill there is a point in playing it.

            I agree that bad lists vs. good lists should not be balanced. Faction vs. faction and rougly equal level lists should be. Now we live in a time when some hyper competitive lists sre equal to some fluffy fun lists.

      • euansmith

        There is a limit to what players can do if they are playing in a pick-up environment, where you just get whatever games you can with random people down at a LFGS. Having some solid house rules really only works within a stable group.

        • Skathrex

          Sure, your right, PuGs are always a little tough.
          But even then communication helps. Does your opponent bring anything superheavy, does he bring Formations etc.
          These things go a long way.
          I just asked Shiwan so directly because I know he said he doesn’t want more than a 3 sentence conversation be for the game start. Or he doesn’t want to need it.

  • Balance is relative but you could consider a definition based on a combination of 2 factors
    – Limit game breaking strategies

    – Giving all factions a fair chance

    Looking at 40k from the MTG perspective for a moment. A game as complex as 40k cannot be truly balanced so you have to decide what you consider appropriate for game play. This in itself is two parts.

    1. Was this strategy an intended consequence of the rule (fluff vs gameplay)
    2. Is a list so dominant that tournaments have become Army X vs everyone else designing armies to defeat army X.

    In the case of point 1. when game breaking strategies are uncovered the obvious solution is FAQs and Errata as in most cases these strategies occur as a result of poor choice of words in the rulebook or rule interactions that tbh probably didn’t come up during play testing.

    As for point 2. games designers have to pay attention to the competitive scene. Pretending it doesn’t exist putting your fingers in your ears and screaming at the top of their lungs that the game is designed only for casual play and that the solution to over powered lists is “don’t play against that person” isn’t a fix. It’s avoid the problem. If the top 10 players in tournaments consistently consists of very similar army lists then something is very wrong with the game. In a more balanced game the top 10 should be a fairly random combination of armies with alot of strategies, not 8 examples of exactly the same army.

    As for the fair chance conundrum; 40k as of late has introduced alot of new gameplay elements lately such as flyers, psychic phase, Jink + stacking cover saves, gargatuan creatures etc. Dealing with these units requires certain tools in the toolbox that many armies just don’t have. Some by design, but most due to the age of the codex.
    This does sort itself out in time, to a degree but the games designers need to pay more attention to this.
    You can’t just add a completely new aspect to the game without giving armies a way of dealing with it.
    Once armies have the tools, then it’s up to the player to decide what tools are best for the job. List building should be about compromise, taking what you think is the best combination of tools to deal with different threats. Not putting together combos of under-priced and overpowered units in the hope that your opponent can’t deal with it effectively.

    40k is a combined arms game, it shouldn’t be about unit SPAM and deathstars.

    • Troy G

      It has been proposed that each Codex GW attempts to fix the problems in the previous Codes. Necron Decurion unkillable? Let’s give Eldar 1 Billion high strength shots for cheap. Eldar Firepower too deadly? Let’s give Space Marines new formations where they get lots of free stuff and/or stacking special rules and psychic powers that make them super durable.

      The issues we have now in 40K are a result of GW not playtesting sufficiently or making corrections when the problems became apparent. They have a design philosophy based on not supporting existing work, and instead generating new work, and once you let the balance get out of whack in a system like that it snowballs pretty bad, and that is what we are seeing now.

  • Andrew

    Yeah, the argument that both sides being perfectly matched would end up in a stalemate 100% of the time is quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. Like, literally, the author references chess, which is the definition of balance (aside from white going first), and that game almost always has a winner or loser. Probably because it’s pure skill that will win you games. Most players, casual or competitive, or narrative, or whatever, don’t necessarily want two exactly parallel armies (otherwise we’d just be playing chess) but rather, for all factions of their game to have multiple strategies and ways of winning games that actually fit the feel of their army. This comes from playtesting, and a desire on the part of the designers to actually make a good game.

    • ZeeLobby

      That last sentence rings so true.

    • AnomanderRake

      As an amusing follow-up to this I looked it up when I was writing my reply and apparently chess tournament stats over the aeons have had 30-40% of games draw. (numbers from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-move_advantage_in_chess ).

      • Andrew

        That’s pretty high, but again, the majority of games don’t end in a draw.

  • AnomanderRake

    …Okay. You’re conflating a pile of concepts under the nebulous heading of ‘balance’ here, but I’ll try.

    You’re using the word ‘balance’ as a substitute for ‘symmetry’ and ‘predictability’ in several places. To go back to your ‘shotgun versus sniper debate’ example, giving both players assault rifles instead makes the game more ‘symmetrical’. Making a game more symmetrical makes it more balanced, but the operation is not reversible: making the game more balanced does not make it more symmetrical.

    Tic-tac-toe is not boring because it’s ‘balanced’, it’s boring because it’s ‘predictable’. The outcome of a well-played game is always a tie, yes. A game that predictably comes out to a tie is balanced, but a balanced game doesn’t predictably come out to a tie. Chess doesn’t come to a predictable conclusion because the game tree is too large for human beings to solve in a reasonable timeframe.

    Your definition of ‘perfectly balanced’ is also one I’d take issue with; it is a gross oversimplification, has nothing to do with ‘balance’ in any other context, and doesn’t really address the issue. If you came across a game in which all choices had equal value you wouldn’t have a game. You’d have a slot machine. Or craps. A set of initial conditions that went off and did their thing regardless of human input.

    Now that we’ve got the definitions out of the way what 40k players are asking for is not a game in which their decisions are only cosmetically different, or a game that results in a tie. When they use the word ‘balanced’ what’s actually being discussed is army building choices. In 40k today I can put two Wraithknights and thirty scatterbikes down on the table and be confident of victory because I happen to have an OP army. I can put down PAGK and Land Raiders and be confident of defeat because I happen to have a terrible army.

    ‘But Anomander,’ I hear you ask, ‘isn’t army-building a decision players have to make like anything they do in the game?’. And you’d be right! But last I checked we were playing Warhammer, not ‘who has more disposable income to buy the new stuff every time it comes out’. We’re playing a game where players buy models they like, paint them in a manner they think is cool, and then show up in hopes of getting to use them in a game, not one where they get laughed out of the store for buying the wrong stuff.

    I’m going to let you in on a little secret. When someone says “X is OP!”, inside their head they’re not saying “X beats me!”. They’re saying “X beats me, and [this is key] there’s nothing I can do about it!”. Players are seeking a game where their decisions on the table are relevant. Not one where they win or lose before deployment because the armies are so far out of whack, not one where all decisions are cosmetic, but one where they can put down the models they like and have a good, close, hard-fought game that they can tell stories about.

    I’m sorry you disagree with them about what the word ‘balance’ means, but that’s no excuse to be rude about it.

    • Thomas Gardiner

      *Damn,* I wish I could upvote this comment more than once. Absolutely nails it.

      • Troy G


    • Troy G

      You express yourself very well, and have a good grasp on the topic. It would be really interesting to see you develop this into a full Article. I’ll bet BOLS or Frontline Gaming would be happy to publish it.

    • TenDM

      Yep. So much of this topic focuses on the individual units when really it’s the overall tools available to list builders that need to be balanced. Nothing needs to be as simple as ‘every model is equal’ or ‘rock beats scissors’. It just needs to be reeled in so that a strong list can’t faceroll everything it encounters.

      The Tau should have the capacity to write lists that are as effective as Orks and vice versa. That doesn’t mean they should be the same or that any Ork list should be equal to any Tau list, it just means that there should be a roof on how effective a list can be.
      One of the big indicators that the game is off balance is that there is almost no difference between a list that’s been optimised for tournament play and a list that’s been optimised to take on a specific opponent. That Wraithknight and 30 Scatterbikes example doesn’t change much regardless of if it’s built to take on a horde of close combat specialists or a Tau gunline. The opponent is almost irrelevant.

      Ultimately balance is about not falling over. Something off centre can still achieve balance. 40k is would be fine if it were just a little wobbly but right now it flips straight over.

  • Horus84cmd

    Cracking article* and for the sense of irony a “balanced” set of thoughts on the status of balance within Wargames. Good job sir. For the most part I agree with what you’re saying and selling.

    *Note BoLS this is what more articles should look like.

  • Jay Shepherd

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I play the 9th Age, and they are getting decently balanced nowadays. But I find that the more balanced the game gets, the less I enjoy it. There’s no real solution to a game with meta except a constantly changing meta (like block play in Magic the Gathering). When the meta gets solved, it ruins the game just as bad as if the game is so balanced that it really don’t matter what you take.

    Age of Sigmar Sucks

  • Richard Mitchell


    I think this article was very correct, well research, and a good read. Though I don’t drink the Kool Aid anymore, if I had too I would play 40k over AoS. When people say AoS is balanced, lends me an army to try it out, or I watch a battle at the shop, it does seem balanced. But not in a good way, but in this would be a great game I could enjoy with my 7 year old way. Defense doesn’t matter, terrain advantage is not important, objectives are hardly used or important, engagement with models is merely engaging and rolling out dice. There is no trampling over models, hold or automatic reaction orders, spending ap to break combat, or acrobatics or feints to get you behind a tough but slow opponent, choosing focus over evade to dodge a higher skilled pilot.

    Its really just push models together, roll 3+ or X+ no matter how agile the opponent, save, count wounds. If “balance” is what 40k players are looking for, it can be found in AoS and it is sad. Better communicate to GW that what you want is imperfect balance and accept that in the endeavour they will make mistakes but as long as they issue timely faqs it is not a big deal.

  • PrimoFederalist

    This article is just attacking a bunch of straw man arguments. No one is asking for “perfect balance”. What we want is very simple: codices which are both internally balanced and balanced against each other. We don’t want Chess, Checkers, Tic-Tac-Toe, or even Risk, and we don’t expect it to be perfect. What we want is for *Games* Workshop to at least try to create balance so a Dark Eldar player can use the expensive models they bought against Space Marine player and have some chance of winning if the players are of similar skill levels. We understand this is an art not a science and thus perfect balance is unattainable, however, we all know that should be the goal but is not.

    Codices should be balanced internally but are not: no one ever takes Wolf Scouts or Falcons or Mandrakes or Ratlings or Possessed or Gorka/Morka-naught or Sting Wings or Biovores, etc, etc, etc. Then, those internally balanced codices be balanced against each other: the Imperial Guard codex is very well balanced internally as is the Eldar codex, however, the Eldar codex is objectively much more powerful: two barebones Leman Russes cost more than a WK… uh, wut?

    This article is way off the mark.

  • Troy Dean

    Everybody’s tired of reading about broken flyers. The irony is likely lost.

  • TenDM

    If balanced play is boring then you’re really saying that the game is boring and that the only interesting part is breaking it during list building. It’s fair enough if that’s the part you like most, some people like painting, some people like collecting, some people like list building and that’s fine. However personally I think balanced 40k would be fun provided I don’t just play the same mission type at 1850 points against the same few armies over and over again.
    I really want the diversity that roughly balanced rules brings. I want to see a tournament where people feel like they can safely bring the types of armies they prefer rather than the types of armies that won’t get turn 2 tabled by power lists. Even in the hypothetically boring perfectly balanced game Space Wolves, Tau, Orks and Tyranids will present different challenges. It opens up a wider range of things for my army to defend against and is more engaging than writing these power lists that are geared towards defending against a very small amount of less diverse opponents.
    To me that’s much more interesting and engaging than writing a list to counter the other exploitative lists while being so powerful that you don’t even have to consider 95% of the available units in the game.

  • Bugsculptor

    Codexes should have enough internal balance that *most* units are useful for something. They shouldn’t be stuck in a monobuild for 2-3 years with no useful new units coming out… like codex flyrant has been.

    Codexes should have enough external balance that they have a chance of winning games against all the other factions. The metagame can shift, but there should not be match ups in the game that really can’t be countered by another faction.

    It’s fun to have a shifting metagame and have different units shift into fashion based on the missions they need to win and the units they have to counter. Having played a lot of both now, I can say that’s something Corvus Belli do much better with Infinity than GW do with 40k.

  • Ben_S

    “If every game ends in a stalemate (which a perfectly balanced game should
    result in all else being equal) then people wouldn’t want to play that
    game…because it gets boring. That’s why people get bored with

    This is simply wrong in several respects.

    First (minor point) but I don’t see how the Tic-Tac-Toe example is relevant, because that surely doesn’t fit the author’s definition of perfect balance (like chess, there’s a first move advantage).

    Second, suppose that a perfectly balanced game would result in stalemate *between equally match opponents* – that’s no reason to think that any actual game is going to result in stalemate. A perfectly balanced game would be a chance to test who is the better general.

    Third, the premise that a perfectly balanced game would necessarily end in stalemate is wrong anyway. Aside from the element of randomness introduced by dice, there’s also a chance of player mistakes. If A is much better than B, then he might win 9 times out of 10, but he can still lose the tenth.

    Oh, and it’s *dominant* strategy.

  • David Leimbach

    If the game is so broken, why has no one posted the unbeatable faction or the unbeatable list?

    • euansmith

      If the game is so unbroken, why isn’t there an even distribution of factions winning GTs? 😉

  • Master Avoghai

    Also an advice to game developers : explain what you wanted to do when creating/tweaking a faction and/or the version of your meta game.

    If you explain WHAT you had in mind when creating/removing a rule, it helps player to understand rules as intended and limit the abuses.
    Also, it helps players to formulate their questions and prevent asking useless questions.
    Exemple : if you said “we didn’t extend the heavy hammer to black shield because we see them rather like swordsmen. Moreover we see the HTH more like a heavy weapon restricted to a specialist.”
    Ir prevents the question “is theHTH avalaible to BS?” Or “Is it a typo?”

    I think WD misses the articles explaining the realisation of a codex. First it costs nothing, second it shows that there actually was a reflexion behind choices, third it looks really more professionnal than “we put this options because it looks so cool” …

    • euansmith

      I agree that Designer Notes are almost always a great addition to games. Simply having the designer saying how they approach playing the game allows the player to decide if the designer has hit their target.

      For example, if GW design their games for narrative play; then their rules should explicitly state this and contain multiple examples of how to create fun narrative games.

  • Muninwing


    i think this was written by someone who has a flawed and incomplete idea about what exactly “balance” is and means.

    for instance, there’s not an illusion in the idea that two identical choices should have identical or comparable options. and, if they don’t, there should be a big-picture reason why they do not.

    yet GW gives us (one example) GK terminators, who have always gotten free upgrades in comparison, yet are lower-points than their brethren to promote their sales and play.

    and they staunchly defend their system for point-rates, despite Jervis hinting that it’s less an algorithm and more of a “make it up on the fly” sort of thing. no wonder there are so many complaints about balance — they don’t even take the basic steps that others rely upon.

    • Skathrex

      You realise the article starts with the Definition of Balance or at least how he sees it?

      • Muninwing

        yes. and it’s a bad definition, hence my reply about it being a bad definition…

        opinions can be incorrect.

        then again that’s my opinion, for whatever that’s worth.

  • Inian

    “If every game ends in a stalemate (which a perfectly balanced game should result in all else being equal) then people wouldn’t want to play that game…because it gets boring.”

    Um, I’m pretty sure that all else will never be equal though. Not even if you cloned someone and gave them the exact same experiences and opportunities in life would they be equal enough that a game like that would always result in a draw.

    Balance is good, balance does not mean things have to be exactly the same, balance does not mean less fun, balance does not mean less excitement, balance does not mean less strategy. Balance just removes the flaw of “Everything in my codex is superior to everything in your codes”-problem, which usually means if you are against a similarly skilled opponent that you can have lost the game before even building your army.

  • vyrago

    typical Stockholm Syndrome 40k article. Next up, “10 reasons why 40k needs higher prices”.

  • Jeff

    Glaring issues like Invisibility are unforgivable.

  • Balance IS boring and games should not strive for it.

    Perfect Imbalance (look it up) is very interesting, and is absolutely something a game that wants to be regarded as good needs to strive for.

    Good examples of games which exhibit a high degree of Perfect Imbalance: League of Legends, Star Wars: X-Wing.