There are a thousand and one ways to play Warhammer 40K.
Warhammer 40K is played all over the world in FLGSs, Event halls and basements. Over the years it has grown into a vast and varied game and community. It’s very easy to sit here on the internet and talk about large picture topics in Warhammer, like “the meta” and how the game is played. In the modern day and age we have easy accesses to a lot of information. We’ve got access to rules and missions for a host of events, and to thousands of competitive lists, and rankings. It’s easy to look at an event like LVO and pinpoint trends and say “this is the meta”. Yet one very interesting thing that pops up when studying these kinds of events is that there is no real agreed upon way to play 40K. Because of this we’ve seen the vast fiction that there even is one meta – that often leads to confusion. Lets take a look at why this is.
House Rules are a part of Warhammer that every player is familiar with. The myriad ambiguities of 40K force players to come to agreements about how certain rules interact, which specific terrain features are used and what missions they want to use. At the most basic, house rules are like a unofficial FAQ, which often grow into whole new rules and ways to play. It’s fully possible for two players from different groups to use wildly different rules for the same game. Now there is nothing wrong with house rules. GW’s rules writing pretty much encourages you to use house rules, and making the game “yours” is a key part of enjoying it. The downside to them is that different groups can tend to see and view the game in completely opposite ways due to their house rules. In casual play this isn’t really an issue, tournaments however are a bit of another issue.
At some point major tournaments decided they wanted to be super complicated. Instead of just running 3-9 games with basic rules from the books they started making up ever more complex missions and packets of extra rules. Sometimes the events do this to set them apart, to give you a unique experiences. Tournaments should be events, and special. I remember an old GW run GT for Warhammer Fantasy where each player had to bring a force of Dogs of War (Mercenaries) to join your army in one or two of the battles. This was a fun and cooky addition.
Other events use complicated packets and missions to try to “balance” the game. They have some notion of how the game should be played and want to move their event towards that goal. Maybe they think troop choices should be really important. Perhaps they want to allow or disallow massive Forgeworld units. There are all kinds of ways they can try to move towards an idea of balance.
Because of this we have major events all over the world that use different and complex rules to play the game. ITC dominates North American, the ATC and ETC events have their own unique rules, events like the Caledonian Uprising in the UK and the “pure” tournaments at Warhammer World all do things subtly different. All around the world we can see major events influencing how local people play, leading to very different regional styles and metas. Which is “true 40K”? None.
The Meta is Fragmented
This year the Eldar dominated LVO, giving them tops spots in a major US event. As we’ve noted here before they seem to be king of the North American meta. The week before LVO saw the Caledonain Uprising in the UK. Unlike LVO, it was Nids that came out on top there, with Chaos holding the most spots in the top 10. At LVO Nids didn’t place at all in the top ten and only one Chaos list did. Despite playing the same game and using the same Codexs it’s clear based on these results that the meta’s at these two events played on opposite sides of the globe are vastly different.
The ITC dominates the North American competitive scene right now, and its clearly shaping how we play. Meanwhile other major events are just as likely affecting other metas. House rules, missions and local FAQ’s shape how we play the game. It’s clear from all we can see that when we talk about “the meta” we now have to really differentiate between categories like “North American Meta”, the “UK Meta”, “the ETC Meta”, and so on.
No Right Way
House rules, tournament packets, friendly agreements. We all chose how we play 40K. Because of all these choices we all end up playing slightly different games, following some rules and ignoring others. We are all playing 40K wrong, which, paradoxically, is most likely the right way to play. In the end its fun that counts, and we are all having fun. Right?
What does your local meta look like? Let us know down in the comments!