The Illegal List Conundrum, An FTN Follow-Up.

Hello Gamers, it’s Adam, Forge The Narrative panelist and the guy behind Beyond The Brush Studios, here to address an important topic floating around the 40K Web Warp™ – that topic is cheating and how it effects our community and ultimately tournament gaming itself.

The article “The Illegal List Conundrum” was originally posted by our friends at Frontline Gaming. CaptainA did a fine job of detailing recent happenings at large-scale Grand Tournaments while also soliciting conversation from the community on how to solve these problems. He points out in his very first sentence that, “(We are) human beings, making mistakes are a part of life and there is no getting away from that. In 40k the chance of making a mistake with your lists has gotten quite large considering all the resources you need to check. You might need to consult the rulebook, codex, supplemental codex, and ITC FAQ all at once. A War Convocation with White Scars allies could be pulling from 4 different codices, 2 expansion resources, the rulebook, ITC FAQ, and the relevant GW FAQ’s. Its no wonder that some people make mistakes.”

I urge you to check out the article and following comments : HERE.

Below, you will read my opinions and suggestions to the topic at hand. In no-way mistake this as cannon, this is purely my attempt to broaden the conversation. I urge you to please comment but more importantly, raise the topic with your local club and keep the discussion going. It’s one thing to leave a comment behind an anonymous web avatar – but when we work together, we can bring about great, positive change for the betterment of our hobby.


With great list building comes great responsibility. After recent events at large-scale Grand Tournaments, the integrity of our game, the event promoters, organizers and ultimately players is at question. Recently, a winner of one of, if not, the world’s largest grand tournaments had a list that included two errors. When lists were posted online, gamers were quick to point out that the list was actually one-point over the required point limit of 1850. This was due to the Blood Angels Sanguinary Priest not paying the one-point tax for his extra Close Combat Weapon. The list also featured a formation detachment that included two Space Wolf Lone Wolves without any Space Wolf Troop options. In the Codex : Space Wolves, it is a requirement to have a Troop selection to unlock a Lone Wolf. Using the root cost of the least costed Troops selection from the Codex actually reveals that in theory this list may have been not just one-point over, but 121 points over – if not unplayable.

In a world where certain armies and combinations and formations and decurion style build options allow free Wargear, Transports or Special Rules and the like – this may not seem like much. It’s an easy issue to gloss over for some gamers. Though there are many homebrew and nationally developed FAQs and Erratas available, I would like to point out that Games Workshop, the ITC and local tournament organizers have largely abided by the Big Rule Book (BRB) and the notion that Codex trumps BRB. These books and FAQS, when combined, are the guiding light as to how we craft our lists and play this game.

I’d like to give this player the benefit of the doubt, that he made a simple mistake, one either of us can and do make on a daily basis. I’d also like to think that serious list designers and tournament players would have known about the 1 point rule.  There are a lot of pitfalls here and the game itself doesn’t make it easy for us.

I did reach out to the Tournament Organizer regarding this matter and this is what he said, “(The Player) was forced to remove a sniper rifle upgrade in one of his Scout Squads in order to make room for the Bolt Pistol on the Sang Priest, which was then swapped for an additional CCW.

This is a simple, and effective solution. One that, I don’t believe, changes the player’s overall list or tactics too much. It’s a shame this wasn’t caught before the event began but I credit the TO for making a firm decision to make the list legal.

Regarding the Lone Wolves, the TO had this to say, “Whether or not the Lone Wolf can be taken as a stand alone elite slot without the requisite units is debatable/vague. We made a ruling for the very similar Court of the Archon that that unit could act as the stand alone Force Org slot. We answered several emails that we would interpret the Lone Wolf the same way but we’re not able to publish the interpretation. But what we did is consistent with what we published and (the player) received explicit permission to do it before the event.

I’m not pleased with the way the event and organizers handled this other glaring allowance. I’m fine with TO’s making allowances but the entirety of the player base should have been made aware of it – which they were not until the lists were posted online. It’s as simple as an email, Facebook post or a 2-minute announcement prior to play. If there can’t be full transparency from the top – then who are we to believe? Without sounding like too much of a conspiracy theorist, the situation came across, to me at least and to many other gamers, like a good ol’ boy system. Which there should be no room for in this game. If explicit permissions are granted, they must be granted not only to those who ask but to those who would have presumed otherwise and tailored their lists a certain way based on my earlier commentary about the tools provided that dictate how we craft our lists. In game mistakes will happen, but we have the tools at our disposal to eliminate inaccurate list building.

Let the record show that I make mistakes all of the time. I am not without sin and I am not here to cast stones. This is my way of saying that I have terrible memory, I have not read every rule and that I’m bad at 40K (laugh it up). So when I do make a mistake, whether it’s a mistaken rule or if I played something wrong and remembered or was informed of it later – I’ll be the first to step up and apologize. I know that it doesn’t change matters a whole heckuva lot but it’s the right thing to do and I believe it’s the absolute least a player can do. In my opinion, this is the first step.

These issues were brought to the attention to the TO’s after Day One of the Grand Tournament had ended. The player in question was sitting squarely at the top table and went on to win the entire event where hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars worth of prize support was awarded. When we all pay an entry fee, follow the rules of engagement and spend upwards of a few hundred dollars to travel to an event – in the effort of fairness, I believe that the same permissions and allowances that are made for some, should be clarified for all.

40K is a hobby and a game but when it enters into the tournament realms, especially with prizes on the line it is now a sport and competition. When we look at other competitions, there are clear lines of punishment for cheating. If a golfer is to accidentally write down the wrong score on his scorecard, he can be disqualified. If his opponent signs the scorecard, authorizing the scores, he is also open to punishment. In cycling, if someone is to box a rider into the fence in a dangerous manner, he can be relegated to last place, fined and potentially disqualified from the event depending on how serious or dangerous the offense. If a pitcher is caught using Vasoline or pine tar or (gasp) KY Jelly – he is ejected from the game, faces a fine and potential suspension.

When we enter into sport, or competition, we enter into an agreement to abide by all rules – to uphold the integrity of the game. People will always find a way to cheat if prizes are up for grabs. If it’s not Lance Armstrong using performance enhancing drugs, it’s a young rider from Belgium using a motor in her bike, or a deflated football, or a questionable pre-game inhaler, loaded dice or beneficial Rules As Interpreted interpretations. I do believe TO’s need to outline clear penalties for their events and those penalties can differ from event to event. While I do think that the TO and event organizers have to do everything in their power to level the playing field and provide as much information as possible to all participants – the responsibility does not lie firmly on their shoulders. The responsibility lies on the shoulders of the individuals, on the players – on OUR SHOULDERS – to do what’s right, to promote clean, fair play and police those who break the bonds of trust within the competition.

I don’t know what the punishments should be and that’s exactly what makes this topic so tricky because every broken rule is not so cut and dry, black or white.

In closing, what are measures that you believe we can put in place to affirm and uphold the integrity of this great game?

  • Austin Martin

    Ok, so we’ve all been there, right? You build that “perfect list”… but you’re over the points limit. Sometimes by 1, sometimes by 100… but it’s not always as simple as removing something small; what if the only thing you can remove is the power fist from your beat-stick Chapter Master because everything else is Min/Max’ed already? Or the 4++ from your Storm Surges? You’re not going to do that, because it completely invalidates those units.

    So we all know that feeling. We know what it’s like to be tempted with the thoht of, “well, it’s just 5 points over… maybe my opponent won’t mind? Maybe this book is actually wrong, and lists the upgrade at 5 points more than it really is? Maybe I’ll just get away with it…” BUT, the difference here is that most people do not play to win at all costs; they don’t play to game the system just to get that next win; most people will know that they have a moral contract with themselves AND their opponent(s)… so we shelve those thoughts and feelings and just re-structure the list – after all, that’s part of 40k… list building, and the meta that challenges us therein.

    That being said, now everyone can relate to the feeling and thoughts this guy had while leading up to this tournament… but instead of owning up to the fact that he had to change his “perfect list concept”, he took the low-road and decided to try and formulate a (probably loaded) question to the TO at the event that would over-exaggerate and exploit a possible loophole, and allow him to not cut anything, or slide by unnoticed (after all, anyone outside of that email exchange had no idea about this…”ruling”). Sure, no one would ever own up to this (which he didn’t), but we all know what it’s like to have those thoughts about a list we’re just so fixed on using… it’s part of the addiction; we’re all trying to build the next perfect list, right for the occassion!

    A player of his “calliber” whom attends many tournaments and actively plays in the GT scene dumps hours into playing, and magnitudes more into rules discussions, meta discussions, and keeping up on the game as a whole. Gamers are always looking for the latest and greatest way to “game and exploit the system”… after all, that’s what all the best lists rely on – controversial rules that “break the game”… why would this case be any different?

    For that reason, I dont’ buy it for a minute that it was an honestly mistake… he capitalized on these facts and got away with it BECAUSE the consequences were not strict, and were not clear ahead of time. Cheating is cheating, whether small or large. The sooner we all acknowledge these types of happenings and starte getting serious about the consequences, the better the community will be in the long run. People know what they are doing, so let’s stop being oblivious to the fact that “gamers” play “games” and start imposing some well-known consequences.

    • tpm_bloodangel

      Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts, man. I do think meaningful consequences, within the confines of the events, goes a long way to helping prohibit these types of things.

      • Austin Martin

        Yeah. At one point, I heard of a GT format once where lists were pre-submitted, and your first round matchup was also pre-determined. You were allowed to see your opponent’s list as well in this case.

        If every tournament did that, then, it would be up to YOU (the player) to evaluate your turn 1 opponent’s list… and since everyone should have an opponent… every list should be reviewed.

        Simple, no?

        I don’t believe it’s the sole responsibility of the TO to review lists, rather to give the community the tools with which THEY will be enable do do so.

    • Marcus

      I agree that we’ve all been in that place of feeling like we have the perfect list only to see that ‘1852’ points. It’s a bad feeling. But I honestly don’t believe it happened in this case. He had two total sniper rifles in his scout squads. I don’t care how WAAC you are, the risk/reward of an illegal list in order to sneak in an extra sniper rifle is insane.

      Honestly, I feel bad for him. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be the catalyst for articles like these (the articles should be written, these are important conversations) because he didn’t put the effort in to double check his list. Should he have? Absolutely. I just wonder if the reaction is more about our frustration with WAAC players and the feel badsies that can cause rather than this particular instance.

      That being said, he clearly tried to gain an advantage through the lone wolves, but as Adam said that is far more of a complaint against the TO for allowing it and then not communicating than it is against the player.

      I agree that a conversation needs to be had about specific and predetermined punishments for illegal lists, though I’m pretty sure that was the case with Adepticon. The illegal unit was removed completely in his final two games. Should the punishment be more severe? Should he have been immediately disqualified? I want to say yes, but in the last local tournament I played in I had servitors filling elite slots while also fielding iron priests. That was illegal, but I’m a competitive noob, the kind of person you WANT to come back. How do you set up a ruleset for tournaments that cover both? My hope is that experienced, intelligent people like the FTN crew will continue to have conversations that will lead to improvement because I have no idea how TOs balance those considerations.

      • Austin Martin

        Fair response about the 2 points over. I understand.

        However, this point:

        “That being said, he clearly tried to gain an advantage through the lone wolves, but as Adam said that is far more of a complaint against the TO for allowing it and then not communicating than it is against the player.”

        …I do not agree with… It was NOT the TO’s lone responsibility. Who knows how the question was posed. Think about how easy it is to agree with something that is being presented out of context…or vice versa, to pose a question to someone that is loaded, and subtle plants the answer you want to hear, in the recipient’s mind before they ever contemplate the consequences. He would NOT have asked the TO if he didn’t know it was possibly illegal. People don’t ask about legal things, or when following the rules. Most of the time, a contentious ruling is questioned like this by someone trying to game the system. It’s replies like this that, unfortunately, give these people a free pass when they should be held accountable.

        • Mark ADAM Abramowicz

          Valid point there Austin. Maybe I should have said this : “While I don’t personally agree with the inclusion of the Lone Wolves as it felt a bit gamey to me, ultimately the TOs approved it, right or wrong. Where they failed was to make this allowance known to the rest of the attendees.” Is that better? 😉

          • Austin Martin

            I accept haha. Good conversation though!

          • tpm_bloodangel

            Guys, thanks a lot for checking out the article and taking the time to comment.