Thursday, 11 February 2010

Why Custom Rules?

When you sit down to make an army list do you find yourself forced to add things you would rather play without? When contemplating a theme for your army are you stumped by a lack of thematic options? This is where custom rules can help.

Games Workshop creates codecies with the aim of giving players worldwide a common set of rules that close the gap and minimize conflicts between two strangers playing Warhammer against one another. However, GW is, first and foremost, a large corporation looking to turn a profit. It is not profitable to include variant army lists, obscure characters and rules for absolute customization. Each rule added increases the burden on their production costs which in turn bites into their profit margin unless they raise the price. Writing and playtesting require time and money but they also incur an opportunity cost - the more time you spend on an awesome Guard codex the less resources are available for Dark Eldar and so forth.

In short codecies are a chore for GW. One they must perform to maintain a dynamic metagame and boost model sales. But whilst writing rules is all but loathsome to GW it is, for the average player, a pair of wings to help one overcome the obstacles placed in front of themed army lists and codex reinvention.

So you've recently read Dan Abnett's Traitor General and you can't for the life of you find rules for a 'Wirewolf' anywhere.

That's because you haven't written them yet.

You spent 16 hours converting a badass Great Unclean One to lead your Death Guard. Too bad he'll just have to 'count as' a Greater Deamon.

Says who?

You spent a heap o' cash on alternate Forgeworld turrets for your Tau Hammerhead - shame they'll never let you field it in a tournament since it's not 'official.'

Grown men applying the word 'official' to toy soldiers is almost as ridiculous as grown men playing with toy soldiers in the first place.

The inspiration for countless armies is there in the fluff, ready to be manifested on the tabletop but we'll never get there with just codecies. Remember the Most Important rule. I have played with custom rules in pick-up games in 4 different countries, I have yet to find a player that refused to play.

So next time you're thinking man I wish I could field an 'X' army just do it. No one will stop you. It's likely more than one person you know has been wanting to do it for a long time. Rules are just words and numbers on a page - the rest is your imagination. And when everyone is playing with "custom rules" they won't be "custom" anymore, they'll just be rules.


4 comments:

sonsoftaurus said...

Good post. I especially like the line:

"Grown men applying the word 'official' to toy soldiers is almost as ridiculous as grown men playing with toy soldiers in the first place."

Brendan said...

The big problem I have with custom rules is three fold:
1) They only really work small scale in a gaming group where you have the chance to sit down and figure out what is ok and what is not, how many points someone should pay for X, and a group that plays fluff based games simply for fun.

2.)This brings be to my second point, custom rules have no way of ever being part of a competitive game. In a competitive setting all players must be subject to the same set of rules and limitations, not to their imaginations. Otherwise everyone will be running uber overpowered undercosted units. (This is my ultra dreadnought, he comes standard with 4 twinlinked railguns, AV 14 all around, and the living metal special rule all for 100 points.)

3.) Lastly I don't see how this is effective for pickup games, I don't want to have to spend 2 hours reading my opponents custom rules to see if I approve, or continually trying to remember what his custom units are equipped with.

So, while I think it is a cool idea in a small setting where a group of friends can generate their own units and house rules, as a larger concept it is just not feasible to apply custom rules to any game (in fact I believe that is what is called cheating if you don't have approval).

Margar Calneus said...

Hahaha, "fluff based games".

As opposed to SERIOUS games of Warhammer 40000, in which we pay no attention to the setting or story of Warhammer 40000.

Atrotos said...

1. This issue can be negated to a large extent by sticking close to GW's existing rules. By using official codex rules as a template you limit the chances that something you design is game-breakingly overpowered.

2. Custom rules entering a competitive environment requires an in-between step. Namely players must come to respect the source of these rules as much or more than GW's. If Rules Manuafactorum's proposed e-publications containing rules balanced by the community was widely considered balanced you would see this e-pub included in tournament lists.

3. Again using GW as a template is a way to mitigate this obstacle. If I say "here's a new codex I wrote, read it and we'll play" you're not likely to be enthusiastic. However if I say "I designed this character - he let's me field Storm Troopers as Troops and he's good in CC" it's much more relatable and therefore much more acceptable.

What's important at the end of the day is that we relieve GW of their rules monopoly. When we have multiple sources for rules we'll begin to see the hobby expand in many positive ways. Idealy this expansion would be GW endorsed i.e. certain trusted sources would obtain permission from GW to write rules and rights to unique fluff.