Usefulness of epics?

I'm not being facetious here, but I'm really not sure what usefulness epics have in GH. It seems they are really just themes, a way to group related stories together. On the planning board, you cannot give them points, which to me takes away their primary usefulness: an aid to long-term planning.

To me, your epic would be a large user story, but just one story that you'll later break down. Until then, it serves as a very practical placeholder for major work down the line. Say you know you're going to build a major feature, but don't have much to go on yet (specs, requirements, etc.)... you'd have an epic to represent it in the backlog and assign it points (upper end of the scale like 13, 20, 40, 60,100, etc.). Then at least you can gauge your future roughly until this epic can be broken down into smaller stories.

Since GH treats them more as themes, giving them a common label to group them on, what's the real advantage or usefuless of this? Is it just a way to group stories? What else am I missing? Why not simply use labels via a regular Epic type created in Jira (via new issue)?

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On one of our instances of JIRA we do assign story points to Epics. This can be configured under the Custom Fields link via the administrator panel. Then again, we do have othe rinstances where they do not use Epics this way. The other groups just assign T-Shirt sizes (S,M,L,XL, etc..) to give the teams an idea about the amount of effort it would take to complete an entire Epic. In all cases an Epic is made up of many stories.

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Anyone, anyone? :)

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