Thursday, 22 May 2014

That's F***ing TEEEEEAMWOOOOOOORK - Allies in Warhammer 40,000

Today's Allies Are Tomorrow's Enemies

With the upcoming arrival of a new version of Warhammer 40,000 much discussion is being had on what exactly will change.  A big talking point is the rules for allies: a concept missing from the past few editions but controversially reintroduced into 6th Edition.  Most people seem to want some sort of tweaking to the concept -whether it's minor "change who allies with who" or major "completely change how it works" - because as written it's got a lot of oddities. 

There's a big conflict here between more casual players and tournament players - are allies a fluffy way to make flavourful armies or are they are a gateway to broken combinations?  Would the rules work with gentleman's agreements and minor tweaks or would the game be better without them?

Leaked scans from the latest White Dwarf show a revised version of the ally table and scuttlebutt abounds on exactly what this means at the table for this rule.  So today's question is: can I write an article about that which is interesting both to the 40K nerds and the non-40K nerds that read this? 


Now, before we begin, let's briefly look at the ally matrix for 6th ed.  When building ana rmy, you must have a "Primary Detatchment" who are your main army.  You get a few slots for your "Allied Detachment" which can be one of the viable options on this grid: any army not a red square is allowed.

This fan-made chart expands the official one by including material released in various supplements.

The non-red colours indicate the level of alliance possible.  Red is Come The Apocalypse and represents armies who are so opposed in outlook & goal that they wouldn't work together in normal circumstnaces.  Yellow and Blue are Allies of Convenience and Desperate Allies respectively - your armies can fight alongside these armies but they aren't best buds and there's some limits to what the allies can do on the table.  (Crucially it's the Primary Detatchment who must win the game, as they alone can score poitns by capturing objectives.)

Grey is the best possible, "Battle Brothers", and effectively a Battle Brothers ally counts as being part of the same army as the primary during the game.  This means you can score with units from the Allied Detatchment, and units from one treat the other as friendly enough to switch characters, special rules etc as they would do with allies in their own army.  For some people this is the biggest problem with the existing rules, because the really potent combos often involve sticking a psychic power or special rule normally not available to an army in via allies.

Tau, a vaguely Asian battlesuit-heavy army, are considered a particularly dangerous combination when allied with the space-elf Eldar whom they can be Battle Brothers with.

For others, the problem was the specific arrangement on the grid, which biases towards certain armies while ignoring certain canon combinations.  Certainly, the various different human armies have many Battle Brothers/Allies of Convenience combinations with each other while the xenos & chaos forces are far worse served - only one human army has less than 5 Battle Brothers, while no non-human army has more than 3.  (And that's including allying with yourself.  Yes, for slightly odd game reasons that is a valid option sometimes.)    In particular, three Xeno races can't ally with anyone as Battle Brothers but themselves - Necrons, Orks and Tyranids. 

This makes story sense - the human factions are more likely to work together, and indeed are usually portrayed as being deployed in unison - but it puts the humans at a notable advantage being able to more easilly cover each others weaknesses without any of the drawbacks of lesser kinds of ally.  The lot of the Orks, Eldar or Chaos is much more limited.  When Battle Brothers allies are so much better, it's rare to see desperate allies on the table, no matter how cool you might think an Imperial Knight mini-titan is.

Gotta love the Tech-Priests

However, the story logic of why some people can and can't ally is not always great.  The poor ol' Tyranids, the Giger-Aliens-esque army, literally can't ally with anyone else but themselves, even though in story they have previously been mentioned as employing mind-controlled cultists at certain stages.  The demon-hunting Grey Knights are apparently more willing to work with aliens than normal Space Marines.... but less likely to work with other humans.  The Dark Eldar and Eldar are on surprisingly good terms with each other on that table despite, you know, minor cultural differences

Perhaps more infamously are the Necrons and Blood Angels - that's robotic undead Terminator robots and Space Marine guardians of humanity - who have a single stupid story that shows them allied together which much of the fanbase hate but the ally table makes it possible, to much internet teeth-gnashing.

Matt Ward is a Games Workshop author.  He is.... controversial.
For some context: I have considered using some Imperial Guard allies for my Chaos Space Marines but have yet to try it in play.  The one thing I did want to get as an ally is an Imperial Knight..... which is currently not a viable option.  If I ever get around to my Squat idea, I would probably use Imperial Guard with Space Marine allies to play it to best duplicate the units the old Squats had.  I have played a few armies with armies and it's never been more tear-inducing than the worst games I've played with mono-army lists.

Anyway..... The 7th ed leak shows a new ally table.  The rumour mill also suggests the ally rules are different - in particular suggesting that Comes The Apocalypse no longer means "no allying" but "seriously limited" allying.  That would mean even without table changes allies would work differently - every combination would be possible, even if they weren't mechanically great.  But the table itself isn't quite the same as before.

From the latest White Dwarf.  Including mentioning THE GODDAMN NECRON STORY EVERYONE HATES WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY *cough* I'm fine.
The big changes include shrinking the table down by lumping all the "Armies of the Imperium" (that is, human armies) together.  This gets rid of the odd granulation where some human armies did not ally together very well..... but non-human armies which could ally differently with Imperial armies get swizzed a bit.  Imperial Guard used to be able to be Allies of Convenience with Chaos Daemons, Chaos Space Marines, Orks and Tau for various fluff-coherent reasons but now Come the Apocalypse for all bar the Tau, a big drop in effectiveness.

Unfortunately, the "humans all ally together" thing gets worse since they are now all Battle Brothers with each other.  Unless Battle Brothers isn't quite as good as before, or Allies of Convenience got better, that still offers so many more options to human players wheres Chaos Daemons or Necrons might as well forget about the whole thing. 

There do seem to be some addressing of complaints - Eldar/Tau has been demoted to Allies of Convenience, and if they really have made Come the Apocalypse more lenient then it's a better deal for some armies like Tau or Chaos Daemons who had few possible options.  I'm not convinced it's going to be big enough for the people who hate allies, though, of which a lot more the tournament-type serious business gamers are.

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