Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pts Are The Point



No matter what wargame system you play or try out, everyone of them to my knowledge uses a point based system that dictates how much of a given army can be fielded on the tabletop. Points allow for the game to be played at different levels of depth; depending on the game this will differ greatly. One aspect of the pts system is that it can become unbalanced or broken depending again on the game system. In Warhammer Fantasy it's generally considered that games above 3000pts tend to be unbalanced with regards to faction choices and the sheer amount of combinations that can be taken or abused.

As a direct result most games have an average pts limit that is used mostly for competitive play. For Warhammer this tends to be around the 2000-2500pts limits, but again depending on the area this maybe different. Other game systems like Warmachine/Hordes have scaled back their pts system to simplify list building and tighten tournament play. A typical tournament game size is usually at 50pts, however like other games this could be smaller or greater depending on the area. But how do these two game systems differ on a mechnical level? To what extent to are these systems similar and different?


Most of the basic models have a very low pts cost and can be anywhere between 2-13pts; while more elite models can be almost anywhere between 13pts and several hundred points. One significant advantage that this system has is, customization. The amount of fine tunning that a potential army list can have are nearly limitless. While most lists will contain similar elements, you can be certain that there will be varying sizes of units/formations while comparing one faction to another. This can also be applied to the characters as well, since each one has varying amounts of point options that can be equiped for a price. 

Several key drawbacks to this system however, is the potential for size abuse and the over complication of list design. With the lack of size limitations placed within faction books; therefore technically speaking theres no limit to the size of units, allowing them to potentially grow beyond what was originally intended. For instance Skaven slaves are 2pts per model and have no pts cap, meaning players can create units in the 100's, for next to nothing. I'm not saying this breaks the game and makes it impossible to win for the other player. Luck, tactics and army design come into play of course, but its an obvious flaw that the game designers didn't for see. The second issue is over complicated list designs, resulting in giant tome of rules, erratas and FAQs. It does allow for a deep game play experience for vet players, but it can be a significant barrier to entry for any newer people wanting to invest valid time and money. The overall payoff for this system is the unique game experiences that are associated with highly customized lists. It does however make the game a bit less competitive in a simplistic sense, but the long term value of the system has been proven over time


In this game system, an entire unit can be summed up with a simple statement of 6pts. Character solos and attachments can cost about roughly 2pts; while the buffer warjack/warbeasts can clock in around 4-13pts. First off this system is extremely easy to understand and pick up for new players; allowing them to quickly design lists. It also lends itself more to competitive play, allowing players to design multiple list varients vs one optimized finished list. This promotes constant rewriting of tournament lists so that they can adapt against various opponents in a tournament setting.

One big advantage of this system is that each unit choice holds such depth in terms of rules that it basically becomes an independant force within the army; allowing further depth and optimization in playstyles. No two pieces play alike and as a result, otherwise simplistic list design becomes engaging and layered. It also has it's own fair share of drawbacks as well though. For instance the competition between what units/models to take becomes alot more obvious and easier to access. Models that differ in rules/stats just slightly, but one is cheaper by one point, can solidify that choice in the player's mind. As result you tend to see similar list designs or more concrete playstyles emerge; therefore limiting the level of creativity that a player has over potentially competitive list design. Lastly this system encourages multiple designs versus one take-all comers style, resulting in a diverse tournament environment.


Regardless what game system you play and what pts level you play at. The calculation of points can be a deciding factor on how accessible a game is to a tournament environment. For Warhammer this has been simplified a bit, through the reduction of gaining points. You only get points for a whole unit, running them down, killing the whole monster; capturing the battle standards. It cleans up the points a bit, but the sheer size of the games pts level can influence the speed of calculations. For a game like Warmachine and Hordes, if you didn't kill the opposing warcaster, or capture the objective, then it's simple breeze to calculate the number of points left on the table.


The degree to which points influence the development of a game for competitive play can have a huge impact on the overall game presentation. Warhammer while a fun and tactical game, is held back from being as competitive in timed tournament play, but has the potential to last along time for players that enjoy massive amounts of list customization and design. Warmachine/Hordes while very competitive and streamline for tournament play, struggles to maintain as much long term value as players neglect at least 1/3 of their potential options during tournament play. Faction choices are less difficult to make and a player can design their list(s) to face certain foes. In general this makes the game more competitive, but limits list originality.

Thanks for Reading and as always you can reach me on Twitter @ATT64 and on my email @ Also if you liked this article, make sure to comment bellow.

Until Next Time

Adam Tremblay    


  1. Cool comparison between the two points systems. What do you think about kill points in 40k...not that I'm a huge fan, but do you think they stream line things...sort of like Warmachine victory points?

  2. While both types of points(Kill/Victory) achieve the same goal each one approaches it from a different angle. For instance Kill points are gained when you kill a unit, therefore netting you one point. The Victory points are determined when you kill the whole unit(Fantasy), so in a way they are similar. However I tend to like Victory points more because there can be variation, because lets face it not every unit should be worth the same cost. So why does it make sense that a unit of 30 orks are the same as 10 guardsmen unit? This is the failing of the Killpoints because you can win easier depending on what faction match up you get. With VC pts you at least get varied results. Thats just IMO, to let you know. :)

  3. I think kill points work well with the 40k scenarios because having more units gives you an advantage when playing objective based scenarios. So it makes since that armies with tons of units would be at a disadvantage in one of the scenarios....such as kill points!


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