Thursday, February 3, 2011

40k Thought: Counts As

It seems that this particular debate has been making its rounds about the blogosphere of late, with Old Shatter Hands throwing out some particularly good insights on the matter. Still, my ire has been roused by what I perceive to be people being wrong on the Internet, so I thought that I'd throw my hat into the ring. Whether it changes anyone's mind, I don't know, but at least I'll feel better for having spoken my part.

To start us off on an argumentative note I am in favor of counts-as armies. I believe that they add three things to the hobbyist's arsenal: amazing creative opportunities for army construction, a longer lifespan for a given army and much more varied lists to choose from. However in order to tap in to these benefits there need to be some rules in place.

1. Counts As Adds Creativity to the Hobby

Image stolen from Musings of a Metal Mind

Doing something crazy like Tyracrons, Dark Mechanicus or Skaven Dark Eldar is awesome. The imagination and skill that these gentlemen have used to pull off their model designs is simply amazing and something that I aspire to approach with my future armies. Sure, they might not exactly have the correct weapons shapes but their design leaves nothing to the imagination as to what they are standing for.

Image stolen from Path of the Outcast

That rat over there with the crossbow, drug pumps and dagger? It has a pistol and CCW so it must be a Wych! That floating processor unit in the opposite corner? It's got the spine and macroencepholapy so it must be a Zoanthrope! That menacing dude with a glowing staff surrounded by warped creatures of the abyss? Must be a chaos sorceror! Could they do this without counts-as? No. This alone should validate it.

2. Counts-As Enables Older Collections to Still Be Competitive

My second point should also be easy to grasp. Given GW's notoriously slow codex release cycle it may be years or even a decade or more before a given army is updated. Ask any player whether an older codex is more powerful than a 5th edition one and they'll just laugh in your face. The combination of this fact, plus the amount of money and time that one must put in to crafting an army will lead the typical gamer to look for alternative, more competitive ways to field their forces.  I know some people will cry out that "you need to stand by your colors" or some such but let's face it- do you LIKE giving yourself a handicap? I know that there are certain players who do, and more power to them, but for the rest of us who just want a fair chance at victory the opportunity to use their old models and still compete can be a godsend. You can still play your Dark Angels like Dark Angels, but except for a few excellent builds C:SM plays it better.

3. Counts-As Lets Players Add Variety to Their Gaming Without Adding Cost

As long as they are modeled appropriately I see nothing wrong with switching up the codex every so often. "But wait!", you might cry, "how can you use Dark Angels/Chaos Marines/Rainbow Warriors to represent Blood Angels?" Easy. It's just a paint scheme.

Image stolen from DakkaDakka

Let's say I create my own chapter. We'll call it the Angels Excelsior (motto: "We're better than you"). I'll paint them white, black and gold with all of the standard squad markings. If I brought this army to the table and had appropriately modeled figures and said that they were Blood Angels, would you believe me? Look, I even have Baal Preds and Sanguinary Guard.

Now let's say I take my same chapter, switch around a few assault squads for tacticals and take out the Baals and Guard and say they are Codex Space Marines and show up to play. Would this convincingly look like a C:SM army?

Next week I throw down with a bunch of terminators led by a terminator captain. Same scheme, and let's even say that I used the same land speeders in each game. I say they are Dark Angels and roll up against another player. Would they believe me?

I believe that the answer to each of these things is "yes." Even if I went to go so far as say Space Wolves I'm sure that, if I had appropriately modeled everything, my opponent would believe me. So, if I can do this with a generic chapter (which, as OSH mentioned, has been condoned by GW), what's to stop me from doing it with, say, Dark Angels? In the end even with all of their monkish habits (which have been stolen by plenty of legitimately intentioned C:SM and Blood Angels successors because they look frikkin' awesome) they are still just a paint scheme. A paint scheme with history no doubt, but still just a paint scheme.

Being able to play as different codexes doesn't just bump power levels but also lets you switch tactics completely without spending huge amounts of money on models. Want to play Jumpers? BA! Want to go all shooty? C:SM or Space Wolves! Terminators galore? Space Wolves or Dark Angels! All in the same paint scheme? Sweet!

4. Form Must Follow Function

But of course, there must be rules to govern this madness. We fortunately already have this widely followed rule in the form of WYSIWYG. Does your model have power armor, a bolter and bolt pistol? Congratulations tactical marine! Does it have armored plates and a lasgun? Looks like a Grenadier or Stormtrooper to me. Does it have a thunder hammer, storm shield and TDA? Assault termy FTW! Vehicles are a bit tougher, but if it has the same profile and the same weapons a Rhino is a Rhino by any other name.


Now, as mentioned in my first point, there can be a bit of leeway for some more exotic conversions. I certainly don't know what all of the different Tyranid/DEldar special weapons look like but if you make something that looks convincing (i.e. splinter rifle shoots darts, venom cannons are big guns built into the body, etc.) I'm cool with it. Some might not be, in which case the actual gun should be used, and I can understand that too. But as long as it conveys exactly what it's going for there should be no problem. That thin open topped boarding skimmer? Raider. The Guardsman on a Segway on a cavalry base? Rough Rider.

But ESPECIALLY for Marines (and to some extent the other Imperial armies) the code of WYSIWYG should be followed. This is because the weapons are so well known and nigh universal that to get them wrong is just to invite confusion and resentment. A Meltagun MUST be a Meltagun and ONLY a meltagun, a lascannon MUST be a lascannon and ONLY a lascannon.

5. Wolf Pelts Do Not Grant You Counter-Attack

Now, of all of the Marines, Space Wolves are the ones earning the most ire. Maybe it's because their book is awesome and has that "power gamer" aura, but every time Counts As comes up Space Wolves take the hit. To an extent, this is fair. They have a lot of visual cues that are built into their army that tend to set them apart like the spikes on Chaos Marines. But, in the end, does this go against the rules? No. Nowhere in the BRB or codex does it say that Space Wolves, Chaos Marines or Space Marines have to look a particular way. Nowhere does it say that their wolfy trappings give them any kind of rules benefits. There are certain upgrades that deserve special attention (Mark of the Wulfen, Wolf Tail Talisman, etc.) but beyond that there's maybe a CCW (and, to be honest, how many of the ACTUAL Space Wolves or Chaos Marines models are actually equipped with the correct wargear... not to mention grenades and the like, particularly on Guardsmen) to set them apart.

In the end, your army is your army is your army. Paint it red, green, blue or grey, but at the end of the day if it has power armor and the correct load out a Space Marine can earn his right as a 7 foot tall god of war to be whatever color he damn well wants.

Finally, some closing remarks to answer some challenges that I have heard all to often:

"Why do marines get to do it but not my [insert army here]?"
Because GW loves marines and gave them the gift of six army books while sharing the majority of their wargear. If another group of books could pull off that feat I'm sure that we would be swimming in them as well, and if you want to make sure that happens go check out the Codex Project. If you model your conversions appropriately you can also do crazy things like Necron/Tyranid or Dark Eldar/Tyranid armies. It just takes imagination.

"It makes it hard to remember what is/does what."
If the weapons/wargear are a bit more exotic, I can understand this. But if a meltagun is a meltagun where's the confusion in holding the single fact that your opponent is playing Blood Angels, not Chaos Marines? If you're doing your job as a player you know the rules and at least know your book's rules. The argument that the counts-as will make remember their rules more difficult just doesn't cut the mustard. Think of it in the context of playing an army that you've never faced before. If I haven't faced off against Blood Angels (and... actually, I haven't. Huh.) I certainly might be expected to not know their particular rules. Just go through each unit with the opponent and learn what they can do. It will be the same level of misapprehension as if I had been playing against C:SM the entire time and blamed not remembering that the appropriately modeled Sanguinary Priest gives FNP and FC to his buddies for losing the game- unacceptable.

"They're all modeling for advantage!"
If this is happening they are breaking the game. Tiny mk. 1 Rhinos are one thing but purposefully modeling your counts-as to be dramatically larger/smaller can have a very large impact in TLoS games, especially where vehicles are concerned. While to some extent this can't be stopped (legal crouching armies can easily be made with smart bitz shopping) except by local policy/fist to the face feel free to explain to your opponent that a certain model seems to be taking advantage of the rules through construction. Most of us are nice guys and if we aren't feel free to not play.

I think that's most of them. Hope you enjoyed the article, and I'll be back here tomorrow. Some apologies are in order for the lack of posting this past week and a half. Work and family matters have been stressful of late and I haven't had much opportunity to sit down and do a post or do any modeling in some time. Add in the fact that my computer has decided that it will no longer upload to YouTube and you have one unhappy Max. We may see a drop in posting to three days a week, but we'll see how I can string this out. Again, thanks for reading and comments are always appreciated.


sonsoftaurus said...


This comment counts as whole-hearted agreement.

Max said...


Cannonfodder said...

signed- and thanks for the roses ;)