Even before writing this article I can foresee the potential for disaster. Letting people write their own rules? Am I insane? Well give me a chance to convince you and then we can call the men in white coats if necessary.
If you have read any of my earlier articles or if you have read any of my friend Allen’s articles you have probably heard the term ‘narrative gaming’ more than you care to remember but it is something we are both quite passionate about. We have nothing against competitive tournament style play but it is not our preference. Of course no game from any rule set can be played without a healthy dose of competition playing its part. What we aim to do with our games is structure what is going to play out on the table top so it has a more specific goal than kill and win. Obviously these two themes will be included in any game as well but accompanied by specific agendas and restrictions that will hopefully create a far more fulfilling game.
Previously I wrote about the exciting potential for narrative play that the new supplement line of Codices introduces to sixth edition Warhammer 40,000. Having official rules is great, it means you can pick up and play a themed force with any fellow gamer anywhere at any time. However, if you play a group of people regularly who you (mostly) trust to be honest opponents and who share an open mind as to what you can achieve in your gaming time then you really don’t need official supplements when you can make them yourselves.
Rule number one here is fairness. You should not enter into writing an army list with the goal of creating an all killing uber army which is going to wipe the floor with your opponents. We have codex creep for that. The fun of playing games is to be shared amongst all those taking part, it isn’t just for you. Consider if any of the rules or changes you make to a force would be the kind you would like to go up against yourself. If not you probably need to think again.
Another thing to consider is whether a rule is consistent with the design philosophy of a particular army? Humans are average units who are faced with myriad horrors upon the battlefield and even the elite Storm Troopers are just as likely to run away as stand their ground faced with the many unreal horrors they are to face. It is therefore misguided to make a rule that would create an army of fearless humans. Humanity’s finest, the Space Marines, are not fearless so why should mere humans be? Fearless is a rule applied to exceptions not the status quo.
Another thing to consider is that what an army cannot do is as important as what it can. It used to be that the restrictions in what types of units an army had in Warhammer 40,000 would define the army as much as what it did have. These days it seems that any new Codex release is an exercise in box ticking. Monstrous creature/big walker? Check. 2+ armour infantry? Check. Flying unit? Check. What you leave out will shape the way any army behaves. That is not to say you make it impossible to fight a particular type of unit but rather give them a different way of doing the job than simply giving them access to the same thing. Tyranids justifiably do not have flyers with which to take on the vector thrust jets of technologically advanced species but they do have a way of dealing with them in the form of Meiotic Spores which ape the barrage balloons of conflicts past.
Consider as an example of the above, an Eldar unit which has been given a background which makes it entirely plausible for them to field an Aspect Warrior unit which is the equivalent of a Space Marine Terminator. This fails all three of the cardinal rules already given. The Eldar are a lithe graceful species that relies on speed and misdirection to protect itself more than armour. Even Wraith constructs are not so hardy. If this unit is designed as an answer to an enemy’s Terminator squads then again it fails the test as the Eldar would not meet like for like but instead they find another method more suited to their talents such as a withering barrage of mid-range firepower to cause enough armour saves to force a few ones into the saving roll results. Plus, in all honesty, who wants to play against a guy who was trusted to craft an army list for a narrative campaign who then invents Eldar Terminators? Douche.
So what am I on about? Let me give you an easy example. The Space Wolves 13th Great Company has yet to receive a sixth edition supplement but they did receive a supplement previously as part of Codex Eye of Terror. It would be simple to adapt what has gone before into something new. Mostly this could be achieved by placing restrictions on what you can choose from Codex Space Wolves. The 13th Company has been fighting isolated within the warp for many centuries. Subsequently their ability to resupply has been neutered so equipment which is hard to maintain would have to eventually be abandoned. Also the amount of new recruits that the force could contain is similarly restrained.
So to begin with we would not allow Land Speeders or jump packs and would restrict the number of Blood Claws to a low maximum or remove them altogether? Wulfen packs could be introduced, creating units of Grey Hunters that exchange their bolters for a mark of the Wulfen? Already a unique force is beginning to take shape and it did not require the addition of any new special rules but merely tweaking what already exists in the Codex.
So if you want to try something ambitious with your friends you could do worse than come up with a new force disposition for your existing army. Getting your heads together and agreeing amongst your selves about what you want to do with your hobby could lead you to all sorts of places and all it requires is co-operation, imagination and common sense.
If you would like to take a glimpse at what Allen and I are up to in that regard come visit the Conclave of Har where we are slowly creating and testing a range of rules for alien mercenaries in Warhammer 40k. Our first test unit the Loxatl has rules up already so come take a look.
Anti-Tyranid – lathander1987
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