Friday, 10 November 2017

The Difficult(y) Question

Picture related if your brain works like mine does
So, recent events have once again brought the concept of 'difficulty' to my mind, and I think I've finally nailed down my thoughts about it. We Shall See.

I'm a big fan of the Dark Souls games, or more broadly, the 'souls genre' which also includes Demon's Souls and Bloodborne. A complaint that is often levelled against the series is that it's 'too hard' or should include a lower difficulty setting for those who can't handle it. If this call is resisted, people often bring up the fact that no other form of entertainment prevents you from getting to the next bit until you've mastered the current bit- to paraphrase Dara O'Brien, if you want to finish reading Lord of the Rings you don't have to personally defeat the Balrog.

The thing is, though, that if you think about it this 'fact' isn't actually a fact at all. The thing stopping most people from finishing 'War and Peace', for example, is the (approximate) 1,225 pages of 'War and Peace' you have to read to do it. A few years ago, inspired by the Dynasty Warriors series of games, I read 'The Romance of the Three Kingdoms', one of the seminal works of Chinese literature* that underpins a lot of their modern culture. I finished it, and enjoyed it for the most part, but it was hard going in places and I nearly gave up. There are plenty of other literary examples, like James Joyce's 'Ulysses' (written in an almost impenetrable stream-of-consciousness) or Georges Perec's 'A Void' (an originally French novel written entirely without the use of the letter 'e') which many people find it very hard to get to the end of without page-flipping there. We might think of, say, Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling as 'easy' authors and Tolstoy or Mervyn Peake as 'hard' ones.

Music is just the same. As I was writing this I had the Mastodon album 'Blood Mountain' on, which I still find too damn weird to actually listen to without doing something else at the same time. Most people who get into any genre of music other than the blandest pop or lounge crooning start with the easy stuff and then graduate to the more complicated and challenging artists- maybe Andew W.K, Halestorm or Linkin Park got you into rock and metal, and then you moved on to Nine Inch Nails or Slipknot. Back in the days when record shops were still a big thing, most stores had a section marked 'Easy Listening' for a reason.

Now, here's what all this has in common. The perceived 'difficulty' of this material is an intrinsic and vital part of what makes it good. Not- and this is important to recognise- necessarily better than the 'easy' stuff, but critical to how it does what it does. If the word-play and wit of a Jane Austen novel isn't capturing you by page 20 (sorry Jane, this includes me though I loved you in Saint's Row) then there's no point skipping to page 200, it's just going to get worse. If the Undead Burgh keeps killing you and you aren't enjoying the process of figuring out what you did wrong and trying again, then making that bit easier is just going to push the moment you get frustrated and give up on the game a little further away- possibly meaning you miss out on the chance to return it.

A game, be it playground, sporting, card, tabletop or console, is a series of linked challenges each of which leads to the next, just as a book is a linked series of words and a song a linked series of notes. For some, those transitions will feel natural and right, to others they'll be jarring, dissonant and uncomfortable. That's fine, and implies no fault on the part of either party, but just like most readers will accept that certain books just weren't written for them and most people understand that a lot of music is really, really aimed at someone else, so it is with games. The thing presenting the challenge doesn't have to change- the consumer has the option to try to rise to the challenge, or move on to something less tricky. Both options are fine.

*I read it in English, of course. I was interested, but not that interested.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Astra Militarum Command Point Battery.. of DOOM!

I played a game of 40k tonight. I started that game with 9 Command Points, and ended with 6. At a rough estimate, I spent 15.

You might think this is due to some sort of cunning trickery or use of obscure or arcane rules, but in fact the effect can be achieved  by taking less than 150 points of AM models. In my case, I was playing my Sisters of Battle, but supplemented the list with a Battalion of my Praetorian Imperial Guard. What makes this so deadly is the simple combination of an Artefact and a Warlord Trait.

My, what a big beak you have...
The Artefact is Kurov's Aquila. It can be taken by any Officer, and gives you a simple ability- every time your opponent uses a Stratagem, you gain a Command Point on the roll of 5+. On its own, this is good, if not exceptional, and should see you gain about 1/3 of your opponents CP total over the course of a game. However, when combined with a particular Warlord Trait things really start to take off..

As cunning as a cunning fox who was recently appointed Chair of Cunning at Cambridge University..
The second half of this blindingly-obvious combo is the Grand Strategist Warlord Trait. This ability comes in two parts- firstly, it allows a single re-roll in the game of a single hit, wound or save roll. Useful, especially if you're playing Matched Play and using the Rule of One, limiting you to one Command Re-roll per phase, but hardly incredible. The second part of the ability, however, is jaw-droppingly potent. If you are Battle-Forged and have your Warlord in play,  then whenever you spend Command Points on a Stratagem each point is refunded on a roll of 5+. This effectively increases your pool of CP by approximately 1/3, and of course for every Command Point you gain through the use of the Aquila there's another 1/3 change it'll get refunded when spent.

Have swagger stick, will travel
What makes this combination so exceptionally powerful is a whole host of factors working in concert. Firstly, since the Aquila only needs to go off once to refund the cost of taking an additional Artefact, it makes it practically an auto-include. Even if you prefer the Laurels of Command or one of the weapons, there's simply no reason not to pay that single Command Point to also take the Aquila assuming you have more than one Officer of some sort. Secondly, as the various Codexes come out more and more exciting Stratagems keep appearing and players will understandably want to use them. The more Command Points the enemy has, however, the happier the proud owner of a AMCPBOD (check the title) will be. The fact that 8th Edition is so horde friendly is another huge bonus- if you take a simple Battalion of three Infantry Squads, a Company Commander and a second HQ of choice you gain a massive strategic bonus, thirty cheap bodies to sit on objectives and three units capable of putting out almost 40 shots each under ideal conditions, all for less than the cost of some Space Marine characters.

Just add salt
The AMCPBOD is incredibly flexible. It's obviously extremely effective when used in a pure AM list, but any Imperial army will benefit hugely from it, especially factions like the Sororitas who don't have their own Codex yet. I've gone on about this before, but to me it seems particularly odd that an army like Marines should suddenly gain a huge amount of tactical flexibility if supported by thirty Guardsmen and commanded by an Officer with fewer years of service under his belt than some of the Scouts. I'll be pretty surprised if we don't see this combination used in quite a few highly placed tournament armies over the next few months.

Friday, 13 October 2017


With the way 40k has been developing recently I've had a few thoughts on various topics. I didn't think any of them was quite post-worthy on their own, so here's a few of them all lumped together.

Are the Guard too good?
Now this isn't exactly a balance question- we all know the Guard are a strong army in this edition and that's fine, though I'd like to see Renegades get.. well, something. No, the thing that's been bothering me is that considering that they're meant to be your average Joe Footslogger, Guard seem to be a bit too skillful. Yes, they've got those bog-standard stats, but look at the Tallarns, for example- whereas the Black Legion suffer penalties to Advance and fire their Bolters, the Tallarns can do the same with their Lasguns at no penalty. Both still end up needing 4+ to hit, of course, but one army is a bunch of standard soldiers whereas the other are veterans of over a thousand years of warfare.

Likewise, whilst the Ultramarines can disengage from combat and fire at a -1 penalty, any Guard squad can pull the same feat at no penalty just because a guy in a hat shouts at them. With a Commissar, Guard have more resistance to losses from Morale than a squad of 20 Noise Marines with a Dark Apostle standing next to them. It just feels a little.. off to me.

I have a cunning plan...
Compounding the issue is the truly mental amount of Command Points available to Guard armies. Whilst most armies can do the same with Cultists, Scouts etc, most of the Guard's tricks work best with the basic Infantry Squad and require some from of Officer, meaning there's no 'tax' element. When you consider that with Artefacts and Warlord Traits Guard can also gain a CP on a 5+ whenever an enemy uses a Stratagem and get their own back on a 5+ when used, on top of often having starting CP in the double figures, it adds up to an army not known for its subtlety having more access to tricks, traps and treachery than Eldar or any form of Astartes. Perhaps this will change as 8th develops, but right now the Guard feel like a more tactically flexible army than the elite forces that are supposed to run rings around them. As Codexes add more uses for Command Points we're increasingly in the position where smaller elite armies, starved of CP, start to look.. average. Perhaps the Spearhead detachment needs to give more CP to compensate?

Big problem, big solution?
With the appearance  of the new Primaris super-heavy, and the talk recently about how horde armies dominate the meta, I thought I'd talk a bit about how the two interact. For all their large Wound pool and firepower, I doubt most horde armies will be unduly bothered by vehicles like the Baneblade- powerful though they might be, weight of fire will bring them down and that's what hordes (especially the Guard, let's be honest) excel at. The calculus becomes very different when we look at the Astartes super-heavies like the Relic Fellblade, for example. The Fellblade, as well as impressive firepower, is T9 with a 2+ save. Whilst both of these are only a point better than their Guard brethren, they make a huge difference in terms of resilience. A lascannon, for example, needs 4+ to damage the thing and even then it gets a 5+ save, assuming the controlling player hasn't taken any other steps to protect it. Worse, if the thing decides to assault it can continue to fire at full effect whilst locked in combat, despite the enemy not being allowed to shoot back, and with 9 WS 5+ S9 ap -2 Attacks doing D3 damage each it'd be mad not to. (This one is my Most Unfavourite Stupid Rule in 8th edition)

I'm not sure if such vehicles are necessarily a hard counter to horde armies since I've not tried it, but certainly if backed up by some Vindicares to pick off critical Characters it seems that with their near-complete immunity to light weapon fire they'd be very effective. Certainly they beat the heck out of most non-FW vehicles- the Fellblade is more than a match for two Land Raiders despite costing less points, for example. Should the new Primaris tank be as tough and follow the recent tradition of having more guns than it knows what to do with, I think it might be a strong contender.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Everybody's Special...

With the new Imperia- sorry, Astra Militarum Codex bearing down on us I thought I'd take a moment to talk about special characters. One of the points of contention that's particularly major with the Guard is that with 40k's timeline having moved on over a century most of the special characters from the previous Codex should be, well, dead. In fact in the case of Kell he's most definitely deceased, whereas Creed is currently stuck in a Necron Pokeball as far as anyone knows. Yarrick was already older than Methuselah* in the last book and by now he must be pushing 200 at least.

I don't yet have the book in my paws yet, so whether it's written to suggest these characters are still active or whether they're presented purely for 'historical' games is something I don't know. We've seen some characters, notably Eldrad, apparently die in the story only to come back later as if nothing had happened, after all. The idea of characters being included for historical reasons throws up some interesting questions. Some, like Captain Tycho, keep turning up despite being dead for some time, and in the case of Tycho we even have profiles for him pre- and post-Black Rage. Others, like Sergeant Namaan of the Dark Angels, died in the story and promptly vanished from the Codex (whilst the Ultramarines promptly got a veteran Scout Sergeant because of course they did).

Often this comes down to models. We never got models for characters like Namaan, Lady Malys (in fact about half the old Dark Eldar specials) or Iyanna Arienal, and so many of them disappeared from later Codexes. Even Vect suffered this fate when the Raider and Ravager kits were updated and his conversion parts were no longer compatible. Why some of these models were never made is a question only GW can answer- I know Malys in particular inspired many conversions and seems reflected in the Yvraine model.

EDIT: Namaan was apparently such a ninja that I didn't notice he did once have a model! Image from Coolminiornot.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
One of the arguments often made of Special Characters is that whilst they're named, they in fact represent archetypes. Maybe your Dark Angels Successor Chapter doesn't have Belial in it, but it has a Master of the Deathwing with a different name who otherwise follows all Belial's rules. We do run into an issue though when a character's rules are tied into their history. For example- and again I've not seen him in the book yet so this might be covered- you can apparently use Creed and still use the 'Vengeance for Cadia' stratagem, which feels odd since if Creed is running about, Cadia doesn't need avenging yet. Of course we could think of it as a 'Cadia Stands!' stratagem but it illustrates the point that things can start to get more than a little screwy as far as the timeline goes. Of course you could also use Creed in a combined Imperial force with Primaris Marines, which is even more obviously messed up. Whoever this guy who's just like Creed with a bodyguard just like Kell is, he seems to have more tricks than his predecessor despite no-one having ever heard of him.

Of course in this age of Doctrines and Chapter Traits, we also have to be careful not to cross the streams, as it were. If you decide to play a heavily Psychic chapter and add Tigurius, then that chapter is Ultramarines Successors, full stop. No adding Ezekiel how ever much you might like him, unless you want to gimp your Trait completely with a mixed Detachment or have some sort of Inner Circle detachment which has totally different rules.

Roll your own
Now you could argue, and you would be right, that I'm getting worked up about nothing. In truth I'm not that bothered and I prefer GW's permissive approach over most other methods. But this does touch on something else I've noticed in both GW games, and games as a whole recently. It used to be that creating your own characters was a big part of gaming. You could build your custom Chapter Master, your Autarch, your Chaos Lord etc. In contrast, the newer Codexes and models seem to be taking those options away. A Primaris or Death Guard character, for example, is really limited in their weapon options and even Captains and Chaos Lords have lost options like Jump Packs and Bikes in the recent Codexes. Of course these are present in the Indexes for now, but going forward it seems that customising your own characters is being encouraged less and less.

We see the same thing in RPGs. Play any computer or console RPG and you can bet that if it deigns to let you create your own character, it won't be as interesting as the ones you meet. Maybe you won't even talk. That cool-looking outfit? Not for you, sonny, even if you kill the guy wearing it and loot his armour. I just got done playing Divinty: Original Sin 2, and in that whilst you certainly can create your own original character you get more story, voice-acting and personality if you choose one of the pre-made ones. You can customise them heavily, of course, but the name and the history aren't yours. It's the same for most high-profile games, with the noble exception of the Souls series. Play The Witcher, and you'd better damn well like Geralt because he's The Witcher and that's that.

Most modern tabletop games are the same. Warmachine, for example, is very particular about who the heroes are and you sure as hell don't get to make any choices beyond which one you pick. (For that matter, in some events you don't even get much choice about what colour you paint them)

For someone like me, who likes to name his characters, build custom models for them, and tell their stories, this is deeply worrying. I used to play a lot of pen and paper roleplaying games before that fire burned out for me and I still gravitate to games where if the characters don't appeal, I can roll my own. With some 40k characters not even having the option to choose which sort of Power Weapon they have, and mono-pose kits increasingly becoming the norm, I do wonder where things are going.

*on research possibly not, since Methuselah apparently lived to the age of 969. Older than Methuselah was at some point is more accurate but less fun.

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.
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?

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.