Most 5th edition codices have developed unique way for players to customize their armies, fitting into their own vision of a particular army book. This has been done by sprinkling in a few HQs that change the way the rest of the army list plays. With almost every codex possessing a force org changing HQs we find different looking armies littering the tabletop. This one of the shinning successes of the latest edition. The ultimate example being the Space Marine codex, where almost all the unique characters change some element of the rest of the army. That has been a calling card of 5th ed and probably one of the main reasons the Tyranid codex is the current sad panda of 5th edition.
This though has created a problem for GW: do they really understand how to cost out their HQs? Take for instance the Dark Eldar codex which is filled with quite a few unplayable leaders, not because they are bad, but because they are not just not cost-effective. If you take a close look across most army books you can see some math behind the units. GW has some sort of formula when you add a standard piece of wargear or USR to a unit.
When GW decides to get all exotic with items never used before (psychotropic grenades) then the wheels can come off. It starts to look like the guessing in the Price is Right. Example the Baron from the Dark Eldar codex, he is 105 points of why wouldn’t I take you. He changes your army by making Helions troops, he has a Shadow Field, gives his unit hit & run, stealth, and all at the same time giving you a +1 on deciding to go first. What is the point cost equation for a unit like that?
This is a problem, because as a player I am now trained to avoid HQs that don’t do anything for my army. No longer is it good enough just to be a melee bad ass (unless your name is Mephiston) that HQ better do something else! This is the main problem with the current Chaos Space Marine codex. Think of all the over priced bad asses from a bye gone era with cool weapons and nothing else. That codex was also an experiment on what happens when you throw weak stat buffing as the bone to rabid dogs. Only problem was the points you put in (even back in 4th) never amounted to what you get to other units in the same dex. No wonder we only see Lash, Plague Marines, and Oblits, on rinse and repeat.
So we have GW codex design that is still a little schizo and leaves just enough cracks for power gamers to drive their army building machinations right through. So with 6th on the horizon what can we expect with future codices? Will we get a pull back or will GW decide to take it even farther with army list changing shenanigans?
Perhaps GW could take a page from RPGs or MMOs to design armies that look a lot like skill trees. Envision (wink) say the next CSM codex looking something like this…
Start with a Chaos Lord and depending on how you kit him, he unlocks certain ways you can play your army. Image an Iron Warriors Lord that gives you cheaper Predators and Vindicators or special abilities for your tanks. At the same time that Iron Warrior Lord can only get certain units because of the track he is on. More so the lieutenants (chosen) are customized to lead basic troopers in different ways as well. This is (of course) highly speculative, but it would be new and fun way for players to design armies. It would be a win-win for most players. Fluffy players could make unique armies based on a personal vision and competitive list builders would dive right in, finding the most killy combinations.
Done wrong though it could lead to a wasteland of units that see little or no use, because GW couldn’t master point costs.
What about you, what path would you like to see GW take in codex design?