A wise man once said; “Good writers steal from other writers, great writers steal outright”. Right, rationalisation out of the way, it’s time for me to steal an article from Rock Paper Shotgun.
Way back before the release of Dawn of War 2 Kieron Gillen wrote an article assessing the odds of various races of the Warhammer 40k universe being included. With the news that the second expansion pack (with Ork campaign!) will feature a new multiplayer race, I got to thinking.
We know a lot more now about how Dawn of War 2 works, so I’m going to assess the odds of the remaining major races making it into the game, but I’m also going to try and figure out how they could integrate with the current multiplayer system, including the excellent Last Stand mode.
Who are they? – Anime styled naive space commies. Tau are a new race on the 40k scene, both in game and in reality (they were released in 2001) but have quickly gained a lot of popularity. They’re a young, short lived, physically weak race from a galactic backwater. The only reason they haven’t been annihilated yet is that they are very fast learners and managed to develop some scarily high tech weaponry while the rest of the galaxy was still figuring out what to do with them. While most races in 40k are stagnant or spiralling downwards, the Tau are in the ascendancy.
How do they play? – Guns, guns, guns, guns. The Tau are bloody terrible in close combat and rely on the withering firepower of their hi tech weaponry to win the day. Tau armies tend to be composed of either either static gun lines or mobile fire teams housed in transports. Their Kroot Auxiliaries can also give them a little more combat toughness.
Why? – Despite their recency they’re really quite popular, partly because they’re one of the few 40k races that can’t be traced back to Fantasy. They were part of the critically acclaimed Dark Crusade expansion pack for the first game, along with the Necrons, but have a much wider variety of units and would be easier to adapt to the Dawn of War 2 formula. They would also fill a niche in the game, offering the fast, fragile play of Eldar but with a greater emphasis on firepower.
Why not? – Tau are still fairly new on the scene, it’s possible that more established armies, like Imperial Guard, might be given the nod ahead of them. Plus their backstory claims they don’t have hyperspace travel, so they rarely stray far from their own Empire would make it tricky if they were being integrated into a campaign story too.
The Last Stand – A Tau commander in battlesuit would certainly make an entertaining addition to Last Stand. In play terms he would probably be similar to an Teleport Mekboy, he would come with Jump Jets as standard, allowing him to reposition on the battlefield with ease, but would lack melee ability, so would use them to escape rather than to attack. Tau commanders have access to all sorts of cool weaponry, like smart missile launchers, flamethrowers and high powered anti tank and anti infantry gear. As an alternative path the commander could trade his jump suit in for a stealth suit, which lacks manoeuvrability but allows him to hide himself (or possible others) in an emergency. The Tau Commander would offer flexible, mobile firepower, becoming a true ranged specialist (as opposed to the Ork Mekboy, who can do both).
Who are they? – Immortal Egyptian themed Terminators from the beginning of time. The Necrons were one of the main weapons in the war between The Old Ones and the C’Tan, two near omnipotent races that battles before the dawn of time in the 40k universe. One of the more recently introduced races, each regular Necron is a nigh unstoppable merciless robot armed with a gun that can rip through the toughest armour.
How do they play? – Terrifyingly. From the start there have been a lot of allegations that the Necrons were overpowered, with each individual unit being so tough. It didn’t help that for some time they had fairly limited army list, relying on the individual toughness of their warriors. Over time however they have slowly developed more variety, and can call upon the fear causing Flayed ones, the phasing Wraiths and vehicles like the Tomb Spider, in addition to elite ranged and melee units in Immortals and Pariahs.
Why? – They’re pretty cool looking and fairly popular, plus their inclusion in Dark Crusade for the first game drew a lot of acclaim. They’re also a scary and formidable opponent for a campaign game, even 40k veterans are likely to be terrified by even the possibility of running into them.
Why not? – A few reasons, which is why I think Tau are more likely. The first is that they’re regularly accused of being overpowered, and could be tough to balance considering they rely so much on a few expensive units. The other is that, despite the amount of variety they’ve gained over the years they’re still one of the slimmer army lists in the game, so some liberties might need to be taken in adapting them to fit into skirmish mode. This is especially true with the choice of three commanders, with the Necrons having an extremely limited variety of HQ units to call upon.
The Last Stand – While a Necron Lord would certainly make an imposing figure in Last Stand, it’s hard to imagine what kind of wargear he’d take, as the Necrons simply don’t have that much of a selection. His signature ability would probably by the terrifying ability for Necrons to self repair and get back up after you’ve killed them once. His weaponry would be pretty limited though, with the Staff of Light and Warscythe the only real options, the developers would probably have to get creative by coming up with wargear that gave him the abilities of some of the more interesting Necron units.
Imperial Guard (3:1)
Who are they? – The Imperial Guard are just regular humans, in a universe full of of genetically engineered supermen, space elves, genocidal eating machines and invincible ancient robots you might think they’d be a pushover, and you’d be right apart from two things. There are untold billions of them, and they have huge great tanks. The average imperial guard trooper is on paper one of the worst units in 40k, but a good general will field hundreds of them, supported by armour, artillery and a handful of special forces, making for a formidable force indeed.
How do they play? – The Imperial Guard do two things well, cheap, numerous infantry and formidable armour. Killing one man is easy, but a hundred more will take his place. These vast legions are supported by some of the biggest and toughest tanks in the game, add a few tough units like Ratling snipers, burly Ogryns and the elite Storm Troopers, and a sprinkling of fanatically loyal heroes to lead them and you’ve got a deceptively strong army.
Why? – They’re tied in with the Space Marines as one of the two main armies of the Imperium, plus they featured briefly in the first campaign. They’d again add an interesting play style, a guard player would be able to pump out a lot of low cost units early on to capture territory which they would then desperately hold while they teched up enough to afford the strong backbone of tanks and elites. The Guard have enough units and characters to populate a skirmish army easily, with determined Commissars and frenzied Priests. They could even try an original tack by giving you the choice of a Tank Commander, who would start in a lightly armoured APC but would be able to upgrade his chassis as wargear to become a strong armour unit in his own right.
Why not? – There are a lot of people that find them a bit boring. This is understandable, because in 40k’s dialled up to eleven world they are just regular guys, but others like them for precisely the same reasons, there’s something satisfying about beating back the tides of Chaos armed with only grit, determination and huge bloody tanks. Their expansion in the first game received middling reception compared to Dark Crusade plus, as I mentioned, they’re in the campaign for Dawn of War 2 already, and are generally portrayed as brave but incompetent, which doesn’t help.
The Last Stand – Their chances of not appearing in the main game may be slim, but an Imperial Guard Commissar would be a fantastic addition to Last Stand. Commissars are based on the old Soviet political officers, and there is clearly room for a whole suite of buffing/debuffing powers based on propaganda. The Commissar could also have the ability to summon minions like the Hive Tyrant, from a large squad of Imperial Guard to a small group of Storm Troopers to a pair of Ogryns. He’d also have the ability to call in off map artillery strikes in a similar manner to the Roks/Eldritch Storm/Orbital Strike power.
Sisters of Battle (5:1)
Who are they? – Warrior nuns in power armour. The Sisters of Battle were a playable army a few editions ago before being phased out, but the models and backstory remained so popular that they later re-emerged as The Witch Hunters, which combined Sisters with a bunch of other cool units without a real army list to create a fully fledged army.
How do they play? – In a sense they are a lot like Space Marines, using the same armour and weapons, they are however not as physically strong and tough (because they’re regular women, rather than genetically engineered supermen) and have a variety of faith based abilities, plus they really like fire based weaponry. When they became Witch Hunters they got access to a whole bunch of extra units and characters, like fanatical Inquisitors, frenzied Priests, mysterious Assassins and several units of crazed zealots like Sisters Repentia and Arco Flagellants.
Why? – They capture the gothic, religious overtones of the Imperium far better than any other 40k army, even the popular Space Marines. Their models look fantastic and their whole “burn the heretic” attitude is tremendous fun. The various orders of Assassins could also make a really interesting elite units selection.
Why not? – They are a bit like Space Marines, especially in their major units, plus they were in Soulstorm, which was the last and least well received of the expansion packs for the original game. Although they were generally considered the more interesting of the two armies in it.
The Last Stand – A Sister Superior would certainly offer a wonderfully cool looking hero for Last Stand, but could once again suffer from being a lot like a Space Marine, except with more fire and faith abilities. The other units of the Witch Hunters however offer an interesting twist, an Assassin would certainly present a unique character. While all Assassins are fairly fast moving, stealthy and vulnerable and focus on quickly dispatching single targets, wargear could allow them to specialise in the different disciplines found in 40k lore. Callidus Assassins use disguise and deceit to close in for a melee kill, Vindicare Assassins are master snipers who kill from a safe distance while Eversor Assassins rely on fear and shock tactics.
Dark Eldar (10:1)
Who are they? – Spikey space elf torture lovers. The fanciness of Eldar mixed with the evilness of Chaos. Generally less interesting than either.
How do they play? – Like Eldar they’re fast and fragile, but skilled in both ranged and melee with some impressive technology. They rely heavily on jet bikes, grav tanks, and fast foot troops.
Why? - Because… er… okay, I have a confession to make, I don’t really like Dark Eldar very much. In fact I can’t think of a lot of reasons to include them.
Why not? – I don’t like them. They play a lot like the Eldar. I don’t like them. They were in Soulstorm, which wasn’t popular, and they weren’t that good. I don’t like them. They look stupid. I don’t like them.
The Last Stand – Again, they’d play a lot like the Eldar. Only spikier and more evil. And I don’t like them.