40K: Are Chess Clocks the Answer? – FTN

This episode talks Black Templars, Eldar, Daemons & killing slow play with chess clocks.

We kick off the episode talking about Black Templars and how to beat Eldar and Daemons.  It is kind of weird to think that the Black Templars may be the best anti psyker units in the game!  Then Paul is joined by Reece Robins from Frontline Gaming to talk about tournament structures and chess clocks.


Hey guys,

We get a lot of questions from people wanting to squeeze some extra value out of their army choices.  This one came from someone asking about Black Templars and that got me thinking… They have that sweet 4+ deny the witch power that we all thought was lame before.  Not anymore!

In the middle, and longest part, of the show Paul and Reece sit down to talk about some of their upcoming events and tournament structures across the board may be changing.  Not just to ‘weed out the bad guys’ but maybe so it makes the whole thing more fun to watch on tv.. Yep..

The last part of the show I rant a bit about not getting points for being fully painted when my army is not only fully painted.. but painted well!  Ha.  It’s light hearted but the message is the same.  If you publish criteria as a TO, please stick to it. Its important at every level of the game.

The Finishing Moves segment is sponsored by Frontline Gaming. Their new mats are now hot off the presses and getting ready to be shipped. Please check them out, even if you already have a game mat. Their new styles are very impressive.

The finishing moves is quick this week.  We talk very briefly about how to store you texture paints and dry paints.

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FTN mostly focuses on Warhammer 40k, but again you will see in the first few episodes we take a severe deep dive into nerdom. These have been a blast to record and I hope they help pass the time for you.

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Paul Murphy – Host

Justin Troop – troopsmash
Christopher Morgan – captain morgan
Horton Doughton
Ricky Addington

  • Sir Postalot

    Has it ever been tried in one of the larger / more competitive tournaments ?

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      Warmachine/Hordes uses Chess clocks all the time and it works fine.

      • John Cook

        Different game entirely. 40K is a lot more fluid. Chess clocks create more problems than they solve

        • marxlives

          How is one more fluid than the other?

          • JN7

            There aren’t many rolls that happen for the inactive player, and those that occur are quick. This isn’t like gathering up a pile of dice for saves in 40K, then figuring out re-rolls, then tallying the result.

          • Sparowl

            Seems pretty easy to swap the clock over, just like you do in WMH for tough rolls, etc.

          • marxlives

            That would make it easier since in 40k you roll against units and not individual models making single actions against specific models with some armies having to do Tough rolls. in 40k player makes hit and wound rolls with a bunch of dice and hits that nice big button at the top of the chess clock so the opposing player gather all their bunch of save dice and rolls it, then hits the big button on the clock and so and so on.

  • JN7

    The problem with a clock in 40K is the number of rolls that happen on both sides. Are you gonna swap the clock for every save, morale check, or other randomness? At this point, I think 40K is best enjoyed as a casual game with friends. You can play it competitively, but I don’t think it works well.

    • Kabal1te

      Everyone complains it would disadvantage hordes unfairly but really depending on what time you put on the clock it doesn’t do that especially with the new rules and the elimination of templates. The bigger issue is keeping track of the rolls back and forth it is too interactive a game. You are right, 40k doesn’t work great competitively. Most war games really don’t but that doesn’t stop people from trying.

      • Steven Hyche

        At the same time your opponent is disadvantaged playing hordes currently. If a game doesn’t go the full 5 rounds you lose points and possibly the tournament without any fault of your own.

        • Lebowski1111111111

          totally agree

        • HeadHunter

          Maybe “your fault” is playing a list that’s too cumbersome to manage in your fair share of the time. 😉

          • He is saying that the person playing AGAINST hordes is at a disadvantage. Hordes get a huge number of points in the first 2-3 turns just in pure board control. If the game ends then? They auto win.

          • HeadHunter

            Exactly. That’s why players should both get an even amount of time – and if you run out because you play slow or are stalling, the opponent isn’t suffering for it.
            The only “auto win” that would occur is if you run out of time and your opponent has time left – he can continue to take turns and actions while you sit helplessly. Bet that would motivate people to step up the pace.
            For matches based on turns alone, the issue of time is mostly irrelevant. But most tournament games are based on time – and it’s only fair for both players to have an equal amount of it.

          • Muninwing

            if you want to make it fair, then you can’t do it by raw time. it would have to be a certain amount of time per unit… otherwise, it’s a penalty against high numbers

          • eMtoN

            No it’s not. A tourney player is going to play against both horde and non horde armies. If two horde armies fight then they will have to play within only half the allotted game time. Considering it’s going to happen anyway then they may as well figure out how to get it done.

            Also it becomes another piece of the gaming puzzle. If you take a smaller force you essentially get more time to think, if you take a larger force then you might have to sacrifice movement or shooting for a couple units to keep going.

          • Steven Hyche

            “Exactly” so he is saying your fault is not understanding my comment and argueing the same point I made but acting condensensing while doing it despite the lack of understanding on your part.

      • AmorousBadger

        It’s never been easier to play hordes with scrapping of templates. You can now put all your big mobs onto movement trays and shift ’em en masse, rather than move each model individually to ensure minimum damage from area weapons.

    • ZeeLobby

      Definitely agree.

    • NNextremNN

      You can excuse everything with “don’t play competitively”. But there are people who want to and this for them not you. This is not for the casual friendly game. No one will force you to use a clock at these. I have never used a “chess clock” with chess too. Because I rarely play chess at all and because I’m no where near competitively good, not even casual good.

    • bad mood

      While I agree with the conclusion, on the outskirt: There aren’t that many rolls that your opponent makes during your turn. Mostly its just H2H, saves, FnP and Morale. That’s maybe 5% of the time in your turn. Still, if the opponent stalls during those throws one should have the legal rule to be able to hit the stop clock so the time for that throw goes to the opponent. It works in chess very easily to just hammer away at the clock all the time. For convenience one should have digitaly synchronized clocks on both table ends. If you feel like your opponent is to greedy on the time button, you can still rate bad sportmanship of course.

    • marxlives

      Yes, there is a button at the top of the chess clock. Its big, you hit it and it moves to the other person’s time.

  • Billy Billstoner

    I would not be supportive of something like this … as an ork/guard player who knows his rules I could still be penalized for having a large army …. green hordes take much time to move

    • Charles Keeling

      What inherently is unfair about only using half the allotted time?

      If you feel you are penalized in this format because you feel your army size entitles you to a larger share of the game than your opponent then I would reconsider.

      If you play a 4 knight opponent, especially a good sport, they more than likely will be lenient on the time regardless.

      The problem plainly is even well meaning people are getting in two turn games in tournaments. Players who are positive, try their best, and are absolutely not slow playing. If they had a time constraint then it is a part of the army building process: Hordes beats elite pretty easy and dominate objectives but also have the dubious honor of physically taking more time. It is a tradeoff that no amount of rules or goodwill can ignore.

      My current army is 180 infantry with bloodletter bombs and two 40 man recycling cultist units. I should not get to take more time than my opponent. Common decency and the logistics of larger tournaments mean that the stain of slow playing and two-three round games can hurt the brand. It will suck at first to adjust, but it is far more fair than letting a three hour match only allowing one player 30 minutes of total activity.

      • Ronin

        Basically how I feel. Elite armies have it rough this edition from mass shooting so if a limited clock forces players to build more balanced lists, then I’m all for it. Besides, it’s a tournament where narrative and personal fluff is thrown out the window.

      • ZeeLobby

        Well put. Sounds sane to me.

      • NNextremNN

        It would also give small armies more time to think because they are elite while the decisions of hordes might be a little rushed.

      • Muninwing

        you are counting on their lenience — which is not enforceable.

        • Charles Keeling

          I am not counting on anything, you get half the time. If you want to take an unwieldy army that cannot be played in one half the allotted time then its on me.

          Maybe the knight player relents, but you should not and cannot expect that. General nicety can have this happen but take care of your own business and then go looking for good will.

      • Muninwing

        i play Deathwing and Armored Company. i assume my turns will take less than half the time of my opponent.

        that’s not “unfair” — that’s choice.

        penalizing someone with a larger army for having more models to act and/or move when points and rules/stats do that already is obnoxious and counterproductive.

        if this is put into place, then horde armies should get a further discount based on the fact that many models might just not get used.

        • Charles Keeling

          Take what you will, if you cannot play them reasonably then it is a ‘you’ based problem, not a ‘they’ based problem.

          The last tournament I was a part of it was obvious that time was bleeding out the edges. The winner of the tournament was a poxwalker factory that somehow couldn’t see the end of round 3 and I went 2-0-1 with 197 models that organically finished two of the three games played. I felt fast but then started testing out what was happening and realized my speed wasn’t quite where it needed to be. Que weeks later with practice and movement trays and I should be able to give all but the most svelte army totals a reasonable game; and not have to ask for charity.

          You cannot allow people to construct an army to take more time than an opponent. It would be just like asking for more deployment, more points or more detachments. The game has a finite amount of time and while people of course can play what they will, you have to enforce some level of balance at the tournament level. Again what right does someone have to 75% or more of the time to play?

          • eMtoN

            I agree. Also when that 197 model poxwalker army has to fight a 200 man conscript blob then they are both limited to half the game time anyway. May as well just get used to it.

    • stinkoman

      i play guard and support this. i believe both players should get the same amount of time. it’s only fair.

    • HeadHunter

      I’m sure you’d feel differently if your opponent brought an *even bigger army* and you were the one who got boned out of a second turn or forced to rush.
      If you can’t manage your army in your half of the time, the problem isn’t with the clock, it’s with the commander who takes more units than he can effectively manage.

      • Charles Keeling

        Right now its a low pain option. Take an army that can easily dominate or suppress other players and win, or not least lose by much.

    • SacTownBrian

      I think the question you have to ask yourself is “can I finish my game, what I have and want to do, in one hour and 15 minutes?” If the answer is no then you’ve already broken the social contact with your opponent who’s been given the exact same limitation. At that point it’s time to talk to the T.O. to either increase the time limit or drop the points. If that doesn’t work then it’s time to build a list that you can manage in the given time.

  • 9breaker

    Perhaps if they can award points for the difference in time played, rather than penalizing for going over. For example, at the end of the game, if player A has ended up playing 30 minutes less than Player B, then Player A is awarded X number of points, and for every 5 min beyond that, an additional Y points.

    I don’t think it is so much penalizing a player for having large armies. If it is in the tournament rules, then players should tailor their lists to the tournament. If you consciously take a larger army into a tournament, then you are accepting the risks of playing to a clock.

    • NNextremNN

      The penalty should be that you have no time left and can’t do anything anymore (except maybe roll saves). Awarding bonus points for time left just seems like it could be abused by small elite armies.

      • SacTownBrian


  • Simon Chatterley

    No they aren’t.

    Next question.

    • NNextremNN

      What’s the meaning of life?

      • eMtoN

        42. But you asked the wrong question.

  • I will never play in a tournament event until the intentional slow-play issue is taken care of.

    And I have played IG with chess clocks in play and can meet the clock just fine with a horde army.

    • Muninwing

      i think that the problem is able to be solved in a different way. but it takes some finesse.

      1. only complete turns matter
      if A goes first, then at the end of the 3rd round there’s only 15 minutes left and A suggests trying to play round 4… you record the score there.
      – that is the score unless both players complete a full turn
      – divide the allotted time left and allow the round to play to the end using the clock for the limited round

      2. plan the end of the round so that time no longer matters
      half an hour before the scheduled end of the round, a buzzer goes off. any round that cannot be started in the next two minutes does not get started. any rounds started must be finished.

      • Charles Keeling

        You still suffer from the slowplayer who can use that in their back pocket if the first round or two went well. In a five to seven round game if you know it can be cut to three rounds then you can leverage the abuse if somehow you find yourself up big round one.

        That is the issue, a slowplayer can perform the task without incident and can turn it off or on depending on their needs. All players involved have a right to complete the minimum amount of time the game should go.

  • Randy Randalman

    It won’t just teach slow players to speed up, it will also curb the cheaters who use slow play as a way to preserve a slim lead.

    • DoctorBored

      This is something that should be the task of judges and refs rather than due to some mechanical clock. If a player gets called out for slow play, they should get docked points, not just in game, but also in sportsmanship and other comp. I’ve seen slow-play affect other games, not just 40k, and it can go from being a minor annoyance to being the scummiest thing that a player can do in the moment.

      Harsh and consistent ref punishment is the answer, not clocks.

      • Charles Keeling

        However slow play used judiciously isn’t easy to spot. Plus a warning still means your game is farqued over.

        That is the problem with the post hoc hand slapping, the damage is done. Your tournament is marred by allowing this to happen and across the tables even the nicest cannot make it to or even past turn three.

        It is harsh, band aid pulling, but something has to be done to get people in gear.

      • Red_Five_Standing_By

        But slow play is like passive aggression, it is hard to judge and usually in the eye of the beholder. A chess clock allots both players an equal amount of time to do with what they wish. If one player wants to spend a third of his time on one turn, then he may (he will just have to play faster on subsequent turns).

        • John Cook

          What about player actions that happen in your time? Overwatch, Soulburst etc. that is where the ball of yarn starts to unravel

          • Sparowl

            With a chess clock situation, you just swap it over to their time to be resolved.

          • Charles Keeling

            You would be surprised how quickly someone will roll their saves if they are on the clock.

            Just slap the time and stare, they will get the hint. You are not entitled to more time than your opponent just because you want it.

  • Anbu Owng

    We have been implementing chess clocks in the MD and the response is great! Everyone likes the way we do it with 1:15 per player with deployment and round scoring not on clock. If there are ruules disputes, clock is only paused by the TO. Reactive armor save rolling is on rolling player clock.

    • DoctorBored

      Would love to see a game recorded with this implemented. I just made a comment thinking that clocks might not be the answer, but I’m open to changing that opinion.

      • Charles Keeling

        It can also go both ways, all of us are new to this so it may very well be the case it doesn’t work well or does punish unfairly. Data is always better than speculation though.

      • We’ve talked about doing it on our Twitch channel.

  • Bri B

    Maybe give players time based on model count?

    • Charles Keeling

      Who would play a smaller army when you can simply take most of the time away from them? You are responsible for your army and should be able to properly play it in the time allotted.

      Practice, movement trays, dice blocks and a host of other options exist to speed hordes up.

      • Muninwing

        this is a non-argument that only works if “time” is the primary resource needed.

        my Deathwing used to field 32 models in 2500 points. my DE would field 4-5 times that. why should one be rushed and the other have ample time left over?

        the burden should be put on a player’s strategies and style of play, not on their ability to meet a clock or paint or even design a rulebreaking list.

        • eMtoN

          So when I slap down 300 poxwalkers then a 2 1/2 hr game would mean you have just shy of 15 minutes. If we are talking a 5 round game that means you can only take 3 minutes for each round.

          Can you still play that?

    • HeadHunter

      Maybe give players half the time and take a list you can manage instead of blaming your own choices for your lack of time?

      • Muninwing

        the choices are part of the game — it’s essentially saying “these armies should be penalized” outside the actual rules.

        if you want to screw over hordes, why not give them a points cut to mitigate the damage?

  • SacTownBrian

    No absolutely not, no wait. Yes that is the only solution… erm. Wait, what were we talking about? I completely zoned out.

  • Tsumugi123

    For people who think this is unfair for the horde armies, the solution is pretty simple. The clock only goes when you are “thinking”, once you declare an action (aka shooting, assaulting, moving), you then stop the timer until your action is complete.

    Of course, there will be people who play extra slow on purpose during the action sequences, but that’s when player consciousness and TO comes in to play. If you are taking 5 minutes to roll 20 dice, there is a problem.

    The key here is “thinking time”, a lot of slow play is done between each action sequences, not actually during the time when dice are being rolled, or models are being moved.

    Once you finish a sequence, say, you finished shooting your Devastators and you want time to think about what unit to shoot next, you hit the clock and resume your thinking time.

  • David Metcalfe

    There are 2 different issues

    1. Not enough time to finish a game (potential 7 turns)
    2. And deliberate slow play

    From the rule book, it says a 1001-2000pt game will take 2-3hours. I assume that means that 1001 will take closer to 2hrs where a 2000pt game will take closer to 3hrs. I’m not sure if this includes set up time such as choosing power traits etc. The games mentioned are timed at 2.5hrs for 2k so already it will be rushed to what the rule book says for the “averaged size army”

    There are a few ways to mitigate this.

    • More time per game, but this will be limited by the event and venue. However, following the rulebook closer may help.
    • Less points. Points creep has gotten in to the game over the years I have been playing. It started with 1500pts as the default army size for event. It has crept up to now 2k being standard and added in the fact unit costs have reduced at the same time then armies are a lot bigger to manage. I like 2k as it does allow you to bring a lot more toys, but I think 1500 is far more challenging for a generally to get a well-rounded army.
    • While I wouldn’t want to see this, I have seen in the past army size restrictions to a number of models. I don’t like hard arbitrary limits on people playing with their collections. One of the most fun armies I have ever played against was 180 boyz and Ghazghull, “boyz not toyz” I was told.
    • Chess clocks. As mentioned, but I am not sold as some armies say knights can have 4 models and other armies will have nearly 200 models in a 2k game. How do you make that fair? All it would do is make people bring small elite armies, so they don’t run out of time. In chess you both start with the same army so having the same time seem fair. Also, how do you stop people wasting your time when they have to roll/do something in your phase? You need to make a saving throw……wait 10 mins…. Nothing prevents that.

    But this brings me on to the second of deliberate slow play. To me this is plain and simple cheating. No different to elastic tape measures, “dodge dice rolling”, “forgetting” negative rules specific to your army, etc. And people need to be called out on it. Tournament organisers need to get a handle on it, if it is a problem in their events and have a mechanism to allow players to report it and have a consequence for doing it. Regular time call outs with guidance of where the game should be maybe need if you have players doing this. I personally have not every had this problem and always finished my games.

    • NNextremNN

      How about if you opponents rolls these dice it’s his time? And hoard armies could use moving trays instead of moving each model on their own. I also think more rushed decisions would fit a hoard army. And more thoughtful moves would fit a small elite army. Taking hoard army is a strategic decision now and it would still be with clocks. You would have to plan ahead.

      • JJ

        “One of the most fun armies I have ever played against was 180 boyz and Ghazghull, “boyz not toyz” I was told.”

        And while I’m sure that YOU had fun, as someone who has had to play against this type of army, I spent most of our time standing around while he moved models….not fun!

        • NNextremNN

          Are you sure you wanted to reply to me and not the comment above mine?

        • David Metcalfe

          i was the one playing against it! the game was very quick once we found somewhere to roll all the dice

  • BeardMonk

    Playing on the clock. Take another idea from Privateer Press, Warmachine/Hordes why don’t you 🙂

    • Hrudian

      Yeah, because PP invented _chess_ clocks 🙂

    • Chess clocks were part of 40k and whfb tournaments as far back as 1999, several years before warmachine. Intentional slow play has been a TFG move since tournaments began.

  • misomiso

    Never understood why everyone doesn’t use chess clocks.

    They’re by far the best solution over all.

    Ok in 40k your opponent has actions on your turn, but overall it’s the best.

  • Muninwing

    short answer? No.
    long answer? Nooooooooooooooo.

  • zantis

    To those saying this wouldn’t work because of armor saves, morale, etc. I have seen people in warmachine/hordes tournaments flip the clock to their opponent for something as small as a tough roll. Seems excessive and they probably waste as much time as they save just in the action of reaching for the clock, but its legal and they’re allowed to do it. And the game still works fine even with that level of granularity. So there’s no reason it couldn’t work in 40k.

  • I’d have one of the chess clocks for Deployment. Do you remember that article in one of the late-90s White Dwarf Issues when that guy talked about slow deployment. I quote, when he mentions an opponent placing down a Chaos Minotaurs unit, “Theseus could have planted, watered and grown a maze in that time.”

    I hate slow players. End of.