Flashback: What’s Wrong With 40K Today


The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Here at BoLS our Tenth Anniversary made us look back at some of our previous articles. 8 Years ago Jwolf wrote an article that really got us thinking. 8 Years later it’s kind of funny to see how little things have changed.

Written during Warhammer 40,000 5th Edition – the tournament scene was really coming into it’s stride. AdeptiCon was THE Tourney in the US. And the internet community really started to push “Net Lists” as the boogey-man of 40k. Jwolf wrote this article in response to that:


Original Published January 27, 2009

Hi all, Jwolf here.

Goatboy has been posting tournament lists and strategies for a while, and getting enormous amounts of vitriol in response. I took that in stride, as his articles are about some of the more obnoxious elements of 40K tournament list construction and unpleasant strategies. Now that Bigred has met with similar comments from the peanut gallery, I think it’s time to address six of the issues that obstruct fun in the grim, dark future.

#1 People Don’t Know the Rules
By that, I mean all of us, to a greater or lesser extent, do not have the rules memorized sufficiently to prevent errors. 99% of errors are simple mistakes; the rest are cheating. The problem is that when you look up the error your opponent made (in his own favor) it’s hard not to think he knew the rule and cheated. The solution is to know all the rules and help your opponent play within them. This requires a more thoughtful and systematic approach to learning the rules than the vast majority of tournament players are willing to put forth. And just because you don’t play tournaments doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know the rules – every game is made better if the rules are applied accurately and consistently.

#2 The Myth of WAAC Lists
There is no unbeatable list, no perfect build, and lists themselves don’t care at all if they win or lose. Any list can be fun or terrible to play against, so don’t roll your eyes at a list and groan, make the best of it and move on. If a player consistently brings lists that are not fun to play against to friendly games, nature will handle the issue, and most tournaments have composition scoring. If your local tournaments are being dominated by particular lists, build to beat those lists yourself.

#3 The Myth of WAAC Players
Honestly, this is one of the worst concepts out there. If the player is just an a–hole and no fun to play against, he’s just an a–hole and no fun to play against. If he cheats to win, he’s a cheater. If he’s both, he’s a cheating a–hole. Implying that a desire to win is somehow part of the problem helps to perpetuate the myth that anyone who plays to win is part of the problem, which is decidedly not the truth. Yes, people who cheat and lie to win will break the rules to win (#1 is our part of making this go away). For friendly games, shun cheaters. In tournaments, report them and dock them all the points you legitimately can.

#4 Believing the Most Important Rule is the Only Important Rule
Play the game by all of the rules, don’t expect your house rules to become the standard. If you think your opponent isn’t following the rules, say something and get it worked out according to the rules. Remember that your opponent is under no obligation to let your super command squad destroy his army just so the game plays like the background stories you write on the fiction section of your blog.

#5 Believing the Most Important Rule Isn’t Important
Give your opponent the benefit of the doubt and don’t expect the same. That unit might be 6” or 6.1”? Let it go, either way. Your opponent forgot to move a unit until he was halfway through his shooting phase (or even when done with shooting)? Let them move it. If there is a time limit, play to the best of your ability so as to make it possible to finish in the time limit. Remember that the other person’s time is as valuable as yours, so avoid texting, taking phone calls, and other distractions as much as possible.

#6 Stupid Dice Tricks
These include having a special pair of dice you only roll for Leadership tests; picking up your hits instead of your misses; refusing to reroll an unclear roll; applying your rules about cocked dice inconsistently; and any of those “dice-rolling techniques” (cheating on your rolls). People notice when you do any of these things, and every one of these makes the game less fun for your opponent.


So who’s fault is it? The Game or the Players?

  • Tigirus

    I’m sorry, a lot of your arguments don’t hold merit to me, claiming that claiming that the game is not fun to play solely because the player is a jerk or a cheater simply isn’t true. Ultimately war games are a social contract between two players and when the players come to the table with different ideas of what they want from the game things end up not being fun for either player.

    Suppose two players are sitting at a game store and decide to play each-other not meeting before, they both have 1000pt lists and agree to play at that level. One player likes to play the game for the fluff and takes out a marine theme list based around a scouting force, it has a lot of scouts, some scout bikes and a couple predators while it isn’t a competitive list it has decent balance. The other player likes to have very competitive games and builds his list for that reason taking the strongest options and enjoys trying to make the most powerful list possible, he ends op taking a raven guard assault brotherhood and an imperial knight, as the army fits within list restrictions it’s still a 1000pt battleforged army. Unsurprisingly player A is tabled by the end of turn 2 without really having any ability to fight back. Player A isn’t happy because he never got to enjoy the narrative and social elements of the game, Player B isn’t happy because he wasn’t challenged and pretty much just freely rolled over his opponent. This exact story happened to me at my local GW.

    At the time I was pretty pissed that my opponent had taken such a list at 1000pt because I expected the standard 2 troop, HQ and some support, the kind of list you would see in 4th or 5th ed. Yes, I understand that as you say “you can build to beat a list” or “the desire to win is not part of the problem” the core issue is that a lot of competitive players don’t understand is that some players (almost a majority I’d say based on my city) don’t want to do this. They don’t want to build min-maxed list to play competitively and when they play against those who do it’s not fun for either party and claiming that it’s a legal list in the rules only just rubs them the wrong way.

    I know that I am biased in this opinion as a filthy casual and I embrace my non-competitiveness, I’m just merely suggesting that some change has to take place on both sides and players need to talk to their opponents because not everyone wants the same game experience. If a competitve player wants to give me a heads up that he wants a challenge I can take a more optimized list or if he just wants a game he could tone down his list. What I think the main problem with the stigma surrounding WAAC players is either their lack of heads up to casual players or their enforcement that it’s fine because the rules allow it, it’s not the competitive players that’s the problem it’s how they interact with non-competitive players.

    That said though, if you complain about WAAC players at a tournament of any level. Dude. Grow up. You don’t go into a tournament to have a casual chat for the same reason you don’t play ranked games in online games to relax and unwind.

    • Karru

      So there are people that actually understand the core issue of the game. It’s a very rare sight here, I must say.

      The massive unbalance from the game comes mostly from the core rules themselves. Many have said that Age of Darkness rules have brought way more balance into the game than any other release after that. Now why is that?

      Age of Darkness doesn’t allow Formations or Alternative Detachments at all, no matter what the game size is. Next up, only one “CAD” is used. There is a couple of these with slight twists, but the core is pretty much the same all around. Troops are the only thing that can score and this isn’t conferred to their Transports. Finally, no LoWs in games less than 2000pts.

      So why did these bring in more balance to the game? Here’s why, because they are so badly balanced. Space Marines can bring a full Demi-company and a Knight to a 1850pts game. Best thing Ork player can do is bring multiple CADs. They can’t even bring their own Super Heavy because it would take up almost half their points for a bucket of bolts that won’t be enough to stop an army of Transports and AT coming your way.

      Eldar can bring Wraithknights on mass, Toughness 8 Gargantuan Creature with 3+ save is nigh invincible to armies like Orks, Infantry heavy Guard or Swarm Tyranids.

      When the rules don’t have anything in place to stop this, they get used. This is a tabletop game and people have different views on things. Some enjoy the fluff approach, others enjoy competitive playing. I like to make lists that have as many different units as I can fit into it. This means I rarely use formations as those are usually just one or two units over and over again. Is the list strong? Not really, I’d be crushed in a tournament if I brought it. Do I enjoy playing it? Yes, when I am not tabled on turn 2.

      So many automatically just say “That’s the price you pay for being ‘a fluff player’, if you want to win you better git gud and change your list.” Then tell me why these lists worked exceptionally in 5th edition? I played against multiple tournament lists during those days to help my friends get ready to tournaments. Only against a Leafblower did I have a bad game, but all the others were quite close or at least enjoyable. No longer the case. If I don’t bring my Knight or 2 to 3 CADs filled with my best units, I am in for some bad times.

      • Brad Parks

        I have a semi similar issue. I was a long time MTG (casual) player and I always enjoyed seeing how I could stretch the rules to their limit and find weird interactions. I played with a similar group and we’d often not “go for the kill” just to see how our weird combo would play against someone else’s.

        I recently picked up 40k and have had fun building “theme” armies (one week I took 9 dreadnoughts) but the friends I played with essentially tabled me in 2 turns not because they brought an ultra competitive list (although they did), but because they played the game as per fluff (i.e. grimdark no holds barred) and I couldn’t grasp why they felt the need to brutally punish me for bringing an unbalanced “theme” list.

        Once I had the epiphany that I was putting them in a box they had never belonged in by expecting them to play casually, I slightly modified my lists to be a bit more balanced but still with my own touches and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of stretching my limits and still being able to field a viable list.

        • Karru

          There are certain “themes” that are not great. Not because they are not well represented in the table, but because they are just bad in general.

          Any tabletop game should encourage balanced lists. Lists with multiple different units, working together as a whole. Some units bring firepower, but if left alone they’ll be overrun or killed so you need something or someone to defend them.

          This is no longer part of 40k. All you need to focus on is maximising the Alpha Strike potential. Just spam the heck out of those units that dish out a lot of damage or make up some BS combo Deathstar unit that can just face roll the enemy army.

          • Malisteen

            Actually, most tabletop games encouraged balanced offence, to take on whatever target you might face, but weighted defense.

            Like, lets say you have some guns that are good against infantry, and others that are good against vehicles, and that both vehicles and infantry can take both. Then you’re encouraged to field a mix of guns offensively, but defensively you should field either all infantry or all tanks, so as to ‘waste’ half the guns your opponents field.

            And that more or less works out? But in 40k, it falls apart, largely because offensive firepower – mostly at range but also of some melee units – has balooned massively, with anti everything weapons, weapons that remove entire units at a time, and weapons that bypass nearly every possible defensive tool, from infantry armor to vehicle armor, to cover saves.

            At this point, for a unit to be survivable against those high end weapons, it needs to be so extremely invincible defensively (invisibility, re-rolled 3+ or 2+ invulnerable saves, etc) that armies without those weapons have no chance of touching them.

            Power Creep basically fell off the deep end, and there isn’t any fixing it any more. Not without wiping the slate clear and starting over from scratch, as with 3rd edition or AoS.

          • Muninwing

            not with AoS. it does not have to be that drastic.

            but by just more heavily weighting those units/weapons that have universality, you would have your balance.

            grav is a great idea. nobody would take grav if it was not as good. but it’s stupid good for too cheap. it is good against everything but light infantry, and that’s something harder and harder to find now that horde armies are penalized so heavily.

            actually… i wonder if changing the rules that gut hordes would end the dominance of grav in the meta…

          • Malisteen

            Not really, because grav is typically fielded as unit upgrades in squads full of bolters, which scythe through hordes well enough already.

            I do think a change as drastic as AoS was is needed, mechanically. Not in the fluff, but mechanically. But unlike AoS it would need to be to a well fleshed out and thoroughly tested system, not a system with core rules that feel like they were cobbled together on a lunch break and published without so much as a second pair of eyes glancing over them.

            3rd edition is a better example. A fully fleshed out completely new game system that retained all of the existing models, but ditched all of the existing ruleset in favor of a clean ruleset and bundle of faction rules.

          • Muninwing

            i’d actually be in favor of another ruleset that worked and was well-balanced and clean and new.

            i’m a staunch opponent of change for the sake of change though. it would have to be a game of comparable mechanics, but different ones. and of comparable range and thoroughness, even if of different ones.

            and it shouldn’t just be a copy of a skirmish game like WM/H.

      • CMAngelos

        You have some decent points but they’re being pinned on the wrong thing. It’s not the core rules that are the destruction of 40k.

        While the core rules could use some tweaking, the problems are found in the codexes themselves.

        Codexes introduced Formations into non Apocalypse 40k, not the core rules. And in fact the standard Force Org Chart is still in the main rulebook. You reference Age of Darkness (30k), and while no it has no formations of the Standard variety it does have its own version in the form of Rites of War and other similar concepts for non Astartes armies.

        According to the rulebook a Lord of War is a Lord of War and only one is allowed, however it’s -Codex- Formations that override this, vs 30k’s 25% rule (unless Leviathan is used).

        So aside from the core rules needing only some cleaning up (things like vehicle hullpoints, and some other tweaks). The problems most people have right now stem from the Codexes themselves and the fact that ignore or override too many of the core rules limitations.

        • Karru

          Yes, it’s codices that brought them into the game, but it’s the core rules that allow them. All GW needs to do is add the following wording to the rulebook:

          “In games less than 2000pts, you may only use a single CAD to make up your Battleforged Army. No Formations, Alternative Detachments (for example, the Gladius Strike Force from the Space Marine Codex) or Lord of War maybe used.

          Of course, you might want to play a small sized game using these. In that case, just ask your opponent if it’s okay to bring them.”

          Now a good chunk of the trouble makers are gone. Next up would be the actual balancing of the armies themselves. There are a lot of problems still in the Core rules, like Assaulting being useless, but the main issue after that is still in the army books.

          • V0iddrgn

            This^ If there is one thing 8th needs to institute it’s this! Followed closely by removing Battle Brothers (namely, IC’s joining allied units).

          • Karru

            I have thought of different ways to remedy the Ally situation and I have come up with a few ideas.

            First one would be to make all Allies work like Allies of Convenience, but they are counted as Friendly Units for things that would affect all enemy units within range for example. This means that you can’t join them, buff them in any way, can’t be used to heal or repair things for you and so on.

            The other thing would be the Allied Detachment itself. I personally think it should disappear completely and replaced with a system like this:

            When making your CAD, you can choose to take units from other armies that are considered Allies. Instead of taking another Detachment however, you just use the appropriate slot. Playing a Space Marine army and want to add some Grey Knights in there? Take a unit of Grey Knight Terminators for your Troop Slot. Want some Heavy Artillery for your White Scars? Take an Imperial Guard Basilisk for your Heavy Support Slot.

            You are only allowed to take allies from one army, so no mixing up and they don’t count towards your mandatory choices. You still have to take your 1 HQ and 2 Troops, you are also not allowed to have more Allied units in your slots than you have your main units. Also, only Troops taken from your main army can hold objectives.

            For example, I take my Space Marine Army. I take 1 Space Marine Captain, 2 Unit of Tactical Marines, 1 unit of Scouts, 1 unit of Sternguard, 1 Dreadnought, 1 unit of Assault Marines and 1 Thunderfire Cannon. Then I take 1 Imperial Guard Company Command Squad, 1 Infantry Platoon, 1 unit of Veterans, a Squadron of 3 Sentinels and 2 separate units of Leman Russes.

            This is a legal army.

            Here is what I cannot do:

            1 Grey Knight Librarian, 4 units of Grey Knight Terminators, 3 units of Sternguard, 3 units of Space Marine Bikers, 3 Thunderfire Cannons.

            My main army is Grey Knights, but I only have 5 units of them. I have 9 units from Space Marines as an Ally, so this army is illegal.

          • Muninwing

            so i cannot play my Deathwing army anymore because you don’t like certain formations.

            here’s my problem: not every formation is bad.

            why not fix the problems that certain formations have, which could be a points-balance issue or an individual formation issue, instead of chopping out a whole chunk of options?

            honestly, perhaps making only the CAD have ObSec, and increasing the importance and use of ObSec to scoring could make this work. but getting rid of “freebie formations” and/or paying for formation bonuses would improve the situation too.

          • Karru

            This is true, but here’s the thing. GW doesn’t do play testing, everyone knows this. They just write something, maybe play it a few times against a few random lists and then say “okay, this is good let’s put it in the book”.

            Here is another alternative that I came up. You may only use one army building method so to speak. For example, if I take CAD, I may take one Allied Detachment and one Formation for each CAD I take. This is limited to only 1 CAD until you reach 2000pts. The same rule applies to all “special” detachments, for example the Sisters of Battle one from the Codex Imperial Agents.

            If I take the army’s Alternative Detachment, I may not take any other formation other than the ones included within the detachment. I am also not allowed to take Allies or any other choices outside the detachment.

            This makes the Alternative Detachment an actual choice and commitment. If I take a Gladius, I can no longer take Knights as support for example.

            Just like the “flavour” text of the Gladius Strike Force says on page 113:

            “The Gladius Strike Force allows you to represent the typical structure of a Space Marine army on the Warhammer 40.000 battlefield.”

            Things like Knights and Allied Detachments aren’t exactly a “typical” part of a Space Marine army in the lore.

            The reason why I am saying that all of these should be limited is because the scale of the game is starting get out of hand. There is no way that GW can balance all the formations and detachments between all armies even near decent or even passable. They don’t take the time for that, so the only realistic option to balance things out is to make them limited to games that suit them. These games are over 2000pts. This way a new player isn’t intimidated from seeing a Battle Reports with nothing but formations and super heavies/gargantuans. This gives the game an image that only those units are worth using so if you take anything else you are downgrading yourself. They look at the price and take a nice 180 and walk the other way.

        • Earth127

          The core rules could use tweaking and mstly simplifying/ shortening. However there are some glaring imbalances even in core rule design.
          Grav for instance is horrible overpowered. Not because of its use against infantry but mostly how it also completely invlidates mechanised lists as well.

          The formation Idea in itself is not a problem but the huge power disparaity between the the benefits of diferent formations and CADs. Strangely GW has already figured out the solution here with AoS and old apocalypse.You have to pay points to benefit from formations.

          I do think they’re should be a percentage limit on gargantuans/ superheavies not lords of war as whole since you can’t spam the super HQ’s and they usually aren’t as game breaking.

          • Karru

            The HQ LoWs shouldn’t be LoWs to begin with. They already are Unique characters, no need to make them LoWs on top of that.

            The % system wouldn’t work well either. The problem still stands that some armies can bring their into pretty much any game and others cannot.

            I had a discussion with someone else about the point costs for formations at one point. I concluded that it won’t work. The largest issue with the formations right now is that some armies have to pay extreme amounts of points for a minor benefit while gimping themselves. For example, Cadian Battlegroup Emperor’s Shield Infantry Company. 1000+pts of pure Lasguns and 3 Multi-lasers. Add a point cost to that and it becomes even worse.

            Meanwhile SM having to pay a 100+pts to take their Double Demi-company doesn’t mean a thing as they still get their Transports for free and all it means is that they have to take less upgrades or one unit less than normal. AoS formations usually only cost the points of an average unit. It’s not really a “sacrifice” when you consider the things you get in Demi-company or the Ad Mec Battle Mandible.

            Formations and Alternative detachments become much, much more balanced once you reach 2000+pts. At that point, any army can bring theirs and actually benefit from their extra rules. This is why you ban them from games less than 2000pts.

            It takes nothing good away from the game at all. Want to play a game of 1850pts with your Double Demi-company and knights? Ask your opponent if he wants to face that. He doesn’t? Why not increase the points? Don’t have the time? You are already fielding over 2000pts of stuff anyway so it wouldn’t add that much.

            It just weeds out the annoying “it’s in the rules so it’s okay” people. Not literal A-holes or WAACs as people like to call them, but generally people that are a bit douchey. It’s like limiting Blue players in MTG, no one suffers and Blue players learn that there is also such things as opponents turn and mana cost.

          • Earth127

            There is definitely a massive balance isuue between codexes both internally and externally in formations.

            I don’t think you should ever get free transports or the massive advantage of the admech war convocation(that’s the free upgrade one right?). I read a list once where someone managed to use that formation to get in a “1850” point list actually 3000 points worth of models if he had used cad/other formations. That’s pure overpowered BS that needs to go. now.

            I would design say a tank hunter formation: every space marine squad in the formation gets a free meltagun but the formation cost would be something like 75% of the points cost.

            I understand your 2000 points breakpoint idea I would however say that for some armies 2000 is a lot of real life money so I would put it somewhere lower if that is the way you decide to go.

          • Karru

            Anyone who can afford formations in such amounts that your opponent would have a problem with them has no issues with the 2k limit money wise. If you can’t afford the 2k army, this system helps you as people won’t stick those super units and formations in those games.

            Things like Knights and some of the formations require very specific units to deal with them. Units that some newer players don’t have because they are so specific that they aren’t exactly useful. This system would help them insanely. Instead of facing a Knight in a 1000pts game, they face something that is on their level. Even if the bar was at 1500pts or even 1850pts, Space Marines and Eldar would drool while Orks and Imperial Guard would cry. Others get to field their mega formations while others are left out.

            Most SM formations are outright better options than taking the same units in a CAD. That’s why you take them over a CAD. You get all those extra rules for no downside. Meanwhile Orks have an option to take units inside CAD or take only large amounts of duplicates of the same unit over and over again.

            There are too many armies and too many match-ups to balance out the formations, especially for GW. They don’t playtest, this is clear from the state of the game. This is why the only realistic option to obtain balance and make the make much more beginner friendly is to limit the use of formations, alternative detachments and LoWs to 2000+pts games normally.

            Again, nothing says you’ll be imprisoned if you ask your opponent if its okay to bring them. The point is to weed out those that believe everything is acceptable since its in the rules. No one likes those.

          • Muninwing

            when i got a discount, i bought a 2500-point Armored Company for less than $200.

            it was part of my tax return that year.

            there’s plenty that can be done to buy a cheap 2000-point army. sometimes, it’s just having been collecting for long enough.

          • Pyrrhus of Epirus

            i play warcon, im not sure how anybody could possibly get that many extra points, maybe taking a librarius conclave and summoning demons? but over 1100 extra points isnt happening in a straight up warcon.

          • Muninwing

            1. fix points

            2. fix allies (gut superfriends)

            3. fix detachments
            – 3a. eliminate freebies
            – 3b.make ObSec valuable AND only CAD
            – 3c. add points thresholds for additional powers (see below)

            4. streamline rules and mechanics (combining similar ones, changing abused ones, etc… and while going to AoS mechanics is needlessly inane, writing BS as a roll-value instead of a “use this to get to seven…” is probably a little change with a clearer result)

            5. fix other issues (odds and ends — like cover saves… should be a penalty to-hit, not a save)

            this — and in this order of importance — will make 40k far more playable. it’s my hopes for 8th. but GW is guaranteed to double-down on their lack of consistency with points, and then do something foolish to boost short-term gains rather than create a better game that would sell their product for them.

        • euansmith

          8th Edition BRB

          Movement: see the Movement Section of your Codex.

          Shooting: see the Shooting Section of your Codex.

          Assault: see the Assault Section of your Codex.


          • Earth127

            That’s basicly how I would do it. return the movement stat. Reduce all saving throws to one (maybe 2) with modifiers. Remove universal special rules and replace them with codex specific special rules. Age of Sigmar as a basic idea isn’t bad. It just wasn’t properly thought out at the start and forgot the need for a proper balancing mechanic.

        • Drpx

          Yeah, essentially it’s about trying to balance a game mode (Apocalypse) that was deliberately designed to be as imbalanced as possible.

      • euansmith

        I definitely agree that Troops being the only thing with Ob Sec was a great rule. If gave the footsloggers a useful and unique job to do.

      • Rudboy TheRed

        It looks like main issue is that people don’t speak to each other and even don’t try to adjust list power level to game and to meet their opponents expectancies of game experience. And maybe most importanat IMHO allmost everybody seems to forget THE MOST IMPORTANAT RULE and first bracket in main rulebook in introduction section http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3a379c4754aaef49cd91890c26f73f3e637ea64ebd1b65cb18d23d8031493713.jpg

        • Karru

          Problem is that most players don’t have the time. Even our small club would have problems with this. We had 3 and half hours to set up a game, the board, play the game and clean up. We also only had one day a week for this. This meant that we had to set up games a week in advance and we could discuss details until the day to play came. Sometimes of course the unexpected would happen and for some reason they couldn’t come. Getting sick or maybe something else came up.

          Now you just hauled yourself a good 30 minute drive to the club just to realise you have nothing to do. You brought your army of 1500pts, expecting a game and your opponent didn’t show up. Now everyone else is playing a game or painting. If they happen to be available to a game, imagine how hard it would be to actually play the game in that time. By the time you actually get to start the game, you have less than 2 hours to get through if you talked everything out.

          This was all back in 5th edition as well. If the club was still around back in 7th, I’d wager we never even get a game finished and we can also give up all hopes of actually playing a game if our opponent didn’t show up.

          It’s a matter of time mostly. It’s not simple to go to a club, ask for a game and then go through the lists of your opponent saying yes or no if the list contains a lot of problem units. This will most likely lead to person looking for a game not getting a game or it will be very sad experience.

      • Old zogwort

        I want Andy Chambers back.
        Just listen to this https://youtu.be/tdM9AUEGBGM?t=13m16s

        • Muninwing

          “if you’ve done your job [as a designer] badly…”

          (proceeds to describe the current meta)…

      • Muninwing

        “The massive unbalance from the game comes mostly from the core rules themselves.”

        i disagree.

        the massive unbalance comes mostly from there being no consistency with the points-algorithm.

        formations and detachments can be done respectfully and flavorfully, but would require either their points to be regulators or another layer of check/balance to function well. and no formation should give freebies — i’m a big fan of the idea that a formation should also cost points if it gives advantage, or there should be a surcharge on HQs that adds to their points value but unlocks “tactics” that apply to their forces.

        it’s a new idea, these detachments. it’s not a bad one. it’s just in need of some serious balancing.

        personally, i’d like to see a “build tokens” strategy, where you could take more psykers, or GMCs, or superheavies, or detachments… but were capped on how many. that you could delve into one of these but not all.

        but it’s all for naught if the points values are not addressed…

        • Karru

          It’s the Core rules that allow the following in the game:

          Super Heavies, Gargantuans, Flyers, Flying Monstrous Creatures, Summoning, Invincibility, Multiple Detachments, Allies

          It’s the Core rules that discourage the following:

          Melee Combat, Horde Melee Armies, Melee Units in general

          It’s the Core rules that encourage the following:

          Shooting, Shooting more and Shooting a lot

          It’s the Codices that allow the following:

          Formations, Alternative Detachments

          Starting to see why its the Core rules that are causing problems? If the Core rules didn’t allow people to bring Super Heavies, Gargantuans, Flyers, Flying Monstrous Creatures and Multiple Detachments the situation would be much better.

          The books made the situation worse, but the real problem maker is the Core rules. Let’s say they removed all those things from the core game and made the expansion books like they originally were. The nice thing about expansions is always the fact that they are not automatically part of the game. You can just say “oh I only play standard 40K, I don’t like the expansions” for example. This removes much of the troublemakers from the game.

          Next up they fix Melee and make it actually worth it while Ranged combat is weakened severely. Snap Shooting goes away, Rapid Fire Weapons can only shoot half their range if they move, Salvo disappears and is once again Heavy. Melee units can charge from a transport that hasn’t moved even if it isn’t an open-topped transports. Fast Open-topped vehicles can move 12″ and the occupants can still charge. Outflanking units can also charge on the turn they arrive. Overwatch Casualties are allocated by the charging player.

          Now you have a massively more balanced game. Now GW just has to make an effort to balance out the armies themselves.

          Oh, and remove Jinking from the game altogether.

          • Muninwing

            the core rules then are everything, so by using them as a focal point, you see zero specifics.

            because even with all this fixed, if the points are not addressed, there will be imbalances still.

          • Karru

            There will always be unbalance. There is no perfectly balanced Tabletop game in existence. My proposed fixes are meant to reduce the massive power gap that we currently have and from there GW can slowly start to fix the books. Your solution calls the opposite. We have to wait for GW to slooooooowly fix all the books without any changes to the main rules that allow all the massive amounts of BS.

          • Muninwing

            “there will always be unbalance”

            i’m not arguing this.

            nor is it a reason to allow such to be given reign unchecked. that i am not immortal is not a reason for me to not care about living until tomorrow.

            points are the most heavily-invested balancing mechanic that GW has used. it is already involved in the design of the game. rather than come up with new rules and new requirements, which equate to jumping through new hoops and get lumped by some into “bloat” or overcomplexity… why not just fix the one we’ve got?

            if you got rid of the rules that are obviously creating too much discord (such as freebies in formations), and assigned better-formulated points costs to the units and options, the rest of the problems would be on an individual basis.

            if GCs/SHs paid for all the advantages they got, they would not be affordable in the large numbers that make for a breakable list.

          • Karru

            But then you have to take reality into consideration. Warhammer 40k has thousands of different combinations for units and then there are thousands of different situations to test them in. How would they realistically have the time, skill and resources to make that into reality?

            The points themselves are fine in most cases, if the rules supported certain choices. For example, a single 14pts Tactical Marine is quite equal to two 6pts Ork Boys, if the rules wouldn’t heavily favour the Tactical Marine. If the Orks could somehow get close enough before they are shot of the board, they’d smash those Space Marines. Problem is they can’t currently. Trukks are made of wet cardboard and after that the Orks have to get into CC through random dice roll and survive Overwatch. After that they have to take hits before they can even swing.

            Even if the Marine was priced around 20+pts they’d still most likely win. The game just doesn’t support melee units at all right now.

            That’s why the most realistic option for GW is to look at the Core rules, fix the massive issues there and then start to look into their points. Remember, my proposed solution is meant to reduce the unbalance we have now. This makes 40k more enjoyable and thus increases the amount of players. This means that GW will actually have the resources and encouragement to fix the points over a course of many years.

            You seem to think that your solution could be implemented at once. Technically it could be, but it would take years from GW. My solution would take them a few months at most.

          • Muninwing

            one algorithm would cover it all. yes, each would have specialties that would change how they were used, but their core value would be something that could be adapted accordingly.

            and if it is harder to get into combat with an assault army then why shouldn’t assault units be cheaper?

            look at GK vs DW terminators.
            DW: more expensive, get plasma cannon. get split fire, and some anti-csm ideas.
            GK: cheaper by a lot, 3 hands’ worth of weapons, cheaper/stronger special weapons, brotherhood, 3 kinds of grenades, options of exactly which force weapons they want… so all around better and better-equipped, for fewer points.

            that’s the problem right there. and they even dropped points in the last edition, for no other reason than GW said so. they lost nothing.

    • Master Avoghai

      “Ultimately war games are a social contract between two players and when the players come to the table with different ideas of what they want from the game things end up not being fun for either player.”

      But you use a very important term “social contract between players”

      Hence it implies a discussion between players before the game. In the situation you’ve described, you don’t have any conversation between the 2 players.

      So if the game is a social contract but the players don’t have any contract discussion before, I fail to see why it’s not players’ fault…

      • euansmith

        While that is great in theory, it simply means players looking over each other’s lists and then deciding not to play. Unless you have brought along enough toys to field several different lists, for a pick up game, you are stuck with whatever you have brought along to the shop.

        • Master Avoghai

          Yup life sucks sometimes…

          Also, you’re talking of a situation when there are only 2 players of 100% opposite goals in the hobby…
          In most case, you have more than 2 players in the store. They have a little more toy soldiers in their cases in order to swap some squads…

          The case may happen where you have to cancel a game… But I prefer do so rather than feel frustrated…

          • Greg Killion

            This is just goofy. I don’t mean to be a jerk but this statement makes no sense at all. So your argument is that the reason 40k feels broken and unbalanced is the player’s fault not the rules? The defense of said argument seems to be to suck it up or borrow models from a different player if you don’t have them to make your army more powerful. Can you clarify your position?

          • Master Avoghai

            I know that 40 needs a clean up and a drastic one.
            Though I appreciate the concept of a formation that allows you to play a theme army, I don’t understand why there should ALWAYS be special rules… I mean if the Aspect Host allows you to play a theme army composed ONLY of aspect warriors, it is ALREADY a bonus… Why would you give them a bonus? This makes more special rules over special rules .
            Look at RW special rules. I started playin them only with re-roll of dangerous terrain and a 6+jink. Now they have scout, H&R, and formations bonus Special rules in top of the jink and possible skilled pilot… we don’t need that… particulary for basic units…

            That said, even in a simplified and more balanced 40k, you’ll always have players that look for a different goal. And be sure that even if balance can be better, it will never be perfect…
            You’ll always have units that will be underpowered and other that will be overpowered.
            While the “fluff” player will bring underpowered units and also strong ones the “optimized” player will always bring strong ones.
            Moreover, I rarely see “fluff” players making more than 2 games a month where I often see “optimized” making 2 or 3 games a week.
            The lack of practice will create a gap that will lead to disapointment of both players.

            This particular point is important as it’s a souce of lots of misunderstandings.

            I strongly concord with point #1. Lots of fluff players often complains because they got beaten by a Waac – optimizator that used every corner of the rules to get good position… problem is : they got beaten because THEY did not know the rules because THEY don’t practice enough (and maybe for very good reasons).

            So My point is that, even in the most balanced system that exists, if you don’t have a chat with your opponent BEFORE the game to evaluate is level vs yours and the level of its list vs yours, you take a risk to have a bad game…

          • Malisteen

            Life sucks sometimes. More often than not, even. 40k isn’t life, though. 40k is a game. If a game sucks more often then not, then it’s a bad game.

        • Drpx

          Or one person makes a conscious decision to lose. That’s how I look at a PUG in a new store–just assume there’s a Warhost/Baronial Court with my name on it and see how many turns I can last against it with the handful of random models I brought.

          • euansmith

            Someone posted a while back about that, and I thought it was a really cool idea; setting your objectives in a game where everything is hopeless.

            “Okay, lads, if we can just kill their leader, we’ll have struck a blow against the foe! Up and at them!”

    • Shawn Lyons

      My biggest gripe with 7th edition is army building. I think if everything went back to CAD and ally detachments, it would remove a lot of whats wrong with the game.

      • Pyrrhus of Epirus

        not sure what this will fix. I play eldar, if everybody lost formations, i can still take scatbikes and wraithknights who dont have any decent formations anyway, and warp spiders are still great outside the aspect host. Seems to me eldar will become even better in a CAD and ally only game.

        • Karru

          Actually, you would be able to take only one Wraithknight. It’s not a Heavy Support choice anymore, it’s a LoW. Of course this would mean that you’d be able to take only one CAD in games less than 2k points.

          In other words, instead of brining 3-6 units of BS 5 Warp Spiders, 4-6 units of Scatter Bikes and 2-3 Wraithknights, you can now only bring a maximum of 3 Warp Spiders, 6 units of Jetbikes and 1 Wraithknight. My Guard army wouldn’t mind facing that, nor would my Orks.

          If you don’t know what it will fix, you seemed to have missed War Convocation and Gladius Strike Force. It’s also a matter of balancing. GW doesn’t do playtesting, everyone knows this. It is clear as day when you look at the state of the game. At least it would be more balanced if everyone had to use the same army building method. It wouldn’t no longer be a lottery of who got the best formations/alternative detachment. There is no reason to bring a CAD instead of Demi-company with Space Marines. They are getting better rules by default just because they are Space Marines. Adeptus Mechanicus armies should never leave home without the War Convocation because it’s a Ad Mech army but with more stuff than the exact same thing but without it.

          • Malisteen

            Removing formations would help some, but you’d still be left with some armies fighting with plasma guns and autocannons against others fighting with grav or D weapons. You’d still have a game where assaulting sucks compared to the ranged game for anything outside of the most extreme untis. You’d still have a game with unfun individual elements like invisibility. You’d still have a game where the most popular anti-tank weapons all ignore vehicle armor outright, making vehicles in general suck so badly that the game designers themselves just threw up their hands and said ‘screw it, all the new walkers we make will just be monstrous creatures from now on’ (and then somehow forgot this when writing the rules for new chaos walkers).

            I like formations and detachments, conceptually. Yes, they’ve gotten out of hand, but so has *everything* else in this game. All of it’s broken. Not just the list building rules, but the movement rules, the reserve rules, casualty allocation, weapon stat lines, psychic phase, all of it.

            40k may not need to be AoS’d, but it does very much need to be 3rd editioned.

          • Karru

            It’s relatively “simple” to “fix” the game. I’ve already made multiple lists how this can be achieved. I’m making them much shorter here, but if you are interested/haven’t seen them you can go ahead and search them from my profile for greater detail.

            – Massive Changes to Super Heavies, Flyers, Gargantuans and Flying Monstrous Creatures
            – Formations/Alternative Detachments limited
            – Changes to Melee and Ranged rules. Make Melee useful and reduce the favouring of Ranged units.

            These are all just fixes for the Core rules. As far as basic rules go, they aren’t bad. I personally would prefer a mix of 5th edition and 6/7th edition wound allocation that we use with my group when we play. The targeted unit’s owner chooses which models take the wounds, but they have to take ALL wounds to that single model until it fails. This reduces the Nob Biker shenanigans or tanking Chapter Masters. If you want to tank 10 wounds with your Chapter Master, you are taking ALL of them on him.

          • Malisteen

            Your suggestions tend to be rather extensive and vague. They do not give me the impression that it would be “”simple”” to “”fix”” this game at all.

            Frankly, every part of 40k is broken. It’s beyond fixing, it needs to be remade from the bottom up as a new game, the way 3rd ed did.

      • Old zogwort

        Wait this article was written 8 years ago shouldn’t we be talking about what is wrong with the horrible edition that is 5th ?

        • Drpx

          Well, everybody wants to go back to 5th, so it’s probably still relevant.

  • benn grimm

    Well that saved you some time didn’t it? As true now as it was then in many ways. I think the reason the goat and others (still) get so much hostility towards their lists is a discrepancry in approach between them and their typical audience. Over at frontline gaming you don’t get the ‘I hate tourneys’ comments under every competitively minded post, because of the expectation one has already when visiting the site. You’ll also notice he (the goat) gets nothing but positive comments when he shares his painting here.

    The truth is spam is boring and obvious. Boring to read about and boring to play against. Extreme lists which attempt to exploit rules/meta are also fairly boring to people not involved in said meta. Interesting combinations and fresh ideas are on the other hand(crazily enough) interesting to read about.

    • Zingbaby

      Nailed it.

  • the_wheel_turns

    WAAC players do exist. I’ve met many and 40k attracts them like no other game.

    • Malisteen

      Try LoL sometime. :p

  • mrbleak

    WAAC players are just sad and lonely people that NEED A WIN in their lives cause everything else is sad. Letting them win counts as charity, nobody should really be bothered by them though you should feel pity ;D

    • Earth127

      Not every WAAC player needs a win to feel good but most people who need a win/are very sore losers have the attitude (tough sometimes not the skill) of the WAAC player you’re thinking about

    • kingcobra668

      When I see someone complaining about WAAC players, I can’t help but think *they* are a WAAC too, they just aren’t honest with themselves about it. They are upset they aren’t going to win. They can’t handle losing.
      I also think that some people just can’t admit that they simply suck at strategy games, but fancy themselves as “very smart,” so they’re only remaining recourse is to lash out with finger pointing, name calling, and shaming.

      • Karru

        I have yet to meet one “true” WAAC IRL. I met a group once that gave up immediately a game of apocalypse when their bs combo and rule manipulation failed hard. Turn 3, Warlord Titan died a second time, they packed their stuff and left.

        I personally believe that many players have a hard time finding a difference between a true WAAC and just highly competitive gamer. There is a massive difference. Highly Competitive gamers don’t want easy wins, they want to test their skills. How would anyone ever enjoy playing a game they won on turn 2 and right from the get go they realised that they had won purely because of their list? No one that isn’t a complete A-hole.

        That’s why they frequent tournaments. It gives them a place to test out their skills.

  • Earth127

    People who don’t know the rules aren’t fun to lay against I’ll agree but mostly because they massively bog the game down in terms of time. Accidently misinterpreting a minor special rule doesn’t usually detract from my enjoyment of the game. An opponent that has to look up the strength of his weapon, the ballistic skill of his every model and the basic use of every special rule he has, is annoying as hell to play against

    • euansmith

      “People who don’t know the rules aren’t fun to lay against.”

      Yeah, and it is probably illegal too.

      • Old zogwort

        Na Nihilists and Anarchists are good company just don’t trust them with your cat or your car.

    • Malisteen

      Yeah, but who knows the rules these days? I mean, just for my one unit of chosen, the rules are spread across my codex, the core rule book, a subfaction supplement, a campaign book, and a forgeworld book. They’ve got seven different kinds of weapons, three different kinds of grenades, different special rules from an icon, from a mark, from their legion, from their formation, and from their detachment, the champion has his own pile of hasslesome special rules relating to challenges on top of the special rules from just being a character.

      Who has time to remember all that? Who has a spine strong enough to actually carry a backpack with all those books in it on top of a figure case? Or the patience to flip a page at a time between multiple slowly-loading ebooks on a tablet with a batter life shorter than the duration of most games?

      Even trying to know the rules for just your own units, let alone your opponents, is a fools errand. Just pick up your toy army men and make ‘pew pew’ noises and argue with your opponent over whether or not their guy died. Works much more smoothly than actually trying to play this game.

  • Old zogwort

    It isn’t WAAC players who are the issue. Players who don’t care about ANY cost are things of myth similar to the myth of king Midas. No sane person would accept any cost no mater how high it is to win the game. The issue with 40k is that you don’t have to be this idiot to break the game. The has enough balance issues, and obvious rule loopholes to make it so that your 12 year old nephew can break it without paying any serious cost, while it is hard to play a decently matched pick up game.

  • Nyyppä

    1: True.

    2: True, there is no such thing as a list that can not be beaten. There are lists that can not be beaten by some of the factions, though. This is a real problem.

    3: The actual term used to describe a group is meaningless as long as the attitude of that group is properly associated to that term.

    4: False, or at least badly focused. The problem is not that house rules wreck the game. The actual rules already do that. House rules are generally designed to either balance the game or to make the rules usable. The most important rule is to have fun, right? A working rule set and better balance both make the game at least more fun than the vanillahammer.

    5: True.

    6: What? People are superstitious. If a person has a special pair of “ld-dice” ask them to roll them, let’s say 10 times before the game and see if there are clearly favorable rolls coming from them and do what ever. Also picking up misses is just as good/bad as picking up hits.
    Cheating is always cheating, so there’s that.

  • Zingbaby

    This article is total crap. WAAC players and lists do exist. Even the “dice tricks” is crap, I have my fake/superstitious low rolling dice and favorite kill dice, nothing cheating at all.

    40k has tons of flaws, always has, but the folks that exploit them for the win are just weak. Every list doesn’t need to be super fluffy, but these entirely unfluffy undescribable gross mash up of power units and spam are terrible to play against and really hurt the community.

    • Pyrrhus of Epirus

      congrats, you dont do dirty tricks. I attend a couple tournaments a year, despite this being an 8 year old article, i have played against guys who have specific dice for specific rules. When i notice this, i insist on using the same dice. People cheat, and im not into giving total strangers my complete trust.

  • Drpx

    5th edition was the worst edition to ever come along…until 6th edition, which was the worst edition before 7th. The only thing worse than 7th edition will be 8th whenever that comes out.

  • Mr K

    What’s wrong with 40K is that GW chases $ too much. This means they roll out multiple codexes and supplements to get us to buy them, and then they layer formations on us to force our purchases to units that are weak in order to obtain the formation rule set.

    GW has now published so much that nobody can know all the rules. My local store’s “Rule Master” plays like 10 armies and has been playing weekly and he still shrugs his shoulders often when confronted with a rule question. It’s like GW dumped out the entire toy box and everything is scattered.

    We need a core rule set that is polished! POLISHED and STEAMLINED. Hopefully 8th edition will do this with FAQ’s abound. Once they have a solid rule set, then POLISH each codex in popularity order! Don’t come out with another edition of rules until all codexes are polished and have given ample time for all armies to play with new rules.

    40K players are loyal, so we deserve to be treated well.

  • Malisteen

    It’s sad to say, but honestly I think Age of Sigmar is a healthier, more playable game than 40k at this point. And I don’t say that as a compliment to Age of Sigmar.

  • Muninwing

    “If a player consistently brings lists that are not fun to play against to friendly games, nature will handle the issue, and most tournaments have composition scoring.”

    yeah… then there was the push to remove comp scores, because “they weren’t objective”

    it’s like anything else — make assumptions about the inherent forces that you live by, and you open up the situation to be exploited by those who view the same idea differently. whether it be the results of supply-side economics, morality or free market influence in capitalism, the desire to be a part of a society in socialism/communism, or just players getting bored of winning all the time, the assumptions are all the same.

    what we have seen on this topic is that “nature” sometimes kills the fun for everyone, and then they go play x-wing. or instead it creates a highly competitive meta that excludes new players. if there is no effort put into regulating the direction it goes in, there will be effects and consequences. this may be partially responsible for the lack of new players.

    5th became, particularly in the second half, more competitive at the same time that it became less balanced. last week, someone on here claimed that 40k not being a balanced game was an incorrect opinion of mine, and i was laughing too hard to find time to reply. the ward-codex era did some serious damage to both their games. it may have temporarily spiked sales of new stuff, but it was another corporate trick that created long term losses.

    this is a great look back at the past, if for only to see where the problems of today could have been avoided.