I wanted to muse a little bit about varying points levels. Most people that I have met do not have much of a preference to a given points level. Some people are quite vocal about their preference for points! For this article, I would like to take the opportunity to discuss varying point games and some potential effects on game play they might have. I will be breaking down the conversation along the following sub-sections.
- 1500 – Widely considered the smallest, acceptable size for a normal game of 40K.
- 1750-1850 – The old tournament range. This is for the players that usually want the best of both worlds, not too small and not too big.
- 2000 – This is for the people that enjoy the flexibility of a larger game.
- 2000+ - For people that enjoy much larger games!
1500 points is generally considered the smallest, acceptable size for a normal game of 40K. This is also the standard size of play for some major, local areas in the US as well as the standard size for play in the UK.
- This point level severely restricts many codices from being able to overload the board with power. Most codices see somewhere between 400-500 points spent in just compulsory troop and HQ choices. For example, two, basic ten man tactical squads with rhinos and a captain costs 510 points. This does not mean that you can’t try to fill your compulsory choices on the cheap. (2 x 5 Scout Squads + Captain = 250). Usually, though, once you have given a working kit to your troop choices and given wargear to your HQ, you’ll end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 33% of your points already spent just in compulsory choices. This only leaves you 1000 or so to fill in your strategy.
- This point level restricts an army’s ability to handle “all situations” and usually gears itself more toward “adopting a strategy and running with it”. This is because the points available to you are generally low so that you can’t have everything you want! Generally, people who adamantly defend 1500 points as being the appropriate point level refer to this as having to be tactically choosey about what you can include in your army.
- There is more room on the board, generally, and less going on. This makes games easier to track, faster to play, and it is generally easier to maneuver.
- Some armies truly excel at 1500 points because any points in excess of 1500 sees them filling out excess points rather than gaining anything overly useful for the extra points. These armies are the most efficient at 1500 because any more points just go into fluff. For example, in my opinion, Tau are at their strongest at 1500 points. This is because they can max out their force org with 1 Broadside each, 1 suit each, some troops, and some HQ. The addition of more troop choices doesn’t really help Tau that much, and the inclusion of more suits is only necessary once the points start going up.
- Many effective and fun strategies are only possible at 1500 points. These strategies usually rely on the opponent not having access to enough of their force org or units in order to combat them. For example, Dark Eldar Lance Spam works beautifully at 1500 points. It is not so effective at 2000 points where the opponent can usually stand to soak some of the damage and keep coming.
- Hammer Units and Elite Units tend to function better at the 1500 point levels because there is “less opposing army” to deal with them. This is also true of bigger characters and creatures. Usually because the weapons needed to deal with these units only come on more expensive squads. This might seem counter-intuitive as Hammer Units are usually very expensive and thus take up more of the valuable points at 1500. However, you must also imagine that at 1500, the opponent doesn’t have access to the variety of tools needed to deal with them.
- Just as some armies excel at 1500, some armies are terrible at 1500 points in terms of balance. For example, in my opinion, 1500 points severely restrict Tyranids from being effective. This is because generally accepted builds are Hive Guard, Tervigons, Termagaunts, and HQ. You cannot effectively fit these elements in at 1500 points and still get an effective quantity (i.e. 2-3 Hive Guard per slot) at the points. This puts them at a pretty major disadvantage to armies that function very well at 1500, like Dark Eldar for example who can pack in an unbelievable amount of Dark Lances even at low points.
- Some armies, especially newer ones, can pack in enormous amounts of fire power into highly under-costed units. This can truly unbalance a 1500 point game because not all armies have access to these “super units”. At higher point levels, other armies can mitigate a lot of this imbalance by packing in more units, especially since usually the player having access to these units usually has run out of force org slots even at 1500. Great examples are Vendettas or Long Fangs. Because these units are so effective and so cheap, an opponent’s ability to mitigate them at 1500 is severely limited, especially with older codices that don’t have that great new pricing available to them.
- Many, very effective strategies and variety get restricted at lower points. There are many builds that simply aren’t viable at 1500 points. For example, many very expensive HQ units are simply not viable in 1500 point games because they eat up to many of the available points to allow for a balanced army build.
- These smaller games tend to exacerbate imbalances found between the older and newer codices. Once again, this has to do with costing and the ability for older codices to offset some of that bad costing once the newer dex has run out of force org slots for their cheap stuff. This is not true in all cases, but it does hold true in most cases.
- 1500 points are more likely to suffer from “paper, rock, scissors” problems. This is because higher point games allow for players to construct more balanced lists which are capable of handling a variety of situations whereas 1500 point games tend to prefer lists which are very pointed to a particular strategy. For example, if someone shows up with 3 Land Raiders at 1500 points, the availability of weapons necessary to deal with them in a balanced 1500 list will be not be very high. At 2000 points, there are usually plenty of weapons necessary to deal with such a “rock” army.
For each point level, I want to point out some common misconceptions and address them.
1500 points is a superior level because it forces players to make choices because they can’t include everything they want.
- This is the most common misconception from people who generally prefer 1500 point games. For those of us who player at higher points, there are plenty of sacrifices and choices you have to make even at 2000 points. You can’t always have what you want. In fact, for many armies, 1500 points is so restrictive they can’t get what they NEED let alone WANT. The theory behind this is nice, but this is also what introduces the exacerbation of codex imbalance. For example, how many Long Fangs will a Space Wolf player have at 1500 points? 15. How many will he have at 2000 points? 15. You can see how the effectiveness of such a powerful, widely under-costed unit gets diminished at higher points and not at lower points.
There are builds that don’t work at 1500.
- This is true! However, it is also true that there are builds that work at 1500 that don’t work at anything more. So, this statement is not a valid reason not to play at 1500.
1500 is balanced and the point level intended for play by GW.
- It may be the point level intended, but it is certainly not balanced. No point level is truly balanced for all codices. Some function better at 1500. Some function better at 2500.
1500 point games are faster.
- Most games at ‘Ard Boyz finish in the 2 ½ hour time limit at 2500 points. At the NOVA, all of my games were done before 2 hours at 2000 points. It’s not the point level that matters, it’s the players. The number one factor in making a slow game is looking up rules while the game is going on or by people that don’t have charts memorized or their basic army stats.