Food For Thought: FOC Swaps and Allies
Thanks to Godfrey at Rites of Battle for putting up this interesting article discussing Force Organisation Chart (FOC) swaps in 40k.
The main question is whether or not they are a good thing. Personally, I love FOC swaps for the same reason I love allies - options. Anything that allows me to create different lists with loads of synergies and tactics makes me very happy (one of the reasons I also enjoy MTG). It also opens up a lot more variety and the possibility for characterful armies. The tricky thing is that more options makes balancing a game system harder and some companies are better than others at this!
I think that there will always be more powerful options than others and the competitive scene in any game system will always strive to seek out and use the best of these. It's the nature of competition and is to be expected in an environment where players are trying to win rather than play casually (neither is right or wrong). But this would be the case with or without extra options. I'd prefer to see more choice than less, as apart from anything else it allows more depth of options to choose from when looking for counters.
I don't think GW primarily introduced allies to help balance out weaknesses in the main codex. GW have repeatedly stated that they are a model company first, so I think it's more likely that the decision was made as it allows more models to be sold, enabling second/third/more armies to be build up incrementally. I welcome this, as starting a new army and getting it up to regular game size (1500-2000pts) is a huge undertaking. Being able to play with new stuff in larger battles straight away is a good thing!
I'm not saying the balance is or ever will be perfect (as much as I want it to), but I think 6th is a richer playing environment for casual and competitive play thanks to FOC swaps and allies.