Look at that thing. It's the brand spanking new Necron Night Shroud Bomber, just released by Forgeworld. It's a lean, mean, death-dealing killing machine, and like so many of the Forgeworld models it makes its standard GW codex peers look a little bit, well, ordinary.
The problem is, you won't see that many of them around, and despite all the requests for army building advice and discussions around unit choices you see on this site, you're unlikely to see it recommended.
Foregworld models are often gorgeous, and Imperial Armour units and rules come up quite frequently in 40k discussions, so I’d like to try tackle the subject head-on. From the point of view of someone who writes on a 40K Tactics blog and frequently gives people advice on army builds and force optimisation, here’s what’s wrong with Imperial Armour.
It’s not Balance
Balance is the most common complaint players have against Imperial Armour. If I had to guess I'd say up to 90% of the Imperial Armour units are probably weaker than or at best equivalent to their 40K codex equivalents, and then the remainder are Over The Top, either insanely powerful or underpriced.
Popular examples of unbalanced Imperial Armour units include the Lucius Droppod (that allows dreadnoughts to assault on arrival –including AV13 ironclads immune to most infantry attacks), the infantry-annihilating Vulture Gunship, the Deimos Predator Executioner or the Blight drones that became flyers with AP3 large blasts and reaper autocannons (squadrons of 1-3 flyers that fire battle cannons and twinlinked autocannons? Why thank you very much, I will take 9).
We often say that Balance is the objection, but the truth is if that was all it took to keep models from being used there are plenty of standard codex examples. The dirt-cheap Nightscythe, arguably the game’s best transport as well as one of the best anti-air and light-vehicle platforms, would have been shown the door long before the vast majority of FW models. That's not to say IA doesn't contain units that are even worse balanced, but it does mean we as players are not just ruling out models for 'balance reasons'.
It’s not the Points Cost
Even more than standard 40K, Forgeworld unit prices are all over the place, as if selecting costs is left to some sort of random chance. At one end of the scale lie things like the AV11 Arvus Lander that gives you a single Heavy Bolter for an absurd 110pts, and at the other is the IA Manticore with its S9 AP2 Seven inch megablast that somehow costs 15pts less than the codex equivalent.
Most IA models are overpriced, possibly on purpose as an alternative to balancing them in other ways, but if it was really just points cost that kept models from being used and recommended for normal games the Vendetta would get cut before any FW equivalent.
It’s not the Models
It’s definitely not the models. The models are almost universally terrific, taking the quality of GW design a step further. With a few exceptions they have appropriate dimensions and are approximately the same size as codex equivalents. The weapons on the models are generally clear and easy to recognise.
It should be enough to say that most tournaments allow Forgeworld equivalents to be used in place of Codex models, so the models can't be the issue. I have 10 Forgeworld vehicles, 4 Flyers with FW parts and 65 Forgeworld infantry in my Imperial Guard army, and routinely use them as Codex: IG without anyone raising objections. (Which hopefully also proves I am not a FW-hater!)
It’s not the rules
It should be the rules, but believe it or not, that is not the reason we can't recommend IA to people who ask for army advice.
Forgeworld are criticised for their rule writing on several levels, and there are plenty of legitimate angles for attack.
- Some of their rules simply don’t work, or don’t have an in-game effect. There are immobile units with Scout, Flakk Trakks that have flakk guns in photographs but don’t have them in their profile (seriously, it has two big shootas and can’t even upgrade to buy Flakka-Gunz!), an Aquila Lander that is a transport that cannot be disembarked from (supersonic) and a long list of similar examples.
- Some of the rules seem to be written without a knowledge of the core rules of 40k – for example, recently released rules that “negate the increased scatter when firing ordnance while moving” which doesn’t exist in 6th edition. Or 5th. Maybe not even 4th. It would seem really important when writing an expansion to a set of rules to actually know the rules, and unfortunately FW fail on this repeatedly.
- Some of their rules are poorly thought out. The Lucius drop pod is frequently used as an example of ‘broken’ rules, since it is a drop pod that allows Dreadnoughts to assault out of it on arrival. It’s extremely powerful, as anyone who has had AV13 Ironclads arrive and assault squads of Marines can testify, but at least it works.
Chaos Marines 0n the other hand get something superficially similar from IA; the Dreadclaw. This has an extravagant mishmash of rules; it must arrive via deepstrike, but does not have Drop Pod assault (so no arrival until turn 2 earliest). It has Assault Vehicle rules and even frag assault launchers, but no rule to allow contents to assault on arrival (so no assault until turn 3 earliest). It’s also unarmed and a Flyer (although any unit it carries can't disembark from a Zooming flyer).
- Most of their rules will be completely unknown to opponents. Most people who visit 3++ are 40K veterans, frequent tournament attendees and generally either very good at the game or too dedicated to care about their lack of success, and still most of the Imperial Armour rules will be a surprise. Would you have expected the Dreadclaw assault drop pod to arrive late in the game and then zip around at up to 36” per turn instead of have units, you know, assault out of it?
Many players won’t have a clear idea of the rules for hundreds of additional units Imperial Armour brings to the party, units like the Lynx, the Fire Storm, DX-6 Remora, Damocles, Warp Hunters, Hades Breaching Drill etc and it’s not entirely fair to expect them to work it all out in the moments before deploying forces at a tournament.
So it should be the Rules, but it is not.
The reason we can’t recommend IA in standard 40K is because it’s not standard 40K
The reason we cannot and do not recommend Forgeworld and Imperial Armour units is because they are not part of standard 40K. No matter how much FW’s fans may want it to be or how many times they point to a “40K Approved” stamp on some of the entries, it is not part of standard 40K and won’t be allowed at the vast majority of tournaments. I know this will really grate with people who love their FW and IA models, have bought them at great expense and painted and detailed them to a level above the average GW model, but it is the way it is.
If IA was part of the standard 40K game, we’d accept the points costs. We’d accept the balance issues of some models. We’d deal with the rules. Whether the rules were overpowered, contradictory, impotent, ineffectual or entirely sane and beneficial, we’d get used to them, develop counters, formulate tactics and learn to deal with them.
If IA was part of the standard 40K game, every time someone emailed in or asked in the Chatbox what they should ally or add against Cron air, flyer spam or Heldrakes, I might reply something like this,
“Ally with Guard and take 1 platoon. Take Sabre Weapons Battery for 30pts per model, and upgrade them to twin linked lascannons for 20pts, then add extra crewmen for 2pts more and free searchlights (because they are free duh). It’s 156pts for 3 Sabres and 6 men, but they are all toughness 7 artillery and scoring units! Set that baby up behind an Aegis line, and with a 3+ save on the gun and T7 infantry you are good to go. You’ll love the fact that it has both interceptor and skyfire, so unlike hydras it can take out enemy aircraft immediately on arrival.
Oh you’re worried your opponent may be bringing too many flyers for 3 twinlinked lascannons to deal with? Don’t worry, a single guard platoon can bring 15 Sabres and they are all scoring. And you can have two platoons as an ally! Also available with twinlinked autocannons, heavy bolters or doubled up heavy stubbers if you like variety.”
But I can’t.
If Gamesworkshop were to say Imperial Armour units and rules are now equivalent to standard Codexes, and opponent’s permission is no longer needed, this would all change.
It would also dramatically change the game of 40K and the balance between armies, and if the IA rules were left as they are, then some changes would be for the better and some for the much, much worse.
I don't mean to be overly negative, so watch this space for a follow up article, 'How Forgeworld can Double their $$$Profits$$$ in 6 Months!'. Until then, we're just kids gazing in through the candy-store window, and I regret the fact that some people who read this article will have seen the fancy model pictures and their first instinct will be to go order them regardless of what the words say
Just pause for a moment before you put it in your shopping cart and remember it is not universally-accepted, tournament-ready, standard-Codex 40K. Because like it or not, it isn't.
And from the point of view of army buidling and list-creation advice, that's what's wrong with Imperial Armour.