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40K Needs A Counter Spell

4 Minute Read
Dec 5 2017

Players need a way to counter enemy stratagems.

As more and more Codexes come out 40K is quickly turning into a game of combos. While in the past tactics and the simple stats of units may have ruled the day now its all crazy combo’s and tricks. While combos themselves are not bad, it is the combos that your opponent can’t react to that are not only frustrating but bad for the game. Let’s look at how this issue might be addressed.

The Issue

Whether it’s The Ynnari Two-Step, Goatboy’s first turn Death Company Charge, or my own Endless Poxwalker Horde, 40K is turning into a game where powerful combos win games. Now while some combos work by simply using pairs of units that work well together, others use special abilities or stratagems to work. However, all three combos I mentioned used stratagems to work.

The problem we see with a lot combos these days is twofold:

  1. They have next to no change of failure
  2. Their target has no way to avoid or counter them

For instance in the case of the Ynnari Two-Step, the only part of the combo that can fail is the physic test to let them shoot twice. Since the Dark Reaper’s use a “Deepstrike,” and have a 48″ range, they can without fail come in shoot a target. Then, without fail, move behind cover. There is no chance of failure, nor a way for the enemy to prevent this from happening. Likewise, with the “Deepstriking” Blood Angles. They can land anywhere they want, then charge 3d6 inches with a re-roll. The best the enemy can hope for is to slightly control what they can charge. Or in the case of the Poxwalkers, as long as they go first, the enemy will basically have no chance to ever shoot the main target.

Why This Is Bad

These problems are overall bad for the game. Things that don’t ever fail are simply going to be better than things that can fail. This will force players who want to win into a handful of viable list options. This kind of unbalance stifles creativity. In addition, interactivity is a key component of wargames. Unavoidable, un-counterable combos are frustrating and not fun to play against. Players want to have a back and forth to feel like they have options in a game. Running into a tactic that can destroy your army AND offers nothing you can do to prevent it is one of the most frustrating feelings out there.


Bottom line:Nothing in War game should be 100% certain and everything should have a way to be stopped. 

How Can We Fix It?

I think there is actually a pretty easy way to fix this problem. 40K simply needs a “counter spell.” This would be a stratagem that stops other stratagems from happening. You could word it something like this:

Counter-Tactic – 2 CP.

Use this stratagem during a phase when another players uses a stratagem. Roll a d6 dice. On a 3+ the other player’s stratagem has no effect. Counter-Tactic may not be used on another Counter-Tactic Stratagem

Obviously, we could argue a bunch about the wording but I did it this way so that it could not effect pregame stratagems. While I would like a way to stop deepstriking/infiltrating stratagems it wouldn’t make much sense to stop stratagems that give you artifacts or things like Chapter Master. I valued this stratagem at 2 CP so it’s middle of the road. Too expensive and it could never be used – too cheap and you’d always use it. This way, players will think twice about using it stop a 1 CP effect, but it could be great vs a 3 CP effect. And because of the potential to stop a high CP cost stratagem I made it a bit random. It will work most of the time but could fail. As I said, in tabletop gaming nothing should be 100% certain.

Why This Would Work


Giving something like this to all of the armies would fix a number of things. It would give players a way to react to their opponents moves, allowing for a bit more move/counter-move. You’d always have the option (assuming you had the CP ) to try and stop whatever trick the enemy was trying to pull. This would heighten the tension of any game; both players having to think a bit more carefully about their choices. It would also discourage players from building lists that focus on a single stratagem combo trick to win. While competitive players are going to tend to gravitate towards a tactic that can’t fail, once you introduce a significant chance of failure for that tactic, they will move on. I think that giving players a way of counter-spelling stratagems would make for a more interesting and balanced game.

So folks what do you think, Does 40K need some sort of counter stratagem?  Let us know, down in the comments!

Author: Abe Apfel
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