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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Independent Characters in 5th edition list building

what do you mean my Jacobus looks a little corrupted?

HQ:s are one of the few mandatory choices to all armies in 40k. Generally, the characters that I see used fall in to one of three categories: (1) Psychic defence (such as librarians), (2) independent CC units (such as a TWC lord or Mephiston) and (3) characters that give an armywide buff (such as Vulcan or Coteaz). For example, characters that buff up one unit (such as a chaplain) are very uncommon. Why is this? Perhaps it is best we first look at all of the common groups, and uncover what attributes make them a good pick.

Psychic defence. It is clear, that the impact of psychic powers on the game has steadily increased over the past years. Perhaps it began with Lash of Submission, perhaps it was at some other point, but the need for psychic defence has truly increased in this game. Although characters that bring psychic defence also bring buffs, it is generally the psychic defence that makes these a good pick. Psychic defence can make it easier to counter bad matchups (such as dual lash) but Grey Knights have blown the need for psy-defence completely out of proportions. It is clear that these characters bring more to the game then just a HQ choice. Psychic powers are in many ways another dimension to 40k, and few people in fantasy battle want to leave home without a dispell scroll.

Independent CC units. What I mean by this is, characters that are fully capable of taking on other units unsupported. They add another unit with a clear threat range onto the table. These characters are traditionally beater units, meaning that they are at their best smacking weaker units such as combat squads of tactical marines. This style fits in well with the MSU mindset that has become so prevalent in 40k. The ability to apply pressure at as many points on the board as possible (and possibly combining pressure from multiple sources to overcome a tougher target) is where this stems from. I have seen some very interesting manifestations of this archetype, beginning with the BT bike marshal, and also popping up as biker Warbosses in foot lists and SW bike wolflords. These characters are not just simply hangarounds for a unit. Although they can increase the damage of a single unit (and more importantly hide inside a squad for protection) they are free to break off. This adds tactical flexibility and ensures that the character is truly contributing to the game.

Finally, there are the characters that are simply bought for the buff that they give to the entire army. This might be increasing your chances of going first, unlocking units, or just simply making your units better. It shouldn't be hard to understand why these characters are good. They have good synergy with the rest of the army. Once again, they are not merely characters assigned to units, they give the player something that the enire army can make use of.

Characters that just simply increase the damage output of a designated unit lack synergy on a similar scale. A player is limited by these characters, because the IC is tied to a unit, and only one unit. It would seem that you get more bang for the buck from characters that contribute to the entire army. Indeoendent CC units are an exception to this, as they do not necessarily synergies with other units directly, but they give the player more tactical freedom then a character that cannot break off on its own.

It doesn't mean that a chaplain is necessarily bad, but it is predictable and more constrained then other characters, and doesn't increase synergy armywide. When choosing an HQ for your army, one should always ask "what does this character really bring to my army" and "is he necessary". In the end, 40k games have a certain points limit, and you are looking to make the most use of the points at your disposal. I believe the reason why we don't see HQs that increase the damage output of a single unit is because they aren't flexible enough and they don't add to the strength of the entire army. The movement phase is one of the most important in the game, and if your character doesn't contribute to that, then atleast it should add to your army as a whole.

This isn't necessarily anything new, but something I thought needed saying. Sometimes, by exploring the most obvious choices, you can learn more about the game as a whole.


  1. Nothing really new like you said but still interesting to read.


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