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Happy Tau Day everyone!

Pie on a holiday is pretty awesome. 2π on a holiday is f***ing fantastic. For those of you who don’t know, it’s 6/28, aka the 4/20 for people who understand all the math/physics references on Big Bang Theory. Tau Day is literally twice as nerdy as Pi Day (3/14). Before you ask, yes I came up with those jokes myself. I am that good.

Different kind of Tau.

If you actually read that BBC article that I linked above, which I will link again because it’s kind of important to help me make my point and it’s a very convenient segue, it’s plain to see that we’re a pretty ridiculous species. Not only do we make terrible jokes, we like to fight about completely ridiculous shit.

What’s amazing is the ‘conversion experience’: people find themselves almost violently angry at pi. They feel like they’ve been lied to their whole lives, so it’s amazing how many people express their displeasure with pi in the strongest possible terms – often involving profanity.

-Dr. Hartl, PhD in something that I can only assume is impressive and difficult to understand.

Take Tau Day for example. I can’t say that I have ever witnessed anybody spewing all kinds of vitriol over the 2π vs. τ debate, but apparently some guy with a PhD in the UK has. Vitriol is sulfuric acid btw. I didn’t know for sure what it was in the literal sense so I just looked it up. It also means especially bitter and cruel criticism. Closer to home, we like to argue about equally inane topics such as “Should dice matter in a dice game?” The Internets were visibly sagging under the combined weight of all the nerd rage yesterday, and I wanted to throw my phone down an open elevator shaft just to stop all the push notifications I was getting on Facebook. It just wouldn’t stop!

While I can’t be bothered to actually read all the posts — and I did try, as people arguing on the Internet can be incredibly amusing to watch sometimes — it does tie into a number of important discussions that have been coming up lately: the idea that people could actually be playing 40k wrong and the rumors for 6th edition.

The first point is something that I came across when reading a bunch of blog posts about terrain setup in tournaments. This seemed like a good thing to read up on, seeing as how there’s a big local tournament happening in a couple of days that I may have mentioned once or twice before. Still time to register btw, we’ll try to squeeze you in even though 40k is pretty close to sold out.

Back to 40k for a moment. The theory goes that 40k might not actually be as bad as people say it is in terms of balance and whatnot. Sure, some armies will always do certain things better (or cheaper, or both!) than others. But at the end of the day, many of the builds that take the most flak are SAD armies — Shooty Armies of Death. Most people who have played a number of 40k tournaments have played against (or at least witnessed) one such army. Whether it’s Space Wolf missile launcher spam, a parking lot of tanks or a bunch of outflanking Vets in Vendettas, there are armies out there that can lay down a ridiculous amount of firepower. It’s worth asking though, what makes these guys so good?

  1. The alpha strike factor. This term, which I learned in MechWarrior instruction manuals back in the day, simply refers to blowing a massive load on your opponent at long range as soon as the fight begins. If you go first, you can hopefully cripple them in the first shot and the rest of the fight is just a formality.
  2. Tournament scenery (or lack thereof). When people complain about scenery at an event, it’s often the Planet Bowling Ball reference, where there’s simply 24 square feet of unobstructed LOS. Fighting a list with 20 missile launchers sucks when there’s no goddamn cover saves anywhere.
  3. Sprinters vs. marathon runners. Getting off to an early lead is a big deal, especially in a time limited event. If you’re playing with something like footslogging Nids/Orks, you need to get deep into the game to have a chance at winning. Shooting armies try to get off to a quick start and hang on for dear life as the survivors creep ever closer to charge distance.

There are of course other factors at play for certain lists, ie. banking on the metagame not being able to deal with a wall of AV12+ vehicles, or whatever. But these are the ones that might be entirely preventable. Playing on a table with adequate scenery, including both LOS blockers and area terrain, can make a huge difference. Playing a full game instead of just playing for 90 minutes is a huge deal for horde armies that often struggle to get their phases done quickly (just ask Nathan about his Tyranids).

Many of these things have occurred to me separately over time, but when you combine them all together, it shows you one really disappointing thing: A crapton of competitive 40k players are banking on the inadequacies of tournament organizers to help them win their games. TO’s who are aware of this can hopefully stock tables with enough scenery to make things fair, provide enough time for games to be played out in their entirety and write scenarios that don’t favor one type of army over another too badly. In a very strange way, this gives me hope for 40k as a game, even if I can’t always trust 40k gamers to be looking out for their fellow man/alien/robot with a skull for a face.

The other thing I wanted to talk about was the list of 6th edition rumors. I don’t want to get into too much detail, check out BOLS if you want that, but holy crap does this remind me a lot of the changes from 7th to 8th edition Fantasy! This is more or less the same topic that exploded on Facebook lately. Squad Leader based rules (which remind me of musicians and Swift Reforms etc.), revamping terrain rules (yet again), adding tiered USR’s (FNP1/2/3 just like there’s MR1/2/3 and Killing Blow/Heroic Killing Blow in Fantasy), etc.

Will it be fun? Will it be tactical? Will the rules be sleek or full of unnecessary charts and graphs? Who the hell knows!

Some of it sounds good, some of it makes no Goddamn sense. Bidding points (ie. voluntarily taking a smaller army) to increase your chances of getting first turn? Does that make sense to anybody?

I’m pretty sure that most of this stuff simply won’t pan out. It’s way too far away for the rumors to be very accurate. Either way, I think they did a great job of writing a more watertight ruleset for 8th edition, one which closed a bunch of loopholes and “fixed” a couple of armies which were too far above or below the pack. And, more importantly, it’s a lot of fun again. Some people don’t like the impact on tactics or certain parts of the game (ie. flanking not breaking Steadfast), which is fine since nobody can tell you that you’re wrong for not enjoying something, but I think the majority of the changes were very positive and that gives me hope for 40k.

There is some stuff I really want to see, such as terrain rules that make sense (finally). I would love to see 5+ cover saves be more common and I would love to see some unique terrain effects along the lines of Arcane Ruins or whatever the hell from Fantasy. They don’t need to be game-changing necessarily, but some small tweaks that make sense such as a prometheum processing plant maybe not being the safest place to hide. Depending on exactly how cover/to-hit modifiers work, it’s hard to speculate on how unique terrain types could function but I think 40k desperately needs some of this for variety’s sake. The 40k universe is so incredibly rich and interesting, and currently it’s all boiled down to 4+ cover and difficult/dangerous terrain. You can do better than that, GW!

Considering how well terrain works in Fantasy, I’m very excited to see what they come up with for 40k. I would be happy if cover granted a to-hit modifier for BS-based weapons and a cover save for templates. It just makes so much sense to me. Models with good armor should see some benefit from cover regardless of what they’re being shot with. That just makes sense to me, but maybe I’m way out to lunch.

I’d much rather see them balance out vehicles and transports, rather than introduce this Brace/Evade/Overwatch/Advance/Surge/etc. It all just sounds… incredibly clunky. Personally I’d be pretty happy if glancing hits could kill a tank on a 6 and if they implemented the 6/8/10″ movement rates depending on your unit type. Why make things more complicated than that if you don’t have to?

Forgive me for all this unfounded speculation, but the point I’m just trying to get across is that you could probably make a few minor changes to 40k and make some big differences in how the game plays. I definitely trust GW to make these kinds of changes, given the direction Fantasy is headed. The main rulebook was brilliant and the new style army books really got rid of the dreaded Codex Creep.

And just a side note about the rumor schedule… if the BOLS release schedule is to be believed, the Tau could be the last army book to come out under 5th edition. Tau Day celebrations in 2012 could be very short-lived depending on how that transition goes 😦

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3 comments on “Happy Tau Day everyone!

  1. Another great article there Dan! Though for the life of me I dont know how you managed to resist putting up a pic of the violated pie from American Pie just after the quote.

    “What’s amazing is the ‘conversion experience’: people find themselves almost violently angry at pi. They feel like they’ve been lied to their whole lives, so it’s amazing how many people express their displeasure with pi in the strongest possible terms – often involving profanity.”

    I agree with your terrain theory. Simply conforming to the BRB requirement of 25% coverage makes all the difference in the game. If you do end up playing on Planet bowling ball as you say the shooty armies get all the advantages.

  2. I think that’s why I’m such a big proponant of 25% minimum terrain with a decent mix of LOS blocking and LOS obscuring terrain and at LEAST 2 hours at 1500 points for 40K.

    The result is a lot of lingering players but also players who get to FINISH games.

    Things like random game length only really matter if you allot enough time for players actually see and finish turn 7.

  3. That problem is precisely why I moved my Tyranids to an all deep striking reserves based list. I can be in your face the turn I come out and you only get 1 turn of shooting at me in the open instead of 3+.

    Effective unless you got boned by your Reserves rolls. Or relied on Zoanthropes to accomplish something.

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