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In Particular: What is and isn't cheese, and what should be done about cheese, besides eating it
"Sometimes, I dream about cheese."
- – City 17 Citizen 423312, Half Life 2
"Cheese for everyone! Wait, scratch that, Cheese for no one, That can be just as much of a celebration, if you don't like cheese."
- – Sheogorath
"There is cheese and there is... Cheese."
- – British legend James May, about to make a simple cheese sandvich.
Definitions of Cheese
- A dairy product that is often used in the making of delicious meatbread.
- A reference to a powerful unit or faction or strategy in tabletop or video games, that either does not require much (or any) skill from the player or cannot be adequately countered by other players.
In Competitive Play
Most often, Cheese strategies rely on your opponent not having a proper counter to it and falls apart or is at worst 'balanced' if he happens to have that counter. As such, it often involves "metagame" speculations, by bringing something that cannot be countered by a majority of currently popular lists/decks/units. Then the "meta" shifts and suddenly everyone absolutely has to have that counter, lest they suffer at the hands of the cheesemongers. To Illustrate this imagine a Local Gaming Store that played a lot of Cities of Death (or some other kind of vehicle-unfriendly format) and so over time nobody bothered to bring any tanks or heavy vehicles to their games and there was little to no dedicated anti armor. If suddenly a player with an Imperial guard armor company joined the group his tanks would be perceived as cheese since nobody would have the weapons to fight him and so he would, at first dominate. Some games constantly seem plagued by this effect, where the game seems to revolve around just one tactic and counter tactic for a long time, at least until the next shift. In good games these shifts happens quickly meaning that the games 'meta' changes rapidly as one strategy becomes predominate, people adopt tactics and tools to counter it, and people adapt to counter the new now dominant counter and so on. This way you can use the imbalances, the Cheese, to create interesting gameplay as people play around with them and what does counter them. Cheese is, from a design perspective, a way to make games more interesting then a system that was perfectly balanced would be. This is known as Perfect Imbalance
That's if the game is actually well balanced, which is, to be fair really hard to do. If it's not, the Cheese every faction needs to stay flavorful becomes unstoppable powercreep, breaking the game until the developers fix it. A good example of these would be flyer-heavy lists in a 6E Warhammer 40,000, when very few armies had reliable and cost effective anti-air. Cronssants and Helldrakes reigned supreme for more than a year, until new codices gave everyone some cheap and powerful anti-air weapons. There was literally no way for the meta to adapt to these tools, which hadn't been granted to the other factions to adapt to the new flyers, and in a few cases still haven't. With No counters there was no reason to not use the new flyers, meaning the thing these flyers counter became under powered in the face of a meta where there counter would be everywhere. When a game is dominated by broken cheese, either you become the cheese yourself, you find the counter to the cheese and play only that, or you realize that the only winning move is not to play. At least until the problem is fixed.
Occasionally the players themselves can break or at least heavily change game balance on their own. Often times this happens with the use of combinations of game elements the designer did not anticipate. TCG's are very vulnerable to this especially as they get older and the total number of cards and combinations goes up. When you make a new card for a TCG, it's almost impossible to keep in mind every single card that has come before and think of how your new card will interact with the existing sets. This is the reason Magic: The Gathering uses formats to try and control the number of cards players have access too. Pun-Pun is another, albeit extreme, example since you're combining elements from four splatbooks to become god at level one. In 40k this sometimes happens when you have a codex written for last edition's rules in current edition, as the interaction can be unexpected by the designers. Sometimes however meta shifts alone can wreck game balance on their own. A good example of that would be the change from 6th to 7th edition WH40k, where Monstrous Creature spam became the big cheese. This led to a reactionary rise in plasma weapon use, that in turn nerfed (the already mediocre and quite plasma vulnerable) TEQs into the ground since there hard counter was now more abundant, generally however these meta shift balance problems solve themselves as people just stop using the countered element, meaning the counter is now mediocre without a target, the counter goes away a bit and you can start using the once countered option.
Worst of all, shortsighted developers often deliberately create broken unstoppable cheese to boost their sales and attract new players with a simple strategies that allow them to beat experienced players just by throwing their money in. And to make sure no one remain unharmed, these cheese armies/decks/lists would get nerfed in a year or two, either by actually nerfing them or by introducing even more powerful tools that power creep over the existing ones, forcing these new players to either actually learn how to play smart or (preferably for developers) buy new overpowered shit.
The phrase "Cheesy" is derived from the British English "Beardy". This refers to the older veterans of the game, often decked out with massive beards. Because of their time with the game they have developed the best tactics, army lists and know how to defeat anything. Because their mastery of the game comes from experience the new players often have trouble dealing with their "beardy" tactics and armies.
- Some Warhammmer 40,000 examples are listed below:
- ... but also have their own, nice page here: List of 40K Cheese
- Tyranids throughout the entirety of 2nd Edition, and never again since
- Pre-5th edition Necrons (Note: Oldcrons are back in business, routinely fucking over anything with hull points using basic warriors.)
- Dawn of Eldar
- Plasma Syphon: An item to utterly disable plasma weapons, in an army that can practically only be hurt by plasma weapons. Even worse, at first it also affected Tau pulse weapons, Tyranid Bio-plasma, Eldar Starcannons, and more giving those armies them almost nothing to fight with that can crack the Grey Knight's heavy armor.
- Kaldor Draigo
- Biker Nobs: In 5th edition, Nobz had enough options to give each one a different loadout, allowing their commander to play musical wounds. You'd have to deal a wound to every member of the 10 strong squad before any of them would die.
- Chaos Lord with Mark of Nurgle riding Bike
- Jetbiking Seer Council
- The Ultimate Grey Knight Cheese List: This 6th edition list allowed you to kill anything while being nearly untouchable.
- Heldrakes: Seventh edition gave them a slight nerf, followed by a direct de-cheesing in an FAQ. Still quite effective, but not as gamebreaking as they were in 6th.
- Massed Vendetta spam: Despite 7th edition giving everybody and their mothers anti-air options, enough Vendettas are still dangerously cheesy
- Chapter Master Smashfucker
- 7E Eldar in general, honestly.
- 7E Wraithknight Spam
- 7E Ynnari, period.
- Riptide Spam
- Flyrant Spam
- Sekhmet Terminator Cabal
- Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus
- Super-formations, ie Necron Decurion and Adeptus Mechanicus War Convocation.
- ALL of the Custodes. Most basic troops are as tough as a Warboss but can hit like a train. Have so many OP units and vehicles it makes the Grey Knights look like a Grot in comparison.
- 30k Magnus the Red with Invisibility. Cannot be hit AT ALL unless you cover the table with blasts until something accidentally touches him. Applies to his unit too. Enjoy your rape.
- The Warlord Sinister Psi-Titan, which takes an already cheesy monster and adds yet another layer of cheese upon it.
- Early on in 8th Edition, the entirety of the Imperial Guard. Tapered off with the gradual power creep of newer codexes and Psychic Awakening supplements.
- 8th edition Eldar with -4 to hit modifier spam. This tactic came to a hard end when 9th edition launched.
- Late 8th edition Space Marines, particularly Iron Hands.
- Space Marine Eradicators
- The Horus Heresy: Legions: Knights, a particulary annoying Thaddeus deck, FUCKING FULGRIM, all Emperor's Children warlords except for maybe Saul. Oh and FUCKING KHARN
- 9th Edition Deathwing Terminators. Bloody hell... Obsec and permanent Transhuman Physiology from Inner Circle, and access to Storm Shields, on top of the usual Terminator perks, like 2+ saves and deep striking. That's also on top of being horrendously undercosted, costing even less per-model than non-Deathwing Terminators.
- Magic: The Gathering examples include:
- Each and every single card singled out by name on the Legacy Banned list.
- Special shout-out to Tolarian Academy, which was the centerpiece of a deck type so powerful that entire tournaments were decided by the coin tosses used to determine which player played first, and literally every single goddamn card in this deck that wasn't a basic land got banned.
- Every legacy deck.
- Every vintage deck.
- Control decks.
- Mill decks.
- Infect decks.
- Certain insane commander decks.
- Eldrazi ramp, get a bunch of mana, drop an eldrazi Titan and get swinging.
- Sliver decks (Coming from a dedicted sliver player, this deck is ridiculous. every single sliver is a lord, so you simply pump out more and more of them and then start beating down with a hord of 10/10 flying lifelinking indestructible double-striking shroud haste trampling poisonous slivers that make a sliver token when they hit and because they double strike, you can swing in with everything and triple your sliver count. )
- Birthing Pod. an entire strategy was built around this card, and get whatever creature you need from your deck.
- Each and every single card singled out by name on the Legacy Banned list.
Behold the power of cheese, indeed.
In Non-Competitive Play
Cheese isn't just for competitive tabletop wargames. Sometimes cheese is apparent in single player video games, or collaborative tabletop games. Here, the problem with cheese is the removal of fun.
In solo games, Cheese removes all challenge from a game. Whether or not this is a bad thing can be a subject of debate depending on how bad it is, but generally if you can press a button to instantly 'win' a $60 video game, most people won't see the point.
In collaborative tabletop games like most RPGs, Cheese in the hands of one player can ruin the fun for the others. Suddenly one player has an instant win option for every challenge the party might face, leaving the other players to follow them around and basically just watch the show.
- Examples of these types of cheese include:
- Cyrus: From the campaign of Dawn of War II. With the right skill allotment and equipment, this character can take on the remaining missions of the game by himself. In a way, this can be it's own sort of fun though.
- CoDzilla: From the 3.x era of Dungeons & Dragons, a single well played Druid or Cleric could render all the other players irrelevant.
- 6 Pool Zerg Rush: From Starcraft. Worth mentioning because it was one of the very first cheese tactics that were called as such, probably even originated the term and the subsequent OMG Zerg Rush meme wave that is alive to this day. The basics of this are simply to push out 6 Zerglings (basic melee infantry) together with your workers in an all-in offensive before the game hits the 5 minute mark and hope that your opponent hasn't got any answer to that.
- Cannon Rush: Another early-game rush tactic, primarily used by Protoss, the cheesing player will forgo building any unit producing structures to just rush a probe over to the opponent's main base and slap down a pylon just out of their visual radius. Once it warps in, the offending player will start building Photon Cannons to initially contain their opponent before building more cannons close enough to their base that they can start firing upon it and the workers attending it. This tactic is particularly effective both for and against newer players, though pro players might occasionally perform the odd cannon rush to mix things up. Terran players can perform a similar "rush" tactic utilizing bunkers filled with marines.
If you take a cheese list, you are an utterly dishonorable player who feels no shame in using overpowered abilities to his personal gain. You are only excused if you are using the cheese to screw over That Guy, in which case you are simply delivering their well-deserved justice.
This is different than, say, playing well, in that playing well requires skill, whereas Cheese is simply rules exploitation.