Monday, 9 December 2013
Clan Raukaan: Part 2 - The Rules (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Supplement Review)
Part 1 Can Be Found Here
There's really not much to be said here. Once again the army this is supposed to focus upon have had barely anything actually done with them. Their unique rules coming down to a handful of items and an effort to shill armies built around a single unit.
Just as the Codex: Farsight Enclaves had Crisis Battlesuits, Codex: Iyanden had Wraith Guard and Codex: Sentinels of Terra had Centurions, this time we have Dreadnoughts. The fact you can take these in both Heavy Support and Elites choices is supposed to be some big incentive, but it's yet again an incredibly flatly uninventive method of trying to create a themed army. Not to mention yet another effort to convince players to buy more books because they can play with more of the bigger toys.
Speaking of trying to convince players to buy books, we yet again have countless pages given over to Cities of Death and Planetstrike rules sets. Yet again this has been focused upon more than actually building basic rules around the armies and feels like some major effort to convince players to buy more stuff. It's as if the authors are saying "Oh, you have our rulebook, our codex, our supplement codex and models, but if you REALLY want to play with the army you have to buy these as well."
There's a reason no basic codex does this, because most players don't want to have to be forced into a specific variant of game. Most, as said before, just want to sit down and play standard 40K.
The only other thing which is introduced to truly characterise the army is the ability to include masses upon masses of Techmarines. For every HQ choice taken in a detachment of this codex (not counting Honour Guard, Servitors, Command Squads and other Techmarines), you have the option to take two Techmarines for a standard cost. Three if you're taking a Master of the Forge. While this might lean somewhat towards trying to reflect the Iron Hands' mechanical nature, it feels like an extremely cheap method of doing so. There are no advanced special rules, no individual aspects to reflect how heavily cybernetic the force is, you just get more Techmarines.
Of course, it doesn't help that from a gameplay perspective this is not a very viable choice. The last couple of editions have not been kind to the unit and there really isn't much to make them desirable for their points cost. The only possible army they might be worth taking in would be a heavily mechanised force, but even then the chances are you'd be better off taking more tanks than several Techmarines. It seems more like a cheap attempt to continue the herohammer trend of 40k than something truly unique or useful to an army.
Speaking of herohammer trends, we have the usual mix of Chapter Relics which are expected to make this force feel unique. Surprisingly for the first time they're actually not all that bad. While they might still be encouraging people to turn up to the table with beefed up heroes and cannon fodder as opposed to actual armies, at least it looks as if there's some effort put into things this time.
A chief example of this is a defensive item known as the The Gorgon's Chain, which offers some fairly tasty defensive stats to begin with. However, as its bearer takes wounds the item begins to weaken losing special rules and diminishing in strength. While to begin with it has a +3 invulnerable save, +1 to any Feel No Pain rolls and Eternal Warrior, by the time its bearer has taken four wounds it only offers a +4 invulnerable save. The idea of a very unreliable defensive item was something tested with Codex: Black Legion, with the Crucible of Lies AKA the single most pointless item ever to be created. However, whereas that was something no one in their right mind would use, the Chain is a defensive item which needs to have some thought put behind it. You can use it to give a character considerable durability, but with its diminishing qualities you can't rely upon it entirely as a bullet magnet.
Another item which also seems to reflect the authors potentially returning to past ideas and trying to do them better is the Tempered Helm. It's something which permits the figure wearing it to pass on their Leadership stat to any allied force within "24 when they are making Leadership Tests. More importantly it also allows for a nominated unit within "12 to re-roll 1s when shooting at targets. While definitely overpriced for what it offers, it retains similar elements from previous "area of effect" items we have seen in the past but is overall better done. Unlike the likes of the Guardian Helm of Xallathon its overall effects at least seem somewhat useful in most situations rather than something specific or purely serving the figure wearing it.
Yes, it's unfortunate that these do continue the trends of herohammer with certain figures being granted the majority of power within a codex. Yes, it's also not anything overly special or truly inventive. However, unlike the contents from past supplement codicies these at least don't look as if they were churned directly off of a production line and had more than five minutes of playtesting put behind them. Given what has been seen in the past in terms of rules with these books, this is likely the best we can ever hope for.
The other Gifts of the Gorgon are a mixed bag, some have their uses but are nothing overly special. The more killy options, besides one which would be frustratingly perfect for Veteran Sergeants, are as close combat orientated as you'd expect.
These consist of the Mindforge Stave and the Axe of Medusa. These feel as if they only serve to make independent characters into gods of war. Take the former choice, despite being a weapon which can only be taken by a Librarian it does nothing to enhance their psychic powers. Instead just comes down to being a whacking stick which has the Force and Unwieldy special rules while doubling the user's strength. Nothing to be sneezed at for 15 points, but something which would help with Librarians gunning mooks down with mind bullets or enhancing their allies capabilities would have been infinitely more preferable.
The Axe of Medusa meanwhile is not anywhere as useful. Offering +2 Strength and with a special rule which allows for +4 Strength if you're lucky. While Master Crafted, it doesn't offer anything a Master Crafted Power Fist wouldn't do better, even with the points increase. You'd still be hitting last, but you'd be hitting stronger and with more reliable attacks. It's one of the options here which seems like the authors were trying to be clever and create something unique, yet they couldn't envision something which was truly practical at the same time.
The complete opposite of the Axe of Medusa, something which is simple but effective is the Betrayer's Bane. While it has no special rules, it doesn't require anything and offers up something extremely useful: A self-replenishing Master Crafted combi-melta, allowing the character holding it to fire either bolts or melta streams without any limitations. At least assuming what's listed in the lore is true, the authors not bothering to confirm this with the weapon's actual rules. If this were the case, it's the one which would be perfect for Veteran Sergeants or as a part of a squad, where it would have much more impact. Still, it's something simple but fairly useful for what it is.
Unfortunately the final item is nowhere near as useful. The Ironstone (along with continuing the book's treatment of Machine Spirits as borderline Warp entities, a problem we didn't get into last time) permits the user to serve as a kind of substitute Techmarine. Any vehicle and walker using Clan Raukaan rules has their Feel No Pain rolls boosted to +4. As an additional bonus, should they roll a 6, this can repair Weapon Destroyed or Immobilised affects upon the vehicle.
While the rules thankfully do not specify that this cannot be used by a character within a vehicle, meaning your HQ's dedicated transport gains a deal more durability, there are two problems: Firstly is the points cost, as 30 points seems too expensive for its limitations. The second is the item's limited range. While it might be useful in a list with lots of vehicles or with the character holding it walking behind two Dreadnoughts, it seems like an item you'd only use with tank heavy lists. Very specific kinds of ones at that, with little use when it comes to Rhino rushing.
Finally there's the Warlord Traits which aren't too bad but are nothing great. A constant problem with Warlord Traits is the fact the add in an unnecessary random element into the game and, yet again, push more focus towards independent characters. At least here though there is a bit more focus rather than having each rule trying to cover multiple angles. All of them are much more directly combat focused than some previous lists with four containing special rules which can be passed onto a unit he joins.
Overall, these are definitely among the better rules we've seen for supplement codicies but they don't justify the asking price for the book. Along with having a level of tabletop content which would have previously been covered by White Dwarf codex articles, it doesn't make use of what was on hand. While nowhere near as big of a waste as Sentinels of Terra, any untapped potential or unique traits go unused.
Even pretending every detail had not been utterly swept away by the utter defilement of the Iron Hands, utterly changing their most basic background lore, there isn't enough done with what is on hand. Nothing from these vanilla rules truly suggests the level of co-ordination, relentless assaults and ruthless efficiency the chapter is supposed to be known for. There was plenty they could have put in place of their actual special rules to truly reflect this and yet both were squandered to push Dreadnought heavy/Techmarine heavy armies.
Honestly, if you want to represent an Iron Hands Clan Company on the tabletop use Codex: Space Wolves. As strange as it sounds, many of their rules work extremely well with the Iron Hands best known traits and reflect the chapter which was lost. Their ability to take Terminators for squad sergeants, variety of units and abilities which can be easily passed off as Iron Hands traits make them extremely viable. You can claim the abilities of Long Fangs stem from technology rather than sheer experience, or have Frost Blades' improved strength represent the bionic strength of their wielder rather than the blade itself. Plus of course there's always Bjorn.
So long as you stay away from a few of the more wolfy aspects and certain units, the codex makes for a surprisingly effective proxy.
Just avoid this book entirely. It's just the latest in a very long string of cash gouging efforts by Games Workshop to see how little effort they can put into their products and still turn a profit.