Fluff, ‘Counts-As’ and other ‘Grey’ areas…..

I amongst a few others like *mentally insert your name here if you think it’s appropriate* believe that it’s possible to have a competitive army and use conversion and a little imagination to make it ‘fit’ the necessary fluff.

Of course there are those people who design there armies completely around the most optimal units and those that select only the truly ‘fluffy’ choices. Though both of these methods are entirely valid parts of the hobby in their own ways the fluffy gamer might not necessarily be on as solid ground as he might like.

I hate to break this to those amongst you who fit the ‘Fluff Nazi’ mould but there isn’t a ‘Holy Grail of Truth’ out there for what’s right and wrong. The primary reason for this is that Games Workshop aren’t very consistent about their own background and more importantly they change their bloody minds a lot.

How GW’s design team make decisions…..

Lets take the ‘sacred’ numbers of the Chaos gods as an example. In the past you got actual in game benefits for sticking to those numbers for your appropriate units, then it became a casual mention in the background section and was pretty much completely ignored in the Chaos Daemon book other than as a token maximum squad size on a couple of units. For a person who’s been in the hobby a while Khorne units should be in multiples of eight. Tell that to somebody who’s been in the hobby five minutes and he’ll look at you like you’ve gone potty.

So fluffiness is to a certain extent in the eye (or brain, I suppose) of the beholder and also largely depends on what you think ‘counts-as’ canon and what doesn’t. The old Index Astartes article for the White Scars Chapter stated quite specifically that they don’t use Dreadnoughts or Devastator squads whereas the book ‘Hunt for Voldorious’ specifically mentions that Kor’sarro Khan’s Battle Company has 2 Devastator units in it. So either the old fluff is wrong or the new fluff is wrong, you can’t have it both ways Mr Fluff McNazi……I suppose you could argue that the codices are right and the books are wrong but does that mean that a unit background in a codex is automatically spot-on whereas a brilliantly written Black Library book can be ignored?

Obviously not.

There are almost certainly hundreds of other examples of contradictory background some of which are subtly retconned by GW and some of which they’ve just blatantly ignored. You’ll be happy to know I’m not going to fill this article with examples of such things (other than the couple I already gave as examples, obviously).

The inconsistencies in background make setting a benchmark for what’s fluff and what isn’t entirely arbitrary.

I’m going to kick the hornets nest a little by discussing something that seems to be (for reasons I can’t really fathom) the most controversial at the moment…..’Counts-As’.

A good ‘internet’ example of this are Goatboys various goat related Marine armies.

Used without permission, but I don’t think he’ll mind….

Few people can doubt that these are extremely well converted and painted units designed to fit a theme that their creator finds pleasing for himself and presumably would like others to enjoy as well. As a ‘competitive’ player it’s also understandable that he has used ‘optimum’ units as the basis for these conversions.

So what’s the problem with this?

As far as I’m aware there is no GW canon for these armies so there’s no ‘fluff’ to contravene and as far as I can tell all the models are armed with exactly the right weapons as there more traditional counterparts so WYSIWG is also adhered to. The fact that they have represented or ‘counted-as’ a number of different codex armies shouldn’t be an issue as long as the above conventions are kept to, WYSIWYG being (imo) the most important.

The issue with ‘counts-as’ that I can perhaps more easily understand is when people take their Ultramarine army and suddenly announce that they’ll be being Space Wolves for the day because they believe that the Space Wolves codex is more powerful than the Marine one * but without altering their army in anyway.
* it isn’t by the way, it does certain things better and certain things worse. It’s just,well, different…

This can perhaps be allowed very briefly to test units before purchasing anything new as this isn’t exactly a cheap hobby but that’s the only real justification for doing it that springs to mind.

Lets further complicate the issue by adding in ‘home-made’ chapters or successor chapters that aren’t radically converted but are just a different colour scheme. My own Chapter ‘The Night Reapers’ have been represented by virtually every Marine codex at some point, not as an aid to power-gaming but because I like the challenge of converting units so they can be used as these other units while simultaneously maintaining the theme of my own chapter **.

** I also have the attention span of a lobotomised Goldfish.

Obviously, certain units are pretty much interchangeable between codices…..

My ‘Long Fangs’ (or will be when based and highlighted).
My ‘Vanilla’ Devastators, BA Devastators and Havocs…..

So, they’re WYSIWYG for a start. For the Long Fangs the Marine who allows the unit to split fire is represented by a guy with an added array of sensor gear, for ‘Vanilla’ Marines and Blood Angels the same sensor gear represents his Signum and for Havocs he’s (unfortunately for him) an ablative wound.

So is that okay or would anybody start getting shitty about it?

Lets try a slightly more extreme example then…..

I recently threw together a ‘test’ unit from bits I had lying around as a potential basis for using the Grey Knights codex. I gave my Champion/Sergeant/Justicar a Power Weapon (as his Nemesis Force Sword) and a Stormbolter, Modified a Reaper Autocannon to represent a Psycannon and simply armed the other three guys with Storm Bolters. A potential issue here is, should I have given all of the standard guys Power Weapons to represent their Nemesis Force Swords?

Poorly assembled potential ‘Counts-As’ Grey Knights unit.

My opinion on this matter has always been that ‘default’ war-gear need not be represented on the model, other-wise I’ll start insisting that all Marine models have at least two types of Grenade on them as well as any Bolt Pistols or Close Combat weapons that they might have and additionally requiring anybody who uses Sternguard to have at least four ammo pouches on their belts or four different magazines coming out of their Boltguns to represent their multiple ammo options.


So if I plonked the aforementioned unit on the tabletop (after it had been tidied up and lovingly painted, obviously) with a suitable yet brief explanation…

Me – “These are Grey Knights, they all have Nemesis Force weapons and anything that looks like this is a Psycannon

…would that be fine, or would it be a big problem?

I don’t see why it would be, but then again I don’t see why you can’t use the Chaos Codex  to represent Salamanders (Havocs as Devastators that can take four Meltaguns and Chosen as Honour Guard with 5 Flamers seems very Salamander-ish to me), Why in a sci-fi game of toy soldiers Marines can’t look like goats and why anybody would rather look at a load of ‘Vanilla’ Space Marines rather than a beautifully converted labour of love that has had a bazillion hours of work put into it.

But then again I might just be a power-gaming bastard who feels the need to justify himself…..

Thoughts and Comments are (as usual) most welcome.

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