Andrew here. So it's been a while, but here's a new blog post!
Well. The game of Warhammer Fantasy (WF) is dead and gone. It was been replaced by Age of Sigmar (AoS), and boy howdy has the internet exploded into something stupid, as usual. Right out of the starting gate we have already seen many "composition" packs (I hate them all!) and rules changes (oh you think you know better??) in an effort to introduce "balance", when in reality it's to change the game so that they feel better about their little worlds. My annoyance with the egotistical bent these all have shall be the topic of discussion today!
First up is the overweening need for "balance". I understand that a lack of a points system has left many in a lurch.
"How do I make armies without a points system??" is the constant complaint, and the answer is simple: Don't be a turd. Have a quick chat with the person (or people) you'll be playing with, and discuss how much you both want to throw down on the table. Do you both want to have a similar model count? Do epic characters matter? Does one side want to try a "last stand" scenario? The rules allow for that, what with the Sudden Death rules and the fact that you can pretty much deploy anything you want to.
"But what about the unfair game of I have three Bloodthirsters and my opponent has four Skaven Slaves?? As the daemons player I can choose a Sudden Death objective!"
Well, sure you can. But here's the thing: extreme scenarios like that will not happen, because either 1) Everything about that game is already such a massive douche-move that nobody in their right mind will play it, or 2) People will realize you're an epic asstard and you'll never get to play another game ever again.
So the solution for playing pick up games is to have a pleasant interaction with your opponent about what kind of game you both are looking for. Here's a shocker: you generally did this before when playing WF, and it'll continue to happen into AoS, because they are social contract games, just like any other tabletop game. If you're an amiable person, you'll get many games that end up being fairly balanced through self-regulation. If you're not such a person, well...don't let the door hit you on the way out.
Now, I understand that tournaments will run better with a set of rules governing what everyone can bring. This makes sense, because they are not all pickup games and you don't have time to set the social contract; the Tournament Organizer (TO) is the person for that. In this game, if you want to keep with the spirit of it, the way to go about this is not to limit what people can take, but how they make up their army.
One hard and fast way to do this is to simply say each army must be comprised of one or more Battalions (depending on how big you want the games to be). One Battalion for smaller games, two Battalions for medium, and so on. These provide a fluffy and limited set of units that must be used, and in addition provide a nice benefit for playing true to the fluff. Will some armies be outnumbered/outclassed? Sure, possibly, but that's what the Sudden Death rules are for if you're outnumbered enough. As well, making the scenarios/victory conditions accessible to all of the Battalions makes it so anybody can win, regardless of opponent, something that TO's often neglected during the reign of WF. If Battalions are too much for a TO (and, according to the internet, they're all broxenhaxxOTTlame), then it's perfectly permissible to come up with their own, but the key is to not go too far with it. Thus far, the best sets I've seen say something along the following:
- Must be entirely made up from a single Grand Alliance or Faction
- Minimum [x] models, maximum [x] wounds
- May take [x] Warscrolls, of which [a/b/c] may have the [d/e/f] keyword
- No named models can be repeated
And that's all you need. Restricting to a single Faction keep it "pure book balanced", having a minimum model count means all armies will have a decent chunk of models, and since you have a wounds ceiling, that means you can't just take all monsters/high wound value models. As well, you can have a limit on how many warscrolls a person can take, ensuring that they don't just take MSU, but make the ones they do have bigger. The last is obvious, because there is only one Settra, and Settra rules!
* * * * *
Now on to the second part of this post: rules changes. A great many players have taken an issue with the fact that some rules combinations allow dice rolls to automatically pass. I see absolutely no issue with this, because it's such a rare thing to happen. The most glaring example is having an automatic save, because if you have a 3+ save and you're in Cover with Mystic Shield up, the roll will automatically pass...unless you have Rending. Now, it's important to note that having a 3+ save, with +2 to the roll, does not mean the model now has a 1+ save; they still have a 3+ save, it's just that it can't fail without any negative modifiers. Therefore I'll happily ignore any rules that say a model can't get better than a 2+ save, because that's not an in-game possibility in the first place.
In most armies, there are only a couple models with a base 3+ save (and they're single model units like characters), and in most armies nearly 2/3 of the available units have some sort of Rending to counter that. Thus, realistically it is unfair to the person using a 3+ save model to be punished for it, by saying you can only get a max +1 to the roll for such models, and/or saying 1's always fail. In most cases the models are named/unique, and so you won't see many of them. The only real exception is, oddly, Wood Elves, specifically the Sylvaneth Treemen. Even then, most rules packs restrict how many monsters you can take, making it a non-issue again.
Know what else is great for countering those rarely-seen automatic saves? Mortal wounds! Every army has more than a few ways to cause mortal wounds. Reward your cunning opponent's automatic save by not giving him one at all! The concept of 1's always failing is a relic from the past WF that should not be carried over to AoS, just because someone gets whiny about it. The whiner is the person who isn't putting a modicum of thought into realizing there are many, many ways to counter automatic saves, and they shouldn't be given a pedestal to shout from and direct the future flow of AoS in its infancy.
In even fewer cases, perhaps 1-2 units in the entire game, can get automatic hits/wounds, and if so, good on that person for finding such a combo! Do your best to weather it with combos of your own. The concept of the automatic dice roll is a basic premise of the game, because Battleshock also has automatic passes, depending on the Bravery value and the number of dudes lost. If a rules set says that 1's always fail for attacks, saves, charge rolls, and so on, they must likewise say that 6's always fail for Battleshock tests, resulting in a dead dude or whatever. The key is consistency.
Personally, I always think it's best to just play the rules as written, because then there aren't any bullshit house rules you have to learn on the fly for pickup games. "Oh we don't play that way, we do this instead" often turns into "Well that's stupid, so I'm not playing that way" and then the game goes swiftly downhill.
However, if a TO feels the absolute need to change core rules to suit their preferences, then they must be consistent about it instead of cherry-picking. Examples as above (and counters):
- No save better than a 2+ (Read the rules again champ, there's no such thing)
- 1's always fail (These means only some automatic passes can fail; it's better to make it so that all automatic passes fail, such as Battleshock and other rolls)
These are bad rules; poorly thought out and terribly written. At best, a kneejerk reaction to a game they don't understand and have never actually played. Instead, what about:
- No changes
Because when you actually start playing the game, using Battalions, being good opponents to each other, the game is really quite fun and balanced.
* * * * *
In conclusion, my word of advice is play it before you change it. I've played more than a few games and witnessed just as many, and in all cases it's been a fun and action packed game with the rules as is. We put together fun armies to throw down against, and perceived imbalances are compensated for by the rules. Automatically saving wounds is great and all when I'm fighting the one unit in that game that can't hurt me, but then I just get shot by a Rending weapon and I die, or I take oodles of mortal wounds and I die. Once you try it as intended by the rules as written, it becomes extremely undesirable to play by badly designed rules changes.