ABSTRACT PRINCIPLES of 40k - Appendices

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Appendix 1 - List Building as a Skill

I just wanted to make an extra note about the idea that list building is a skill. People correctly say that it takes skill to come up with new combinations of units which are strong, but it's more than that. On the one hand, it takes VERY little skill to copy a netlist from the internet. On the other, it takes a lot more skill to design a decently-powerful foot guard list. It takes a LOT more skill to design a fluffy 1ksons list and still get it to win a decent number of games.

Furthermore, it's not some crass mini-game. Some people (myself included) actually like making lists, and really take advantage of the creativity it offers. If you don't like making lists, or if you want to just copy a netlist, fine, but that doesn't mean that some people aren't enjoying it.

And it actually has a place in the greater scheme of things as well. If I feel like I'm winning too much compared to the people around me, then I SHOULD be able to have creativity in what units I bring to the table so that I can self-regulate and bring a more challenging list to counter having less challenging opponents.

Being able to craft exactly the list you want with exactly the units you want to play the exact way you want to at exactly the power level you want is absolutely most definitely a skill.

It's nearly an art form.

Appendix 2 - Points Don't Balance

Some people have stated that the purpose of having units have a points value is to balance the game. Is it?

If GW really intended for this to be true, then we wouldn't have unit size or number restrictions, and we wouldn't have a force organization chart, and we wouldn't have the codex system. Furthermore, the rulebook itself doesn't even promise that equal point armies are equal in quality - the only explicit purpose to the points limit that they mention is that it will determine how long it takes to play the game.

Even if the point of points was to be one small part in making armies of equal power, then it's still made a mockery of by the rest of it. If I show up to a 1,000 point game with nothing but grots, am I likely to win? No. Does that mean that grots are too expensive, points-wise? No. It's also a bad system because of synergy and being able to take things in combination with each other. For a basic example, markerlights are a lot less useful in an army full of kroot than they are in an army full of broadsides or riptides, yet GW is stuck giving markerlights a single points cost, and the players either overpay or underpay depending on what other units they take.

And you can find this everywhere in the game, from the cost of orders rolled into a CCS being very different whether you're playing foot or mech guard, to the cost of an icarus lascannon being set despite how many airplanes your opponents bring, to how the cost of things are complicated by allies (did they price azrael's 4++ with regard to what he could do with all of the units he could ally with? Highly unlikely).

Pricing something based not on its own qualities, but also based on every possible combination of units is insane, and that insanity only increases by an order of magnitude once we start talking about allies. In reality, they make a good guess about how much something would cost, and then it's the players who find combinations that GW didn't think about that make a unit worth more or less than its points cost.

Points only start to work as a balancer the more that things are controlled for. If you're talking about units within a single codex, and that have a limited number or limited combinations (you must take a certain unit to unlock others, etc.), then they start to work better. As it is, GW is going in the opposite direction, which is why points costs, even if they were accurate, are doing a progressively worse and worse job of acting as a balancer.

Appendix 3 - That Unit is Worthless!

This comes up a lot in conversations. Something being weak or downright worthless, and that's a bad thing.

Grots, for example, do have a place in an ork list. So do pyrovores in a tyranid list, despite being "so weak no one should take them". There are no units in the entire game where there is no reason whatsoever to take them.

Reasons to take something are limited only by a person's creativity. I could take a low-power unit because I like the models. I could take one because I like the fluff. I could take one because I like how it jives with my play style. There's no end of reasons. People who say that there is no reason to take something are either lying, or are in desperate need of a little creativity, but in either case, it's the PEOPLE not the game that's at fault here.

What people are really saying behind these complaints is that a person should be able to take what they want AND WIN. That's a big difference, and it's also a much more narrow definition of what we're talking about, here. Plus, it seems more than a little strange. If a noob takes a bunch of heavy bolters and doesn't have enough anti-tank, and is sick of losing games, we tell him "well tough, get some anti-tank", but when a noob takes a bunch of pyrovores and doesn't have enough of other things, and is sick of losing games, we're supposed to say "Yeah, it's not your fault, 40k is a broken game".

A person building a low-power list should lose games more frequently against stronger lists. That's how 40k should work. The only way to get around this is to make it so that there ARE no low-power lists, which is how we get to the "all armies are the same" and "player choice is meaningless" things.

Also, people seem to be falling into the all-or-nothing camp. If a unit isn't quite as strong as another unit that does the same thing, then it's worthless. If you include even one low-power unit in your army, then you're just going to lose, because your list is worthless. It's almost like people are forgetting that we play a dice game, and that it's a game that has no player skill whatsoever. 40k isn't a game where you show up with your lists and by looking at the strength of them, see who wins without actually playing. Weaker lists beat stronger lists all the time thanks to good luck and better player skill.

And that's a good thing.

If you take off your "winning is the only thing that matter" goggles for a moment, why does it matter that any unit isn't as good as other units in a codex? Because some units are stronger than others, player skill no longer matters? Because some units are stronger than others, 40k is no longer a game whose outcome is determined by die rolls?

Appendix 4 - Alternative Player Types

I also wanted to take a moment to talk about another way of characterising 40k players other than the one presented in the essay. This uses the lens of the Bartle method.

Killers - There are certainly these kinds of players in 40k. It's not just a desire to remove your opponent's pieces from the board - this is a wargame after all - but rather the desire to hurt the player. Proper griefing. These players will likely demand that you allow use of their expansion rule sets (especially if you're not taking advantage of them yourself), and will find ways to abuse loopholes in rule interactions, and then denigrate everyone else as fluff-bunnies or casual-play-Nazis if anyone complains (they denigrate players off the table as well as on). They exist to win the game, but moreover to win as comprehensive as possible. To prevent you from doing as much as possible, and to just sit there complacently while he rolls dice and removes your miniatures from the table. You are there just to make him look good. These kinds of players are the scourge of many game and online community, and 40k is no more immune to their trolling than others.

Of course, the opposite side, that of "helpers" also exists plenty. One doesn't have to go further than a 40k forum to see people giving advice to others, and not just for their own benefit (appearing to look smart), but out of a genuine desire to be helpful.

Achievers - This comprises the bulk of "serious" 40k players. The point is to rack up as many wins as possible, with or without qualifications (such as winning while starting on a level playing field with their opponent). This type naturally has a love-hate relationship with 40k. The game offers a lot of chances to achieve things, but then seemingly purposely thwarts them with game imbalance and the random mechanic of the die rolls sometimes making things not work for them (failing to achieve a win just because of a few bad die rolls, for example).

They will also tend to search in vain for meaning from ranking methods like tournaments, or some other way of quantifying their increase in player skill. Unfortunately, 40k is very badly set up for this kind of player to find long-term fulfillment. Give it three months or three years, eventually this kind of player will flame out, likely an an apocalyptic blast of nerdrage over how "broken" 40k is in the process.

Socializers - Like with most games, the barrier of exclusion is pretty high with 40k. The game is a social game, which means, rather by definition, socializers are going to like 40k. Plus, there's all those internet forums and chat rooms where you get to talk about stuff. 40k is rich with material to converse about.

Explorers - 40k is a magical candyland for explorers. There is a HUGE number of units and options, and there are practically infinite number of ways in which you can combine it all. Endless finding out what works and what doesn't, and how well things work compared to other things, and different styles and modes and options. The best part is that the game slowly changes over time, which means even if it could, somehow, become stale, it doesn't because you get to re-think about things and re-work stuff over time. They are the most in-sync with the purpose of the game.

The only problem explorers will have is when other players do things to destroy their ability to explore and do things, and try things out.

I'd also like to make a passing note about the player styles in the essay. The way it is written is similar to the "five stages of a hunter" (clearly this must have been rattling around in the back of my mind when I wrote this). What is interesting is that among hunters, it is seen as a progression. If we applied it to 40k, then there would be the assumption that a person grows out of just wanting to win games, and then grows out of wanting to win the most prestigious games, etc. I've seen a very faint following to this idea, but it's not very wide-spread. Perhaps because 40k hasn't been around long enough (or because there aren't many people who are both hunters and hang out on 40k forums, perhaps).