Sunday, 25 April 2010

Force Organization Chart - The Theme Killer.




By Atrotos

In 4th edition Warhammer 40,000 it wasn't uncommon to find an army consisting of two bare minimum Troop selections and maxed-out Elites and Heavy Support slots. Today we usually see a healthy amount of Troop selections due to the fact that 5th edition is objective-centric and many would seem to agree that the issue of negligible FOC restrictions has been successfully overcome. However another question arises now that Troops ares so critical to the game. Namely "why does Brother Casor hold an objective where the venerable Brother Autolochus can not?"


In 4th edition Troops were meant to represent the bulk of any army. Thus it made sense that a conventional Space Marine Chapter relied on Tactical squads to secure gained territory whereas the Deathwing, being of a different Organization, relied on its Terminators to do the heavy lifting. 


This mentality worked well in 4th ed. but was mercilessly circumvented to the point of near irrelevance. Now 5th ed. has forced the gamer's hand, pushing Troops choices as a necessary inclusion not for FOC's sake but for the sake of Capture and Control. But the Force Organization Chart was never meant to be used this way. There is no clear reason as to why an Imperial Guard army can't rely on Storm Troopers to stick around when the Inquisition can. In a skirmish level conflict is there any logic to assigning occupation roles to certain squads and not to others? 


One might argue that the roles of certain units is widely different. The Vanguard are linebreakers incapable of protracted engagements ergo they cannot babysit an objective for a long period of time. In reality, however the conflicts we act out on the tabletop last no more than a few minutes; a few rounds fired, 50 meters or so of movement, and a seconds-long close quarters fight or two. Any real objective taking is made after the events featured in the game take place.


It's obvious that the designers at GW Headquarters took this route to establish a kind of balance in terms of unit variety and power. 'Scoring' is a mechanism meant to persuade players to build more heterogeneous forces and not simply max out on powerful units. In this GW has been largely successful, but at what price?


Setting HQ choices aside, Troops currently represent your only options for units that you can build an entire army out of while still being both FOC-legal and competitive in terms of your ability to score. If you wish to build an army with a theme (that is, with the representation of a particular homogeneous force in mind) you must select a Troops choice to do it with.  If it is not a Troops choice you may not build a themed force from it. No Legion of the Damned host, no Obliterator Cult, no IG Cavalry force, no abhuman muster, no Gargoyle swarm, No Harlequin Dance Crew etc. 


So many possible themes are rendered impossible by the current FOC. Moreover, units that might have seen action if they were Troop-equivalent (IG Storm Troopers, Grey Knight Teleporter Squad, Ogryn) are never taken due to the opportunity cost in terms of better, 'scoring' choices. We, the players are denied endless variety at the whim of GW's codex designers. Secondary to this problem, but  still significant, is the issue that not all Troops options have the same tactical capability and flexibility. Nob Bikers are far superior to Tau Fire Warriors the former being able to fulfill a combat role effectively whilst the latter is mostly a burden on the force, a liability that must be protected in order to capture objectives. 


The solution to this issue is not immediately obvious. If you scrap the FOC altogether what will happen? Well you'd likely see every Space Marine army filled to the brim with Thunder Hammer/Storm Shield Terminators and little else. Leman Russ variants would choke the tabletop to be countered by a herd of Deamon Princes. Waves of Seer Council members would clash with a veritable fleet of Land Raiders. Therefore, some moderation is clearly needed because not all units are costed with unlimited access in mind. 


I would suggest making an upgrade or HQ character or entry for each Elite and Heavy Support slot that would make each entry a Troops choice. This might differ from the above situation in that the player may trade FOC entries based on his or her selections. I imagine an Imperial Guard player selecting a Command Tank thus making Leman Russes a Troops choice. This however, would mean that a Company Command Squad became unavailable. Likewise a Space Marine player wishing to field Terminators as Troops might only be able to do so by "buying" the option thus adding a premium to his army's cost. 


Just as some armies would be restricted others might be encouraged by points-breaks such as can be found in Warmachine themed force cards. One example might be "If more than 3 Ogryn quads are taken the cost is reduced to XX pts per model." 


Such a system would, no doubt, lead to a different kind of power gaming. This, however, would be the result of poor points attribution to begin with. Thus you would see few Chaos Spawn themed armies but not because of the removed FOC. Rather this would be the product of poor unit entry design. 


Alternatively you might reassess the idea of 'Scoring' as a concept. By removing it completely (allowing all units to score), removing the FOC, and re-balancing points costs with a view to discounting themed armies you might end up with more canon-realistic forces. These forces would be more unique and more satisfying to collect for their uniqueness. 


I believe a radical reinvention of the FOC could see this hobby take a turn for the better. With a greater variety of options for army builders strategies are sure to diversify and the game could gain greater depth overnight. In addition so much more of the fluff will see the tabletop as players will be free to express their ideas through their armies with greater precision. 

What do you guys think?

3 comments:

Atrotos said...

This is a great solution. It means players don't *have* to take Troops but there's a very good reason to do so. A killpoint discount would be appropriate too.

Atrotos said...

This is my favorite solution so far. It's too bad it would take such a codex overhaul to install.

Anonymous said...

This is very true, I had a pure deathwing army under edition 3 rules, near perfect.
The the changes happened.
Instantly I could not use my squads as they combined both cc and long range together.
Also I could no longer use Asmondai WTF.

So years of buying stuff means nothing, I could rebuild but I worked out ti would cost me another £108.

For that I could buy two new starter armies