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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

99 Problemz Biatch

no previewSo, I haven't exactly been writing as many articles of late.  I've received mostly positive feedback on the series, so thanks - and I've certainly got a lot of views, which earns me a slightly larger pittance, so thanks again.

Problem is, while I was initially exaggerating somewhat for the sake of the title, I really am finding more and more issues with the game the deeper I delve.

I've played a hell of a lot of 40k since I started in 1994, and I've had a hell of a lot of games I didn't enjoy in various ways, and even a bunch I didn't enjoy at all.  Some I didn't enjoy because I felt unable to compete with my opponent's army.  Some, I didn't enjoy because I felt my army was terrible, my plans ridonkulously bad, or my dice catastrophic.  Some, my opponents were just tools.  Almost all of them, however, had redeeming qualities that meant I didn't HATE the game, I just didn't enjoy it.  Those that did fall into that category were almost always the latter problem, sometimes combined with extra issues.

I am ready and willing, in the after-match analysis, to take a step back and blame myself for the failure to enjoy a game - perhaps my army wasn't as good as I thought, perhaps I used units with a stupid over-reliance on rolling average or better than average results, or perhaps I simply wasn't in the mood for the game, and played for others' benefit.  Whatever the issue, I'm okay with that.  I try to be as self-aware as I can, and that extends to toy soldiering pretty well - it delineates me from the passive-aggressive dickheads that flock to our hobby so.  I'm a totally different KIND of dickhead to them.

The point of all this is - me not enjoying 6th isn't my fault.  No, I don't go into the game wanting to play it the same way they do in Lenton - but that's not a fault of mine per se - it's a fault that the game system, unlike say 5th, isn't designed to be adaptable enough to play in different ways without taking massive chunks of rules out or rewriting them.

What a lot of people don't seem to get, and is practically instinctive knowledge to me, making it very difficult for me to try and explain (as I don't understand how it's possible to NOT understand) is that the essential design paradigms of 5th and 6th run counter to each other.

5th Edition was clearly modelled to be a faster paced, tournament ready (granted, nobody really used it straight for tournaments, but it was certainly plausible for small events, I played in some) and the base game required virtually nothing in the way of house rules or edits to play a stranger.  It had it's issues, most notably Wound Allocation rules that everyone hated, and Line of Sight rules that most people didn't understand sufficiently to recognise that Dreadnoughts are (as they have always been!) Vehicles, and thus don't have the (actually non-existent) 360-degree arc of sight that Infantry (don't) have.  There were flaws, and clarifications needed (Ram = Tank Shock!!!) but the game didn't need anything ripped out to improve speed, or to facilitate variant play, such as Planetstrike, Apocalypse, Spearhead, or just narrative and campaign gaming.  These different methods of play are equally valid to tournament play, in their own fashion, though I maintain that their inherently imbalanced nature makes them inferior in ways if played as GW describes, and that they are in fact much less popular than GW would have us believe.

6th Edition suffers from a case of the Mary Sues, where things feel tacked on (Chariots) changed for the sake of change (Dangerous Terrain being less dangerous) randomised for no real reason (Mysterious Objectives) time-consuming and awkward for large-scale engagements (Wound Pool, Look Out Sir, Selective Casualty Removal), not to mention immersion breaking (Look Out on Precision Shots, Challenges in a galaxy without honour, using Rhinos to screen the ENEMY from your OWN shooting to MINIMISE the people you kill!!! or the pathetic psuedo-fluff driven Allies chart.)

In order to play 6th as a pseudo-RPG, you have a whole bunch of disparate elements in place, which is great if that's the way you want to play - even down to the largely superfluous Warlord Traits system, that we all know will get 'accidentally' broken by the first 6e Codex having it's own chart(s) and superior abilities/superior odds of reasonable abilities.  You have the frankly bullshit mechanic of Warp Charge, to explain something that needed no change and is yet another change for its own sake - literally done, seemingly, to allow them to restrict non-Marines' access to Vortex of Doom (and a handful of other spells) despite deliberately putting that power in the BRB so that everyone could use's hardly like it's broken on a Jetbike Farseer when it's not broken on a Terminator Libby who can Deep Strike (pretty safely) within range even more reliably than the Jetseer can drive it.

6th is designed in such a way that in order for the bare minimum of competitiveness, you need to remove entire sections of rules, in addition to simply opting out of specific terrain features.  Some people (looking at you, Zob!) have an issue with 5e events not using Buildings, Roads and Rivers.  I disagree, on the premise that those rules were inherently unbalanced and potentially game-changing.  While the terrain changing the outcome of a battle is obviously an inherent possibility in the game anyway (and especially in a real battle) the TO has to act to minimise this within the base framework of the rules, by not including features that grant such a considerable advantage to one or more factions.

These terrain features still exist in 6th, of course, but things are worse.  With Fortifications being an integral part of the main rules, the rules for Buildings are now nearly impossible to avoid entirely - but that doesn't mean TOs should place them, as they are still imbalanced.  Rivers and Roads also grant buffs/implicit debuffs as before (actually, I haven't checked that Roads work the same, I'm assuming there, so hopefully I/we aren't made into donkeys by my lack of double-checking, I'm in a rush to finish the article...) and you now also have to avoid/remove Mysterious Terrain, Lethal Terrain - and of course Impassable Terrain is still something that requires strict controlling.

This Reserves thing that Stella pointed out the other day...I didn't notice that, much to my disappointment.  It's something that most will dismiss as a mistake, and sure, even professional writers make mistakes, we all do - but there has to be a point at which 'oh, well, they didn't mean it that way' stops being adequate defence for people PAID to write rules being SO systemically sloppy.  For me, that point was the Necron Codex - but I hoped 6th would turn it around.  From what I've read of it, the 8e WFB book was the best written for clarity and expression ever released by GW, but 6e isn't in the same league, despite a tangible effort to be.

I make mistakes too - I'm well aware of just how fallible the man typing this is - but if I type something in a blog post (something that's a hobby, not a vocation!) you can be fairly sure it's what I intend.  Especially if I ahve the opportunity to copy and paste from an earlier, correct, version of the same thing, and choose not to.

So, no, I don't hold that Rules As Intended has any meaning.  Anyone who takes ANY semblance of pride in their work gets it moderately correct first time and/or issues swift apologies and corrections when these things come to light.  If I got paid to blog, you could be damn sure I'd get it proof-read, too.  If I wrote a game system, I'd test it with people who didn't already play and have legacy issues, and I'd do it with literal-minded TCG players, because they express better how rules make them behave.  But then again, I CARE about the GAME, not just the hobby.

Sixth Edition is designed to be slowed down hugely, for unknown reasons, and they attempted to balance that out with making everything easier to kill, except your mightiest heroes (rawr!)  That's fine, in principle.  In practice, the way they've chosen to done it is merely time-consuming, awkward, and frustrating.  Over at The Back 40k (I'll edit links in later, cba now - I don't get paid for this, if I did, it'd be more professional) the Gravemind has been having similar seeming experiences to me, so I'll try to avoid being redundant - but yesterday I was shooting Deathwing Terninators and Belial.  I had cast Misfortune or whatever the spell is that makes them re-roll successful saves.  I had also cast Prescience on one of my Falcons (I ran 5, for lulz) so I was rolling to hit, rerolling misses, rolling to Wound (pity I hadn't Doom up, the number of times I failed 2+ to wounds...) he was rolling Look Out rolls (Belial was at the front) then rolling saves, then rerolling saves, then FnP rolls - and he had to do it one at a fucking time.  That's ok in a skirmish game, where you aren't trying to roll a bucket of dice through a funnel - but we were playing 2k, so we were doing exactly that.  When it takes longer to resolve a unit's shooting than it took to resolve my entire army's shooting in 5th, something is inherently wrong with the game system, not me.

So, after barely coherent rambling, I come to a meandering conclusion - I'm not really having fun playing 6th, thinking about 6th, or writing about 6th.  The articles are going to continue to be critical, where I can muster up enough interest to finish them.  This makes me sad, especially on the back of my most successful month of all time (by some margin, too) and I am growing to resent, more and more, how GW have made me feel about (formerly!) my favourite game system, by moving the goalposts to a different pitch in a different stadium, on a different continent, on a different planet, on a different plane of existence.  THAT is how far removed I feel from what this edition is trying to promote.  My less rational moments I almost feel as though I am being deliberately excluded - like GW had a read of the blog and determined I was not the type of person they wanted playing their game, and they should try to cut me out.

I know the likelihood if that is about a hundredth as likely as me winning the EuroMillions jackpot tomorrow night - but it's not a nice feeling to have.  I'm off to window shop Dystopian Wars fleets, so I can soon begin painting models I might enjoy using again.
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