Hints for Homebrew: Monstrous Creatures

Monstrous Creatures, or "Minor Threat That Dies from 10 Lascannon shots on Turn 1 Creatures" as some Tyranid players may be inclined to say, are a mixed lot in 40k. In theory, they are supposed to rip through tanks and take much more punishment than infantry. Some of them are also expected to do this while firing heavy guns. Unfortunately, even a double 6 to pen could still be 'Crew Shaken' and too many of these creatures are not tough enough. Hopefully these creatures will see a buff in the forthcoming 6th edition (although I'm sceptical), but for now here are some hints to help you avoid the common GW pitfalls.

1) Base pricing is very, very important: Monstrous Creatures suffer more than anyone from bad pricing, as most are one-man units, which not only means the enemy will have more stuff to aim at the rest of the army, but also means if that one model dies, you lose between 1/5 and 1/10 of your army in one blow. The GW range go between about 90 and 200, but I feel that the higher price ones need a significant drop, so a cap of 160 is probably more reasonable.

The basic, no extra gear price should always take into account the fact that the unit is Monstrous, the Toughness, Saves and Wounds (Strength is less important because of 2D6 penetration and ignoring armour), ranged guns and extra rules. For minimum stats, I would suggest no less than S and T5 and at least three Wounds, but the rest is an open book.

Good Example: The Talos Pain Engine is a great all-rounder creature, with good gun options and resilience, with the power to get tougher. The clincher is its cheap 100 point base cost, enabling it to compete with the Ravager in foot/Webway lists. It only represents about 1/19th of a 2000 point army with some extra gear, so it isn't weakening the usually fragile DE so much.

Bad Example: As much as I hate to say it, the Tyranid Carnifex. This is a classic example of GW putting far too much value on Strength. With weak Toughness for a Monster and no Invulnerable Save, it dies far more easily than aforementioned Talos despite being nearly 1/10th of a 2000 point list if you give it a Stranglethorn (and I assure you it does next to nothing with no gun, ask my gaming buddy 'Scape). Plus there's the whole Synapse thing, limiting deployment tactics. In the old book a basic two-talon Fex was 115-ish, and it was identical to this. Why the change?

Generally monsters have a few wargear options, that fall into the following categories: dakka enhancers, mobility enhancers, combat enhancers and survival enhancers. You get the picture. Monster options should be ones that improve on the standard monster capabilities. I'll brush over each category:

2) Dakka Enhancers: I was going to write 'more guns,' but why have a ball when I could have an Edgeless Safety Cube? Gun pricing is incredibly simple and can be covered in general later so I'll only talk about the two things relevant to monsters. Whatever the base gun price, modify it based on whether or not it is affected by Relentless and the BS of the monster.

Good Example: The Talos' twin-linked heat lance. A basic one is 12 for Scourges, but the Talos' weaker accuracy reduces base price (maybe to 6-8 using Bryss' Improvised Points Theory), with another increase for twin-linkage. I couldn't find a good heavy weapon one, sorry. I might have done the heavy psycannon if I had the Codex on me.

Bad Example: The Wraithlord's 40-point Bright Lance. Eldar are bad for this in general, but why should it cost 10 more than for Guardians, who can also fire it on the move, have the same accuracy and find it easier to get a Cover Save?

This category also includes increases to BS, twin linkage and the ability to fire at two targets. Generally the first and third options should fall between 10 and 20 depending on base accuracy and gun strength, and the second should be betwen 1/3 and 2/3 of the base gun cost.

Example: Plasma gun= 15 points. Twin-linked plasma gun= 20 points.

3) Mobility Enhancers: Previously the sole domain of the Flyrant, more and more monsters are getting faster through the power to move like Jump Infantry. The key to getting this right is not to charge a king's ransom for the privilege. Simple as. As a side note, I'd love to see a Jet Pack creature. Or indeed any form of new mobility enhancer besides Wings. The Dreadknight doesn't count, its still a Jump Pack.

Good Example: The Daemon Prince. 20 points is reasonable considering the Prince isn't that tough for a Monster at 5/5. It works out at 130 for a base winged Prince, which is acceptable fare in my book considering my beloved Talos.

Bad Example: The Daemon Prince. 60 points is abysmal considering the Prince isn't that tough for a Monster at 5/5. It works out at 140 for a base winged Prince, which is terrible fare in my book considering my beloved Talos.

If you can't tell, the previous paragraph is about the Chaos Daemons version, which has to pay 30 more still for a 3+ Armour Save, while the CSM one gets it free.

4) Combat Enhancers: This is the biggest category, including more attacks, strength/initiative/WS boosts, grenades, etc. GW will generally overcost Strength (ref: the lascannon) and undercost Initiative, attacks go between 15-20 depending on Strength, while grenades fall between 5-15 depending on type. Although I agree with the second two, Strength boosts shouldn't really go beyond 20.

Good Examples: To upgrade a Keeper of Secrets to S7 from S6, you pay 15 points. It costs a Carnifex 5 points for offensive grenades. It costs a Hive Tyrant 10 points for Furious Charge, making him S7/I6 for one turn. The CSM Prince pays 10 points to get 5 Attacks and not 4.

Bad Examples: To raise the CSM Prince to I6, it costs 5 points. Yep, 5 points and you're striking before that Relic Blade/Sybarite Agoniser and at the same time as Halberds.

5) Survival Enhancers: Easily the most expensive of all MC wargear, this includes better Toughness, Armour, regeneration, Feel No Pain, the works. These should be expensive but not crazy expensive. Invulnerable Saves should be the most expensive gear type (maybe 15 for 5+, 25 for 4+, etc). Do not put a 2+ armour save over 30 points. This is mainly because the things that are fired at Monsters that wound on 3+ or better normally ignore your save anyway, making that armour a useless sink.

Good Example: 25 point Regeneration. Once you've lost half your wounds on your Trygon, this could put you over the halfway mark 50% of the time. If it was 35, it would be worthless but at 25 it's worth a punt.

Bad Example: 40 point Armoured Shell on the Tyrant. It's only Toughness 6, so dies to plasma. Plasma ignores your Terminator-priced armour. This is why I put that in bold.

6) Some fixes to consider when you design your Creature: I believe Monsters are too weak compared to vehicles. I've seen ideas floating around, but here are some fixes that would really help out and don't re-invent the wheel.

Seriously consider Feel No Pain regardless. It's overused on infantry but underused on the units that should have it. The cost of this should be in the base price (obvious I know, but I'm putting it in case you re-invent the Daemon Prince/Carnifex/Trygon).

Monsters get Feel No Pain against AP1 and AP2 weapons if it has the rule, as well as against combat weapons that allow no Save if the wielder's Strength is under the Toughness of the monster (this way power fists are still effective).

Monsters impose a -1 Leadership penalty on all non-Fearless enemy units within 6" and always get +1 to combat resolution (I'm also sick of combat being a draw because of the low attacks number).

Against vehicles, attacks by Monstrous Creatures count as AP1.

I will get round to doing Special Characters, Vehicles, etc in the near future, although I suspect Characters will be a long one, possibly multi-part.


Big Jim said…
Fantastic well thought out post Master Bryss! I agree some MC's are way overcosted.
Ahrimaneus said…
I think that, rather than overcomplicate the feel no pain mechanic and nullify the price people pay for AP 1 and 2 and power weapons, the solution instead should be much simpler. Every MC should have a higher base toughness. Why do we see multiple strength 10 weapons in the game and yet the highest toughness available is 8, and that only in much older codices? Screw the 2+ armor save, give me a toughness 10 tyrannofex and watch how much more effective it becomes for its price. Meltaguns and plasma bounce off, with even the mighty lascannon wounding on 5s. Sure it can still suffer instant death, but find me someone besides mephiston who can actually wound it? Perhaps T10 is an extreme, but T8 should certainly be much more prevalent, especially for the new giant oval base 6 wound monstrosities. Tyranids would be resurrected overnight as MCs suddenly become as difficult to injure as tanks. Also, the inclusion of some sort of invulnerable or cover save would work wonders.
Master_Bryss said…
Thanks a lot! Although I think it's more improvised than you may think it is...
Atrotos said…
These are all excellent suggestions. In 4th MC's were far better than vehicles for the points you spent. Since the 5th Ed. Tyranid codex however, monstrous creatures that are worth their points cost have been limited to the Avatar and a handful of others. 

I would underline the importance of "auras" such as the -1 ld modifier you described. MC's should have a palpable impact on the battlefield even when they're not in combat. In Abnett's writings just being near a greater daemon is a torturous experience (nosebleeds, intense headaches, hallucinations, unreasoning terror, friends turning on one another).
sabreu said…
Bryss, do you have any thoughts on superlative abilities such as the Wraithseers "Greater Spiritseer" and it's psychic abilities and how they should effect pricing on monstrous creatures?
Ahrimaneus said…
Hmmm....attempted to post a comment via my phone, which shows up there, yet is missing online on my computer.  Oh well.

I think the most easily overlooked mechanic for improving the effectiveness and survivability of MC's is Toughness.  GW has a hard-on for high Strength weaponry, yet somehow Toughness is handicapped.  The highest toughness in the game is 8, which only exists in two age-old codices now in the form of the Wraithlord and the C'tan.  While there are numerous Strength 10 weapons in the game, Toughness 9/10 is absent.  Particularly with the advent of the Oval-base 6-wound MC's in the Tyranid codex, I would have expected a higher Toughness value than 6 for these monstrosities.  Imagine how much more cost-effective a Tyrannofex would be if it came stock with Toughness 8 or 9?  The plethora of melta and plasma seen in the game for anti-tank purposes would be hamstrung agains monstrous creatures.  Autocannons? Laughable. This, on top of either a mechanic to gain Feel No Pain or an Invulnerable Save would bring Monstrous Creatures back into the spotlight as the truly horrifying battlefield game-changers they should be.
Master_Bryss said…
I wouldn't be much of a writer if I didn't! I handle stuff that does things other than boost the general Monster capabilities (Wraithseer, Old One Eye's Alpha Leader, the Avatar's Fearless bubble) in the same way as I handle special rule pricing on HQs and Special Characters because it's the same principle of adding a rule to one model.

Generally when I use BIPT, I'll cost the model minus those rules, then add 15-20 per rule to the cost. If that makes it seem too high, I'll knock a bit off. I don't add any extra points compared to the cost on characters on "bubble rules" because it's a Monster and it can't join squads for protection and so survivability isn't radically different from that of ICs.

Psychic powers I cost based on BS (if applicable) and Leadership, ignoring the fact it's a Monster.

I really should have put that in the actual article, but I'll go more in depth on this sort of thing when I do HQs/Special Characters.
Master_Bryss said…
Higher Toughness is most definitely the way to go, and I really should have mentioned it. If I had my way the minimum would be 7, and that would only be for smaller constructs like Pain Engines.

The oval base should really have marked an advent of tougher creatures, but really a Trygon is just a taller 'Fex with more Wounds. And the Tyrannofex is the most expensive two shots in the entire game. It's not a good time to be a monster right now.
Atrotos said…
GW's reluctance to explore the higher stat ranges is very deliberate. They are slowly opening the floodgates (IC's with WS 7+, 5 wounds etc.) but they're also making the game lean towards the GEQ in the sense that core troops with WS/BS 4 etc are becoming rarer and their rules more streamlined. Henchmen are a good example of this and it appears to be continuing in the new sisters update.