Sunday, December 25, 2011

Codex "Fixing"

Don't cry, Mr Space Marine.

I dislike that phrase. It implies that there is something broken with the rules and perhaps there are. What really bugs me is the presumption that some gamers have that they know better than the guys now in Nottingham. While the gamers may have been rolling dice for 20+ years, the boys and girls at GW are in the business of making a game (and selling minis). I'd say they know what they are doing. Players may know what they want, but like Dan Carlin says, what you want and what you need are two very different thing.

Having said that, there are some things about the Space Marines that confuse and frustrate me. Below, I've compiled a list of problems and possible solutions. Now, this is not idle and self masturbatory wish-listing as some are want to do but ways to make the rules more directly represent the fluff, make the game more enjoyable to play (for me at least) and revitalize older units or units that do not have a place. I do not offer to have all the answers. Sometimes, I have no answers at all

The good guys dress in red!

Part the First: Blood Angles
I love my Codex. I think that it is great and flavorful. While far from perfection incarnate, it is pretty damn good. There are some things that do not sit well with me and many of them are just, I feel, omissions.

"Capt'n you feelin ok?"

Blood Angel Captain
I have a lot of problems with Space Marine Captains in general but a few very specific ones with the Blood Angel version. For starters, why did he lose the option for artificer armor? BAs are supposedly renown for the armorcraft. They even have a unit that comes with Artificer armor standard, the Sanguinary Guard. So why is it that their leader is forbidden from using it? Seems like an oversight so I'll let it slide.

What a Captain should be.
My other problems stem for a bit of Codexenvy. The regular Space Marine Captain has so many more options that the Blood Angles loses. Granted we get quite a bit in our Codex, but does that really mean that we need a toned down version of the Captain? It seems that losing the Chapter Master entirely would be enough. With as badass as Chaplains and to a lesser extent Librarians are for the Blood Angles, one would think that the designers would have made the Captain a more appealing options. As it stands, you get nothing from taking a Captain over a Chaplain, aside from a small bump in WS which is irrelevant for most assaults.

My general problems with the Captain entry is that it has no home. It is not a cheap HQ choice and yet it is not particularly appealing. The only real reason I ever take a Captain is when I want a more fluffy list. Gone are the Rights of Battle that made previous versions of the Captains so valuable. Gone are the super-cheap HQ option from 3rd Ed. The Captain is just not a very appealing entry.There are only two ways to deal with it in my eyes. Lower the points cost to make him a cheaper option than the other two, or give him back Rights of Battle. He needs to do something that no other model can and that is what he is missing.

There is a third option but it is kinda out in left field. Use the Captain and an unlocking tool to turn other parts of the army into Troops choices. Now this is likely going to be moot in 3-4 months when 6th Ed drops and Force Org charts are a thing of the past. In the regular Space Marine codex, if you put your Captain on a bike, you can take Bike Squadrons as troops. Why not expand it to jump packs,  and Terminators? I'd take one then.

You'd think that something like Veteran Assault Marines would not get my back hair up, but it does. This unit has a great idea behind it but is wasted paper on me. Their problems are many, but I am going to start with the ones in the Blood Angel Codex and move on the general problems I have with them.

So Vanguard Sergeants get Glave Encarmines rather than Relic Weapons. GEs let you reroll one to hit while RWs give you +2 Strength. Granted, you can get the GE for free (you still have to give up an attack) and have to pay 15 points for the RW, but it is silly to lose the option. The Glaves are a silly option anyway. You end up giving up an attack just for the ability to reroll one miss? That goes against my basic philosophy of "roll more dice." If I am going to give up an attack, I want it to be for a Powerfist or the +2 Strength of a Relic Weapon. Also, it is not like you can pack a list with them. the only Marines that have access to Relic Weapons are Captains and Vanguard Sergeants. that too I think is a mistake. You'd think an assault-based army would have ready access to the most deadly in-your-face weapons of death.
"Holy fuck, I love this sword."

My general problems with Vanguard is that they are very expensive unit to use both in terms of monies and in terms of points. The money part doesn't confront me none; I get my rent paid on Fridays. Their points cost does hurt because for every point I sink into them, that is a point that I can't spend on rolling more dice. They start off for 115 points for 5 guys with two attacks each. One guy even brought his own power sword. Compared to the 115 points it costs to field a regular Assault Squad with a powersword, you'd think that is a screaming deal. Then you must remember that these Fast Attack Marines get an extra attack each, they do not come with jump packs or a transport. You have to pay 10 points per model to give them jump packs. They are 20 points per model and you have to pay fully 50% of their cost to give them a jump pack. Oh, and I forgot to mention that in order to use their special rule (assaulting from Deep Strike) you have to give them jump packs.

But I'm not bitter.

Either they need to be able to assault out of vehicles that move or come with jump packs standard. And perhaps both. You should be able to get them for 130 points and have either jump packs standard or a 35 point discount on dedicated transports like their Assault brethren. It is ridiculous to pay 165 points for 5 guys that die just as easily as regular marines. That's close to 2 Assault Squads.

Would you pay 560 points for this unit?
Death Company and Jump Packs
I know that complaining about Death Company is a dangerous proposal for a Blood Angel player. It always seems to attract "Quit your griping!" retorts from those that must suffer the wrath of the bad boys in black. DC is a great unit and I am generally happy with them. The part that does not sit well with me is the cost of putting jump packs on this kill-crazy monsters. If the 10 points it takes to put packs on Vanguard cheeses me off, the 15 points per model for Death Company makes Hulk MAD! Like my suggestion for Vanguard, I suggest a fixed price to give all DC models jump packs. 35 points is fair but anything up to 50 is ok. That would encourage people to take larger squads of DC and curb the shocking price of DC with jump packs.

What you see is all you get.

Librarian Dreadnought
While this is an awesome mini and the rules for it are great, there are no options for the Dread other than psychic powers. You can't swap the blood fist for talons. You cant take the shotgun thing. You can't even tack on a heavy flamer. You're stuck with it as stock. Again, this is a totally awesome unit, but let's get some options in there.

I think they should be limited. Blood talons with the psychic power that give you S 10 or reroll to hit would be brutal. How you stop that is identify those killer combo options and increase their points accordingly.

I have a further problem with the Librarian Dread for Blood angles. Why? We are not a Chapter known for their psychic powers. I'm sorry but when I think Blood Angles, my first thought is never "Librarians." Sure, Sanguinius had psychic prowess second only to Magnus (totally speculating on my part), but really the non-military trait that BAs are known for are their art and artifice. Chaplain Dreads would make more sense and save the Librarian dreads for Grey Knights. Just seems out of place in my codex.

"Can I AX you a question?"
For the century old Master of the Blood Angels, he is kinda flat. Must be the arthritis. His stat line is decent. He has +1 Wound, Initiative and Attack over the regular Chapter Master, but it is the S4 that kills him. He hits most things on 3 but then wounds them on 4s. His weapon is master-crafted, but hitting stuff is not his problem. He does not have Furious Charge or even the Red Thirst. He can benefit from a Sanguinary Priest, but that should not be necessary for someone like him. His low strength and lack of melta bombs leaves him as a squishy target for Dreads. He should get a bump in Strength or 2d6 armor penetration. The other special characters are so much more brutal than he is in close combat. His infernus pistol could stand to be master-crafted too.

Overall I am mostly pleased with Dante. His special rules rock and he is brutal. I love that he lets you take Sang Guard as Troops. I just wish he was more brutal in close combat or the very lease the equal of the other special characters.

"You think you are man enough to take my armor from me?"
Chaplains and Terminator Armor
I don't think that you should be able to give the elite Chaplains terminator armor. I think it should roll like the Dark Angel Codex. If you want a Termie Chaplain, you should have to take it as an HQ.

Power seats cost extra.
Vehicle Weapon Upgrades
I am pretty much universally frustrated with the points costs for vehicle weapon upgrades. For starters, twin-linked assault cannon, twin-linked lascannon and plasmagun and lascannon are all 35 points for a Razorback. That's insane. One, they are all too expensive. A razorback only runs 55 points (45 for normal SM). It is silly that the upgrades cost almost as much as the vehicle. It is even more insane when the vehicle is only AV 11. That's an almost 100 point transport that can be torn apart by heavy bolter fire. I think that 30 points is ok for the lascannons but the other two should not be more than 20 points. Until that changes, I'll stick to the heavy bolters.

 While we are on the subject, why are there so few options for weapons? Why not a twin-linked multi-melta. I think Forge World has kits for it. It would be super useful to have the anti-tank on the transport so I would not have to account for it in my Assault or Combat Squads.

The counterpoint to the high costs of the weapons for the Razorback is the Storm Raven. While I find it very convenient that all the weapon options, save for the hurricane bolters add on, cost the same, I call BS on it. A multi-melta is not equal to a heavy bolter. An assault cannon does not equal a plasma cannon or las cannon.

The Blood angels lost a little when compared to the regular Space Marines. Gone are Landspeeder Storms and Thunderfire Cannons.I don't really see the reason for this. There is nothing specific in the fluff that would rule those units out. You'd think that GW who is in the business of selling minis, would not limit what BA players can take. It just seems silly. You would think that the BA Scouts would love to have a transport to get them into the think of things faster.

This is not codexenvy. I don't really care for those units and it does not matter to me if BAs have everything the big blue boyscouts have plus all of our shiny new gear.  I just want the things we lose to have a reason behind them or to get something to replace them. If you are going to take away the Thunderfire cannon, then say it is because the BA Techmarines prefer to be mounted on bikes or in close combat. Then have the Techmarine entry reflect that.

"How do you go to the bathroom in the suit?"
Part the Second: General Space Marine Gripes
In which we discover that an early 5th Ed codex is having a hard time standing up the the craziness of late 5th. This whole section is going to seem silly in a few months. Typically, the first Codex in a new edition is a Space Marine Codex and we are due for a new Edition soon. Maybe Mr. Ward will read this and get all kinds of crazy ideas. If anything I say matched up, I'll just take full credit. You can thank me in the Acknowledgements.

Who's guardin who?
Body Guards
What ever happened to retinues? They were everywhere in 3rd and fairly prevalent in 4th. then they have seemed to have dried up. Used to be, you could attach your Independent Characters to a command squad and he could not be targeted in close combat. No longer. Now, you attach your ICs to a squad and that keeps them from being shot at, but that is all. you get into close combat and your opponent says "All my attacks are going into your commander." The last codex to do this was Daemonhunters with their Brother-Captains.

I get why this is the case. You get the ablative wounds to get to close combat, but all bets are off in the swirling chaos of melee. I still feel that if you dedicate your commander to one squad, he should lose his IC status and not be able to be singled out in CC. He'd lose the ability to break off from them. It is a small matter and in the end it does not really matter. It just makes me long for a bygone age.

How many guys are going to get out?
Land Raider and Drop Pod Carrying Capacity
WTF is up with Land Raiders and their ever-varying cargo capacity? Why can't it just be 12 models so I can have my Captain in Terminator armor and his 5 boys all ride together carpool. Drop Pods and Rhinos are the same thing. If I want my commander to ride with a 10 man squad, he can't take either of those transports. It is very frustrating. I think you should get a free IC per transport if they want to leave the numbers the way they are. Then again, the DBs would probably find a way to exploit that too.

Tac Squads
I have a big problem with the old mandatory Troops choices. I feel like they were intentionally bland. Back in the day, you took two of them because you had to. Then you filled up on the sexy choices like Assault Squads and Terminators. In 5th, they became your only way to take and hold objectives and they got suddenly more valuable but not more effective.

Modern Codicies have spectacular troop choices. Even the now ancient Eldar codex let you take Dire Avengers as Troops. Dark Eldar and Grey Knights have great Troops. Even the Ork Codex has the option to take some pretty crazy stuff as Troops. Tyranids have awesome Troops as well. Space Marines are the only ones with lackluster Troops (DA, BA, and SW being exceptions).

Tac Marines are not the bad asses they should be. In the 5th ed codex, they changed the fluff of Tac Marines to be that they are the pinnacle of what a Space Marine is supposed to be. A Marine starts as a Scout then moved to Assault or Devastators to hone their skills. When they are well rounded, they move on to Tactical Marines where they focus on claiming objectives and dying really good.

Tac Squads are missing something to make them more appealing. I look toward Warmachine for inspiration. In WM, no unit is Troops or bland. Everyone has a special rule or does something better than another unit. It is actually a hard pick sometimes. That's how it should be with Tac Marines. You should want to take them over other choices.

There are more than a few ways to do this and stay within the fluff (new or old). Tac Marines could have a Bolter Assault special rule that would allow them to fire rapid fire weapons as assault weapons. that would allow them to shoot to full effect and still charge. They could have a special skill that lets them treat their bolters as twin-linked if they stand still. I don't have any good ideas, but you should not feel obligated to take Tac Marines.

On the topic of vanilla Troops choices, SM Scouts are distracting and annoying but hardly effective. I am glad to see them come down in points over the years, but they are still not quite amazing. Like Tac Marines, Scouts should be a little more appetizing. True, the infiltrating snipers with 2+ saves are pretty cool, but until sniper rifles get a bit of an overhaul, they are not going to perform well. BPCCW Scouts are rather nasty but lack staying power. They are a good cheap option for claiming objectives, but they are not cheap enough.

I don't get why the Landspeeder Storm is a Fast Attack choice and not a dedicated transport. Seems silly really. It can only carry Scouts and would never really be taken alone. Seems cruel to have Scouts and their transport eat up two slots.

They also lack any real anti-tank. This is what is hampering them from being a viable "all Scout" army. If you could mix in 2 special weapons (I think you could do that in 2nd Ed), that give them some punch against armor. You could also have them mount multi-meltas on Storms.

Speaking of an "all Scout" army, I'd love to see it. I dream of seeing a 10th Company that is worth talking. I'm into building and painting one, but wish the rules would match the pictures in my brain. It would probably turn out to be as effective as the Kroot army.

"Let's see. 4 green hammers.... That'll be 20 points, please."

For starters, everyone should pay 5 points for thunder hammers and storm shields. Maybe more. I can't stand the spam anymore. 5 points per model is enough to fix this situation. Free is just uncalled for. What you are giving up (1 attack at initiative) does not equal what you get (3+ invul save and S 8).

Regular Terminators have gone the way of Tac Squads. Back in the day, they were the cat's pajamas, but in modern 40k, they have fallen behind. Storm bolters are just not what they used to be. I am really at a loss at how to make them an appetizing choice as compared to Assault Termies. In Dawn of War, the Termies are much better at shooting than they are in assault. It has been suggested that they be able to take the special ammunition that the Sternguard have as they are the same guys in different armor. That would certainly make them fearsome in shooting. Since they are Relentless and have assault weapons, you could make a special rule that lets them shooting reroll to hit and/or to wound. If all else fails, you could just make them cheaper.

You could give them free combi weapons or perhaps do something to monkey with their powerfists. It seems unfair that there is no difference between someone in Terminator Armor and Power Armor swinging a powerfist. Terminator armor has more power and better servos to move around. It is not quite as agile, but the added power and stability has to count for something.

Techmarines and Thunderfire Cannon
Techmarines are one of those things that seems like a great idea, but the reality falls short on the table top. Their ability to fix things on the table top seems great, but can't seem to be made to be worth a damn. For starters, whatever they need to fix needs to be within 6" of them. That means you are either clustering your valuable war machines in your back lines around your Techmarine or running your Techmarine in the front lines with your Dreads and Land Raiders. If a vehicle is in trouble on the other side of the board, it is SOL.

Perhaps a better way of doing things is to mimic the Orks and the Big Mek's kustom force field and just give vehicles near the Marine a save. That shortcuts all the messiness, speeds the game up and allows the Techmarine to operate at full effect.

The Thunderfire Cannon is another matter entirely. I've never fielded it, but I've been on the receiving end of its blasts and it is pretty devastating. The problem is if it takes a lascannon shot, the unit is pretty much done for. The cannon is destroyed if it takes a glancing or penetrating hit and the marine has no invul save. If either dies, the unit loses its effectiveness. It needs something to act as ablative wounds.

The problem comes from that the Techmarine is part of an artillery unit and not a IC. If he was and IC you could attach 10 marines to him and they could blast stuff all day together. If the rules said that you could add Servators to any Techmarine unit, that would work.

Legion of the Damned
Something is missing here. Granted a whole unit that gets to reroll deep strike, 2 attacks and 3+ save is pretty nice. The models are pretty and fun, but for some reason they fall behind for me. I can't put my finger on it or really give suggestions on how to fix them. They just seem like an overpriced Tac Squad to me.

Zoom zoom
Bikes are pretty awesome but the image of them in my mind and how they work on the table top do not match up. I envision them performing like cavalry. Now, I know a little bit about military history and ancient battle tactics but no where near enough to tell you exactly how cavalry is supposed to be used. What I see in my mind is a small, well-armed, tough, hard hitting unit that is used for protecting your flanks and outflanking your enemy. How bikes work on that table top (for me at least) is they plow into a unit in assault and either wipe it out or grind to a halt.

How I see them working is closer to how Dark Eldar bikes work with their attacks being made in the Movement phase. Or possibly they could be given a special rule that gives them +1 Initiative and or +1 Strength but only one attack when they charge to represent them slamming into the enemy and scattering them like bowling pins. Hit and Run would also help them a ton.

Disclaimer: None of the minis in this post are mine. I have many of them, but don't have pics of them. I'd like to say that I'll replace the images with my own some day, but let's not kid ourselves. I'm not going to go back and fix anything. Stay on the look out for the images though! 

I have other problems with the game mechanics at large, but that is a post for another day.

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