I'm trying to write up an army list for the Team Tournie at Adepticon next year, and I've found a conundrum.
1,000 points is not a large force, and that makes some of the more commonly chosen upgrades difficult to justify. Especially in an atmosphere as competitive as that. This is especially prevalent in the Chaos Marine squad. They start out very cheap, only 140 points for a unit of 10 marines (what a deal!), but then grow to be very expensive with upgrades (a couple plasma guns and a power fist makes that squad over 200 points suddenly). Knowing that, what is my biggest issue?
Well, I'm playing Word Bearers. Word Bearers are a founding Legion, and are actually more responsible for the Horus Heresy than the guy it's named after. Therefore, they should have 'Veterans of the Long War', which costs 1 point per model (for ten). Word Bearers are also well known for having banners and drums all throughout their army, and are consistently reputed as being implacable and dislodgeable (meaning Fearless). For that, it's an icon that costs 25 points.
So what do I do? Normally, I pay for both and end up with a Fearless squad that is also full of hatred for their loyalist brethren. The Leadership bonus that I get is useless since I'm Fearless, but rerolling hits in the first round of combat against the boy scouts can be really effective. That being said, 35 points per squad in a 1k army list can be a bit much. Right now I'm staring at 70 points that I think could be used better.
That being said, I can't simply ignore the 'fluff' for the XVIIth Legion and leave the banners at home. And I certainly can't ignore it and not make them Veterans. Which one do I choose, if I choose one? There are advantages to either. Let's talk about them...
Veterans of the Long War
Nine of the Emporer's 18 Primarchs chose to side against the Imperium and court the favour of the Chaos Gods. Eventually losing the war to coup, they fled into a nearly inaccessible part of the galaxy and began plotting. For ten millenia, these Legions (and many additional buddies) have attacked the good guys and nearly destroyed any hope of peace for humanity. Those ten millenia have seen atrocities and experiences that the parties involved will never forget. And the Chaos Marines continue to do it throughout time. They've even learned a thing or two.
For only 1 or 2 points per model, a unit gains an additional Leadership and Hatred(Space Marines). The Leadership boost is the most important aspect of this, and Hatred is a nice benefit as well. Stock, a marine squad is Ld 8, and 9 on the Aspiring Champion. With the upgrade, now they're 9 and 10 respectably.
The risk here is that the Asp Champ must declare and accept challenges whenever possible, meaning that he's at risk of being killed and losing that Ld the unit desperately needs. Woe betide the squad that didn't take the upgrade and is no depending on a normal stat 8 to stay in the fight. If they're Ld 9 after the death of the fearless leader, then at least they're a little more likely to keep fighthing.
That being said, an Aspiring Champion with a Power Sword or Lightning Claws and the Vets upgrade fighing Space Marines means the chances of losing the challenge are much smaller. That reroll can help guarantee that the Ld bonus sticks around a bit longer. This makes the upgrade DOUBLE as effective, and really makes the points cost a bargain.
Icon of Vengeance
In the grim darkness of the far future, there are many banners and standards. Every army (save 'Nids) appears to have some special way of showing their espirit de corps, and cloth palettes flapping in the scouring winds appear to be the most accepted. For marines, both renegade and loyalist, this is especially true. The panoply of their armor and the heraldry on their shoulder pads are proudly displayed as symbols of the opponents' doom. Word Bearers do this better than anyone else in the galaxy, bringing lots of banners and even attaching verses and dark litanies to every blank spot they can find. And then they march right at the enemy in long, stubborn battlelines praying loudly to their dark masters. Imperial logisticians regularly note how the Word Bearers march implacably into the most horrendous firepower without pause, and for reasons unknown to any rational mind.
The Icon of Vengeance is usually a 25-point upgrade (or much cheaper in the case of already-Fearless units), and makes the unit Fearless and adds a point to any combat resolution score. This can seem very expensive, but Fearless is now a big advantage in the game. Not only will the troops never flee from shooting casualties, but they'll also never flee from a combat only to be cut down.
You see, most people forget about the loyalists' special rule 'And they shall know no fear' and how much of a benefit that is. Let's say the loyalists lose a combat and fail their Ld check. Then they fail the 'sweeping advance' roll. What happens? In any other army, the unit is wiped out with no saves and the victors get to consolidate their position. But those damned good guy Space Marines merely turn around and stick out their tongues, swinging their chainswords even more. There's nothing more embarassing than watching Chaos Marines get cut down like rookies in training camp, just because they failed a nearly unfailable Leadership check.
Here's the disadvantage, though. Fearless models may not 'Go to Ground', which can be pretty key sometimes. In addition, the cost of the banner is equivalent to two extra marines, which may be enough to tip the scales so you wouldn't have to worry about losing. And on top of all that, sometimes losing a combat is strategically more sound than sticking around, and that's an option only the boy scouts get.
That outta the way, not only is Fearless very powerful now, but that extra point in combat resolution makes up for the loss of the Aspiring Champion in a challenge at worst and firmly steals a victory from the enemy at best. It makes the 25 point price-tag almost worth it, or totally worth it depending on the matchup.
So what should I choose? The 'Veterans of the Long War' is certainly useful and is definitely worth the cost, while the Icon of Vengeance is very costly yet completely trustworthy. Both is awesome, but big games require a little frugality, and I can only choose one. Ten points and some goodness, or twenty-five and some love?
Let me know what y'all think in this debate and why. I will take all opinions in consideration. After all, I'm no longer a competitive guy and here I'm getting ready for the most competitive situation, so I definitely need the help. :-)
Thanks in advance, and Happy Gaming!