Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Chapter Approved - Good Value or Not?

Greetings all, time for a look at one of the hot topics in gaming circles at the moment - Chapter Approved, and more specifically, is it worth the money or should it have been a freebie FAQ/download. I've seen a lot of stuff recently knocking the book and some of its content, and the choice taken by GW to make it available in this format so I thought I'd take a proper look at what's included.

Be prepared for quite a bit of text here I'm afraid, cos there's quite a lot stuffed into this book!

I bought the book a couple of weeks ago, and have (I confess) only played a single game using its contents. That immediately raised the first point of consideration, as my opponent hadn't obtained his copy at the time (though he had ordered one).

Hmm.

I had the latest points upgrades (though overall it made little to no difference to my actual army list) but my opponent didn't (and it probably would have made more difference to him!). We played a mission from the new book, which was no problem as we only needed one reference copy.

My thoughts on the mission itself you can find here, and I think it's fair to say that we both enjoyed the variety it gave to our game, and certainly affected how we approached things. In that respect therefore, it certainly achieved its objective, because it stirred up a game between two guys who play regularly and know the rulebook missions pretty well by now. So I'm giving it a big green tick of approval for the new matched play mission stuff.

On the other hand, the fact that the points updates in there will affect what you can and can't fit into your list and therefore are directly relevant to using a valid army in your games, particularly tournaments, is frustrating since it means the codex is now no longer the only point of reference for this (discounting of course forgeworld and other indices). So, playing space marines means I no longer have to just buy the codex, but another £20 book before I can get to buying models.

I think what I'd have liked to see here therefore is for the points changes to be separate and available as a download. I get that there's then an issue here at making points values freely available, but I've thought of that and have a solution - such a free pdf could simply tell you be how much each item should be adjusted, so for example (and I'm making this up here so there's no suggestion this is actually a figure from the book) Fire Prism: -7pts. Pedro Kantor: +30pts. Such a list then doesn't penalise codex owners and force them to buy another book (or more accurately wait until they can get hold of the points values separately) if they don't want the additional content, nor does it make absolute values freely available (GW are after all a business so I can understand also why they don't want to do that). So, bit of a black mark there, but one heavily caveated that they are actually making these changes in response to feedback, which is awesome!

Ok, so there's new eternal war and maelstrom missions, plus points updates in the book, what else do you get for your money, it's not like it's a cheap book?

Right, well forgive me, I've certainly focused on the things that will most directly affect me first.

Faction updates.

Each faction currently available and without a codex gets a bit of an update in the book. First, it's clarified that all troops units get the current equivalent of the old objective secured rule (though we knew this was coming anyway) but on top of that, new relics, stratagems and other things such as psychic powers are included. Ok, not as many as you get in a full codex, but there's a page of extra stuff here for each army that hasn't got a codex yet, and that's a page more stuff than they've ever pre-released for factions before now, so I'm giving it another good tick here (even if this stuff will be obsolete by next year's book because all the factions should have codices by then).

Planetstrike

I was one of the poor unfortunate buggers who bought (well, had bought for me) a copy of the old planetstrike book, which was made obsolete when 8th edition was released (ironically, before I'd actually used it). I loved the concept that missions worked differently and different stratagems were employed in such operations, and I was looking forward to eventually incorporating some of them into my regular games.

Now technically this section falls within the 'narrative' bit of the book rather than matched play, but quite frankly, don't let that stop you using the matched play rules with these scenarios, there's fundamentally no difference with the exception that the missions are tweaked into 'attacker' and 'defender' scenarios so the two players are playing to slightly different rules. Ok, maybe not 100% appropriate for a competitive singles tournament, but perfectly reasonable for your normal games of 40k using armies balanced by matched play points if you so wish (I do, I like the clarity of points and just because you're using points doesn't mean you have to play with each player having an army picked to the same value, there's nothing to stop you arranging handicap games using points if you want).

There are six planetstrike missions detailed in the book, but not only are the missions set out quite clearly, there are also a host of warlord traits, stratagems etc specific to games of this type, along with new detachments for use with these missions too. So, in essence, this entire section of the book comprises a former supplement to the game, condensing down the additional material surrounding it to the key gameplay elements, however the planetstrike supplement itself used to cost £20. Big, big tick!

Stronghold Assault

See all the points made above, but instead of assaulting a planet the missions relate to assaulting a, erm, stronghold. The clue's in the name really.

Another former standalone supplement condensed and included as part of a £20 update. Another big, big tick!

Apocalypse

So, another former supplement to the game condensed into the book, this time with 3 missions and a handy guide to actually running these types of games (I've never participated in one myself so can't comment too much, except to say that I know previously these games would take an absolute age to play). Whilst it's set in the open play section again I suspect that's more about convenience (though any real concept of points balancing probably goes out of the window when you're talking about forces of this size). It gets a tick, but considering I've never played (or been tempted to play) apocalypse before, I can't give it more than a basic tick.

Campaign Rules

For someone like me who likes their games to mean a bit more than usual, the idea of running a campaign is an obvious next step. It's therefore so nice that GW have decided to include a couple of separate methods of running campaigns, once our current commitments are out of the way at club, I can certainly see myself turning to these rules to get the next event going. Big tick

Fortification and Terrain Datasheets

11 datasheets are included for a variety of fortification kits produced by GW (including some that are now frustratingly unavailable) and more rules for other terrain kits they produce, giving rules for using them in games beyond the standard rulebook details. My only slight irritation here is that as these sit in the narrative section of the book, there doesn't seem to be any points values available for them. I know why that is (they're in Index Imperium 2) but that doesn't help particularly since I have no other real reason for buying the index, and I'm certainly not going to spend money on it just to get points values for battlefield terrain. Half a tick for updating the stuff, but not quite in a practical, useful way.

Matched play rules

Some updated rules here, to be honest these could easily have been included in an FAQ on the main rulebook (and I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen next time the FAQ is updated anyway) but as I was going to be buying the book anyway, I've no objection to them updating stuff like this in this way. Standard tick, it's good, but not necessary content for the book.

Hobby content

Here's an interesting one - some extra stuff in there talking about objective markers and how to make your own, themed to your army. This was a nice little surprise content for me - I'm used to seeing lots of people using plastic markers etc that can really detract from the appearance of a well themed table full of terrain. Personally, I love to see specific objective markers that don't look out of place and have recently made a second set (my first set were simply oil drum containers with numbers stencilled on the top) that are more interesting to look at and use.

I wasn't really expecting a huge amount of hobby content in Chapter Approved, so it was really nice to see it there, and I hope the trend continues (I really would like to see more hobby content on GW's website rather than it being solely a shopfront for the business). Big tick!

Battlezones

The main rulebook contains details for fighting across three different types of battlezone, including gaming content for each of those. I bet most of you haven't used them. Well, chapter approved adds two more types of game into the mixing pot, bringing in industrial worlds and battles taking place in the midst of empyric storms.

By my reckoning, when you add up all the standard mission types, extra missions, battlezones etc, I reckon we're probably now touching on 50+ different games you could have before duplicating anything.

Speaking as someone who is currently putting together a load of sector mechanicus stuff, seeing this as a specific battlezone is only good for me as I'll be able to add more depth to my games on the scenery. Far as I'm concerned that's only good for the game as a whole too, and whilst I'm sure there are people out there who won't use it, there are plenty of others who will, and will get far more immersion into their games as a result. Tick.

Vehicle Design Rules - Landraiders

One of the classic chapter approved articles of yesteryear was the vehicle design rules. Now, personally, I've never been one to particularly want to mess about too much with the excellent kits GW make - my skills just aren't up to the levels of my expectations. That being said, I know many people really liked the old VDR and when it was suggested they'd be included in Chapter Approved a lot of people got very excited, and then disappointed when they discovered it was on a very limited basis, and only related to a single vehicle.

I think it's safe to say that gone are the days of GW releasing a complete set of rules for designing your own vehicles from scratch (and if that godawful deodorant stick landspeeder was the standard then good riddance, though I accept some people are very able and would produce some wonderful stuff) however, the idea of being able to customise their kits using their weapons from other vehicles is pretty appealing to me, so I can understand the frustration at the limited nature of the content, but, and it's a big but people, my guess would be that this is the start. Assuming that land raider variants emerge using these rules, next we'll see variant razorbacks, predators, ork trukks, may even grav tanks and tau vehicles getting the same treatment. My advice would be don't criticise too much at this stage, they've dipped their toe back into the waters to see if they're warm and receptive, taking issue with it not being a full blown jacuzzi equipped with drinks storage and dvd player is not going to encourage GW to take the next step. Accepting that it's limited scope at this stage, I think this is the biggest tick of the lot!

Conclusions

Honestly, I really can't see why people have criticised this book for its content, there's at least (in practical gaming terms) the equivalent of two previous £20 supplements included, with a huge amount of other stuff besides. I for one will be making extensive use of the additional missions and rules in there and considering I bought it from a discount retailer the £16 I paid is looking like huge value for money for me at the moment. My only slight critique of the format is that the points adjustments weren't also made available as a free downloadable adjustment chart, but that's getting quite picky to be honest and if the 2018 Chapter Approved carries on the tradition, standard and quantity of content that this volume shows I'll be pre-ordering a copy as soon as it's available!

Till next time,
TBE