from the GW rules dev forum, the loremaster speaks out
I've recently been fielding thoughts and questions regarding the army lists in Lustria, the use of special characters for variant lists, and some of the thinking behind Lustria itself. Since these are the GW forums, I should probably post this here too!
Remember, by the letter of the rules, anyone can use special characters unless 'banned' by an event organiser. However, most groups will have an agreement about whether they use special characters or not. The whole point of attaching the lists to special characters was to include these variant lists within that same context. There is nothing that prevents a gaming group (or event organiser) from allowing the list to be taken out of context and used without the special character. In the future, we'll make this even clearer by suggesting what a player can do instead.
We can't keep simply adding in variant list after variant list into the game without some kind of limiting measures. At the end of the day, there are over a dozen army books that we expect players to face in pick-up-and play scenarios and if we keep adding lists at the rate we are (even excepting the ten extra ones in SoC!) then soon there'll be twenty, thirty lists, which is a complete minefield for players. And this isn't just about new players, how many of you genuinely know how all the current lists work? How would you know if your opponent was making a genuine mistake if you had to know even the vague details of thirty different lists, attendant magic items, and so on?
So, the idea is that a lot of these variant lists will be context-specific (a campaign, a special character, a scenario, &tc), meaning they'll require some agreement and discussion by the players, if only to make sure your opponent is aware that the type of list you are using exists! It's not really on to turn up at a club, store or tournament and find that the army you are facing appeared in a discontinued supplement, or old WD, and is now available only on some part of the website. Think how many lists there are now, and then think even just two years on with new campaign supplements, WD articles and the like. In hindsight variant lists were a very useful mechanic for getting players to look at armies they haven't considered before. However, the sheer weight of information regarding armies is becoming downright unwieldy.
Going forward we'll hopefully end up in a place that is a lot clearer for existing and new players alike, and is essentially going to boil down to:
Rule book + Army book = 'Official', use without prejudice.
Everything else = 'Unofficial', we think it's great, but not for pick-up-and-play games without warning.
To use an example from the past, you wouldn't expect to suddenly spring a siege game on an opponent, would you? Similarly, we'd like to get to a place where players won't surprise their opponent because they've turned up with a list, troop type or character they may not have seen before. This means the players will have to communicate with each other – "Hey, Bob, I found this old WD with this variant Dark Elf list, shall I try it next week?", rather than, "Sorry, Bob, but yes I can have eight repeater bolt throwers, it's not my fault you didn't know that…"
As for tournaments, like I keep saying, it's up to tournament organisers what sort of event they can run. I think we can do better with suggesting alternatives for organisers to think about, but ultimately if we create something for one context, players will have to decide for themselves if they are happy with it being used outside of that context. As another example, certain scandanavian tournaments have been using some of the Bugman's Lament troops (or so I read, anyway). Those units are obviously tied to that campaign, are done as some colour and fun, but the players attending those tournaments are made aware that they'll be used, and forewarned is forearmed (as opposed to four-armed, which is a Keeper of Secrets ).
We (as the games developers) can't be at every event and every gaming table, so it is important that we explain ourselves a bit better in these products and articles, and include appropriate editorial comment that explains the intent of a new list, new special character and so on. This has been a growing factor over the past year or two, but we're getting to grips with it now.
" I might just be a sour tournament player who never has fun playing but when I have to choose between spending 100's of dollars on an army that I'm sure I can always use in both private and tournament play or a list I might be allowed to use then I guess I will choose the safe option. "
You're not a sour tournament player, you're a player making an informed decision about the army you want to collect, and you have every right to. If the players you game with, or the events you attend, are unlikely to allow you to use one of these lists, then you would be crazy to collect one. On the other hand, there are lots of players and events that will be happy using these lists (with or without special characters, as they decide) and we have to cater to them as well. Would you rather you collected this army and then your tournament opponents and organisers thought it was cheesy and decided to ban it? Better to be cautious and clear up front, than regret it later. I'd rather players were making positive decisions (let's allow this) than negative ones (let's ban this).