Game Breakers in Warhammer 40,000.
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First and Second Edition
- Rogue Trader, the first edition of Warhammer 40000, wasn't meant to be a competitive tournament game, but more like a skirmish game with RPG elements. So it's not really surprising that it was possible to create hideously unbalanced units. Perhaps the most notorious example is a squad of Imperial Guardsmen armed with grenade launchers firing Vortex Grenades. Sure, the grenades were expensive, but that one squad could basically lay down a set of ten templates that would instantly destroy any enemy they touched. To make it worse, in the first edition a squad was allowed to split its fire between several targets (this wouldn't be a thing again until 8th Edition save special rules)...
- Second Edition had its share, some of which were errata'd out in White Dwarf. For example, Wolf Guard Terminators were said to be able to take any combination of weapons and could be built from stock parts with an Assault Cannon and Cyclone Missile Launcher [back in the days when you could essentially alpha strike with every rocket in the launcher; White Dwarf said if such a deadly squad actually existed it would have been included in the fluff text], the Imperial Assassin could in theory be disguised as a Gretchin while wearing Terminator Armour and riding a bike [removed when the Polymorphine Wargear was made specific to Callidus Assassins] and the Strategy Card 'Virus Outbreak' could cripple an entire Ork or Imperial Guard army before a battle even started [the official line was that players should destroy their copy of the card].
- A lot of Second Edition special characters were also so powerful the game would end up revolving around them; many of the Third Edition changes were designed specifically to play down the monstrously complex special rules and wargear posessed by such characters.
- One of the most overpowered units in Second Edition was the Eldar Guardian (basically Space Elf militia). While their stats were actually rather poor, they had Shuriken Catapults for standard weapons, which before 3rd edition toned down were insanely powerful for their price, so that even Space Marines' power armor offered little protection. On top of that, Guardians were so cheap that an Eldar player could spam huge numbers of them and slaughter the enemy's infantry by the dozen.
- Second Edition Tyranids didn't use the strategy card system and instead got a ludicrously overpowered replacement; the Tyranid player could roll for every squad, character and vehicle in the opposing army and inflict annoying or game-screwing effects on a large portion of the enemy army before the battle even started. Results included a squad member randomly becoming a Barbed Strangler blast, and a "Lurker" creature being placed inside an enemy vehicle that would attack the crew if it moved. They also got two special mission cards that instantly nullified their opponent's mission, and one ("Tyranid Attack") also gave them infinite reinforcements and two extra turns.
- There was also a chronically unbalanced Nid psychic power called "Psychic Scream" which allowed them to attack every enemy Psyker at once and forced them to roll 2D6; if they rolled over their toughness (likely) they wouldn't be able to do anything that Psychic Phase, and if they rolled over their Leadership they instantly died. It seldom took that long for the Nids to kill every enemy Psyker this way. This was nerfed in later editions.
- Melee combat in general was quite overpowered and when combined with vehicles it allowed units to make long distance charges without taking any damage at all from shooting. Upon winning a charge it was possible to break the enemy morale & do a sweeping advance that killed the enemy unit outright, while also letting it charge into combat with another enemy unit.
- Chaos got a second codex towards the end of 3rd Edition, and it was one of the most overpowered, with multiple Game Breakers:
- Iron Warriors lost the usual 0-1 restriction on Obliterators, allowing them to take nine heavy infantry with Shapeshifter Weapons, and could also take an additional Heavy Support choice such as a looted Basilisk. Back that up with a trio of Defilers and you have an army capable of spewing so many plasma cannons, Earthshaker shells, and battle cannon shots that any opponent is going to have a hard time not getting wiped off the board.
- Next up was the notorious Siren Prince/Lord, a Daemon Prince or Chaos Lord with a jump pack/wings/bike (anything to make him faster) and the "minor" psychic power "Siren," which makes the enemy unable to attack him with shooting for one turn. The Prince/Lord would then proceed to zoom forward and summon a horde of Daemons/Chaos Terminators right in the middle of the enemy army without disruption. The only catches were that the power was one of six results you could roll up when you paid the points for a minor psychic power (though the risk could be reduced by paying for several rolls on the table) and that it could be countered by some enemy characters (but not all armies had characters who could do this).
- Generally, lots of units were more effective than they had any right to be due to the veteran's skills and daemonic gifts available to the whole army. Tank hunters made Havocs' firepower far more brutal than anything anyone else had. Infiltrate allowed units such as Raptors to charge on the first turn or pop tanks with meltaguns. Sergeants were stronger and had more attacks than any other armies' squad leaders. Daemon Princes were only limited by your imagination in terms of power.
- The infamous Dreadaxe + Daemonic Stature + Daemonic Strength combo. Take a Daemon Weapon that excels at killing other daemons, upgrade the model to a Monstrous Creature that ignores normal armor saves, maybe add Daemonic Flight for some speed, and the result is a relatively inexpensive Hero Killer that can deal five or six Strength Six attacks that ignore all saves.
- Obliterators and Daemon Princes were in general extremely broken, the first one so much so that they had to release an errated version of the Chaos Codex specifically to nerf the Obliterator so that they could be insta-gibbed by a krak missile, which was followed by another round of nerfs in the next codex to further reduce their stats and weapon options. Daemon Princes likewise lost nearly all of their options, with many more being severely restricted (especially since they are no longer allowed to carry daemon weapons). As a testament to their power, even with repeated nerfs, Daemon Princes and Obliterators are still (in the current 7th edition) considered as solid choices, if not auto-include (although the Daemon Prince is notable because you can use them to flood the battlefield with Flying Monstrous Creatures, which had the same issues as Flyers. See the 7th Edition section for why this is bad).
- The Books of Chaos were another thing that ended up turning mundane troops into frightful horrors on the tabletop. Any favoured units automatically gained either a free champion (in the case of Chaos Marine units) or gained +1 to their summoning cost. The drawback for this was that you had to adhere to one of the gods and any non-vehicles who couldn't be marked by that god can't be chosen, but this was hardly an issue when you could effectively get hundreds of points worth in free upgrades (especially with Slaanesh, who had the lowest favour number) or mass summon daemons on turn 2 (and this was the edition Daemons could charge after being summoned).
- The Third Edition Craftworld Eldar supplement was not quite as bad, but it was up there.
- The Biel-Tan list allowed you to take any infantry Aspect Warriors as Troops choices. Not scared yet? When thirty Dark Reapers are firing sixty Strength 5 AP 3 missiles with 48" range, with a 2/3 accuracy rate, you will be.
- Ulthwe replaced the standard Farseer and Warlock choices with the Seer Council, a squad of 2-5 Farseers and an infinite amount of warlocks. Warlocks also got a new power Augment, allowing them to double the Farseer's range. This, coupled with the fact that any Ulthwe Compulsory Choice Guardian Squad were automatically upgraded to Black Guardians (which had improved Ballistic skill or Improved Weapons skill depending on their profession) for free made Ulthwe armies a force to be reckoned with.
- Alaitoc allowed you to not only upgrade your Rangers from good to skull-crackingly awesome Pathfinders, and basically let you Troll the hell out of your opponent. For every squad of Rangers or Pathfinders you took, you got to roll on the Ranger Disruption table, randomly forcing enemy units to come in from Reserve, start the battle pinned, or even giving your unit a free round of shooting at them before the battle started. You could take up to eleven units of Rangers or Pathfinders.
- The Imperial Armoured Company list had Leman Russ battle tanks, some of the toughest tanks in the game, or artillery platforms, for every slot in the army. It was never intended to be a "serious" playable list as it could never be properly balanced. It was so powerful it needed a "Lucky Glancing Hit" rule to allow enemy infantry a slim chance to stun or shake all these vehicles with weapons that normally would be incapable of damaging tanks. The list later reappeared as the Armoured Battlegroup list in Forge World's Imperial Armour.
- Quite probably the single most overpowered army of 3rd Edition however was the Blood Angels. For starters, they got every benefit standard Space Marines got with none of the downsides, and often for fewer points. However, the real craziness involved the Death Company, who were totally insane superpowered combat beasts... which were also free, instead coming with other rather insignificant restrictions. The real bullshit however came from the fact that Blood Angels had Rhinos with Over-Charged Engines, making them significantly faster than normal Rhinos. As third edition had no limitations regarding the ability to assault out of vehicles... suffice it to say that the Blood Angels codex was feared and hated for a while.
- Most armies had some kind of "deadly melee unit plus an independent character HQ choice in a transport" option that could wreck the opposition.
- Eldar & Dark Eldar units in Raiders or Wave Serpents had obscene charge ranges. Wyches with Combat Drugs in a Raider could get up to 26" inches, which in most games was enough to get from one deployment zone to the other.
- Blood Angels Death Company in overcharged Rhinos had the biggest charge range in the Imperium.
- Space Marines had two very good options that worked at various point levels. For a big battle, you could stuff an large terminator assault squad & terminator HQ choice into a Land Raider and they would wreck practically anything they ran into under a rain of lightning claws & thunder hammers. It was extremely expensive but on the charge they could take down entire units, even of Marine equivalents in one turn, and could take a huge amount of punishment with their 2+ armour & 4+ invincible saves.
- At lower points costs, Veteran Squads were an Elite choice who had an extra melee attack over a regular marine, but also had the option of taking bolt pistols & close combat weapons instead of regular bolters, and a Rhino or Razorback transport. They were also able to take the "Terminator Honours" upgrade for additional cost giving them up to four attacks on the charge. Give the sergeant a power fist, add in a Chaplain for additional help, and finally, a Marine Captain with a set of artificer Lighting Claws and a fully kitted squad could put out ~30 regular close combat attacks and another 8 or so power weapon attacks with the Chaplain & Captain and if anything was left the Sargent could smack them with 4 of what were usually instant death power fist attacks.
- The vehicle design rules were a creative that began in White Dwarf magazine and was later codified in Chapter Approved books. With a large degree of customization balance was all over the place as some options were prohibitively expensive while others were dramatically underpriced. Vehicles made from these rules were never in widespread usage, were completely optional in any case and the idea of customised vehicles was quietly dropped not long after they were introduced.
- Due to how skimmers and fast vehicles were handled in the new edition, Eldar Falcon grav-tanks were considered the cheesiest unit in the game. They were almost impossible to destroy as long as they kept moving, thanks to their holo-fields allowing them to re-roll on the vehicle damage table and gaining a 4+ save for moving a small distance. As an illustration, a lascannon (one of the most powerful anti-tank weapons in the game) shot had a 1.2% chance of destroying it. Yes, that's one point two, not twelve. This, along with Harlequin payloads who due to the Rending rule would obliterate most squads they assaulted, meant an Eldar army was incredibly hard to stop, let alone damage.
- The Eldar also had the ability to take an entire army on Jetbikes, led by a Seer Council, which was frightfully powerful at both range and assault, as well as almost impossible to hit.
- Daemonhunters were designed to counter daemonic units, and had a number of special abilities to do so. One was Sanctuary, which creates a bubble around the caster that no daemon can shoot, move, or see through. While the caster of the ability can't shot or assault, nothing prevents other units inside from doing so. Back when Daemons were one of many units in the Chaos Space Marine army this wasn't a major problem, but after Daemons were given their own codex, dropping Sanctuary on objectives or on some psycannon-toting Purgation Squad made the game unwinnable for the daemon army. Furthermore, as Daemonhunters can be allied with any Imperial force, so any Imperial army could take a cheap Daemonhunter Inquisitor to completely screw over any daemon armies they faced. This lasted until Grey Knights were given a new codex in 5th, but see below for why daemons' troubles didn't end there.
- The 4th edition Ork codex was widely considered one of the most overpowered codices Games Workshop has ever produced, and is notable for remaining fairly competitive and winning tournaments from the time of its release at the end of 4th right up until the end of 5th.
- Many Ork units were under-costed (at the time) for what they do. The basic Ork boy can be considered a Khorne Berzerker without the Power Armor, but only costs as much as an Imperial Guardsman.
- The worst offender was the now infamous Nob Biker army, an army that uses Warbosses to count Nobs as troops, then place them on bikes. While previous editions allocated damage to multi-Wound units with an eye towards removing whole models, 4th Edition randomly distributed hits based on models' equipment. This allowed the Ork player to outfit his Biker Nobz so that each model was different, spreading any lost Wounds around to keep as many Nobz on the table as possible - this on top of a unit that was already very tough due to the bikes, and which always counted as being in cover, and which could take Cybork bodies for another save, and could take a Painboy for another save.
- The Burna-Wagon: 1 Battlewagon, 1 Big Mek with Kustom Forcefield and Burna, 15 Burna boyz. With the force field counterbalancing the vehicle's reduced speed to be able to fire, the open-topped transport rules allowed this puppy to stick 16 flame templates on top of each other, multiplying the casualties inflicted to the opposing squad until the other player had to take potentially over a hundred armor saves - more than enough to wipe out anything it targeted, barring the mercy of the Random Number God.
- The Big Mek and his Kustom Force-Field gives nearby infantry a weak Invulnerable save and provides cover to nearby vehicles. This wasn't so bad during 4th Edition, when Obscured Vehicles merely had a 50% chance to downgrade any Penetrating Hit to a Glancing Hit, but 5th Edition changed things so that an Obscured Vehicle had a 50% chance to negate a hit. This led to "Killa Kan" lists that exploited the fact that all the Kans in a squadron benefited from a Force-Field if one was in range of it, thereby giving up to 9 mini-Dreadnoughts an even chance to ignore enemy attacks as they rampaged across the tabletop.
- Chaos got hit pretty hard with the Nerf bat when they got updated for the new edition, but ironically enough another Slaaneshi psychic power soon caused problems. Lash of Submission allowed players to move an opponent's squad up to 2d6 inches, off of objectives, out of cover, or into tight clusters just ripe for multiple blast weapons.
- Chaos Plague Marines also gained infamy in this edition, by being incredibly hard to kill. Unlike last edition, where the Mark of Nurgle simply granted a +1 to toughness, in this edition Plague Marines also got Feel No Pain (which was a 4+ up until 6th edition). This could be taken after a save, effectively giving each 23-point Plaguemarine the same "armor" as a 40-point terminatornote while having superior toughness. They could also pack 2 special weapons in a minimum squad unit, giving them unparalleled amount of special weapons fire on the cheap (relative to their durability). Their power would only increase in the next edition, where large amounts of armour meant that being able to take extra special weapons was a premium, as well as having durability for Troop Choices for capturing objectives. One guess at which "Choice" the Plague Marines occupied in this edition.
- Consolidation into combat was one of the major reasons why expensive melee units were extremely powerful. The most notable of these was anyone outfitted with Jump Packs, Lightning Claws, and as many upgrades to boost their attacks. On something like a Space Marine Commander or a Chaos Lord, this lone model could rush across the board, tear up a unit in close combat, then use its "Sweeping Advance" move to jump into another unit. This way it avoided enemy shooting retaliation, forcing gunline armies to either run the hell away and leave the lone unit to die, or try to counter-charge the character to take him out. It wouldn't be uncommon to see a 200-300 point character completely tabling 1000 points of troops in just 3 game turns (which resulted in 6 rounds of actual combat, as he could wipe out a whole unit each player turn).
- The Tau's "Fish of Fury" tactic turned two Devilfish transports into a mobile bunker for their Fire Warrior cargo. Enemy fire couldn't target the infantry without going through the hover tanks, but the Tau were at the same time able to fire "under" the very transports that were shielding them. Though firepower-heavy armies could just swat the APCs, melee-oriented forces were unable to hit these floating yet impassible barriers, thus negating the Tau's one great weakness and rendering them assault-proof. The tactic was so abused that many Tau players would denounce it, and one of the changes to skimmer rules in 5th Edition allowed them to be attacked in close combat.
- Apocalypse has never been known for being balanced, but some formations were notorious for how broken they were:
- Arguably the most notorious was the Necron Monolith Phalanx. Consisting of 3-5 Monoliths that could be deployed as a unit via Deep Strike, any Necrons that were within an area encompassed by at least three of the monoliths got a +1 bonus to their "We'll be back" rolls. At first blush, this doesn't seem too bad... until you realise that you can stack that bonus with the Monolith's teleportation abilities (which allow any unit making use of them to re-roll failed WBB rolls) and a Lord or two with a Resurrection Orb (always allows WBB rolls to be made) and the end result is a nigh-unkillable blob of living metal. Just to give an idea of just how broken this was, a bolter fired by a Space Marine has a mere 1/81 chance of killing a basic Necron footsoldier within the Monolith's protective barrier. A lascannon - an anti-tank weapon - fared slightly better... with a 1/16 chance of a kill. Not helping matters was the ridiculous amount of firepower the formation could spit out. The typical set-up involved putting a small squad of warriors and/or a Lord behind a nice beefy piece of cover (selecting a minuscule deployment time to guarantee yourself the first turn), where they weren't in danger of getting wiped out in one turn, then calling the Monoliths and the rest of the army down, dropping them right next to wherever the opponent's forces were concentrated thickest. Such was the devastating power of Gauss weaponry in the 4th edition, virtually nothing could survive that sort of an onslaught and whatever tatters of the army were left over afterwards couldn't hope to make a dent in the phalanx and its passengers.
- The Emperor-class battle titan is definitely up there in the "most broken unit" competition. This thing has such a ridiculous number of shields and hull points, it is borderline unkillable. It carries a frankly ridiculous number of stupidly powerful guns. Even as the game's most expensive unit, clocking in at a jaw-dropping 4000 points, it is woefully underpriced. The standard advice for facing one is "give up". Or bust for 4000 points' worth of flyers and hope your opponent forgot to stock up on mega-bolers.
- Space Wolves. Marine equivalent units that were cheaper than their codex counterparts at every turn, even though they had better equipment and special rules? Check. The ability to spam drop pods that could be filled with meltagun toting troops, or even terminators and sternguard in the same unit that also counted as troops? Check. Cheap psykers with incredible anti-psychic potential as well as long range shooting ability unrivaled by anyone? Check. And finally, a fast-moving, hard hitting, multi-wound assault unit that could do the same thing as Nob Bikers while being even harder to kill? Check, check, and check.
- The 5th edition Imperial Guard codex had a psyker battle squad with an ability that dropped the Leadership of one enemy unit by the number of psykers in the squad (to a minimum of 2). This already is nasty enough, but combined with an allied Callidus Assassin from the Inquisition codexes it becomes a real Game-Breaker - the Assassin had a template weapon that dealt damage based on Leadership, so by combining the two you get a flamethrower that wounds on 2+ and instakills anything without the Eternal Warrior special rule. Oh, and the Assassin would automatically appear near an enemy squad so it was guaranteed to get at least one shot in. On the plus side, this was probably the best way to deal with the aforementioned Nob Bikers.
- Perhaps even more game-breaking were "Meltavets," veteran squads (which were made Troops in 5th edition) able to fire three meltaguns, or seven plasma rifle or pistol shots, from the safety of their Chimera transport for pretty cheap. The result chewed through heavy infantry and light vehicles with ease in an era when large numbers of armour reigned supreme.
- Combining 5th Edition Imperial Guard with the old 3rd Edition Daemonhunters resulted in the infamous "Leafblower" army list, so named because it blew opponents off the table through a combination of heinous firepower and neutralizing reinforcements. The fluff-based flying Seer Council Eldar list was one of the few that could compete with it, at least until the Leafblower's ubiquity spawned army lists designed purely to counter it.
- The entire Grey Knights codex (created by Matt Ward) has been called this due to insanely powerful units such as...
- Brotherhood Champions that can automatically kill characters that kill them.
- DreadKnights, standard marines in a walker that acted as faster and cheaper versions of Dreadnoughts before they were reconsidered as vehicles.
- Terminators and Strike Squads, the most basic troops available. All have storm bolters, force weapons and psychic powers for +1 strength, spelling death to light infantry and monstrous creatures alike for a mere 5 points more than ordinary Marines (although this problem was present in the previous codex).
- Paladins, two-Wound Terminators who used the same wargear shenanigans to abuse the wound allocation rules as the above Nob Bikers, only trading speed for tremendous firepower, better close combat ability and increased resilience. These might have fallen out of fashion like the Nobs had it not been for...
- "Psyriflemen," Dreadnoughts with two twin-linked autocannons with psybolt ammunition, the most reliable long-range low-mid armour-buster when the current metagame meant large numbers of light tanks were in almost every army.
- As if the above weren't enough to deal with, Chaos Daemons players got to deal with the Grey Knights' "Warp Quake" psyker power, which all their troops could use. Essentially it made Deep Striking near the Grey Knights a death sentence. Did we mention that Daemons had to enter the game by Deep Strike?
- With all this, the Grey Knights could kill anything, but had one real weakness - plasma weapons, high-Strength armor-piercing weapons that remain the most reliable way to counter power-armored infantry. Enter the Plasma Siphon, a piece of equipment that rendered any such weapons within 12" of the bearer nigh-useless by dropping their Ballistic Skill to 1. Oh, and an FAQ clarified that the pulse weapons used by the entire Tau army counted as plasma weapons in this case.
- You could try and argue that the 5th edition Necron codex (also created by Matt Ward) can be considered a Reconstruction of the Game-Breaker trope, since the Necrons are supposed to be literally unstoppable metal horrors. Though very slow (unless in transports), the Necrons are incredibly powerful in the midrange, with Tesla weapons that multiply their attacks, and very resilient, able to come back from the dead each phase (not turn, phase). And unlike the Tyranids, nearly every problem in the Necrons' FAQ gets resolved in their favor, making many suspicious situations even worse when facing them.
- The Blood Angels (can you guess who wrote this one?) are an amazingly overpowered army. Every land vehicle is Fast, with the exception of the Land Raider, but that's okay because it can now Deep Strike. Dreadnoughts count as Troops and Elites, allowing you to take eleven in your army, including the new psychic Librarian Dreadnoughts. Many fans consider them, the Necrons and Grey Knights to be 5th Edition's trifecta of cheese.
- Storm Shields remain a source of great frustration to this day. Armor-ignoring weapons had always been one of the Space Marine's few weaknesses. Then Storm Shields were buffed to give an invulnerable save identical to their normal (i.e. terrific by the game's standards) armor save. All of the sudden Marines could shrug off plasma and power weapon hits that they used to be weak against as easy as everything else. Thunderhammer/Storm Shield Terminators became outright invincible, and accounts of them being able to walk from one side of the board to the other, literally ignoring whatever was thrown at them, and murdering whatever they got their hands on. To make matters worse, this buff applied to the Shields in every Space Marine army except Grey Knights, giving it to the Space Wolves and Blood Angels too. (Bet you can't guess which author was also responsible for this insane buff...)
- 6th Edition introduced Flyers into the main rulebook, which became Game Breakers for one of the same reasons that Fast Skimmers ruled 4th Edition - melee attacks like Thunder Hammers or Melta Bombs couldn't hit them at all. The other was that the only units that could reliably shoot Flyers were other Flyers, and those with the Skyfire rule... and when 6E came out, the only non-flying model with that rule was the Imperial Guard's Hydra flak tank. This was gradually rectified when the codices were updated for the new edition with dedicated Anti-Air units (or Forge World came out with some), but until then, old armies struggled... and even with updates, bringing insufficient AA left players at the mercy against Flyer-heavy foes.
- The Grey Knights could legally take up to six Flyers in a 2,000 point game. Assuming the small number of ground forces didn't get wiped out in the first turn, for months there was no way to counter it.
- In the same vein as above is the infamous "Cron Air" list: no fewer than nine flyers and a ground unit that, thanks to a quirk in the rules, is more or less literally invincible due to hiding in the corner behind a purchased bunker that couldn't be targeted so long as it wasn't occupied.
- "Scythewing," as Necron flier-spam was dubbed, got around the problem many armies faced when trying to spam fliers due to the fact it could also spam large number of obscuring "difficult to draw line of sight to Ground units" through Scarabs and a unit of Canoptek Spyders.
- The Imperial Guard became insanely powerful in 6th Edition for two reasons: everything in the codex is so cheap that it's easy to bury the enemy in firepower and bodies, and it had one of the most durable, versatile, deadly, and cheapest Flyers in the game; the Vendetta. This gunship had the higher level of Flyer armor, three twin-linked lascannons meaning it could smoke any tank/flyer/elite infantry with ease, and was a transport able to drop a squad of meltagun-armed Veterans to finish any fight it started. On top of that the Vendetta could be taken in squadrons, allowing nine to appear in a standard game.
- The 6th Edition Chaos Space Marine is generally considered to be relatively well balanced, with the notable exception of the Heldrake. In addition to the general difficulties many armies in early 6th edition have with fliers, the Heldrake is the only flier to have an invulnerable save (well, the Dark Eldar flyers can buy one for 10 points), and it has the best front and side armor that a flier is allowed to have, making it the most durable flier in the game outside of Forge World supplements. It also has the "It Will Not Die" special rule, so that even if you managed to damage it, there was no guarantee that it wouldn't be able to regenerate the hull point damage before you could shoot at it again. Further complicating matters was its ability to destroy light transports or slaughter infantry during the movement phase, before firing a weapon that could obliterate any infantry model without an invulnerable save or a 2+ armor save, bypassing cover saves. A FAQ ruling would only make matters worse, giving the Heldrake the ability to fire its weapon in a 360" arc - removing the positioning element that was its only real weakness prior to the FAQ.
- The 6th Edition Eldar codex has the Wave Serpent. The Wave Serpent is a dedicated transport that is very spammable, has a special force field that turns penetrating hits from the front and the sides into mere glances in a 2+ and may instead deactivate the shield for a turn to fire D6+1 S7 AP- pinning hits that ignore cover. It also has a Scatter Laser that, after hitting something before, makes every weapon in the model Twin-linked, including the shield.
- Even more rage-inducing are units with 2++ rerollable saves such as the Eldar Seerstar or Daemonic Screamer star, both of which are functionally invincible, capable of severely damaging any unit in the game, extremely fast, and can lay down a storm of psychic abilities to improve themselves and harm you.
- 7th Edition seems to be inviting this by doing away with any semblance of Competitive Balance. Now that anyone can ally with anyone, and "Unbound Armies" can ignore the standard Force Organization Chart, there's nothing stopping players from spamming whatever big nasty units they feel like except their opponents' willingness to play a game with them - a White Dwarf article used a force composed only of Black Legion daemon engines and Tau Riptide and Broadside battlesuits as an example of what the new edition offered. There are so many tremendously broken Unbound lists that many tournaments now heavily restrict or ban their use.
- As an example of this, a Tyranid player (using what is widely considered an underpowered army thanks to the previous two codices that stripped away the utility of many Tyranid units in succession) swept a tournament by taking nothing but Hive Tyrants with Wings.
- Added to this is the introduction of Daemonology psyker powers, which allow just about any army (including ostensibly loyalist Imperial forces) to summon units of Daemons, including Greater Daemons. Combined with the new Warp Charge system to generate psychic power, a Chaos Daemons player figured out a way to literally double the size of his army in only a couple of turns (in less than 12 hours after 7th edition was released, no less).
- Even with the initial game breaking potential, the game mechanic known as Perils of the Warp (Rolling Multiple sixes when trying to activate a power) frequently happens considering the signature Summoning Spell requires a player to roll at least 7 dice to reliably generate it. Not to mention said player who figured out the way to exploit this tied only on the basis that his recursion distracted him from claiming the tactical objectives. Mentioned below is how it takes time for a mechanic to be seen as overpowered or not.
- The new Eldar Codex widely divided opinions on whether or not it is truly broken. For starters, a 270 point unit puts out 40 shots that often wound basic infantry on 2s. Also, the Eldar Distort weapons are now Destroyer weapons (which basically ignore any type of saves if one rolls a 6) so can easily destroy tanks, monstrous creatures, and any unit in the game with ease if you get lucky. On top of this, the Wraithknight which had similar issues as the Riptide (being fast, horrifyingly tough to kill as is, and could leap out of cover and back in it in the same turn) was turned into a Gargantuan Creature (making it even tougher to kill by giving it Feel No Pain, and an immunity to poisoned weapons, which were the exact weakness of Monstrous Creatures) and given Destroyer Weapons, all for just 295 points which is a marginal, genuinely marginal, increase in point cost considering what this thing now does. This thing kills Super Heavies more than triple its point cost in 1 turn. And despite the fact that in a normal army list you can only take one since it's a Lord of War, the Eldar-exclusive detachment can allow you to field five of these things in a 1500 point game where almost no army has a ghost's chance of killing more than 2 in a single game. Your mileage may vary, but this certainly is not a weak army in the least.
- The Invisibility psychic power. This power - generally considered the best in the entire game - is so ridiculously overpowered many small-scale tournaments and gaming groups have banned it or nerfed it via house-rule. The power can be cast on any friendly unit within 24" of the caster - that unit can only be hit on 6's in close combat and all shooting against it is turned into Snap Shots (generally means no Template or Blast weapons and all other weapons hit only on 6s), all for a mere two warp charges. When cast on an already-powerful unit, that unit can become nigh-invulnerable and there are several high-level tournament-winning lists that revolve simply around getting this power and casting it on the biggest, baddest thing you can bring to the table.
- Runner-up for best psychic power in the game is Veil of Time, which allows the psyker and any unit he has joined to re-roll all failed saving throws. This makes any unit pretty hardy, but when used on an already-burly unit - like Terminators with Storm Shields - they become almost unkillable.
- When 8th edition initially dropped, Imperial Guard conscripts were nasty. For 6 power level and 3 points per model you got 50 guardsmen with a mediocre ballistic skill value (to put this in perspective, a regular guard squad is 2 power level, more expensive point-wise, and only includes 9 las guns and 1 las pistol.) Players soon found that, coupled with orders and certain characters, conscripts became outright overpowered. With the right order, conscripts could pump out 150 shots a turn. In melee, couple with a priests, they could do close to 100 attacks. Conscripts did have low morale, but this could be negated with the presence of a Commissar. It go so bad that players that didn't even run guard started running guard detachments just to get access to conscripts. However, with the drop of the codex, conscripts were nerfed. They can only be taken in squads of 20 or 30, got a point increase, and are the only unit in the codex that can potentially fail a order. That being said, conscripts are still considered a high tier unit.
- The Primarchs are extremely powerful. They have a price cost to match, but they are so incredibly hard hitting & durable that "win at all cost" type matches such as tournaments have the highest ranking armies all built around these big models.
- Psyker spam is incredibly potent due to the Smite power. For a measly cast rating of 5 any psyker can inflict d3 mortal wounds on the closest visible enemy unit, potentially d6 if the player rolls well. Allowing psykers to put wounds on anything from monstrous creatures to tanks. Being characters psykers also cannot be targeted if there are units closer to the attacker, making it hard to get at them. Because of this tournament players took to running as many psykers as they could in their lists to straight up delete enemy units when the psychic phase came around. This has not gone unnoticed with changes to the psychic phase coming which will prevent the same power from being used twice by different psykers and making Smite harder to case with each use.
- The new detachment system completely removes all but the loosest requirements for factional allies and taking specific amounts of lesser quality options. So called "Soup" armies abuse the mechanic by taking the best of every unit in a specific faction, which due to the way the game has moved away from 'skirmish' level combat to 'herohammer' with overpowered special characters like Gulliman, Celestine and the Daemon Primarchs taking centre stage. It resulted in armies being used at tournaments with lists that include Gulliman & Celestine together along with and a dozen assassin models backed up by dozens of cheap imperial guard fodder for board & objective control, or two of the Chaos Daemon primarchs in the same army.
- The specific detachment of three Guard squads and two junior officers is such an efficient source of (otherwise rare) command points that for a while it was included in every Imperial list.
- A more traditional basebreaker was taking an army filled with Dark Reapers. There are also a bunch of powers that interact with them.
- Primaris Aggressors have a rule where if they remain stationary, they can shoot twice. A full squad of six with Auto-Boltstorm Gauntlets and Fragstorm Grenade Launchers can get anywhere between 84 and 144 shots in a single round of shooting (and that's before factoring in such things as Imperial Fist Bolter Drill, which allows for even more shots), which combined with rerolls provided by a captain/lieutenant combo can delete entire hordes of infantry and even badly damage vehicles in one volley. Moreover, Aggressors are relatively cheap, so one could in theory bring three full squads to bear against the enemy. 252-432 shots with rerolls will kill pretty much anything that stands in front of it, no matter how big or nasty it may be. Aggressors lost this and their ability to advance and fire their weapons without penalty in the transition to 9th, making them a much less viable pick for the Space Marines.
- With the release of the Drukhari Codex comes a few broken combinations stemming from unintentional rule interactions that have been sweeping tournaments with a 70% win rate:
- Razorflail Succubus with certain combinations from the Book of Rust creates an unstoppable whirlwind of death from stacking Attacks on a single character. She starts out with 6, Adrenalight adds one (7), the Hyperstimm Backlash Strategem adds another (8) and Razorflails allows two hit rolls for each attack instead of one (effectively doubling, 16A). Then you add the Competitive Edge WT, which means every attack that does not wound inflicts another attack... which hits twice, thanks to the Razorflails. Throw in the Art of the Kill strategem to reroll wounds, and you have a nasty piece of work that can inflict up to 42 S4 AP-1 D2 attacks with to-wound rerolls.
- Dark Technomancers obsession on Wracks with Liquifier guns are some of the most damaging shooting pieces in the game (especially when loaded into Raiders to enhance their threat range). D6 auto-hits with AP-2 with +1 to wound and Damage, with no downside - Dark Technomancers normally inflicts one Mortal Wound on the unit if they roll a natural hit roll of 1, but because they are technically flamer-equivalents and they automatically hit... Yeah.
- The Battle Missions expansion features a special ork scenario which combined with the Apocalypse rules for force selection, take Ghazghkull and a few warpheadz you could have an ongoing Ghazghkull Waaagh!!! from turn 2 to the end of the game! It is countered by the point that Apoc level lets you take Titans or Baneblades.
- Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka personified this trope throughout the editions. Currently it's because of his two-turn buff that makes all Ork infantry very mobile, and grants him the hardest defense to beat in the game (Rolling a 1 on a six sided dice, four times in a row), but only for two turns. The problem is that the average game is six turns.
- One of the Tyranids' special formations in Apocalypse had a horribly broken rule called "Out of ammo, Sarge!" which was intended to reduce the effectiveness of shooting at it by discounting all shooting if more than six 6s are rolled. Its actual writing omitted the shooting part and used the word attacks meaning that in melee if more than six 6s were rolled the entire squad lost its ability to punch/slash/stab. This is horrible as most melee units will roll upwards of 20-30 dice. Considering this applies to a blob of 120 'Nids, it considerably unbalanced battles and GW took too long to correct the mistake which was glaringly obvious to any player who had experience with several codices.
- Another one for the nids in 5th edition involved the Hierophant, the Tyranid's answer to the Reaver Titan. At the time it was written, the Hierophant's sole psychic power was suppose to give it the incredibly durable armor and a modest invulnerable save (possibly to explain why a giant bug made of chitin and bone didn't collapse on itself when someone tapped it). Unfortunately, when the Tyranid Codex got updated, Warp Field turned from granting a 2+ armor save and a 6+ invulnerable save to granting a flat-out 3+ invulnerable save. Now, Warp Field was designed to protect the extremely squishy Zoanthropes, who really did need the 3+ just so they wouldn't be insta-gibbed by artillery fire the moment the enemy turn started. However, when you slapped it on the single creature with the highest toughness and wound characteristic in the game, as well as the Gargantuan Creature rule, it made the thing completely invulnerable to damage. The Hierophant could literally walk up to a group of warhounds of comparable cost and mop the floor with them without breaking a sweat.
- Forge World's creations have been very overpowered in the past. The Elysian Drop Troops list in Imperial Armor volume 4 gave the Elysians the ability to take flying Valkyries as dedicated transports for every single squad. And flyers in this game are almost impossible to kill, as non-AA weapons only hit them on a 6 and all weapons have their range reduced by 12", and nobody in a normal-sized game has an AA weapon with a ghost of a chance of taking out a Valkyrie. Did we mention that they get Vultures (Valkyries that sacrifice transport capacity for more guns) as Heavy Support, and their flyers can mount three to five specialized heavy weapons each? No wonder these guys were so good at taking down Tyranids.
- Forge World lists are explicitly only meant to be balanced with lists in the same book, they require opponent permission to use and are never tournament-legal, except in their own tournaments (after all, anyone who pays 960 GBP for a Tau Manta needs to take it out the box sometime).
- Shortly before the 6th edition Chaos codex was released, we were treated to a White Dwarf update for Daemons. Aside from introducing the new Slaanesh chariots there were also new rules for some resculpted units. The most notable of these were the Flamers and Screamers:
- Both units were now T4, with 2 wounds, a 5+ invulnerable save and the Eternal Warrior special rule, making them immune to instant death. At 23/25pts a model, this is insanely durable, requiring 9 bolter shots to kill a single model in an army where the maximum of 54 of these guys can happily be fielded. This might have still been ok, had this not been combined with how powerful both units where.
- GW is trying to tone down players abusing the broken armies by stating that the "Most Important Rule" is to have fun, not to win. Generally Store Managers and a good deal of players look down upon "power gamers", players who play only to win by exploitation. However, to move their products, they inevitably make a few lists composed of the most expensive models, which only exacerbate the situation.
- Wave Serpents in 6th and 7th edition. The only Eldar dedicated transport. By giving it a certain set of upgrades, it can have a 3+ jink, have a twinlinked scatter laser, which twin links every other weapon on the Wave Serpent, a shield that can be used as a weapon (Str 7, AP-, Heavy D6+1, IGNORES COVER), which can ALSO be twinlinked by the Scatter Laser, AND can be spammed infinitely due to the fact that it doesn't take up a force organization slot. If used to carry a troops choice, the serpent itself has objective secured. Nearly every Eldar list makes use of 4 of these things.
- Really, most every new rulebook gets criticized as this when it's first released. It takes a bit of time before people determine if it is or isn't.
- The Tau Riptide Battlesuit. It has a 2+ armor save, a 5++ invulnerable that can be boosted to a 3++, the ability to get Feel No Pain for ANOTHER save, the ability to shoot at enemy units that enter the board IN THE ENEMY'S TURN, the ability to shoot at fliers with no penalty whatsoever, and has the option to take one of the most broken weapons in the game, the Ion Accelerator for only 5 points.The Riptide is also capable of hiding behind walls, moving out in the movement phase, shooting, and jumping back behind the wall in the assault phase. All for only 165 points!
- It got even worse as of the 7th Edition Tau Codex - now the Riptide can be taken in units of up to three, and they gain +1BS when they do! Sweet dreams!
- The Riptide saw a minor points increase in 7th edition, but it also got one of the most spectacular pieces of cheddar in the Tau arsenal: the Riptide Wing formation. Composed of three Riptide units (ie, it can be anything between 3 and 9 Riptides), it lets every model in the formation within 6 inches of another model in the formation re-roll its Nova Reactor note , it also gives +1BS to any Riptide firing at something another Riptide in the formation shot at in that shooting phase, and for its most infamous bonus, allows everything in the formation that doesn't move for that turn to fire all of their weapons twice (and this stacks with firing the secondary weapons twice from the Nova Reactor) once per game. The Riptide Wing is so powerful that it is considered absolutely necessary to take one to competitive games where you have enough points to field it, and about the only mercy it allows enemies of the Greater Good is that it can't be used as a component for the Hunter Contingent and Dawn Blade Contingent super-formations.
- Magnus the Red, particularly in his 30k incarnation, is one of the most ridiculously powerful models in Warhammer 40k history. He can add a straight 2D6 to the strength of any witchfire psychic powers (converting all results greater than 10 to Destroyer hits - statistically, that's going to be anything with a base strength of 4 or higher) and double its range by spending two additional warp charges (and he has automatic Line of Sight to everything and Ignores Cover). But the most broken part? If he gets Invisibility cast on him, he becomes almost completely impossible to damage - his Phantasmal Aura special rule applies a -1 penalty to all to-hit rolls (melee and ranged) and Invisibility only allows hits on snap shots (6+ to hit and no blast or template weapons) at range and 6's in melee, so you do the math. Only a handful of units/characters in the entire game have rules that allow them to hit an Invisible Magnus and a savvy Magnus player will probably deal with them long before they become a threat to the Primarch. All this for just under 500 points - yikes.
- The build created by /tg/, lovingly named "Chapter Master Smashfucker". Which, completely legally, creates a monstrously hard to kill juggernaut of death using the Iron Hands Chapter Tactics. It is catalogued here, but can be summed up as "How to take the rules for Space Marines and break them six ways to Sunday, legally, and in a way that creates an unstoppable monster."
- Similarly to the above, and created in the same place, is "Chapter Master Slamguinius", which came about using 8th edition's rules for the Blood Angels; a 124 point accept-no-substitutes HQ-and-below murderer that can't be overwatched and naturally re-rolled charges, and 6 attacks per turn at bare minimum.
- Finally, the truly cheesy MURDERWINGS from 7th Edition, Slamguinius' ancestor. He is a Raven Guard chapter master who, with the right relic weapons (Specifically Swiftstrike and Murder) and the Special ability Flurry of Blows to get him up to potentially more attacks as an Eversor Assassin or beyondnote . 8th Edition robbed him of much of his power, but now can be made in several different ways thanks to changes to other codices that give him the possibility to become SNEAKYWINGS, SLASHYWINGS, or FISTYWINGS, using Raven Guard, Iron Hands, or Crimson Fist rules respectively.
- Due to the weird way that bonuses to Feel No Pain are worded, it resulted in the possibility to stack enough Feel No Pain modifiers to make it impossible to fail it. Feel No Pain allows a model to ignore a non-instant death wound on a roll, typically a 4+ before 6th edition and a 5+ in the last two. However, unlike other bonuses where the wording simply reduced the minimum required needed to pass the test, Feel No Pain bonuses added to the result on the dice. This is a problem because the core rulebook has a rule that a result of a 1 is always a failure (specifically put in there to stop modifiers like this from making a unit invincible), but not a roll of a 1. This meant if you can somehow accumulate enough modifiers, you can make a model completely immune to non-instant death hits (and if you can somehow buff the toughness, that would basically make them immune to instant death hits too). Chapter Master Smashfucker was the most notable case of this, but other examples existed provided the RNG was kind to you.
- In Black Crusade, players can start the game with items of certain rarity (each item has a rarity modified by craftmanship rating and quantity).You can abuse the system to for example start with 1 000 000 poorly trained slaves carrying shitty lasguns. The true gamebreaker comes from the fact that the Heretek class could start the game with 100 of the "mechanicus assimilation" cybernetic upgrades (Hereteks count the upgrade as being more common than other classes, so it only works for them). Said upgrade gives you the "machine" trait, or if you already have it, +1 to the trait and nowhere does it state that there is an upper limit on how many times you can take it. Each level of machine gives you +1 armour, so you can start the game with 100 armour. For comparison, Space Marine Powered Armour has 8 armour (10 on the chestplate if it has the reinforced armour subsystem).
- In Deathwatch, you have the Devastator (sometimes known as the Cheesetator) with a Heavy Bolter. Average BS of 50-60 means it hits with about 4-5 shots per turn. That means it rolls 15d10 in damage, and a single 10 on any of those means that it does the 'weapon's entire profile again'. Did I mention that a single average hit is ~23 damage, enough to reduce the average full-health human character to near crits? And that's not even going into the Techmarine, which can take the Breaching Auger very early. Said Auger does 4d10+3 damage. Factoring in a Marine's Strength Bonus, that's 4d10+13. It can be dual-wielded, and has rules so it can No-Sell armour (Pen 7 + Power Field, which means a 75% chance of destroying any weapon without a power field as well used to parry it). It rolls five dice (with Tearing), with a reroll for two damage dice, and any result of a 10 means it does its entire profile again. With this thing, a Techmarine can and will turn anything in front of him into fondue in a turn or two.