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40K: Faction Facsimiles – It’s A Problem

4 Minute Read
Oct 25 2017

Many of these things are just like the others and that’s becoming a problem with the new codexes.

We’ve gotten our hands on all 7 of the current codexes for Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition and we’re starting to notice some things repeating. There are certain reoccurring themes and abilities that have been popping up in one way or another in the codexes. This homogenization of 40k is a troubling trend can make all the armies start to feel very similar – and that’s a problem.

Repeating Traits Repeating

We first noticed this trend when the Space Marine and Chaos Space Marine books came out. The Raven Guard and Alpha Legions were basically dark mirrors. It made sense that their Chapter/Legion traits were so similar.  This “Hard to Hit” ability (which causes enemy units to get a -1 to hit at when shooting over 12″) was cool and new. However, 7 books in and we’re seeing it over and over again. Ad Mech’s Stygies VIII sub-faction has it and so does Craftworld Alaitoc. In fact, we made a list of things from JUST the sub-faction abilities that were similar.

  • Army Wide “Feel No Pain” (ignores a lost wound on +X) – Space Marines: Iron Hand / Ad Mech: Graia / Death Guard (Disgusting Resilience – which is actually a +5) / Craftworld Ulthwe.
  • Extra Tough Vehicles (double the number of remaining wounds for a vehicle to determine it’s damage chart) – Astra Militarum: Valhallan / Craftworld: Iyanden
  • Overwatch shooting bonus (hit on 5+ or get a +1 to hit in Overwatch) – Ad Mech: Agripinaa / Astra Militarum: Mordian
  • Hard To Hit (-1 to be hit at ranges over 12″ ) – Space Marines: Raven Guard / Chaos Space Marines: Alpha Legion / Ad Mech: Stygies VIII / Craftworld Alaitoc.


This seems familiar…

Here’s the thing: these are JUST the sub-faction abilities. We’re not looking at repeating Warlord Traits or Stratagems. For example there is an Ad Mech stratagem (Machine Spirit Resurgent) that ALSO doubles the number of wounds remaining for a unit for determining their stat-line on the damage chart. Another example is that the Raven Guard Warlord Trait and a Generic Eldar Warlord Trait says that you cannot Overwatch them.

There are more. Lots more. And we have a feeling there are more repeating traits on the way.

Oh PLEASE give me a -1 to be hit outside of 12″



The Nexus of Oneness

Now, sharing these abilities might not seem like that big of a deal (for now) but in the long run it’s going to be an issue. It’s not good when all the codexes start to converge on becoming the same thing but with a minor variance. Everyone wants their chosen army to feel and play different that the next one – it’s the variety that keeps things interesting. Sure, they might share very high level themes but it’s the how they accomplish those goals that makes them play differently. When everyone ends up with the same tools for the job then things start to feel very bland and boring.

We need armies to diverge and be different. The Sub-factions should help the armies play up those unique strengths that the overall army has – not go the other direction and make start to play like something else. Does this lead to more complexity and room for issues to crop up? Yes. Absolutely it can cause problems. It’s not easy to design or balance entire codexes against each other. But when it’s done correctly you get a much better and stronger game.

As a player, I want each army to be different and interesting to play with and against. When every army has the same option every game starts to look like a mirror match. Strategies don’t change, tactics become moot, and we’re just playing the same thing over and over. The only real variance is who’s dice are hot and who’s dice are cold. That’s not the game I want to play.

I don’t think 40k is there yet. I can’t see the game going to that extreme point – it’s not like Orks are going to run around in Power Armor.  The armies have a strong enough personality and identity that the Sub-Factions can only do so much…for now. But if the designers aren’t careful they could push the armies closer and closer together and that could do some long term damage. Everyone wants them to be balanced – but making them all “functionally the same” is not the best way to obtain balance.

Don’t lose hope yet. If GW can make Space Marines/Dark Angels/Blood Angels/Space Wolves/Chaos Space Marines/Death Guard/Grey Knights/[Insert Power Armor Army Here] all play different then I think we’ve got a shot…


Who knows – maybe the next batch of Codexes that come out will all have very different Traits and abilities, I sure hope so! Maybe this is all just growing pains as we move away from the Indexes and armies get their own Codexes. Time will tell.


How are you feeling about the codexes so far? Are you starting to notice the “sameness” of the armies? Are you liking or disliking the fact that armies do share similar abilities?

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