Friday, April 20, 2018

BIG FAQ Review Part One: The Rule of 3, How it fails us and made 4 ways to play 40k.

This is the first of my BIG FAQ reviews (or Rants). Today I am going to cover "The rule of three." I am seeing a lot of praise for it. People claiming it fixed abusive spam. Etc. etc.

I will concede there are benefits to it. No one wanted to face 7 Flyrants or 10 plagueburst crawlers.

But just like the Tau Commander limit, I think it was a ham-handed attempt at fixing something that could have been handled in several other ways and really didn't address the problem.

In case you aren't aware the Rule of 3 as its being called is actually just a nick name for the following table
This table is used for Organized play. As you can see, at the most common points levels, between 1k and 2k, it recommends allowing no more than 3 of the same datasheet IN AN ARMY. Not a detachment. The whole army.

"But isn't that a good thing?" you say, "I can't imagine spamming anything more than 3 times is FUN for you OR your opponent."

To your first point I answer "Maybe". To your second, whole heardetly "Patently Untrue."

Case in Point- My all Death Rider Army. See list list here. There is 80 cavalry all told.
While this MAY be a fringe example there has to be other fun thematic lists people were running at this level that had 4 of a unit and DIDN'T break the game. Saim Hann Windrider host comes to mind. Iyanden Wraith Army. White Scars and Ravenwing. Ork Kommandos or Stormboy lists. IG Steel Legion Armoured Fist Veterans. SM 8th, 9th or 10th Company builds. All Death Company. etc. etc. There are ways to do some of these still, but it is now likely by watering down the list. By this I mean taking larger blobs instead of multiple units, combat squading units where possible, or by selecting sub-optimal but still thematic choices (eg. instead of 4 jetbike squads and 2 vyper squadrons for Saim Hann, stacking it out to be 3 and 3. Or 4 Wraith Guard 2 Wraith blades to be 3 and 3. Etc.)

Furthermore, alot of these types of lists RELIED on things like the Outrider or Spearhead detachments. With Battalions and Brigades getting HUGE boots to CP, these detachments are even weeker in comparison with their measely +1 CP. So IF you spammed in one of these dets, you were already starting off WORSE than your competition. There were downsides to doing so already baked into the game. Were they not enough, even with the boost for "normal" detachments?
Lastly it just flat out damages a few of the smaller codicies. Harlequins and Deathwatch come to mind. I know they are both INDEX books right now, but they are not likely to get any new units added. Harlequins ONLY have 1 fast attack and 1 heavy support. They have 2 elites... one of which is limited to 1 per army. They don't have the ability to deal with the rule of 3. Some mono-build deamons lists deal with this same issue, albeit to a lesser extent.

 "Okay, okay, but isn't this all JUST for organized play. You can still do ALL of what you mentioned in matched play right?" I hear you say.

Correct. Which is how this rule fails us the most. The two are no longer synonymous. Granted you never HAD to play competetively or in tournaments before, but the two were essentially the same meta and game type, with possibly the exception of specific tournament missions instead of BRB ones.
BUT NOW you can have people playing matched in a style specifically for tournaments and others in a style specifically PROHIBITED by them. And people likely will not want to cross the streams. Furthermore, you are more likely than not just going to see groups outright adopt the stricter of the two. Why? There will be a handfull of people really pushing for it, playing more than others, championing the game, because they are the regular event atendees and practice more than more casual players.

BUT for those groups NOT playing Organized- Well THE SPAM STILL EXISTS. NOTHING WAS FIXED! That guy with 7 Flyrants or 10 Plague Burst Crawlers CAN STILL BE THAT GUY! The core of the system is still FLAWED. And they even have a better argument to stand on then people telling them NOT to play that way. The Table says IT IS SPECIFICALLY INTENDED FOR ORGANIZED PLAY. Not that it recommended for matched play. JUST ORGANIZED. So if they are not playing in a Tournament, WHY SHOULD THEY LIMIT THEIR SPAM? Fairness and fun yes, but if that was their MO, they wouldn't have 7 Flyrants to begin with TBH.
This is what I mean by 4 ways to play. Open. Narrative. Matched. Organized.

-Multiple Datasheets for practically the same unit: Want 18 Hellhounds? You can do that. 2 Datasheets- GW & FW - squadrons of 3 each. 9 Regular and 9 Artemia Pattern. Dreadnoughts? There are like 45 different datasheets for them in the game. Easy. Leman Russ. Battle Tank, Demolisher, Command Tank.
-Combat Squads: 3 squads of something not good enough. Just make it twice as big and then split it if you can. So effectively, GW only managed to cap Sarges and Special Weapons, and not actual units
-Really expensive units: So online I was using Death Wing as another example of a unit HURT from a fluff persepective by the rule of 3 and had several people point out to me that no DW armies uses more than 3 terminator squads any way because of cost. Same goes for things like Custodes Jetbikes, etc. etc. They just get too expensive. So capping them at what their natural cap seemed to be anyway DOES NOTHING.
-Vehicle Squadrons: Mentioned above, but seriously, so many vehicles SQUADRON. The rule of 3 just becomes the rule of 9. Which from a cost perspective is probably around where a player maxing them at anyway.
-Troops are expempt: Yup, doesn't even apply to troops, one of the most spammed categories in the game. Cultists, Fire Warriors, Scouts, Horrors, Conscripts. All of these are still POSSIBLE
-A LOT OF SPAM WAS ALREADY FIXED: Boots on the ground killed flyer spam. Tau commanders get limited. Certain other adjustments killed things like Razorwing spam. There wasn't alot left to deal with.
Still completely legal..
Too me all of the above just further shows how thematic lists are disproportionately effected as compared to competitive lists. Things like my Death Riders CAN'T benefit from any of the above. And I guarantee you its more fun to face than Cultist Spam or Leman Russ Spam. Or even lists that fit the rule, like 3 Custodes Shield Captains and 3 Jetbike squads.

So really, this just leaves us with a few spammable units, MOSTLY in the HQ Slot. So here are some what I feel would have been better SHORT TERM (8th edition) solutions
-Handle each unit on a case by case basis. Determine if it needs a limit OR is it just UNDERCOSTED. If it is being taken more than 6 times... its probably too cheap. Now when we see a competitive unit is will be in groups of three no mater what, and it becomes harder to say is that fair and reasonable from a cost perspective. Could be all it needs to go from the world of SPAM SPAM SPAM to "I guess I'll just take some of this" is something like 50 points a squad. And if the cost just isn't a solution, well Tau commanders got hit with a 0-3 bat. Period. No Beta. Either do this whenever needed or not at all.
-Limit HQs 0-3 per datasheet/HQ Type. All HQs EVERYWHERE. If it makes sense for Tau Commanders it makes sense for them too. And cuts down on the abusiveness of things like Flyrants or Custodes Bike Captains. By doing it by unit type instead of just datasheet you could capture things like "SM Captain, Camptain w/ Jump Pack/Captain w/ Terminator armour etc. etc. so you have no more than 3 captains.
-Keep the 3 limit in place but allow certain HQs to UNLOCK thematic choices from the limit. A Death Rider Officer- You can take more than 3 units of Death Rider Squadrons. White Scars Captain on a bike, more than 3 units of White Scars bikers. Etc. etc. Or go back to certain things making certain units TROOPS. Same concept really, though it would invalidate the point of an Outrider/Vanguard/Spearhead det.
BUT LONG TERM SOLUTIONS by which I mean 9th edition and beyond
-Get rid of the detachments. Bring back the old Force Organization Chart. Keep the current separate Dedicated Transports.
-Add to the chart a new "Character" slot for things not HQ, but shouldn't be elites in their own right. Stuff like banner bearers, enginseers, assassins. Support/buffing singular models.
-Have NO MANDATORY SLOTS. Instead just a minimum of 3 units total. May only take 1 HQ for 1 of every other unit (so to have 2 HQ you need 4 units in the Detachment)
-Have the chart be base 3 CP. Take 2 troops, thats +1 CP. Take 3, +2. 4 is +3 and so on.
-Fill the fast attack- +1. Fill the elites- +1. Fill the HS- +1.
-Tie any other CP specifically to characters. Creed and Calgar would give alot where things like Kharn or Lucius wouldn't. Breaks out combat characters versus Leaders.
-Allow characters to CHANGE the unit type of certain units. Someone like Belial of the DA should have the ability to take Terminator Troops. And he should get adequate CP for that. Thats what he commands and has experience with.
-Warlords can only be HQ.

To me this would allow for thematic armies to be playable WITHOUT having the worst things get spammed. You just DON'T allow those things to change force org type.

"But this isn't simple and that is what 8th is supposed to do"

Well playing and army construction are different. The game can be simple still. But anyway, look at all the FAQs, your stack of books and indices. And the 45 different traps cards... I mean strategems you need to memorize. It isn't simplified. It failed to be so. Lets stop pretending.