Thursday, 5 December 2013

Standard Burner: Bunker Assault and Escalation

I wanted to have a column which could be off topic as it were from whatever I would be currently writing about. So behold, Standard Burner.

One of my former favourite columns in White dwarf was Jervis Johnsons Standard Bearer. You see the problem with it was that he seems to regurgitate the same old stuff on a two year cycle which becomes more wishy washy as time goes by. It used to be really good, but that was such a long time ago and it really irks me with all the constant “you see,” just like formula one drivers have a love for “for sure,” used in such a way that means grammatical gibberish.


Bunker Assault and Escalation are hitting the shelves which for tournament organiser’s and players alike it brings questions. For a start as tournament players we are trying to shoe horn a beer and pretzels game into a competitive format. I’m not fond of this statement as the principle aim of a tournament is to bring players together to play games, but by nature requires a system to differentiate the results of each game which creates winners and losers as a by-product.  This in turn brings the discussions about time length, mission scoring systems, allies, forgeworld and so on.

This is where these two additions will raise their ugly heads as they are not ‘optional’ rules sets as such. One of the initial discussions we had for Octoberfest this year was about codex supplements and whether to allow them. We ruled that the book had to be available as both android and Ipad versions  although we had initially thought about being a hardback only option. With fortifications some events have started to ban the sky shield pad or fortress of redemption. As a TO these both have to have rule sets written into the pack or FAQ to accommodate them. I don’t like cherry picking some items over others so a whole book on fortifications is going to be a fun one.

“Do I not like that,” Grahame ‘the turnip’ Taylor

Having the option of a single super heavy in the army may make divide opinion initially but think what the possibility of a D weapon has on the meta. Bye bye screamer council, jet seer and beast council. As D weapons ignore both cover and invulnerable saves it does not matter so much about going first or second. Want to kill that Farsight bomb in one shot, (at least cripple it to a few models), no problem, bring out the D strength apocalypse blast. Screamer player has got up fortune and the grimoire? They will have to spread out a lot to avoid mass destruction.

The easy option is too ban the escalation book or armies taking lords of war but then some events, even the GT, allow forgeworld units with the 40K approved stamp. One of the complaints about the tournament circuit these days is that there is no standard template for events. Some allow forge world, others do not and points limits and number of games varies wildly from 1500, 1650, 1750 to 1850points. On the other hand this is nice as it means there is a lot of variation so each event has a different appeal. Will there be a blanket ban or will TOs just allow it to shake it all up a bit?

A lot depends on the units in the book and how it interfaces with allies and the weapon options available. I binned my 5th edition apocalypse book recently and had no intention of buying a highly overpriced 6th edition one which I would not use. It will be interesting to see what is in it and whether it could alter the meta if allowed in a tournament. As stated in the recent white dwarf it does offer a tactical problem to have a lord of war in you army at a points value of 1500 to 2000 points. It is going to sap about a third to a half of your points, which is a bit like a deathstar in comparison, but possibly a bit more vulnerable depending on the number of hull points and armour value of the unit.

Of course there is the fortification book with the aquila strong point armed with macro cannon and seven vortex missiles. Ban it? Easy in theory but the more you start to pick and choose the more you become an amateur games designer. This is the pitfall of designing tournament packs and attempting to keep it as close to the core rules as possible is always the aim but with all these supplements and options available it could start to make the tournament  scene become a  tournament game, a bit like in the US with the mult mission games plus kill points and all sorts thrown in. It starts to move away from how the game was initially designed to be played. Only certain rule sets and army books allowed. Everyone seems to be allowing supplements in one way or another so should these two books be allowed?

“Opinions are like arseholes, everybody’s got one.” Dirty Harry, Sudden Impact.

At time of writing, (I have not got my hands on a copy of either at this point) and without any useful insight from the latest white dwarf, I would say yes to it. Why? Anything that shakes up the meta and the 2+ re-rollable invulnerable saves is a good thing. You can play round these sorts of lists by playing the mission in most cases  and they do have their weaknesses but giving them something else to consider which would smash them off the table even with their tricks all up to speed is good for the game and variation. I also do not like to have limits on what you can and cannot take imposed on a player outside of what the game legally allows. Comping only creates it own meta after all and is never even handed.

The tournament pack meeting for Octoberfest 2012 was a very taut affair as the allies debate was in full swing at the time. The interesting one about it was that you had both competitive and fluff players, (we do actually allow them into meetings believe it or not), were equally drawn straight down the middle in regards to yes or no with allies. Much in the same way the far right and far left agree on some polices but from different ideological stand points. Fluff and competitive said yes and and some fluff and competitive said no. I feel these two books will have a similar reaction and similar spread in the community.

A super heavy will probably be easier to kill than a deathstar unit although potentially cheaper in most cases but will still have drawbacks to the rest of the list design. Personally I am all in favour of using cool big toys. After all my favourite thing about 40K is tanks and vehicles which the current rule set has nerfed a bit. All the fortifications in the book are in the current available range with additional builds of them but when was the last time you saw a fortress of redemption in a competitive list or even at a tournament? Octoberfest and Mayhem do allow for it but in the four events during sixth edition no one has brought one along. What you spend in one place is forgone somewhere else. I do not feel a massive expenditure in fortifications is a good idea as you need bums on seats, well the table at least.

So you see, I say bring it on. Lets have an option for something big on wheels, tracks or legs. If you feel really inclined you can also hide it behind a massive wall system with gun turrets and what have you. For sure you will have less infantry on the table but that’s all part of the balancing act and rich tapestry of 40K. Will some events ban them, probably. Will some allow them, most likely. Will the internet and podcasts be full of nerd rage, most definitely.


  1. Refreshing and thoughtful post!

    I agree with your general points on comp - I'm not a fan for the good reasons you go through above. It would be great to have a standard 40k format for competitive tournaments (doesn't matter so much for casual or hobby events).

    I'm personally really looking forward to what all the new options (including formations, dataslates, FW as standard) will allow. I say give people a chance to try them out! The game will evolve and people will adapt. Sounds good to me!

  2. My thoughts too. It would be great for a standard format but there are too many variables in the game for army selection for that to realistically happen

  3. We've been discussing Super heavies already, i was most interested by people who play 30k who said the Lord of War slot isn't actually that bad. And at first glance actually i don't think you will HAVE to have a lord of war unit to win a game of 40k, itll change the meta a bit, but frankly who cares?

    Dataslates are a different issue.

  4. I agree it's unlikely to happen, as much as I would like it to, but for another reason. MTG has a highly organised and standardized tournament scene, even its own pro-circuit, but has managed this whilst having a truly massive flexibility in army (deck) design. What they do have though is centralised leadership from the game makers and widely accepted game formats.

    We don't have this for 40k. Perhaps the closest alternative format being NOVA? Getting everyone to agree even on what 'standard' 40k seems to be a challenge!

  5. I'm not keen on nova style formats that are played in the states. My only grip with it is that it is a different style of game due to having two missions plus secondary objectives. Its radically different from playing straight out of the rule which evenmayhem events adhere to the strustructure albeit with a different scoring system.

    Having a standardised tournament format would result in a hybrid game, like nova format, which compared to playing a normal pick up game would be like the difference between rugby union and rugby league. Same basic rules but totally different games.

    TOs and their respective committees will always build a pack around their own game experiences and ideologies so it is unlikely we will go back to a standard tournament format like in 3rd edition.

  6. Great article, Im looking forward to the discussions for Mayhem, and also finding out what DoG II will be doing. Personally, I am with you - both should be allowed. It will be great to see the variations in armies.
    On the subject of Dataslates, I'm not sure. I have always been in the corner of "what is used at a tournament should be available to anyone and everyone." I doubt that the dataslates will be available as hard copy - so is that an unfair disadvantage to players without tablet and mobile devices that can access digital content? I believe so

  7. It begs the question about should we penalise the many for the sake of a few. The dataslates are a bit silly and I would provisionally say no but I would now opt for any supplement or codex that is available in all digital media to be allowed rathet than just printed versions only.

  8. While dataslates wont be available as a hardcover until they start doing compendiums, they are available to anyone with a device that can use the internet, which nowadays is pretty much everyone.

  9. I agree completely. How many people were nerd raging over flyers when they first came out and they don't seem to have broken the game, if you bring a lot of flyers and the other person has a lot of interceptor or something that delays your reserves you're screwed. I think these expansions will balance themselves nicely and like you say I'm looking forward to losing the dominance of 2++ in every game.

    I think the main problem with comping an event is that it will inevitably be geared towards balancing the clubs local meta rather than the game as a whole. Leading to units that get abused in the club getting heavily comped and others that don't get played being ignored. Fine for local events but not if you want to involve people from outside your meta.

    Great article, cheers.

  10. A very good read, thanks Ian. Having now read the escalation book, the super heavy options are a bit hit and miss. For imperial guard players there are loads of 'blade variants, but marines get access to the thunderhawk. Same as chaos only get the mighty morphing skull tractor. The stand out is the transcendent c'tan - a 'small' gargantuan creature with a suite of powerful abilities. 'Wave of withering' will see them flopping the D all over the place.

  11. How about the results of this survey. They seem to be reflective of what many think at the moment. However the 2+ reroll rule seems like it might help with the sillyness of the dominance of that issue.