Friday, December 9, 2011

Codex Creep – The Myth and the Legend

I know I’ve been a bit quiet lately and part of that is that it’s the slow season for me for 40k with the holidays and lack of general events until February but part of it is also that I’ve been sucked back into WoW a bit and am enjoying some relaxing smiting lately. Anyway I do still read things, generally while I’m at work, and today I noticed Polonius from Dakka put up an article in the DCM section that details his thoughts on Codex Creep as seen by most people around his local store and the internet. It’s an interesting article and if it gets moved out of there eventually I’ll link it here.

Anyway it got me thinking. I sometimes hear even seasoned players stating that certain books break the game or that no Xenos army is ever as good as a Space Marine army. I also hear things along the line of “well obviously it’s going to be broken, they have to make it better than X”. Between those comments and Polonius’s article I thought I’d give my view on “Codex Creep”

Let’s start first with the fact that I have been playing since 2nd Edition post “Dark Millenium”. Basically two years or so of second edition for those that don’t know. With the exception of an 8 month hiatus toward the end of 4th I’ve played pretty consistently since then. I started attending GT’s back in 3rd Edition when GW still ran them (almost always the Seattle and LA GT’s). Basically I’ve seen the vast majority of the game system we all love in action and watched it change and grow.

For the purposes of this article we’ll define Codex Creep as each successive codex increasing in power relative to existing codexes. Generally for the nefarious purpose of selling a ton more of the newest army.

Wait a minute….We can’t define it that way because 99% of the same people who say codex creep exists say that Tyranids are the worst 5th edition codex and they came out before Wolves, GK’s, Necrons, and DE. So let’s try and define it again maybe?

Codex Creep is each successive codex increasing in power relative to existing codexes excluding Xenos codexes. Yeah, that should do it J As long as we ignore 4th edition….damnit! To hell with it. Let’s just discuss balance and new codexes overall.

Now I’d like to point out that Codex Creep as people generally see it is based on balance issues. I have little to no experience outside of my then teenaged gaming group regarding balance in 2nd edition so we’re just going to work from 3rd forward. In 3rd edition there were definite imbalances. At the beginning there weren’t because everyone was limited by limited choices and generally sub-par codexes. So we started getting Chapter Approved articles and Index Astartes articles that were poorly balanced but added flavor to the various books out at the time. So each new codex would come out but it was really the CA approved articles that created major balance issues. Add in halfway through 3rd we get the 3.5 Chaos Codex (viable till it’s dying day) which was one of the most god-awfully balanced books in existence (mostly because they just put the IA articles in without editing) and you can see where it isn’t codex creep but imbalance that causes people to be unhappy.

In 4th edition it wasn’t the codex but the designers and the change in studio direction halfway through that caused the issues. In fact if you look at 4th you’ll see the earlier codexes (the ones closest to Chaos 3.5) are the more powerful and flavorful of the books. You then hit a stretch where the newer books actually have issues competing with the previous books and so after a 2 book stretch they make Jervis sit in a corner and begin their new philosophy. This starts with the Ork Codex and continues to this day with more choices and force org movement.

Looking at just 5th edition codexes I’m going to include Orks in the mix. Orks were released only 7 months before the edition change and Phil Kelly obviously designed certain elements of the book around new rules that would be coming out. That said Orks dominated the tournament scene for years. I’d say that until this year they were probably the most event winning codex on the market. And that was with IG and Space Wolves on the scene.

Are new books generally solid and powerful? Oh yes. But are they balanced in relation to those books published in the same edition under the same design philosophy? Definitely. I think a lot of times people neglect to notice that currently books are designed for their compatriots inked in the current edition and design philosophy. Does that leave some of the older 4th edition or previous philosophy books out a bit? Yes. But it isn’t intentional codex creep. It’s writing for the game in its current incarnation.

I also think a lot of people mistake ease of use for codex creep. Which is also where the Xenos armies are always less powerful argument comes from too. Most people will tell you that Space Marines are more forgiving than xenos races. I’d say this is more of an environmental issue. The most populous army is going to seem more forgiving because you play against and with it far more often than other books which sets your mindset a certain way. Xenos books are just as powerful but don’t play like SM’s (which they shouldn’t) which makes them harder to play and understand, especially when you start playing with SM’s and then try to shift over to xenos army. You compare everything you have to SM books and the tools aren’t the same. So you get the community view that SM books are inherently more powerful than Xenos books.

So if this was too long to read shame on you J It comes down to the fact that I don’t believe in codex creep as a company means to encourage people to buy the newest best thing. I don’t believe in intentional codex imbalance. I don’t think that in 5th edition there has been a power creep overall. I think for a variety of reasons people look for excuses or for things to complain about. And the nebulous codex creep is one of the favorites.