Warhammer and Comp Restrictions – A Viewpoint

Wow, I suppose that this is another milestone, the 250th post here on 6 Inch Move. We’re certainly crunching through numbers here recently. I suppose that with so many cool things being released at the moment (new version or Warhammer, expansion for Malifaux) that there is a lot of things to write about, even if we here at the floating citadel are experiencing a drought after a month that was filled with all kinds of gaming goodness. I suppose we each just have a lot going on at the moment, I know I do.

Yet, even if we are not spending every night with a paint brush in hand or stopped over a table filled with little plastic men, we will not let the Internet down by spewing forth our thoughts on the gaming hobby. Following on from yesterday’s opinion post I wanted to really push the boat out and make another one. We’re boarding up the windows of the citadel, just in case the tweens have developed some kind of long range siege weaponry.

As I stated in yesterday’s post I am not a tournament player, although I read enough articles and forum posts to understand what goes on and the kind of armies that people take. There is also one particular point, that, while not universal to all tournaments, crops up often enough and can be quite divisive with many people being “for” it and equally as many being “against”. This system is Composition or Comp as it is more widely called. The basic premise of this is that various people (not GW developers) take the army lists and the rules and then change things around. Primarily these restrictions and changes are there to “balance” the perceived differences in the army power levels. Sometimes Comp is used in this restrictive format, other times players are asked to score one another’s armies (it is generally accepted that many players will mark an opponent down if they lose to them).

There are many different systems and variations of those systems in use, your tournament score can be affected if you take certain units or models and certain things are banned altogether. With the new spell lores in 8th edition I have read about sets of Comp restrictions that remove access to the top spells from some of the lores. Historically Daemon armies were the focus of some quite horrific restrictions to stop them being “broken” or “auto-win” and there were many arguments back and forth on various forums about whether this was fair or not and if Daemon players were being penalised because other players were not stepping up to the challenge and just whining that they couldn’t win taking their normal armies.

First off, I suppose I need to put forth my stance on tournaments and how I see them. For me wargames are about competition in general, you are trying to win against the player opposite you according to the specifics of the game/scenario you are playing. While at home this is done with a bit more of an atmosphere about having a laugh and enjoying the game in a relaxed manner, in a tournament I’d expect a more cut-throat “win at all costs” attitude as you are being rewarded according to your success. While some people might go just to play some games against some new opponents if you are paying money to go to one to these things and there are prizes on offer I’d hope that each person goes there with an attitude to try to win.

Within this environment you are therefore going to try to make the most optimal and strong lists possible to give yourself the best chance of winning, I mean, hey, it’s a tournament you’re supposed to try to win right? That is what I’d expect. Now, from that stance you can probably quite easily work out which side of the comp argument I come down on. I can hear the counter arguments already, “but some armies are better, we need comp to balance things to make the games fairer!” I am sorry but I say “suck it up”, do you think that Leonidas stood in the Hot Gates with his 300 Spartans (I know there were more men at Thermopylae than just the Spartans) and looked over the Persian horde and said “man, these teams are stacked, Xerxes, why don’t you send some of your guys over to play skins to even things up a bit?” Somehow, I don’t think so.

My main argument against Comp is that you are changing things around with the rules and the army books, arbitrarily altering people’s choices because certain things are too strong. I hope people can see my argument there, I can agree that GW should write books that are more or less similar in their power level but a perfect balance is not something that is ever going to be achieved, this is a tournament after all. While in the confines of our own home we play around with units and armies to have fun in a competitive setting the winning is not the be all and end all of the game. In tournaments it is, yes that may mean that we only see a few armies at a tournament, the perceived “strong” ones, but that doesn’t stop someone from coming up with a winning list from something outside that group when the playing field leans in a particular way. If you are going to a tournament why wouldn’t take the strongest list you can? Doesn’t that give you the greatest chance of winning?

Results show that there isn’t just one army that blitz’s all before it, if there was then I’d imagine that everyone would take that list, on a good day any one army can take another due to the fact that a sizeable part of the game comes down to luck. Dice rolls make a lot of the decisions on what happens irrelevant of the strategy of the general.

Personally I don’t think that Warhammer in its new incarnation lends itself much towards tournament play, there are a lot of options and a lot of random elements. Plus there is the decisive nature of some of the top spells, I understand why some organisers want to nix these in order to try and create a more tournament friendly rules set. However, when anyone does this it detracts from the game by superseding what the games developers were trying to achieve when they wrote the game. I’m not saying that Warhammer players shouldn’t hold or attend tournaments in 8th Edition, I just have the opinion that there are other games that lend themselves better to tournament play (Warmachine, Hordes and Malifaux spring straight to mind).

I dislike Comp because it removes options rather than allows players the full run of their armies. If you are attending a tournament you can pick what you take, no one is stopping you from taking the biggest, baddest list you can come up with and in a setting that glorifies winning, I don’t think you should ever be stopped or penalised from bringing the best you can. After all, if Warhammer were real a rampaging army wouldn’t ask one of their elite units to sit on the sideline because they are a bit too strong against their opponents, it’s just silly.

2 thoughts on “Warhammer and Comp Restrictions – A Viewpoint”

  1. “Man, these teams are stacked, Xerxes, why don’t you send some of your guys over to play skins to even things up a bit?”

    I LOL’d so much I barfed!

    Seriously though, I agree. Mainly for the reason that whoever choses the comp rules is going to have some kind of bias, intentional or unintentional. Essentially you are going from one kind of imbalance to another, potentially at the whim of some power tripping corruptable tournament organising neckbeard.

    One exception, I wouldn’t complain if an organiser said no named special characters.

  2. Very well put, indeed. I tend to agree on much of what you wrote. Still I am not quite sure, if I follow all of your argumentation. That very much depends on weather we are talking about tournaments as they are commonly held or about what they should be (according to personal preferences, of course). Basically all of the Warhammer tournaments that I have attended seem focus very much on finding out who is the best at killing off an opposing army. This is fine, as long as every one attends the tournament with exactly that in mind. In this case I can only agree that restricting too strong army compositions is rather silly.
    On the other hand, one may argue, that that being a good tabletop general should to a large extend be determined by what happens at the table and that using the rules as the are puts too much weight on army composition. Therefore, I can understand that people might try to take the edge of the worst imbalances in the game system by putting additional restrictions in place. I think it is perfectly o.k. to restrict a game system that is is not primarily intended for tournaments when it is taken to such a competitive environment. The point in boxing seems to be to knock the opponent out. Still none of the contestants is allowed to bring a club(*). So far, however, I have not seen any of these restrictions work properly. I think that it would be much more effective to have players field an opponents army compilation against their own list. But, that, I guess, would be a whole new discussion.

    (*) sorry for the lame example – I’s the best I could come up with.

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