Small tweaks to unit costs won’t fix the game.
In response to player demand Games Workshop is trying a number of different tactics to fix broken aspects of 40K. They are putting out quick FAQs after a book comes out, twice yearly large scale FAQs and a yearly Chapter Approved Book. Along with clarification and changes to rules, these publications can also add new rules to the game. They can also adjust the points of units in the game. It’s this last type of change that interests us today, lets dig in.
The general idea here is that some units are under or over costed in their book/index. It is felt that by adjusting the point of the these units they can be brought back to an appropriate power level and desirability. In short they are broken and can be fixed. In some cases these changes are dramatic, doubling or more the cost of a unit for instance. Most of the changes are minor, a few points here or there. While these changes might help the game out overall, it does not appear that they fix units in most cases.
Big Changes Work
There have been some extreme examples of point changes fixing broken units. Both the Ta’unar Supremacy Armour and Aetaos’rau’keres saw their points increase to 1500 in Chapter Approved 2017. Both these units had widely been considered to be broken before this. However the dramatic points increase, double or more, made them basically untakeable in 2000 pts and killed their use in competitive play. However with these two exceptions, point changes haven’t really worked to fix units.
Small Changes Don’t Work
Though sometimes small changes are also big.
Most point changes have been relatively small, in the 2-20 pts range. While these have certainly affected lists they haven’t really changed the meta or fixed broken units. Minor changes just don’t have that much of an effect on units. One main reason is that most “broken” units fall into one of two categories.
- Big Powerful units that are must takes. These are units like Guilliman and Celestine. These units are incredibly powerful and you can build an army about them. Players would take them almost regardless of the point cost. These units are so good that an increase of 20-25 simply does not matter when people are decided to take these units. Unless they see a major 100-300 pts increase players will take them at the same rate as before.
- The unit is so bad that there is no point in taking it. Some units are simply the worst. They are so bad and pointless that taking them at any cost just isn’t worth it. Think about a Whirlwind for instance. This is widely maligned unit. I’ve heard players say that even if they were 25 points they just wouldn’t take them. Now while this is a bit hyperbolic the fact is that a 15-20 point change in its cost won’t make people suddenly rush out to take them. This is particularly true of low qulity units that are also not the cheapest troop choice.
Intercessors, the line troops of the Primaris Marines, got a 2 pt drop in Chapter Approved 2017, taking them from 20 pts to 18 pts. However it’s not clear this 2pt drop has really changed anything. I don’t think it’s suddenly taken Intercessors from a run of the mill unit and made them great. We are not suddenly seeing hordes of Intercessors in competitive play.
It’s simply too small an impact to have on the game. Most armies that are Intercessor heavy are still only going to field 20-30 of the models. This means the change netted most armies between 40-60 additional points. That enough for an extra upgrade here or there, but not for a whole unit, and it’s barely enough for 3 extra Intercessors. Armies that run say, 60 Intercessors would have seen a nice bump, but they are rare. So overall the point drop really just didnt do much.
One of the detachments that has seen a lot of use lately is a basic Astra Militarum Battalion. This detachment takes 2 Company Commanders and 3 Infantry Squads. It clocks in at a 180 pts and give you 3 Command Points and access to traits and relics to get more. Some people feel that this detachment is broken. One popular idea going around is that in part to fix this, the up coming big FAQ should increase the cost of a Guardsperson from 4 pts to 5pts. So what effect would this have? Well I don’t think it will have any effect on people taking this small detachment, going from 180 to 210 will still make it a good deal, and the cheapest way to get a Battalion. It will punish infantry (i.e. fluffy) Guard armies, but ultimately won’t fix the trend of taking cheap units as filler to get CPs.
Army Wide Changes Can Work
While adjusting the pints of specific units doesn’t seem to have much effect, army wide changes can. When the Eldar Codex came out the army saw an almost across the board 10-30% point drop. This was a dramatic change that greatly increased the number of models the army could take. While it didn’t really make any particular units better or worse it improved the army overall as it is now able to take more units. These changes can have a big effect.
Units Are Broken Due To Rules, Not Points
While not all units are costed correctly, in general units are broken due to their rules – not their points. It’s not the point cost, high or low, that makes Dark Reapers, Guilliman or a Deamon Prince good or bad. Ultimately the way to fix units is to change their rules or how they interact with things that will fix them. Intercessors are mediocre not because of their point cost but because mid-power-level jack-of-all-trade units don’t have much of a place in the game right now. Infantry Squads can be abused easily not because of their cost but becuase of the rules for detachments and allies. Fixing these things, not points, should be the focus.
So what do you think, can small points changes really fix units? Let us know down in the comments!