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.