Tournament Limits

Rules packs for 40K tournaments in the UK have always been fun to read. For the last 6 months or so especially it almost seems like you need some sort of law degree or advanced maths diploma just to understand what you can and cannot take.

For the most part these are fairly simple and they will allow you 2 sources which all fine and good but an increasing amount of tournament organisers are starting to put limitations on what actually counts as a source and, to some extent, what a CAD even means. At the early stages of 7th edition this wasn't so bad as most official tournaments simply said bring a CAD and/or an allies detachment. All fine and good. 6 months on we now seem to be drilling down into what makes up a CAD with every new codex released through Games Workshop scatter shot approach to updates.

Let me elaborate. A Combined Arms Detachment (or CAD) is what everyone recognises as a force organisation chart. This was always 1-2 HQ, 2-6 Troops, 0-3 Heavy support etc etc. Lately Games Workshop have started to flex the boundaries of this mould and introduce codex specific CADs and formations which leads to all sorts of problems for the prospective tournament organiser. In a half hearted attempt to keep armies balanced these TO's have started limiting what CADs can and cannot be taken.

It wasn't long ago that most rules packs looked something similar to the following:

  1. 1750 points
  2. No unbound
  3. Forge World is allowed
This obviously shifted at some point to include rule number 4: Maximum 2 sources. This was typically used to limit it so 1 CAD + 1 allied detachment was the norm. Why then has there suddenly been a further shift to further try and limit selections to keep things "fair and balanced"?

Case in point, recently I attended the biggest 40K event that was ever held within the UK the caledonian uprising and the event was highly regarded as a great success despite a couple of minor hicups. The rules pack however looked more like the following:

  1. Games will be played with Warhammer 40,000 7th Ed Armies of 1850pts. 
  2. Any Codex available on or before list submission deadline may be used.
  3. Only battle forged armies may be taken. 
  4. Your battle forged army must contain one Combined Arms detachment (and only one). 
  5. Some codex’s allow alternative Combined arms detachments (Knight primary detachments, Wolves unleashed, Ork Horde detachment etc) – these may be selected instead of the compulsory Combined Arms Detachment. 
  6. In addition your battle forged army may select one additional non-Combined Arms detachment (Allied, Inquisition, Allied Imperial Knights, Legion of the Damned, Formation etc) 
  7. ‘Come the Apocalypse’ Alliances can be made and Special (Unique) Characters will be allowed. 
  8. Lords of War (see restrictions) and Forge World are all permitted (however see below about models). You should have a physical printed copy of the rules for your opponent. 
There were limitations put on how many summoning dice could be used per psychic phase, how many Forge World models could be used, how many points could be used for a Lord of War and a whole host of other factors.
This was followed by:

Which was then followed by 3 appendixes which went on to list all the formations, data slates, white dwarf articles and supplements as well as listing which ones counted as a primary source and which ones counted as a secondary.

As you can imagine there was more than a few lists sent back for corrections where people had used a formation in the wrong slot, used a formation for a secondary which was actually part of a primary and so on ad nausea.

My main concern with this type of set up for the big tournaments is where does it end? With the new Decurion detachment available in the Necron codex how will tournament organisers limit what toys we can use and which ones we cannot, all in the name of balance? To give you an idea of how the Decurion detachment works you can see the fancy new force organisation chart for Necrons on the right.

What does all that mean? Well to put it simply if you wish to use this formation you must have, as a minimum 1 Reclamation Legion consisting of 1 Overlord, 1-4 units of Immortals, 2-8 units of Warriors and 1-3 units of Tomb Blades. For the old school players think of this as your typical 1 HQ, 2 Troops minimum.

After that you can take 1-10 of any of the other ones listed to make up your themed army. This means in theory you could take the minimum listed above and then follow it on with 20-40 Doom Scythes or 20 annihilation barges and 10 Doomsday Arks or indeed, any combination of the ones listed. The only limit of course being the points cost of the game you are playing and the models you own.

This is all contained within a single formation and I'm pretty sure this wont be the only one available. I'm fully expecting every other codex and supplement to have a similar structure going forward and for me it brings with it countless possibilities for building up your army.

What does all of this mean for anyone wanting to attend a UK tournament following this release? Well, one of two (possibly 3) things will happen. Either tournament organisers will allow it and then have to listen to hundreds of people pissing and moaning about how broken it is or they will simply ban it and listen to a smaller number of people pissing and moaning about not being able use it. Its a no win situation which ever way you look at it. The possible third solution to this is for tournament organisers to put further limitations on the Decurion detachment and limit it in some way, maybe by point limit. Saying only 50% of your points can be spent on a Decurion detachment for example but that will also lead to having to put the same limitation on The Wolves Unleashed or the Baal Strike Force further complicating the whole mess meaning that only fully certified astrophysicists with a minimum of 5 years on the job training can understand.

Of course the usual argument against all of this will be that if you don't like the rules pack then don't attend the tournament. This of course would be a valid statement if tournament organisers in general didn't just copy and paste the rules pack from someone else. Heaven forbid they actually come up with their own thoughts on how a tournament should be organised.

What is the point of all this? Well actually its points. The game we all love has a point system for each model, upgrade and piece of war gear available in every codex. Why not simply let us use the points limit and allow us to come up with our own lists so we can play the way we want to play? How would that be any different to the 9 Forge World Hornet spam or 3 Wraith Knights allied with 2 Riptides which are allowed?

To put it simply, restrictions on top of the rule system don't make the game any more balanced. People will always find loop holes within any rule system to use the units they want to use. Lets remove the limits and allow everyone to use exactly what they want.


  1. Part 1 (seems I went on a bit…)

    Great article Scoffer and the Decurion will be next on the to do list to work out what the hell I do to fit it into my events.

    Maybe that’s the problem like you say – why not just allow everything then there would be no debate! No need to ‘fit’!

    Wouldn’t be surprised (like you say) to see every faction getting a Decurion especially with the direction I’ve heard 40k is going to go. They appear to be to be a middle ground between the Formation and an unbound army. Possibly introduced to replace unbound which I’ve not heard/seen anyone express an interest in playing/using.

    One thing I worked out a few years back when running Tournaments is you can’t please everyone in everything, you can however produce an event the majority at least are happy to play in.

    Being involved in the Scottish Team for the European Team Championships the bigger of the events I run are normally influenced by what the ETC is doing. Do I always agree with what they do? Not always. So occasionally I’ll tinker with the missions and restrictions to make them simpler (which I did with Uprising! ;) ).

    Worth pointing out the GW use Battle Forged with only one Combined Arms Detachment for their own events so if they also think Unforged isn’t suitable for tournament play…

    The fact there is more than one way to select a force in the rules automatically means people will prefer one system or the other.

    I don’t see a massive outcry wanting less restrictions, even unforged. And there is a lot of scope to put MORE restrictions in! Maybe that’s because everyone accepts the norm, maybe they don’t want it? The only way you would know is to put up an event and see how many people come! At the end of 6th I was going to run an unrestricted event but think 7th was released before it came round. But even at club nights I just don’t see people playing unforged… what do others think?

    You say ‘To put it simply, restrictions on top of the rule system don't make the game any more balanced. ‘

    I would slightly disagree, it is MORE balanced than unrestricted but agree it’s not COMPLETELY balanced. Of course this is down to the individual player – if someone wants to find the loop hole and take the ‘WAACest’ list possible they will no matter what system you play under. What I can do as a TO is reduce the gulf in balance between players (those who want the ‘best’ or most optimal list, those who want to take their list (favourite models etc) , those who want to take themed lists etc etc) so at least most games will be played in a way that both players have a chance and feel it’s a game they can win. There is nothing worse than turning up to play a game and see the opponent has a list that you can do nothing about.


  2. Part 2

    If the Rules writers create a system that provides no or little balance, even if only one way to build your army list, and instead leave it down to the players to be ‘gentlemanly’ then that’s fine when it’s one on one at same a club night. At a Tournament that rewards winning with prizes (and internet fame!) ;) Then it’s down to the TO to set out the restrictions that all players will live by.

    We see this in sports and the like. Veterans Hockey for example (my Dad used to play) was for the over 35’s but in some competitions they would need an average age of 40. Is that fair if your club has lots of 35 year olds you want to field? Maybe not but all the clubs agreed to these rules at the start of the season.

    Anyway, there is no perfect system. Some will like it, some will hate it. What you have is one set of rules everyone follows be it that produced by the Rules writer or that which has been further refined by the person running the Event.

    And yes – if you don’t like it don’t go! Or better yet, run your own event with the rules you want. If this opinion is shared people will come (as if they don’t like it, don’t come!!). I certainly don’t just run events for myself, I run them because people enjoy coming!

    I was planning to produce a questionnaire for those attending Caledonian Uprising gauging their thoughts on 40k in the UK but realised even with 170 gamers this probably wasn’t even 10% of the gamers interested in Tournaments in the UK, maybe even 5,2,1 who knows! Maybe an online one to see what people think to battle forged or not, points limits, missions, maelstrom cards etc

    I would be very interested to see what the UK scene wants!

    Tim King

    Tournament Organiser
    Caledonian Uprising 2015 (17/18 Jan – 166 gamers)
    Caledonian Revolution 2015 (18/19 Jul – 35 tickets remain)

  3. Thanks for the reply Tim,

    My main concern is that with the rapid release schedule coming out of GW a lot of us are still scrabbling to keep up. Our heads are spinning at all the new rules, unit and combinations that are now available to us and what worries me is that the knee jerk reaction to most of these releases is to simply ban it or put limits on it in some way.

    It wasn't that long ago that Forge World was banned at tournaments but they are now generally accepted. Same thing happened with Lords of War and the initial outcry was that they would break 40k completely. With the exception of Mr C'tan they are now generally accepted and you often see Dante, Ghaz and Drago on the table. Same thing happened with Allies, Summoning and multiple CADs. All of these things were tipped as being banned on the tournament scene but now that people have gotten used to the idea of using them and played a few games they are generally accepted and not many people have issues with them (from my experience of course).

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that TO's will generally simply copy and paste a rules pack for their own use and Cally in partuclar is likely to become the standard go-to tournament for anyone wishing to run their own simply due to its success. That being the case a lot of the things we use in 40k will end up not being allowed because its easier to ban it than find out exactly how plays out.

    I would love to see a full questionnaire go out on the subject to find out exactly what the players would like to see at tournaments and I suspect the results may surprise some people. Of course I could be completely off the mark but without researching peoples views we will simply never know.


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