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40K Op-Ed: The Problem with Uber-Elite Armies

4 Minute Read
Jan 17 2018
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Adeptus Custodes look to be the most elite army in the game – GW will have it’s work cut out for them to make them fair.


8th Edition is ALL about the math. More-so that previous editions, the homogenization of all units into a single stat line and the change to S vs T table have sanded out the differences between units and brought everything closer together.  There is a certain “sameness” to everything that both a boon and a bane to the system. It makes 40K very easy to learn and understand – and keeps the game moving smoothly regardless of what you put on the table. It also limits the uniqueness of many units.  If you throw enough dice at anything – it’s going to die…

OK, it’s basically a powerfist with a bolter built in – but it looks WAY cooler!

Uber Elite Armies

Which brings me to today’s topic – the difficulty of designing uber-elite armies, and the added challenge in 8th.

Generally an Uber-Elite army will be any force with

  • Extremely low model count
  • High cost per model
  • High performance per model

The trick is exactly how to make these characteristics work on the 8th Edition tabletop. The Adeptus Custodes have all the hallmarks of this in spades.

The default Index Imperium2 Custodes clocks in at 52pts per model. So right there if you just took nothing but basic Custodians your 2000pt list has about 38 guys.  That’s the MAX.  Now start adding Terminators, Land Raiders, pricey HQs and those oh so sexy Jetbikes and that number is headed south fast.  How far south?


A commenter yesterday was talking about a Custodes test game that had 19 models in the entire list!

Now let’s bring this back to 8th Edition.

Want to kill off 25% of that guy’s army?  That’s 4-5 models!

The Crux of the Matter

And here’s the Problem with Uber Elite armies. For them to have any chance of victory they have to do a blend of 4 things:

  • Extremely high lethality on a per model basis
  • Extremely high durability on a per model basis
  • Be fun to play
  • Be fun to play against

It’s the last two that are the hardest to get right.


Normally increasing lethality is easy. You load up units with crazy weapons, and give them rules that let them use them often and with extra effectiveness.  You can see this with the Custodes rules already released:

These guys won’t be messing around in the lethal department.

It’s the durability that is tougher.  With low model counts – EVERY DEAD MODEL hurts.  There is little margin for error and the army’s damage output will plummet quickly as models die.  That said – you cant go overboard as armies with extremely high durability are frustrating to play against.  Think of things like a maxed out Necron list with every trick to get models back, or armies uber-buffed to make them almost impossible to hit.  Those tend to be not-fun games.  You can see some of that too with the released Custodes rules:

Just try to kill us!



What’s the Answer

Good question – and we don’t know enough yet. We will have to see the full codex to see if GW has threaded the needle with Custodes and given 8th Edition a successful Uber-Elite force.  You can get a vague feel for it my imagining an entire army of the cheap 4W HQ support characters – put into units.  It is going to be a struggle to down each and every one, and each Custodes you drop will feel like a small win. But still I can’t help but feel that the Custodes will eternally fighting an uphill struggle.

To win reliably they will need answers to:

  • Maxed out tarpit units that exist to simply tie them down and run out the clock.
  • Giant Horde armies that outnumber them by 6-8:1 or more.
  • Massed mid-strengh (S:5-6) fire directed their way.
  • Any tricks that eliminate invulnerable saves, or lower their toughness (say for example Nullzone, Death Hex, or Doom)

I really really want to see GW make the Custodes both awesome and reflect their background on the tabletop. But they also need to be fun and viable – and that’s the REAL tricky design problem.

Because remember: this is 8th Edition – and if you throw enough dice at anything – it dies.


~How do you think Uber-Elite armies should be reflected on the tabletop in 8th? – and can ANY @20 model 2000pt army survive in the meta?




Author: Larry Vela
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