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.