Received an e-mail from R., who is planning to attend the NOVA Open this year, and is among the 200+ pre-registrants we've so far received.
I have been planning out an army where I will be using my Craftworld Eldar (Ulthwé) models to represent a Dark Eldar force. In my discussion with some other gamers, I have faced some opposition on the idea that it is viable. Most of this opposition comes in using the Eldar grav-tanks for representing the Raiders and Ravagers or in my opponent's confusion during the game. Here is an overview of how I had planned the "Counts As" to work:
Autarchs -> ArchonsFarseers -> Hekatrix/SuccubusWarlocks -> WychesGuardians -> WarriorsDire Avengers -> Trueborn with ShardcarbinesFire Dragons -> Trueborn with BlastersWraithguard -> WracksWave Serpent -> RaiderModified Fire Prism/Night Spinner -> Ravager (the modified tank actually has 3 bright lances when used as a Ravager)Vyper -> VenomSwooping Hawks -> ScourgesJetbike Seer Council or Shining Spears -> Reavers (Magnetized gun add-ons for blasters/heat lances)
Shuriken Catapult -> Splinter RifleShuriken Cannon -> Splinter CannonFusion Gun -> BlasterBright Lance -> Dark LanceSinging Spear -> Wych Weapon (I'll be keeping all Wych Weapons the same in the list)
Using this outline, would I be capable of running such a list at the Nova Open GT? I'm sure I'm not the only person planning something like this. It might be cool to get some feedback from other tournament organizers as well, though I am not familiar with any of the others just yet. Nova 2011 is going to be the first time I travel more than 2 hours away to play 40k.
Perhaps you can give your answer as a post on your blog so we can gauge the community's opinion through the discussion?
Thanks for your time!
So, this is a good subject of conversation ... what to do about this scenario.
Here are my subjects that I'll touch on:
1) Dark Eldar Models vs. Eldar Models
2) Player "Confusion"
3) Legality and Fair Play
On a personal level, I think counts-as armies are one of the best things about this game. There are some players who question the originality of a list that basically counts something else you already "owned" as the "newest, shiniest net list." I think that's kind of a bunch of bull. If someone takes the time to creatively expand upon and build a list that's uniquely his own, let him - so long as he addresses the issues I'll present in my #1 - #3
In order of difficulty and seriousness ...
1. Dark Eldar Models vs. Eldar Models
Dark Eldar Models are newer, cooler, and more plastic. Dude. Seriously. You're missing out.
Heh, that's it on that one ;)
2. Player "Confusion"
Player confusion is a big one, obviously, but I don't think it's the "real" big one. It's important that whatever you do, you build your list to properly reflect some of the thematics ... to wit, I once wanted to build a "cowboy" Space Wolf army, that used basically cowboy marines / gunslinger marines. To that effect, the plan involved appropriate representations. Dual bolt pistol "gunslingers" on foot would be grey hunters. If I put a wolf riding a horse around, this would really have to be a thunderwolf cav or a blood claw biker ... it would be "wrong" on a lot of levels, starting with the obviousness of the counts-as, to have a bunch of dudes on horses and tell people they're "grey hunters." I could try to "force" this, but it would require extremes - having my rhinos actually be big horse carts with horsies inside, to explain how they're disembarking, whatever. I'm winging it now, so let's get back to you.
The Dark Eldar are thematically different from the Eldar in that they are more fragile, more evil, and more ... well, dark and spiky. Worth considering how you represent and with what models.
That said - whatever you do can be relatively easily mitigated by preparation and provision of information to your opponents, on the confusion front. A great note can be taken from the book of Dan Oppedisano of Ten Inch Template (linked in my blogroll) ... Dan provides people with a soft-back binder in which he has included a full backstory on his Vraaksian renegade guardsmen, complete with photographs identifying each model in his list and what it is, as many of his vehicles and dudes (read: all) are not out-of-the-box guard models. Without his book, even if he explained what things were, you'd potentially have a hard time remembering during the course of play ... but the inclusion of the book completely changes the perception his opponents have, from a guy with a confusing and possibly advantage-seeking army into a dude with a passionate and admirable attention to detail and to the theme of his army.
Consider similar behavior and activities, to ensure that people are NOT confused - remember that we are playing a game here, and you want to make sure that however you design your counts-as army, it matches and meshes well with the nature and course of play - if it's so unrecognizably obscure why each model is actually a DIFFERENT model, you're going to not only piss off and confuse your opponents, you're going to dramatically slow down the pace of play as you spend time discussing what's what, and explaining it all in the first place.
3. Legality and Fair Play
What's legal is what this all really boils down to. I support people building counts-as armies, and I support the creative side of the hobby. That said, take a look at the NOVA FAQ, and how it addresses counts-as components and models that aren't identical to their out of the box counterparts. Acquire a Dark Eldar equivalent model for every unit you plan on using as something else, so that you can swap it in as necessary in order to establish "actual" height and positioning. Additionally, be aware that in any case where your counts-as model has different dimensions and those different dimensions impede or harm your progress in a game, you'll count them as actually being there.
To provide a more concrete example, let's presuppose the dimensions of a Dark Eldar Raider are 5" long by 3" wide by 4" tall (I have no idea what they really are). Let's presume the dimensions of your Eldar Wave Serpent are 3" long by 5" wide by 3" tall. When people are firing at you, you'll treat cover and los as if you are both as tall and long as a Raider, but as wide as a Wave Serpent. For purposes of disembarkation, however, you will not be able to disembark from the edges of the wave serpent, but instead the edges of where the Raider would be.
This can provide a complex problem when participating in game play during a tournament - so, think outside the box, innovate, and be creative. The goal here, indubitably, is to be creative with your army disposition and building. How do you address the vast disparity in size between a raider and a serpent?
My honest thought is that the "easier" approach would be to work into an Exodite Eldar theme, so that you are using Eldar infantry models across the board, but so that you use the "frames" of Dark Eldar vehicles and other similarly large models where relevant. Frankly, you could also find a better fit for things such as the Talos - alien "beasts" from the Exodite world your Eldar hail from. It strikes me that it would be much easier to de-spikey-fy a Dark Eldar Ravager, remove the sails, smooth over some of the portions of it with green stuff, and mount a trio of the new Eldar Fire Prism cannons instead of a trio of Dark Lances ... for instance ... than to try and jury rig the proper dimensions of an actual Fire Prism model.
I'd like more input here, and I'd also like more creative suggestion - my goal is not to discourage R. from fielding his Eldar counts-as-Dark Eldar army, but to try and find a way to do it that remains true to his goals / motives (whatever they may be, perhaps he'd like to share ...), while making the models used much more functional for in-game play. The actual infantry models are the EASY part - it doesn't even require a great deal of thought (IMO) to fit them in. The tricky part is the vehicles - Eldar Vehicles are possessed of DRASTICALLY different dimensions than DE vehicles, and therein lies the rub.