Let’s talk about how the new Adeptus Mechanicus Codex blurs the lines with Stratagems, like no other.
Admech have a new powerful, if complicated Codex. It’s got a lot to recommended it and just a ton of combos. A lot of these combos rely on targeted buffs given by one unit to another. This however seems to kind of break the point of Stratagems. Let’s take a look at why.
What’s The Point Of Stratagems
Stratagems started off with a pretty simple premise. They were some kind of strategic trick or ploy you could pull, representing the intervention say of the army commander (i.e. you). As such the very basic ones, and the only ones at the start of 8th Edition, were generic ones that you could see be a result of a moment of strategic intervention, this unit gets to hold, or fight first, and so on. As the game has evolved this has changed and stratagems have really lost most of their focus. This is an issue I’ve discussed before. Simple put right now in 9th, Stratagems do too many things, and have no focus. Indeed, GW sort of confirmed this by making subcategories of stratagems (much as I discussed in that prior article). One huge group of stratagems are ones that buff friendly troops. In general, these work under the premise of “pay X CP and unit X gets X buff”. This is separate from most non stratagem buffs, that either work through aura’s or have a chance to fail, i.e., psychic powers, etc. That is more or less what divides a stratagem from a non-stratagem.
Ad-mech Crosses This Line
While other books, mainly in 9th, introduced targeted buffs, such as Space Marines Awaken the Machine, the new Admech book takes it to an extreme. This book is just full of targeted buffs that aren’t stratagems. However, there isn’t any really clear reason as to why one is a stratagem and why one isn’t. To the degree that I feel it kind of breaks stratagems. I no longer know what they are supposed to be, and maybe more importantly they no longer feel cool and different. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Here is the Zealous Congregation stratagem. It follows the old, “pay X CP for X effect”. For 2 CP you can allow Electro-Priests to automatically wound on hit rolls of 6 in combat.
To compare here is a Genetors Holy Order ability Biochemical Aggression. It targets a wide variety of units, though it has a limited range. It lasts for a turn, rather than a phase, and it lets the unit automatically wound on hit rolls of 6 in combat. These two effects are, aside from the units they target, the same, however, one is a stratagem and the other is a targeted effect that does not cost CP. Why?
Here again, with Machine Superiority and Exquisite Calibration we have a stratagem and a targeted buff with very similar effects, +1S, though one is in Melee and one range. Again one costs CP and one doesn’t with pretty little reason as to why. These of course are just direct comparisons within the book. A lot of the targeted buffs in Admech seem like they could have been stratagems in other books.
I Guess It’s About Commanders?
I guess you could say that what sets a stratagem apart from anything else is whose giving it. Stratagems are issued by “the player” and aren’t tied to any one unit per se. They tend to not really have ranges and could represent the army commander intervening. Meanwhile targeted buffs are tied to specific units and conceptually represent sub-commanders issuing orders and affecting the battlefield. This is why they have limited ranges. I can kind of see this, however it breaks down with things like wargear stratagems (which are kind of dumb anyway). Are we really to understand that it takes the intervention of the army commander for a tank crew to fire its smoke launchers? Or an Admech unit to turn on their taster goads? What about epic deeds? Surely those are the character or unit themselves taking the action?
It Doesn’t Feel Cool Anymore
It’s clear that Admech more than any other book has broken the idea of what a stratagem is. One of the issues with this for me is that it kind of makes stratagems not feel cool anymore. Stratagems, to me, should be this impactful but limited event that feels like you’ve done something special. However, now you can get similar, if not identical effects, from all kinds of things, it kind of makes them seem a bit dull. Even if there is a conceptual level to what a stratagem is, (a command by the army commander instead of the officers on the field) that’s a bit abstract for the game. Indeed it kind of makes in-game stratagems feel a bit like a tacked-on extra level of complicatedness. If I can get these buffs from another mechanic, targeted buffs, then what is the point of all these cards and keep tracking of CP, etc.? It’s diluted the concept to the point where it just feels like it’s not working anymore and that’s a shame.
Let us know if you feel stratagems are broken, down in the comments!