Looking through the Nicon lists over the weekend, there has been a real shift in the game meta.
Putting aside the Athel Loren House Party for the moment, the lists of a lot of the participants are characterised by a nod to points denial than has been seen in the NZ game previously.
What do I mean by Points Denial?
Effectively, it is concentrating the points into a limited number of units so that unless your opponent destroys that unit there is only a limited size loss that you can take.
For instance, look at my Skaven. My Screaming Bell unit contains two characters and a sizeable core unit and tips the scales at 871 points. Given it is Unbreakable and well warded it is very hard to destroy. To get its points takes awhile and I do my best to ensure that my opponents have to invest an awful lot of resource to get it. Therefore they need to make a decision early to commit to taking it out or concentrate on my other units.
However, in terms of Nicon, such a concentration of resources is not unusual. On the blog on Friday, I noted in the comments section the growing phenomena.
One of the Warriors of Chaos lists has 2000 points invested in three units of Chaos Warriors & Chosen. Checking the Vampire lists it is even more pronounced. One of the two lists running the Black Knight "bus" variant has the potential to concentrate 1800 points in a single knight unit while the other uses two knight units to corral 1700+ points. Even the Ogres are starting to get in on the act; there is potential for one of the builds to concentrate 6 characters into a 16 Ogre Bull unit and have it weigh in at 1700 points.
Now this is not a criticism of the tactic - how can it be I use it myself - rather it is an observation of how the game is changing. Last year Mal Patel used the tactic with his Lizardmen "Fun Bus" and was very successful, rising to New Zealand's #1 ranked player while winning multiple events.
Two of the last three books - Ogres and Vampire Counts - actively support the build and I'll be surprised if we don't see other armies look at the build throughout the year. Dark Elves, for instance, can construct their "Death Star" with Cold One Knights and characters as a lot of the Europeans have been doing lately e.g. Danes at last year's ETC, more recently Ben Curry in UK.
So what will it mean here?
I'm not sure. It could lead to much tighter games in local events where the battle is focused on harvesting "support units".
I'm hoping that it stops the move to put restrictions on "Big Magic" which is the natural defence against the Death Star. Giving characters "Look Out Sirs", restricting Mindrazor attacks etc just encourages the concentration of points into units. Personally I think there has to be a downside to Points Denial builds - yes even Skaven and Ogres - and that is in part the susceptibility to "Big Magic".
Looking forward to NiCon. I think this move in the meta is fascinating.