Saturday, April 26, 2014

Taking Control of Chaos Space Marines And 40k As A Whole

by Novus

Few things are more frustrating in 40k than getting your teeth kicked in at the list building phase of the game.  Having no chance whatsoever to damage the opponent or fend off his attacks because of a very real strength gap is just horrible game design.  I've played my pure CSM vs pure Tau a couple of times in a row recently and I probably won't do that again willingly.  Those games were the last straw(s).  It's just not fun playing against certain armies due to both a gap in codex strength and shoddy game design overall.  It should be fun playing this game no matter who is across the table from you, shouldn't it?

I've seen many posts, comments, and content on how unplayable the Chaos Space Marine codex is.  Hell, I've commented my fair share on this subject, too.  There are also many posts on some of the more ridiculous combinations that the main rule book and the supplements make available.  I understand that a certain GW employee (Jervis, if I remember correctly) stated in a White Dwarf interview (again, if memory serves) that it's OK for us to tweak the rules so it's more fun for us to play.  I've also heard that GW folks don't play using certain rules because they don't like those rules (you know, those rules they sold us).

After all, they only want to make models and really shouldn't be held accountable for the non-model products (i.e. great big shiny books full of rules) they sell.

That's good to hear!  That opens doors for the rest of us.  Those that want to enjoy the game, as well as the models.

Chaos Space Marines

I stumbled upon this post from The Resurrected Hobbyist (which was inspired by this post at Atomic Warlord) a few days ago and I was floored by how well this "fandex" (should it really be called a fandex if it probably plays better and is more balanced than what GW puts out?) covers many of the issues I have with the CSM codex.

When compared to other codices, CSM has:
  • No in-codex way to move scoring troops quickly.  No bike troops, no jump troops, no outflank troops, no fast transports such as drop pods.  You either foot slog or you go in clunky metal boxes.
  • No HQ retinues.
  • No representation of inherent ATSKNF/fearless Chaos Space Marines. (Addition of a unit called Legionaries in the fandex, but this is not remedied for the existing CSM squad, which I think is more important than adding a new unit)
  • Inclusion of a rule that forces CSM characters to challenge, no matter the odds.  Which would be fine, if the codex and characters reflected a dark mastery of close combat knowledge gleaned over thousands of years.  Instead, the characters typically get stomped and then the whole CSM squad  breaks and gets run down.
  • Only two ways per Chaos God to unlock God-specific Elites as troops.  For example, only Typhus or a Nurgle marked Lord accomplish this unlock... same with the other Gods.  With only 2 HQ slots, you can never have Plague Marines as troops and still have a Warpsmith and a Daemon Prince in the same contingent.
  • No in-codex way for Sorcerers to have Divination.  Yes, there is Crimson Slaughter, and though it was a step in the correct direction, it falls far short compared to other races/armies.
  • No in-codex barrage weapons.
I urge you to download this fandex and give it a long look.  It's actually pretty good work.

What struck me as brilliant about this fandex is that it does very little to tweak the units themselves, aside from adding the Legionairies (which I don't really agree with, myself, but they are kinda cool).  Not one existing unit got additional powers where it wasn't absolutely warranted.  Almost all of the changes were Force Org unlocks or additions.

For the record, these are additional things that the above fandex doesn't cover that I would also change for CSM were I the codex writer:
  • Move Warpsmiths and Dark Apostles to the Elite section.
  • Allow Sorcerers the use of Divination powers.
  • Allow Forge Fiends some sort of barrage round to make them more worth taking.
  • Give Chaos Space Marine squads ATSKNF or make the Fearless Icon upgrade permanent (i.e. doesn't disappear when the icon carrier gets sniped out, which invariably happens).
  • Adjust the Champions of Chaos rule.  For example, if the Champion fails a LD check taken right after Overwatch is fired, he must challenge.  +1 to the roll if the Chaos unit outnumbers the enemy unit(s) involved in the combat.
None of these adjustments in the fandex increase existing unit strength directly.  No new weapons.  Only one added USR.  Additionally, all of these changes have some precedent in other current books (as far as I know, anyway).  These are things that make those other books work with great flexibility.  It boggles my mind that Chaos got left out of all of them!

The fellows at Frontline Gaming (they run the Las Vegas Open and the Bay Area Open) are considering letting Chaos Space Marine units (not the codex as a whole, the actual CSM squad entry) have ATSKNF (which, you may have noticed, I stole in my wish list above).  Additionally, they may also disregard the "must challenge" section of the Champions of Chaos rule, entirely.  They want to see more CSM in their tournaments, so why not?

The Main Rule Book

I also read today on Facebook that MBG at Spikey Bits will be adjusting the allies matrix (see above) for the FTW store tourneys such that there are no more Battle Brothers, thus eliminating many of the Deathstars that are making things sooo un-fun for many players.

At the Las Vegas Open, 2+ re-rollable saves we changed to 2+/4+ saves.  Not a giant change, but at least players felt they had more of a chance to kill the nigh unkillable.  Frontline has also discussed adjusting the D-weapon rules and allowing them at their events, too.  D-weapons would put a quick stop to Deathstars, but they also put a stop to pretty much everything else, too.  We'll see what actually gets allowed at the next Bay Area Open in the coming months.

The AWC League in Chicago is attempting to combat the Deathstar meta by changing the mission structure through actions such as progressive objective scoring and limits on how many points a unit can score.

The site is also offering asymmetrical missions to help players balance their games more.  I haven't played any of the missions here, but from what I read in the comments and online, they appear to be well received, so far.

The Future...

It seems we have reached a tipping point in 40k.  I think the motivation is there.  I think that the sorry state of the rules as a whole, and the lack of any pop in the CSM codex, has made the idea of rolling up our sleeves and tweaking things a bit that much more palatable to all involved.

If the community, both tournament and casual players alike, embrace efforts such as these by recognizing the problems and backing the folks who try to correct them rather than treating these obviously untested, stunningly error ridden, and terribly ambiguous (not to mention expensive) rules GW sells as Holy Writ, maybe at some point GW will take notice and make their own corrections.

Few things get a companies attention faster than doing what they do, but better, and for free.


  1. I'm not sure I agree with the idea of swapping warpsmiths and dark apostles to the elties section. for one thing fluffy armies lead by these units should still exist.

    What I'd do however is Make "Warp Smith" and Dark Apostle be traits you can buy for a chaos Lord. that way you can have access to a warpsmith and dark apostle HQ if you so wish (indeed, it'd make em even scarier as suddenly you could have DAs in terminator plate yadda yadda) and then mvoe the actual units themselves into a "FOCless slot" ala how tech marines in the current SM dex are handled

    1. I could see that. I was thinking more of a middle management role for them. CSM has no strong supervisors, just CEOs and drones. But, what you outline is perfectly acceptable and I guarantee more fluffy.

  2. Good post! I'll be using those missions, that ally chart, and the 2+/4++ thing as house rules.

    I don't have a large CSM (just a small ally force of Berzerkers for my Blood Pact army), but I'd have no problem with that Fandex either.

    1. Yeah, there's a lot of dissatisfaction in 40k lately. Even from the large event holders. You know there are problems when those guys are adjusting things. I'm going to start up DzC in a couple weeks... I need to cleanse my palate, I think. Thanks for reading my blog!


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