Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Attraction of 8th Edition - A Triumph of Variables Over Efficiency?

I believe in market efficiency.

What this means is that there is always a most efficient choice for a given set of circumstances. In gaming this means that for set points value, set scenarios and set terrain densities you will have a most efficient list selection. This is then overlaid by the potential opponents you may face, both human and army choice.

It’s not an easy calculation given the nature of the variables.

In late 7th Edition I felt things got a bit easier as events moved to a standard size (typically 2250 points around here), the Pitched Battle Scenario and a typical tournament table with two hills and two woods. On top of this four books emerged as superior to the rest of the field – Daemons of Chaos, Dark Elves, Vampire Counts and Lizardmen.

In the UK which had a large number of no comp events, these four armies dominated tournament numbers and more importantly dominated the top tables. Very quickly army selection became very standardised as the most efficient army for the given variables was distilled from the army book. As each new book was released this might require some recalibration but the “market” quickly adjusted.

What did this mean? Little variation and importantly a drift to the stronger books.

Places like Australasia were a little more insulated as they had another variable – the use of Composition. However if the system stayed static too long then the variability decreased.

So where am I going?

Well one of the reasons I have enjoyed 8th Ed is that everything was thrown up in the air. Suddenly a new variable was introduced – new rules. This meant that everything you knew previously may have been a lie! Looking at Skaven for instance, previously fantastic choices like Censer Bearers and Doomwheels weren’t so great anymore.

However it wasn’t just the core new rules though these were radical – Steadfast, Winds of Magic, new Battle Magic Lores etc – it was also the ancillaries – new Terrain rules and Scenarios.

Some people don’t like all the variables…especially the scenarios which can really hurt those that like certainty. However I see it differently. To me they are opportunities to test yourself. Want an army with only four units? Well you better have a plan to deal with poor rolls in Dawn Attack and Meeting Engagement! You’ll commonly hear “I got shafted by the scenario” but really what they should be saying is “I ignored possible outcomes when I built my list and then I lucked out”.

To me a lot of people don’t think “What’s my Plan B if shit happens?”

And this to me is the beauty of 8th. It creates more viable armies because there are more variables.

Over time market efficiency may win out but by having more variables I think this is likely to be a more tortuous process and in the end tournaments become less about list building and being able to navigate a known set of variables and more about your ability to think on your feet and adapt to changing circumstances.

I think that this was borne out just a little at the UK Masters where when you got together a group of strong players, a balanced rather than gimmicky army won out.

I can’t wait until March when we get Orcs & Goblins and things change again.