So points are really that important for game balance? What if they AREN’T…
For those of you who are still here after reading the first line let me take you to a land of logic and evidence. It will show that, in fact, that points in 40K are not the ultimate force for good and balanced play…for either casual or competitive games. Yes, I hear you saying, “Dan, you are still a freakin’ nut job!” Perhaps, but read on my gaming compatriots. The truth can be a painful experience.
Let’s start with the statement that points provide structure, not balance. They give us some metric for determining how many units/models we can bring to the table. But to say that they provide for a fair and balanced contest – that’s rubbish! If the points are the same, then both players start off on equal footing which is nonsense. Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples, based on armies I have played, to make a point:
Example 1: My 7 Skitarii Ruststalkers with dual Transonic Blades (220 pts) are facing off against 5 Marine Terminators, one armed with an Assault Cannon (195 pts). According to those who consider points so important, the Skitarii should win this faceoff. However, looking at this realistically, the Skitarii will be shot/power fisted to death long before they plow through those 5 Marines. Yes, they get their AP2 bonus (6s 1st turn, all thereafter), but they have to survive to use it. At least 2-3 will be shot to death before reaching the Marines, and since assault will be simultaneous, those power fists will bypass their FNP (as well as any assault cannon wounds). But wait, they had 25 more points than the Marines…they should have won, right?
Example 2: A Knight Errant with Mark of the Omnissiah (IWND), a Reaper Chainsword and Thermal Cannon (400 pts) against two Space Marine Land Raiders (500 pts). Whoa! A 100pt difference? The Knight doesn’t stand a chance. Not so fast. How many of those Lascannon shots will actually get through both armour and Ion Shield? The Knight also has IWND. It should be able to close to assault range in about 3 turns, after that, the vehicles are toast.
Example 3: 5 Marine Scouts with a Heavy Bolter (63pts) versus 5 Genestealers (70pts). Should be a fair fight. Sorry, Great Devourer. Even if those Stealer start just 24″ away, they will be shot all to hell by the time they get close.
Example 4: 1000pts of Harlequins vs 1000pts of Tyranids. I had two Flyrants with twin-linked devourers (are there any other kind?) and a few broods of Gaunts running about. I shot the Clowns off the board by Turn 3. Equal numbers of points, but not even close.
Regarding these examples; those who make the argument of points may say things about “shooty” vs “assault” or “starting distance matters.” If you are one of those, your comments have just supported my argument. In fact, there are many factors in this game, besides points, that determine outcome.
Types of Units: Gargantuan Creatures vs Infantry, Fast Skimmers vs Flyers, etc, etc. The type of units facing off are important in this game. In Example 4, those Harlequins didn’t stand a chance, since they could not deal with the Flyrants. What about a list with a balance of unit types vs a list composed of almost all Warp Spiders or Scat Bikes. I have another friend who plays Eldar I had lost to on 2-3 previous encounters; I took Tyranid Flying Circus spam and finally beat him. My point here: What you take matters.
Missions: Missions are also a critical factor in determining outcome. If you take the previously mentioned Scat Bike list in a mission that is objective based, and your opponent is slow but powerful, you have a great chance of winning, no matter the points being the same. Conversely, you take a horde army with 12 units and your opponent has only 6 in a Kill Point mission, not so good for you.
Your Opponent: In a perfect world, I would like to believe I could beat, on any given day, someone who has won the LVO, Adepticon or some other large 40K tournament. Not happening. As Hudson so eloquently put in in Aliens 2, “Game over man, game over.” This is, in point of fact, an excellent case of points having no meaning at all. I could take 2000 points against any of these tournament winners, let’s give them just 1500 (or probably even 1200). Even though I think most would consider me an experienced 40K player, I would still be crushed by folks who play at that level.
Armies: Yes, it has to be said. There are just certain codices that are so point efficient that winning with them is much more likely (no guarantees, just more statistically probable). Look at any major tournament and see who represents the top tier. With a few exceptions, it is the same few armies that take home the prizes. No judgement here, just a fact.
“Free” Stuff: All of the formations that provide so many benefits, including free units or upgrades, totally throws the concept of points out with the garbage. If points are key to having a balanced play environment, then why all the free stuff? It is part of the rule set and is utilized by many players. (RANT ALERT!!!) Of course, there are those who prohibit such things in their play environment, but this is, IMHO, unfair as well. If it is part of the official rule set for a particular army, why do you deny them this benefit? Why not deny the top tier armies certain units or rules which give them higher levels of point efficiency than other armies?! Moving objects around on a balance scale doesn’t make the balance settle in the middle, just in a different place (OK, rant over. I’m done…thank you for your patience).
First Turn: The “alpha strike” has become a crucial component of tournament play. Even with point parity and two equally matched opponents, the person who gets first turn (either by straight up roll or Seizing) has a significant advantage. Many factors that might otherwise determine game outcome, even mission type, become much less important when the First Turn Alpha-Strike is achieved.
After all this, what is it your trying to say Dan? That all the Sigmar haters who go on and on about “no points ruining the game,” especially those who play 40K and don’t want it “Sigmarized,” should carefully consider the importance of other factors that determine game outcome. I recently started a AoS army…Seraphons (Old World Lizardmen). After a relatively small investment and a couple of games under my belt (without points), I appreciate more the argument for a pointless system. The fact is that no points represented a fundamental change, and people truly are angered by/fearful of change to something they have invested time and money in. Especially when it is such a significant change. But like it or not, in some parts of the gaming community, Sigmar is growing. If my memory serves me correctly, recently in southern England there was a AoS tournament with somewhere around 125 people. That’s a pretty respectable number for a system that’s “dying.”
Let’s also remember that many folks who are 40K gamers have dipped their toes into the Silver Tower pool as well, not to mention those such as the folks at Frontline who are starting an AoS beginners group. Yes, I know, a competitive Sigmar points system is coming and many folks who play have a comp system by now. For all its issues, the AoS system is simpler, more streamlined and quite enjoyable…points or not. And for all that, it is not simply points that “balance” a game of Sigmar.
In the end, what does this have to do with 40K? Take a look at some of the rule changes recently. The rumors of 8th edition. The new distribution of 40K models to major retailers, with a gaming system that is streamlined to bring new players into the Grimdark. I remember, in the not so recent past, 3rd Edition 40K. Much simpler. Better? I guess that depends on your point of view.
Can you see a 40K in which the rules are simplified and points are not such a cornerstone of our gaming “belief” system?