Hello friends. PantsOptional back again to scream incoherently about Crusade. Grab the Malört and catch up, I’m about three deep.
As promised last time around, I want to get into the details of some of the faction-based subsystems. When 9th Edition first rolled out, the Marines and Necrons books had sections for Crusade but they weren’t super detailed, just a little extra flavor here and there where you stick a dead Marine in a Dreadnought or a Necron character catches the Destroyer Cult Flu. Not long after the next few books showed them up by actually having rules for things like spreading plagues, taking territories, or scavenging supplies. Some of these are relatively simple but explaining some of them would make me seem like I had just katamari’d through a Dark Eldar Soylent Cocaine party.
Given the wide swing between “literally nothing lol lmao” and “I stared at these rules for an hour and now words don’t work” I figure we should start with something that starts simple for now and gets complex as we go on. By absolute and sheer coincidence, that’s the system for tracking Glory (and lack thereof) for Chaos Marines which is also the system with which I’m most familiar. The full breakdown of the CSM Crusade rules can be found in part four of the Codex review, but let’s get the basics here and see how they’ve applied so far.
We start by naming one of my characters to be the Warband Champion, and I only have one so that’s the best kind of choice right there: Kaothol Naxos, former Thousand Sons Sorcerer on the run from his Legion and his God, gets to wear the cardboard BK crown (for now). I have three separate Glory tracks for him (Personal, Dark God, and Warfleet) which run from one to eight points each and degrade after every game but can be replenished. A score of seven or eight gets some pretty cool benefits like free Requisitions or upgrades while a one or a two in any given category inflicts some truly nasty consequences like turning into a gibbering Chaos Spawn or outright dying and being removed from the campaign. Kaothol starts at four in each category, so he’s a lot closer to the Oh No Zone than I would like, and if I start losing games I may have to start shopping for tentacle monster minis sooner than I’d like (which is never).
So, I lost. Let’s not get too into the weeds on this one but Sam and his Ynnari stomped a hole in the mud, shoved my dudes in, and buried them alive. To give a brief idea of how it went: Storm Guardians are a type of Eldar civilian militia, the equivalent of space elf bus drivers and video store clerks who got called in on their days off to pick up a sword and go fight hell demons or robo-skeletons. They swarmed my poor defenseless Helbrute and gang-shanked him like the third act of a Scorsese movie (pick one, it happens in pretty much all of ‘em at some point).
After the match, I lost a point in each Glory track, but thankfully I rolled high to see how many Glory points I got afterward so I was able to come out even. That’s not going to be the case every time, so clearly I just need to… <checks notes> never lose again. Huh. Okay. That should be easy. Let’s go to the second game and see how that works out for me. Remember Derek and his Silver Banana Janitorial Services, and how his Dreadnought is kind of terrifying?
You’ll never guess who I played against for my second match. That Dread’s proper name is “Hasturius Tauramacchis”, and I’m pretty sure that means he goes by Jimmy and owns a diner just outside Newark with a fifteen page menu. His pancakes are fire at 3 am on a Saturday. Anyway, that big boy got deployed uncomfortably far forward but to be fair I did the same thing with my Helbrute “Abraxas Thrice-Cursed” so it seemed like a showdown was in the cards. Imagine my surprise at the bottom of turn one when the Custodes Dread lumbered forward directly toward my Legionaries, wisely avoiding the multi-melta Helbrute. I don’t make wise moves. Why would anyone else?
All in all, it worked out in my favor with a W on the books thanks mostly due to Abraxas the Helbrute being nigh-impossible to kill with some good save rolls and the Mark of Tzeentch which zeroes out the damage for the first failed save of every round. Derek did something at the end of the match that I absolutely love and I’m going to do this for every game going forward; instead of picking his own unit to be Marked for Greatness and getting extra XP for being the MVP, he asked me to pick. This is such a simple thing to do and it works so damn well to give perspective on the other side of the table. It also dissuades any tendency I might have to maximize my gains like the filthy powergamer which dwells deep inside my soul.
With the XP gain and the onset of potential Battle Scars, it’s time to introduce some more of my big rules: I am rolling for everything and I will only buy off Battle Scars if they’re truly awful. For example, after my game with Sam I rolled a Battle Scar for the Cultists that prevented them from holding objectives. That’s the only reason that they exist, so I bought that off right quick but if I had rolled a movement or Leadership penalty for them I absolutely would have let that slide.
Again, however, I am faced with the incredibly rude prospect of having to “plan” and “make decisions” with my extra Glory points now that I have a bunch more. This leads to my final big rule for this installment: I am never advancing my Personal Glory. I’ll top it up to 4 to get back to my starting point, but I don’t care about the bonuses for favor. Moreover, the penalty for falling into the Fucked Realm in that category is entirely too funny to avoid: one of your other characters goes full Starscream and challenges your Warband Champion for leadership, potentially killing that unit out of your list entirely. Clearly I need to add another character at some point to set this up, but for now I’ll dump the remaining points in Dark God Glory and move on because it’s time to check in on some of the other members of the campaign.
Sam – Sapphire Soulhost
If the Chaos “Please Love Me” point tracks are relatively simple but get complex later on, Sam’s Ynnari plays that track in reverse by starting in a wild-eyed state and then settling out to a relatively calm level. Ynnari are a relatively new concept to the game, and the fact that I said that means you know I’m of a Certain Age and consider anything from the last decade “new-fangled” such as hard seltzers or backup cameras. The elevator pitch for the Ynnari is that they’re a Pan-Elven Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere built on a solid core of DIY necromancy; Sam’s army story seems to hint that the Harlequin Shadowseer who’s second in command may actually be steering the force by giving psychic “visions” to the Autarch who’s nominally in charge and that’s pretty metal.
What this all means on the table is that you can mix together units from all of the Eldar variants, and that’s where it gets complicated. In terms of army building, the Ynnari are treated like their own Craftworld except they can’t learn the normal psychic powers, they can take non-Craftworlders at a higher cost, and their transports are locked to the original factions so no one gets to hop in anyone else’s rides. (Make your own jokes about racist death cults and the state of modern America, I’m too tired for that shit.)
In terms of their Crusade content, the Ynnari get to drink from the fire hose. Even though they get More Stuff than the other Craftworlds, it’s not out of control. First off they have the normal Craftworld option of sending units onto the Paths and having Harlequins participate in Grand Performances, but not letting the Drukhari units play their 4x territory domination game because I guess it’s okay for the Good Elves to keep their weird cult-like behaviors even though they converted to a new faith. On top of all of that, Ynnari earn Soul Points by destroying other units and spend them to earn various buffs but let’s be honest, the real reason to collect all the soul tickets is to turn them in at the space Dave and Buster’s prize counter for the Yncarne. They literally have to murder enough people to summon their homemade death god and frankly after typing that sentence I understand the Craftworlder reluctance to join up.
Mike – Lethal Absolution
That’s a lot of focus on xenos and heretics, so let’s go hang out with some nice, loyal, faithful Imperials. Mike’s Lethal Absolution force has a neat core concept revolving around a concept that was new to me. If you know Sisters of Battle you might know of their Repentia, who try to earn absolution for their misdeeds and failings by stripping down to their gym clothes and a chain sword to enter Challenge Mode.
There’s a related concept called the Oblatia who are basically sin-eater Slayers; they set off to earn forgiveness for others by seeking glorious death in battle and Mike’s concept is a force of various Marines following a Sister Oblatius. There’s just one problem: she keeps coming back from the dead. Most “normal” religious fanatic warrior nuns would accept that they had become a Living Saint and take the W, but she keeps trying to earn that death even though the Emperor Himself keeps bringing her back. Let’s look at the units (in Administratum) for more details.
Oh. Oh. So, as it turns out the thing that keeps bringing her back isn’t the Emperor after all, and it’s begun corrupting both her and her followers. As a result, this is actually a Chaos Space Marines force in terms of mechanics while their loyalty in lore is set to “It’s Complicated”. The actual models themselves are a mixture of Loyalist and Heretic Astartes parts, representing the fact that as time goes on they turn more and more to the dark side without realizing it. This is a great twist and I am entirely here for the concept; the highest form of Fucking Around and Finding Out is when you don’t even know you’re doing it in the first place.
We’ll pause there for now. In the next installment we’ll move on to Chapter Three, which brings whole new horrible choices as our Orders of Battle increase. We’ll also take a look at the standings and see just how much shame I have brought to my team. Without checking: probably quite a lot.
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