Well, that’s what I hear about converted models.  While this article is by no means yet another example of “Counts-as:  Hate or Love?”, I would like to touch on the ethics and ambiguities of converting models, with a focus on the size and shape of a finished product.

A recent post over at Purgatus’ blog did an excellent job of putting into words something that I have been grappling with for a while;  What are appropriate size restrictions on a conversion?

We all know what modeling for advantage consists of.  There is the classic example of an Eldar player converting all of his Wraithlords to be laying in sniper positions, in order to make cover-saves easier to achieve.  I have also heard of players being accused of cheating, because they put models on bases that are smaller than standard, such as Bloodcrushers mounted on infantry bases, thus making it harder to get multiple assault troops into base to base  contact with them.   In each of these examples, it is clear that the modeler is attempting to earn some in-game bonus by modeling a unit in a specific way.

There seems to be a generally agreed upon rule, that so long as you err on the side of “larger”, this sort of discrepancy cannot arise.  While I am not sure where or if this rule is posted in the BRB of some edition of 40k, I have certainly seen it in action.  For example, just yesterday I was listening to the newest episode of The Independent Characters, and the discussion turned to our own beloved TastyTaste, and his team tourney assembly at this year’s Adepticon.  The podcast mentioned that one of the team members had a Daemon Prince that was modeled to be flying in the air, which made it an easier target.

Now, had this Daemon Prince been modeled to be curled-up in the fetal position, someone could claim that such a posing was chosen to increase the likelihood of receiving a cover save.  With the model up in the air, it seems to be a case of modeling for DIS-advantage.  This appears to make the conversion acceptable.  However, couldn’t an argument be made that now the flying Daemon would have an easier time getting cover from trees?  What if the Daemon had a ranged ability; could the argument be made that the elevated model is now in a position to have a more advantageous position to draw line of sight from?  Obviously this is more of a stretch than the “fetal position” model, but a stretch the fabled “That Guy” would certainly not hesitate to make…

“That Guy” aside, there may be some merit to this perspective.  If “bigger” is indeed always safer, why not model a Necron Monolith that is 4′ x 4′, so it can contest every objective on the board at the same time?  Why not base Ripper Swarms on Valkyrie bases, so your entire Tyranid army can get cover from a 3 base, 45 point unit?  What if I mount a “mast” to the center of my razorbacks, and have the las-plas turret mounted a foot off the board, so I can shoot over walls?  Ok, obviously these cases are extreme, and intentionally abusive.  But my point is, where is that “sweet spot” for converted models, where they can be modeled in creative ways without abusing their new profile?

On the “too small” side of things, I would think that the original model, provided there is one (I am looking at you, Tervigon), would be a good basis for a minimum size.  By providing a basic profile, an official model communicates just how easy or difficult GW wanted targeting said model to be.  Sure, that Stormraven has some great rules, but good luck getting a cover save.

On the “too large” side, things get a bit more ambiguous.  The examples of “too large a conversion” that I provided earlier dealt with contesting/holding multiple objectives, giving cover saves to other units , or gaining line of sight advantages.  How much of a size increase can we consider “artistic measure”, before we enter the realm of abuse?

In my studio, I am currently finishing up some vehicles for my Skaven / Dark Eldar army.  Anyone who has gamed with me, knows that I spend FAR more time modeling than playing (I don’t even have the vehicle damage chart memorized).  I enjoy making interesting and unique conversions, and that interest supersedes my desire to win by any means necessary.  That said, my most recent conversions could possibly skirt this “grey area” I have brought up earlier.  Here is a photo of one of my “Ravagers”, modeled from a Forge World Chinnork kit and a variety of Skaven bits.  I have included a rhino, for scale:

Before building this kit, I examined the measurements of an official Ravager kit.  Helicopter blades aside, my finished product only varies in size in that it sits about half an inch higher than standard, and is about one inch wider.  Also, I have mounted the model on a cast-resin Trygon-sized base, for added stability.  These minor size increases make this model easier to target from afar, and more difficult for me manuever through other units.  I have attempted to mount the three dark-lances in the same locations as a standard model, as not to claim any advantage from the altered profile.  Lastly, the field of fire provided by pivoting these weapons has also remained the same.  So the question is, are there any real advantages or disadvantages from altering this model in such a way?

Granted: an argument could be made that using a fully converted army can confuse an opponent.  In order to avoid this claim,  I provide each of my opponents with a color army book composed of fluff, photos, and unit descriptions.  I have never had an opponent get confused with one of my highly converted armies in any setting, casual or tournament.  However, I know that there exist some serious “Those Guys”.  Hell, I just saw an article on BOLS in which the author claimed that people who do not use Army Builder are trying to cheat, by not listing things like And They Shall Know No Fear in their list!  Where do we draw the line?  How much of your opponent’s own confusion or enlightenment is your responsibility?  Would MaxMini or Chapterhouse products be included in an accusation of “altered profile” due to their non-GW standing?

I am tempted to end this article here, as simply a verbal musing, rather than an actual stance on the issue of modeling for advantage and army-wide conversions.  However, I would like to express my own set of “rules” on the issue, no matter how poorly defined.  It is difficult to make a universal policy concerning legal conversions, as there will always be someone out there with the intent to gain some sort of unfair advantage, no matter the category of rule being stretched or mis-interpreted.  Again, these are my own conclusions; feel free to come to your own:

In the case of modeling for advantage, I am of the opinion that however a model is converted, it should be allowed on the table provided there are no in-game advantages gained by said conversion.  This is highly situational, and covers both models made too small (this Termagant with boneswords is my Swarmlord, and he gets cover while behind a Spore Mine), to models made too large (this airbrushed beer cooler is my pre-heresey Land Raider, and my Warhound can hide behind it).  Obviously, some leeway must be permitted, considering that the simple act of basing a model uniquely can lead to a height increase.  Lastly, I am of the opinion that any conversion that is made with the clear intent of artistic expression in mind should be allowed, provided it does not egregiously violate my statement concerning size.  While it is true that my opinion is fairly nebulous in definition, I think that it is the intent that is important to nail down.  Understanding the purpose behind such a rule, without trying to “game” the system, should lead to an obvious call on all conversions.

Anyway, I have rambled long enough on a subject one of my friends summarized by shrugging, and saying “Rule of cool:  If the conversion is cool, who cares?”.  I also hope I have not strayed from my original target, and wandered in the “counts-as” quagmire.  My only desire is that this article gets some people thinking…