"That unit is broken!"
So gather round man (that's another term of endearment I have noticed!). Today we dissect the 40K term - Broken. What does it really mean for us wargamers and how do we draw the line? To understand the term I needed to ask a further question:
What makes something "broken"? It's a term armchair generals on the internet like to throw around to describe certain units.
Wave Serpents? Kinda Broken.
The Forge World XV107 R'Varna Riptide suit? Extra broken.
Consider the individual examples I've named above:
The interesting thing is that a Drake with the Autocannon is identical in every regard except for weaponry. And yet people think that taking one is a wasted opportunity and a mistake.
So its pretty clear what makes him dangerous is that flamer weapon.
Now would he still be considered "broken" if his flamer was AP4? Or if it wasn't torrent? Or if he cost 50 points more?
What he does in a chaos army isn't replaceable by anything else in the codex really. CSM have very limited access to flamer weapons compared to some armies, and no other fliers
The Wave Serpent
It is the only dedicated transport available to an Eldar army, so its not something that can be taken out or left behind. Footdar is still a valid build but lots of people just want some speed and flexibility that a foot based force doesn't offer.
So what makes it broken?
That damn Serpent Field. Downgrading penetrating fire to glances is potent, but not overpowered in my opinion, particularly with only 3 hull points. Its the ability to shoot it as a weapon isn't it? 60" of cover ignoring autocannon with up to 5 extra shots. That is incredible.
Would it be "broken" if it was shorter range? Or a set number (say 3) shots? Or didn't ignore cover? Could you increase the points cost, but would anyone buy a AV12 transport if it cost the same as a Land Raider?
XV 107 R'Varna
What isn't broken about this guy? Take a garden variety Riptide, something usually considered to be a little bit too good, increase its invulnerable save by one without needing to Nova Charge, give it a higher toughness and a weapon that will absolutely wreck nearly anything you point it at....all for less than a Land Raider
This unit is easily broken in my eyes. Requiring an average of 30 Lascannon shots to drop him (assuming you buy FNP and never Nova Charge the shield) or 54 Plasma shots, capable of dropping a Wraithknight in a single round of shooting on average dice and is more potent against other big threats than smaller infantry....then remember hes AP2 in combat, and can be S10 just to ID most units.
Where would this guy not be considered "broken"? 400 points? Same stat line as a Riptide, not made harder?
So what have I learned?
Is it the spam ability? Helldrakes are spammable, wave serpents are FoC slotless being dedicated so you can have a lot of them. R'Varnas are just straight up better than everything in a the competing slot and you can easily fit three into an army.
So it must be a combination of things, like the points cost you pay for them, the platforms durability and its other abilities. But then there's units out there that are potent, durable and under costed, but are not considered broken.
It must be added that units are only broken when a player breaks them as Christian a member of Leicester All Scars explains:
"The units aren't broken, until a player breaks them. I play against Heldrakes and Waveserpents quite often playing against Alasdhair and they are obviously tough units, but he doesn't spam them into oblivion. Which makes the game more enjoyable for both parties."