Codex Design: FOC amputation
So the designs for the Stellans have progressed quite a bit and inevitably I’ve reached a stage where much more time is given to removing superfluous entries than adding new ones. From the very beginning the main objective of the codex was to create completely flexible entries thus minimizing any entries that did not contribute directly to what has become a very focused theme for the army.
Over time this design strategy has emptied the codex of any ‘padding’ where ‘padding’ refers to units that are added because they are deemed necessary to complete the codex’s profile even though they make for unlikely choices in any list. As an example let’s examine the Skyclaws from the Space Wolves’ Codex; an entry that has difficulty excusing its existence in a document that discourages their inclusion by providing more lucrative units around which the codex is based. That is to say Space Wolves players seeking to make the most of their codex would naturally drift toward choices such as the Wolf Guard or Lone Wolves – units that maximize the codex’s strong unit customization qualities. If you had a thing for Assault squads you’re expected to fulfill those urges by using the Blood Angels codex.
So the ‘padding’ is gone leaving much of the time-tested FOC system untouched. Under normal circumstances this would pressure me as the writer and designer to generate units to fill the gaps but more and more this feels forced and disingenuous. There’s no need for a Fast Attack in an army that has no ‘slow’ attack. What’s the point in labeling units as Elite when the whole army is like the Grey Knights of the Imperial Guard? After years of sideline development I’ve come to find that the FOC and the Stellans simply don’t match, at least, not as they are.
Before we begin this high-risk operation we must decide on what exactly needs to be amputated. The game obviously requires certain parameters from the codex, namely the ‘Troops’ and ‘HQ’ sections as these are referred to directly by the basic scenario rules. So we need both of these FOC types or at least an analogue. Then we must define what exactly falls outside of these two categories. The Stellans do have some obvious ‘heavy’ units but it’s less obvious who the Elites are. Let’s call our single Elite choice a “Special” as this is an accurate description and let’s assign it a 0-1 limitation with perhaps a character-related unlock that will allow more than one to be taken or, perhaps, scoring status.
That leaves us with our support units. While simply calling them ‘Heavy Support’ appears to fix the problem superficially the 0-3 limitation may not be applicable given that the slot is meant to contain the Elites and Fast Attack sections as well. Therefore new limitations have to be instituted with each unit within the support section getting its own limitation as well as a regular FOC designation for those special scenarios and tournament missions that take Fast Attack and Elite units into account.
Overall I’m happy to be so close to completing this huge project but it is disheartening to find myself unprepared for design decisions such as this one. I hope I’m making the right choice and that the trimming of the FOC tree won’t make prospective players uncomfortable. Given how important it is to me that this codex be as user friendly as possible I find solutions such as these difficult to swallow. Hopefully I can continue to give the Stellans that distinct character they deserve without alienating the document from other mainstream codecies.