Lately I've been doing my best to get back on the 40k bandwagon. I've decided to avoid tournaments and instead have taken it more as something to enjoy. I've played Kill Zone 40k, a team game, and a straight 1750 pt mash up against a really great opponent. But I am having trouble. None of these games came close to giving me the enjoyment of a well-played Infinity game. They just weren't as fun.
The games lacked excitement, they were long, drawn out affairs. We rolled huge handfuls of dice with little effect. I was bored after Turn 2, and wanted it to be over and done with by Turn 4. I found myself really hoping the game would end on Turn 5 and was disappointed when it would continue. This has nothing to do with my opponents, in most cases I play 40k with like-minded players and friends. There are few, if any, rules disputes. It all has to do with the system.
It just isn't fun.
I've thought about it a lot, chatting with mates and discovered that there are four main reasons why 40k is no longer fun for me. Here they are, in no particular order.
1. The Phase System.
The phase system is fundamental to 40k as it determines how you activate your models. We all know the system. For me, the system really stifles excitement. I tend to get excited about a certain attack action (moving up to rapid fire, plasma death or some kind of assault) and I find myself have to calm myself to get on with the phase system.
How many times have you gotten really excited about a move and jumped to the shooting phase before you've moved all your units? DOH! You now cannot move the rest of your units. HAHA! Rules lawyered like a bitch! Objection. Overruled.
No, you are in a way forced to temper your excitement so you can make sure to move all your other models before getting into the shooting phase. I see it in almost every game. Seriously how much more fun would it be if you could move and shoot your units all in one action, instead of waiting for the next phase.
Anyhow, there is something boring about moving every unit, then shooting with every unit and then doing the assault phase. It's just too...organized.
2. Dice Rolls.
My last game of 40k, I was astounded at how many dice rolls, or I should say series of dice rolls, that amounted to nothing, no effect. Handfuls of dice would be scooped up and rolled, all in anticipation of something momentous, then another handful would be scooped up, then another, then another. End result, zilch. WTF? What a waste!
Do the game designers have any concept of how frustrating, and just how unfun, this is? Contrast that with Infinity, if you're picking up dice something is going to happen, for or against you. And why is this fun? Because you get right into the action, it kicks off as soon as you pick up a die. Things happen all the time!
In 40k, you can spend an entire turn dishing out shots only to watch your opponent make every armor save, every cover save that your efforts are not rewarded. Maybe this is why meltaguns are so popular, they're the only guns that can do anything, LOL!
Not cool. Not fun.
3. List Building.
Games Workshop's Codex release model makes sense for getting a big splash in sales in a particular army that they've just invested in developing. While there is something flawed in the focus on Space Marines in the past couple years (essentially the game becoming Marinehammer with no compelling enemies in sight), this comment is not about that. It's about game balance. Because the updated rules for each army trickle out over a number years, certain players are left waiting and waiting and waiting for their army to get an update. During that period, they meet their friends on the tabletop and get crushed over and over by newer armies that have the varied army builds, options, etc. This leaves some players feeling cheated after their games. They feel that even though they've put the time and love into their old armies, they aren't rewarded on the tabletop. This is how I feel after I've faced a Space Wolf that shoots better than my Tau.
Lots of really good players would disagree with me about game balance. They would say that certain lists from older armies do just as well as other newer armies. However, in fact, what they are saying is that game balance only occurs between certain lists, not between the books. If your lists are of equal power, then there is game balance. If not, then your game is not going to be balanced. Lists must be balanced against each other to achieve a true game of skill.
You get tons of list-building bitching on the internet. It's all over the place and this is something the game designers need to tackle in the next edition. Why? Because themed lists, fluff lists, etc, i.e. those which are not power-built, suffer in game. These kinds of players get frustrated. Again, they feel cheated.
They need to make list building less important. It needs to have a smaller effect on the game in exchange for making tactical decisions on part of the player in game more important. Game play should matter more than list building. Otherwise why don't we just show up with our lists and see who has the better one, no dice even need to be rolled.
Infinity has done this...list building is of little consequence to actual game play. How? I'm not exactly sure as I am still new-ish to the game. One reason could be that no model is immune to damage of any kind, unlike vehicles in 40k. Each and every unit has the ability to kill each and every other unit in the game in the hands of a capable player. You can just cobble lists together and with skill, you can beat every other list out there. There is no leafblower, no SW razorspam, no Grey Knights.
This is what I mentioned earlier. A lot of experienced players can look at two lists, then look at how each player deployed and they can predict the outcome of a battle. It's actually not that hard. Even semi-experienced players can do this. Sure, your efforts in game can tip the battle against the odds, but for the most part, military blunders aside, the game can be determined before it's actually begun. On the other hand, you could point out that since dice rolls are involved, lady luck plays a part. Yet, how much does luck play a role? Since there are so many dice rolls over the course of the game, the law of averages mitigates the role of luck.
So why does predictability stifle fun? For one, it ruins suspense. Suspense is fun. Not knowing how things are going to turn out is fun. Can't explain why. It just is.
Infinity has solved this problem by including the critical success rule. I'm not going to go into the mechanics, but essentially any time you roll a die you have a 5% chance of making a critical success. If it's a shooting roll getting a critical means you've automatically caused a wound, no armor save allowed, period. It's a HEAD SHOT! haha! FUN! You never know when you're going to get one!!! Now, I am not suggesting this for 40k but just want to illustrate it as an example of how a simple rule like that can be fun.
So that sums it up for me. 40k needs to be re-built from the ground up. It needs a revolution in game play for it to be fun for me again. I know there are lot out there that would disagree with me. I could be wrong. I can only tell you what my perspective is, and like the little kid who pointed out that the Emperor was naked, I think I am pointing out what everyone knows to be true. 40k just isn't that fun.