Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why Allies Are Good for the Hobby

I’m going to go ahead and say, that Allies are by far my favorite element of 6th Edition. When this was confirmed, I just about went bananas. Allies tickle my awesome bone for a few reasons, mostly having to do with the exponentially expanded possibilities for list construction which comes along with them. I am a list-building fanatic. I actually enjoy writing armies, JUST for the sake of writing armies. Some people have actually chided me for posting up lists for discussion about armies I don’t own nor intend to own. Really? Come on, talking about army lists is fun! Not for everyone, but for me, I really do enjoy it.
So that’s a great, great aspect of allies, for those of us who can’t get enough of theoryhammer/listhammer.
But I’m not here to talk about why *I* like allies, but instead why allies are good for The Hobby, and bring it closer to the vision that I think Games Workshop has always desired, without ruining it for those of us that actually enjoy going to tournaments (competitive, well-designed tournaments).
So allies are good for competitive players, I will argue. I believe they are a poor-man’s fix to codex creep and balance issues, with a nod to fluff thrown in. Armies can shore up weaknesses in their own unit selection by borrowing from other’s repertoire’s. Tau seem to me to be the stand-out winners here. With the ability to work with anyone, and firepower units but a paucity of good troops and screening, they have gained a LOT. Personally, I would be looking at Orks if I was playing Tau as a kick-ass supplement, but that’s just me.
But I also indicated that allies are good for less competitive gamers, and help to realize the vision for The Hobby that Games Workshop has always had (I think).
When you are a competitive player, you build armies. You don’t collect armies, you build them. There may be some exceptions to this rule, but I think they are few and far between. You start with theory, you come up with a concept, you probably proxy and playtest, you discuss with fellow gamers, then you buy the units you need and, if you are also a painter, you build and paint them to a tournament standard. You may have some flexibility within that army. Maybe you have some Wolf Scouts and Lone Wolves and swap them out interchangeably. But probably for the most part your army is your army.
When we talk about building an army, we are talking hundreds of dollars. We are talking 2000 points. We are talking hours and hours of invested time.
Games Workshop wants you to collect units, not armies.
I distinctly remember reading old White Dwarfs, and I’m sure it hasn’t changed too much. The basic premise is: Buy a unit. Build the unit. Paint the unit. Throw it into your army and try it out.
For casual gamers and collectors, this works quite well I imagine. Say you are an Ultramarine player. The new honour guard models come out. Oh neat, I think I’m going to go buy that box. You buy the models, build them, paint them. For your next game, in they go!
Bully for them.
But this tends to lead to mono-army-itis. 10000 points of boyz in blue.
Allies allow for a blending of these two approaches, opening the door for both casual and competitive gamers to become collectors.
Now, if you find Necrons or Dark Eldar interesting, but aren’t sure you want to dump 600-700 bucks into an army, you can still play them. Buy your HQ, and a unit of troops, and you are off to the races. Add a unit of Fast Attack, and into your army they go.
This will also alleviate, to some extent, the “Lots O’ Marines” epidemic. I think most people start playing the latest Marine codex because they already have a bunch of the models they need, and it gives them a chance to try something new. If you already have 12 Rhino hulls you can use them in any Marine army you want. There is relatively little incentive to try a Xenos army, because Xenos armies require a totally new investment in a complete, new army.
Now, if a Xenos codex releases, you don’t have to buy a full 2000 point army. Again, HQ and a Troop, and you are ready to integrate into your existing forces. Tau are positioned to sell like hotcakes to… EVERYBODY once their new codex drops. Anyone can use them, and you don’t have to dump the better portion of a grand to do it.
I will say, army paint judging may have to flex a bit. I can imagine it will be hard to have a visually “cohesive” force if you are running Ultramarines and Necrons together… 
At the end of the day, I think this is a really good thing for everyone, including Games Workshops. They will more easily sell models, we will more easily try out different things... it's a win win.