Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Hellforged Contemptor wants your lunchmoney


I've been pretty vocal in the past on the subject of Forge World's work on their Indexes for 8th Edition, but despite that (and thanks, in part, to a fairly prompt FAQ/ Errata) there's some fun stuff in the Chaos index. The one that stood out most to me was the Hellforged Contemptor dreadnought. As is usual for me, rather than get the official Forge World model (and to be honest I'm not even sure which model that would be at the moment) I built my own. You can read more about the modelling side of things over on my DA account.

Here, though, I'm going to talk a little about what the HFC can do, and why I like running one, because I can. There are two things which primarily distinguish the HFC from the loyalist Contemptor- the Hellforged rules, and the weapon loadout. Of these, the thing that jumps out first is the combination of the Hellfire Reactor and the Machina Malifica.

Devil in You
The Hellfire Reactor is similar at first glance to the Atomantic Shielding of a standard Contemptor, giving a 5++ save, but the difference is that the HFC also gains a 4++ in close combat. It also explodes a little more dramatically in that Psykers caught in the explosion lose D6 rather than D3 wounds. The improved save in melee combines with the Machina Malifica, which allows the Dreadnought to gain a wound back on a 5+ if it kills an enemy in combat. Since this ability can heal multiple points a turn, it's possible for the thing to regain four or even more wounds in a single phase in this manner. The downside (clarified by the FAQ) is that the HFC cannot be repaired by other means. Obviously, though, this is a machine that wants to get stuck in.



Gunning up
The HFC has access to the usual range of Forge World Chaos weapons (as well as the Havok Launcher after the FAQ) like the Butcher Cannon which with its -2 modifier to the Leadership of the target might well see use with some Morale manipulating strategies, and with a BS of 2+ base it's certainly a reliable platform for them, but there's no 'mortis' dual-gun option and we're already looking to get stuck in, so we'll be concentrating on the options which can be built into the melee weapons. The stand-out weapon here is the Soulburner, an Assault D3 weapon with a 24" range that does a Mortal Wound for each hit scored. These things are brutal- they perhaps don't have the raw damage output of heavier weapons but they can quite easily scour heavily-armoured troops out of cover and are very handy against the natural enemy of the assault walker, Storm Shield Terminators. Since they're Assault and can be fired on the Advance by a model with a 9" move and a 2+ BS, they're also quite easy to bring to bear.

I'd like to play a game..
The final piece of the HFC puzzle is the choice of melee weapons. The stock Hellforged Deathclaw, with x2 Strength (effective 14) -3 Save, and 3 Damage, is already a very nasty piece of cutlery but for maximum terror look no further than the Chainclaw upgrade. This thing is -4 Save and a horrifying 4 Damage per wounding hit, which is utterly savage. I did miss a trick by upgrading both weapons on my model, which technically isn't necessary since the +1 Attack bonus simply requires two melee weapons. In any case, the five Attacks this leaves the HFC with (six if it's a World Eater and charges, since the FAQ added the HELBRUTE keyword) can potentially put 20 (or 24) Wounds on a target, almost enough to destroy a Fellblade in one round. Even seriously damaged, the WS of the model only degrades to 4+ and it keeps all of its Attacks, so it can never be counted out. When combined with the 4++ save, a HFC in melee is capable of weathering a lot of damage and even possibly getting healthier- I've had mine take out a fully healthy Trygon in one round whilst on 1 wound, and receive the charge of Marneus Calgar and kill him.

There are other worlds than these
Of course the Khornate route is just one approach to the HFC. I'm a purist, so I don't take Sorcerers with my World Eaters, but the model would obviously benefit from Warptime and any of the Mark-specific defensive buff spells, as well as Dark Fury. Running one as a Renegade Chapter model allows it to advance and charge, which combined with the Soulburners is particularly appealing. Going Alpha Legion for the -1 to hit at 12" or above, especially combined with defensive buffs, is a great way to assure that the thing will survive, because believe me it doesn't take long for one of these things to become a fire magnet. However it's fielded, the Hellforged Contemptor is going to make an impact, one way or another.



Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Commissar-Conscript Conundrum


With the recent BOLS article on the winning list from NOVA we're once again seeing that 40k seems to have a bit of an issue with blob units pared with morale-boosting abilities. Whilst some might say that Orks, with Nobz and Mob Rule, and Chaos, with Dark Apostles, are too good at keeping large units in the fight and immune to morale (I would tend to disagree) the outright leader in the field are Conscripts paired with a Commissar. For a low cost, this combination allows a 40-strong blob to soak up a ludicrous number of casualties and still only lose one model to Morale. As with most things in 40k, this isn't necessarily a problem on its own, but if you start seeing multiple units of Conscripts, all being buffed with Orders and all being basically impossible to get rid of, it starts to look like an issue.

Have Hat, will Inspire
So, let's firstly look at how a Commissar works, and what he's meant to be doing. The Commissar, or his HQ equivalents, all have a 6" bubble of Leadership (8 for basic, 9 for Lord/ Yarrick). They also have another 6" bubble within which ASTRA MILITARUM units only lose one model if they fail a Morale check. This, let's remember, represents the Commissar shooting a member of the unit, making it clear to the rest that they'll get the same if they run.

The first issue I'd raise here  is that the range of both bubbles is the same, which makes the Morale buff almost irrelevant in the Conscript case. Since 6" is half the effective range of a Bolt Pistol and a Commissar is a BS 3+ model, it seems a bit of a stretch to have him able to pick off a fleeing trooper (who we can reasonably assume is trying to avoid him) at that range. So fix number one that I would suggest is this:

Fix #1: Reduce the range of Summary Execution to 3".
Make the removed model the one nearest to the Commissar.

This also leads nicely into the next point. We know that a model with a Bolt Pistol can usually only fire it once per turn. The Commissar is already 'firing' out of his own turn but this presumably exists in the same temporal bubble that Overwatching units use, so we'll let him skate on that. But there's certainly no reason to assume he could, er, 'encourage' multiple units at once- there has to be a limit on how many is reasonable. So fix number two would be this:

Fix #2: Limit Summary Execution to only affect one unit per player turn.

With these two tweaks, we still maintain the ability of a Commissar to do his job without allowing him to hold an entire army in place single-handed. We still have the issue of Conscript units being almost impossible to remove, since 40k now has far less attacks that hit all members of a unit or all models in an area. For the third tweak, then, we need to reduce the effect the Commissar has on big units without removing his signature ability. I would suggest the following third fix:

Fix #3: Summary Execution reduces the number of models lost to Morale by the Leadership of the Commissar, to a minimum of 1 model.

I think this one is pretty elegant. For a standard-sized squad, it leaves the ability basically unchanged- even a base LD 8 Commissar will prevent a standard Guard Squad losing more than 1 man to Morale, just as the God Emperor intended. But for a 40-strong blob that should lose 15 men to a single test, the Commissar would reduce that loss to 7- still a lot of guys, but a fair level of mitigation.

I wouldn't necessarily advocate applying all three of these fixes- #3 might be enough on its own if the biggest issue is perceived to be that Conscripts hang around for too long, rather that the ability of Commissars  to hold multiple units. I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of other players on the matter.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Putting the Nurgle back in Nurgle


With the recent teasers for the Death Guard things seem to be finally looking up for the minions of the Plague God. The Chaos Index version of the Death Guard's rules are deeply frustrating for those of us who happen to be existing DG players, with the Legion losing access to all manner of units, like Bikers, Obliterators and Terminators. It's not that the new stuff is exactly bad, but when you have a unit of ten Nurgle Havoks specifically made because the Traitor Legions book made them Relentless, suddenly finding you're not allowed to use them at all is not good news.
*Cough*
Now there is, of course, a work-around of sorts- you can still take the Mark of Nurgle and dedicate your bunch of rotters to a different Legion. The irony is that at least in isolation, this usually makes Plague Marines better than their Death Guard brethren! The biggest issue with doing that is that other than allowing you to make them look really disgusting and have people believe you did it on purpose, there's not all that much benefit to the Mark itself. Still, there are a couple of ways it can work out fairly well.

Patient Alpha
The approach I've taken with my own warband, the Dereliction of Duty, is to run them as Alpha Legion. I imagine it as being a warband that releases a tailored genetic plague into planetary populaces that turns the citizens into brainwashed zombies, and over time the use of such methods has brought the Warband to Nurgle's attention. From a mechanics point of view, this works really well. The Alpha Legion 'Hidden in Plain Sight' trait gives the enemy -1 To Hit at over 12" range which in this case we can think of as being due to the classic cloud of flies. It's a strong trait, and one which has the effect of making the Warband more durable under fire, which is the sort of thing you want as Nurgle. The 'Forward Operatives' stratagem can be thought of as piles of rotting corpses turning out to not be as dead as the enemy thought.

The Alpha Legion trait of course also stacks very well with Miasma of Pestilence, giving enemies a total of -2 to hit at over 12" or -1 if they're closer. This is really evil because of how re-rolls work- since they're applied before modifiers, a BS 3+ unit with a re-roll to hit can't re-roll a 3 (because it's a hit at that point) but then has it reduced to a 1. May the Dark Gods have mercy on any fool to Overcharge under such circumstances. This is really nasty on a unit of Obliterators, especially since you can teleport them in with a Terminator Sorcerer for a perfect firing position.

We should also take a quick look at Grandfather's Blessings, the Nurgle stratagem. Returning D3 wounds or a single slain model to a Nurgle unit for 2CP isn't exactly amazing, but if that model is an Obliterator in a unit that's already proving very hard to shift it can be a really nasty trick, especially if you have CP to burn because you brought a Battalion of Cultists (and if not, why not?)

For the Warlord, you could certainly use 'I Am Alpharius' and have your actual Warlord as a small Daemonic tick that flies from one host to another Tamurkhan-style, but my personal pick is 'Unholy Fortitude' because that's about as Nurgle as it gets.

Night Nurse
The other very solid Legion Trait for Nurgle warbands is Night Lords. 'Terror Tactics' knocks the LD of units within 6" down by 1 per unit, to a maximum of -3. As far as I understand it, the -3 'cap' is only for reductions from this trait, so you can increase it further with the -1 from an Icon of Despair and the -1 from Raptors. Neither of these two stack, making the theoretical maximum penalty -5. You could also, of course, go with the 'Lord of Terror' Warlord trait to make any Morale tests even more punishing.

This is one of those approaches that is either going to make your opponent weep with terror or laugh contemptuously. Against a Guard army (if you can assassinate the Commissars), Orks or similar, it's potentially extremely effective, whist MSU armies with high LD will barely notice a lot of the time- though if all the cards fall right, even LD 9 units become LD 4 and potentially risk Morale failures from a single casualty. It's particularly nice against models like Noise Marines or Loyalists near an Ancient who trigger attacks when they die, or Apothecaries who can heal slain models, since Morale losses don't count for either of these abilities.

Using this army effectively really hinges on getting rid of any Morale-boosting enemy leaders quickly. A flying Daemon Prince with Smite and Infernal Gaze is a handy tool for this- often said characters will be standing between several units so if you can get a Smite+ charge combo on them then you'll probably be well-placed to spread Nurgle's gifts. If the character is actually in the middle of a unit then it's a case of psychic sniping with Gaze or Gift of Chaos. Of course you could even try taking Renegade and Heretic allies to get Marauder snipers, but given the attendant costs and their unreliability it's not a gambit I'd recommend. Deep-Striking Terminators or Obliterators could also be employed to try to clear a path to the target character through brute force and firepower, or even just gank one standing right at the back of a formation, though most players only make that mistake once.

Since you're going to be much closer than the Alpha Legion approach, it's worth remembering the 'In Midnight Clad' stratagem, which is another one which stacks with Miasma, but more importantly can be popped when a unit is targeted, greatly discouraging Overcharging. Since basic CSM squads really don't work well as Night Lords because they need to get close to make the Trait work, that's another reason to take the Cultists to rack up some cheap CP. Did I mention I really like taking Cultist Battalions?

Prognosis
I'm hopeful that most of this stuff will turn out to be a short-term measure, acute rather than chronic, if you will. The Death Guard Codex will surely have more units in it, some form of Terminators, maybe a Havok analogue, hopefully some sort of Plague Bikers which will allow us older Nurgle players to come back to the fold. But for now, at least, with a little imagination the forces of the Plaguelord are in rude health... er.. viable.


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Delving the Dark Hereticus


The new Chaos Space Marines book gives Chaos players a lot to chew on (and argue about because this is 40k we're dealing with here). I thought that before I got back to work on the sequel to my novel (subtle plug there) I'd have a look at the expanded Dark Hereticus Discipline and deal with what seems to me to be a rather sizeable elephant in the room. I'm going to give each power a 'score' out of 10 just for the sake of trying to rank them.

Infernal Gaze 
So this is the Smite you cast when you've already cast Smite. It's not hard to get off at a casting value of 5, is more precise in that you can target anything visible within 18", but since you have to roll 4+ on three dice to do any damage it might not do anything at all. 5/10

Death Hex
The first new spell to have a bit of 'oooh' factor, Death Hex strips Invulnerable saves from a target within 12". That's good, especially if faced by Hammernators or some git with the Armour Indomitus, but it has a casting value of 8, making it tricky to cast when you need it. Given that most offensive powers do Mortal Wounds anyway, it's perhaps not as good as it appears. 7/10

Gift of Chaos
Hello Nurse! This one is a bit situational, since you have to beat the target's Toughness on 1D6 so it's not one to bring out against Death Guard, but it does D3+3 Mortal Wounds if you can land it for an achievable 6 WC with the bonus of turning a CHARACTER killed by it into a Spawn. A wrinkle here is that it specifically targets a single model, so it would appear that the damage done does not spread to other members of the unit despite being Mortal Wounds. The range is also a bit short at 6", but even so a power that can practically one-shot a lot of characters is worthy of consideration. 8/10

Prescience
Unchanged from the Index and still one of the most useful powers in the game. +1 To Hit for all rolls until your next Psychic Phase is huge, especially on a unit like Terminators who can both shoot and fight well. Barring other modifiers you can safely Overcharge plasma weapons and you'll be hitting on 2+. A Warp Charge cost of 7 is not too hard to make and the range is a massive 18". 10/10

Diabolic Strength
+2 S, +1 A on a model with a 12" range for WC 6. It's not bad, on something like a Daemon Prince it might even mean the difference between wrecking a Baneblade ot scrabbling at its hull like a puppy trying to get out of the house, but lacklustre overall compared to some of the other tricks. 6/10, mostly because Chaos have quite a few big, angry things to cast it on. (On a Double-Taloned Daemon Prince of Slaanesh with the Elixir, you're looking at 9 Attacks at Strength 10, -2 AP, 2 Damage, enough to cripple a Knight)

Warptime
Make a unit within 3" move again for a measly 6 WC. The peanut butter to Prescience's jelly, or the fish-fingers to its custard, whatever floats your boat. This power has so many uses, from getting first turn charges to getting deep-strikers into melta range that I could (and sort of did) write a whole post just about it. Only the short range lets it down a tiny bit, meaning the caster might end up exposed after the target moves. 9/10

Tzeentch: Weaver of Fates
+1 to Invulnerable saves with a nice 18" range and a lowish cost of 6. Since it gives models with no Invulnerable a 5++, this is a very good and versatile power, equally good for making a horde of Cultists take longer to thin out or making Rubricae harder to shift. A common theme with all three Mark-specific powers is that they work on everything with the mark, even Vehicles, so 5++ Land Raiders or 4++ Daemon Engines are possible. 8/10

Nurgle: Miasma of Pestilence
-1 To Hit against a Marked unit within 18" for everything. Great, bordering on dirty. Stacks with the Alpha Legion trait or the Night Lords 'In Midnight Clad' stratagem, making firing Plasma on overcharge borderline suicidal (remember you re-roll before modifiers, so a BS 3+ model firing on Overcharge could roll a 3, not be allowed a re-roll because it 'hit', then take the -2 from the modifiers and die.) 9/10

Slaanesh: Delightful Agonies
Very similar to other two, with the same range and WC cost, but this time giving a 5+ FNP. How this makes sense on a tank I'm not sure, but it apparently does. This one is always useful, varying in how it compares to the other two Mark buffs based on what the attack is and how good a save the target already has. 8/10

The Elephant in the Room
So here it is- the Hereticus Discipline is really good- really, really good. The big problem comes when trying to pick the powers, because with Sorcerers only getting two + Smite and Daemon Princes only getting one taking anything other than Warptime and Prescience is very hard to justify. It feels a bit like the situation with the old Tyranid codex where a book full of perfectly decent options just felt like it was Winged Hive Tyrants And Some Rubbish because they were just so good. The Mark-Specific buffs are good and worth taking, especially Miasma, but I can guarantee from experience that if you do, you'll miss whichever of the Big Two you don't take terribly. There is, however, a helpful little solution to this problem tucked into the book.

Getting Familiar
For measly 1CP, the 'Chaos Familiar' Stratagem is easy to overlook, especially since the old version of the Familiar, which gave casting re-rolls, is gone and sorely missed. But this little lad has a very useful trick, allowing a Psyker to swap one of his powers for any other power from the Hereticus discipline. Being able to ditch Miasma for Warptime at a critical moment, or suddenly pulling Death Hex, Gift of Chaos or Diabolic Strength out of your back pocket at the right moment is a real potential game-winner. An interesting question, which is one of those things that feels sort of obviously right and yet maybe unintentional at the same time is that there's nothing to say you can't use this Stratagem to get rid of Smite. You certainly couldn't use it again to get it back, since it's not a Hereticus power, and Smite is still a very handy tool, but the option to do this seems to be there.

Conclusion
With their new Codex, Chaos Space Marines got distinctly tricksy. (Lets take a moment to ponder what shenanigans the Aeldari are going to be pulling once they get a new book) Dark Hereticus is such a good Discipline that even the most devout Khorne worshipper might consider working a Sorcerer or two into their Warband somewhere. It remains to be seen whether inventive strategies using some of the lesser powers will develop, but even if they don't, there's plenty of scope for this powerful Discipline to wreak havok.



Sunday, 6 August 2017

The humble Chaos Cultist, and his part in your enemy's ruin

Or 'her part'. Sorry ladies!
With the new Chaos Codex bearing down on us there's been a lot of discussion about the usefulness of morale-affecting abilities, in particular the Word Bearers ability to re-roll failed tests. Combined with a Dark Apostle, they can have Leadership 9 Cultist units. The reaction from players has been distinctly mixed, from 'Ew, Cultists?' (Pro-tip: If you don't want to use masses of Cultists, maybe don't play the Legion that practically invented the Imperial Cult) to odd mathematical gymnastics that claim that the re-roll doesn't do anything particularly useful.

It's a little ironic that when a Legion finally manages to get ATSKNF after years of complaining that they don't have it, suddenly apparently nobody wants it. But I digress.

Now we all know that if you're playing an MSU force, Morale is very much less of an issue in 8th Edition. If there's only five of you and you're LD 7, by the time you take enough damage to be in danger of failing a Morale test you're practically all dead anyway. But what I think people aren't giving due consideration to is the fact that in 8th Edition in particular, Cultists are really, really useful. They're one of the cheapest ways any Faction can fill the three Troop slots needed to fill out a Battalion, and whilst nobody is going to accuse them of being the most deadly troops in the galaxy with the various buffs and re-rolls available to Chaos they can be surprisingly effective.

It's worth re-stating how useful filling Troops slots with Cultists can be. For one thing they get the Despoilers of the Galaxy rule, the new version of Objective Secured with all the utility that entails, but most importantly the Battalion (or even Brigade, if you really want to push it) detachment is in reach, giving you +3 or more Command Points. These were very useful just with the Indexes, but with a full Codex they become significantly more important. The thing which is increasingly becoming clear is that most of the benefits that used to come with Formations now come as Stratagems, so a healthy pool of CP greatly increases the flexibility of your army. World Eaters, for example, have the very powerful Fury of Khorne to allow a unit to fight again- potentially for the third time if it's a unit of Berserkers- but it costs a full 3 points. Not only will filling out a Battalion get you the points to use it, but it means you can have a few units of cheap autogun-toting idiots holding the objective so all those Berserkers can get on with running at the enemy with chain-axes.

Even the mighty Land Raider can gain a decent benefit from Cultists. Though the tank has got a lot more powerful in 8th, (particularly the Chaos variety since it gained POTMS)  its Achilles Heel is getting assaulted by quick, cheap units like suicidal Rhinos and Trukks which stop it shooting. Well, Cultists not only give you a cheap bubble-wrap option but you can even load a smaller unit of them into the thing and take them with you. Even if you misjudge it and still get charged, you can hop the Cultists out, retreat the tank, and charge the Cultists in, at least preventing the Rhino from doing it again next turn.

Lets finish by really looking at just how nasty we can make some Cultists. We need to remember that, chaff unit though they are, Cultists still get the HERETIC ASTARTES, <MARK OF CHAOS> and <LEGION> keywords, so as well as that Morale re-roll we started talking about we can get always-strikes-first Cultists, Cultists with additional attacks, and more. It's probably easiest to make them into an assault horde, with a Dark Apostle keeping them in the fight and dishing out melee Hit re-rolls with Dark Zealotry and an Exalted Champion giving them re-rolls to Wound. On a 20 strong unit that cost 5 Power, that's some force multiplication. If there's a Sorcerer about, Prescience will give them +1 To Hit into the bargain. And whilst Chaos doesn't have Commissars to boost the staying power of Cultists to Conscript-like levels of irritating, the Word Bearers have a potentially even more infuriating trick, with Tide of Traitors (for a measly 2CP)  allowing them to remove that one survivor stuck in melee with an enemy unit (who maybe only stuck around because of that Ld 9 and morale re-roll) and replace him, along with his full twenty-strong unit, on your opponent's board edge in rapid-fire range of his tender bits.

Of course, you don't have to take Cultists. There's plenty of perfectly good army builds that don't need them. But there are plenty of really dirty jobs to do on the 40k battlefield, and like Grots and Conscripts, Cultists are one of the best units to saddle with doing them.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Plasma and modifiers- the Halo Paradigm


The Halo Paradigm, besides being a fantastic name for a band, is also the phrase I use for something that comes to mind when looking at the way 8th Edition handles Plasma weapons. One of the things that irritated me about Plasma since the earliest days of the Gets Hot rule was the way that twin-linking the weapon caused you to be less likely to overheat. So because you were firing more shots, you were less likely to get hot? Odd.

Now, some people don't like the fact that in 8th Edition, modifiers to hit alter how likely plasma weapons are to overheat. For example, use Presience to get +1 to hit, and barring other modifiers you can Overcharge to your hearts content. Conversely, negative modifiers, such as the recently-revealed Night Lords stratagem, make Overcharging much more dangerous.

I actually think this is a very sensible rule, and to illustrate why we need only look at the Chief there. I'll admit at this point that unless my memory plays tricks on me the last Halo I played was Halo 3, so this may not be true of the later games, but Covenant plasma weapons in Halo, much like 40k ones, can overheat with continuous fire. This doesn't (as far as I remember) cause actual damage to the firer, but it does stop the gun firing for a while and makes the player wave it about trying to cool it down.

Here's the thing- if presented with two targets, one of which is just standing there waiting to be shot and the other of which is dodging about like a demented flea (or a caffeine-powered 14-year-old), which one do you think is most likely to cause your gun to overheat as you shoot at it? Faced with an elusive target, the reaction of all but the most ninja-skilled player is to fire more shots in the attempt to hit it, which obviously increases the chance of an overheat.

Now, whether 40k plasma weapons overheat in the same manner, building up heat with sustained fire, or whether even a single shot on Overcharge runs the risk of overheat is largely unknown. We have to remember that with most 40k weapons, a single shot actually represents a burst of fire- the average Space Marine doesn't get through a five turn game and only fire ten rounds. Whichever way the overheating works, though, it's reasonable to assume that a firer who is distracted or challenged by the sort of situations that incur a To Hit penalty would be more vulnerable to overheating, either because they fail to notice the warning signs whilst concentrating on their aim or because they simply fire one shot too many and run out of luck. This also makes abilities that let the firer re-roll due to the presence of an officer even more evocative, as we can imagine them warning a trooper to hold fire for a moment.

So overall, this is an 8th Edition wrinkle that I very much like. Now all we need to do is get GW to realise that a Land Raider being wrecked because a pintle-mounted combi-plasma overheats is plain daft...

8th Edition- An unexpected benefit


This is one of those things that should have been immediately obvious to me, but didn't really strike me until I happened to glance at the model above on the shelf just now. This is Violator, a converted Land Raider that I use with my Emperor's Children 63rd Company army. As you can see, it's pretty extensively converted to mount Sonic weapons amongst other things. (More information on the model can be found here on my Deviantart page.)

Of course, it's well known that one of the things Emperor's Children players won't shut up about is wanting to stick Sonic weapons on everything. It doesn't feel like an unreasonable idea that units like Terminators or vehicles like the Land Raider or Predator might be altered by the Legion to use their signature weapon, but for whatever reason it's not something GW has shown any real interest in doing. The advent of 8th Edition, however, gives us a bit of a 'back door' approach to the issue.

Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that the Power system allows 'homebrew' units with unusual weapon fits since the much less accurate scale absorbs such fairly minor changes quite easily. So for example if we simply say Violator is a standard Chaos Land Raider that has replaced the twin Lascannons with twin Blastmasters and the twin Heavy Bolter with a Sonic Blaster and a Doomsiren, that's unlikely to cause the Power of  the tank to be massively out of whack, especially if we forbid it from taking a Havok Launcher or Combi-Weapon. The really nice thing, though, is that we can even use the weapon charts in the back of the Codex/ Index to come up with an exact Matched Play points value for the tank, something that hasn't been available to model builders since the old Rogue Trader days. (I'm not going to do it here, since we all know how GW feels about people posting their points values)

Let's look at another example, Honour of Skalathrax. (DA link)


As with Violator, I usually run this tank as a stock Chaos Land Raider, but we could easily class the two long-barrelled Autocannons held by the door gunners as Hades Autocannons, which a quick look at the points tells us actually work out a little cheaper than the twin Lascannons would. The single front Heavy Bolter gunner poses a little more of a problem since its usually a twin one, but we could simply count it as a twin and assume that the Berserker gunner is particularly enthusiastic. Alternatively we could keep it as a single weapon, add up the points, and divide by 20 to see if the Power of the tank should be a point lower.

It's not hard to see how we could take this idea further and make our Sonic Terminators, for example, but there are potential pitfalls. If a weapon is the default for a particular unit, and that unit is the only one in the army to have access to it, then the points value tends to be listed as 0- an example in the Chaos army list is the Demolisher Cannon which is only ever found on a Vindicator. Obviously if we were going to make a Demolisher-armed Land Raider model we couldn't get away with that. We could use the points value for a Demolisher from the Astra Militarum list, but even this is not an ideal solution since they pay less points for ranged weapons due to their typically lower BS. (See the points cost of a Lascannon in both lists, for example)

This does also illustrate that even points values are limited in their usefulness as a balancing factor once you start tinkering with units. For example, we might decide to make a Renegade Chapter and use vehicles like Land Speeders and Land Raider Crusaders alongside our Chaos infantry and change the relevant Keywords to make them fit in better, but doing something like this also effects which buffs (and debuffs) work on them, potentially altering the balance of the units in odd ways. To take a more extreme and obvious example, if we decided to make a heavily armoured Ork Prophet and use him as a Terminator Chaplain but with Ork keywords (a model which part of me now really wants to build) his Litanies of Hate would then start buffing 30-strong Boyz Mobz which would throw all sorts of things out of whack.

 Of course one of the beauties of 40k in general is that even something like that isn't out of the question so long as both players are happy with it. Whatever crazy army list or scenario someone wants to play is absolutely fine so long as everyone involved in the game agrees it is, even if the CEO of Games Workshop turns up and tells you you're doing it wrong. But hopefully this piece will inspire someone to maybe let a couple of counts-as conversions be what they were always meant to be at last.