Only one day after our big competitive Votann roundtable last week Games Workshop issued a major pair of adjustments to the faction, increasing their point costs across the board and changing the way Judgement tokens work to no longer allow their auto-wounds to count as 6s. Obviously you have us to thank for this swift and measured response to the faction and for that, you’re welcome.
Kidding aside, we’re convening a new roundtable today to discuss the changes, their impacts, and whether these changes actually may have gone too far.
- Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones
- James “Boon” Kelling
- Ben Jurek
- Greg Chiasson
- Danny Porter
This is the fastest we’ve ever seen Games Workshop make a balance adjustment. Is that a good thing or did they react too quickly?
Kelling: It’s a great thing. If anyone argues that Games Workshop is too responsive to game balance issues it’s a good reason to just ignore everything they have to say.
Ben: Definitely good, There are people who cry for more data, but really you would just ruin one weekend for a bunch of folks with knowledge we already have.
Pre-emptive fixes and owning a mistake is a green flag, not a red one.
TheChirurgeon: I maintain that the data was always more for understanding “how to fix” rather than a “does this need fixing,” but I definitely get that you don’t want to ruin multiple weekends of events trying to figure that out if you can avoid it. The Votann were definitely going to be a problem competitively once their full range hit (whenever that will be), and so avoiding that out of the gate is a good change. What I find particularly interesting is that none of this touches power levels, so the defiantly casual players out there who insist on using those instead of points can continue to play with those (and dumpster their friends), blissfully unaware of any changes. Or maliciously unaware, if you prefer.
Greg: It’s good. I’d rather have seen them get more/any data in so they could target the changes more accurately, but honestly I also kind of don’t care? Doing anything signals that they’re paying attention. Did they get the fixes exactly right? I dunno, maybe, but whatever, they can just re-fix them later. We all knew something had to be done, and if they couldn’t do it right, at least they took the time to do it wrong, which is still better than doing nothing. That perception, that Games Workshop is actively engaged in maintaining a healthy ecosystem around their flagship game, is vastly more important than the actual content of any individual set of changes. You do, in fact, “gotta hand it to em.”
Danny: So they left this document open and editable so I thought I’d sneak some pro-votann opinions in. Genuinely It’s a good thing for all of us in the community to see GW be able to sweep in quickly and make changes. I hope they continue to follow the precedent set. However, my concerns are what their thought process was regarding the changes made as points costs can be lazy and either punish too hard or completely leave the obvious problems alone. Saying that, it’s good to see them start, I hope they refine this process over time and be much more rigorous.
Wings: Fast changes are good, though I do think they come at a cost in terms of precision. However, I do think that here, because of the unusual release schedule of Votann, being able to push the changes before people have a chance to buy most of the kits is a very good thing from a consumer welfare point of view, especially given the scale of these – if you’d aimed to purchase an exactly 2000pts army, you could very easily find that nearly a fifth of what you’d bought left on the shelf.
Are the points changes that were made good, too much, or something in-between?
Kelling: I’d say it’s somewhere in between. The army as a whole was likely Too. Much. I don’t think the points adjustments will put this army out to pasture but it will likely limit the datasheets more than you might expect for an army with just 12. The Land Fortress I think is the one that stands out to me as being slightly too high once you consider the ramifications of the Ancestor’s Judgement change. I think it goes from a unit that that you want 2-3 of depending on the build to a 0-1. Might open some breathing room on the Sagitaur though!
Ben: Mostly good, with some bad feelings. Looking at it from an entire line perspective and what happened to the average in theory list. It’s a 20% or so bump . Which is about where balance can be achieved. It did however make some data sheets far less desirable and likely the army as a whole will have a lot less variance on competitive tables. I still think the army is certainly a threat, just not busted.
TheChirurgeon: These changes are good on the whole, but definitely too much for some units. This probably takes Votann from being incredibly dominant to merely above average and liable to completely hard counter some armies – they’re still going to completely dominate Death Guard, Custodes, and Knights – but unlikely to win many events, particularly if we don’t see major nerfs to Tyranids, Necrons, and Sisters. That said, if these have actually gone too far and the army’s not great, then they can just re-adjust them come January when they do a new point supdate, and that’s a great option for them to have.
Greg: I’m not mad about how cheap bikes and Fortresses are anymore, so there’s that. To echo Boon, the Fortress went from something you always want 3 of to a Sometimes Food – I still think it shows up in every list because it’s obviously the best in slot (there’s only one other option), but it’s closer to a fair price point now. Five points on bikes is whatever, one point on troops barely matters, but the +10 on Hearthguard and the +8 on Beserks are more meaningful. I’m don’t think this is enough to actually make either unit actively “bad”, nor was that the intent, but in aggregate it’ll knock a squad or three out of every list. “Identify the good stuff and limit how much of it can fit into one army at the same time” is basically the balancing lever they yanked on for T’au, and it worked well enough there.
Danny: On a whole the changes were more positive than negative. I very much want to show respect to Games Workshop for actually tackling a really un-fun rule in the auto wounds being unmodified 6s to wound, even though it was a chain holding a lot of interactions in the book together. That rule gave an awfully busted Magna rail, but also a lot of potential mortal wounds builds that are just not healthy for the game. However the points costs were simply too hard on the army – half of what they added would have been fine, but right now the army definitely has a problem with fielding units. It’s now become a super elite army, but without being able to field super elite wound values on units and I think this is going to cause a problem for some players to deal with – mistakes on the board will hurt deeply. I mean why on earth does a Hearthguard cost 45 points?
Wings: Mixed for me – I like the general increase, but think some were mis-aimed. Notably, I think the Brokyr and Grimnyr probably got off a bit lightly, while the Hearthguard and Thunderkyn took too much of a knock.
How about that Ancestor’s Judgment change?
Kelling: I’m so torn here. Auto-wounding of 6 is *so* powerful with stacking effects (Hail of Doom) that I’m not sad to see it go here with all the benefits Votann brings. By that same token, there is a LOT in this book that is keyed off of it – I think GW will need to look down the road at their next update to address some of these interactions and how they might mitigate them.
Ben: I feel all auto-wounding effects across the game should probably fall in line. It’s a little awkward now in design with not exactly wanting tokens on things you want to shoot with a rail gun. I feel the original rule was definitely a problem. This isn’t a perfect solution but it’s reasonable and fast.
TheChirurgeon: I hated the rule before and I don’t love it now that it removes all synergy, but I’d rather have this than the bonkers version. There’s probably a more elegant solution sitting around somewhere but this is also relatively easy to understand and insert into the book without causing too many headaches, though I suspect players will want to magnetize their Hekaton weapons in the long run.
Greg: I think I’d have gone with “the wound roll counts as being the same as the hit roll (except that it succeeds even if it normally wouldn’t have)” – that is, a six to hit would still proc the magna-rail, etc – but the caveat to this is that I’m clearly Monday Morning QBing it, which isn’t entirely fair. I do think it’s weird that it has anti-synergy with any effect that goes off on a six to wound, but the caveat to that is that they clearly aren’t done releasing FAQs/Errata/Dataslates, so maybe cool your jets a minute. This a stopgap, to buy time to implement more holistic fixes.
Danny: I think this is a difficult one. As said above, I respect GW for changing such an important rule in the book, given how unfun and strong it is, however they have simply invalidated a lot of options by doing so and giving zero back in return. I think it’s going to leave players feeling like the codex rightfully has gaps now. They should have released the rule to be more like only a 6 to hit becomes an unmodified 6 to wound, so there’s some synergies at least, but let’s just see how this plays out.
Wings: I think this works as an emergency fix, but as has been covered above there are now some weird interactions with other effects. I’d love to see a more considered pass down the line, but in the immediate term I’d like to see the wording changes to “can choose for that attack to automatically wound the target”, so if you want to gamble your rail shot on a wound roll to go for the spillover, you can.
On the whole, are these nerfs not enough, too much, or about right?
Kelling: I think they’re about right. Essentially my takeaway is that GW raised the skill floor of this army. It’s not point and click any more and losing a key unit here or there comes at a real cost. Fewer units also mean fewer judgement tokens and players will need to be more judicious in their target priority. If players are less enthusiastic to play this army because they can’t just win on deployment, well, good.
Ben: About right, Balance is a fickle thing. I feel cautious even saying that as I know some players are likely to 6-0 or 5-1 events with Votaan and there will be people screaming “”Ben it wasn’t enough! You have betrayed us!” I do feel them not being a true leaf blower army on the field is good for the game and raising the ceiling a bit definitely helps overall.
Greg: Ignoring the current state of balance, and looking solely at the quantity of changes in this document, I would rate them “not enough” based solely on an FAQ with zero Qs and a single Errata being insufficient on the face of it. We’ll (probably) get a real one later, at which point this complaint is withdrawn.
TheChirurgeon: I suspect we’ll get a real FAQ in another week or two addressing things like beam weapons, which have caused a large number of questions and disputes in the Goonhammer offices. On the whole I think these nerfs are about right. The army’s got an incredibly high floor, will straight wreck some armies even still, and is likely to have to make some actual decisions now, which leads to something that’s at worst merely decent.
Danny: Shockingly, I think these changes are too much. I get how easy it is to fix points but they went overboard and I think they should maybe reign them back in a little bit. Some units are still too cheap like bikes – they are insane right now being the best value unit in the book, but hearthguard feels almost unplayable because it’s 45pts for 2 wounds. I would have done half of the points nerfs as well as the change to the auto wound and see where they end up in 3 months time.
Wings: Right now, I’d lean towards slightly too harsh, but until we see what’s in the Balance Dataslate (which these presumably take into account) it’s hard to say for sure.
Where do you see the new Votann falling out competitively?
Kelling: Above average with a middling ceiling. Skilled players will pull some 5 or 6-round wins and they’ll befuddle some players who just aren’t prepared to minimize their firing lines. Knights and similar will still struggle. I think more than anything the limitations on their secondaries are going to shine through now as they can’t as easily overcompensate with blasting.
Ben: I’m getting similar vibes to knights as far as where they will stand. It will be an army you will need to be ready for. It will absolutely wreck some list styles and game plans. It will be relatively easy to pick up and have mild success with. They act as a counter to your elite armies and hopefully they find themselves in the mid to upper tier along with some of those armies.
TheChirurgeon: Low Tier 2/High Tier 3, which is to say I think they’ll be above average but not regular top 4 contenders. I think they’ll pull a relatively high average first game loss (indicating that most players will win a game or two out of the gate at events with them), but a low TiWP, suggesting they’ll be more of a gatekeeper. Though I agree with Ben – they’ll likely push knights and some other elite armies out of the ecosystem as a result.
Greg: Somewhere above Imperial Fists and below Sisters/Harlequins/Tyranids. I’m not remotely qualified to answer this question and I won’t expose myself to mockery by attempting.
Danny: So I understand the internet expects the whole “Oh they’re still strong, please continue to send angry letters to Games Workshop” speech, but the army just doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a consistent tournament winner. They have some really strong rules but their limitations have increased a little too much now with lower unit representation on the board and I can see a lot of scoring issues, especially until GW fix the mistakes they’ve made with Nephilim secondaries.
Kelling: Seriously, big congratulations to Games Workshop’s team for being open, transparent, and proactive on this. The video released was a perfect touch of humourous, humbling, and humanizing – its what a consumer wants to see from the business- a sense of we’re in it together.
Ben: I am pleasantly surprised. Not only with the quick FAQ but taking responsibility. It was definitely far above my expectation of a little to none FAQ and waiting on not the upcoming balance data slate but the one after that. It’s a different GW then years ago and I hope they stay on this track.
TheChirurgeon: This was very much needed and I’m glad GW took action here and made some changes to a faction that was about to dominate competitive play. It’s never easy to make these changes, particularly when you have a mob of people out there acting like they’ve never had to throw away an old edition’s book when they shout about their book “being invalidated” but it’s a worthwhile change. It’s also bold (and good) on their end to do this before the rest of the range came out, so players didn’t suddenly find themselves unable to field 20% of their purchases thanks to points increases. And again, if they went too far or missed something on points, they can always revisit this in January – showing once again the massive advantage to be gained from taking points to digital.
Danny: Really good to see (sort of) GW admitted they made a mistake and then making corrections with a hilarious video. All in all it has given me faith in the company. I do have two questions for GW; Where is the dataslate? And is it late because you’re putting <CORE> on Aberrants, and the digital intern is on holiday?
Wings: Ultimately, the more responsive GW are, the better things are for the competitive community, and I think the fact that they have the confidence to go through with changes like this is a very healthy sign. It also means I’m actually looking forward to seeing what happens when Votann hit the metagame, because exactly where they land is now genuinely up in the air. Watching metagame trends emerge is, in fact, extremely my jam.
Greg: If you didn’t want to play Votanns before because they were “too good”, but you’re picking them up now that they aren’t, congratulations, your cowardice has been rewarded.
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