Saturday, 2 December 2017

Chapter Disapproval

Now that gamers other than those in that little elite circle that always seems to get things early are finally getting their hands on Chapter Approved, I think it's fair to say that there's a little head-scratching going on. Let's have a look at some of the points of contention I've seen so far.

Since the release of the initial Indexes, Conscripts have been a popular choice for Guard commanders looking to fill a lot of the board with cheap chaff who are too scared of their own officers to run away, not to mention unleashing great torrents of inaccurate las-fire. The release of the Astra Militarum Codex saw one nerf, with the Conscripts being reduced in terms of maximum squad size and only understanding orders on a 4+. Not long after, the ability of Commissars to keep them in line got massively reduced in a FAQ, to the extent that in the event of heavy casualties they can even cause more Conscripts to flee. Now I'm not a competitive tournament player, but to me at this point Conscripts seemed to be fairly reasonable- they were still cheap chaff and there were still ways (Valhallans, Stratagems etc) to stop them breaking, but they were no longer the frustrating mass of immovability that they were at the start of 8th Edition. I thought the Commissar nerf was a bit much (and had made my own suggestions  on the matter). Then came Chapter Approved, and the sound of many a snapped drill-cane reverberated across the land.

For some reason, the team behind Chapter Approved decided to make Conscripts have the same points value per model as normal Guardsmen. Now, we might expect that two models both in the Troops section of the same army list and having the same points value would be roughly equivalent in usefulness- that is, that the Conscripts would have some abilities Guardsmen lack, and vice-versa. So let's take a look.
Conscript: LD 4, WS/BS 5+, no upgrades, can only receive Orders on 4+. Squad size 20-30.
Guardsman: LD 6 (7 from Sergeant), WS/BS 4+, access to heavy and special weapon, full access to Orders. Squad size locked at 10.
As we can see, the common Guardsman has several advantages over the Conscript. The only advantage the Conscript has is that the maximum size for the squad is larger. At first glance, there seems to be no reason to take Conscripts at all, but let's look a bit harder.

The Guard have several abilities that benefit a larger squad. Orders, obviously, become more efficient, particularly those that grant re-rolls or extra shots, and this effect is magnified if the Laurels of Command are in use to allow a double order. Aura abilities, like Harker's, or Leadership bubbles, are easier to apply to more models if the squads are bigger, and psychic buffs like Nightshroud or Stratagems like Take Cover work better on such squads, especially in Matched Play where the Rule of One means they can't be repeated. Possibly the strongest argument is the Tallarn Ambush Stratagem, which is limited to three units but with Conscripts could still be 90 men. And of course, Conscripts do allow more men per Troops slot.

Unfortunately, at least for the Conscript owner, many of these benefits are either negated or made irrelevant by other abilities and Stratagems. Most notably, the Combined Squads Stratagem lets the Guard player pay 1CP at the end of the movement phase to merge two Infantry Squads into one, and whilst this does cost a point unless that point is refunded by Grand Strategist the fact remains that having more Troops choices usually means having more CP in the first place. Being able to affect more models with one Order is only true if the Conscripts can pass the 4+ test, and even then the inferior profile of the models reduces the impact of the Order almost as much as the extra numbers magnify it. And of course, that Ld 4 means that heavy casualties can potentially cause a very large number of models to flee. Finally, the Send In The Next Wave stratagem, which looks on the surface to be an excellent reason to use large blobs of Conscripts, has now been clarified to cost Reinforcement Points, making it somewhere in the region of next to useless to worse than useless in Matched Play.

My gut feeling on this- and time will tell- is that this latest alteration to Conscripts was not made taking into account the other changes made to Commissars in the recent FAQ. If it were still easily possible to keep them on the table with a Commissar then the points change might just barely be defensible, but as it is I fear GW have gone well over the top.

The Puzzling Case of Renegades
Hold on to your hats, though, because there's a Faction that took it in the shorts every bit as badly- and even more puzzlingly- than the Guard. Yes, I'm talking about Renegades and Heretics, a poorly thought out army list that GW took advantage of Chapter Approved to make... worse. The most discussed example of this is the Malefic Lord more than doubling in points cost. The justification is that they were being used as Smite batteries, which would be a more convincing argument if Primaris Psykers didn't do it just as well and cost a little over half as many points now. Yes, the Malefic Lord has a 4++ and gets quite nasty if it survives a Perils but a much simpler fix would have been to make it lose its powers after a Peril, just as it used to in the previous (Imperial Armour 13) version of the rules. But that's not the worst of it.

Renegade Militia squads are one of the core Troops choices for a Renegades list. On paper, they look much like a Guard squad, but with 6+ armour, 5+ WS/BS, a Leadership of D6+2 rolled when they first have to test and no access to Orders, Regimental Doctrines or Stratagems other than the core rulebook ones. For this, they cost the same points per model as Guard squads do. They do at least enjoy the privilege of being able to go up to a squad size of 20. Chapter Approved makes two changes- firstly, it clarifies that the points of the squad don't reduce if two models combine into a Weapons Team, which I don't think I've ever seen anyone try to claim, but there you go. Secondly, like Guard, it splits the points cost of Melta and Plasma weapons into two brackets, a lower one for BS 4+ models and a higher one for 'other models'. If you spotted the face-palm worthy error there you're apparently smarter than GW's play-testers and proof-readers. Yes, Renegade Militia, with their 5+ BS, now have to pay as much for those weapons as BS 3+ Disciples and better yet, no BS 4+ model in the army even has access to them.

The other change- to the Renegade Command Squad- was to update the number of models allowed to 4-14, which was already the case but was wrong in the summary in FW Index:AM. Yay.

Just as the suggestion that Saint Celestine was getting more expensive outraged Sisters of Battle players who weren't abusing her in 'Soup' armies (this proved to be untrue, since if run 'properly' with the Geminae her points are unchanged) the fact that one of the worst supported army lists in 8th Edition got not only nerfed by having its one good unit almost tripled in points, but also nerfed by someone who clearly hadn't bothered to take two minutes to actually read the unit roster, has gone down like arsenic in baby-food. Let's bear in mind that in order to field them with the official Forge World models, you're spending £16.50 per squad of ten just for the arms or the same on a separate pack of torsos- if you want to make Renegades with both, you're looking at £33 and they still won't have legs. That no-one thought it might be an idea to make Renegades actually playable and yet they still wasted everyone's time putting them in Chapter Approved beggars belief. At this point, I doubt anyone on the planet is playing Renegade Guard as anything other than Loyalists with questionable ideas as to what 'Loyal' means, or Cultists.

Closing the Book.
We could go on looking at some of the other puzzling things in the book, like the Wych Cult Warlord Trait that is directly counteracted by a Succubus' own wargear, or the Sisters of Battle Relic that can be given to only one model in the entire army list who has little means to actually use it, but this post is long enough for now. Some of these issues are clearly just silly mistakes but once again we as the customers are being asked to pay £20 for a book with mistakes that leap from the page at first sight.


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