Last night at my FLGS we got to chatting about 6th edition after we had all played our games for the night. Someone, I forget who though I’ll gladly give credit if I do recall, was saying how in 6th edition the era of the few power builds are gone. I can’t help but agree with the sentiment. That’s not to say there aren’t power builds out there but that the game has completely changed and with it the idea that an army only has a couple of viable lists or that there’s one army to rule them all.
The game changer is allies. With that one simple alteration to 40K the possibilities are endless. In 5th edition if you went up against an army you pretty well knew what to expect, at least if they were aiming for competitive. Now that’s all changed. Not only does the ability for allies open up the obvious of diversifying a list, the allies can open up options in the core army that never existed. Units that were once poor or mediocre may hit the field because with the inclusion of allies those poor units are now strong, or at least usable. This, I feel, is one of the things that has made 6th edition great.
With all of this comes a natural balance to the game. There are, in my opinion, two ways to balance a game. The first way is limitation and strict balancing. With a finite number of codices and options within you can stack one codex against another to look for balance. It’s not a perfect process, as we saw in 5th edition, but with enough time and effort it can be achieved. The other method is what we have now in 6th edition; give so many options that no one thing stands out. When the possibilities and combinations are nearly endless then there’s going to be a counter for everything and every army will have strong builds without being pigeon-holed.
I prefer the latter mentioned method. The problem with enforcing balance through restriction is simply limitation. Every codex, some more than others, will have a ceiling, a maximum potential. The problem is, as we saw in 5th edition, that a codex will come out that trumps the prior codices. Because balance was achieved through limitation the older codices cannot hold up against the new power house. They simply do not have the options. With allies in 6th edition, and in turn lots of options, you can find an answer to nearly anything. Newer codices are still going to remain strong but at least now the older ones have an answer. It’s not perfect but it’s a far superior to the old approach.