I touched a bit on the subject in my report from The Battle of Lund, but I think this topic deserves some more attention. In 2012 Privateer Press introduced character restrictions, presumably in response to a large number of complaints about always facing the same models/builds in tournaments, and with the Active Duty Roster they’ve tried another – and in my opinion better – solution to the problem of similar/identical lists.
The problem is that while they’ve been doing this they’ve also been trying to fix old – and rarely used – models by releasing theme forces instead of erratas. Initially I thought this was a great idea but that’s because I, and presumably everyone in charge, failed to see the consequences of these theme forces. The problem is that theme forces work because of two primary facts.
- They only allow certain models
- They grant certain boons
The warning flags should have gone up the second a theme force became the best choice in a faction, simply because it should be obvious that limited choices would create identical lists. I don’t remember the last time I faced a serious Trollblood player that didn’t have either Runes of War or Evolutionary Elementalism, and most of them have both because ‘why not’. The choices in these two lists are so limited that it’s basically like fighting the exact same list every time, which is what Privateer Press (presumably) wanted to avoid with character restrictions and Active Duty Roster.
The second issue is that these theme forces rely on certain benefits to boost the usefulness of the models they’re supposed to be promoting. This means that in most theme forces you’re not only fighting the same models but also the same ‘gimmick’, which makes the games quite similar as well. I know what I’ll be doing every time I face up against Force Wall, because I’ll be walking on the first turn, running on the second to avoid losing on scenario, and then if I didn’t lose I get to play two turns of game.
I’ll begin by saying that my solution would piss off a lot of players, and probably cost Privateer Press a bunch of players in the short term. I understand it, but I also see a lot of players – myself included – getting bored by the repetitive nature of the current tournament lists, which I think will be worse in the long run.
Privateer Press should begin this process by putting all their energy into erratas of the old and rarely used models. They should halt the release of new models for a year, which would allow their production to catch up with all the unreleased models, and instead focus on redoing the old options we don’t actually use – and in many cases don’t even own. We know they’re not opposed to nerfing models though the use of erratas, so why shouldn’t they spend some time buffing models as well.
This would allow them to clear out storage, catch up on production, and increase diversity in lists. Every single errata should be accompanied by a printable card, so players can print the new rules and get to playing with as little confusion as possible. If they want to make some money on these cards they could be obtainable only through Warroom, which might convince the last few people – myself included – to actually buy the damn thing.
Once the year is over every single theme force becomes obsolete. This will cause a tsunami of rage and cost PP a noticeable percentage of their player base, because so many of us have invested a significant amount of cash in models that will no longer be needed. From that point on every faction would get a new batch of theme forces every season, rotating between casters like the Active Duty Roster, preferably using casters that are not actually on the ADR. This would let fully half of the casters in a faction be either ADR or Theme Force in any given season, which would seriously increase diversity.
I don’t know how to implement this, or if it’s even possible, but they have to do something to avoid the mindbogglingly repetitive use of theme forces on the tournament scene. The last batch of nerfs have shown me that Privateer Press is willing to tank the rage and do what’s right for the game, so here’s to hoping someone reads this and considers my proposal. It’s quite possible that the eggheads at PP can dream up an even better solution of course, but this might get them talking.