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I mainly played 40k during the end of 3rd Ed and beginning of 4th Ed, and am just now picking it back up. There is one thing that really has been bothering me about the newer codex's: movement away from generic HQs to named characters. Am I the only one who thinks it silly that someone like Mephiston of the BA, or Logan Grimnar, the commander of the entire Space Wolves Legion, seem to appear it practically every engagement their army is involved in if we were to consider all the games people play? It used to be that named characters were difficult choices to make, and were limited in whether they could be played(point minimum and required opponent's permission). It seems to be a trend that started with Eldar as far as I can tell, where one farseer character seems to be in 75% or so of lists.
Take a look at CSM. They have lots of named characters...but none of them are extremely powerful or game changing like the ones we are seeing in CM, SW, BA, and others.
It seems to take away a lot of the individual identity of a player's army if it is led by a known character, and not by a leader of their own devising.
To some extent characters have replaced variant lists, craftworlds, generic chapters, warbands, etc, and the game has become generally more permissive - I think there are more unit restrictions than there are units in my old 3rd ed WH book...
Long story short if someone wants to play Shrike, Lysander, Tellion, and Chronus in a 750 point force they can, it's their army. Most arn't any more significant than Khaaaaarn! or Abaddon the Gamespoiler, only a few really significantly alter the way an army works (i.e. Vulkan's salamander lists).
You can make a perfectly fine list without them, don't worry about what your opponent takes.
People use special characters because they bring something to the army you can't get otherwise. You currently can't make a leader of your own devising that makes your army fleet like Shrike can, for example. So if you want Space Marines with fleet your choices are to take Shrike or get stuffed.
Back in 2nd/3rd ed, special characters were just people with tweaked stats and their own personal wargear - nobody was particularly unique, and you COULD replace what they brought to the mix with a personal character.
I usually only see 'mandatory' special characters in Space Marine and Space Wolf lists (where they change the rules of the army, so you might need them for your strategy).
Most armies have a few characters that are really powerful, but even they only seem to be used in very high point games, because they're usually expensive. At anything less than 2000 points, you're usually better off taking another troop, tank, or monstrous creature.
On a side note: despite the incredible number of Imperial Guard characters in the new codex, I never see any of them get used. So much for that.
"Any job worth doing, is worth doing with a powerklaw."
You would't believe how many times I have seen Yarrick in IG armies. My store is overrun with special characters. There are about 3 Calgar's, 2 Mephiston's, 2 Tigerius's, a nightbringer, 2 Abbadon's, Kharn, Typhus, Cypher, Ezekiel, 2 Sanguinors, Helbrecht, Gabriel Seth, Lemartes, Brother Captain Stern, Ghazkull, the wierdboy character, Logan Grimnar, Bjorn and Shadowsun - and that's just 40k!
Last edited by MightisRight; February 25th, 2011 at 10:48.
People jump to the special characters since they can have serious impact on workings of their lists. Like A.T. gave the example of the Vulcan salamanders list.
This does not mean that they have become unavoidable.
It's only if you need a special rule to complement your strategy that you look at named characters in my opinion. Even then they can backfire on you. Take for example pedro kantor. He makes sternguard scoring and gives an extra attack to the units within his bubble. all very nice, but you pay for that while the model doesn't even have artificer armour and he makes your army stubborn. kay, some people will prefer stubborn, but I think ATSKNF is superior to this rule. He's used quite often nowadays in my region, but I don't like him all that much.
On the side, in our LGS, you can perfectly build a character from your bitzbox who has all the wargear of the named character of your choosing (wysiwyg does count) and use it as a stand in. chapter master jack inthebox is a count as lysander or something of the likes. In this regard i've built my own vulcan stand in model so I can use Vulcan's special rules but I remain loyal to my DIY chapter.