This is something I’ve been thinking about ever since I started clambering back onto the old 40k warhorse maybe six months ago. I’ve been lurking on hoary old forums and certain disreputable mega-blogs, as they were the best places to get news and community discussion about 8th edition once that ball was rolling. Needless to say, the tone of these places is generally not as positive as on your smaller nicer blogs like this one.
To be honest I’ve noticed a bit of edition fatigue in the air. Or perhaps edition rage is a better term. People get angry, sometimes quite angry, when models they relied upon in previous editions to kick ass suddenly aren’t quite so effective. They rail at Games Workshop for changing things up and “making” them buy new things. I’ve been playing this bloody game on an off for like a quarter of a century now, so I thought maybe I should do my bit and help out with this. Even if it’s likely that the only people who will read this already agree with me. Maybe somewhere, someone who needs help will see this and save themselves hundreds of dollars and a lot of needless stress.
So here it is, the magical secret to making your army edition proof, forever, in two easy steps:
STEP ONE: STOP TRYING TO WIN IN THE “LIST-BUILDING PHASE.”
STEP TWO: THERE IS NO STEP TWO.
So I’m not just going to leave you hanging with that blindingly obvious pearl of wisdom. Let me unpack it a bit.
First of all, the reason I scare-quoted “list-building phase” is because I don’t think it should be a thing, at all. List building shouldn’t be considered a legitimate phase of the game by the community. The idea that it’s a phase as much as any other isn’t self-evident, nor does it even have a long pedigree. “List-building phase” is a neologism from around maybe 2009, if I remember rightly. To be sure, list-building can be a fun activity in a nerdy sense, tweaking and calculating and forecasting. I like to vacillate over whether my sarge should have a power sword or plasma pistol (or both – how outrageous!) as much as the next guy. But thinking about what is most likely to win, and then buying those models with like, real money and using them, isn’t an inevitable part of playing the game; it’s just choosing to play the game on easy mode. And ooohhh boy will it cost you in the end. Assuming you want to play for more than one edition.
Planning your collection for literally any reason other than “this will win more easily” will edition-proof your army. It will also provide you with a different set of challenges besides “am I smart enough to read a set of rules and then work out how to win?” Which to me is a boring challenge, but each to their own.
Speaking of which, if you are a person whose favourite way to approach the game is to work out what will win, buy it, and then er… use it to win, then I have two suggestions for you.
The first is play something with less of an opportunity cost, like Magic. I mean it’s just common sense. Assuming that you have disposable income, why would you fork out lots of it every few years for super-complicated models that you then have to build, and maybe even paint, only to have to sell them or pack them away in storage when their effectiveness is arbitrarily (or not so arbitrarily) altered? Games Workshop is, in fact, trolling you my good fellow. They make stacks of money I’m sure from “masters of the list-building phase.”
My second suggestion is, stop f-ing complaining about it! Seriously. If that’s how you choose to approach the game, recognise that there are costs involved and that the company would have to be stupid not to change things up every edition just to get your money. Pay to win is how it is these days with lots of games, and 40k is one of them. They hope you’ll pay to win, and you know they’ll make you pay, so either don’t do what they want you to do, or stop snarling about it. Don’t think of it like they swindled you (which is seriously how I’ve seen some people interpret it): think of it like you’re paying them for the pleasure of having a temporary advantage over someone who isn’t willing to pay. You’re paying to play on easy mode.
Some people might doubt that what I’ve said will in fact edition proof your army. I mean, there are no guarantees. But I can pretty much guarantee that it will. Games Workshop makes most of their money selling models. It’s in their interest to keep models around for as long as they can, and also in their interest to keep elements of strong visual branding active. You’re not going to see an edition change decree that Space Marines suddenly don’t have bolt guns, or Ork Boyz no longer have choppas. What you might see is something like grav-guns going from amazing to mediocre. Or Sanctioned Psykers going from poor performers to being must-haves in multiples to back to mediocre. Trust me, I saw that one with my own eyes. To continue with Astra Militarum as an example, it’s no co-incidence that Leman Russ Battle Tanks are not as strong as they have often been in the past. Clearly everyone who wants them already has heaps of them, and GW wants to emphasise something else like oh I don’t know, the suddenly amazing Scions. When sales of Scions slow down and it’s evident that everyone who wants them has enough of them, then the edition after that I predict their effectiveness will be diminished and something else will be improved. I just… it just seems obvious to me. So when people bitch about it I kind of just want to facepalm and close my laptop.
Of course it’s OK to try and build a list to win a bit. I’m just saying that if your sole or even main aim when you build a list is to make one that wins easily, don’t come crying to the internet when a year later something changes, your easy mode is deactivated, and you “have to” buy more models.
I think I’ve explained enough. But the rule is good. Use it if you are wise. Comments and discussion welcome as always.