So Variance Hammer has been pretty quiet for the past couple months, mostly due to life-related reasons that can be summed up as “The Finest of Nurgle’s Gifts” and an avalanche of work related things. So yeah, things have been a little quiet, though hopefully that will stop being true sooner rather than later.
But there’s also some larger scale structural changes going on that I thought it was worth talking about – though members of the Patreon group have seen some posts on this before.
Changing the Patreon Structure
By now everyone who is a Patreon supporter probably knows this, but I’ve changed the Patreon structure to a “per post” model, which lets me not have to switch the Patreon campaign on and off when the glamorous life of a tenure-track academic derails my time for writing about the math of toy spacemen. Previously, I had wanted to avoid going to a per-post model because I was posting at a relatively consistent pace, and the amount of effort that went into posts was wildly variable, so I didn’t want to structure things such that you’d get charged the same amount of an in-depth analysis as a random rant, or to slam people when I wrote a large review split over multiple posts.
But when it comes down to it, I’m not posting all that much, and I can exercise control over which posts are “billable”, so at the end of the day, I think it’s a model that’s more fair to my patrons and easier on my psyche.
Why I Don’t Do As Much Tournament Analysis Anymore
The landscape of competitive 40K is very different than when I started this blog five and a half years ago (Jesus…). There’s a lot more resources for people interested in quantitative takes on the competitive scene. People who are willing to spend more time on it than I am. Folks like 40K Stats Centre.
Games Workshop has also changed things in a way that, I believe, is a positive way forward. I’ve referred to this from time to time as the churn, and on Facebook at least tried to remind people not to chase the competitive dragon, especially if it’s from a Too Good to Be True ruleset like the pre-FAQ Iron Hands. That stuff just…doesn’t last very long anymore before it’s subsumed, either by an FAQ that breaks whatever mechanical interaction it depended on, or a new Codex. And it happens fast.
The fundamental message of most of those posts, that no, 40K isn’t balanced, remains true. And I could probably analyze a tournament a month showing the same thing. But the important contrast is that unlike 6th or 7th edition, while there is an army perched a the top of the heap at any given time, what that army is turns over with relative rapidity.
I still think there’s a lot of room for analysis in the competitive space – the things I’ve done in the past, and the things most people do, are when it comes down to it, relatively shallow from an analytic perspective. But it’s a lot of work, and there are aspects of 8th edition, like the ability to pretty freely mix factions under the same keyword (though GW seems to be trying to step back from this a bit) that complicate it considerably. But there are models that can follow player as well as faction, incorporate prior data into estimates (*waves to any Bayesians reading this*), etc. But by the time one of those analyses is done the game has potentially already moved on, and I’m not fully convinced the juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak.
This may change, but for the moment, I think it’s a less valuable type of post than it might once have been.
Where Are the Reviews?
I’ve also been writing slightly fewer reviews. The reasons for this are also two-fold. Well…two-and-a-half-fold. The first is the relentless pace of releases from GW, which simply complicates long-form reviews. The half that goes along with that is that GW has been doing a great job seeding previews, playtests, etc. into the community. Which means that by the time a book comes out on release day, or Emperor forbid a week or two later thanks to FedEx Smart Post, there’s already been a litany of blogs, podcasts, etc. that have covered the reviews by the time I crack open the cover.
All of that might be fine except…
8th Edition is hard.
Analytically speaking. I had a decent code base for 6th and 7th edition, which needed to be rewritten fairly extensively for 8th. And with the new paradigm of aura abilities plus stratagems, you have to deal with a great deal more cross-unit synergy. For example, if you ask how effective an Imperial Fist Intercessor squad is versus a squad of Guardians (spoiler: horrifically), that prompts questions. Are they nearby a Lieutenant? A Chapter Master? Does the value of a stratagem get measured as if you’re using a pure-codex army, or taking advantage of a compact Guard/Mechanicus/Sisters detachment to act as a CP battery. This latter problem was one of the great balance problems in the Imperial Knight codex – how do you balance the power of a stratagem when it’s a substantial portion of one’s overall CP expenditure, versus when CPs are available rather freely.
The combination of the two means I’ve done a couple longer form reviews, only to find them a bit…stale.
That being said, I’m intending to pick this back up again, because I’m rather excited about some of the new books – both Phoenix Rising and the new Sisters of Battle book are both sort of passion projects, so you’re going to get reviews of those like it or not.
So What’s That Leave Us?
A valid question.
Assuming I can dig myself out of the current productivity hole I’m in, there’s a few projects I want to work on. Many of them are putting my money where my mouth is and exploring the narrative side of the game more – though there will still be some quantitative aspects to that. But it’s currently where my passion for the game lies, and I think a place that could use a little more attention generally.
There’s also a fairly large queue of non-codex reviews I’m working on that should be coming out.
In short: I’m not really sure what form future posts here will take. It’ll likely be longer form, and slightly less focused on the competitive scene, but I’m endeavoring to bring content out at a more regular pace.