Saturday, January 5, 2013

What a Trooper! What, a Trooper?

Hold this point!  If we can...
Greetings Gentlereaders!

I've been wondering more about the rumors of a new Tau codex since my current army can't seem to get a break on the gaming table and thus hasn't been seeing the hobby table much either.  One of the more interesting rumors that has persisted for over a year regards a revolutionary change to how Tau organize their forces, that there will be no units that are troops in the absence of a specific headquarters choice.  That got me to thinking about the issue of units changing the scoring status of their army through special rules and how it effects the game.  I'm going to try to get some ideas on how different units do this trick differently, but I would love to hear your opinions on how it has effected the state of the game.  More after the break.

I have to admit that my knowledge of the history of Warhammer is limited to essentially fifth edition and the codices that were in play since then.  As far as I can see it most codices have had some method of manipulating what units are counted as troops, though usually it is through the use of a unique character.  Some of these have become so ubiquitous that they have had army builds named after them, while others are not as ostentatious and require less investment either in the story of the army or in points.  As far as I can remember there are four categories of manipulation as it exists now.

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The first, and probably most common, is a unique character (e.g. Logan, Coteaz, etc) who makes any number of a specific unit troops for any army the character is in.  These have some story line justification usually that the character is surrounded by these units whenever they go to war.  The units moved are usually some of the strongest units in the codex that become troops, though some commanders like Canis are exceptions as his preferred unit cannot hold points despite becoming troops.  This is the type of manipulation that I think has run afoul of the largest number of players, and understandably so, as it has allowed armies of wolfguard, paladins and the henchmen to permeate the tournament setting.  Each character allows players to field armies composed to fit a theme and portray a specific incident in the Warhammer universe, but I would assume most of the objections to these armies are to their relative power and the player's perceived (possibly actual) disregard of the story of Warhammer and a sense of fair play.

A second type of manipulation is a unique character that allows any number of a specific unit become scoring  when certain conditions are met.  This is a unique case as I believe only Pedro Kantor has a manipulation rule of this type.  Crismon Fist sternguard heavy armies have not seen much play since the space marine codex was new, but this type of manipulation has not drawn any ire to my knowledge.  This may be because it does not change the compulsion to take two units that are troops regardless of manipulation.  A small case, but one that could be an example to be emulated.

Zoom Zoom
Our next type of manipulation is a generic headquarters character who allows one unit of a specific type to become a troop unit in the army.  This occurs twice in the ork codex: once with big meks and deff dreads, and again with the warboss and nobs.  I haven't seen the first instance more than a handful of times, but the second instance is relatively common, especially when the nobs ride bikes.  These are some of the rarer instances of troops manipulation, but they are a precedent for future force manipulations.

The last type of manipulation is a generic headquarters that allows any number of a specific unit to become troops if a certain condition is met.  One of the better examples of this type of manipulation is the space marine captain on a bike.  It could be argued that every eldar headquarters option falls under this with respect to wraithguard becoming troops, but that not a stated rule, so doesn't quite qualify.  Ask Godfrey about wraithguard sometime.  These types of units I can't say I've seen used often, but they do allow an army to portray a specific sub-army  without relying on a named character to do so.  For all you comp fans out there, I'd imagine this is a bonus.

I heard you don't like Ethereals
Now that we've been looking at the different types of force organization play, let's get to the rumor that started the whole discussion: Tau's own brand of force organization.  The current rumor is that Tau will have ZERO units that are troops in the absence of a specific headquarters choice.  This would certainly make Tau unique and allow the empire's multi-faceted nature to be represented on the tabletop.  As it stands now, Tau have no force organization play that would enable more variety, only one that will restrict their choices.  The rumor goes that the currently mandatory units will no longer be so, but a crisis commander will unlock crisis suits as troops, a stealth armored commander stealth suits, a shaper kroot and an ethereal will be required to unlock fire warriors as troops.

Since kroot were arguable for inclusion in fifth edition, but have been eclipsed by fire warriors the shas'la are the only viable troops option for Tau armies at the moment, in my opinion.  The ethereal, while improved, is still a large risk for a Tau commander and one I rarely, if ever, see taken.  Requiring players to purchase a headquarters that has never had a good reputation to unlock the only troops that will carry a good reputation into the new codex.  I for one won't argue against the option to build an army of primarily crisis suits, as they are the unit that brought me into the army and the game.  I can see it being seen as against the ethos of Tau, as crisis suits are meant to assist the shas'la in moments of crisis, rather than to constitute the whole of the cadre.

On the gaming side of the issue that would mean that, baring any  loosening of the headquarters organization slots, Tau would only ever have two type of troops.  I understand that his is quite manageable as most armies only have two scoring options and most only utilize one or two in any army.  One of the themes of fifth and sixth edition, so far, is the increase in options for armies to take more than a pair of unit types as troops and I would hate to see a codex that has fallen from the height of shooting it was designed for to becoming a mediocre shooting army and an abysmal assault army.

I'm hoping the Tau receive a facelift this May, but the rumors haven't changed much in a year, when Tau were rumored to be the last fifth edition army.  I am glad that Games Workshop is rumored to be innovating in their army designs, but I am very cautious about the way they will decide to implement this option, if they do.  I'm just not sure if I want to see them take a chance on the army I love most.  What do you guys think about force organization changing units?

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