We reviewed the new War Zone Nephilim GT missions pack last weekend, which creates dramatic changes for army construction and mission scoring in competitive play. While we covered a number of changes and our thoughts there, we thought it would be good to follow up with some of our competitive players this week with their thoughts on the changes.
Of course, we’re still missing large pieces of the puzzle – namely, the points and whatever’s coming in the next balance dataslate. So in this round table we’re only going to be addressing the large changes in the game from the new missions, secondaries, and army creation rules. Then in our next round table – hopefully in a week or two – we’ll address more faction-specific effects and questions.
The Round Table
- Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones
- James “One_Wing” Grover
- James “Boon” Kelling
- Chase “Gunum” Garber
Q. Let’s start with your first impressions of Nephilim. Good? Bad? An improvement over Nachmund?
Kelling: I think as a default, it’s probably good. At a minimum changing army construction will shake up the game a bit and keep it feeling a little more fresh. I think one of the big drawbacks of the Nachmund mission set was the minimization of Domination mission sets (2) and 6-objective missions (3) which resulted in a lot of the games feeling rather same-y. While the missions themselves don’t change very much in Nephilim, the loss of the Stranglehold secondary and the revamping of faction secondaries will help to give the game a fresh feel.
Gunum: Okay. Let’s be honest, there’s going to be some pains with this new warzone coming out. If they are good or bad growing pains is yet to be seen. Keeping the primary missions all the same was a great choice, as we’ve not gotten that much time with them. The secondary adjustments were needed and I’m glad to see every faction got a little something. Now, being able to take more then one faction secondary…we’ll get into that. Overall, I’d give it a solid B. I’m good with it, but I don’t think it’s a home run.
TheChirurgeon: The big thing here is that I’m excited for there to be a major shakeup in the meta. Between this, potential point changes, the upcoming Codex: Chaos Space Marines, and another balance dataslate, I think it’s near impossible to predict the upcoming meta, and that’s incredibly exciting. I am, on the whole, excited about these changes, and I think having big shakeups like this is a good thing.
Wings: I’m conflicted, if I’m honest – normally I’m the optimist, and I do think a big shakeup was what army building needed, but I’m a bit worried that this pack has gone too far in a few ways. To be clear, I think this will probably be healthy for the metagame overall, but I suspect that some factions are going to feel a bit hard done by in a way that isn’t particularly interesting.
Q. Let’s talk about the army construction changes and CP. What’s good about the new changes? What don’t you care for?
Kelling: I’m a fan. Command Points to me feel like ‘extra’ – they’re not something anyone deserves and they should come with some kind of a trade-off decision. Halving the total starting CP and increasing the in-game CP generation limits some of the early-game abuse, heavy slot skew, and/or hero-hammer that a lot of armies relied heavily on. This should lead to more balanced list construction that actually sees troops being taken and more of the CP spend focused on mid/late-game abilities that results in deeper, more interesting games. I think my only critique of the new system is that I don’t love that the warlord trait isn’t free on the selected Warlord – relics make sense to me as they’re supposedly rare and powerful. But I’d expect the individual leading the force on the field to be a standout from the other officers.
Gunum: It feels like a huge boon (heh) to list-building fans like myself. When we are working with a slightly more restrictive army creation framework, I feel like we are able to really boil down to things in a book the community feels are truly going without. It’s like that back-pack speech that people that lead self-help seminars talk about. What are things you’ll take with you, and what can you leave behind. Being able to make those choices pregame, and see how that CP deficit affects our in-game performance, I’m really curious about. Will you go heavy on your Relics and Warlord traits and try to be cagey the first couple turns so you can have a combo turn on two? Will you buy into named characters who come with relic-equivalent wargear to save yourself some CP for early turns? Are HQ choices that give us bonus CP a requirement in our lists? All super cool to think about, and I’m excited to see how the community adjusts.
TheChirurgeon: I like everything about the CP costs except for the first warlord trait and relic. That feels like too much to me, and also disincentivzes using a lot of the cooler rules in the books. They already killed a lot of situational traits by forcing you to select them at the start of the game and I’m not sure further scaling that back is good – I like Warlord traits and relics and the way they let you customize elements of your army. Otherwise, I’m largely fine with this, though it’ll have unintended consequences.
Wings: Pretty much in the same boat as Rob – I like cutting the supply down a bit, but adding the cost for an initial trait and relic was a bit much, and I think it hits “sanctioned” soup options like the inclusion of a Freeblade or Dreadblade in an Imperium or Chaos army too hard. Restrictions breed creativity, and I am excited to see how people adapt to this, plus I like that it makes one-per-detachment rules far more meaningful.
Q. How will the changes in starting CP and CP generation change the flow of games and which armies compete?
Gunum: I touched a bit on this in the last question, but I think this will be huge. There are some factions that live in a world where they want to gobble up a bunch of CP in a turn, say GSC, and theres other armies that can kind of just…go without, like Necrons. When it comes to armies with huge combos, there will be a significant difference. I want to see how people go about banking CP for the first two turns to blow up the final three.
TheChirurgeon: I think the average army will still have what it needs to “go off” early in the game, but even thinking about my Thousand Sons, there’s a lot of stuff I just won’t use now – I’m going to be taking more mortal wounds for perils early instead of paying 1 CP to ignore them, and I doubt I’ll use the Stratagem to reduce incoming damage by 1 at the 3 CP cost again. It’s going to make going second more costly in a lot of ways, since players that depend on defensive stratagems will need to spend that CP turn 1.
Wings: So on some level the good news here is that the two current top armies, Leviathan Goodstuff and Hail of Doom Craftworld, are among the hardest hit by these changes. Both invest heavily in pre-game upgrades, both generally want multiple detachments, and both have some key stratagems they want to play early or during deployment. Both factions should still have viable lists, but I expect them to change quite a bit (especially as Hail was also a major To The Last user). In general it feels like we’re going to see much more cautious early turns – you can’t afford to blow as many points on an all-in push, you want to preserve your best units till you have the CP to really pop off with them, and you won’t have as much access to explosive counter-punches if you mess up and let your opponent get a good swing at you. The last part is something I’m a little worried about (though the Points changes could allay this concern) – cutting down on the available pool of CP for tricks and upgrades reduces the risk of super-powered combo lists, but it leaves the game more vulnerable to an army that’s just a bit too fast and efficient across the board pressuring people out of the game.
Q. Let’s talk Secondaries. Is it a good thing that To the Last and Stranglehold are gone? What’s the impact there?
Kelling: Yes. Unequivocally. Stranglehold was already an annoying secondary in the Octarius mission set as it was just an auto-take on any 5-mission set. In Nachmund it got even better as Domination and 6-mission sets became more of a minority to the point that every army was taking it to the exclusion of others. For armies that could double it with To The Last it became an incredibly unfun experience as many players could simply choose a secondary like Warp Ritual or Raise The Banners and just never leave their board half, especially going second.
With both of these gone, as well as a bevy of uncommonly used secondaries and a greater reliance on faction secondaries, I think we’ll see more unique army construction and greater dynamics in secondary scoring – this is a good thing overall but I’m sure there’s a number of builds waiting out there in the wings that will take advantage of a particularly potent combination of faction secondaries that we’re yet to see.
TheChirurgeon: Yes. Both secondaries created incredibly bad play patterns – To the Last encouraged you to actively just not engage with the opponent and score passive points, while Stranglehold combined with 5-objective maps and end-of-turn scoring to create incredibly dull games where neither player was encouraged to do more than trade for the middle objective.
Wings: God yes, for the reasons already cited. Stranglehold was too broadly applicable, so froze out a lot of Faction options, while To The Last created boring play patterns and encouraged you to make list choices that were boring but effective over exciting.
Q. How will being able to take three faction secondaries change things?
Kelling: I think it’ll make the game more diverse. The faction secondaries often lead to list building that best advantages particular sets which means that each individual faction will seek to build around them. With the reliance on the ‘standard’ secondaries we’ve seen a lot of meta dominant lists that all feel very same-y. I think with the opening of the faction options we’ll see truly unique builds. The problem of course is that balancing books AND secondaries just became a whole lot harder, but with quarterly balancing and biannual mission releases this should be relatively mitigatable. I really like it.
Gunum: This is the thing I’m down and negative on. I’m having a major issue wrapping my head around why this was needed, besides trying to make our armies feel a bit more unique via having their own choices to win games. This was a bit of a problem that we saw early in the Octarius field of battle, as Space Marines were stacking up faction secndaries while other factions were left grumbling. As we go into this new Nephilim land, I foresee this problem only compounding as the new secondaries seem to be less and less interactive. Factions having actions that can be completed instantly (or at end of turn) by Objective Secured units stops a bit of interaction that I would have liked to see. There’s a lot of ways presently in the game to prevent actions from being completed that just may not get used very often and I would have liked to see more interaction there. I’m very excited we’re gonna see armies leaning so hard into their faction secondaries, I just need to believe that GW made the right choice and we won’t be seeing secondaries that max easily in every game.
TheChirurgeon: I need to see it in action. It will likely make the game more diverse, but I’m not sure it will make individual factions more diverse, since I think they’ll just always build around their specific secondaries. Still, that may make it more interesting to go up against them – and it may make more sense to prepare to play an army by understanding their secondary objectives moreso than the tricks they can do with CP (since those are reduced), which feels like a big improvement.
Wings: I think it will make the game more diverse for the factions (which to be fair, is now most of them) where the selection is at least decent, but tank variety a bit for the factions where the selection is still fairly weak.
Q. Faction Secondaries: Who are the big winners?
Gunum: I’m going to pick out three of my favoirtes here. Necrons with Treasures of the Aeons. Imperial Fists with Bolster Barricades and Adorn the Canvas Electic for Emperor’s Children. Two new secondaries and one new, but updated, one where each feels great to play. Though the Imperial Fists one is pretty rough, I think these three factions really came ahead with some great secondaries.
TheChirurgeon: I’ll talk about my Chaos boys – The Death Guard win big here. Spread the Sickness is now an easy 10 points in most missions and you can stretch it to 14, all while no longer needing to take 4D3 mortal wounds to make that happen. Both other secondaries are viable now, and that’s a big help to a faction that very much needed it. Chaos Knights are also huge winners here – they’ve got a perfectly fine replacement for Stranglehold in Ruthless Tyranny and they’d love to pair it with Storm of Darkness. And yeah the Emperor’s Children secondary is great.
Wings: Necrons, Sisters and Space Wolves look like the biggest upgrades in raw power, while obviously the factions that have a full suite for the first time are definitely not going to be complaining.
Q. Faction Secondaries: Who are the big losers?
Kelling: Armies absolutely relying on To The Last. It led to some very unfun, not very interactive games and list builds and I am glad this is gone. Adeptus Mechanicus has hit some high, highs and now some low, lows in 9th edition and I don’t think they’re getting anything that’s going to change that. Dark Angels took a pretty big hit on Stubborn Defiance which was often a frustratingly good pick for the all-terminator crowd.
Gunum: I second Kelling here, Dark Angels kinda took a kick to the knee caps. I’m also going to say Chaos Knights, purely because they didn’t get any adjustments. Should they? No, their books brand new! But still, everyone got new stuff and those big stompy bois just get to be annoyed like the Hulk in Thor Ragnarok.
TheChirurgeon: The Admech eat absolute shit here. Their problems go beyond points and nothing about their secondaries is appealing unless Kastelan armies suddenly become very viable. The Drukhari also take another hit here, losing Herd the Prey as a dependable secondary. I think it’s still better than Engage for them, and I’m not sad to see it go, but I do question how much they needed an additional nerf.
Wing: I’m impressed by Boon’s admirable restraint here, which forces me to be the one to complain about Craftworlds – their Secondary selection is relatively mediocre, and though you can make several of them work, you have to build really hard for them, which shuts off some options. In particular, I think you really want at least one Phoenix Lord per list to smooth out Wrath of Khaine (and because they’re just good in a world where getting that level of nonsense on a model costs most people CP), which is a rough break for Ynnari (who had just had some pretty exciting builds start showing up). The faction has power and lots of choices, so there will be ways to succeed with them, but you’re going to have to really focus on ensuring your secondary options are up to snuff. All that said, AdMech definitely have a harder time of it. Poor robots.
Q. Finally, what’s your overall opinion here? Are you excited for Nephilim or dreading it?
Kelling: Ask again after the balance changes are out. Playing one Tyranid player after another after another, after another at a recent event has soured my opinion on the game and it has nothing to do with the mission set.
Gunum: If you guys know anything about me, it’s that I’m a sunny-side up kinda fellow. I think that the overall vibe of this book is going to be great for the competitive scene. The CP changes are tough, but I’m looking forward to them. The secondaries are cool, and regardless of how apprehensive I am of them, I’m ready to dive in.
TheChirurgeon: I’m excited to play with this new ruleset. It shakes things up dramatically and after playing 50 or so games in Nachmund that largely felt like a tweak on the GT 2020/2021 missions, I’m interested to try new things. And it’d be difficult to argue that competitive play hadn’t gotten incredibly stale over the past two months in a way that mere point changes weren’t going to fix. So I’m here for this – bring it on.
Wings: I’m excited to see the game get a shake up, slightly worried that there’s a risk of seeing “solved” lists at the top and factions with weaker secondaries frozen out. I am, ultimately, a fan of the design team making big, bold changes, so while I have reservations, I’m keen to see what happens.
Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.