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40K: Bring The “Dispel Scroll” To The Grim Dark

6 Minute Read
Nov 21 2017

Rampant Psykers driving you mad? Maybe it’s time we get the “Dispel Scroll” back out…

There is a lot of talk lately about Smite Spam and how it’s “Destroying 40k” for folks. I get it! Psykers are a problem (yet again) but in new and exciting ways. Was Smite-Spam intentional or was it just an unintended consequence of having that particular power be so widely available? It’s in the core rules after-all and EVERY army has access to it (except for those folks who are psychically inept – Sorry T’au & Necrons). But even in those rare cases they can still take in an ally detachment. So it should be balanced, right? If (almost) everyone can do it, then what’s the problem?

Well, what if it’s not Smite that’s the problem, but the prevalence of Psykers in the Grim Dark? It’s getting to the point where most lists can pretty easily squeeze in 3-5 Psykers or Psychically imbued units without really trying. Is that good? Is that bad? I’m not here to judge. However, I do think armies need to something to give them some basic protection against Psychic Powers – at least for the short haul. Deny The Witch Tests are only useful if you’re in range. Plus you have to actually beat the roll and lots of Psykers do have a bonus to those rolls. So how can you even the odds a bit? Why not bring back the Dispel Scroll!

The Dispel Scroll is an item that was pretty popular in Warhammer Fantasy (yeah, we’re going old school). It was a basic and universally accessible one-shot item that simply allowed a player to stop ANY power from going off (short of irresistible casts, that is). I think that 40k is in a place now where access to this type of item is not only needed, but almost required.

This item wouldn’t actually BE a scroll (although, sure – it could be). But it should be universally available to all armies. It shouldn’t have a failure option. It should cost a player something. If only there was a resource that all armies had access to that could be applied here…

What about Command Points?” Yes. What about those?! What if there was a stratagem that was only once per game that allowed a player to simply nullify a psychic power – wouldn’t that work? Yes – I think so. Now, it would have to be expensive, 2-3 CP at the minimum. And again, it should only be available once per game, but it would be a start!

The Pros

  • It’s limited, but available to everyone – An ability this powerful needs to be limited. Just like Smite-Spam, we don’t want the counter option to be “just take a bunch of X” to stop it. We’re already there – this is a different mechanic to help reign in the psykers. We don’t the solution is to simply take more Psykers to stop the flood of Psykers running around…
  • It’s worked before – Warhammer Fantasy proved that a Dispel Scroll mechanic was pretty handy. Did that mean players generally took a character who’s only job was to be a “Scroll-caddy” – yes. I didn’t say it was perfect, but if we shift that over to a single-use Stratagem, it’s effective and you don’t need to change everything around.
  • It adds a tactical option – Look, you could totally blow this one shot Stratagem to stop a Smite. Or, you could use it to stop something that will be even deadlier – like say a Warp Time cast on Mortarion. But it’s a new tactical option and opens up some counter-play and player interaction on the tabletop. Think about it: Are you going to attempt Warp Time first or are you going to trying to bait out the Stratagem with something else? If you’re playing strict Matched Play, then you can only do a power once – and knowing your opponent has a “silver bullet” to stop a power is going to make you think twice. Thinking: That’s good for the game.


The Cons

  • Everyone has Deny already – It’s arguably already difficult to get a power off. Folks have a way to stop powers and it adding one more way to prevent powers seems like you’re putting too much control in the “counter” camp.

That’s a fair point I think. But again, we’re already at this point. “If you want to stop psykers from dominating the phase the solution is to take more psykers.” This only escalates the problem and isn’t a real solution.

  • You can just kill the Psykers and it’s not a problem – If you target the enemy psykers then they can’t spam Smite or another Psychic power! Just use Snipers or something that can pick them off.

HAHAHA, yes the infamous “Sniper” argument. Ok sure, you might get lucky and kill a Psyker in a few round of shooting. But I have a feeling that you might of never actually USED a unit with Sniper weapons. First off, most of them barely have an AP. And they it’s not like they wound on X any more, either. If you’re lucky, they cause Mortal Wounds on a roll of a 6+ to wound. But many of them are down right terrible. There is a reason you don’t see a lot of “Sniper” units in army lists and it’s not cause of their camo…

  • An Auto-Deny is just too powerful – A once per game Stratagem that just lets a player stop a Psychic Power from going off is just too powerful! I mean, it’s once per game and it could really screw over an entire battleplan. That seems too good.

If you’re entire battleplan revolves around getting off one particular Psychic Power, then maybe you should go back to the drawing board because that’s a massive flaw. On top of that, it’s only once per game and it should cost an appropriate amount of CP (2-3 minimum) to use anyways. It’s not like the other player isn’t sacrificing options to stop that power. Plus, you can just attempt to do it the following turn – you don’t LOSE the power or anything. The Stratagem could even an additional limitation that it can’t be used on a power that was successfully cast on a roll of +10. How does that sound?

Will adding a single-use Stratagem curb the Smite-spam onslaught? I don’t think so. But it will give players an option besides “take more Psykers.” The “Dispel Scroll” isn’t about stopping Smite, it’s about curbing the reliance of having to take so many Psykers. It buys players an extra round of not having to deal with something that could be even deadlier (like Warp Time + Death unit). It adds some counter-play to the game and creates interesting tactical choices. And it’s an option EVERY army would have access to. So what do you say? Are you ready to bring back the Dispel Scroll?


How do you feel about some type of Dispel Scroll Mechanic? A stratagem that costs 3 CP and stops a Psychic Power, unless that power was cast with a 10 or higher? Why not give it a go in your next game and lets us know how it works out!


Author: Adam Harrison
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