Five is a trend…GW’s voice is clear when it comes to army composition restrictions

Taking a brief break from the Eldar Codex review for a brief musing about the new Knights Codex.

They’re all Lords of War.

I’m pretty sure GW is coughing meaningfully in the direction of tournament organizers, clubs and others trying to ban particular “types” of armies.

There’s often a narrative that Games Workshop “isn’t listening” – in fairness, this is sometimes a narrative Games Workshop advances with things like the statement in a shareholder’s letter stating that they didn’t do focus groups or things like that. But I think people go a step to far in assuming that this means Games Workshop exists as some sort of monolithic ivory tower, wherein edicts are passed down to us mere gamers.

Because that tower probably has internet, and if you’re interested in the hobby (and lets face it, most people working for GW probably care about the hobby…) it’s impossible not to be immersed in online discussions of the hobby. And there’s a difference between not necessarily listening and reflecting what the community “wants” and trying to steer the community, with things like the 7th Edition push toward “Forging the Narrative”.

I think we’re seeing that with the new codex releases – Games Workshop actively pushing toward a looser, freer style of army composition.

One of the major ways tournament organizers try to balance the game is to alter the rules of the game, especially around army composition, in order to prevent what they perceive as abusive combinations. I’ve already posted my opinions of this idea here. But beyond my personal dislike for it, if we look back at the last five major codex releases, I think we’re seeing Games Workshop pushing back, or at least actively ignoring, many of the common “fixes”. Every one of the last five major codex releases (Necrons, Harlequins, Skittari, Craftworld Eldar and Imperial Knights – I’m ignoring Khorne Daemonkin though they’re a bit like this as well) have done some seriously strange things with army composition, or put some composition rules in the position of having gone from banning a small number of units to suddenly banning entire armies outright – usually a decent prompt to revisit the rule. Consider the following fairly common ways to restrict how an army is built:


  • “CAD Only” – Restricting armies to CADs in pursuit of balance means outright banning the Skittari and the Harlequins, two new armies that seem to be fan favorites, and not particularly abusive. This rule in particular has felt, in recent months, like it’s gotten particularly restrictive.
  • “No/One Lord of War” – This is something I’ve seen a lot of, and one of the proposed fixes for the prospect of facing multiple Wrathknights. Go this route though, and the entire Imperial Knights codex is now illegal.
  • “No Ranged D” – A fairly popular and “fluffy” build for the Eldar is now made up almost entirely of ranged Strength D weapons. The ITC tinkering with the Strength D damage table for ranged D weapons is a direct result of there simply being too many units now for them to just ban it.
  • Most other “catch-all” restrictions on formations, detachments etc. get cumbersome and unwieldily in the face of either the Necron Decurion or Eldar Craftworld Warhost detachments.

Now this might, I admit, be sheer coincidence. But it feels like Games Workshop is making it very clear that they fully intended for the army composition rules to be flexible. If they wanted to stay with the tried-and-true FoC they could have, but instead they’re pushing back – or at least actively ignoring – the efforts to put that particular genie back into its bottle.

More than one person I’ve seen complaining about new army releases “taking away” their ability to play an army (like an old-style Wrathguard-as-Troops list), but they’re not actually complaining about Games Workshop. Instead, it turns out their store has banned non-CAD armies (as if you couldn’t make a vicious, win at all costs army out of CADs). That’s not Games Workshop taking anything away – it’s you.

The way the game is being designed is clearly diverging from the limited, restricted composition rules of the past. It’s time we followed along.


  1. My big question is then why doesn’t GW just openly state how they feel instead of giving obtuse hints and trying to force TO’s hands?

    This whole lack of communication policy they take with the community is the real problem.
    TOs try to make sure that everyone has at least some fun while playing a tournament and try to somewhat limit the amount of what is often considered unfun and silly combinations.

    I may not be the best person to speak here as I don’t play in tourneys and when I see battle reports where Skitarii are riding in Blood Angel drop pods I just shake my head, but often for a game to thrive it needs to go beyond the bear and pretzel crowd and have a competitive scene. GW seems to be making it hard to have what most folks would consider a fun and quasi balanced competitive environment without TO intervention.

    I used to play a lot of magic in the olden days. And remember land destruction decks. Land destruction and efficient and viable archtype was removed due to how it made players especially new players feel when facing.
    While as a veteran I lament the elimination of a play-style I get an inkling that facing an army full of D weapons could cause a very similar reaction to some new players playing their shiny new army (especially if it is tank heavy).

    To my initial point if GW would just be more communicative and share their thoughts and reasons with the community. They will never make everyone happy to this second hand nudges to community and TOs just feels silly.


    1. My guess, to be perfectly honest? The same reason until very recently Blizzard often shot themselves in the foot communication wise. They’ve never had to “Be Grownups”. They made this cool game, and it’s defined the careers for most of their executives. They’ve been able to just come out with what they thing is cool and make money hand over fist.

      I’m also not necessarily convinced that 40K needs a competitive scene, or that the two are mutually exclusive. Ultra-competitive players have always been able to find un-fun combinations, and for every abusive combination, there’s awesome things that emerge – like loading up Storm Troopers in Blood Angels drop pods to get as close as you’ll ever get to Halo’s ODST.


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