Sunday, 29 August 2010

Codex Review: John Venegas’ Space Marine Fandex, Part 2

As promised here is part two of John Venegas' Space Marine Fandex. As stated in the previous review John's dex focuses on creating options for all of the Space Marine Chapters using only one comprehensive document. This part will focus on John's unit entries and their options. Just as with the first installment I have to say that this second half of the codex is an exciting read because it's everything you want the marine codex to be. 

A lot of thought, time and effort has gone into this armylist and it does have everything. In the interest of time I'm going to switch to bullet point mode so that I can cover most of the details without skipping anything vital.

  • There are 30 unit entries in this armylist. This is notable because, as far as I can tell, the list covers all of the current options across all of the Space Marine codecies (and then some). It does this without using a single special character. A great accomplishment and perhaps the best single characteristic of this codex.
  • The options for each entry are very comprehensive. There's nothing you can't do with this document, the possibilities are endless.
  • There is still that nerve-racking detail that many standard rules have been changed or removed all-together. A notable example is the Land Raider that is now BS 5 but loses its Power of the Machine Spirit. It has more options and it doesn't really need PotMS but that critical rule is part of what makes a 'Land Raider' a Land Raider. Speaking for myself the removal of a rule like that takes me out of my comfort zone because it bends the 40k authenticity that this codex would otherwise have kept up admirably. Still nothing is so far gone as to cause me to doubt the quality of the codex as a whole.
  • Why have Marines taken a hit to their Leadership? This seems out of place.
  • I hate these gaps between entries - maybe some "borrowed" artwork to fill them in?
  • Command squad: Typo - should be "replace its Krak grenades with Meltabombs" I'm guessing.
  • The Honorific and Heroic Traits really work well here. One small option purchase is all you need to switch between a generic chapter or an existing mainstream one.
  • Apothecary is an interesting inclusion - I'd like to see the reasoning for that addition versus putting him in the Elites slot. 'Advising Officer' does change things considerably.
  • At a glance most options seems appropriately costed though I don't envy John the task of playtesting all of them. 
  • Some really nice, colorful options here with some FOC changing potential to make things even more interesting. 
  • Both Vanguard squads seem slightly undercosted. Not game-breakingly so but certainly the difference would be felt if you played against the regular Marine codex. Some option costs have been adjusted for the better (Assault Cannon Cheaper/ Cyclone more expensive) but I still find the per model cost to be rather low. 
  • Sternguard don't have special ammo?
  • Why can sternguard take TDA if there's a Sternguard Terminator squad? Why does it only cost 23pts/model to add more members to the Terminator squad?
  • Typo: Forsaken squad - should be "add more forsaken marines" - beware the copy/paste sloppiness.
  • Nothing that special here. Scary to see regular Marines with Ld. 7 *shivers*
  • Why aren't Scout squads scoring? That seems arbitrary. Is there a way to make them scoring that I missed/forgot?
  • Neophyte Sergeant should have the same Ld as any other sergeant - he's not a rookie.
Fast Attack:

  • Seeing the option to take Assault Marines as Troops I'm wondering where the option to take Terminators as Troops is. Did I forget where I saw it or did I just assume there was one?
  • No love for the Land Speeder Storm?
  • There's no reason at all to take Scout Bikers. Unique wargear options and/or special rules are required to make them attractive. 
Heavy Support:
  • Devastators - Multimelta and Lascannon cost the same? Weird.
  • I love the option list for the Dreadnought but there are a few more that could be added. Area of effect items would be nice as well as FOC bonuses for taking the Dread as an HQ. Dreads as Troops please.
  • No special ammo for the Whirlwind? Something to make it more attractive?
  • Godhammer Land Raider costs 280 points? Yikes, I'm never taking that - it was arguably the worst loadout of the three to begin with due to its convoluted role on the battlefield. Now you've taken away the special rule that gave it some flexibility and made it significantly more expensive.
Dedicated Transports:
  • Rhinos and Razorbacks are just automatically Fast? I'd like to see this become an upgrade both for the transports and for the Predator. Also Extra Armor shouldn't cost the same on every vehicle - that's the lazy GW mentality. 
I think that's everything. If anything else turns up I'll be sure to update. Thanks to John for putting this document together - it really is impressive. I'd say there's still a ways to go before you can use this confidently for pickup games without reproach but hopefully the advise given here will ease transition.

 Stay tuned for Master Bryss' Steel Legion character - it's good stuff.


Thursday, 26 August 2010

Quick Update

Okay some small changes: Rules Manufactorum is now - no .blogspot nonsense
and I have a new blog that's dedicated to gaming and game design in general. If you play games other than Warhammer (and there's even some Warhammer articles coming) drop on by and leave a comment. My first article is going up today:

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Review: Big Jim's 'Special Operations - Killzone'

Hey guys, special treat for you today! Big Jim's forays into the world of rules design have produced another success. His latest release, 'Special Operations: Killzone' is a blast to play and comes highly recommended from Rules Manufactorum. Here's what my first playtest notes have yielded:

The rules themselves are a breeze to read through being just 6 pages long. Jim really makes the most of the core ruleset which makes Killzone very 'rules-light' - if you can play 40k you can play Killzone with next to no extra effort. This touches on a design theory of mine that people prefer rules expansions and additions to rule revisions. Although there are several core rules that get overturned in Killzone it maintains that approachable quality that purely revisionist rules tend to lack. 

This is also due to the common-sense approach that Jim has exercised in the rules that he opted to change. Simplification of the Run and Difficult Terrain mechanic have allowed him to expand in other, more  interesting directions such as Priority rolls and Overwatch. In and of themselves these changes do not appear to affect the game by much but in practice I found the dynamic use  of new mechanics such as Grenades changing tactics and strategies that had remained unchanged since 4th edition. 

Any excited I felt for the re-release of skirmish 40k games in the Battle Missions has long since died away. The half-assed design that produced that book is a nightmare that is slowly fading from memory as I recall the awesome moments of 40k grandeur I experienced under the direction of this much more comprehensive ruleset. Perhaps though Killteam was a necessary stepping stone on the path to enjoyable 40k skirmish games. Many of Jim's rules show an eagerness to overcome the myriad balance issues that cropped up while handling the near naked Killteam rules. Thus Killzone adds limitations that are, in my opinion, absolutely necessary if this game type is to be taken seriously. I'm quite happy to see Valkyries kicked out of skirmish battles even though I play airborne IG. 

Just as important as these limitations are the options and freedom that Killzone adds. The original Killteam granted you a paltry 3 Special Rules with which to add character to your force. Killzone enhances the game adding the ability to purchase models individually, extra wargear options and, my favorite, the ability to overturn certain army building restrictions through the purchase of 'Themes' among others. Much has been done to add depth and intrigue to the ruleset making the creation of each Special Operation Group an intense mental exercise (perfect for the throneroom or while driving). This game is a prime example of the old adage "easy to learn, impossible to master" as I feel my tiny Killzone force will undergo dozens of iterations before I am totally satisfied with its performance. 

The document is in its infancy and although it works satisfactorily as it is there are a few things that can be added. There are a couple of typos* and rules that might be expanded to be a little more watertight. I would like to see still more 'Themes' added as well perhaps army-wide special rules for purchase. I'm planning a small series of Killzone specific characters that might help generate more narrative for each game. The document itself references a few things, such as reference cards, that have yet to be seen but will undoubtedly contribute to the overall quality of the document.

The flaws of this system are hardly worth mentioning and after a few games together my gaming group and I are eager to revisit this ruleset at our next meeting. In closing, I'll leave you with my list - if you've got a second comment and let me know what you think can be improved.

Armored Might

6 Wolf Guard in Terminator Armor

2 x Combi-Plasma

1 x Heavy Flamer

1 x Power Fist
Total: 248

*Only one that I remember is the Medipack special rule but there was one other one I believe.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

“Sandbox” Army- Chaos Space Marines

Rules by Master Bryss
his comments in red

Letting the renegades have their fun. I’m going to be slightly more adventurous this time with other Codicies being thrown in.

In your army you must include a HQ choice and at least two Scoring Units. Armies may include:
·         1-3 HQ units
·         0-4 Elites
·         0-8 Troops
·         0-4 Fast Attack
·         0-4 Heavy Support

A Chaos Space Marines army will always have access to the following units:

  • Chaos Lord (may not take Terminator armour)
  • Chaos Space Marine squad (Scoring unit)
·         Chaos Rhino
·         Raptor Squad
·         Havoc Squad
·         Chaos Spawn
·         Summoned Lesser Daemon
·         Summoned Greater Daemon

No Marks or Icons may be taken apart from the Icon of Chaos Glory and Personal Icons. Cult Troops, Special Characters such as Kharn and Ahriman who serve one god and Daemons may only be bought after the Mark of their god is bought. Greater Daemons bought from Codex: Chaos Daemons still enter in the manner of Greater Daemons in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Daemons do not use up Force Slots but Lesser Daemons are still scoring.

For each Mark of Chaos bought, the cost of all Marks and units of other Chaos powers increases by 1. For example, the Mark of Khorne costs 1 OP. If the Mark of Tzeentch is bought, it costs 2OP, Thousand Sons cost 2OP, etc. If the Mark of Slaanesh is bought after that, it costs 3OP and so on.
You may now spend up to 15 Option Points (OP) on anything in the following list (all may be taken multiple times unless otherwise specified):

v  Allow access to all cult-specific Troops and all Marks but remove access to cult-specific Daemons...8 points

v  Allow access to Drop Pods (from Codex: Space Marines)...2 points

v  Allow Marks and Icons of Khorne...1 point
Ø  Allow access to Berzerkers...1 point
Ø  Allow access to Bloodletters (from Codex: Chaos Daemons)...2 points
Ø  Allow access to Bloodthirster (from Codex: Chaos Daemons)...3 points

v  Allow Marks and Icons of Tzeentch...1 point
Ø  Allow access to Thousand Sons...1 point
Ø  Allow access to Pink Horrors (from Codex: Chaos Daemons)...2 points
Ø  Allow access to Lord of Change (from Codex: Chaos Daemons)...3 points

v  Allow Marks and Icons of Slaanesh...1 point
Ø  Allow access to Noise Marines...1 point
Ø  Allow access to Daemonettes (from Codex: Chaos Daemons)...2 points
Ø  Allow access to Keeper of Secrets (from Codex: Chaos Daemons)...3 points

v  Allow Marks and Icons of Nurgle...1 point
Ø  Allow access to Plague Marines...1 point
Ø  Allow access to Plaguebearers (from Codex: Chaos Daemons)...2 points
Ø  Allow access to Great Unclean One (from Codex: Chaos Daemons)...3 points

v  Allow access to Daemon Princes (no powers)...2 points
Ø  Allow Daemon Prince to buy a Daemon Weapon for +60 points...2 points
Ø  Allow Daemon Prince to have psychic powers...2 points
v  Allow access to Sorcerors (may not take Terminator armour)...2 points

v  Allow access to Chosen...1 point
v  Allow access to Terminators and Terminator armour wargear...2 points
Ø  Allow a single Elites unit type to be Scoring...5 points
Ø  Allow Terminators and Dreadnoughts to purchase Assault Cannons (from Codex: Space Marines) for +40 points...2 points
v  Allow access to Dreadnought...1 point
Ø  Remove the Crazed rule from Dreadnoughts...2 points
v  Allow access to Possessed...1 point
Ø  Allow the player to choose which Daemonkin power to give Possessed...2 points
Ø  Allow Possessed to buy Wings for +10 points per model...1 point

v  Allow access to Conscript Platoons (Scoring unit, from Codex: Imperial Guard)...1 point
v  Allow access to Furies as a Scoring unit (from Codex: Chaos Daemons)...1 point
v  Allow Chaos Space Marine squads to Infiltrate...2 points

v  Allow access to Bikes...1 point
v  Allow access to Land Speeders (from Codex: Space Marines)...2 points
v  Allow a single free squad of Chaos Spawn (may only be taken once)...1 point
Ø  Allow a single Fast Attack unit type to be Scoring...3 points

v  Allow Havocs to be Scoring...3 points
v  Allow access to Predators and Vindicators...2 points each
v  Allow access to a single Ordnance Battery (from Codex: Imperial Guard)...3 points per vehicle taken, 2 points per model for Griffons
v  Allow access to Land Raiders...2 points
Ø  Allow access to Crusader or Redeemer Pattern (from Codex: Space Marines)...3 points each
v  Allow Land Raiders to be Dedicated Transports...3 points
v  Allow access to Obliterators...2 points
v  Allow access to Defilers...2 points

v  Take a single Named HQ Character...2 points
v  Give the entire army the Fearless rule...7 points

Hmm... for a typical ‘Power Dream Lash Oblit Plague Death Mega Irritating Assault’, it only costs 7 points for the Sorceror as HQ and 9 for a Prince. Curses. I can then add Termicide squads for another 2. I can’t really do any more to prevent this unfortunately. I can make god-specific powers cost OP, I could increase the cost of Cult Troops to 2, but that’s really as much as I can do. Any suggestions on removing this annoyance?
On the side of fun, where I live, I’m allowing Drop Pods, Traitor Guard, decent Daemons from all the pantheon (only the basics mind) and even some more modern stuff like Land Speeders and Assault Cannons for Renegade Chapters. I’ve made some counter measures for the ‘random’ units, and my favourite concept, a Daemon Prince that wields ANOTHER DAEMON in its blade. Oh, and Iron Warriors can have a Basilisk again and Alphas can Infiltrate. You can also make your whole army crazy fearless, which I feel is very keeping with Chaos.
As ever, I’d really like to see your opinions, especially on fixing the List Abuse problem.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Game Developer's Conference: Cologne, Germany

At the time of this writting I'm waiting for a connecting flight to take me from Munich to Cologne. I'm off to the European Game Developers Conference to follow several days of educational lectures delivered by the game industry's most successful personas. After that it's a couple of days wandering around GamesCon with my mouth open like Venus fly trap.

What this means for you readers is posts will likely be scarce this week and will have little to do with 40k (but everything to do with Rules Manufactorum). This is a great pilgrimage and one that all aspiring developers should make.

If all goes well I should walk away with more game design experience than ever before. If I'm really lucky I'll be skipping like a school girl away with a brand new job offer and the beginning of career.

Wish me luck!

P.S. Comment if you're going as well. I'd love to meet some of you in person.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Codex Review: John Venegas’ Space Marine Fandex, Part 1

Hey guys, today Rules Manufactorum has the pleasure of reviewing a very comprehensive set of custom rules designed with the purpose of giving all those guys in power armor one single document from which to build an armylist. I have mixed feelings about this document. While the quality of the rules is unquestionably high it does go to some length editing very basic rules many of which are fundamental to the game.

Here's a link to John Venegas' Space Marine Fandex.


As with any set of custom rules presentation plays a large role in this intimidatingly thorough document. There is no decoration or embellishment to be found in this fandex but a careful formatting makes this codex far easier to navigate than would be imagined given the length. I was pleased to find also, that such details as special rules summaries are presented in full in their respective parts of the codex rather than the tedious “see pg X with page X directing you to page y” [the official Marine dex is guilty of this].
Furthermore rules are written succinctly and clearly with a mind to avoiding omissions and careless loopholes. This document was studiously revised and the effort that has gone into is obvious both upon my first impression and in subsequent readings. I have trouble believing John’s claim that this is the “first” version lacking as it is in typos and missing text – a common symptom of  construction and revision that often plagues even GW’s efforts.
Presentation is half of rules design and this effort gets my approval. It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t get much more user friendly than this.

Special Rules:

This section arrives early in the document and really sets the tone for the rest of the fandex. These rules are exemplary of all the following unit entries in that they are designed with flexibility and variety in mind. Essentially any player could build virtually any kind of MEQ force with full support from this ruleset. There’s something for everyone here and I can easily see this ruleset encouraging players to homogenize and specialize their marine forces (all Jump Pack or all Bikes for instance). There ‘s the opportunity to play many, many different styles without ever changing codecies.
The limiting factor here and the reason by brow was furrowed throughout almost the entire reading is that these rules overturn many very basic special rules that make up the building blocks of the game as we know it. Whilst making any psycher’s powerfist a force weapon makes sense rewriting the ‘And They Shall Know No Fear’ special rule is a bold move and not be taken lightly. Basic rules such as ATSKNF are vital organs in the body of 40k. Changing them, even to this more efficient version, is bound to shift the game in unpredictable directions.  I would be very interested to see the playtest results.
To confuse matters further many of the rules remain unchanged deferring to the main rulebook for their definitions. This increases the chance of a rules re-design catching an opponent unawares setting another obstacle between the fandex player and the free enjoyment of his well-designed custom rules.
This same issue is exacerbated by a single special rule allowing multiple different benefits (e.g. Blessed Be the Warriors). This is likely to create misunderstandings over the course of the first few games in which an opponent must familiarize himself with the capabilities of the army he is facing. Having one name for three special rules feels like cheating even when it’s not and is not going to win this document many willing opponents. These rules need to be named and marked more clearly to avoid inevitable confusion and embitterment.
As a custom ruleset the designers of this fandex need to make comprehension easier for the prospective opponent. Use original and unique names for new rules even if they replace older ones. Improving existing rules, even if balance is unaffected, is going to appear like powergaming to anything other than the closest scrutiny.

Heroic Traits and Titles:

A very interesting idea. Again a very real effort has been made to include rules that support any conceivable type of Space Marine force from Space Wolves to Iron Hands. These rules make this a player’s document rather than a corporate release that keeps half an eye on model sales and financial risks. It’s charming and endearing and very motivating – this ruleset could have every 40k player owning a Space Marine army of one flavor or another.
It’s worth mentioning again the quality of writing. Not only do the rules persist in being clear and to the point but care has been taken to avoid duplicates of any name or term – a refreshing change given the tiresome Blood-Angels-Thirsting-for- Blood-wielding-their-Sanquine-swords-in- their-crimson-Blood-Fists mentality that GW shoves into our unwilling minds. I also enjoyed not having to skip to the second paragraph to avoid clichéd fluff descriptions for each special rule.


I won’t reiterate what I’ve already said about the confusing nature of having fundamental elements of the game changed. Meltaguns, Bolters, Lascannons etc undergoing major reimaginings is off-putting in the extreme. It tries to change too much for no real reason that I can glean. These changes go beyond creating an armylist to suit every marine player’s style. It changes the balance of the game in significant and unnecessary ways. There should never, in my opinion, be two different pieces of wargear with the same name performing in two different ways.

End of part one:

Overall I’m impressed with the quality of the document. Though I may criticize it heavily I really enjoyed reading and the criticism itself comes more from a divergent viewpoint on the goal of custom rules than on any perceived failings. The fandex has me noticing new things every time I go over it again so I'll piece my review into multiple parts to make sure I get it all. Stay tuned for the next part in which I’ll go through the unit entries in depth.


Monday, 9 August 2010

Bellos, Captain of the Damned

Rules by Master Bryss

Among the Legion of the Damned there exists one who travels alone as a maverick of justice. Self-styled Captain of the Damned, Bellos will often rally gather other Legion members, and use them to aid particularly small Imperial defences. Although in reality he is but a mere Sergeant, he behaves as if he were the last surviving Commander of what was once his Chapter.

Cost...160 points

Unit: 1 (unique)
Unit Type: Infantry
  • Power Armour 
  • Frag and krak grenades 
  • Bolt Pistol with Dragonfire rounds
  • Deathblaze
Deathblaze: Bellos’ warsword is a master-crafted Power Weapon that allows the owning player to re-roll all failed To Wound rolls caused by him in Close Combat.

Special Rules:
  •  Fearless
  •  Furious Charge
  •  Unyielding Spectre (as Legion of the Damned entry)
  • Chapter Tactics: Legion of the Damned

Chapter Tactics: The Legion operates in a radically different way to a normal Space Marine Chapter. Army rules are as follows:

  • Vehicles, Special Characters, Chapter Masters, Chaplains, Librarians, Techmarines, Masters of the Forge, Terminator Armour, Scout Armour, Bikes and Jump Packs cannot be used.
  • All Tactical Squads, Sternguard Veteran Squads and Devastator squads gain the Slow and Purposeful special rule.
  • All units gain the Aid Unlooked For special rule as detailed in the Legion of the Damned Squad.
  • The Legion of the Damned Squad entry can be used as Elites, Troops, Fast Attack and Heavy Support, and are referred to as Spectre Veterans to differentiate them from standard Legionnaires.
  • Legion of the Damned reinforcements may be rolled for beginning on turn one with subsequent turns decreasing the roll required as normal.