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Warhammer 40k Op-ed: State of the Game – December 2019

4 Minute Read
Dec 20 2019

Let’s talk about how far 40K has evolved since 8th Edition launched, and where GW should steer it.

Competitive Play – Give ITC a Round of Applause

Let’s talk about ITC and it’s impact on 40k gaming. They have created a tournament system that is played world wide along with a universally accepted ranking system – you are ranked versus every player in the world that plays ITC. That’s a really big deal and an amazing accomplishment.

The ITC Mission System is designed specifically to reduce randomness which I think is a big part of the appeal. The primary goals are simple – destroy enemy units and hold objectives. You select from a wide range of objectives to score points for your secondary goals.

I’ve been playing competitively for close to 30 years now and I have to say this is an excellent system for competitive tournament playing. I continue to follow the competitive scene and listen to many of the major 40k podcasts – it’s fascinating to say the least. There is even a whole online industry to compliment competitive gaming… so choose your favorites.

Something For Everybody

But remember that Matched Play isn’t the be all end off of the game.  I now tend to focus more on the narrative aspect of the hobby… I still love to convert models and paint. Due to the responsibilities of my job I can’t travel as much to attend major events like I used to do.

I believe most people are drawn into Warhammer 40k because of the amazing models and the ever fascinating background. In terms of the current 8th Edition ruleset GW hit it out of the park. No it’s not perfect but it’s my favorite edition. I know there’s lots of rulebooks now but really they add a lot of flavor with GW going back and tweaking many of the existing factions, making them more viable again. Maybe next year there will be a new edition but I’m having a great time playing and enjoy all the buffs… plus there’s still more to come so hang in there – the sooner the better !!!

Magic the Gathering, Video Games & 40K

All that said there are some that got into 40k because they exclusively like the level of hyper competition, with little to no love for the models, background or hobby aspects. While this is a small minority the competitive scene appears to overall dominate the game now for better or worse.

Command points and stratagems has made the game more like Magic the Gathering… from a purely competitive point of view it’s all about the wombo combos. There is the good and the bad. Like any competitive system there will be always be some unfortunate aspects due to its inherent nature. The two current problems I’ve seen are as follows:

  • Too much focus on game results and not the hobby
  • Particular mission design

Many 40K tournament metas fosters a community similar to one found in video games, looking for their main combos online and a must win games attitude that permeates the top tables at major events. GW accentuates this approach with rulebooks like Vigilus which handed out rules to a narrow set of factions. For example EVERY competitive Ork army features the super shock attack gun. At the time of its release Vigilus handed out more win for top tier armies rather than focusing on external balance between factions. Psychic Awakening however is a different approach though offering buffs to a plethora of factions rather than focusing on mainly top tier factions. Hopefully we see more of this in the future.


Many Options for Matched Play

Going back to the ITC system as one example, there is a definite observation that the overall mission design reduces every mission to basically the same game and encourages spamming certain units and specific choices which permeate its meta.

But there are options. Personally I prefer to play GW’s own Eternal War Missions from the current set of Chapter Approved rulebooks for Eighth Edition. They are quite competitive as well and force you to think outside the box with respect to many other competitive missionsets. It is interesting that in the Age of Sigmar community, many large events happily use GW’s provided missions while in 40K they are generally shunned.

The love of the hobby, friendly social aspect and the Cooperative nature of playing a game are all just as important if not more so. I believe GW should not focus on one particular type of player above others.

40K’s deep lore is the perfect inspiration for Narrative Play.

I believe that tournament play style has been allowed to have a larger than average influence on the balance and direction of the current game. I would like GW to stop seeing matched play as ‘tournament mode’ and instead balance the game for a more general matched play audience.

~What do you think of the current state of Matched Play, and where would you like to see GW take it in 2020?


Author: Steve Turner
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