Chapter Approved: Don’t Fear the Vehicle Design Rules

GW dipped a toe into the VDR pool. They should jump in with both feet.

Let’t take a trip back to 2001…

Meet the Original VDR Rules

Years ago GW created the original set of Vehicle Design Rules in Chapter Approved 2001.  The rules covered everything from vehicles to Tyranid monstrosities.

You could make super-heavies, flyers, new weapons and pretty much anything else you wanted.  To say the rules were unbalanced would be an understatement.  They key problem is they were TOO open. With it being a point based system, you could literally throw all your points into an unstoppable uber-vehicle.  Of course they were discarded by the community in short order.

Still, the original seed of the idea was solid – it was just an unfortunate implementation.  The VDR concept sat idle for 16 years, until it’s return this week in Chapter Approved:

Meet the New VDR

The new rules cover only the Land Raider, and if anything are the other extreme of the scale. They are TOO restrictive. Here we have a set of simple player decisions based on weapon hardpoints that affect the carrying capacity of the Land Raider. The more you load it down with guns the less dudes it carries. The key balancing factor is the results of the Land Raider VDR rules are FIXED in point cost and force Org Slot.

No matter what you built, the resulting VDR vehicle is:

  • 30 Power Level
  • Lord of War
  • Approved for Open Play

The book gives you 5 examples of named Land Raiders including the Imperial Terminus Ultra with its 3 twin Las-cannons sponsons and dual single Las-cannon sponsons.  You then get 4 more examples from the All-flames-all-the-time Blood Angels’ Angel Infernus, to the CSM’s Hades Diabolus, sporting a bonus Reaper Autocannon and extra Heavy Bolter sponsons (really that’s it).

Are these VDR creations characterful – HECK YES!

Are they going to unbalance the Game – NO

Are they going to ever be fielded outside of dedicated hobbyists – NO

Problems and Solutions

The death knell of these rules is the “OPEN PLAY ONLY” sticker places on all their datasheets.  I just can’t see anyone out side of uber-hobbyists laying out the cash to build one of these beasts – when you can only use them in Open Play Games. And that is a real shame because they are really, really neat machines.

But GW CAN address this.

What I think GW should do is use the VDR rules internally to make a book of 40-50 “named character” vehicles for all the races in the game.  8th Edition has blurred the line between vehicles and other units already. The game is stuffed to the gills with memorable characters from every faction. Why not give vehicles some love and give each faction 2-3 “named character vehicles” that have been pre-tested and balanced – with points for use in Match Play?

~I’d love it, I’d build-convert some to dress up my armies, and get playing.  Would you?



  • Rush Darling

    Nice idea, but as GDubs seem to have made the commitment (for the time at least) to periodically tweaking the points values of their already wide array of models in pursuit of a semblance of balance, I can’t see them making that job significantly harder for themselves by introducing umpteen variants for each vehicle, each with their own points value. The modular points system for weapons is solid, though obviously the same weapon is going to be more efficient on one platform than another, but unless they abandoned that they’d just be sat around tweaking “chassis” points for the foreseeable future.

    • Vicent Martín Bonet

      YOu do know this is for open/narrative play, don’t you?

      • Rush Darling

        I do, I was responding to the closing paragraph in the article bud. Big fan of stuff like this for open play. ^^

    • Will Frank

      The real reason you won’t see it for Matched Play and general support, is GW wants the main rules set only to support models currently in production.

      It’s the reason you can use the Codex and the Index together – the Index is for every version of every model and combination of gear that’s been legit over the years; the Codex is only for what’s currently on the shelves.

  • vash113

    I was surprised at how limited the options were myself. It really comes down to making some slightly different versions of the Terminus Ultra or a standard Land Raider with Helfrost cannons or an unusual mix of weaponry like flamers with a twin lascannon turret. It’s interesting but at 30 power and open play only I don’t see these things being used… well at all, I’m certainly not shelling out the $90 plus it would take to make one, heck if I wanted to do the Space Wolf one I’d have to bits order the helfrost turret off of a Stormwolf and I don’t know if that’s really possible at the moment.

    I was kinda hoping these rules, even limited to Land Raiders, would at least have some interesting options like overcharged engines, grav-raiders or even open topped with greater transport capacity but apparently not. I understand GW’s caution but this is still kinda underwhelming all things considered.

  • defensive

    Dunno why they even bothered to bring them back, if it’s going to be so limiting.
    Limiting to one vehicle, in one game mode that is never played, without a proper kit, and inefficient as hell most likely.

    Could have given us a fix for problems the community has been asking for, and instead we get this.

    • Brian Griffith

      It’s a trial balloon. If it works out well, they’ll make an expanded version of it.

      And it’s not “this or fixes people have been asking for.”

      There’s fixes people have been asking for already in the book.

      • defensive

        It’s doomed to fail though. If they bring it out in such a limited way, there is no chance it is going to catch on, or even have 99% of players ever touch it.

        And there is no real fixes in the book. All it does it compile FAQ rules into it, and chance character targetting rules, for some reason.

        Where is the smite spam fix? Or terrain rules? Or cover rules? Deep strike fixes?

        • Spade McTrowel

          Fail at what?
          VDR is only ever going to be in open play or to be used with the express permission of your opponent if playing some other way. You don’t need VDR rules to do the latter…

  • Bakvrad

    Gonna build one, gonna play him.
    In our group we usually (not always of course) play open war cards with power level and all the matched play rules. In that case this fits in nicely.

    • Moke

      I was really surprised by how good Open War cards are. I’m hoping for more of those 😀

  • Koldan

    Don’t fear it? Fear is not the reaction i have with the rules, mostly boredom, just another posterboy toy, to get more kids hyped.

    • Spade McTrowel

      As annoying as many can be, kids keep the hobby alive.

      • Koldan

        I agree, it was not meant that way. i mostly think the vehicle rule are just a pr gag, nothing more. At least right now.

  • NNextremNN

    A Terminus Ultra has the same powerlevel then the lightest armed transport Land Raider? That does not seem very balanced to me or useful. Considering the restrictions I also don’t see it very often used I don’t know this seems like they wanted to introduce VDR but couldn’t do it right. It looks like the most boring, cheapest, restrictive way to do it. Why not do it with Orks? I’m not a big fan of them but it would have at least made the most sense.

  • mhtsaropinigitakis

    can i get a land raider crusader give it the character ability ..surround it by marines so it get untargetable…and clear the table with it?
    also why there is no room to put the hunter killer missile and the storm bolter at the same time in land raiders?

  • benn grimm

    Gatling dark lances… ah, those halcyon days of yore …:)

    • I remember Grimm, I remember. Trying to forget the VDR Monstosities rules… *shudder*

  • Nicholas Turner

    my only concern is the terminus still set to be ultramarine only? If it is you can just use the terminus entry from the imperial index already…

    And I have to agree, it would have made more sense to do some sort of ‘component’ list for orks. Basically you pick a certain type of engine, how it moves (tracks, wheels, other) and then you pick from a combination of weapon hard points (turrets probably) armour and troop carrying ability. That way you have to balance if you want armour and guns, armour and troops or some overly armed but ridiculously under-armoured vehicle. But make it so that you only get to choose two options on a truck sized model and three on a battlewagon sized model. That would be great fun to use in a game, and lots of crazy conversions could be built.

  • VDR rules used to generate epic amounts of volcanic rage on the fledgling internet forums back in the day.

    The fact that its open play means you will never have to worry about seeing this stuff though.

  • spla5hmummy

    The options are too uninspiring to provoke interest in my extremely humble opinion. You can’t build anything significantly different to what is already available. When I heard it would be limited to land raiders I was disappointed but immediately came up with the idea of a land raider with battle cannons in sponsons to mimic ww1 tanks amongst other ideas. I lost interest when they didn’t give us access to the full range of imperium weapons. You can’t even make a land raider Ares iirc.

  • fenrisful2

    Another pointless section in the CA book.
    No one that wouldn’t build a custom landraider anyway, will start building one now.

    While some of the points changes are welcome in this book, about half of them swung the pendulum of balance too much or in the wrong direction.

  • Kabal1te

    Ya know see a lot of complaints but really there are two things that cone to mind. There is nothing that really says you can’t use these in narrative play if folks allow them. There is also no reason from what I have seen leaked you couldn’t just allow someone to pay the base points of a land raider and buy the weapons and obey the restrictions of the transport capacity in these rules for what you end up with. Now sure you will probably end up overpaying in points but eh. Yes they are never going to be very competitive rules but any one that expected them to be was fooling themselves. Similarly if you have a creative group of people I see little reason why these rules couldn’t be applied to most other imperium vehicles. Heck the impact of transport capacity on rhinos is well known (see razorback and predator) and mixing up weapons there would be easy.

    Now I grant once you get out of the imperium factions this gets harder. There aren’t many weapons I can imagine putting on a ravager outside of what it already has access to for instance. Loading it with splinter cannons, heat lances, haywire blasters, or any of the other heavier dark eldar guns wouldn’t really do much but limit it. That said a venom packing a dark lance or disruptor would be interesting perhaps.

    Orks however can be all kinds of fun, looted wagons taken to the next level would be fantastic. Let them as a faction use any vehicle base and just load ork weaponry on it. I would be okay with that in open and narrative so long as everyone playing agrees.

    • “if folks allow them”

      And there is the crux of the issue. Optional rules largely fail because there is a gamble. The gamble is “if folks allow them”. And most people won’t gamble, they simply won’t bother.

      • Kabal1te

        That completely depends on your group. My group is actually looking forward to these rules for our narrative games.

        • That was true of Age of Sigmar as well. Narrative groups didn’t have a problem with it.

          But for a commercially viable product the results were pretty plain that narrative groups are not common.

          • Rasheed Jones

            Alot of the narrative groups I know had a problem with AoS, though it wasn’t really rules based it was more lore based. Personally I like AoS aesthetically but don’t like the lore very much so I never bothered.

  • Ravingbantha

    I don’t fear the new VDR rules, in fact just the opposite, I’m disappointed by them. No one in my area plays open play, it’s all matched play. So by that alone these rules are worthless to me. But the fact that they are for LandRaiders only, also makes them mostly worthless as my least played armies use LandRaiders.

  • Calarax

    They need to do a VDR chapter master, as that character is missing from the current codexes. The only chapter masters available are named characters. There is the chapter master special rule/ stratagem but no actual model. Option 1 is space marine option 2 is primaris marine, then choose between all the variations of power armor, then weapons, (basically a captain at this point) but to make it a chapter master add the option to modify the stat line; +1 wound for xxx points, +1 toughness or ballistic skill for xxx points, etc etc you get the idea. Make your own space marine special character.

    • Spade McTrowel

      Chapter Master is a Promoted Captain.
      Use a Captain model and promote him with CP.

      • BadMrPumpkin

        He just wants a beefed up captain like in the older rules when thats all a chapter master was. Really a captain with a relic and other bling is all you need to get stomping. Unless your gunling it or being fluffy avoid making him chapter master though

  • Spade McTrowel

    “What I think GW should do is use the VDR rules internally to make a book of 40-50 “named character” vehicles for all the races in the game.”

    I thought this was the whole point of Forge World…

  • Kevin Murray

    I think GW (and the community) would have been better served if it had been a more common vehicle, preferably the Rhino chassis.

    It’s used by more Armies, and it’s a cheaper model(at basically half the cost).

  • dynath

    Frankly I really hope the VDR make it into regular play. I like customization and combination tools. I’d like to see more options to build vehicles and commanders that are unique to a person’s army. Frankly I’d love it if everytime I go to a tournament or a game down at my FLGS the person across from me had something I had never seen before that I had to figure out how to beat.

    • Bootneck

      There is a really simple way they could do this. Just give LR options like any MC or other unit, instead of being prebuilt as schizoid, crusader or redeemer. Bare bones chassis then upgrades for the rest.

      It wouldn’t take them long to point out all the combo’s and competitively test.

      You’d probably find that they would never see the light of day in a tourney which is more often than not down to mini-maxing units.

      How many LR Terminus Ultra’s do you see in games?

      1 super unit would just chew through your points and wouldn’t achieve much in game time to a savvy opponent.

      I quite often look at LR Achilles and the other FW variants thinking how good they are but ultimately there as many points as a knight and not as good.

  • Ryan Miller

    If they make vdr named character vehicles for each faction, Iron Hands will be left out, for sure. :’(

  • Tothe

    I hope the Orks get good looted wagon and battlewagon rules like this.

  • Marco Marantz

    30 power seems a bit high if you take a bog standard land raider and actually degrade the weapons.

  • marxlives

    16 years, damn I am old.

  • eMtoN

    To be honest, I’m not sure I’m that interested in the VDR. I got my fill of that years ago when I played Battletech.