Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Impact of Randomness

Hello people,

Today I am posting an article , somewhat different from what has been posted until now.  The difference comes from the credibility and/or objectivity of the following statement:

The new edition is degrading the competitive side of 40k by introducing progressively the prevalence of randomness.

Of course , this is just a hypothesis , and many people can easily say that a good player should rely little on the tides of luck. However, after playing a couple of games , I think that most people will realize that now,  there are more random things than what we were used to.

First of all, we now have the random psychic powers (henceforth p.p.)  from the main rulebook. These new powers are, for the most part, better that their older Codex counterparts. For example , Tyranids have the Catalyst p.p. that bestows the FNP rule upon a unit. The BRB has the Endurance p.p. which gives FNP+ Relentless+ IWND. The BRB p.p. is obviously much, much better but you have to risk the chance of getting it or not, or bring many psykers to the table.

Furthermore, the introduction of random charge distance had a tremendous impact on most melee  units and armies.  It does not only make it harder for a unit to get stuck into combat ( which gets even worse when you take into account the enemy Overwatch ) , but  it is also rendering obsolete the most fundamental idea of c.c. armies :  “ my force will suffer casualties for the first 2 or 3 turns but then they will certainly pay off by engaging in combat

In the new metagame, a close combat unit relies on its mobility, or Fleet in order to take minimum risk when charging. In case a unit misses its charge it will probably get shot to death, or the enemy will retreat and run. So , that change is making the assault phase the one most dependent on chance.

In addition to this, more random elements have made their appearance into our game. Mysterious Objectives , Mysterious Terrains , Random Artifacts , Warlord Traits…. they all seem to serve as a simple, fluffy addition to the main rules that can result in a more pleasant game with little surprises that may come along. On the contrary, when viewed through the spectrum of competitive gaming , these impish new features can cause headache and confusion.  I think there is no need to analyse that further because  I already see that most people don’t use any of these rules in their games anyway, and I strongly believe that in the near future it will become  commonplace to ignore these rules completely.

In case you don’t  find this article convincing , I will explain further why the new “random rules “ should raise a few eyebrows among the gaming community.

 Personally, I play 40k since the era of 4th edition. Back then , the game used to be much more rigid and objective ( or at least , that is the way I remember it ). There were very little parts of the game that had to do with luck ( except for the regular dice rolls ).There was no “ What you see is what you get” because buildings and terrains had the “ level “ system that used to be a definite answer whether you can see a model or not.

 In 5th edition , WYSIWYG  made quite a good impression at first (because people thought that it would make the game more realistic). But after a while, some smart-ass guys appeared , with models assembled and converted in a way that would give them a gaming advantage and even later , when people really got the hang of it, there were other people who would spend 15 minutes to deploy their Psyfleman dreadnought in a way that would provide the walker with cover, but not its target.
 However, people got used to it, after a while.

Today , in the early days of 6th edition, there is a wide array of new additions that come with the idea that “ it will make the game more realistic”. This time it is not a matter of “ model view” but is an attempt to actually give a new aspect to the game.

And thus we reach the quintessence of this whole argument:

Should the game become more realistic by adding elements that depend on chance?

The idea that a realistic game should be more fun is something that the gaming community always wanted. Most players would say that they would like to play a tabletop game that is a most precise simulation of what a large scale sci-fi battle would look like. This idea ,combined with the enthusiasm that accompanies films or videogames , is creating the impression that a tabletop game should be as detailed and complex as possible.
However , the main disadvantage of such ideas is obvious. The game is becoming more and more complex , time consuming and harder to learn and getting accustomed to it.
For young players, this means that they it will probably be easier for them to get introduced to a tabletop game full of fun elements , but actually it will be harder for them to stay in the hobby.
For more experienced players who only play for their enjoyment, this means that they will probably spend their afternoon playing a fun game that resembles real life, but will also take more time to get done with.
And finally, for the experienced players , complex rules also result in a game that takes more time to play, but also in a metagame that requires more effort for a good player to remain competitive.

 My personal belief is that a good player should have a specific view of the battlefield and a specific way to respond to any situation that may occur. This profile is the direct result of not only accumulated  experience, but also of a deeper understanding of the game itself. Much like professional chess players see their game as a finite result of moves and tactics, a competitive 40k player sees his game as a finite complex of movement distances , proper deployment and prediction.

However , when the game becomes more complex, and there are more things determined from a dice roll, then it gets progressively harder for a player to calculate all the possible scenarios. Of course a good player should rarely take luck into consideration, but he should definitely be fully aware of it.

And to finally put an end to my seemingly pointless ranting:

All things considered, anyone can say that despite the new random rules, most of them can either be ignored completely, or do not affect the game in such a great degree as this article would suggest. I am fully aware of it. Nonetheless, I can’t help it but point out that this could be just the tip of the iceberg. I am afraid that  GW is making their rules more and more based on randomness. And even if you now think that all this article is about a harmless new feature of the game, what would you say if I told that GW actually wants to undermine the prevalence of the competitive aspect of our game, in favor of  a more plain and accessible way of gaming? 

Stefanos Kapetanakis, out.

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