Winning 40K – What if it’s just not that complicated?

Winning 40K – What if it’s just not that complicated?



Today’s article is all about dispelling a popular myth about 40K, and hopefully getting a vital principle of army design and game planning across. This came out of a forum conversation started by Stelek (author of ‘Yes The Truth Hurts’ 40K blog) yesterday, and since my reply was subsequently quoted by several other people I thought I’d drag it back here to 3++ where I have more space to expand on it.

Many people act like winning at 40K is extremely complicated, and that can cloud their approach to army building and playing the game itself. The truth is 40K is really a simple game, with a huge amount of window-dressing and obfuscation around it.

While I enjoy 40K very much, I’m not so much a 40K player as I am a very competitive (but hopefully friendly!) ‘tournament player’. I play to win tournaments across multiple systems and that means I might have a different perspective than some players, and here it is.

Strip away all the rules and codexes and armylists and you will realise that all 40K is about is 3 things:


  • Having more Scoring units in certain locations at the end of the game than your opponent does

Or

  • Removing more of your opponent’s entire individual units from the board than she does of yours

Or

  • A combination of both


Everything else, all the armour, characters, ballistic skill, invulnerable, special rules, hull points, ‘metagame’, weapons, toughness, fluff, background, chainswords and forging narratives is the great big spectacle that distracts from how simple this game is.

In 5th edition the game was dominated by Mech, Shooting and Multiple small units because these could best achieve the simple objectives listed above. YTTH deserves credit for helping champion those concepts, especially since some people never seemed to really understand it even to the day the edition’s rulebook was phased out.

In 6th edition, many rules and codices have changed, but believe it or not in 6th Edition, 40K is about is 3 things:

  • Having more Scoring units in certain locations at the end of the game than your opponent does

Or

  • Removing more of your opponent’s entire individual units from the board than she does of yours

Or

  • A combination of both

And frankly after the big shake-out adjusting to the new rules is likely to cause, Mech, Shooting and Multiple Small Units are likely to be the best ways to achieve them, because even with all the changes and the new hull point rules mobility remains paramount, shooting trumps assault, and a larger amount of small units are more versatile, adaptable and efficient than a smaller amount of large ones.

40K is just not that complicated. Seriously.

The first tournament ‘system’ I won trophies in was Chess, which is an even simpler game but has a certain elegant purity of purpose. This isn’t going to be breaking news, but to win at Chess,

  • You take your opponent’s king


Nothing else matters. Absolutely nothing. Despite that I’ve played plenty of people who try take every piece on the board, and those are the ‘Pawnloving’ noobs of the game. Comparing 40K to other game genres, real life battlefield tactics or even Sun Tzu is popular with 40k authors but rarely works as well as they hope, but here we have one possible exception; for all its lack of cinematic experience, Chess teaches you to focus on the goal and achieve it, and that nothing else matters.

If you aren’t willing to sacrifice every other model in your army, no matter how well painted or heroically named, to get your scoring units where they need to be in 40K, you’re the ‘Pawnlover’ of this game. 

Actually achieving the objectives against an equally good opponent may not be easy, but by taking on board the stark simplicity of them should help us move the conversation along from the flourishing industry of posts and forum arguments comparing codices as if the most important thing is that units have equivalent chance to ‘make their points back’, as if that mattered. It doesn’t.

To put it in the terms of Brad Pitt in Moneyball, all that matters is that your units need to be able to get on base.



Because 40K isn’t that complicated.

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