Friday, October 29, 2010

Universal Special Rules and Lazy Game Design

So I got to spend some extended time with the Dark Eldar Codex, and I have to say it's pretty great.  If I didn't already have a second army I'd seriously consider starting them up.  They are fast, good at shooting and nasty in close combat.  All things I like.  And I like the challenge of them not being tough to heavily armored, that intrigues me.

Now that I have the praise out of the way, it's time to go into classic Internet Peanut Gallery Complaint Mode.  My beef (because we're beefing, east coast/west coast style) is that the codex rules are incredibly lazy.  The best thing GW could come up to bring them to 5th Edition power levels was Feel No Pain?  Seriously?  Didn't you just release a codex whose main gimmick is Feel No Pain? 

In retrospect, this stunning lack of innovation makes the Blood Angels codex look really slapdash.  Before the DE Codex, you had the feeling that the GW designers were breaking new ground with the Blood Angels.  Now with the DE also being a Feel No Pain based army I have totally changed the way I look at their game design methods.  I now picture 3 guys sitting around going, "OK so we gave the BA faster vehicles and Assault Squads as troops, but they already had  that.  what can we do to make them competitive?"  To which another person replies, "let's slap a Universal Special Rule on them."  "We just used Counter-charge, and if we give them Furious Charge they will be Khorne Berserkers with jump packs."  "How about Feel No Pain?"  "Win!"

Then during the Dark Eldar planning session, "We already gave their transports an invulnerable save, and their weapon loadouts make the troops versatile, but they still aren't good.  How about... a Universal Special Rule?"  "Which one?"  "Furious Charge doesn't fit their fluff, but every other word in the codex is 'pain' so how about Feel No Pain?"  "Win!"

Based on this game design method, let me guess how the Black Templar codex will be designed....  An elite choice 1-3 Chaplain that grants a Furious Charge and Preferred Enemy bubble.  That was easy.  Just slap two USRs on them in a way that's optional and tactical so they don't cost any more points unless you want the USRs and you're all set.  Oh let's add something to sell LRCs, how about a 10 point Blessed Hull upgrade that makes them immune to Lance and Melta weapon effects.  Why don't they hire me?  That was easy as fuck.  It was so easy I want to do it again.

New Eldar Codex.  All Aspect Units will be getting a USR if you buy an Exarch.  Scorpions already have infiltrate, but how about an Exarch that grants them Feel No Pain?  Now they are the anti-horde infantry they are supposed to be.  All Banshees get Poisoned Attacks 3+.  Suddenly they are the elite infantry killers they are supposed to be.  Shining Spears get a 4+ invulnerable Dodge save against shooting and Hit and Run.  Dire Avengers get Stubborn.  Dark Reapers have Relentless and the ability to fire Str 8 AP4 missile or their normal str 5 ap3 shots in multiples.  Fire Dragons get Tank Hunters, duh. 

Dark Angels codex.  Terminators and Bikes can be taken as troops without a special HQ.  Army-wide Stubborn.  Bikes get Skilled Rider or whatever the one is that lets you go through terrain without dangerous terrain tests.  Terminators get non-scattering Deep Strikes and Preferred Enemy if you take.  Just to make them interesting you can still mix and match equipment between shooty and close combaty.

Who wants to bet that Grey Knights get some kind of True Grit back even if it isn't technically a special rule anymore?  It wouldn't shock me at all if they get Preferred Enemy either. 

So lazy.

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