Saturday, September 29, 2012
So 6ed has been out for awhile and I've been stewing on a number of hot topics. I'd eventually like to talk about the state of tournament 40k and all the hubbub regarding mission formats, the meta etc. First though I think its worth talking a bit about 40k's new catch phrase: Forging a Narrative
What is it about this phrase that makes us mock it so. I swear every game there's at least one time I'll say something silly like "Alright I'm gonna forge a narrative on yo ass". Its what all the hipsters are doing. I am sure there's some meme being created or already circulating.
I think we all recognize that this new rule set is trying desperately to inject this idea into every bit of the rule set. Our warlords are now pivotal in the success or failure of a given mission, whether we like it or not. Models can now jump out of buildings. Various units now slam into their opponents when they charge. The list goes on. All in all I think changes like the ones listed are quite good and seemingly in the name of helping forge a narrative. Despite this there are still rules that seem counter productive to creating a story while playing the game. Single characters tanking wounds for a blob of guardsman. The inability to assault when coming on from reserve. And it is these that seem to make mocking the new catch phrase all the more easier.
One of the obvious examples and something that annoys many to no end is the host of new randomness. The threat range of our assaults are now much more dependent on the roll of the dice. Endless dice rolls and cross referencing charts before a game can even begin. Numerous instances of Hail Mary options via Snap Fire and Overwatch that sometimes seem like more dice rolling for the sake of dice rolling. Why does GW seem so enamored with adding all this randomness? Surely we have enough probability generation to separate Warhammer from chess? I imagine they have pretty strong feelings that these new rolls makes for a fun game; an element that will keep people coming back for more. Yet it's this randomness that seems to generates a ton of ire, whether it's a particular unit like Possessed Chaos Space Marines (reviled by all) or 6ed rules like Warlord Traits (which often do jack all). Are the developers off their rocker and not in touch with their player base?
I think not.
Now I have to say I was (and still in many ways am) solidly in the camp of disliking randomness like warlord charts and psychic power generation. In fact it seems quite counter productive to forging a narrative. I mean one game my warlord with the dust of a thousand worlds is suddenly furiously charging into his enemies? Why not let me forge the narrative with my selections rather than having dice decide for me? Then one day, while considering all this and the ramifications for the missions I was working on for the Harvester, the reason became clear.
What is it that most any player will talk about regarding a game? Consider the discussions while people are waiting for pairings or results. The chatter at lunch during an event. The long drives home talking about the games. The small talk at game night when a particular game comes up. Inevitably there will be some crazy story of impossible happenings. Long stretches of failed 2+ saves. An unlikely wounding of a monstrous creature by lowly grots. A failed re-rollable morale check on a Death star unit, forced to run off the table via a lucky tank shock. It is in fact the random nature of our game and those unlikely but quite possible outliers that truly spark the real narrative being forged on the table top. I mean think about it, do you convey to your buddies the moments your units performed in a typical fashion? You roll six armor saves on your tactical squad and fail two, that's not something that sticks in your mind. Fail all six or pass twenty-four in a row and I bet you might even still recall the happening and the circumstances. I'd posit that it's from these outlying events that the real narrative is forged and it is why there are so many new ways in which to invoke them.
Consider also the suspense that is created with many of these new rolls. I know as well as any the anticipation of needing 6's to rend having ran genestealers for so long. It is without a doubt suspense that drives a narrative. Without it a story has no substance. So any additional way one can create suspense is going to help forge a narrative. Under that premise, those 6's to Overwatch are doing more then just making assault units weaker -- they are creating tension for both players! Even those damnable rolls on the psychic charts make more sense, where you are hoping for Invisibility and praying you get something better then Mental Fortitude.
So with this revelation in mind I will expand into other hot topics that interest me in the future. In particular missions and tournament gameplay formats and the upcoming Chaos Space Marine codex.
Till that time, God Luck and Good Speed.