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Tabletop: Who’s to Blame for SPAM

3 Minute Read
Aug 31 2017

From 40K, to Warmachine, X-Wing and more, SPAM is either reviled or accepted – but why the difference?

We’ve all heard the arguments about “cheesy lists” and spamtastic builds. It comes and goes over the years as spam rises and falls like the tides.

But today I want to step back and ask some fundamental questions:


Is Spam inherently bad?

Why do some games accept it while other struggle?

Is is the game’s fault or the players?

Let’s take these in turn with examples:

Is Spam Inherently Bad?

That’s a tough one and it seems to depend on who you ask and what game and genre you are talking about.


I have a feeling the real culprit isn’t spam itself but the overall fear of change within a game system.  If a game was designed from the get-go to support large number of identical units (say you are playing Napoleonics), no one cares.

Little known fact: Napoleon was soundly defeated with a spammy army.


It is when a game previously used a variety of units and NOW allows lots of spam that folks freak out.


Come at me Cyngar!



Why Do Some Games Accept it While Other Struggle?

Again it’s difficult to explain the difference, but the difference is there.  For example, 40K has certain unwritten rule of exactly how many of a unit constitutes a spammy list.  If your 2000pt Marine list has 3 Tactical squads in Rhinos, no one will bat an eye – but if you show up with 4 Stormravens – you’re asking for it.

Warmachine Mk3 is wrestling with spam as the new edition is allowing builds with large potential for Warjack spam, something not seen in earlier editions.

While in X-wing, you can show-up with a TIE swarm of Howlrunner and as many Academy pilots as you can jam into your squadron and no one will care at all.

We fly TIES – spam is what we do!

Who’s at Fault: The Players or The Game?

I think this is really a chicken and egg argument.  I would argue that the only time the rules can be faulted is if the spam is unintentional and the manufacturer has to FAQ/errata the rules to keep it in check. That is a clear case of unintended consequences.

In all other cases, I think spam is clearly in the realm of the playerbase and it is up to them to decide what level of spam is acceptable.

Again, I think games face the combination of rules change and genre in this case.  If a genre supports hordes of identical units and the game has always allowed it – spam tends to not be seen as a negative.  If the game previously did not allow spam and the genre makes no strong case for it – players tend to freak out when it arrives.

40K is an interesting example as it originally grow out of a very small model-count anything-goes skirmish game and has steadily grown in model-count over the years. At the other end of the scale is X-Wing which supports swarm lists often seen on the silver screen since it’s inception – and the players completely accept it.



~What do you consider “spam” and why? Also how does your definition change from game to game?


Author: Larry Vela
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