Wednesday, 29 November 2017
No Soup for you!
I actually mean sort of the opposite of that, but come on, it sits up to be hit.
One of the things that have been really grinding the gears of the sort of people who get excited about that sort of thing is the power in 8th Edition of 'Soup' armies- armies sharing only a very generic keyword like CHAOS or IMPERIUM which use this to cherry-pick the very best multiple sub-factions have to offer. One obvious example is using Astra Militarum to add The Command Point Battery of Doom or simply a very cheap Battalion, but you can get much more extreme and mix and match even within a Detachment.
Now, the advent of the new Codexes should, in theory, help to mitigate this problem a bit. After all, since mixing sub-factions in a Detachment means you generally don't get to use your Chapter Trait or Regimental Trait, why would you do it? However, rather than make Soup less prevalent, I have a horrible feeling that it's instead going to lead to Soups within the sub-factions themselves.
For example, my Eldar, which I've had for something like 20 years now, are Biel-Tan. For my collection, that works out pretty well since I have quite a lot of Aspect Warriors and I've never liked Jetbikes all that much, mostly due to them being a bit fiddly to transport. I also have a couple of units of Wraithguard along with other Wraith models, plenty of Guardians, some Rangers, etc. Now here's the thing- when building lists for my Eldar I keep thinking I don't have enough Command Points, so I was considering picking up some more Rangers to help make a small Battalion and give me enough Snipers to achieve something. Of course Rangers get nothing for being Biel-Tan, so a Battalion of them with a couple of cheap Warlocks might as well be Alaitoc to help keep them alive- and the problem here is that barring a few minor synergy losses, there's literally no reason not to do it. Since Rangers don't even generally wear Craftworld colours I wouldn't even need to repaint my existing ones.
Those two Wraithguard units and my Wraithlord? Why should I ever take them as Biel-Tan when I gain literally no benefit from doing so? They could go in my Battalion and be Alaitoc for the -1 To Hit, or the Rangers could go Iyanden or Ulthwe. Maybe if I decide I want Jetbikes then the Wraithblades could go Saim-Hann with them for the charge bonuses.
You could make similar arguments for most other Factions that have a Codex. I fully expect the Ork book, when it appears, to make it a no-brainer to take your Bikers as Evil Sunz and your Looters as Deff Skullz. I even saw a very telling comment about Chapter Approved that Shadow Spectres were now good for Alaitoc (due to stacking hit penalties for opponents) and over-costed for everyone else. And this, I think, shows us the heart of the problem. The various Traits that the Codexes add very rarely benefit all the units that faction has access to- they suggest not just a play-style, but an army composition. There will be some models in people's armies right now from previous editions which now feel like they aren't meeting their full potential because they're from the wrong Chapter or Craftworld. Then, of course, there's the fact that adding more sub-factions opens up more Stratagems, some of which can then be used on units not from that sub-faction.
Now in 'reality', those units would exist because Biel-Tann, say, still need extra warriors occasionally and have to press Wraithguard into service rather than just asking Iyanden to lend them some. The Ultramarines have bikers because the Codex says they should, even though they could just get the White Scars to do it. But the problem is that the Faction rules only give minor benefits for all your models having the same sub-faction, and most of those are in the form of aura abilities that aren't all that relevant to specialists that probably won't be operating all that close to the main force.
An obvious 'fix' would be to limit the number of Detachments available at a given points/ power level, so say only 2 in 1000 points/ 50 Power, three for 1500/75 and so on in Matched Play and tournaments.. That would seem to make sub-faction abuse harder and at least require some decisions to be made when fielding Soups. It might even make decisions about what units to take based on what slots they fill a bit more challenging, rather than the current method where so long as you have enough cheap HQs you can probably take anything. An alternative, a carrot as opposed to a stick, as it were, would be to award a Command Point bonus to armies using only a single Chapter, Chaos Legion or Regiment to reflect the improved tactical cohesion such a force would enjoy, though such a bonus would have to be tied to the points/power value of the game rather than the number of Detachments or it would only make the CP advantage of low-point-per-model Factions greater.
Perhaps we could even combine these ideas, by reducing the Command Points of an army by 1 for every Detachment added that has any Faction Keyword not in common with the army Warlord. As soon as I write that I see that the exact wording would be tricky to avoid unintended consequences (for example SPIRIT HOST or SCHOLA PSYKANA) but I think the basic idea- of making armies more efficient the more they stick to a single Faction- is sound. It could perhaps be added to the rule granting Traits and Attributes so you would take the penalty for each Detachment not sharing a CRAFTWORLD, REGIMENT, CHAPTER or whatever with your Warlord's detachment.
Of course for many players, none of this is a major issue, and it remains to be seen if the competitive scene will continue to (d)evolve in such a way that we're even talking about this a few months from now, but since the new reactive GW is trying to pay much closer attention to it, even those of us who just like points values need to take notice.