Post LVO ITC Thoughts
Hey everyone, it's been a while since I spoke about a game that I've played for nearly 20 years, good ol' Warhammer 40k. I hadn't planned on attending the LVO, but due to some last minute change in travel plans, I ended up going anyhow! I didn't play in any games and spent most of my time enjoying Las Vegas, but being there and seeing the event from the outside, I had some crazy ideas. Right now, a segment of people aren't enjoying competitive 40k like they used to, sadly myself included. Rather than just complain about what I don't like, I'd much rather be constructive. I don't want to change the core mechanics of 40k, I like the approach that the ITC used to deliver, fix the game through the scenario format. I think that the ITC scenarios represent a lot of passion and dedication to making 40k the best game it can possibly be, so this isn't a criticism of their efforts, instead though it's an extension of the great work they've already done.
One thing I noticed watching the games at the LVO was that many of them didn't come to natural conclusions. Even the final match of the event didn't end with the roll of a dice, but with hitting the time limit, and nobody was slow playing! Many of the games being played now are with armies that have over 2000+ points between Battle Companies, War Convocations, and plain ol' summoning, it's not uncommon to have 5000 points on the table between both sides. I don't agree with the solution of banning those things, but something has to be done so that games finish in a reasonable amount of time.
1500 points, plain and simple. Playing smaller games is pretty much the only way to solve the problem, things like turn timers favor more elite armies, and have issues because both players roll dice on any given turn. Lowering the point values of the game wont ban any existing armies, you can still play War Convocations and Battle Companies, but you will not be able to afford all the extra toys that you used to. It will tone down some of the power combos, and make Death Stars a bit more risky since they'll have far less support units to score objectives. Of any change to the ITC system, this would be the most profound to the meta, but also help the game the most.
Right now, in ITC format games the player who goes first is the same player that deploys first, as is typical in 40k, but the problem is that going first isn't always the best option! A lot of armies capitalize on going second, as in ITC scenarios the maelstrom objectives are scored at the end of the second players turn, as are the primary mission objectives at the end of the game. If your army is built for going second, then deploying second doubles the advantage, the current roll off method is only fair assuming that the player who goes first WANTS to go first.
The solution is simple, and well proven in Infinity. The winner of the roll off can pick either Turn order or Deployment order. If you're playing an army that wants to go first, you'll still get stuck with deploying first, as is appropriate, but if you're playing an army that wants to go second *cough* Eldar *cough* then your opponent can still stick you with deploying first! This balances out the dice roll to put the player who gets their say on turn-order at a deployment disadvantage (though null-deployment is still a valid strategy).
I'll be honest, I enjoy Maelstrom missions with cards more than any other scenario at the moment. I know this isn't the case for everyone, but I think having an adaptable army is good for the game. The biggest complaint about Maelstrom seems to be around it being too random, and often times you're left with objectives that you cannot score. Additionally, the ITC Maelstrom objectives often feel kind of boring, none of them are interesting or characterful, instead they're just about killing enemies, which you were going to do anyhow, and claiming some objectives, or pseudo line-breaker, the cards that come with the game however are far more interesting and diverse, so there must be some sort of middle ground.
Borrowing from another tournament format, Adepticon has a Maelstrom event where players build their deck of cards before the game. Using their idea, each player builds a deck of 21 Maelstrom cards, either from the standard or Warlord's faction pack, to use during the game. If you don't have any psykers, no worry, you can choose to not use the card in your deck! This has the added benefit of gaming your deck for the meta, or picking the strengths that your army has. This would also require placing 6 objectives (or 3 if you treat the cards like D3's, so claiming #5 actually means #3), and if the scenario came with a deployment map including the position of the objectives (like Infinity), it would could speed up pre-game deployment a bit. The scenarios could even have some with 6 and some with 3, to balance the difference between fast and slow armies between scenarios.
Overall, I still think 40k can be a great game, but I think that the tournament format that we are all using could use a little help. By tweaking a few things we can address some of the bigger issues with ITC, without doing a total overhaul. I would love to get excited about 40k again and having events with smaller armies that can't necessarily bring everything and the kitchen sink, would make the games quicker and more fun to play.
I did miss a bit of the hectic, stressful chaos of playing 6 games over 2 days, but instead I was able to enjoy the sights and sounds of Las Vegas, including firing off a handful of fully automatic weapons at one of the many local firing ranges. Woo!
Photos by the notoriously tasty, TastyTaste.