Character Defined Armies: An Epiphany



Earlier this year this blog covered this subject and came to the conclusion that "All Imperial Fists are Stubborn Ultramarines led by a dude with a hammer." Yep, sounds about right. Since then however, GW has made a fair bit of progress with this concept that characters aren't just normal commanders with master crafted weapons.
The main problem with Special Characters isn't the characters themselves, or the 'counts-as is OK' approach GW takes. It's a question of their role in an army and what I think it should be. But first, this:
You may notice the terrible screenshot posted above my words. If you're really clever, you may notice it is a screenshot of Advance Wars: Dark Conflict. Although there are better looking images of character select screens on the 'Net, I wanted this one for a reason. In this game, you may attach your Commanding Officer (CO) to a unit in your army (hmm...) and he/she will give their unit, or units around their unit, a specific bonus. For example, your tanks may get slightly better, or all units around the CO get a slight defence boost. Therefore it might be a good idea to add more tanks to your army, or plan your attack to maximise the defence bonus to get the most benefit out of your army. Like so:

In this example, only ground units benefit. There are blankets, yes, but they're weaker.


In the new Dark Eldar, we get a similar feel. Lady Malys makes her unit immune to psychic powers. Duke Sliscus improves one unit's poison and gives you two choices of Combat Drugs. Baron Sathonyx makes Hellions Troops. Point is, not every unit in your army has the potential to benefit, so you'll want to tailor your list more.

Looking back at Space Marines, instead of this specific boost to certain units, some characters improve everything instead. Shrike makes you Fleet. Vulkan makes your anti infantry better (flamers) and your anti-tank (melta weapons, thunder hammers). Instead of being specific, these guys give you a blanket bonus.

Yes, you can tailor your list around Vulkan, but you don't have to in order to gain a decent advantage. Most Space Marine armies will have a couple of flamers or melta guns. There are few units that wouldn't be better with Fleet. On the other hand, taking Sathonyx with no Hellions, or Sliscus but no Warriors, is pointless, as you're not getting everything he offers you, therefore some of his cost is a waste of points. Malys is slightly different in that she's more tactics based than list-based. You'll want to put her somewhere she'll be really appreciated, rather than just with that random squad over there.

Thankfully, the Space Marines do have this sort of character too. Sicarius is like a Sliscus for Tactical Squads, offering one unit a benefit. Pedro Kantor benefits Sternguard. Even our old mate Lysander gives a specific bonus to his unit with Bolter Drill. I like these characters, because you have to put more thought into their use. I also like the old-style combat monsters, as they too gave a specific bonus, as whatever unit they are with is immediately more threatening, or the character is just a fire magnet on their own. But Shrike? More like "My army all Fleets, ha!" Instead of making you think about their use, anyone can slot them in and immediately everything's all better.

Hopefully you now see what I want Special Characters to become. Not an instant buff for an army, not something easily abuseable, but a completely new fighting style for an army to adopt. So with that in mind, look at the Codex in front of you, and choose your CO.

Hopefully I'll soon put up Part 2, where I shall attempt to rewrite Vulkan and Shrike to make them fit in better with my concept of the Special Character.

You'll also notice this bit's in a shade of green rather than red. This is because I, Master Bryss, can now post my own stuff rather than going through Atrotos first. He's currently working away at the Stellans so has less time to post. See you all next time.

Comments

Flekkzo said…
I find Lysander to be downright odd in many ways. Obviously a close combat monster he gives a unit specific *bolter* bonus? Couldn't be army wide just like Vulcan? Surely bolter re-rolls will be far less awesome than what Vulcan gives you.

Next thing is that Lysander is Captain if the 1st Company. Why isn't Stern/Vanguard and Termies scoring? Lysander is the king of TH/SS after all, shouldn't that be a legal IF build?

I think we already need a new C:SM codex to make it more modern and fun. Too bad it is far away. :(

Which brings me to my point, you should give all the Special Characters a make over:)
Atrotos said…
Flekkzo: I always found that strange as well. Out of all the fluff about Lysander the only thing they chose to really represent was the fact that we was a very good sergeant? Lame. The new FW Badab War book does have a character that makes Termies scoring though.

Bryss: I'm looking forward to new depth in list building. The game could really use more dimensions in terms of army list design and finding synergistic strategies like the DE characters offer (or Logan Grimnar etc) makes list building that much more interesting.
Master Bryss said…
I think the intention was probably to encourage fielding Lysander with regular fisted Terminators, although that didn't really work out...

In 4th edition he allowed all your Termie squads to DS in on the same turn, but that was scrapped for some reason. I'd bring it back somehow, like a Descent of Angels for Termies.

As for making over everyone, it's not going to be too radical. Maybe a points adjust, or a slight rule modification, although I do plan a new option for Shrike. I don't know which other characters I'd like to nip and tuck yet.
Ahrimaneus said…
I'm entirely in love with the new style of SC and am very excited to see where GW will go with it next. The Baron and Urien Rakarth are great examples of what a SC can be. Not only are they pretty serious combatants in their own rights, although not too over the top considering their points costs, they grant you two things. Army bonuses (helions as troops, +1 to go first/wracks as troops, D3 bonus pain tokens) as well as their own unit-specific bonuses (Stealth and Skilled Rider/Starting Pain Token).

Perhaps the best part about the DE Codex is that they have such diverse, different, and effective SC's. Azdrubael Vect is a CC monster who also allows you to seize the initiative on a 4+!!! The Duke allows you 2 rolls for combat drugs, allows all vehicles to deepstrike, and gives you 3+ poison on a squad. Malys can hold her own in CC as well as ignoring enemy psychic powers. Then, just in case all this goodness wasn't enough, they gave you Keraduakh the Decapitator. He, in and of himself, serves as a HUGE distraction by just popping up wherever he wants with his S5 power wep (which instakills on a 6 to wound) laughing maniacally while your opponents' back line heavy weapon squads crap their pants trying to get rid of him before he can do what he does best: Decapitate!

Kinda went off on a bit of a tangent there, but I think you got my point in the beginning and hopefully enjoyed the rest =)

Can you tell I'm a little excited?
Atrotos said…
Flekkzo: I always found that strange as well. Out of all the fluff about Lysander the only thing they chose to really represent was the fact that we was a very good sergeant? Lame. The new FW Badab War book does have a character that makes Termies scoring though.

Bryss: I'm looking forward to new depth in list building. The game could really use more dimensions in terms of army list design and finding synergistic strategies like the DE characters offer (or Logan Grimnar etc) makes list building that much more interesting.
Ahrimaneus said…
I'm entirely in love with the new style of SC and am very excited to see where GW will go with it next. The Baron and Urien Rakarth are great examples of what a SC can be. Not only are they pretty serious combatants in their own rights, although not too over the top considering their points costs, they grant you two things. Army bonuses (helions as troops, +1 to go first/wracks as troops, D3 bonus pain tokens) as well as their own unit-specific bonuses (Stealth and Skilled Rider/Starting Pain Token).

Perhaps the best part about the DE Codex is that they have such diverse, different, and effective SC's. Azdrubael Vect is a CC monster who also allows you to seize the initiative on a 4+!!! The Duke allows you 2 rolls for combat drugs, allows all vehicles to deepstrike, and gives you 3+ poison on a squad. Malys can hold her own in CC as well as ignoring enemy psychic powers. Then, just in case all this goodness wasn't enough, they gave you Keraduakh the Decapitator. He, in and of himself, serves as a HUGE distraction by just popping up wherever he wants with his S5 power wep (which instakills on a 6 to wound) laughing maniacally while your opponents' back line heavy weapon squads crap their pants trying to get rid of him before he can do what he does best: Decapitate!

Kinda went off on a bit of a tangent there, but I think you got my point in the beginning and hopefully enjoyed the rest =)

Can you tell I'm a little excited?