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Blood Vow

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Friday, October 09, 2015

Errata, FAQs and external rule changes



It's your friendly neighborhood Black Blow Fly here to pontificate on a hot topic and discuss the game some so love to hate.

We all know that everybody has an opinion and advice is often seemingly free but as you'll come to find - good or bad - there is always an actual cost if you should decide to follow it. No two people will ever see eye to eye on everything so often we must seek a middle ground and make a compromise. If a compromise cannot be reached this can directly lead to unpleasant consequences but then again sometimes the best course of action is to hold your ground.

There is an art to knowing when to compromise and when not to - as many factors are involved, sometimes external, and no two things are ever exactly the same.

NOTE: Everything I present here within this article is based upon my own opinion unless otherwise stated.


The Definitions

I am here today to discuss errata, FAQs and what I think is good customer service - I'll start with a definition for each one:

plural noun: errata

• an error in printing or writing
• a list of corrected errors appended to the rulebook or a codex, or published in a subsequent issue of rules


Frequently Asked Questions

• a list of common questions and answers relating to a particular subject, especially one giving basic information for users
• clarifications to frequently asked questions related to a specific topic (i.e., rules)

Ideally only the manufacturer should be responsible for providing these which comes to the final definition...

Customer Service
• the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services

My real life job is to provide customer service for after sales support. I know that how you treat your customers can and will make or break you. The ideal is to provide excellent support so that customer is totally satisfied and fully understands your answers to their questions - sometimes it requires days or even weeks of diligent work to meet the customer requirements.

Of course when providing customer service you must be able to properly differentiate between what is a reasonable request and what is not knowing that no one will fault you for going above and beyond the expected standard. The standard is to meet the minimum set of requirements. I always try to go above and beyond whenever possible but within reason. The worst thing you can do is to not answer the question or leave the customer in a state of even more confusion.


Paging Games Workshop - No One's Home...

The Standard
In regards to Games Workshop we are often lacking much if any expectation in regards to their support in terms of producing adequate errata and answering frequently asked questions which imposes a dilemma for all of us. More often than not we are left having to take this task upon ourselves. If a third party can provide this for us there is a tendency to accept it since we are dissolved of taking responsibility and it can cover the needs of a large area providing a common set available and readily accessible to most everyone in that area. This is so often the case as Games Workshop has divorced themselves from this part of their job requirement. Case in point they have released several codices in a row now with absolutely no follow up in regards to errata or any answers to FAQ.

The Line

I refer to the line as a boundary clearly delineating what is acceptable and what is not whenever a third party offers us their own standard - in this particular situation to fill a void. Some will say something is better than nothing but that is not always the case.

My own philosophy is to take a conservative stance; that is any answer should:

• clearly address the question(s)
• have the least impact on the rules
• not change the intent of the rules

Ideally a conservative approach does not gain anyone an unintended advantage or saddle anyone with an unintended disadvantage.

A good example of the conservative approach is to rule that Space Marines cannot summons daemons since the interactive IBook version of the codex does not list the Malefic set of psychic powers for the Daemonology lore.

The first point goes back to meeting the minimum set of standards while the second two define the boundary of what is acceptable, which leads directly to the subject of rules as written (RAW) and rules as intended (RAI).


The Problem with Playing God

Black December
Black December is a term I coined following the release of Escalation and Stronghold Assault. Games Workshop literally threw these two tomes over the proverbial fence with no forewarning following after the release of sixth edition - the direct effect was to cause wide spread panic what would happen to the game - the consequence was it provided license for some within the community to proclaim what was needed to avoid imminent disaster... Which in turn lead to many suggestions such as modifying the ally matrix and other big game changers.

In a perfect world Games Workshop should have released seventh edition hand in hand with these including a proper explanation how all this would impact the game.

The two should never be confused with each other. The RAW approach is purely literal while RAI attempts to tell us what was intended. RAW can break down if a rule in question is ambiguous then we can opt to use the RAI as best possible ideally using the most conservative approach. If a rule is written such that it is simple to understand then there is no need to use RAI.

An excellent example is the re rollable save. Chaos Daemons is one codex that leads to a case where a unit can have a re rollable 2++ invulnerable save which is extremely powerful in terms of the game. It was theorized by some that this was unintended by Games Workshop during sixth edition because they think it is too powerful. A direct counter to this theory is the new Ravenwing rule which clearly tells us a unit with this special rule can re roll their jink (cover) save... This is the RAW.

In regards to Chaos Daemons I think the re rollable invulnerable save was intended since it is still possible via the Malefic set of psychic powers for Daemonology released with the seventh edition ruleset - the combination of the Grimorie of True Names (3++ since daemons have a natural 5++) coupled with the psychic power Cursed Earth (+1) cast on a Teentch unit provides the means of obtaining a 2++ re rollable save since they can re roll 1s for any saves allowed.

The combination of Eldar and Dark Eldar also affords a 2++ re rollable save by casting the Eldar psychic power Fortune on a Dark Eldar Archon (note its wargear the Shadowfield grants a 2++ invulnerable save) which is still the case moving from sixth edition to seventh... If it was not intended these rules could have been modified and this is just my opinion.

So to modify these types of saves is clearly changing the intent of the rules.

Now I'll address my opinion on what has become en vogue...

Rules Manipulation to Restore Balance
I remember back in earlier editions to the current ruleset armies such Draigowing and Nob Bikers. Many claimed they were literally unbeatable but over time competitive gamers developed tactics to thwart these armies. It seems that is no longer the case - the new approach is to modify a rule(s) to nerf some exotic army lists after they win a major competitive event.

A great example is the army list I featured in an interview with the NOVA champion in my last article here at BoLS. The exclusion of super heavy walkers and gargantuan monstrous creatures from the event removed a natural counter (i.e., Stomp) thus gaining the deathstar an advantage outside the actual ruleset. While I am not absolutely opposed to banning certain units we must accept the fact that this can lead to a drastic effect on the meta for said event. Another solution would be to not ban these units so as to let the games play out to their natural conclusions for wit evidence is readily available.


Why Not Embrace the Rules GW Gave Us?

Conclusion - Playing 40k Straight Out of the Actual Rules (SOAR)
Every time a rule is modified it can lead to unintended consequences and this can upset the balance of the game. If a rule is modified then it should be done as meticulously as possible and this requires a lot of research and hard work. Using a poll to justify a modification to a rule does not meet these requirements as the final results are based upon the gathered opinions of those that opt to participate in the poll. There's no way to say whether or not a poll is in line with all those who'll be affected - which can and does sometimes lead to unfair results. Also who's to really say if everybody who participated responded objectively or subjectively? You really can't. Certainly some will respond with their own self interests in mind in terms of making it easier to win by removing obstacles from the game for them.

As stated above it's easier to modify a rule so as to nerf an army or unit rather than work with the actual rules to develop viable counter strategies or tactics. After having given it much thought I think it's best to play the game straight out of the rulebook with the one exception of Unbound armies for competitive play.

Rather than modify rules, missions can be properly designed to provide better balance for the meta which requires a lot of thought and play testing to get them right. An example would be requiring a unit to hold an objective for two consecutive turns in order to control it - this mechanic prevents fast units from easily scoring the last turn of the game when going second. Even with random game length often at a tournament the last turn is known due to limits on the time allowed to complete a match.

If you are more of a casual player it's your choice whom you choose to play and the game is easily self regulated. If you are more of a competitive player whom often attends tournaments then you have to accept things for what they are and learn how to properly adapt.

What type of player you are is strictly your choice - it's your money, time and effort so why would you let anyone outside of Games Workshop development dictate how you can play?

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