What To FAQ – Part 2: Solutions

Awesome image courtesy of Booley.

Welcome back – time to hear my glorious and inspired ideas for fixing the metagame!

First, a quick addendum to yesterday’s post about another problem that needs fixing:

The Stupid Order of Operations Rule

A summary of this one for those who aren’t aware – when you have an ability that says “re-roll failed X rolls” you work out whether a roll has “failed” before applying modifiers. This means that if you need a 4 to hit, and have:

  • +1 to hit
  • Re-roll failed hits

You must re-roll rolls of 3 – even though they would be modified to a successful hit once you applied the +1. Conversely, and more frequently, when shooting at things with -1 to hit you often don’t get to re-roll dice that are about to be modified to a failure.

This needs to die. In a fire. It’s incredibly counter-intuitive – I have literally had to make the call in a tournament game that I couldn’t be bothered trying to explain this to an opponent, because they were already unhappy at me calling out their blatant rule misuse, and I honestly thought he would rage quit the game if I tried.

It also has an alarmingly large statistical effect. Targeting something needing 4s with re-rolls gives you a 75% hit change. Logically, going after something needing 3’s with -1 to hit (so effectively needing 4s) and re-rolls should be the same, but it isn’t – thanks to the order of operations rule you don’t get to re-roll any 3s you roll on the first pass, and that takes your hit percentage down to 67% –  a massive difference.

This rule is no fun for anyone and creates counter-intuitive play patterns – you would have thought that when shooting at sneaky Alaitoc elves adding re-rolls would be a great way to counter their bullshit, but it’s less effective to do so than it would be against others, and that’s just dumb.

As far as I can tell, the rule originally existed so that they could put in a bunch of re-roll 1 auras without having to invoke the concept of an “unmodified” or “natural” 1. A year on, and we have a bunch of abilities that say that anyway, so all this rule does is generate misery and compound the effect of what is already one of the best effects in the game (-1 to hit).

Fix it GW. Just declare that all “full” re-roll abilities say “you may re-roll any X rolls”. Then we can all move on with our lives and I never have to think about this stupid rule ever again, and it’s me saying this and I literally play the faction most advantaged by the current rule.

The Fixes

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. I’m going to start by addressing my proposed fix to the “soup” problem, as what I’m suggesting mitigates both the other problems as they currently appear. In each area, I’m going to quickly go through some commonly proposed fixes I don’t like and why, then move on to my suggestions.


Fixes I Don’t Like

There are two commonly proposed fixes to the soup problem that bear addressing – “max 1 codex” is obviously another one, but I am so confident that there is 0 chance of that happening (and that it would be a disaster for the game) that I’m not going to delve into it.

Fix 1: You Only Get Your Warlord’s Faction’s Strategems

On the face of it this seems fairly reasonable – you can still bring in efficient units from factions other than your main one, but don’t get access to their strategems. This would certainly have the effect of killing the Trifecta list outright – without strategems both Slamcaps and the Castellan are worthless and merely “good” respectively, but without a guard warlord you lose access to the juicy CP farm that powers all the bullshit. It also has the appealing game design advantage of being future proof – it massively reduces the chances of a broken combo arising down the line.

The big drawback, and why I don’t like it, is that it throws out an awful lot of fun in the name of restricting a practice that’s only really “broken” in a few cases. Fundamentally, 8th edition is supposed to be played with strategems, and plenty of units have had abilities that might previously been wargear or special rules moved across to unit-specific strategems. This is because strategems are great and a really strong piece of design – I’ll be talking more about how I see strategems being used to more fundamentally re-shape some parts of the game come chapter approved time. They’re clear, atomic and by making actions that might previously have been resolved as asides or “oh yeah, and this” big flashy things that you pay for, I feel they help people keep track of the game state.

The fact that there are unit specific strategems also indicates that this is not an area where GW should be massively drawing things back – fundamentally, if a unit-specific strategem exists in the codex then that unit will have been costed (or should have been, get in the sea House Raven) bearing in mind its existence, and it existing is part of the units stats as much as what is written on the page. The best example of this would be Castellan Robots (the socially acceptable type of Castellan) – without their form-shift strategem, the unit risks getting stuck in certain forms if their datasmith dies, and yes that’s true if you run out of CP as well, but you can plan for that. It also gimps factions that are designed to be taken as small components, and while the immediate response to that is “give them an exemption” I don’t like designing rules where my solution to a relatively common problem is “make an exception”.

I strongly believe that “only warlord’s strategems” is basically “max 1 Codex” in a silly hat, and paradoxically, once it’s in place the only time you’d see soup was when a specific unit was incredibly broken on base rate alone, which will still piss off the people who don’t like soup.

Fix 2: CP can only be spent on the Faction that generated them

This idea proposes that you can only spend your starting 3CP plus any CP that a detachment of a faction generated on strategems from that faction. If, for example, you played the Trifecta as:

  • Castellan in a Super Heavy Aux
  • Blood Angels Battalion
  • Guard Brigade.

..you would be able to spend:

  • Your 3 starting CP on anything
  • 0 additional CP on the Knight.
  • 5CP on Blood Angels
  • 12CP on Guard.

As far as I’m concerned, this is basically in the same bucket as “Only your Walord’s Strategems” but with none of the brutal elegance that that idea at least possesses. It would have largely the same effect on the metagame but with the occasional option of turning up with a hideously complicated list that still works through it and involves tracking up to four separate CP pools. Once again, if this army ever existed (and there’s bound to be something – 5CP probably is enough where a Slamcap + Mephiston battalion is still an attractive prospect) it would, again, intensely annoy people who wanted this, and again implementing this would cut out a whole load of fun. Outside of elite tournament play, the most common soup armies are probably a core Battalion and one of the 1CP specialist detachments of something else. I expect that would die hard if this came in.

This idea can get in the sea hard, is what I’m saying – it’s a horrible middle ground that won’t please anyone and will cause unfun things to happen when people work around it.

What Can We Learn From These?

Just because I don’t like the specific implementations here, doesn’t mean I don’t think the sentiment is coming from the right place. My impression is that people advocating the above two things are some combination of:

  • Unhappy that Soup Lists get to use the best tricks out of all their factions, and generally have access to powerful tricks at a higher rate than non-soup.
  • Unhappy that mono-faction builds are borderline objectively wrong for armies sitting in the superfactions.

Both of these are extremely valid concerns, and I’ve worked them into my solutions. Here goes.

Diluting the Soup

I have three “generic” proposals in this area that I would like to see apply across the board, and a few specific ability fixes that I’ll touch on at the end.

1. Modify the Pre-Game Relic Strategems

One of the best things about Soup lists is access to three sets of “additional relic” strategems. Almost every faction has one or two relics that sit head and shoulders above the rest, often but not exclusively ones related to CP. There is a strong likelihood that the first relic in a faction is “worth” a CP, and soup lists get to pay 1CP for a relic three times, whereas pure lists can only do it once, and if a soup list is tapping multiple factions with multiple worthwhile relics then things just get real nasty. The Trifecta list is heavily dependent on this – having the Angel’s wing on the “turn 1” slamcap is hugely important, and Castellans get a lot less scary without Cawl’s Wrath – they stop reliably killing a tank with each arm.

The ability to do this is the vanguard of soup lists cherry picking the best things from multiple factions, so let’s stop it.

Proposal 1: All “extra” relic strategems have the following wording added: “You cannot use this strategem if you have used an equivalent ability from another codex”. The wording is slightly awkward because they didn’t use a consistent term for relics (whyyyyy), but can be easily gotten across with an accompanying clear FAQ.

This makes Soup lists actually choose which item they want to go with. By itself, however, it’s still not nearly enough – it brings them to parity in terms of number of extra relics compared to non-soup armies, but allows them to pick from a much wider pool. What the mono-faction armies need is something to counter-balance that.

2. “Chain of Command” – a new buff for mono-faction armies

This is the bit I think a lot of people are going to like.

Proposal 2: Add the following new rule, applying to all codexes with appropriate word substitutions:

Chain of Command

Well structured armies of <faction> have the advantage of bringing experienced commanders and deploying precious resources. If every detachment in your army is a <faction> detachment, after you have selected your warlord and chosen/generated a warlord trait, you may immediately pick another character from your army. Choose/generate a warlord trait for that character as well. Wherever that trait refers to “the warlord” it applied to the chosen character instead, but the character does not count as your warlord for any other purposes.

In addition, if every model in your army shares a <chapter>, or your army does not have <chapters>, you may also select an additional <relic> for one of your characters that does not already have one.

This, I think, starts to give a serious incentive to think about mono-faction armies. Warlord traits are awesome and I really like that some factions have ways of getting more than one of them – but if you tie them to a strategem that’s just another way that soup lists can triple dip. Making it an explicit bonus for being mono-faction, along with an additional free relic for being really mono-faction gets that coolness out into the wild without risking it being another avenue for abuse. In addition, it does something that no other solution I’ve seen proposed to these problems really achieves – it gives mono-faction armies a genuinely unique draw and advantage that there’s no other way of getting (other than “Exalted Court”, but spoilers, we’re not done with that).

I’ll admit to being really pleased with this and don’t think it needs much more explanation – were it in place, “pure” armies would have more special snackies than their soup competitors, and that would be a really good thing.

3. Tighten Up Subfaction Strategems

Proposal 3: Add the following rule:

If a <faction> strategem is listed as being a <subfaction> strategem, you may only use it if your army contains a detachment (that is not an Auxiliary Support detachment) which qualifies for the <chapter tactic> associated with that <subfaction>, even if your army contains other <faction> detachments and models with the <subfaction> keyword.

I firmly believe this was always “Rules as Intended” and a bunch of rules-lawyering big names in America got their foot in the door and managed to make the really fucking stupid interpretation most events currently run with stick. Specifically, this is abused with:

  • Ynnari detachments containing like four different <craftworld> keywords to unlock strategems/relics.
  • Tau Sa’cea auxiliary detachments with a single Firesight Marksman.
  • Black Heart auxiliary detachments with a single unit of Kabalites.

Down with that sort of thing. I really don’t think there’s any further explanation needed.

Specific Fixes

Going with the theme of tying up places where it’s too easy for soup to dip in and take the best things, there are a few specific ability fixes I’d suggest are made:

  1. Exalted Court – change to 1CP for a Questoris or Helverin or 3CP for a Dominus. Remove the ability to do two. Thanks to “Chains of Command” above, pure Knight armies will still be able to get three traits, but tapping in multiple warlorded knights is no longer possible. Making a Dominus class pay 3 for Ion Bulwark only seems fair – it’s completely absurd that a game long +1 invuln costs 1CP on them, and a single turn one costs 3CP.
  2. Doom and Jinx – Add Asuryani keyword restriction to benefit. I’m slightly hesitant about this given eldar are underperforming, but currently tapping in a Doomseer in Drukari or Harlequins is practically mandatory, and the other fixes I’m suggesting probably won’t stop that – especially because Drukari probably benefit least from “Chain of Command” of any faction.
  3. Agents of Vect – Change to have the rider “if your warlord is a Black Heart Archon and is on the Battlefield”. It’s the best strategem in the game, adding some limitations on it, and also giving your opponent a way round it seems reasonable, though full disclosure I do currently run a Black Heart Archon as the warlord in my otherwise mostly mech-Asuryani army, so make of that what you will.
  4. Order of Companions (House Raven Strategem) – Change to “you may only use this on a given knight once each game”. Still lets pure or heavy Raven armies go hog wild, but stops a single tapped Castellan getting the benefit every turn.

There are probably more, but those are the most glaring.

Taken together, I think this set of changes would do a lot to rebalance the map. It might turn out not to be enough, but I would really hope that rewarding mono-faction players with a really cool benefit would make everyone feel a lot better about the situation even if it still wasn’t perfectly balanced.

CP Farming

Disclaimer from here on – the above is my big idea, and I think doing all of that significantly reduces the number of fixes needed elsewhere. However, for game hygiene reasons we really should make a few tweaks to tidy it up anyway.

Part of the reason I won’t be going into much depth here is that I think other people have solved the problem – many people have suggested that CP regen traits should only apply when using a strategem of the faction the trait is from, and I think that’s basically an adequate fix right there – it reduces the effectiveness of the guard farm significantly, and removes the incentive to tap in the Black Heart trait into other Aeldari armies. The Black heart trait should also probably change to “points from your own CP, per strat for your opponent” to bring it in line with other effects, and potentially gain the “once per game re-roll” the equivalents have in trade.

Once you’ve done that, the only other change I think you need is a hard and fast “each time a strategem is triggered, you may only choose and roll for a single effect with a chance of restoring CP”. That removes the dumb Blood Angels + Guard chance of gaining CP when you use them.

Between these, and the increased opportunity cost of acquiring additional CP relics, I think we’d be in a tolerable state.

It should be noted that I still hate CP farming by dice roll as a concept – it slows the game down and it’s one more thing to remember. i would be a fan of re-structuring detachments and re-working “bonus CP” abilities completely, but I think that’s a “Chapter Approved” level change, so will come back to that later in the year.

The Knight Castellan (and friends)

While plenty of what I’ve suggested above is technically “global”, a lot of the changes combine to specifically diminish the stature of the House Raven Castellan. The CP and opportunity cost to load it out as you would like is now significantly higher. Unfortunately it’s so damn good that it does still need a specific change – while those costs would weaken it, I still believe paying them would be the “optimal” choice.

Happily, we only need a relatively simple fix on top of that – change the strategem “Rotate Ion Shields” to include the wording “this strategem may not be used on a model with the “Ion Bulwark” warlord trait”. As we explored yesterday, even taking the invulnerable save down to 4++ makes Castellan hunting a significantly more reasonable prospect.

For safety purposes, I would probably give it a small (probably about 30 points) cost bump, and also stick 20 points on the cost of Gallants – they’re just slightly too deadly and hard to kill for their cost currently.

For what it’s worth, the more of my other suggestions (or similar equivalents) didn’t get implemented the more points I think you’d need to stick on both units to keep them honest.

One could tinker more but as I’ve said I’m a fan of incremental changes – I would like to see how the meta shakes out with those in place, and I’m reasonably confident they’d combine to ensure the Trifecta was (while probably still viable) no longer the superlative, obvious choice.

Any Other Business

The other problem we haven’t touched on is the “bad” armies. Most of these would pick up a buff from “Chain of Command”, but that isn’t really enough. Again from an incrementalist point of view – just knock:

  • 1pt off an intercessor
  • 2pts off a tac marine and all other <role> smolmarines
  • 5pts off a terminator
  • 2pts off a necron warrior
  • 3pts off a necron immortal

I guarantee you that none of those changes will break the game, and might just be enough to let those armies emerge from the shadows. If they still don’t do anything after that, then that’s serious evidence that there’s a big problem needing fixing.

An alternative to the terminator discount is a really awesome rule suggestion that sadly isn’t mine and I can’t remember where I first saw it – give all “Terminator” models the following rule:

“This model can never take more than 1 damage from a single successful wound after it fails its save”.

How metal would that be? Honestly, I’m almost certain that just adding that on to all terminators wouldn’t break the game, and it would rule.

Do it GW. It would be great. Probably.

This has been “how to fix the game – Autumn FAQ edition”. Feedback welcome.