The Stupid, It Burns!

The long drive from Austin to Chicago for Adeption afforded me with free time to catch up on the 40k blogosphere (only 7 more hours to go!). Following up with an email from the Rules Manufactorum (great blog) led me to an interesting post at Yes The Truth Hurts. Short version: My eyes are still burning.

For some reason YTTH's own Perez Hilton has decided to dip his toe into 40K character design. I love UGC stuff and was super-excited to read the article (it must have worked because this was the first YTTH article I've read from start-to-finish in almost a year). My excitemnt was short-lived. I'm sad to report that Stelek should stick to spewing vitriol, inflating his win record and deluging us with crappy army lists because he's an awful game designer.

Here are some snippets. I'm only going to focus on his Huron Blackheart's special abilities. The indented sections are quotes from Stelek's article:

Psyker: Using the power of the Hamadrya, Huron may choose either any single power from Codex: Chaos Space Marines or may instead choose to copy one psychic power an enemy Psyker possessed at the start of the game. This must be decided after sides are chosen, but before deployment begins. Should Huron choose the latter and suffer a Perils of the Warp attack, this attack will inflict Instant Death should he fail his invulnerable save.
Wow, could that be any more complicated? This power just screams "delay of game". So not only do I have a tough choice of powers AFTER mission and sides have been chosen, but I have to go through my opponent's powers as well. That's going to take some time -- oh, and I have to remember that I run the risks of Uber Perils of the Warp.

Lesson #1: Don't create special rules that dramatically slow down the game (e.g., "Can I borrow your codex to read the descriptions of all of your psychic powers so I can decide if I want one of them or not?"). Waiting isn't fun for anyone.
Power Axe & Tyrant's Claw: Huron may use his power axe (counts as a power weapon), his Tyrant's Claw (counts as a power fist), or any combination of both in the same turn. The Tyrant Claw may also fire once per game using the following profile: S6, AP2, Template. Note that due to his bionics, Huron's basic strength is S5 with his Power Axe, but his Claw will strike at S9, not S10.
I don't like the mechanic of splitting attacks between a Power Weapon (at Initiative 5) and a Power Fist (at Initiative 1). Unless you use tokens to keep track of remaining attacks, it's easy for one or both players to get confused in a protracted combat. The "bionics increases your strength attribute to 5, but isn't doubled with the Power Fist - instead you add +1" mechanic is overly complicated and confusing. One-shot abilities are also needlessly complicated (and S6 AP2? really?).

Lesson #2: Don't create overly complicated rules. Listening to long-winded explanations isn't fun.
Scout & Infiltrate: At the start of the battle (after sides are chosen but before deployment begins), decide if your army will possess infiltrate or scout. All units then gain that special rule. Any units with the rule already gain no special benefit, and all units that have the rule you did not choose, lose it immediately.
Being able to Scout with an ENTIRE Chaos Space Marines army is pretty much a game winner. I could see giving that to a Tau Empire or Necron army, but Chaos Space Marines? That's nuts! Scouting Landraiders? CC monsters on bikes? Infiltrating Rhinos and Defilers? A bunch of Hit & Run Chaos Terminators in an Infiltrating Landraider? Does that sound like fun to anyone?

Lesson #3: Don't give sweeping USRs without considering game balance. It's no fun.
Pirate Tactics: All units in an army led by Blackheart possess the Hit & Run special rule (see the Warhammer 40k rulebook). All units must have the Mark of Chaos Undivided at a flat cost of 20 points. This overrides the points cost listed in Codex: CSM. No other Marks may be purchased, units without Marks available to them in Codex: CSM may not be purchased without purchasing this higher cost Mark of Chaos Undivided, including vehicles. Units taken from Codex: SM must purchase the Mark of Chaos Undivided as indicated.
Okay, Scout or Infiltrate wasn't enough? They also need Hit & Run? I played in a D&D campaign like this when I was in middle school -- we killed 2 Tiamats and a "Dispatcher" (our DM misread Dispater) in our first adventure. I'm also completely confused by Pirate Tactics. How do the Marks of Chaos Undivided work with Icons of Chaos? Why do I have to buy Marks of Chaos for my vehicles? This creates so many problems -- there are better ways to balance giving two monster USRs to every unit by making them 20ish points more expensive.

Lesson #4: Don't create confusing and pointless rules to get yourself out of a corner you designed yourself into. It's lazy. Consider everything you design from the opponent's perspective -- if it's too complicated to understand in a quick pick-up game, then it's too complicated.
Retinue: Huron may designate one unit in his army as his retinue. This unit gains the Fearless special rule, Huron must join it, and he may not leave it during the course of the game. This represents the original Astral Claws, not the newer 'converts', and should be modeled appropriately.
What?? Why?? NINE special rules wasn't enough for your character, so you had to add a tenth??

Lesson #5: Don't add pointless rules to a unit already encumbered with rules. Keep it simple.
Loyalists, Hear Me: A Red Corsairs army may field Allies from Codex: Space Marines, with a 0-2 limit per FOC slot (so two each from Fast Attack, Elite, Heavy, and HQ). Up to 4 Troops may be taken so long as the mandatory Troops selections are taken from Codex: CSM. A single HQ must be taken if any Codex: SM Allies are fielded. However, the total number of CSM choices MUST be equal to or greater than the total number of SM choices. Note that all Space Marine Allies in a Red Corsair army lose 'And They Shall Know No Fear' and 'Combat Tactics', replacing both with 'Pirate Tactics'. They also must purchase the Mark of Chaos Undivided, to represent their new loyalty to the Pirate of Badab, at the cost listed above. All other options and points costs for these Space Marine units remain intact, and any rules referenced in Codex: SM use the Codex: SM rules.
Do I really have to say it? Holy crap. This has to be one of the worst and most convoluted rules I've ever stumbled across. That 150-word wall of text, plus the complicated Pirate Tactics and Of the Maelstrom rules, just leaves me confused as to what kind of army I can actually build around Huron.

Lesson #6: If you can't figure out how to create a simple and clear rule that creates the desired effect, then go back to the drawing board.
Of the Maelstrom: Huron may not be fielded in an army containing any other Unique characters. He is of the Maelstrom, they are of the Eye of Terror--and the two do not mix. Other non-unique characters may be fielded as normal, with the exception of Daemon Princes, which may not be as normal for a Red Corsairs force. No Daemons may be taken in a Red Corsairs army, nor may Spawn, Possessed, Khorne Berserkers, Thousand Sons, Plague Marines, or Noise Marines.
Again, this reads as a completely arbitrary restriction. Nothing in the fluff seems to support this. This is a rule that exists only as a justification for the other rules (i.e., "Sure, all of my models have Scout and Hit & Run, but it's not unbalanced because I can't take any other characters."). Nonsense.

Lesson #7: Don't create rules that don't add to the fun and flavor of the character you are building. Restrictions aren't fun.
Raiders, Not Fighters: Huron leads a Pirate force, and they act accordingly. Any unit reduced to below 50% of it's starting unit size must take a morale check at the start of the owners turn as if it had suffered 25% casualties. This test is taken before rally attempts are made. This represents the cowardly nature of pirates in stand up fights. They would rather flee and fight another day than die this day. Units locked in close combat do not need to take this test, units falling back do (so they will fail it, falling back, and then may attempt to rally).
Hmm, why would a unit below 50% that is falling back make rally attempts and then automatically fail them? It's below 50% and falling back. A lot of that text just isn't necessary. But the real problem with the rule is that falling back isn't any fun. It sucks. A "units below 50% can't control or contest objectives" rule would meet the design goals without sucking the fun out of the army.

Lesson #8: There are many ways to convey an idea. Don't get hung up on a crappy mechanic; you can reach the same destination via many paths.
Astral Claws Lead: All units in a Red Corsair army that can have a squad leader upgrade and do not normally come with one, MUST purchase one. Huron leads an elite force, bent on quickly destroying the enemy then withdrawing to conserve their strength, and to this end all of his units are led by members of the Astral Claws. This represents the members of the Astral Claws stiffening up new recruits from fresh renegade units.
Again, this is a completely arbitrary and pointless rule. All heroes and villains in the 41st Century lead elite forces. I haven't found a single leader that accompanies a "bumbling force of incompetants, lucky to have survived the most rudimentary of training". If you want to say that Huron leads an elite force, then say it -- no need for another rule.

Lesson #9: Don't make a rule for everything. You can communicate a lot of cool stuff in the character's background without resorting to creating pointless rules.

>> In any case, I encourage you to visit the Rules Manufactorum and participate in their First Character Design Competition. Hopefully my playful jab at Stelek's design attempt will give you some tips and tricks for building a better character! As always, your comments and emails are welcome!

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