Skip to main content

Crusade: when should you stop levelling up?

I've now played 32 Crusade games with my beloved Cobalt Scions, and since I'm having a blast, I'll continue to do so. There's just one 'wrinkle': half the army's now ranked at Legendary. It's very cool having these veteran dudes, but Crusade does suffer from Marvel Cinematic Universe syndrome, in that nothing dies. That's a good thing; bad feels are prevented, but after a while it strains credulity. I'm pretty sure the design studio made this choice deliberately, and with good reason.

That's because I think the solution isn't more official rules. Instead, it's you. The player.

So what can you do? There's several solutions. One I've heard of is to systematise it within your gaming group; every X months, reset your whole force, but choose, say, 3 units to retain their special Crusade biscuits. I think that's a great idea, but risks feeling a tad contrived, and doesn't account for different players getting in different amounts of gaming.

I've come to the conclusion that this is best left to the personal editorial choice of individual players. You can recycle or retire units whenever you like, setting their XP back to 0 to represent a unit being wiped out and replaced. That's perfectly within the rules. Personally I'd go further, perhaps replacing Devastating Blow's loss of D6 XP with much more substantial losses, losing enough XP to go down one or more ranks, and randomly rolling for which of the unit's Battle Honours you lose.

Uriel Castus. Angry bloody legend.

Xantho Tyvus. Punchy legend.

Now look, I'm very attached to my army's sergeants. They're all mini-characters, and many of them have names painstakingly painted onto their armour. I ain't killing them off and redoing that. What I will do, though, is risk losing their squads, and their Battle Honours. This gives my opponents the satisfaction of knowing they've done measurable damage. What's more, that loss has become part of the sergeant's story, with all the vendettas that come with it.

There are two points at which I'm finding I tend to be up for resetting or substantially downgrading a unit. One is when something happens in game that makes it seem appropriate, be it a horrific mauling at the hands of a powerful enemy, a failure to evacuate prior to widespread destruction, or some other narrative moment. The other point is when a unit hits Legendary status. At that point, particularly for marine units, I like the idea of setting a goal of surviving X games without a battle scar, after which the squad's battle brothers are promoted to the 1st Company as veterans, with the sergeant left behind to shepherd the next generation of marines from the reserve companies. The unit is thus reset, barring any upgrades specific to the sergeant.

Another option I rather like is, whenever a unit takes a Devastating Blow rather than a Battle Scar, you roll a dice equal to the size of the squad, so D10 for a 10-man unit, D5 for a 5 man, and so on. The roll of that dice tells you how many of the unit have died, rather than being merely injured. Since this gives you a proportion of the unit that have gone, you could choose to lose a commensurate proportion of Battle Honours, and reduce your XP to the minimum necessary for them to retain their remaining Battle Honours.

For example, a Heroic unit of 5 Intercessors fail their out of action roll, and their player chooses to take a Devastating Blow. A D5 is rolled, and the result is a 3. Since this means over half the unit are destroyed, a majority of the unit's 3 Battle Honours will be lost. The unit lose 2 randomly determined Honours, and their XP is knocked down to 6 (i.e. the amount of XP a unit needs to retain its one remaining Battle Honour).

Another option specific to vehicles is to automatically reset any VEHCILE unit that explodes in-game. That's fairly harsh, of course, and it's worth noting that explosions might cover all sorts of situations beyond the vehicle fully detonating from within - there could be external reserve fuel tanks, or whatever else. I considered resetting Heroic-level Repulsor Executioner Boriel's Wrath when it exploded during a recent game, but when all the passengers emerged unscathed, and the explosion itself didn't do much damage to the surroundings, I figured it can't have been that epic a detonation so much as a fiery disabling.

Finally, part of me also likes the idea of a higher resolution Out of Action table akin to the one in Necromunda, but for whole units. Rather than choosing between Devastating Blow or Battle Scar, you'd just roll on a big D100 table that runs the gamut, from Scars at the gentle end and a Total Party Kill at the other. Knowing that was a possibility sure would be bracing. Maybe even allow the occasional re-roll or modifier on the table if you took a medic/apothecary/painboy/haemonculus etc. Hmm.... maybe I should make that.

There's also plenty of units where experience has taught me to stop bothering to track XP at all. Classics include gretchin and ork boys, the latter of whom get wiped out in almost every game, and get maybe 1 charge in per 2 games played. Having Battle Honours on those units does nothing more than give my opponent Command Points. I know Harvey doesn't track XP for generic transports such as Rhinos and Impulsors, and I'm inclined to agree. Again, the theme here is personal choice; just because I can't be bothered to track that stuff doesn't mean I'd impose this on another player. After all, the Eldar have no direct equivalent of the cheap, disposable transport. Not when they're packing the likes of a Wave Serpent. Yeesh.

Ultimately there's pros and cons to all these options, and I'd be interested to hear other suggestions in the comments section. I don't see them as mutually exclusive; after all, no-one's going to complain about me downgrading my own units! Ultimately I'll just go with however I feel about the context, I think.

Who knows, maybe one day I'll even decide to repaint some name plates...

And another thing...
Speaking of my Cobalt Scions... two developments on that front. One is that I've converted a Primaris Librarian just in time for the campaign we played the other week! Meet Tolemias:

He began the campaign week as a lowly Lexicanium, and after only six games accrued a mighty 31XP, making him Heroic! In recognition of his righteous efforts, he has been promoted to Codicier. When I sculpted the tabard, I deliberately positioned it so that it'd be easy to update the heraldry, and so:

I've written another Goonhammer piece detailing how I went about the Librarian conversion, so I won't go into detail here; that article should get published in the next week or two.

The other Cobalt Scions development is that they recently got their own army showcase over on Goonhammer. If you've been following the army's development here on the Bunker then there's nothing new there, but it was nice to see them all in one place, digitally speaking.

I'm also in the process of writing up the campaign week for the Goons as well, which does rather explain why Beard Bunker posts from me have been a tad sparse in the last few weeks! Right, that's it for now... again, dear Bunker reader, do let me know your thoughts on levelling up and/or casualties in your own games of Crusade! If you feel so inclined, of course.


  1. My own game group - partially inspired by us finding your sheets document - have been doing our own Crusade for a few months now. We're still in the early stages, with the last of us hitting double-digit games in our next day of matches, I believe. Still, I'm starting to face similar issues, partly because it's starting to get in the way of WYSIWYG. I feel like a bit of a jerk reminding people that no, the Eradicators are actually hitting on a 2+, sorry. Actually this Lt hits at S5.

    We'll see how it plays out as we get deeper in. I know we have a Tau and Nid army both racking up a lot of upgrades on their BIG units.

    1. Yeah I hear you on that one. I've been navigating it by pointing out particularly tough units to my opponent at the start of a game. That seems to prevent any big 'gotcha' moments.

      Ultimately everyone playing Crusade is aware that units can be upgraded, so even if you FEEL like a jerk, I'm sure that isn't how it comes across :)

      What's more, look at it this way: every upgrade you have is half a command point for your opponent, and those are often (not always) more valuable. In the last campaign, my opponent often had 10-12 bonus command points to play with. Terrifying! XD

  2. Beautiful Librarian conversion, looking forward to reading how you accomplished it over on Goonhammer!

    I really like the idea of a higher resolution Out of Action table akin to the one in Necromunda, if you turn your hand towards it I will be very interested in seeing what you come up with. In the mean time I might even try my hand at it myself!

    Thanks for another really enjoyable article, hope you and the rest of the Beard Bunker crew keep up the good work :)

    1. Thank you, that's very kind! If the mood takes me, maybe I'll think about that table... but if you do one, then by all means link it here, I'd be curious to see it!

  3. In an old campaign system I wrote way back in 5th edition, each army was sorted into one of five categories which affected how they interacted with the campaign rules. Something like this might work well for experience management. You could probably couple it with the PL of a unit, having some arbitrary limit below which a unit doesn't get XP because it's considered expendable. Then if you're an elite army you get XP anyway; if you are a horde army you change the limit.

    Even though it was many years ago now, that campaign concept was similar to crusade in that it involved a main roster from which you drew your forces. The way we did it was troops and dedicated to transport could be regained More easily than other unit types, and if you were an elite army you lost this benefit while if you are a horde army you got more of it. I could see something similar working for crusade.

    1. Oooo, I like the idea of troops and dedicated transports being more replaceable than other units, that's a nice touch.

      I can also see the appeal of splitting factions out into different groups. I imagine that level of complexity was very manageable in 5th edition when the army rules themselves were simpler!

  4. After 30+ games in our Crusade … we’re hovering around 180-200PL … we will be playing one final battle Royale with essentially full orders of battle and then starting a brand new crusade with new armies. Games have gotten very long … rolling for traits rather than choosing them makes a big difference.

    1. Yeah I'm a fan of rolling for traits; it feels more organic than choosing (and struggling with the temptation to just choose the best thing and then rationalise why it was the "thematic" choice).

      My marines are at ~2.5k, and playing with that is pretty much a whole afternoon, if not longer, so I can see the wisdom of a hard reset!

  5. Dear Charlie,

    Where do you get the time for such miracles?! I see 5 Hellblasters, Tolemias and (maybe?) 5 extra painted Intercessors since last time, all at an excellent level of quality. Plus the fact that Tolemias is gorgeous - a write-up of that lad´s meteoric rise across the ranks might be in order.
    Plus 32 crusade games. That´s where we should send you a hobby-birthday cake? Congratulations again!!!!

    I hope Spike-Con was great, and that the various flavours of Chaos and Guard made for good games. Hopefully we will have a copy of the epic times here. Goonhammer is cool, but this simply is the coziest corner of the Internet there is :-).

    Also, have you watched the new "All Quiet in the Western Front"? I only had time for the soundtrack, and it is gorgeous.
    I suspect it couldn´t come at a better moment for the Krieger playerbase. We really are living in an age of miracles, when it comes to the hobby.

    1. AQotWF is on my hit list, but I haven't found the time yet... speaking of which, Tolemias was the only mini I managed to paint up for the campaign, so my time isn't quite as bountiful as it may have appeared to you 😅

      Once I've done the Goonhammer post I'll have a better sense of what, if anything, makes sense to post on the same theme for the Bunker 😊

  6. I haven't been able to get any of my old wargaming companions to go back to 40K to try out 9E and the Crusade rules, but we have played a decent number of Mordheim campaigns which tend to have the same problems.

    After awhile it becomes a bit of an absurdity to expect Joe's 137 rating warband of three sessions to play a legitimate game against Jane's 242 rated behemoth list. We usually reset everybody to 0 after 12 games or so - Just enough time to get a warband to full roster and your heroes an interesting number of upgrades.

    Hopefully one of these days I can get The Boys motivated enough to field my Marines - Lord knows I've spent enough time building cool-looking sergeants and veterans in anticipation!

    1. It's really tricky when your mates don't want to get in on something like Crusade; I feel very lucky! But I've had this exact issue with other games in the past, so know how you feel.

      So far I'm enjoying resetting or downgrading individual units after particularly brutal in-game beefings; this last weekend I reset a legendary Intercessors unit as many of them were slain in the closing stages of a campaign, and the sergeant failed his morale test - so no more terminator honours for him! Harsh, but fun. Gives a sense of consequences. Hopefully doing this sort of thing also means my roster as a whole will remain reasonable to fight against.

      I wish you luck in roping them in to some Crusading! Definitely a great time when played with the right attitude.


Post a Comment