Thursday, October 1, 2009

Older vs. Newer Codices: It's About Options

I like to think that my contribution to the community comes in the form of writing clear (if a bit long) articles that are beginner to intermediate in their levels as far as gaming goes. Every now and then there's a hobby tip, but I'd refer you to better places (like the Painting Corps, for example, or most of the main articles on From The Warp). I think there's nothing wrong with admitting your weaker areas, but moving along.

I think people have started to notice it on some level or another, but a lot of the older 'dexes (IE: Dark Eldar, Necrons, Tau, Witch/Daemonhunters) have a lower selection of effective units than newer ones (IE: Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Eldar to an extent). Why is this?

Older Rule Set: Dating Yourself
It's like any of your older co-workers dropping a reference to a show/play/book/song you didn't know existed: some stuff is just old. It was designed for a different gaming environment, in some cases. For example, look through the Daemonhunters 'dex and note Grey Knights have an ability to deal with minor psychic powers. Anyone else wondering what a minor psychic power is? I am. Same goes for the 'nid codex Carnifex Tail Upgrades, that give you attacks based on being outnumbered.

Some stuff's just plain out of date.

Older Tactical Game
The rules have also changed the nature of the game in terms of tactics/strategy. Mechanization and True Line of Sight (TLOS) are major changes from 4th to 5th edition. Players with a longer, more illustrious history than I can probably tell you about 3rd to 4th changes, though the number of codices written from that time are fewer. (I think Dark Eldar and Necrons qualify, though, and probably the Inquisition 'dexes).

These changes are not always negative, though. Consider the Dark Eldar; Nightshields on Skimmers and the ability to bring an absurd amount of Dark Lances makes them an effective (if highly, HIGHLY inforgiving) army. Even the vehicle rules help out their AV10 vehicles, and their amazingly well-armored (read: AV11 front) heavy support hover 'tank'. The Tau, too, with 72" Rail Guns + TLOS made out well, since they can pop you if they can see you on a 6x4 board.

Tyranids, though, have some problems killing vehicles. Since glancing is no longer an effective way, you're looking at a scant handful of ways to kill vehicles in the whole codex:
-Zoanthrope Warp Blast (18", and can be countered as it's a psychic power)
-Carnifex S8 Barbed Strangler (S8, and either BS2 or BS3 blast weapon...)
-Warrior Deathspitter (yay, S6 small blast. Not really that useful unless it's a Rhino or less)
-Carnifex melee attack (S9 + 2d6, but it's on a slooow platform)
-Genestealer Melee (S4 + Rending on Fleet; that's about as good as it gets)
-Warrior w/ Rending Claws (...still iffy; expensive platform.)

Orks? Orks pretty much HAVE to punch it out, and that means Power Klaws against vehicles. Lootas are passable at lighter tanks, but larger stuff? You're stuck with largely innaccurate shooting.

Just Plain Bad Writing
I touched on this in my Eldar Hall of Shame article, though you get some of the same in Mercer's Necron Tactica: some stuff just isn't that great. Older codices are chock full of units that just are not that effective.

For example, while the Tau are effective in some builds, there are a chunk of units you should simply forget exist:
-Ethereals (including Aun'va)
-Sniper Teams
-Gun Drone Teams
-Kroot Shapers/Krootox options

And, some of their other units are questionable for effectiveness at best (IE: Stealth Suits, Sky Rays).

Bottom line? There's a difference between a well-written codex and an effective army.

The Newer Guys
On the other hand, some of the newer codices are coming out chock full of decent units.

New Vanilla Space Marines? There are about three units I'd never use in it; the rest are potentially fair game:
-Scout Bikers (utterly inferior to regular bikers)
-Vanguard Veterans (If one has a power weapon, it costs as much as an Assault Terminator. T4, 3+ guy with three S4 power weapons; or a T4 2+/5+ guy w/ Lightning Claws or 2+/3+ w/ two S8 attacks? You decide)
-Venerable Dreadnoughts (Just not worth the 50pt upgrade)

New IG? I'd forget about three units:
-Storm Troopers

Everything thing else in the codex is workable, as a choice.

For the record, it's too soon for me to tell you about the SW codex. At the end of the day, my first impression is that it's just different from the SM 'dex.

Why Is This Important To You?
Well, part of this hobby/game is actually putting guys on the table. Not all codices are created equal, but I'll tell you that there's less mileage to get out of a codex with few options you really want to take to the table.

Your side (and the opponent's) of the game consists of three things:
1) You, the general
2) The Dice
3) The Army

You can always improve your game. The dice should theoretically be a random factor. The army, though? That's also on you. I maintain that GW will sell more models (which is a profit-driver for them, I'm certain) if they have good rules and codices that present us with a variety of options. Honestly, I think the last few that have come out have been a step in the right direction.

Also, Chaos Marine Folks? I feel for you in lack of options.

I'll admit there's a challenge in making the more limited codices work, but it's on you if you want it. Some people do it for the challenge, and some folks stick with a codex because they're fans of the race. I'll call on everyone to just respect people's motivations for picking their codex, as I think it's a variety of things that bring you to your army choice.

I hope GW keeps kicking out good codices like they have been. Players with options are happy players.


Chumbalaya said...

I agree with that in a big way. The better Codices are the ones with more viable options, giving you a lot more variety in competitive play. I hate having a handful of powerbuilds with everything settling to the bottom. That's how it was in 3rd and 4th and that's how a lot of the older Codices have turned out.

suneokun said...

Gotta agree. There's been a lotta griping about 'power' codici like Orks, Smurfs or Guard ... but GW seem to have turned a corner strategically. They want to offer 'wide open' codeci with viable stragic options for about 5-6 completely different builds.

Even a 'mini-dex' like SpaceWolves (by mini-dex I mean there's less work involved in updating and balancing the force as the Smurf codexis the blueprint ... although maybe 'balance' isn't the word?!) can field all bike, all wolves, Deathwingesque etc.

This works with the fluff as it makes sense for you to field different aspects of different Chapter companies...

THIS is why the Tyranids are up for a Jan 2010 revamp, they are gasping for a more 'various build' with all genestealer cult army with brood brother forces, street cars and coven limo's. All Carnifex and Trygon Beasts? OR Warrior force? Or Ravener deepstrikers, or the new plastic gargoyles... Plus the following items on their list are redundant:

Lictors: only valuable as a lictor buff to other units.
Raveners: 50pts for a 2W T4 model - nah.
Biovores: nah.
Zoanthropes: I have em cause I love em, but 24 and 18 inch warp blast - rubbish.
Tyranid Warriors, just too pricey with upgrades.

How exciting...

suneokun said...

PS: Found Wolves for you... $13.97 for three pack:

Mercer said...

Raptot I like this, I've post a post with this as a link. Hope thats ok. Let me know if its not ;)

jabberjabber said...

yes - I agree with you! But I do like certain units that (on face value) are bad bang-per-buck, but are neat to include for fluffy reasons (ratlings in IG, possessed marines in CSM). I admire any general who fields ratlings :)

Farmpunk said...

ahh. I feel the old codex pain. with WH, and Especially DH. Yep, they're old 3rd ed codexes. DH is older then WH.
Pure Grey knights is uncompetitive. S6 no meltas, and grenades on ONLY the Sargents (not even the Grandmasters or Brother-Captains get grenades) so you might get 1 Melta Bomb attack on big armor. The viable choices are ony a few. GK's are fun as a unit, don't get me wrong. They've got good Psychic hoods, slays outright Force Weapons, and smoke that causes glances.
but their Assault cannons don't rend, and are Heavy3.

WH isn't as poor as DH, but most of the codex is stuff that never gets used, except for grins. Anyone seen a Penitent Engine squadron used? how about Repentia, neat looking girls with giant Chainswords. horrible rules. There are still some mean tricks in the WH bag though. a Jumpy cannoness can easily take out Marine Tac squads by herself. a 2/2+ save is nothing to balk at.

Those two have so few options it's kinda hard to play a game of 1850+ without it simply being a troop spam list. the same unit, over and over.

Induction can help. Allies rules are a saving grace. It IS disheartening to have an entire army you love, to really only be able to use them as allies for a new codex(IG)

Raptor1313 said...

I think all codices invetiably have some builds that are better than the others, but there's variety and solid building blocks in the new ones. Blood Angels have about one distinct build (all jump packs) but at least that codex is free.

yeah...'nids need that help in a big way. Decent play nullifies their few advantages in a big way. Thanks for the wolf linkie. I don't read French, but thankfully numbers are pretty universal, and the gist of it gets through.

I'm fine (and even a bit thankful) when people link to me. All I ask is the credit, and I blieeve you covered that. I do some of the same to other folks, usually with the same kind of "[x] said...[link[."

I think the big reason the DH/WH still see use is because of IG allies (...they go such a ways towards FIXING your problems with things like autocannons).

Much as I want to like power armor Grey Knights (PAGK) I think I'd take a single squad that sat on the back with psycannons. I think something like the following might work, though this was a Stelek list when first I saw it:
2x GKT Squads (one as GM retinue, other as elites) in LRC
Platoon w/ autocannons and such
Imperial Storm Troopers w/ melta, Rhinos as troops

Probably some other stuff, but at its base it's mostly DH, and has the melta love.

Dverning said...

Yeah, no disagreement with the post or comments here. Good to hear I'm not the only one with those thoughts.

Though being one of said "old" players...
Minor Psychic Powers were a White Dwarf article back in 3rd ed and reprinted in the Chapter Approved 2003. They were optional rules and not allowed at most tournies. Psykers could buy them in addition to their normal power(s) for 10 points per. There were 5 tables (Telekinetic, Movement, Enhancement, Will, & Temporal) and you would pick the table your power was from. Then roll a d6. A 1 was always a "no useful power" and the other 5 were something related to the type of table. The best rolls were about on par with normal psychic powers for the time. The rest were pretty useless.
Because of the random factor and cost, almost nobody bothered with them.

The biggest change from 3rd to 4th was Close Combat. In 3rd you could assault out of a closed top tank, Consolidate moves could engage new enemies (and was combined with Sweeping Advance, so moves were often 2d6 or more), and other such. The revisions made CC a little more brutal and decisive for the victors, but also more risky in that it was easier to have them exposed to retalitory fire. To illustrate how silly the old rules could get... I once had a unit of Blood Claws do successive sweep/charges that moved them a total of 41" in just 1 game turn. (Land Raider move, charge, and two consecutive sweeps after breaking their targets.)