Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition killed the old “Allies Matrix” in the best way possible – Long Live the Keywords!
We’ve been playing a lot of 40k 8th in the last two weeks and one thing we here at BoLS HQ do not is the old Allies Matrix. For the most part, we’ve been building our lists using the Match Play Army Construction and it’s been working quite well. One of the coolest things I’ve noticed is an army list design-philosophy change. No longer are you required to go outside of your army to find “the best” synergy units – you just need to build a fluffy list!
“Did He just say build a fluffy list? What?!” Yes. And it will work like it should. The big design-philosophy change is this: Don’t separate the synergy from the lore, make the “fluff” the gateway to synergy. Let me explain what I’m saying by backing up a bit.
With the old Allies Matrix if you wanted to really make a competitive list, you had to do some pretty terrible things during the army construction part of your list designs. You’d have the top units from 4 different Space Marine Chapters rolling together in “perfect” harmony. You’d have The mighty warriors of khorne subject themselves to pathetic magic users. You would have a Tau commander or Imperial Inquisitor in every list they could fit in. And you’d have all the crazy list combos Goatboy comes up with (editors note: Shots Fired).
Is it cool when 4 Chapters work together to take on a greater threat? Absolutely! Would Khorne and the other Chaos gods work together in a mighty campaign? It’s happened before! But those things aren’t common occurrences – they only formed Voltron at the END of the show, not the entire episode. And maybe that’s a bad example, but my point is if you were a fan of the lore of the game then all of those things should hurt your soul to see on table-top. It’s not that the game’s lore didn’t support those in rare occasions, it was that those type of lists were the NORM and not the rare, narrative forging concurrence they should have been.
The Allies Matrix (while good in theory) was a part of the rules that was ripe with “abuses” and unforeseen consequences. It’s what happens when the ruleset just gets too unwieldy and overlaps start happening that you just couldn’t have planned for. Combine that with the limited play-tester pool and things are going to slip through the cracks. The game didn’t support building “fluffy” lists and rewarded players for going outside the lore to create these list synergies in order to be competitive. That was the state of the game – and 8th Edition just hit the reset button.
The Faction Keyword system solves this problem. How? Because it limits what I used to call “cross-pollination” of unit/army rules. When building a list (again: this is in regards to Matched Play) you have to construct a Battle Forged army and that requires that all units must have at least ONE Faction Keyword in common. “Okay, but that doesn’t prevent you from taking 4 Space Marine Chapters in a single list!” You’re absolutely correct. However, you don’t get rewarded for doing so. Let’s take a look at Dark Angels Chapter Master Azrael as an example:
I’ve cropped this down so you can see the Abilities which is what I want to focus on. Notice his Chapter Master and Lion Helm abilities – they only apply to units with the Faction Keyword “Dark Angels” and nothing else. So, while you could in fact take him in a Battle Forged Army with Faction Keywords “Imperium, Adeptus Astartes, Dark Angels, or Deathwing” to get the benefit of using him, you need to bring more Faction Keyword “Dark Angels” in your army.
And that is just ONE example of how the Keywords work. Another example is in the Tyranid army. It’s very evident that Games Workshop designed them to have these auras and buffs to stack with the units they were implied to work with. Tervigons give Termagant units within 6″ a re-roll to 1’s when shooting. The Tyranid Prime gives Warriors and Shrikes a +1 to hit rolls. Broodlords make Genestealers even better. But it’s not just the leaders – it’s also evident within the units. Termagants get a re-roll of 1’s when wounding in the shooting phase if they have 20 or more models in the unit. Genestealers get an extra attack if there are 10 or more models in the unit. Again, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The unit synergies are behind “fluffy” lists construction instead of being separated from them – and it’s glorious! If you are the type of player that wants to build crazy combo armies you can still do that. If you are the type of player that wants to build an army based on “how it should work in the fluff” you can do that. The best part is that when you’re both done, your lists might end up looking REALLY similar! Competitive armies can be fluffy and “Lore-based” Armies will be competitive. Isn’t that what we’ve all been wanting for a very long time?
Is the battle between “WAAC players” and “Fluff Bunnies” over? I don’t think that can ever truly happen – but that’s a whole different article. However, I think with the death of “allies” that battle is at least one step closer to being resolved – or at least fought on the table top with comparable armies now.
What do you think of the Keyword System and the death of the Allies Matrix? Let us know in the comments below!
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