Crunch Vs. Fluff…..
Writing a good codex must be pretty hard work. You need to keep a balance between the armies background (The Fluff) and the rules that allow that army to be fielded on the table-top (The Crunch).
For me, any codex would need the following things to put it into the ‘decent’ category,
1) Background material that integrates smoothly with previously written material rather than pissing on it (unless it was utter drivel in the first place I suppose)
2) Information on individual units that makes you want to use them in an army before you even read the rules for them.
3) No ‘Mary Sue‘ units at all…..no…..not even the one…..
4) A coherent theme that runs through all the unit entries.
5) Artwork that inspires…..
1) No completely useless units *cough* Chaos Spawn *cough*
2) Useful units spread across all FOC slots rather than having all the decent stuff in one section.
3) No single unit that due to rules and/or points cost becomes the sole viable unit choice.
4) Army wide special rules that make sense in the context of the army.
5) No rules that can be interpreted in multiple ways due to being poorly written
Though much of that can be combined into a single rule that would keep everybody happy, namely…
1) The ability to make a ‘Fluffy’ army using ‘Crunchy’ units.
So with those brief set of criteria do any of the recent codices score highly on my own personal scale?
Lets look at a few and see,
Codex : Space Marines.
|Yes I know this is actually a picture of a Black Templar…|
Well there are remarkably few useless units in C:SM and even the less useful ones can still for the most part be utilized in an appropriate army list. There are useful units in every FOC slot and even though certain army builds create hard choices it’s possible to make pretty much any Marine Chapter you like into a force to be reckoned with. The use of ‘Chapter Tactics’ on HQ choices to make an army that works exactly how the ‘Fluff’ would make you believe they operated without adding a load of Chapter specific units was a damn good idea.
I’d give the Space Marines a solid 9 out of 10 for the crunchy bits.
Well the individual unit entries are well enough written and they’re complimented with some good artwork with a few minor exceptions. The general Space Marine background does have a few questionable stories in it and some of the ‘and Ultramarines are the best and all the other chapters really want to be Ultramarines’ stuff is somewhat tedious it’s overall a good job, neatly capturing how awesome these genetically engineered supermen are without assigning them ‘Mary Sue’ status.
I’d say the background deserves a respectable 7 out of 10. You can add 2 points if your an Ultramarine player and deduct a point if your Marines are based around one of the largely ignored Chapters such as the Iron Hands but other than that it’s fine.
Okay that’s what I think of the ‘Vanilla’ Marines, but lets look at one of the other Marine ‘flavours’…
Overall the units are well thought out and appropriately costed with a few minor oversights. The ‘we kill Daemons real good’ rules should really have been left as fluff rather than as army wide abilities that fuck over one specific codex which smacks of laziness in design (in my humble opinion, obviously). The rules for Inquisitorial forces were an inevitable addition but when you start seeing Grey Knight armies without any Grey Knights in them you have to wonder whether they went to far with that train of thought. Finally, Psy-bolt ammo for Dreadnoughts should probably have been more expensive due to the fundamental difference between S7 and S8 being far greater than a simple increase in the chance of vehicle damage when you add the ignoring of T4 units ‘Feel no Pain’ and the chance to ‘Instant Death’ certain special characters. So a few badly thought out entries has had a big impact on what is otherwise a great codex.
So I’d probably go with 7 out of 10 for this one. I can’t in good conscience put it any higher as the codex itself does encourage the use of certain ‘no-brainer’ unit choices.
The background relating to the creation of the Grey Knights was well written and managed to avoid the aforementioned ‘Mary Sue-isms’ that one might expect in a codex about Space Marines that scare other Space Marines. There are also some great pieces of inspirational artwork in there that are particularly impressive. It would be due an impressive score if it wasn’t for the complete abortion that is the entry for Kaldor Draigo…
So I’d give this one 8 out of 10 as long as you cut out the background section for Kaldor Draigo (You can keep the special rules bit as they’re fine) and burn it before scattering the ashes in separate locations so they can never be reconstituted…..If you insist on reading the Draigo entry then reduce the above score to 1 or 2 out of 10 😉
I suppose we should look at a Xenos codex now,
Well this one has all sorts of issues. The FOC is poorly balanced with many choices forced upon us due to poor design and unit spread across FOC sections. It suffers greatly from the ‘no-brainer’ choice issues that I mentioned in my ‘wish-list’ which causes certain specific builds to become the only builds. Fundamental changes to units from the previous edition could be acceptable if it was part of an overall plan but seem in this case just to be an arbitrary set of points increases and reduction in options.
Though I have a Tyranid army myself, I’d be hard-pressed to justify a better score than 5 out of 10 for the Hive-Mind.
They’re Space Locusts that destroy everything in their path and may or may not be from another dimension and/or galaxy…
Difficult to fuck this one up so we’ll give it a more than respectable 8 out of 10.
Our opinions of a codex are inevitably going to be influenced by our own interpretation of the background material (Fluff) and whether we can build the army we’d like using the rule-set available (Crunch). That said there are certain mistakes that Games Workshop have made over and over again that could easily be construed as laziness on the part of the codex designers and/or the people that play-test them…..
Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome. If you’d just like to argue with my opinions on a personal basis then my e-mail address can be found near the top of the bar down the right hand side of my own blog. 😉