Having been an avid player and massively involved in the creative side of the hobby for many years, I am now part of the 40K Directors Cut team, striving to collate the collective creative works of those years for the edification of other avid 40K fans, and also to keep bringing new things to the hobby.
One of the key focuses for 40K Directors Cut is the Codification Program, creating and collating Codex-style lists for armies unsupported by GW in the current edition, whether they are redundant lists without updates like Lost and the Damned and Genestealer Cults, armies mentioned in fluff pieces like the Soul Drinkers and Imperial Navy Landing Parties, or armies that have generated much fan interest like 40K Undead, Mercenaries and Chaos Tainted armies. One impact of this is that our site receives a growing number of home-brewed codexes each week, and having seen many of these over the years, either through our own output, or the works published on 40K forums, we have resolved to publish this common set of guidelines to help gamers create we have used to help gamers create lists of their own.
Balance – points aren’t everything. For every bonus they get, take something away, or add a disadvantage
Precedent – choose wisely, as whilst precedent is important, the right one is even more crucial
Character – does everything have a good reason to be there, or are you making a best of all worlds list?
Feedback – get someone to critique your list. We are in the 21st Century now, there is ALWAYS someone who will read your work. Don’t take the feedback to heart, use it, and be willing to make changes suggested.
Playtesting – Do not play test the list yourself unless you have no other choice, get someone else to use that list, and you should play against it. Opponents are far more likely to see combos or problems in that list you missed.
Looks – how will your new army actually look on the battlefield? Remember WYSIWYG, using “counts as” will not make you popular….
Novelty – does your list actually add anything to 40K that isn’t already there?
Patience – it may take 15, 20 or 30 drafts before you get a version that is going to be as close to publication standard as it can be.
Minis – are there minis available to make units from your list? Will this be an expensive modelling project?
Copyright – do not EVER infringe upon copyrighted material. GW will allow you to use their intellectual property to create, but they will come down with the hammer of the law upon anyone who is found directly lifting material from any of their works (web, print, art, etc). If you are including units from existing GW works, simply include the unit name, and which publication it can be found in, and the page number.
Flexibility – Can your army compete with the existing armies?
Fun – Is your army fun?
Choose wisely, as some precedents are clearly wrong
One of the good things about the hobby is that with the multiple iterations of 40K since Rogue Trader, there is so much source material to cite as precedent for your own creations. Precedent is crucially important for the creative side of 40K, as it helps to bring acceptance from other gamers for your work, and helps to assess just how well balanced your army truly is.
Points aren’t everything. For every bonus they get, take something away, or add a disadvantage
Points aren’t everything. Many home-brewed codexes (HBCs), where attempts have been made to balance out bonuses given, have simply raised points costs. However, that points cost, if not measured correctly, can be weighted incorrectly. For example, using the precedent of Thousand Sons vs. regular Chaos Marines, the points difference between those should IN THEORY, cover the numerous advantages gained by the Thousand Sons. However, you must view this in the context of a Chaos Space Marine army, where those benefits, if applied to Eldar Guardians, would be a much more significant advantage.
As a general guideline, I advise that for every bonus a character or unit gets, take something away, or add a disadvantage. For example, Feral Orks would gain Squiggoths, Boarboyz etc, but in turn would lose options like Mega Armour and Battlewagons.
Does everything have a good reason to be there, or are you making a best of all worlds list?
Now this is an area which I have to say, most HBCs do reasonably well, and the exceptions to the rule are those which don’t follow this guideline. If you are creating an army list, then your opponent will expect to see certain units in there, inevitably there will be some brand new units created which are often fun and colourful, but then some just make no sense for that particular army. The most common offenders tend to be around Inquisition forces – particularly Alienhunters, and also Mercenary forces. I have seen codexes with whole squads of Fallen Angels included simply because they could, forces where you could field in the same force Eldar Rangers, Ork Freebooterz, Fallen Angels, Tau Renegades, renegade Imperial Guard Platoons and Officio Assassinorum operatives. The best HBCs have a clear idea of what their army should be, and each unit included not only has a clearly defined role, but is clearly fits into that bigger picture.
Get someone to critique your list. We are in the 21st Century now; there is ALWAYS someone who will read your work. Don’t take the feedback to heart, use it, and be willing to make changes suggested.
The Internet has been a clear boon to those who create HBCs, as where before we’d usually only have the members of our local store or gaming club to get feedback from, we now have internet forums. Yes, some individuals can be unfairly harsh, and frankly immature in their comments, but let’s face it, that always used to happen in stores and clubs long before the internet anyway. There are some incredibly helpful and insightful discussion forums on sites like Warseer, Bolter and Chainsword, etc., so post your work on a thread in one of their Rules Development forums (or whatever that site may call it), with a brief introduction of what you are trying to achieve, and you should get some creative feedback
Do not play test the list yourself unless you have no other choice, get someone else to use that list, and you should play against it. Opponents are far more likely to see combos or problems in that list you missed.
When we receive HBCs with a note stating they have been thoroughly playtested, on further questioning (yes, the Inquisition is in operation) we usually find that the playtesting has been conducted by the player solely, and they have always used their creations, and never used an established force themselves against it. A particular saying comes to mind when we get this kind of submission here at 40K Directors Cut – “You can’t see the wood for all the trees”. Creating a new list can be quite involving, and inevitably, the creator will be so close to their project, that they find it extremely difficult to maintain an objective perspective of their work.
How will your new army actually look on the battlefield? Remember WYSIWYG, constantly using “counts as” will not make you popular….
Some of the most exciting projects we see are those based around fantastic modelling efforts, whether it be a new alien race, or an obscure Imperial faction. However, when this is translated into rules for those units, often we see that dreaded phrase – “counts as”. Now, “counts as” units are not unheard of, and indeed some make a great deal of sense – for example Imperial Navy Landing Parties can be created using a number of counts as Units (ie Ratings count as Infantry Squads). However, if you are going to include a “counts as” unit, the unit whose rules you intend to borrow must be a sensible comparison. For example, if you are going to create a unit of aliens with human-like physiques, there is no point using a Space Marine or Ork profile as a starting point.
Does your list actually add anything to 40K that isn’t already there?
Everyone likes to take ownership of their own army – whether it be simply the appearance and make-up of their army, or even the lists used to create that army. However, it is important to think about whether the army you are seeking to create cannot already be achieved with existing codexes, and whether the changes are significant enough to warrant a full codex. For example, under 3rd edition, we had the Index Astartes articles, and suddenly we went from around 5-6 core Marine armies to almost two dozen variants. The thing was, that of those armies, although they had a distinct flavour and could be wildly different when played, the actual lists were nothing more than a page-long appendix at best. The current approach in 5th edition is the use of characters to make strategic changes to an army, like ‘Iron Hand’ Straken, and the Master of the Ravenwing. So, before ploughing on with a full length codex, take a step back and think if there is a simpler way to achieve what you are looking to do
It may take 15,20 or 30 drafts before you get a version that is going to be accepted by most gamers.
Contrary to the firmly-held beliefs of some, all publications are proof-read, and go through multiple draft versions before the final version is made available to the general public. Inevitably, things will slip through the quality control nets from time to time, but a first, second or even third draft will almost never be the finished article. Use what resources you have around you for the feedback, proof-reading, etc and stick with it.
Are there minis available to make units from your list? Will this be an expensive modelling project?
There are some outstanding ideas out there for Codexes, many of which I’d be thrilled to see at my local gaming club. However, it is worth bearing in mind that a Codex is intended to form the structure of an army of minis. So, if you wish to work on, for example, Codex: Space Toads, would you be able to put together a WYSIWYG army to meet the criteria of your HBC’s units? Again, referring back to Looks, using stand-in minis will only go so far.
Do not EVER infringe upon copyrighted material. GW will allow you to use their intellectual property to create, but they will come down with the hammer of the law upon anyone who is found directly lifting material from any of their works (web, print, art, etc). If you are including units from existing GW works, simply include the unit name, and which publication it can be found in, and the page number.
This is a no-brainer, but one I see flouted left, right and centre. Games Workshop is quite rightly protective of its Intellectual Property, and whilst they will allow people to use their IP in creative elements, there are legal obligations you must adhere to. For a full overview of the legal guidelines, they can be found at http://www.games-workshop.com/gws/content/article.jsp?aId=3900002
Can your army compete with the existing armies?
This is not an excuse for beefing up or adding units to make the army “competitive”. What we are looking for here, is that within your army lists, you have included ways to deal with any unit your opponent could possibly field. Now, this doesn’t mean you should go looking for ways to paper over every single weakness your army possesses, as weaknesses are what add character and balance; what it does mean is that you should think about the variety of units available to not only your opponent, but to yourself as well. Variety is important, as it prevents the army becoming a one-trick pony.
Is your army fun?
Following on from earlier points, variety is the spice of life and really adds a lot to the hobby, so do you have the variety in your HBC to allow different army builds? Most importantly, is your HBC going to be fun for you and your opponent?
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