Variance Hammer’s Take on the ITC 2016 Q1 Poll

It’s that time again – the ITC has released a new set of question that will help determine the direction the ITC rulings will go, and thus how most games at ITC events will be played. The poll is here:

And as always, I have…opinions.

First, as a disclaimer, I have especially no interest in the results of the poll this year. None of the army specific questions apply to anything I play, and even if they did my participation in ITC events as anything other than a commentator is relatively minimal – even in the tournaments I do play in, I’m not a top tier player. These rules will effect a trivial number of games I actually play – these opinions are, instead, the result of my own opinions, and nothing more than that.

Second, I am not Reece. Or Frankie. Or any of the good folks at Frontline. These opinions are my own, and don’t in any way indicate a lack of admiration for what they do, and the work they put in. Lord knows I wouldn’t want to do it.


I’ll present each question in turn, and my take on it – my answer, for those who don’t feel like reading, is underlined.

How many detachments do you wish to play with in the 2016 season?

  • Keep the limit on detachments to 3.
  • I would prefer to play with 4 or more detachments.

I’m fairly firmly in the “let people play what they want to play” bandwagon – “That Guy” doesn’t go “Oh, well, in that case, I guess I shouldn’t go…” just because the number of detachments are limited to three. There’s un-fun and abusive combos at one, two, and three detachments. I say let them come. Personally, most of my armies are made up of one detachment, maybe two.

If we increase the detachment limit for the 2016 ITC season, how many would you like to use?

  • 4
  • Unlimited.

I think drawing an arbitrary line here is also a little puzzling – if three is okay, why not four? If four, why not five? If not five…you get the idea. This is also backed up by the rules themselves – there’s never any mention of a limit to the number of formations that could make up an army.

We currently use the Primary Detachment as the faction which your army counts as for the purposes of ITC rankings.

  • I would like to see the ITC track faction by primary detachment as we have done.
  • I would prefer to see the ITC track faction according to which detachment in a player’s list has the most points.

I confess I have few strong preferences about this one. In my mind, I would always identify my army by what the primary faction was within it, rather than the one with the most points. For example, even if most of my army points-wise are Space Marines, but they’re lead by an Inquisitorial detachment, I’m playing an Inquisitorial army with seconded Space Marines.

For larger ITC tournaments, what points limit would you prefer?

  • Keep it at 1,850pts.
  • I would prefer to use less than 1,850pts.

If the points limit for larger ITC tournaments were voted to be reduced from 1,850, which of the two points levels below do you prefer?

  • 1,650pts
  • 1,500pts

The concern here, as far as I can tell, is worry about slow play. If your army is heavily alpha-strike oriented, but will collapse like a house of cards, its better for you if the game drags on and your opponent only gets a few turns in. Similarly, those who play armies good at staying in and slugging it out have every reason to hope as many turns happen as possible. Lowering the points limit results in faster games, and acts as a counter to slow play.

I’ll admit I’m opposed to this for a number of reasons:

  1. I like big games. I’d like to play big games at a tournament.
  2. I’m not convinced some jerk slow playing to ruin his opponents fun won’t still try this, or won’t come up with some new tactic outside of the game.
  3. There’s a group of people who assert that there’s more “skill” at 1500 pts. I don’t think that’s particularly supported by actual data, and I can spin what I think is an equally credible (and equally unsupported) just-so story about lower point games increasing the importance of who you draw as an opponent, rather than skill.

The role of time in a game like this is a fascinating question – if there’s a major tournament organizer who uses chess clocks or the like, please get in touch, there’s some analysis I’d like to run by you.

Should we treat Data Slates containing multiple fortifications (i.e. Tau Tidewall Gunfort) the same as Fortification Networks (which are disallowed in ITC)?

  • I would like to include them in the ITC format for the 2016 season.
  • I do not want them included in the 2016 ITC season.

The two feel pretty analogous to me – while I oppose banning types of units generally, if we’ve already gone down that road, it feels logical to keep with things. But I don’t think the Tidewall is really tearing up the tournament scene at the moment, so really, my opinion on this is a shrug.

Per RAW, if a Gargantuan Creature with any part of its base is in a piece of terrain which grants a cover save, the Gargantuan Creature gains the save even if no part of it is actually obscured. Do you wish to play this rule this way?

  • Yes, I want to play this rule per RAW, meaning a Gargantuan Creature gains a cover save from these types of terrain pieces even if no part of the model is obscured.
  • No, I do not want to play this rule per RAW. I would prefer to play Gargantuan Creatures only gaining a cover save if they are actually 25% obscured from the firing unit.

This is one I’m actively opposed to. Rules portability is a big thing for me, and this question isn’t a clarification. There’s no ambiguity. It’s not actually a rule about which reasonable people can disagree – the RAW interpretation is just how it works. I dislike straying away from the rules as written into “What people want to play”, because this ends up with there being an ITChammer 40K game that is subtly, but importantly, distinct from the actual game. That’s not a direction I’m particularly supportive of. I also think it promotes fracturing in the community, as ITChammer and Standardhammer drift apart from one another.

How many times can a unit of Tau Ghostkeels containing more than one Ghostkeel activate their Holophoton Countermeasures?

  • They can activate their Holophoton Countermeasures once per Ghostkeel in the unit, which would mean up to three times for a unit of three Ghostkeels.
  • They can activate their Holophoton Countermeasures once in total, regardless of the number of Ghostkeels in the unit.

Genuine ambiguity! The Holophoton Countermeasures rule reads:

Once per battle, in the enemy Shooting phase, a model equipped with the holophoton countermeasures can disrupt the targeting systems used by one enemy unit that is targeting it or the unit it belongs to. Declare that the unit will use the holophoton countermeasures after the enemy unit has chosen it as a target, but before any hit rolls are made. The enemy unit can only make Snap Shots in the shooting phase.

While I understand where the ambiguity is coming from, to me it reads pretty clearly that it’s a one-per-battle power for a model with the holophoton countermeasures, whose effect applies to the unit. I’d say a unit of three Ghostkeels gets three uses of the countermeasures, though my opponent would have to make it clear which Ghostkeel was using the item each time they popped it.

To use an MMO (WoW) analogy, it’s a raid leader calling for someone to pop Bloodlust – the whole raid is using it, but someone’s just triggered their cooldown.

When the Piranhas from the Firestream Wing formation reenter play from ongoing reserves, do models from the formation that were destroyed return to play per the Rearm and Refuel special rule?

  • Yes, Piranhas that were destroyed may return to the game.
  • No, Piranhas that were destroyed do not return to the game.

The ambiguity here is that there’s no strict definition of a unit “Returning at Full Strength” – and while I concede that, I can’t see any possible way to arrive at “Full Strength” being “Except the guys who died.”

If a Piranha in a unit in the Firestream Wing formation is immobilized and left behind per the Abandoned rule, does it count as destroyed for the purposes of the Rearm and Refuel special rule?

  • Yes, the Immobilized Piranha would count as destroyed.
  • No, the immobilized Piranha would not be counted as destroyed.

This one’s tricky – my instinctual response (“No it’s not destroyed because it isn’t destroyed“) is contradicted by the idea that the unit comes back at full strength. But I think I’m sticking with it. Consider the “Abandoning Squadron-Mates” rule:

If a member of a squadron is Immobilized, the rest of the squadron are permitted to ‘abandon’ it. To do so, the rest of the squadron must move out of unit coherency with it; treat the Immobilized model(s) as a separate unit from then on for all rules and victory conditions

It’s that last bit that’s important – the unit returning to Rearm and Refuel is now a unit with one less Pirhana, which has split off and become an entirely new unit.

The Eldar Corsairs Reckless Abandon special rule allows them to move after making a shooting attack. Does this apply to overwatch?

  • Yes, I would like to apply the Reckless Abondon rule to overwatch as well as shooting done in the shooting phase. This would allow the Corsair unit to fire overwatch and then move away from the unit which declared the charge.
  • No, I feel that this rule should only apply to shooting attacks made during the shooting phase.

The Reckless Abandon rule does not mention the Shooting Phase, it mentions shooting attacks. There’s no way to read that as not applying to overwatch except for “I don’t want it to work that way”.

Can a Chaos Knight take Legacies of Ruin?
Conflict: Legacies of Ruin cannot be taken by Daemon Engines, vehicles with Daemonic Possession or those with Daemonic Resilience. A Chaos Knight is described as a Daemon Knight which is a Daemon Aligned with a chosen Chaos god. There is confusion as to what a Daemon Aligned with X god means in relation to Legacies of Ruin.

  • I would like to play this RAW, allowing Chaos Knights to take Legacies of Ruin.
  • I would prefer not to play this rule as RAW, meaning Chaos Knights cannot take Legacies of Ruin.

First, the Daemon Knight rule is an optional one – the only pretense for this question is if that’s taken, which doesn’t apply to all Chaos Knights. Further, they don’t have any of the rules that forbid Legacies of Ruin even when they do take the Daemon Knight upgrade. While I can totally see the argument from a fluff perspective, I think “Has the word Daemon in it sometimes” is a bad basis upon which to make a rule.

That’s how I’m voting in the latest ITC poll, and why. For whatever that is worth.

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  1. I have to say I think you have misunderstood the distinction between fortification networks and fortifications in general. The new data sheets for Tau are just fortifications, not fundamentally different to existing ones. They have fixed sets of components and a fixed cost.

    The fortification networks by contrast are variable sets of components costed as per the models taken. They key difference with the networks is that they are each a sort of mini-detachment of fortifications which you then cost up according to what you selected. The Tau datasheets such as the Gunfort (let’s be honest that is the only one you will see for anything other than comedy value on a tournament table) are fixed in cost and composition.

    If you go down the path of “they can be set up apart” to try to distinguish then so can an Aegis Defence Line or Promethium Relay – that does not make those into fortification networks any more than the Tau fortifications. They are just fortifications that can be deployed with gaps between them according to the rules on the data sheet. A gunfort must be deployed in 3 parts. An Aegis line may be deployed in up to 4 parts; plus a gun/comms relay as an additional part if taken. This is just how some fortifications have always worked.


    1. The issue is things like the Tidewall Defense Network, which while not variable cost, are just “A collection of fortifications”, and feel an awful lot like a mini-detachment, or at the very least a restrictive formation of fortifications.

      To be frank, it’s the question I care about the least – if I had my way, I’d actually undo the existing ban (I don’t like bans…), but I get the concern. But I also think it’s fairly irrelevant to the tournament scene as a whole.


      1. The question is really misleadingly worded and people who do not own Stronghold assault will be voting in ignorance.

        As worded there any multi-part fortification would not be allowed. This would include the ADL when you take a comms relay or quad gun.

        Really it should be simple, it either says Fortification Network on the data sheet or it does not. Trying to RAI this is a total mess and will have unintended consequences beyond banning a couple of relatively harmless Tau fortifications.


  2. I want to comment on the Ghostkeels!
    Holy crap is that a badly written rule; let me break down some of the problems first:

    “…is targeting it or the unit it belongs to.”

    If you could use this during the psychic phase (Foccussed Witchfire) that might be relevant, but during the shooting phase you can’t target individual models, so it should just read “… is targeting the equipped model’s unit.”

    “Declare that the unit will use the holophoton…”

    Now here’s the crux of the disagreement, though folks who want it one way tend to focus on the first sentence. Some folks think that since each model has one, and they are single use (per game) each model gets a use. Your analogy is great for that side of the debate. Now my WOW knowledge isn’t so great, but many MMOs have a skill that removes aggro or gives you stealth. For the other version, consider that everyone in the group has a powerful stealth ability they can use that makes it so the enemy can’t drop AOEs on them. If Bob has got up for some Mt. Dew and missed the ‘go’ signal, suddenly the enemy can target him and drop pie plates on his head, hitting his nearby buddies, even if Alice and Chris used theirs; The enemy can’t target them directly but can catch them in the blasts which might be enough.

    That said I do think the rule is clearly not clear.

    However that’s not the end of the problem with this rule, though this last bit is mainly for the sake of pedantics. “The enemy unit can only make Snap Shots in the shooting phase.” seems simple enough until you read it carefully. It’s not THIS shooting phase, it’s not until the end of the shooting phase. It’s THE shooting phase, which RAW could be for the rest of the game. Also Eldar can no longer use Battle Focus to Run (running isn’t Snap Shooting). And don’t get me started on how this interacts with Gargantuan creatures, split fire, and target lock.

    Rules this badly written kind of make me want to stop playing 40k, and maybe throw the rulebook through someone’s window (which is probably why they stopped printing the authors’ names in the books!)


    1. Yeah – this rule is genuinely ambiguous. This is purely my opinion, and I could totally see the other side of things. My primary take, on first read, is “well shit.” It gets into messy “A unit is sometimes a model, and sometimes a unit is models”, and other nonsense.


    2. The obvious analogy is to combi-weapons. Several models in a unit may individually have these one use items but shooting is always declared as a unit. We can choose to shoot just one combi-weapon in a unit; it would be painfully inconsistent to insist we must use all Holophoton Countermeasures at once.


      1. Except that with combi weapons we can easily fit their use into the existing shooting phase frame work. There are already rules for how we use multiple different weapons in a single shooting attack. We don’t have this same framework for the Ghostkeel’s war gear. There is also the issue of that stupid second sentence where it says the unit uses the gear.


        1. I can’t think of a “as a unit” statement for smoke launchers. Whereas all shooting is done as a unit.


  3. I think 1500 points accommodates players that aren’t necessarily driven to crush their competitors.

    1500 points encourages newbies to join because they simply have to set their sights at an easily attainable point level and build up their collection.

    It’s also easier to transport 1500points of models.

    I think 1850 points suits a tournament run by a store. It encourages the sale of models, actually profiting the business hosting the event.


    1. Easy to transport is definitely a thing. I don’t know about the first sentence though – I’ve been subjected to some savage 1500 pt. lists.


    2. Competative players will showup with dominant lists at 1500 just as easily as at 1850. The only thing that will change is the amount of battle companies on the field will vanish


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