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40K: The Problems With HQs

5 Minute Read
Aug 30 2017

How much HQ is too much HQ?

8th edition is having some issues with characters. We’ve talked recently about  how character spam is causing some issues with the game and we’ve shown off tournament winning lists that feature character spam. One of the issues behind character spam is how readily available they are. In particular I want to take a look at just how HQ choices went from super limited to easily spamable. So let’s dig in.

The Big Change

Tzeentch/Fateweaver 2020

In most previous editions of 40k HQ’s were very rare. For most of the game you were limited to a mighty two choices, with the occasional army (Space Wolves) getting more. Some few HQ choices allowed you to take multiple units as one choice, but in general HQ was the most limited slot in the game. In 8th edition it is one of the most common slots. Not only do all the main detachment choices, give you HQ slots, but the Supreme Command detachment allows you to take up to 5 additional HQs. In fact it is entirely possible to make a battle forged army out of just HQ choices. The ability to take up to 15 HQ choices, without really limiting your ability to take other choices, gives you next to unlimited options.

Is This Too Many Choices?

Sooooooo many choices! 

The question that really comes up is “Is this too many HQs?” It’s a hard questions to really answer, but I am leaning toward yes. Without any real restrictions on how many HQ you can take they are very easy to abuse. In particular we see two big problems:

  1. Problem one is that you don’t have to make any hard choices. With plenty of slots open to you, you don’t have to choose between awesome HQ X and awesome HQ Y you can take both. In particular Imperial Armies can really cherry pick from a host of awesome HQ characters, leading to some ridiculous lists.
  2. The second problem is the ability to easily spam cheap but powerful HQ choices. There are some real bargain HQ’s out there right now, and the ability to spam large numbers of them take them from a good buy to a broken unit. This is especially a problem with cheap Pyskers. Units like the renegade Malefic Lord or the Imperium’s Primaris Psyker are cheap and powerful.

A Lack of Limitations Causes Problems

 Libertarian 40K? 

In the case of these last two you can really see how having so many HQ slots causes a problem. Both of these are good and cheap characters. If you were limited to a couple of HQ slots they wouldn’t be a big issue in the game. Sure getting cheap smites is good, but being able to do it two or three times a game isn’t game breaking. Being able to it 10-12 times is.


Guys, you are not supposed to smite yourselves! 

In addition taking these cheap choices would have been a trade off. Sure you get a cheap smite machine, but now you lose the ability to take a powerful combat HQ. Or an HQ with a much needed support aura. You would have to make some hard choices there. However with the amount of slots you get you don’t have to make choices. You can take a powerful block of 13 cheap Malefic Lords and still have slots left over to take some combat monsters or support HQs. You can just take it all rather than making choices. In the cases of a lot of these HQ choices its not the unit itself that causes the problem, its how many you can take.

HQ VS Elites


I’m guessing the hobbits are only elite choices at best. 

One of the other oddities the HQ slot is what gets counted as an HQ choice. The Heretic Astartes Codex has 8 non-unique HQ options. In comparison the Space Marine Codex has 15 non-unique HQ options. In addition it has 7 other characters that fill Elite slots rather than HQ slots. Now I’m not sure entirely what criteria GW uses to figure out if a character is an HQ or an Elite,  why is a Chapter Champion an Elite, but an Exalted Champion a HQ? Why is an Astra Militarum Company Commander an HQ, but a Platoon Commander an elite (shouldnt he be able to lead a patrol?).  But this distinction and the limited choices open to some armies complicate attempts to regulate characters. For instance limited HQ choices would limit Chaos Forces far more than Imperium forces.

So Should HQ’s be More Limited?

Maybe try chains as a limiter? 

Again this is a hard questions to answer and open to a lot of debate. When it comes down to it there really aren’t a lot of limits on what slots you can take. The great number of detachment types to chose from means your only real limit is points. If you want to take 15 Heavy Support choices, and have the points you’ll be able too. So the lack of limits on HQ slots seems to fit with the list building ideas that GW was going with in 8th. Still… it does seem a little off that HQ’s are so easy to take. I mean, yes you can take 15 heavy support, but you will have to take a couple of HQ to command them around. The same is not true of HQs.

Wrong HQ choice! 

Maybe HQ’s shouldn’t be as limited as they were before, but maybe they also shouldn’t be one of the least restricted slots you can take. Maybe limiting them a little more would tone down some of the crazy spam we are seeing. Maybe it would force players to make some interesting choices. Perhaps it would fix some potentially broken units without having to use clumsy rules to FAQ them. Or maybe it would completely ruin the game. What do you think?


What do you think? Are HQ slots OK as is or should they be more limited? Let us know, down in the comments! 



Author: Abe Apfel
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