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Judging a Codex By Its Cover(age)

The impending release of Codex: Orks for 9th edition 40K is stirring the long-dormant bit of me that enjoys painting ramshackle vehicles, but it's not a foregone conclusion. If the new Codex is overpowered it'll dent my enthusiasm. As GW's Community team tease details from the new book, I find myself growing concerned. In today's short post, then, I'm going to talk about whether or not that concern is sensible, and what to do if we get a bad case of Codex power creep.

The first thing that really got my attention was the announcement that basic orks would henceforth be Toughness 5. Any seasoned player of 40K probably understands what a big difference that is. Suddenly, a Space Marine with a boltgun will have just as much a chance of causing a wound as a veteran Guardsman with a lasgun. From an immersion perspective, that feels off, and like it risks making basic workhorse units weirdly ineffective against massed infantry.

On the one hand, I tell myself not to worry. It's very easy to see these things shown off out of context on the Community site and start making inaccurate assumptions. I don't know how many points boyz now cost. I don't know if they're trying to reduce the number of minis an ork player needs for a viable army. I haven't used this codex in a game to see the actual practical difference it makes. Do I find it weird that a Space Marine is just as "deadly" as a guard sergeant against an ork in melee? Yes, very much so. Should this result in my flipping out that GW have "definitely ruined" my game of little plastic space men? Meh, the world has bigger problems than that.

It should be noted, though, that as the owner of the army in question, I don't want it to be better than other people's armies. I want them to enjoy fighting me. 40K's basic nature precludes the possibility of perfect game balance, but let's just look at some of the other rules we've been shown.

For instance, there's the new Ramshackle rule. Apparently "pretty much every Ork vehicle now counts as Ramshackle."

On the face of it, this is a nice improvement to playability in that it's taken a dice roll out of the equation and makes the rule 'relevant' as opposed to being 'that dice roll I usually forget about.' The downside, and it's a big one, is that light vehicles of the sort usually driven by orks should, in theory, be vulnerable to guns designed to deal with, you know, light vehicles. I would argue the humble autocannon ought to be the ideal weapon for this, but this new rule literally halves the damage output of that poor, neglected, mid-strength Damage 2 weapon. Again, on the face of it this seems like the game moving further away from how things are presented in the lore.

On the other hand, just how many S6-7 D2 guns are there? At this point it's kind of a niche, and if the overall theme they're going for is that orks are so meaty that they can weather all the punches, then I guess maybe this makes sense? It does, however, reduce the variety of weapons (and therefore units) that I'm likely to encounter as an ork player, but that's probably not the end of the world.

OK, so, let's imagine for a moment that the new book is in fact grossly overpowered. I hope it won't be, but for the sake of argument let's say that it is. As a primarily narrative player, what's the best remedial action for me to take?

I nerf myself, when I think about you
What could be Orkier than hitting yourself in the face with a nerf bat?* The great thing about nerfing onseself is that your opponent is unlikely to object. I'll definitely play some games with the book as-is, so I can get a sense of whether my opponent is in with a chance. If it's horrible to play against, I'll try and come up with changes. Drop the Toughness back down, alongside a conservative drop in points. That sort of thing.  My heart will go out to people in competitive groups where the rules are sacred, but personally I have no such limitation.

The other option that's open to me as a narrative Ork player is to play like the Speed Freak I am. For me, 'Da Plan' usually involves going as fast as possible, even when it's not the best idea, and generally doing dumb stuff unlikely to actually win me the game. So maybe, if the new book is broken AF, this means I'll still give my opponent an enjoyable challenge?

So long as I remember the ultimate objective of wargaming - to ensure, win or lose, that my opponent has a good time - it'll be fine. Winning too hard? Do something characterful yet counterproductive just for the hell of it. Losing? Who cares, Orks is never truly beaten. I might have my fears about the new book but I'm pretty sure fun is going to be had regardless, and if it really is buggered, I'll bust out the mek's toolz.

*Plenty of things, actually. Like doing exactly that, but driving a motorbike off a big ramp.


  1. The worst kind of change, whether nerf or buff is 'just because'. The lore reason for Marines carrying BFG's as their standard rifle was orks and other xenos that are tougher than humans. There will always be some disconnect between the lore and the game mechanics but that mechanically they might as well be packing autoguns against man sized targets is very silly indeed.

    I hadn't considered the Autocannon interaction with ramshackle. An absolute Max of 6 damage from 3 guns isn't going to recommend them against lascannons. For 5 editions of the game an autocannon had a chance to immobilise or destroy a light vehicle with one shot. Maybe basic autocannons will go to s8 in the next edition of power creep- marines already got that for preds.

    It's not even consistent-Stompas, Gorkanauts, and Morkanauts don't get ramshackle, and its much easier to visualise an autocannon knocking a glyph off a Stompa than a buggy without causing serious damage. Just because.

    One of the reasons I built my Ork killteam is that orks give better 'feedback' to a new player- when you shoot them they die. A shooting phase with no enemies killed doesn't teach a new player much and its not that exciting for anyone.

    I noticed a trend in AOS of each faction getting their own heavy infantry- skeleton marines, ork marines, even tree marines. I expect it is to reduce the number of models needed to play, as you say.

    1. Yep, strong agree. It feels like a solution in search of a problem. I shall be curious to see the new book for full context, and just as curious to see how it at all they end up nerfing it.

  2. Can't really say much about 40k rules since I'm mote of a fantasy person, but here's to hoping there's no power creep in the new codex (which used to happen a lot in wfb 8th ed)

    1. The power creep has been noticeable, but the good news is that unlike WFB8, these days they can quickly adjust the points values of units/factions that are overperforming. So if you play a codex right after release the balance is usually off, but it settles down a few months later :)

    2. Which is great and all, but wouldn't it be better if they checked and doubled checked that everything in the codex is fine instead of patching it along the way?

    3. I think to achieve that they'd have to significantly slow down the pace of releases, and I suspect they think a flawed but basically functional codex for everyone is better than four perfect codexes. I certainly can't pretend to know the perfect balance on this, but I will at least say that the way they're running things now is probably better than at any previous point :)

  3. The New book is actually a huge nerf. They killed Mec guns. And ramshackle. I'd rather have it be super useful for trukks, than be super meh for all vehicles. The 8th Ramshackle reduced an attack TO ONE damage. The 9th makes it reduce an attack BY ONE damage. That's That's nerf dude.

    1. I didn't use Mek guns enough to have a strong opinion there, but are you sure about ramshackle? The old rule only triggered on a 6, which was wildly swingy and wouldn't have any effect most of the time. The new rule is always on, meaning it's constantly downgrading the effect of many of the guns traditionally used to deal with light vehicles. By all means, if I'm missing something there, I'm open to being convinced otherwise!


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