Tuesday, March 1, 2016

40K: 7th Edition Is NOT Broken (Or Balanced)

The constant din of all the folks who say 7th is a bad rule set; that you want balance.  What game are you guys playing?!
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I just finished playing more than 16 hours (over two days) of 40K in a room of more than 20 hobbyists.  It was D-Company (a local Milwaukee gaming group) Big Game; an annual event that brings over 80,000 points of models to the tables at any given moment.  Over 40 separate games of 40K were played by our crew over a Friday and Saturday.  Points ranging from 1000 per side to 15,000 for three man teams.  The ONLY complaint I heard was that the Challenge rules are too convoluted.  Other than that, folks just played the game, rolled their dice, and enjoyed the company of like-minded souls.  None of these players are competitive/tournament players.  So who is it that thinks 7th edition is broken?

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Well, it isn't the hobbyists at the local level who build, paint and play the game.  They are too busy hanging out with friends, talking backstory or just gluing and painting.  They are too busy rolling dice on tables with other like minded 40K fans.  They are debating (not trashing) the rules as questions arise during game play.  They are building a list for the next narrative game, and writing some narrative to go along with it.  They are reading Black Library backstory.  These folks are too busy actually enjoying all that the hobby has to offer to sit around talking about how broken and dysfunctional the rules are.

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Most of the podcasts I listen to (about 10 at last count) don't drone on about how the rule set is broken, or how dysfunctional Games Workshop is.  Most talk about narrative development, hobby news and rumours, hobby progress, building community or, in the case of Life After Cover Save, just about anything except 40k!  Many discuss their attendance at major events for the benefit of those of us who can't experience them first hand.  Some actually do answer rules questions, but not in a smarmy, destructive way.  They actually discuss a question and come to some resolution for the benefit of listeners, not complain about how screwed up it is that they have to answer questions because the rule set is so screwed up.  Many take the time to talk about new product, codices for example, so that those of us who might be interested in starting something new have the perspective of others who actually play the game.

So the question remains...who are the people who think 40K is broken?  The only ones left are the competitive crowd, and they have systems such as the ITC to help "fix" the brokenness (not a word for sure).  For tournament players, however, the issue of balance (another word for "unbroken") is like the Holy Grail.  You can never truly achieve balance with a rule set not designed for competitive play.  I have always appreciated the way Reece and Frankie (sp?) strive to achieve some modicum of balance with their ITC Rules and FAQs.  It is commendable that they keep their ruleset up to date and seek community input.  However, competitive players are not really different in one respect from all the rest of us; in the end, they play the game the way they want to.  Which is exactly what GW rulesets are supposed to allow.

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And for those who think that balance is just an issue in 40K, you might try another game system and see that "balance" (a lack of broken) is elusive anywhere that 100+ page rule sets are concerned.  I played Infinity for a while; certain factions had distinct advantages.  Certain units could be abused.  Malifaux is no different in this regard.  Broken?  I guess so the way many people define such a thing.  By the way, even if the rule set is air tight, and the units are all pointed "correctly,"  there is the small issue of experience.  Say I want to attend LVO for the first time in 2017.  I have never played competitively.  Do you think I stand a chance in hell of winning more than a single game, or not getting tabled by turn 2?  Even in a casual environment, experience counts for much when determining a winner.  So once again, that balance thing is just a pipe dream.

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Does this mean I don't want GW to answer questions or to do a better job pointing units?  Of course not.  But consider that fact that any rule set, in any gaming system, can be manipulated by those players driven by a strong desire to win.  List building is a profession for some.  I would rather have GW spend their time releasing great models (check), great backstory (check) and new/interesting products (check) than to keep trying to "bulletproof" their core ruleset.  I am looking forward to playing the new Deathwatch board game.  To giving Blood Bowl a go when it hits the streets. To getting a combined Mechanicus dex and possibly some new models.  To buying more Black Library stuffs.  To getting more games in this year with my newly completed Iron Hands/Mechanicus.  I frankly don't give a rip that the ruleset needs some sanity checks now and again.  I'm too busy painting, reading, playing and listening.

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