Dark Angels and the 5th Edition
Space Marine Codex. Part II
Let me begin by saying this isn't a crticism of the new Codex Space marines itself but more an issue of imbalance resulting from badly considered developments. Now if you have the stomach for it read on.
The Unforgiven or The Unwanted?
"I also got to talk to both Alessio and Jervis, and asked them directly about FAQs for the non-codex chapters. The bottom line is they won’t be getting 2-shot CMLs or 3+ storm shields in an FAQ.
Alessio is adamant that they want the rule books to be self sufficient. However he did say (again) that the FAQ section of the website is due to be revamped in a couple of months.
He did come up with an interesting fluff explanation though, which is that the likes of the DA run their own forges and therefore manufacture their own equipment, inferior to that of mars. He did admit to me that he would have preferred the kit in the CM to have been given a different name - Mars Pattern Cyclone Missile Launchers and so on. His point was that this is basically different gear, not all CMLs or storm shields are created equal and the price you pay for not being a codex chapter and wearing hippy robes or holding dark secrets is that you don’t get all the latest toys from his nibs... Irritating, but I wish they’d said something like that sooner."
When I first read this I was shocked.
There are several key issues involved here with existing Space marine non-Codex Chapters over and above the considerations of how good a storm shield's saves should be or why PoTMS isn't universal etc.
1. OUT OF TOUCH
The first issue with the explanation given is the total lack of connectivity the games developers have with us, their cash cows. They say they listen but I sometimes wonder who they listen to. How is it that in the same month as is financial meltdown in the USA can a company like GW feel secure in the knowledge that their customer base will remain loyal and keep spending. Money is tight all round – if I was anything to do with GW I'd be ensuring that my existing customers were happy with the product and happy to carry on spending. If GW seriously think that can pull such a stunt without some kind of financial fallout then they are very short-sighted (or arrogant) indeed.
OK so those who feel hard done by don't amount to millions of people, but the drip-drip-drip of discontent surely must be ringing alarm bells somewhere. After all 40k isn't the only science fiction wargame out there is it.
2. THE CRUSADER, SWORD OF SECRETS AND MORTIS DREAD ISSUES
This answer given by Mat Ward to Andy Hall on p19 of October's White Dwarf (although he was originally replying to a question on the new Combat Tactics rule), was very revealing – as it's obvious where current thinking on 40k development is going:
"In the past the Codex Chapter army list, in its various guises, has often been seen as the foundation list that all other non-standard Chapters can work from, with the assumption that they'll get everything a Codex Chapter has access to plus some extra cool stuff. With this version I wanted to reward players who are happy to take a Codex Chapter army and give them special rules that Space Wolves, Blood Angels and the like will not have access to."
I agree with him up to a point as whatever we may think or want, there has always been differences of kit between various Chapters – that after all was what set them apart. But traditionally this was limited to one or two large items' difference – Jetbikes, Mortis's, or Chapter-specific wargear for your special characters, and that was all fine. You made your Chapter choice and got your 'special' bits of kit.
The problem arises now not in these welcomed items of uniqueness, but in the many smaller items that are changing. Here is a quick list of the more 'standard' Astartes items that have changed in the SM Codex and this is by no means exhaustive:
- Scout transport
- Whirlwinds (can fire both types of ammo during a game)
- Expanded wargear/weapons choices for characters
- Expanded weapon options for Razorbacks
- Land Raiders and Crusaders weapon options
- Land Raider transport capacity
- Typhoon missile launcher on Speeders
- Drop pods weaponry
- Vindicator Siege Shield
- Wargear options for Dev squads
- Smoke launchers
You get the picture. The justification for these differences is absurd to say the least. Apparently our Techmarines are so backward that they can't develop more then one S6 power weapon for our Chapter? or have failed to notice the plasma guns on other Chapters' Razorbacks and not thought "hmm that might be a good idea"? This despite the fact that they are clever enough to maintain a handful of the only remaining Jetbikes?
I find this preposterous. Not only that but an insult to the intelligence of gamers/collectors. Do they think we're complete novices?
I don't find it odd that all of a sudden every IA Chapter suddenly has access to a Mortis Dread, after all we adopted the Crusader from the BTs (remember it was once a 0-1 choice) successfully, so there is a certain amount of give and take there. So given that, what is the problem with a heavy 2 cyclone being universal? The argument of exclusivity just doesn't square with what has happened previously and indeed what has happened within the new C:SM with the adoption of the Mortis.
And not only does the specification change, but the points cost don't remain universal either, whether you are buying a Tac squad, a Predator or a Vindicator. The whole concept of a "One Astartes" has been well and truly blown out of the water – for ever. I just hope GW understand completely what they have done here and where it could lead, or should I say, where it has lead.
3. WEAK GAMES DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
I find Mat Ward's comments on why he decided to add further transport capacity to the LR actually quite good:
"Previously if you wanted to have a character leading a squad, you could only fit them in a Crusader. I wanted players to be able to choose a Land Raider for more than just its capacity, so I've levelled the playing field and given Land Raiders room for 12 power-armoured Space marines or six Terminators."
The problem arises in that it's not universally applicable. Now how any one person can make such a unilateral decision is quite beyond me, this being just one of many examples I could have picked. The issue of inconsistency during a single edition of 40k is for me symptomatic of a weak game design strategy that leads to the inevitable "Codex creep" that we all know and hate. It's OK when you have the best book going – not so good when you don't.
It strikes me that this reflects a "little company" ethos where individuals rather than a larger group are resposible for putting together each book. It's only natural that in this atmosphere the individual authors want their book to be the best in terms of sales and critical acclaim and is why the larger planned strategy goes out the window, as each new book tends to try and trump the previous.
Poor management has a lot to do with these issues I think – there needs to be a firmer hand on the tiller – or at least a fundamental acknowledgement that an overall strategy must be adhered to. If not, then a preparedness to retro-fix books to bring them into the 'new line' is a must.
4. THE CODEX DA EXPERIMENT
Whichever way you slice it, the DA 4th edition Codex wasn't a great success. It had some good ideas and the basic principle of fixed size units with limited wargear wasn't a mistake, the problem was that Jervis took it too far.
Now, having realised the error of that, the reins on the SM book have been loosened a great deal so as not fall into the same trap. It's an admission of defeat, no more, no less. It just happens we were first in the line and have suffered as a consequence. That's not to say it can't be successfully played by some, it's just that it overall it was a weaker build and now looks weaker in comparison to the SM book which will form the basis for around 70-80% of armies we play against.
Funnily enough I could accept the DA book more now as workable if the Codex SM had gone down exactly the same lines. But there's the rub, it hasn't and no amount of Scouting-Ravenwing or Deathwing-Assaulting terminators will ever make up for the fundamental shortcomings inherent in our playlist. It represented the promise of a new future that has been subsequently broken.
I had fully expected, like many others, that the new SM book would be a version of the DA/BA codex with our Chapter-specific characters, rules and wargear stripped out and Ultramarine/generic options included. How wrong we all were.
5. "SHUT UP... AND STOP WHINING"
Sometimes I agree. But on this issue I think we have a good case. The Blood Angels although by no means in the clear, have enough unique and effective builds that can't be replicated by the C:SM that gives them an edge – but only just. Same with the BTs, whose Codex actually references C:SM weapons and wargear in many cases anyway, giving them a leg up into the exclusive Astartes developments – something that runs totally counter to Allessio's remarks above by the way regarding non-Codex Chapters as being standalone.
But for us, well our Codex becomes a Codex: Deathwing, and with worse weapons and poor characters at that.
"But look at all those unique DA models you get" some say. Yes they're right. But tell me if looking pretty really is so much better then playing well. It isn't.
6. WHAT TO DO NOW?
I applaud those with the time and intelligence who can sit down and have a crack at writing a decent set of rules, but the problem will be that they will ever only be fan rules. The real and only 'credible' solution would be for the gentlemen involved at GW to pull out their collective fingers, admit errors, and put them right by means of a comprehensive errata. This is no more or no less than any other commercial organisation would do to secure its customer base and a sound future. Yes of course it will cost time and hence money, but doing this electronically would help – I am more than happy to download a pdf version of an updated set of rules, I would even be happy to pay for the privilege.
The next best option is that as gamers we collectively come up with something that gets accepted/adopted by GW to save them the effort of doing it themselves. Take a look at the recent DA FAQs, the first one (the Canadian version) was put together outside GW. My God is the tail really wagging the dog? – yep because if not then the status quo remains.
Now there is talk of the excellent ++ASTARTES REFORM PROJECT++ being resurrected on the Space Marine forum The Bolter and Chainsword, and I'd advise all those with an interest to get involved. The larger the community involvement the more likely the acceptance of the result. By the way, I notice that BoLS are up to something with an "Alternative Blood Angels" codex. As such I can see this as being the only constructive avenue open to us.
I don't think sending back copies of our codexes is the way forward – no matter how well intentioned the idea – because frankly I just don't think GW care enough.
There are other options: mass letters of petition, mass emails of petition or even sending back copies of our DA codexes have all been mooted. I am not entirely sure which of these routes will be successful – because frankly I just don't think GW care enough.
The least palatable option, but paradoxically the one that requires the least effort on our collective behalves, is to play soley and exclusively with the new Codex SM and be done with it.
7. DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER
I am sure I will get a bit of criticism for writing all this, but it's the distillation of rumour, frustration and stupidity that has brought me to this point. I have a lot of money, and hours and hours of time tied up in this hobby and I am not going to let it get to me or let it get me down without a fight.
So let's hope that all is not yet lost and things can be rescued from oblivion.
29 September 2008
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