Good Decisions Build on Bad Logic

I’m not going to break down the Big FAQ 2 – other people have done it better than I have, and if you’re looking for a source I’d suggest Nick Nanavati’s take over at Nights at the Game Table because you could do a hell of a lot worse than just listening to Nick and doing what he says.

My own thoughts on it are mixed, but primarily favorable.

What I do want to talk about is what it means to arrive at the right decision for the wrong reasons.

Everyone is familiar with this. The student who gets the right answer via a tortured chain of logic. The court case that gets decided in a way you like, but based on reasoning that’s some combination of wrong, problematic, or just plain stupid. A broken clock is still right twice a day, and you can accident yourself into the right answer.

It appears in the 40K FAQs, there’s going to be at least one of these every go around.

The first time it was about Boots on the Ground. My take at the time was that the rule itself was probably fine (though it hurt some armies i was interested in) but that the reasoning behind the rule was flawed. In that case, that “Flyers can’t secure a position indefinitely” didn’t make any sense as a reason why you count as tabled when you’ve only got flyers left on the board, given that many missions aren’t predicated on holding a position forever, and a number of other units can’t be expected to remain on station indefinitely either.

This time it’s GW’s ruling on deep strike and deep strike analogs:

Furthermore, in matched play games, units that are not placed on the battlefield during deployment in order to arrive on the battle mid-game as reinforcements cannot arrive on the battlefield during the first battle round.

Finally, any unit that has not arrived on the battlefield by the end of the third battle round in a matched play game counts as having been destroyed.

This is not, inherently, a bad rule – though it is sort of funny watching them iterate back toward 7th edition’s reserve rules as time goes on. Having reserves be reliable to show up, have no real downside (they can appear on turn 1) and reliable in terms of where they arrive made them very powerful, and “Hide my army then have them arrive and alpha-strike” is a very real tactic and one that’s not terribly fun to be on the receiving end of. Their first attempt at resolving this, forbidding them to arrive in your enemy’s deployment zone on turn one, was not a resounding success. There were lots of questions about what counted, and while it hit some armies that relied on deploying forward, it didn’t impact those who could move forward, nor did it resolve using reserves to protect units from incoming fire rather than as a deployment method (ala Dark Reapers).

So what’s the problem then?

After the ruling comes their reasoning:

Perhaps the biggest criticism we received, though, was that the rule seemed to break many players’ suspension of disbelief, as they could not understand the background reasons behind it – what was the rule representing on the battlefield?

“It breaks suspension of disbelief” needs to either be the guiding principle of your game design, or it needs to not be there. You can’t pick and choose. There are a ton of things that break suspension of disbelief in 8th edition (I’d argue more than 7th, but that’s my personal belief). Super-heavy tanks that can pivot on a time. Anti-aircraft flamers. Massive, gaudily armed transhuman giants who cannot be shot because they’re standing behind a bunch of terrified conscripts from a world that doesn’t have steam engines.

Their new rule itself causes suspension of disbelief issues – are you really telling me that the Eldar (of any flavor), the Alpha Legion, the Raven Guard, the Catachans, or any one of a number of other factions lacks the tactical sophistication to have advanced elements in a position to strike at the same time as the main thrust of their offensive?

Are you really telling me that Space Marine Drop Pods (RIP *sniffle*) invariably only arrive after the Space Marines have already established a foothold on the planet? That when the Blood Angels descend on wings of fire, they do so only fashionably late?

This is also the FAQ where, simultaneously, GW created a rule so that your Stormboyz can be blocked from attacking a Valkyrie by those very same terrified conscripts, because they turn off their jetpacks after they’re done moving.

Just say it was creating balance issues. That’s the whole point of the FAQ. But Pick n’ Mix rules-by-suspension-of-disbelief is not a good way forward. Especially in light of the higher level of abstraction that is baked into 8th Edition.

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