Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why do Space Wolves dominate tournaments? Becasue of tournament organizers.

Tournament Organizers are letting Space Wolves win. 

As you can see by the comments below on the other post where I wanted people's opinions on why they thought the Space Wolves are dominating tournaments there were a lot of answers why. Not only do they do MSU well with a lot of razorsbacks combined with good assault units, and then add in Logan, Thunderwolves, some of the best anti-psycher abilities, and 4 HQ units means that they and a tough army to face. Normally armies can either shoot, assault or do a little bit of both, but the Space Wolves can do everything so well that they are able to out shoot most armies, and out assault most armies at the same time.

So almost everyone is in agreement that the Space Wolves are on the top as far as powerful codexs go, so what do tournament organizer do to balance out the armies? They make the Space Wolves even better!

Instead of making minor changes to their tournaments to help balance out the codexes, they do just the opposite and play right into the Space Wolves hands. They are enabling all of these Space Wolf armies and creating a format that rewards them and punishes other armies.

For Example:

Reason #1:Missions

A) Objectives

If you look at the rulebook they have missions that have 3-5 objectives and one that has 2. Do you know how many troops you need to win one of those games? One! Tournament missions love to have 5 objectives, and they reward you with the more objectives that you can hold. Do you know what that does? It heavily favors MSU armies. They also favor armies that have a lot of small troops that can cover a lot of ground and hold multiple objectives. As any Tau player will tell you, all troops are not created equal, and those with bad troops, or fragile troops struggle when you make armies hold a lot of objectives all over the board. In theory you should average 4 objectives, and you should be able to place them where you want to. That way if you do play a small elite army, you can group the objectives together to increase the likelihood that you can control more than one with your army build. I read that one blogger suggest placing objectives in the middle of each table quarter and one in the middle of the table. If you think about it, there are several armies that would struggle with this because they have a few large troop units, but those armies that are MSU can easily take and hold multiple objectives.

B) leaving out kill points.

After the Nova Open there was much discussion about VPs vs. KPs. I think Redbeard on DakkaDakka summed it up this way:

Seize Ground (3-5 Objectives) favors MSU armies

Annihilation Missions (KP) favor small elite (deathstar) armies

Capture and Control (2 Objectives) favors neither.

If you use a combination of all of these missions together you balance out the game with all of the different codexes and army builds. On the other hand if you have VPs instead of KP they both favor MSU armies and they will dominate the tournament. If you look and MVBrant's breakdown of the armies at the Nova Open you will see that the worst Space Wolf player went 2-2 and Chaos went 11-21. Chaos is still a good codexs (although with limited builds), but they do not do MSU very well while Space Wolves do. Chaos has a few troop options and some other nice tricks, but they can't be everywhere and do everything like the new codexes can. 

There is no reason to handicap those armies that do not need any handicapping by hurting armies that are small and elite, while helping out the MSU armies. This is one of the reason why I think that Blood Angels did not do as well as their older MEQ cousins is because they have very expensive units and they operate as an elite force and the lack of KP missions in exchange for VP missions hurt them. For example, you shoot down one Stormraven there is 200 VPs right there. Do you know how hard it is to get 200 VPs from a Razorback spam Space Wolf army? 

War Game Con/Bolscon did not have any KP missions as well, and the upcoming Battle for Salvation has one VP missions and one KP mission. It will be interesting to see how the MSU armies do in the KP missions, but it is one of the later games and I would imagine that MSU armies will just be facing up against other MSU armies and the game will go to the player who wins the dice roll to go first.

Speaking of the dice roll to go first deciding who will win…

Reason #2: Terrain

This is one that people do not even think about anymore. Everyone thinks some terrain that obscures vehicles is ok these days, and that they play in mostly open table tops where nothing blocks LOS. The problem I think is that we have started to get use to this since 4th edition was so long ago.

Let's go back to 4th edition and see what terrain they had. Hills were certain levels and most where level 3 terrain that blocked LOS to anything behind it no matter how tall the hill really was. Forests completely blocked LOS to anything behind them as well. So what you had were several pieces of terrain that you could hide almost an entire army with or at least a lot of important units that you did not want to die on the first turn. Since you did not know who was going first, you had to set up both offensively and defensively so you would not get crippled on the first turn.

Now let's go to 5th edition and we are using the same forest that we used in 4th edition, but they no longer block LOS or rarely even obscure vehicles. We are using the same hills, but they do not block LOS to any large vehicles. I have only played on a couple of tables in all of my tournaments where you could hide a Land Raider or a Defiler but in 4th edition all of the tables had some place where you could place them without fear of them getting shot at.

The deployment rules have changed in 5th edition where the player who goes first sets up and then the player who goes second gets to react to that placement. That is suppose to mitigate the advantage of going first, but when you can't hide anything from your opponent's fire, there is nothing you can do to prevent them having a huge advantage. Sure you can start your army in reserve, but that is only good for a very few armies, and the fact that you do not know which units you are getting, and that you are coming on piecemeal is a recipe for disaster for most armies. 

So this gives Alpha strike armies a huge advantage. You go first you can cripple your opponent's army and almost insure a win. Go second and you are still have a good chance of winning unless you are facing another Alpha strike army. This also means that static shooting units are undercosted like Long Fangs and Lootaz. They have the inherent disadvantage of being immobile and static and you should be able to use terrain to hide behind, and to neutralize their tremendous firepower. When you are playing on a board with no LOS blocking terrain, there is no place to hide from these types of units and they dominate the game. When you have 15 missile launchers that can fire at 6 targets you can figure out how that is going to go for you.

If you use the tools available, tournaments should be much more balanced affairs, and there would be no need to have comp.  but with TOs making it even easier for the best build to win they are destroying them. If you have read some Battle Reports out of Nova Open or War Games Con everyone is playing Space Wolves and Blood Angels. I do not know about you, but I like facing a variety of armies and players, and I do not want to play the same armies again over, and over. I can stay home and do that.  

What do you think?


  1. To be honest, if Tournament Organisers start making changes to the way in which terrain is set up, and what missions are played, just to disable the effectiveness of Space Wolves, you're in serious trouble here.

    The fact is, these Tournaments, just like regular games, are not set up to allow the Space Wolf player have a clear advantage. The fact is, it's an issue with the codex in relation to others. It works tremendously well as a 5th Edition Codex, while other armies, who were written for 4th Edition struggle to keep up.

    That's where the issue lies, it has nothing to do with Tournament Organisers at all. Just my 2 cents :)

  2. I think Space Wolves and Blood Angels are winning tourneys because they are the most powerful codices. They are the strongest primarily because of codex creep.

    At our tournaments we always use book missions and every tourney has a cap/control mission and a KP mission (we don't use VP's at all). Space Wolves won our last tourney, Blood Angels also won one of them, and has had a good showing since the new codex was released.

    It's a small sample size that doesn't mean much, but I don't think mission manipulation is why the new MEQ's are winning, it's because GW made them just plain good.

  3. I believe the most important factor you hit on is terrain. Playing a 5th edition game on 4th edition terrain really does not help a lot of the codices. If you have the proper mix (that the BRB recommmends) of 1/3 LOS Blocking Terrain, 1/3 LOS impeding terrain, and 1/3 cover terrain, you would see a different balance of armies winning.

    Take for example the ETC, you saw several of the older codices doing just fine and I believe it was because they actually included True LOS blocking terrain.

  4. Let me try to sum up what I was saying:

    There is no doubt in my mind that the Space Wolf codex is the most powerful codex out there, and with everything being equal and they could win a lot of tournaments.

    But what tournament organizers are doing is exacerbating the problem by instituting rules that they do not have to that hurts other codexes, and plays right into the Space Wolves strengths.

  5. As far as terrain goes...

    This post is a spinoff of a much larger post of what is wrong with tournaments, and I think that terrain in one of them.

    The terrain topic came about from talking to the ETC members and what they saw over in Europe about the amount of LOS blocking terrain. Here in America we just have inadequate amount of terrain. I remember when 5th edition first came out everyone said that they have to make more terrain since the game moved to TLOS, but looking at it now, we are still playing on 4th edition terrain setups. That was fine for 4th edition, but totally inadequate for 5th.

    The guys who went to play at the ETC commented on how a lot of LOS blocking terrain makes some armies that are bad/mediocre into decent armies. For example the one that was mentioned was Demons of Chaos. With a lot of true LOS blocking terrain they do a lot better than they do without it. With it they can deep strike behind terrain and hide from shooting unlike here where they are forced into Bloodcrushers being the only winning build because they have to stand up to so much fire when they first drop down.

  6. I hate to beat a dead horse, but here in Canada we don't seem to have this problem. At Astronomi-con Vancouver, pretty much the highlight of the 40K year here in Vancouver, Space Wolves didn't win, Blood Angels didn't win. Imperial Guard finished first overall and Orks won Best General.

    If you want to improve your tournaments and encourage people to take a wider variety of armies, first thing I'd do is drop the points. Down South people seem obsessed with cramming as many models onto as small of table as possible. Of course there is no place to hide them from 10 missile launchers or whatever.

    Small points games force people to make harder decisions on what to bring and what to leave at home.

    Secondly I'd enforce fully painted and full WYSIWYG, it makes the game look better, but it also discourages people from building gimmick armies or extreme armies as they have to put real work and effort into their army. People who put real work and effort into their armies tend to use units and models just because they look cool or they are fun, not because they currently have some killer rule advantages.

    Rules come and go, models once painted always look good, and can always be used for something.

    The big rule book only has three missions but the Battle Manual or whatever GW called it has 30 more. Plus you just make up your own missions. The more missions the more unexpected challenges. Sure some missions aren't fair, that's the way war is, it isn't fair.

    Suck it up buttercup.

    So to try and sum up smaller armies or bigger tables. Fully painted and converted to cut down on gimmick of the moment armies. More than three simple missions, plus probably a lot more terrain than is used by the average person and voila.

    Or at least you'd see more variety of armies and more variety of winners.

  7. Poor mission design can handicap some armies while benefiting others. Stelek actually went into detail explaining why the NOVA Open missions were balanced in his opinions.

    Was something along the lines of: Objectives are good for MSU while Table Quarters are good for Deathstar styled units.

    And terrain seems to be an issue wherever you go.


  8. Another thing I have noticed with Space Wolves lists is that it isn't hard for the older players to recycle their miniatures.

    There wasn't a need to make massive changes with current miniatures with the possible exception of spamming Missile Launchers on your Long Fangs.


  9. MoD as far as post #1 goes, Stelek is wrong. Those missions highly favor his army. Deathstar armies have trouble taking table quarters because at the end of the game they have only a few units left, and it is hard to get them were you want them, and hold multiple table quarters at the same time, while MSU armies can just throw a unit or two into all 4 table quarters and win or at least tie. I posted more about it on his blog here:

    When you have a dominate codex everyone shifts to that army do to the codex creep. You can use every MEQ army to represent another one. At the finals of the Nova open they had a blue crimson fist army playing as blood angels vs. a red chaos space marine army that was played as space wolves.

    Since these conversions are easy to switch any army to a SW or BA army, that is all you are going to see these days at tournaments. Especially when they post their missions ahead of time that are begging people to play SW.

  10. Terrain is a larger issue for the success and failure of armies then we here in the States realize. Again the ability to deny shooting in sections of the board is key to the limiting of alpha strike armies, which you see a lot now with Razor spamming and chimera spamming. I can see some of the mission design heavily favoring armies with Good or in the case of wolves great troops. At the heart of the problem is the main unbalancing factor of the wolves dex, the Grey hunter has two many attacks for its point cost.

  11. ABSOLUTELY 110% agree on the terrain comments. The TLOS rules, while instituted in 5th I feel more for the game fluff folks - removed a huge component of generalship (the maneuver for advantage piece)from the game. Consequently you see the shift to shooty armies from HTH or balanced units. Think the impact there is highly over-looked.

    Missions are missions - good generals will figure out how to win (or not) regardless.

    I think we have the highest level of codex balance we've seen in some time. Marines, Wolves, BA's, Guard, Orks, and I will even say Eldar - are all capable lists.

  12. I am very much in favor of kp over vp. Vp favors MSU.


  13. Allan this is by far one of your best articles. I've very impressed and couldn't have said it any better even if I tried. Hats off to you man. I want to see more articles like this one!


  14. Before the advent of the Cheese Wolf Codex, we (scgwl) were firmly in the VP camp because KP rediculously favored the deathstar armies. This was, of course, before some of the silly MSU builds became viable with the introduction of the Wolves (Guard had some that revolved around infantry blobs) codex. Its probably the biggest metagame shift in the game since meltaguns replaced ACs at the spam weapon de jour. As it is now, you have to look at every mission and consider how easily a Wolf (or even Guard) army will abuse it.

    Our solution (not a perfect one) is to keep the objective vs kill mission ratio intact, but to de-emphasize the need for troops. Really the biggest imbalance of the Wolves (and guard) is that their basic troops are at once so versitile and so hyper efficient for their points. Most other army books (especially xenos books) are stuck with useless fodder that generally just ends up trying to hide in a corner (or transport) trying not to die all game, waiting for a turn 5 swoop. So, in most (but not all) objectives, we let anything claim objectives, provided its not a dedicated transport. Again, not perfect, but it at leasts encourages some army variety without having a heavy comp system in place, which no one wants.

  15. Excellent article. More terrain! Every TO or store owner should invest in a hot wire foam cutter and a couple sheets of 1" or 2" insulation foam. Hills which actually block LOS and break up the board are easy, cheap, and quick to make.

    Redbeard's breakdown re: the mission objectives was also excellent.