Friday, January 23, 2015

To comp or not to comp, that is the question!

To comp or not to comp, that is the tournament question?

In the little time that I have been back to the hobby (since Spring 2014), I've actually been to several tournaments, more than you would be expected. One thing that I've noticed is there seems to be a big question in the tournament scene, what gets comp'ed?

First, for those that are unfamiliar with the jargon, "comp" refers to altering or changing an existing ruleset from either a unit, character or complete army in an effort to balance the game. Our Canadian readers may be a bit unfamiliar with this since in my experience we tend to play more out of the book Warhammer. However, I do know that a number of systems exist (ETC, Swiss, etc) that aim to properly balance the power in the game, an effort that tries to minimize lopsided power between different army books.

So to comp or not to comp, what's the answer???

This is a tough question. I think it's pretty well known that some books lend towards more powerful builds than others, or may be considered more forgiving in-game if, for example, one were to make a tactical mistake. Does this mean that books, or units should be comp'ed though? In the tournaments I've been to, I haven't witnessed the top tables be dominated by any book in particular. In fact, I seen quite a range of books. Recently, at the Capital City Bloodbath in Ottawa, On, the top 10 spots were almost 10 different books! That's pretty astonishing. As well the difference in score between the top place and 10th was less than 30 points. Remember this was a six game tournament where 24 points could be won each game. With that in mind, it doesn't seem it such a big difference. Of course, others may have difference experiences. It is possible that we see more Warriors of Chaos or Dark Elf armies at the top, but does this matter now and will this continue to be the meta? Here are my views..

1) The meta is changing

Unless you've been living in a cave (looking at you dwarf and skaven players!) a LOT has been happening to Warhammer Fnatasy lately. Now I don't want to get into rumour mongering, but I will discuss what we know. 1) We know that combined lists are here and we may see more of them. What does this mean? Well Tomb Kings just kicked your ass, that's what. That's right, these combined lists served in some circumstances to mitigate weaknesses that plagued some books, like Tomb Kings. Thus, in a uncomp'ed environment where everything goes you may be the unfortunate person getting his ass handed to him by a TK player, and that's a good thing. The meta changed, an army is now more viable, there's more competition and overall I think more people are having fun.  You could argue that Warriors of Chaos or Dark Elves didn't need any more help. Some complain that what little weaknesses these books had were essentially eliminated. I think we may need more time before we can definitely draw any conclusions, but in the Elves situation, IMO, adding more T3 Elves isn't a deal-breaker for me, and with Warriors well Skullcannons do misfire once in a while ;).

2) Who comps the comp?

I'll be completely honest here and say that I haven't played a lot of comp'ed Warhammer. From what little I played, though, someone who kicked my ass in uncomp'ed Warhammer.. still soundly kicked it in comp'ed warhammer (grrr). This is totally anecdotal of course. At the same time consider this. There are 15 Warhammer armies, with anywhere between 10-20 entries  (possibly more) per book. I can't see anyway that this can be perfectly fine-tuned and balanced, while maintaining some elements of character in the armies. In my opinion a good Tomb Kings player will almost always beat a terrible Warriors' player. But we are talking tournaments so, presumably, they are all good players. My argument somewhat against comp is that well, how do we know the comp effectively comp'ed? As mentioned, the number of units and books makes it very difficult, near impossible, to ensure perfect balance. What makes us think we know any better when we say give Tomb King player's an extra 300 points? At the end day, how do we know we aren't just artificially changing the meta towards other powerful, seemingly indestructible builds? Recently, I played one mean Warriors Chariot list that was "ETC legal" and I would have been afraid of it in an uncomp'ed environment, let alone an environment where I'm limited to 2 scar vets! All in all, what I'm saying is that I'm not convinved comp'ed does what it says on the tin, and I believe it just creates a different tournament meta. Is it still fun? Probably yes. Is it completely balance? I don't think so.

3) Will it matter?

It seems that 9th Edition warhammer may be around the corner. When exactly? Who knows. As mentioned, with combined lists popping up and now the hint of formations, will we even be able to comp the environment for some time, especially when 9th ed drops? We won't know our asses from our heads so I doubt it for a very long time. If new releases will focus on one-offs frequently, how will a comp pack be maintained and agreed upon by some body consistently? I can see now, those Swedish comp and ETC fans scratching their heads. Overall, we may be entering a new environment of Warhammer where it's everything goes, and it's gory!

Overall, I'm not a huge proponent of comp, but I don't dislike it either. I'll play whatever Warhammer you throw at me. I just question the effectiveness of comp, and sustainability. For example, our comp pack is going to be pretty easy to maintain when it's bring everything! Also, haters are gonna hate (damn haters). When I got back into Warhammer I saw a Crocodile looking guy riding a T-Rex monster-thing (pure love) and immediately found my army. Most of you may be like that. Lizardmen are often considered a middle-tier army.  I've found they are tactically challenging, and yes it is difficult to steamroll people. Nevertheless, I love the army. I love the fluff, aesthetic, everything and I wouldn't change it and I think a lot of you are like that with your armies. I know Andrew from 1PA is everything nurgle, all the time. Not because he thinks they are over-powered, that's what he likes and packs up for every tournament as well. I think it makes it more meaningful to win or lose with an army you love, versus destroying everyone with an army you don't care for. It makes better story-telling. The Tomb Kings players I've met love the Egyptian themed undead, with their living statues and kick-ass mummies. Is it frustrating to lose often? Sure. What's worse though, in my opinion, is commanding an army that you could care less about what happens to them. Of course, maybe you're not like me and want to win non-stop... then what's stopping you from ordering 6 boxes of dark riders right now? 

- Nick

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