This post, frankly, isn’t directed at those purists, though, in some ways, I envy them. I’ve never had the privilege of playing a “true Apoc” game, where people just show up with whatever models they have, and you split them into sides to wage war–granting additional assets to those that are on the smaller team. I’m sure that can be fun; however, I prefer to keep a relative limit on the insanity.
In our Apocalypse games, we see things like emperor titans, baneblade companies, and warhounds/hierophants galore. As an owner of some of those models, I completely understand the desire to play with them. After all, it’s the only time they stand to see any real play time–besides, they’re pricey models, and take quite a bit of time to assemble and paint.
It just gets a little old to me, to know that I’ll be facing the same force over and over. The strength of “D” weapons only adds to my frustration. I’d love to see a mass infantry battle, but with giant-pie-plates of instant-death out there, it’s hard to field such forces. So, I guess what I’m trying to do here is two-fold: Balance the forces, and mix things up so we’re not always reliving the same game with the same models.
So, with that in mind, I’ve been brainstorming some ideas on how to accomplish precisely that, and thought I’d share them with you. Here they are (in no particular order):
- Set a points limit: This is surely the most common deviation for Apoc games. This not only serves to ensure people don’t bring an insane amount of models, it also keeps forces manageable, and ensures the game flows more quickly. As an added bonus, you can be certain that teams will be balanced simply by splitting teams into even groups of players.
- Limit super-heavies / strength “D” weapons: Our gaming group routinely limits super-heavies (eg. Titans/gargantuan creatures) to one per player. The stated reason is that titans are supposed to take too long, but I don’t follow that logic. How does sinking so many points into a model with 2-3 guns take longer than moving/shooting/assaulting with several units. If anything, titans make the game move faster to me. I’m not sure why the rules for Titans don’t apply to super-heavies either… Alternately, you can limit strength “D” weapons. I’m a big fan of this option, since these are precisely the weapons that make super-heavies overpowered (in my opinion). A warhound with two turbo-laser destroyers is much more fierce than one with two vulkan mega-bolters and, as a result, nobody fields the weaker alternative. Limiting the super-weapons still allows people to play with their beautiful, expensive models, but also makes then less central to the entire game.
- Set an “Armor Value Limit”: This can either be by saying “no vehicle can have an AV value greater than 12 (like we did with the Battle for Argos Prime), or by setting an arbitrary limit on the total amount of vehicle armor in a game.My thought here is to charge players for each armor facing on a vehicle in excess of 10, and giving them a set amount they can’t exceed. Super heavies cost an additional 5 points per structure point they have. For instance, we normally play about 4000 points per player. I’m thinking 12 AVL points per 1000 actual points is a good starting point. Depending upon how much you wanted to limit mechanization, you can vary the amount.The downside of this method is that Tyranid players have no vehicles, so to do this fairly, you can probably apply the same rules to creatures with more than toughness 6.
- Nothing Used Last Game: The premise here is that you can’t use any units you fielded in your last Apocalypse game. Of course, this only works when you’re using the same group of people, and then, they’ll need to own a lot of different models (or at least two armies). For these reasons, it doesn’t seem like a practical rule for most games, but it does have some merit.
- Restricted Unit Choices: Before armies are chosen, a single D4+2 result is randomly determined. The players then sit down with each codex (to include Imperial Armor, etc.) and remove that many options from each army. Each player would alternate choices from book to book until all have been picked over, at which point, players build their forces as they see fit. The idea behind this strategy is to limit those units that plague your Apoc games time after time, so you can finally see some variety. For example, if I were to limit Imperial Guard, I might choose Vendettas, Veterans, and Baneblades. A seemingly crushing defeat for our local IG player, but by the same turn, he could remove Heirophants, Ymgarls, and Zoanthropes from my Tyranid codex. Naturally, these could be greatly abused. For example, with six total choices, it’s almost possible to completely eliminate synapse from a Tyranid force. For this reason, I believe this strategy would work best served by a committee. Thereby keeping things balanced, but keeping to the heartof the strategy.
- Swap Armies: Each player builds what they believe to be a fair army. Then, just before game time, they all swap armies with the opposing team. The idea here is that if you believe your army is balanced, you shouldn’t mind your opponent playing it. A big upside here, is that people will start to become more familiar with each others armies (literally), and will become better players because of it. Downsides mean that other people will play your models (so it’s more likely a variation only for well-known players), and that unfamiliarity of the army you’re playing will probably slow the game down (though I’d highly encourage the owning player to help the out as much as possible). Additionally, if people know this is going to happen ahead of time, then they might purposefully build inferior armies to give themselves an advantage post-swap. Because of this, I’d suggest there be chance of this happening before the game. For instance, at the begining of the game, roll a D6, and on a 5+ players swap armies for the game.
- Limiting Strategic Assets: It’s obvious that some assets are vastly superior to others. This is why you always see “flank march” and “Replacements,” but have probably never seen “anti-plant barrage” or “camouflage.” We’ve eliminated some entirely from games, and replaced them with strategy cards–a la 2nd edition 40k (see my examples here). I’ve also toyed around with the idea of seperating assets into power levels and charging more or less depending upon those levels. For instance, better assets (“flank march” & “vortex grenade”) would cost twice as much as their inferior competition, thereby encouraging people to deviate from the normal choices. Alternately, you could randomize the assets into power levels and allow players to take one from the “powerful” pile, or 2-3 from the weaker pile. This will certainly mix up the strategy cards you see in your games. Alternately, you can take a suggestion from Crimson Fist over at E-ville Armory: forgo assets entirely. There’s definite value in doing just that, but I think I still prefer to use the asset cards… 🙂
- Restricting Armies to FoC’s: This is probably the most ghastly suggestion I’m making, it’s also my newest thought I’m kicking around, and frankly, my favorite (for now). The idea here being, that each player is given a single Force Organization Chart (FoC), and can’t exceed any of the given areas until they fill up the entire chart, at which point they gain another chart. This process repeats itself until they run out of points. As for super-heavies, I’d suggest that each FoC also comes with one super-heavy slot. So, if you want to use two Hierophants, that’s fine, but it means you also need to field at least 2 HQ’s, 6 troops, 3 elites, 3 heavies, & 3 fast attack units.It works well because it doesn’t seem to penalize any army particularly–allowing them to take anything they want, but just forcing them to mix things up a bit.
Of course, you wouldn’t want to use all of these suggestions in a single game. Too many rules make the game too cumbersome. I’d suggest you evaluate the current state of your Apocalypse games and ask yourself two questions:
- Is there anything wrong with the way we’re playing now?
- How would our players react to such limitations?
Based upon the first question, you can really determine whether it’s worth moving forward with any changes to your game. Some people just love the pure power-gaming nature of true Apocalypse games, and some gaming groups naturally conform to playing with alternate rules (whether spoken or unspoken), but the idea here is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
If you’re finding that seeing the same units/armies on the table, or the same people win over and over again, maybe it’s time to mix things up a bit. Then it’s a good time to ask how other players are going to react to proposed changes. Ultimately, this is a game that people are playing to have fun, and if you put too many rules in place, it might put a hamper on that fun.
So, I encourage you to evaluate the state of your game, and at least evaluate whether any change is warranted. If you’ve made it this far in the post, I’d say it’s worth considering. 🙂
As always, thanks for dropping by…
Sadly, all three of these images were found via google searches for “balance” and came off other people’s blogs–without giving proper credit to their owners. If any of these images are your own, and you want credit, let me know. 🙂