Saturday, 29 September 2018

Big FAQ Sept 2018 Review

The September big FAQ dropped yesterday to the joy and lament of 40k players everywhere. Like many others all over the internet, I'm going to do an analysis of the changes to the game, and what it might mean for my own armies. 

Battle Brothers, Psychic Focus and the Character targeting rules are now official and no longer beta. I think most players could see this coming, so no big surprise there. 

Even with the change to Battle Brothers, Imperial armies are still incredibly strong, able to gain access to cheap brigades and battalions to rack up the command points. This still makes them incredibly strong in the current game. 

No real change for me here, as I don't really play Smite-heavy armies or run many mixed forces in my games. 

Tactical Reserves
The biggest change here is that no units may arrive from reserve on turn 1. This is quite a big change for many armies in the game. 

One thing that immediately sprung to mind was no more "hiding" Dark Reapers or Ravagers in reserve to stop them being shot at in turn 1. Your Aeldari opponent will now have to start them on the table from turn 1 (and potentially vulnerable), or wait to turn 2 to use them. With a fast moving army, you can potentially block off a lot of area of the board and restrict the reserves arrival of more powerful enemy units, even if you didn't get the first turn now.

The change also restricts you to half the number of units and up to half the points total in reserve now. I think the change from power level to points level was expected, and I'm surprised they didn't do it from the start. I may be wrong, but I don't think many players used power level regularly in games, so points make more sense. In addition, points are now being updated in Chapter Approved, whereas power levels seem to be staying as they are, so this makes it easier to adjust the army to cope with changes to the game.

My White Scars and Deathwatch may be affected by this change. I would sometimes bring my reserve units down on turn 1, depending on how aggressively my opponent was playing. It didn't happen too often, but it was a useful tactical choice to have. However, I used it so rarely that I don't think it will really have an effect on how I use these armies.

This change to the rule will probably hit my Genestealer Cults the hardest until the new codex comes out. No longer being able to arrive from reserve and assault on turn 1 is a big deal for the Genestealer Cults. This was one of the few things the Cult had going for them in terms of special rules. While this will probably be sorted in the codex, it will be a long few months of using the Cult in the mean time. They simply don't have a lot of durably infantry units that can start on the board and potentially survive 2 turns of the enemy shooting.

The Cult are one of the few armies that needs most of its strength in reserve to get into combat. Their transports are expensive and not too durable, and their infantry are basically Guardsmen when it comes to enemy guns and will melt away long before they get into combat.

The change from power level to points shouldn't have too much of an influence. In my recent video battle report, my units in reserve totalled around 950 pts, so I wouldn't have been able to put much more in reserve anyway.

Stratagem Changes
Some of the more powerful stratagems in the current game saw an increase in the number of command points required to use them.

Strike From the Shadows/Forward Operatives/Clandestine Infiltration- These functioned in pretty much the same way. You can deploy an infantry unit before the first turn starts anywhere on the board, at least 9" from an enemy unit or deployment zone.

Under the new rules, the selected unit can now move 9" before the start of the first battle round, as long as it remains at least 9" away from an enemy unit.

I kind of like this change. The previous rules were way too powerful, for me. I've had games where two big units of Khorne Berzerkers ended up 9" from my lines before the game started, meaning pretty much guaranteed turn 1 charges. This should help mitigate the effects of a first turn charge or alpha strike against many armies.

A few Stratagems also got more expensive to use. It seems that Blood Angels and Imperial Knights have been on the receiving end of this, thanks to Smash Captains and Knight Castellans.

Oathbreaker Guidance Systems went up to 3CP. This is a powerful stratagem that allowed Knights to target a character that was out of line of sight, that ignored invulnerable saves and most armour and did D6 damage. It was almost impossible to hide a character from this missile, unless they were off the board.
A few other powerful Knight stratagems also got a CP points increase to mitigate the number of times they could be used.

Agents of Vect also went up to 4CP to use. This should seriously limit the number of times it can be used in a game, as a standard 2 Battalion army only has 13 CP. Even with a few regenerated CP, you will only be able to use Agents of Vect 3 or 4 times in a game if you don't use any other stratagems. For me, this is one of the most powerful stratagems in the game, but I'm not sure the increase was necessary, as 3CP is pretty expensive as it is.

New Beta Rules
Prepared Positions
A new stratagem called "Prepared Positions" has been introduced: "Use this Stratagem at the start of the first battle round, before the first turn begins. Until the end of the first turn, all units from your army that are wholly within your Deployment Zone, other than Titanic units, receive the benefit of cover, even while they are not entirely on or in a terrain feature. A unit that is already receiving the benefit of cover gains no additional benefit from this Stratagem."

I think this is a rather elegant way of mitigating the effects of going second in the game. Getting cover saves on your entire army for only 2CP can be a very strong bonus, giving most Marine armies a 2+ save on the first turn. This should help out with most vehicles, giving them a 4+ save against Missile launcher-type weapons, a 5+ save against Lascannon-type weapons and even a save against Melta weapons on turn 1.

It will also have an impact on deployment. There are times when you can deploy more aggressively or in optimal position for grabbing objectives/going after enemy units without having to worry about staying in cover, thanks to the new stratagem.

It also gives a slight boost to those armies that can ignore cover saves or has units/abilities that can ignore cover.

I'm looking forward to trying this one out in game to see how effective/ineffective it will be.

Tactical Restraint
Command Point regeneration abilities have now been restricted to only giving back a single command point per battle round. This is a huge change, as there were combinations of warlord traits and relics that could potentially give you back a lot of command points each turn. Most opponents of Astra Militarum armies should be a bit relieved at this news.

Another benefit of this rules change is that you may now see other warlord traits being taken. Most armies had access to some form of regain CP warlord trait/ability, and this is the trait/ability you would see exclusively used with these armies.

Raining in these abilities a bit means you may actually have a choice of which warlord trait to take in your force, boosting the abilities of your warlord or nearby units as a result. Any variety in the game is a good thing, in my opinion.

One thing this ruling won't do is change the Guard Battalion for extra command points that most competitive Imperial armies use. This is one of the cheapest ways to get 5 command points in an Imperial army, coming in at just over 200 pts for the minimum-sized Battalion. While you will no longer be generating crazy numbers of CP, it will still help out mixed Imperial armies a lot over those without access to such cheap Battalions.

Rulebook Errata
Probably the biggest controversy this time around has been the changes to the Fly rules.

Fly now only allows models to ignore intervening terrain and models when the move in the Movement phase. This means that models with Fly can no longer charge over screening models to get to more valuable units behind them in the Charge phase.

This is a big hit for Jump Pack units and Smash Captain-type models. It is also a big blow for Harlequin units, removing one of their unique and characterful rules. Flip belts are incredibly powerful still, but less so when it comes to assaults now.

This makes proper screening units even more valuable now to guard your precious units. Many powerful characters will now need to try and get through a big unit to get to a character of vehicle that is sheltering behind them.

I can understand how this change was made. It is annoying for your screening units to be wasted if your opponent rolls a high enough charge. I think this was compounded by 3D6" charge stratagems that made it easier to deploy from reserves and get a charge in over a screening unit.

This also makes moving units from higher levels in ruins more difficult. Before, you could bring in a unit from reserve 9" away and have to make a 9" charge to get to the unit in the ruins. Now, you could potentially have a much higher or impossible charge move to get to the unit.

I'm not sure I like this change. One of the best things about Fly units was the ability to bypass other units for better targets and offered you some tactical flexibility in your units. Its a shame that a few very powerful Characters or units with Fly have hurt many other units in the game, such as Assault Marines.

Heroic Intervention 
The rules for heroic intervention were also clarified in the FAQ.

You can perform a Heroic Intervention in your opponent's turn, even if they did not charge. In addition, you cannot perform a Heroic Intervention in your own turn.

Before I heard about the big upsets at recent tournaments, I had never considered that you could perform a heroic intervention without your opponent charging. I figured this rule was to allow you to get characters into combat if a nearby friendly unit was charged, allowing the character to help out against the enemy unit.

However, after reading the rules, there is nothing in the wording to stop you doing this if your opponent did not charge. This was such a weird interpretation for me, and seemed counter intuitive. However, the game designers have ruled that this was the intention from the start.

This makes units such as Knight Characters and Space Wolves characters very powerful, able to get into combat if they are close to the enemy unit. It will certainly be something to bear in mind from now on.

How it Affects my Armies?
I'm now going to take a look at some of the changes to the FAQ and errata for my own forces.

The Targeting Scramblers stratagem has been modified to allow you to remove marker lights after a unit's shooting has finished. This is to stop the situation where the T'au player could use a stratagem to add more markerlights, after you had used a stratagem to remove them using Deathwatch. This seems to be a good fix for me and the intention of the Deathwatch stratagem in the first place.

Space Marines
It was clarified that you cannot use an Apothecary to bring an Armorium Cherub back from the dead. Like the last FAQ, this was a tactic that hadn't even occurred to me, much like using the Hellfire Shells stratagem twice with the Armorium cherub. I can't use the tactic, so may as well forget it now!

The change to CP regeneration has no effect on my White Scars, as they did not have access to such a stratagem. The change to the Fly rules may affect my Jump Pack characters and Assault Squads, but I normally used these to deliver Plasma Pistols to vulnerable enemy characters and units, so don't see it having too much of an effect.

Astra Militarum
The biggest change here was that Bullgryn Slabshields now only increase the armour save by 2, not the invulnerable save.
This is a change for the better, in my opinion. With psychic powers and stratagems, it was possible to get a 2+ invulnerable save on the Bullgryns with ease, making this unit practically indestructible against most armies. I don't think this was ever the intention of the unit and was way too powerful on an already powerful army.

The Take Cover! stratagem now only affects Armour saves, rather than all saves, so you can no longer use it to boost invulnerable saves.

Genestealer Cults
The biggest hit to the cult, as discussed above, is the change to the reserves rules, no longer allowing them to deploy with Cult Ambush on turn 1. This is a huge blow for them, but hopefully we will get a codex soon to address this.

Another clarification is that using the Return to the Shadows stratagem after turn 3 does not automatically destroy your unit. I think this clarification had to be made, as the stratagem was effectively worthless after turn 2 using the Rules as Written interpretation.

A lot of big changes with the new FAQ and Errata.

I think most people saw the CP abilities being reigned in. Mixed-Imperial armies were the biggest beneficiary of these rules and it was ridiculously overpowered. They are still a very strong army, getting access to the most units and combinations in the game.

The Fly change caught me by surprise as well. I didn't think that change was going to happen, and it is probably the most controversial change to come from the FAQ.

I look forward to seeing how this will impact the game going forward. I'm now looking forward to Chapter Approved 2019 to see what else we have in store.

What were your thoughts on the new FAQ? Comment below with how it has affected your army. As always, you can join the St Andrews Wargaming Facebook page and subscribe to the Youtube Channel to keep up to date on all the latest content. 


  1. This was a great read. Thanks!

  2. I’m pretty happy with this FAQ. I think GW could have gone further to limit soups etc but it’s probably wiser for them to make smaller changes rather than big sweeping ones that invalidate entire collections of minis.

    The change to Forward Operatives hits quite hard, but given the Alpha Legion already have the best trait of the legions it seems only fair. Plus combining the -1 to hit trait with the Prepared Positions stratagem should make them very tough to shift on turn one.

    On that Stratagem. It’s obviously a much needed boost for armies caught going second against a gun line. Having said that I foresee myself not using it that much on some of my armies. Jormungandr Tyranids mostly get cover anyway, and Ad Mech can just pick Shroudpsalm on turn one.

    The fly change is my biggest disappointment. I understand why the change was made, but it is another boost for shooting armies that they can shield their units much easier now. Being able to charge over stuff with units like Gargoyles or a Heldrake never seemed over the top to me, especially since those units tend to have so little damage output the ability to shut down shooting units was basically all they had going for them.

    1. Agreed, for some armies the stratagem is pretty useless. The -1 to hit and increased cover save for the whole army is a huge boost to the durability of some forces, going to make it even harder to shift them.

      The Fly one is weird. I didn't expect this, and it seems like a couple of strong units messing it up for everyone else.

  3. I think the tactical restraint is a another example of GW knee jerk reactions. Yes it needed to be reigned in, as i i played at least 1 game where I literally had too many command points to spend but limiting it to just 1 per turn is a bit too much. 1 per phase would have been better inmy opinion.

    They seem to be struggling with FLY and its interactions with other things. I expect this to change again and add back in some options to the charge phase. An adjustment was needed but maybe this is a little too much.

    The Take Cover stratagem is also now limited to infantry (unless I missed an earlier update) rather than just a AM unit. So no more 2+ tanks.

    Overall I think that this FAQ is a good one. The majority of changes have been good ones and have dealt with many of the issues in the game, there will always be some that are missed and we will no doubt see some new issues arise as a result of these changes.

    1. I still think one CP regenerated per phase is too much, as you are unlikely to get many more under the old system. I'm not sure what a better system would be though, maybe once per player turn.

      The Fly ruling is a bit odd. I think it will be very unpopular. Not sure if they will change it again.

      Take Cover is only infantry, so no 2+ tanks.

    2. Maybe a better option for CP's would be a once per turn per option. For example the guard have a relic and a warlord trait, so you could claim one for the warlord trait and one for the relic per turn. It would still limit the use of them but would not need them entirely.

      Also, I make a bare bones guard battalion 180 points. Meaning you could easily get 10CP from less than 400 points and still have a main detachment with plenty of punch. Plus the 64 bodies will be very useful meat shields and objective holders.

  4. The one I had been thinking of for restricting CP gain was that you could only us a given effect to regain CP from your own Stratagem if the effect and the Stratagem had the same Faction. So the IG Trait/Relic could only trigger on IG Stratagems, the BA one could only trigger on BA Stratagems, etc.

    The Fly Ruling is too broad, I think, but it also prevents some really weird effects like being able to drop in directly below a Unit 10" off the ground and then have a 0" Charge on them, since the exclusion distance on all the "Deep Strike" powers was 3D, but Units with Fly only counted the horizontal distance when Charging. I would definitely like to see them re-visit some of the specific cases, like Harlequin Flip Belts, but overall, I think it's for the best.

    The Infiltrate Stratagems got nerfed a little too hard in my opinion, just because of the way the timing works out. It should have either been something like "use when Deployed, can Deploy like SM Scouts", or "use before the start of the first Turn, free 9" move". The fact that you have to declare it when you Deploy the Unit, but can't actually take advantage until after all Units are Deployed gives Opponents with Scouts or Nurglings the ability to completely counter it if they want, and telegraphs your intentions in advance, which is the opposite of what those Armies are supposed to do. It also means you need to keep track of which Units you used the Stratagem on, which isn't a big deal, but it is still one more thing.

    On the Reserves change from Power Level to Points: GW keeps trying to make Power Levels happen, and pretty much no one is having it. I really hope they don't keep trying to incorporate it with more stuff like that Blood Claws Stratagem that triggers off Power Level comparison, because so many people ignore it, and then you have to stop and figure it out in the middle of the game, which is the exact opposite of the goal for Power Levels.