WARHAMMER 40k's BALANCE PROBLEM, and why it's so hard to solve!
Warhammer 40k is not a very balanced game, and it’s a subject of constant argument, complaints and division from the community, despite Games Workshop’s constant updates and FAQs that try to address it. In this video, I take a look at why.
VarianceHammer’s post ► https://variancehammer.com/2018/06/04/how-would-nasa-balance-40k/
James M Hewett AMA ► https://www.reddit.com/r/Warhammer/comments/7k1tp0/comment/drb3ixe/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share&context=3
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The game is hard to balance purely because as the game evolves around an edition. New codecs are completely rewritten with a set of armies around a certain time. Like tau and nids, votann
It's interesting. The last time I played 40k would have been probably 1998 or 1999. I don't remember these discussions of balance or competition really ever coming up. Maybe it's because I was a teenager and there was no internet – but even playing in GW stores with adults it seemed to be more narrative and fun based. Where there competitions back then?
The issues are not that heavy bolters are good against orcs on a long table. The issue is that codexes are often hugely mathematically out of whack at a very basic level.
The problem is marines are a bit too tough at baseline and effectively create an arms race to see what factions can kill marines. If they toned marines down early on and/or gave other factions rank and file more options to deal with them early on in the editions it would be much easier to balance. Work it out mathematically so that a unit of guard, guardians, orks or whatever will kill the same number of points as a marine would when shooting at them and you'll instantly have a better game. Right now troops of non marine factions get turned to vapour by marines and do little damage in return unless they start including special units. Then the edition arms race starts. I mean, in 40k the universe, they'd know about marines, they'd know they're going to face them so armies would include a lot of AP on their troops
The idea that a game based on random number generation (dice) and that is turn based (!) Is going to be balanced is naive. Because even IF it is perfectly balanced , it will always feel random.
Thats why "competitive 40k" is a silly idea when the games outcome is 80% luck and 20% your own decisions. Thats just trying to make a thing something it isn't. Its not 40ks fault it doesnt feel balanced. Its the players fault expecting balance good enough for competitive play in a gamesystem that can't have it.
New AI s like chatgtp will balance the game in a blink of an eye soon 😂
War is unbalanced. Luckily, Warhammer is a game not actual war, but I think the sense of imbalance "needs" to be there, in a way. I think it's the gamer's job to discover what "balance" is, and ensure that gameplay respects that. Find appropriate matches based on what's balanced. I guess the in-world equivalent of this would be choosing not to march into Waterloo because you recognize that it would be an unbalanced fight.
mtg more complex tho 🙂
Thank you. You simplified a two hour, raging, argument I had yesterday. This video brought out all the warts and slapped them with reality. What I hope to promote more of is that people enjoy playing. Too many min-maxers crying on the internet won't fix this.
THIS: """The Imbelance of W40k us a lot more complicated than just screw with game to sell new models, sorry ""
This is why Kill Team is being hailed as one of the better games this year. Thier are no points. You get access to a Kill Team and each team has a different amount of infantry and you can take two models out of your team to trade them out for 1 powerful Chaos Ogryn. Also the AoS Crowd seem to be more happy with their rules system than 40k.
GW also tends to make recent Codices too strong as the edition starts to age. Its like the Codex writer feels obligated to make his codex the strongest in order to generate buzz. But honestly think the designers are out of touch., or theyt lack a position who reviews the Codex and can approve or send the Codex back for changes.
I heard that the 40k team only has 5 official staff… and they ask other staff to stay late even though thery dont play or design the game…
wasn´t the Custodes Codex release the ultimate proof that they do this on purpose? I mean even before the codex dropped, the updated points costs were already printed and on the way? How do you update points cost, when you are not able to collect meta data that depended on people playing with the actual codex?
I feel like warhammer can learn a lot from Pokémon’s smogon, which is a community led completive battling rule set, with tiers bans on pokemon, items, moves and abilities from a community of experts in order to make the game the most competitive and fun possible, banning stuff that’s limiting fun and choices, it can be used in game to ban non model factors, like stratagems, warlord traits, psychic powers, relics, etc… trying to get rid of the most oppressive paper based combos while allowing most lists to have a fighting chance without limiting modeling options.
Also you can have tournaments in different tiers like:
40k anything goes – no bans
40k general play – banning only essential problematic elements
40k heavily moderated – more liberal bans of most things that can throw the balance off
And you can pick at which tier you choose to play
Also community rulings gives us the opportunity to make needed changes quicker then GW to stop a single list from having a 70% win rate for 3-6 months for example.
As a new player this was very helpful. 🍻 👏
A great essay on a complex issue
Everything you say in this video is right, but the conclusion is very lazy.
It is not that black and white. There is a huge grey area of potentionally better the situation which does not get explored in the slightest.
Yes 40k will never be perfectly balanced, but as a gamedesinger myself I'd like to add: It is nowhere near to what it could be with a tiny little bit of extra effort.
The major problem with the balance is that the rules are not based digitally online and that the dev team only does the bare minimum as game designers.
Cause the company is a miniatures one, not a game one. They suck at games.
Really enlightening video!
recently found your vids and subbed: great shows; well presented; and cleanly summated. this one is being shared with a few of my non-gamer friends by way of being the best introduction to wargaming (and WH4k).
I feel like the number of new models doesn't matter as much. Since an army being the new best will drive people without the army to pick up a whole army.
The Balance conspiracy theory genre is one of my favourites; every single moderately complex recent competitive game, whether video or tabletop, has a competitive community in near constant outcry about the lazy game designers/devs who are allowing the game to remain in such a broken unbalanced state, etc. And yet none of them think to sit down and say "wait, what do we actually think is possible? Do we really imagine humans who are so clever that they could be balancing the game perfectly but they deliberately sabotage it?"
It's slightly tragic
Personally, i do not have the time to play 40k, i used to play it more in 8th edition but the rules bloat is such a headache for me that i started looking for alternative rules and found one page rules to be to my liking.
obvious solution would be to stop remaking the game every few years
My issue with this game is that different armies have the same rule, some form of exploding 6's for instance, but they call it different things. Malifaux is an epic game and they have rules such as Critical strike (+1 damage), every faction can have critical strike. it makes it easier to go from faction to faction or if someone tells you they have critical strike any player will know what this means. If I buy 3 codex's at random they will all have a form of extra attacks off following straight 6's being rolled. Rules bloat or wording being written different but having the same outcome is awful and causes unnecessary confusion. The 40k rule book for instance does not need to be half as big as it is. The writing is just poor. Amazing models though and I love the channel. Thank you.
The best game of wh40k was a game that I lost.
We had a 3 army capture the flag where in the end I had my best character running away with the flag only to lose it to my friend's worst character who just kept rolling 6's to kill him and steal the whole thing.
Awesome night :3
A lot of interesting points. I do disagree that GW doesn't have a hand in this though. Just look at Necron codex in 9th vs Votann in 9th or whatever other comparison of old vs new. The power disparity is so great how can anyone believe they didn't see it coming.
A points system like the one used in 40k is actually an implicit attempt to model the balance (probability) distribution, whether the creators of the game realize it or not. You could almost certainly frame the points system as the energy of some Boltzmann distribution that attempts to capture the strength of a given army. The issue is that the distribution of wins and losses that are seen when the game is played (i.e. statistical samples of this distribution) don't reflect the distribution specified by the points. A determined individual could set up their own Boltzmann distribution and estimate what the point value of certain units and items would be, and these wouldn't match up with what's given in the Codices.
I doubt you would need a supercomputer to fix this, but you would need a large enough dataset that includes contextual variables, and probably a bit of Bayesian wizardry. You could do it without the contextual variables, but then you would be integrating those variables out — i.e. the factions would be balanced "on average", but you would run into contexts where armies of similar point values don't match up well, and one dominates the other. Kind of like Rock, Paper, Scissors in a sense. The issue probably isn't one of modeling, because we have fairly sophisticated techniques nowadays; rather, it's more likely to be one of data.
I think there is a difference between definitions of balance. For example magic the gathering formats are for the most part considered balanced at the top end. The top decks all have a shot with the goal being keeping win rates between 47-53% or so. However that doesn't mean every card or combination of cards is viable and fits within that Goldilocks zone, the meta consists usually of 10-15ish decks with minor variations between players. Decks have good and bad matchups, you could have two balanced decks (in terms of the format as a whole) on the table yet they have a 8-2 game record due to the particular interactions between the two decks.
A list in Warhammer is basically a "deck" and whilst many decks are viable there is far more that are not. You can make tweaks to fit your local meta or your personal playstyle but creating a situation where every combination of units or magic cards is balanced against every other combination is obviously not possible. The main difference between the two is that magic allows you to continue to play those cards in other alternative formats where they are more appropriate. Things like kill team and the new boarding actions will potentially fill this void and help make the game appear more balanced.
For balance, like the tau in a dense environment, or white scars in open terrain. My friend and I, me being a horde-ish army and he is armoured focus. When he comes to my house, home field advantage I get to build the terrain, type of thing. Or someone else who isn’t in the game sets it up. And I know what he could possibly be bringing so I build my army to counter. It’s like pre game recon. An aspect I consider part of the game. Like hunting deer, guys put up cams and scout through the year.
Best video on this topic I’ve seen so far.
I think the reason I would never play WH40K is because its a board game, I prefer RP and in RP…. things are not fair.
The big joke is that wargames were never meant to be balanced – they were invented to improve your strategic thinking with resources you have – the tournament players are just silly as they dont want to just win – they want to FEEL likle they won – this is just an elaborate way to convince yourself that you achieved something by doing the research and executing the meta. I like that you mentioned chess – all the problems tournament players have could be solved by them playing chess – but the ruleset is too robust, as you said, chess is a game of skill – so if you lose you cant copmplain on meta, nerfs, bad luck ect – YOU and your skill are just not good enough – cant have that. I truly believe the very idea of tournaments is hurtful to the hobby – ive seen newbies giving up on an armybecause they read online that its weak – and that BEFORE even knowing the rules…..
Hey. I just found your channel, i think through a facebook group. Ive been watching for about an hour now. You’ve got a new subscriber. Thanks
A small thing that irks me is the games rules lately haven’t been consistent with how models in the universe work. Maybe I’ve a couple power gamers in my group, but a custom chapter of Sisters having a 4++ and that can only be wounded on a 3+ all the time is unusually tough, compared to canonically tougher soldiers who should at least be comparable. Or the recent example of Rough Riders hitting harder than Custodes.
Another issue is with the command point system; it might not be unbalanced (can’t tell) but it is frustrating. You think you’ve caught an enemy out of position with superior troops, they spend 1CP, and the situation is flipped. There are so many stratagems and they’re updated so much it’s very hard for a casual player to predict these ‘no u’ moments. Seems to happen every second game.
Based on what you said, I’d suggest the model designers/writers and rules writers try to make the rules more consistent with their own setting’s logic, and that hey, maybe command points or similar rules could be stripped down or weakened.
There is an easy way to balance the armies, GW doesn't want to because it's more profitable to hype new armies with overpowered rules to generate sales. They could easily get a mathematician (or two, or six) to develop an equation that figures out points based on the model.
The balance in old Necromunda/basic Gorkamorka is simple. Everyone starts with the same ganger and weapon list. Then chance sets in, sometimes a gang is knocked out and restarts from scratch.
Old GW thinks you're going to be good lads and just fix things yourselves. They don't think their game is going to be perfect. You're going to have a gentlemen's agreement to bring every dang steam tank in the empire or leave out some nonsense hero character.
it should be fun, thats how I like to spend my spare time, not feeding egos, narative campaigns with GM's balancing and bring back the roleplay element could work. Plus if someones being a dick…. the choas gods can step in via the GM
balance issues are nothing new cough Matt Ward cough, cough
My brain exploded learning how games workshops don’t actually design games first, but model making.
i love the warhammer universes, and i hate the stpid suits making the decisions for this IP's, their miniatures was already sketchy business 20 years ago, the only way why the lore and the world and the warhammer mythis has exploded is thanks to the setting and its own worldbuilding, plus computer games, ans the disty old suits at GW see computer games with their IP's as fleeting and dont want to focus on it, i hate them
My last W40K game was in the 90s and I stumbled on Ian's videos thanks to YT's suggestion a couple weeks back… My first thought was: "how this thing got so bloated!". My second was "I wonder if it's still broken…". This video answered that pretty well indeed 😀 And yeah, it's still an awesome IP!