The Balance Issue No One is Discussing

Apologies for the clickbait title, sometimes I can’t resist. I’ll drop the dance of seven veils and get right too it: we are talking about the Crusade System here.

I am a few weeks into running my first club-level crusade campaign, and overall it is going well. We have a number of active players and our first group game coming up in July. However, this is also my first time running a campaign where some of my players have their own crusade rules in their codecies and some do not. Initially I had never thought this would create an issue. I was very happy to see the appearance of faction-specific campaign rules as I believe they add many fun twists into a campaign. While they add to the amount of book-keeping they also provide a massive leg up to players compared to those without a crusade update. One of the most striking examples of the imbalance comes in the form of agendas.

It is much easier for armies like Space Marines and Drukhari to farm experience for their units. For example the Space Marines can take an agenda that gives every unit 2 exp. each time it passes a morale test. While this preclude vehicles, it does put your opponent in an awkward spot of trying to play around it (which feels like a jerk-move) or to possibly give units tons of experience as they take numerous tests (including those they cannot they can’t fail). The Drukhari likewise have an agenda that gives two units 3 exp. each if they are part of a Real-Space Raid detachment and you kill at least one unit. This doesn’t seem too bad, until you realize that most core rule book agendas will give you 2-4 exp. per agenda. There is another layer of complexity when you consider that Space Marine supplement chapters can select their own agendas as well as those from the main Space Marine codex.

How to fix it:

Now this issue is a bit of a prickly one to fix. It’s not the player’s fault the agendas are uneven thus it doesn’t make sense to penalize them. I think there are several other options available to balance the setting.

The first of which is simply to do nothing. The existence of imbalances is not new to GW, and your players may be fine with (it especially if their own codex is on the horizon). The second option is to provide some buffs for the other armies. While you run the risk of adding another set of rules for players to remember, you can look over some other campaign supplements and provide a list of agendas that are available only to players without a crusade-updated codex. A third option too is to limit players to only be able to take one agenda that is from a codex (this is mainly for Space Wolf, Blood Angel, etc. players).

Even with these changes there are some imbalances that you will not be able to bridge. In the Drukhari codex there is the option to select a Battle Scar that halves the damage a character receives at the price of losing acces to the Power from Pain table. For some characters losing the advance and charge is a big loss but it is almost always worth it to get the option to halve damage. It also brings up the possibility that GW may create a mechanic that truly upsets the game balance. GW seems incapable of balancing the competitive game and I doubt there is much play-testing invested in the crusade system.

Fundamentally it is almost impossible to create a fully balanced crusade system. As player characters grow more powerful and they get access to the weird relics the games will get wackier. That being said, I still think anyone running a crusade campaign should consider how it will impact players whose armies don’t have crusade rules and provide ways for them to stay engaged.

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1 year ago

Honestly if there is a significant disparity i would hpuse rule some generic agendas/traits or whatever. Slap a cap on the experience gained to make sure it stays in line with chapter specific bonuses or something and say this can only be taken if you do not have faction specific agendas. At least that is the way I would approach it.

Rob Butcher
Rob Butcher
1 year ago

toy soldiers

Crusade is supposed to steer you into enjoying small-scale skirmishes leading (maybe) to larger ones … rather than simply starting at 2000 points which only a small minority do …once all the books are released we’ll have a better picture, but you failed to mention which armies were playing without a Codex

One thing I’m looking at (once we’re allowed to play one-to-one in the same room again after June 21st / two weeks after that ??) is limiting the armies playing to the sold combat patrols .. then having fun with what’s in the box, rather than spamming etal to cover missing pieces

1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Butcher

Balance is source of fun, remember. Being used as punching ball ain’t fun.

11 months ago
Reply to  Ohlmann

Not really, it’s well documented in a couple other genres that balance doesn’t necessarily equal fun, some of the funnest stuff in some games are unbalanced as can be.

Look at fighting games atm, the most popular one atm is designed to be fun not competitive.

I also feel that it’s not really a common view among narrative players to say what you said…

As we build a narrative and try to win, rather than a balanced match, that’s matched played right there in a nutshell for you mate.

In narrative two people come together to make a narrative, where it could be a strong tyranid force chasing after the imperium on charadon during a phase two legendary mission where you have to escape, but some of your units have battle scars that slow them down.

How do you balance that? you don’t. And honestly outside of absolutely obnoxious stuff you really shouldn’t try to balance it, because it’s defeating the point, let factions have their cool stuff, their goals, their fun but don’t chase the win as if that’s THE ultimate thing of importance.

Look at some of the best narrative crusade experiences, blood angels for example have units perma die. from a competitive point of view that seems bad, but throw a different perspective and it’s really interesting.

And you don’t need to win in crusade, because the loser and the winner is rewarded.

That’s… the design philosophy of crusade.

11 months ago
Reply to  Sushi

Mostly, your comment show you didn’t get it.

Balance is a source of fun. It’s not the only one, so example of unbalanced fun things

Not having a chance is hell is definitely not fun, but other fun factors can make it up for it.

Narrative games are better when the victory condition mean that the disadvantaged part have a chance of fulfilling them. Like if you are doing the retreat from Dunkirk, the defender probably will have more fun if he have a victory condition of saving some tanks and a lot of people than if his victory condition is “annihlating the german”, which he cannot realistically do.

(and crusade is veeeeeeeery far from that ; Crusade go out of his way to make sure you have two roughtly equivalent force, because widly unbalanced battle are no fun)

The idea that you cannot get balance with perma death is very strange too and mostly seem thrown here as a random jab.

So, no, the design philosophy of crusade don’t have anything to do with balance, and the whole kerfuffle being more balancer would make it funner. Which don’t mean it cannot be fun currently.

1 year ago

Your right it is a problem, but no more of a problem than the many trash factions without codexes right now what 11 months after 9th launched?

Ive got tens of thousands of points after 20 years in the hobby, got burned out in 8th, havnt even played 9th (coivd reasons) but i see no point doing so seeing as i have Guard, Tau and as my main armies which are trash. I stopped going to tournaments years ago, but my club all uses tournament armies and tactics (which i used to love). Now, imbalance just makes me not buy new models or want o even play.

1 year ago

The Crusade system has an inline balancing mechanic: The player with fewer crusade points gets extra command points. One might argue, “that particular mechanic isn’t very effective in balancing the armies…” Perhaps, but, if you’re going to write an article about the “imbalances” in the Crusade system, please point out that there is (an attempt at) a solution written in the core rules. Also, playing in a campaign setting (like Beyond the Veil, the pic used for the article) helps uncodexed armies, because it provides them with more options: battlescars, relics, agendas.

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