Friday, 3 January 2014

Squats: Which Codex?

The poor ol' Squats.  Not everything from Warhammer 40Ks first book continues in the game - or if it does, it's as a cameo like the Jokaero sidekick for Inquisitors.  Most of these minor races never got much further than a figure or two anyway - Zoats had, what, four metal figures max?

The Squats, however, had a reasonably sized line of Space Dwarves figures - line infantry, heavy weapons and command groups, plus some vehicles and support weaponry.  They had an army list in 1st Edition equal to any of the other army lists in that edition, and got their list early on before some other races like Eldar or Tyranids.  They had a substantial representation in the smaller-scale figure line of Epic, and they were amongst the "get you by" army lists provided with 40K 2nd Edition.

And then.... they become a verb.  Squatted: To remove an army from play and continuity.  The Squats struggled to get over their "Space Dwarf" heritage and were seen as a bit of a joke, in a way the Eldar/Orks/Necrons were not even though their origin was clearly in Space Elves/Orc & Goblins/Undead.  Even when I started playing in 2nd Edition and they still had some minimal acceptance, Squats seemed a bit of a relic - no new figures, no special characters and no units with any sort of special rules.

Yet in my old age I've become more drawn to the style of original Warhammer 40,000: the punkier, stupid-but-it-knows-it, 2000AD aesthetic of Rogue Trader is more up my alley than the grimdark serious business of later 40K fiction.    The Squats appeal to me, and Mantic's Forge Fathers miniature line coupled with some eBay purchases means I have figures to paint up this year as a Squat army.  Using a counts-as Codex, I'll be able to play them in 6th Ed with my regular chums and have a laugh.

....but what counts-as codex?  Squats don't have the same stat line as any extant 40K race, and while there's a few likely contenders to translate them across none of them are perfect matches.  To make that decision, we'll need to look at the standard Squat units of 1st Ed and 2nd Ed's army lists.

2nd Ed gave us a Tactical/Assault/Devestator split for the Squats but all of them have the same basic stat line and armament.  Compared to base line humans, the differences are: Move -1, Weapon Skill +1, Toughness +1, Initiative -1, Leadership +1 - about what you'd expect for a Dwarf, slower than a human but a capable, stubborn fighter.  Standard gear is basically that of an Imperial Guardsman.
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In 1st Ed the basic unit is noteworthy for it's strange size (8 men, as opposed to the normal 5 or 10 man base squad sizes in most armies) and for the fact that Heavy Bolters specifically can be given to the whole unit - even though this is intended as a bog-standard troop, it can be treated as a heavy support platform.  Stat line is essentially the same (bar the sub-division of psychological stats in 1st Ed) and some of the equipment choices are broader, but then 1st Ed does that with every unit.

This of course isn't mentioning the rest of the army list, which includes: bikers, artillery weapons, Living Ancestor psychics, heavy "exo-armour" warriors, various Imperial tanks & even Commissars and Techpriests on secondment from the Imperial Guard.  In the Epic scale they got further unique goods in the form of giant "land train" tanks, use of drilling vehicles to burrow under enemy lines.  Proposals for 2nd Ed Squat figures included "Cyber-Slayers", bionically enhanced suicide squats for close combat massacres.

So, which army best mimics the Squats, assuming we go with counts-as rather than a homebrew Codex?  The heavy use of Imperial weaponry means that we can mostly ignore Xeno, though we should note that Imperial standard weaponry turns up all over the place in 1st and 2nd Ed, with Eldar and Orks using lasguns/bolters/etc until 3rd Ed.  There's a certain minority who may consider Orks (for the melee punch and biker hordes) or even Tau (if you want fancy equipment for the Squats and the "Dwarves are craftsmen" feel) but I think the majority would pick Imperial.

Space Marines do have the WS, T and LD improvement.... but they become too hard for my preference, especially the fact they're almost all in Power Armour.  Marines can handle bikes, Exo-Armour (just use Terminators) and potent warrior psychics but for line troops it just isn't my cup of tea.

Imperial Guard give you human stat-lines so they'll be lacking compared to Squats.  Equipment wise it's a pretty solid match.  The ability to pick lots of battle tanks and artillery matches well - especially if you add Forge World.  The main issue would be that the increase to WS and T make Squats a better call in close combat than Imperial Guard ever are, and Lasguns somehow feel a bit underwhelming to me as the Space Dwarf weapon.  (You could go Veterans with Shotguns admittedly.)

My preferred choice is a variant Imperial Guard list: Death Korp of Krieg, a Forge World army for which they have a free download of the 6th Ed rules on their site.  The slightly different rules give you Guardsmen with +1 WS and improved morale rules to simulate the +1 LD, making them a better fit than the other choices in my eyes.  Basic troops can include Combat Engineers armed with Shotguns and they can be upgraded to Elites with a Hades Breaching Drill - a great stand-in for the drilling machines of the Squats.  I think I'd still use Space Marines as allies to fill a couple of holes -splash in the bikes, Exo-Armour etc.  In game terms I'd call the Space Marines allies the Engineering Guild, offering some aid to their main army.

This does have the problem of using a Forge World codex, which some people find iffy - "are Forge World units/armies an addendum to 40K or are they just GW products with a different name" is a great question to ask if you want to trigger an argument on the internet.  None of my regular foes would have much problem with it - several of them own Forge World models anyway so it would seem a bit churlish! 

What about you guys?  What codex would you use to run Squats in Warhammer 40K 6th Edition?

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