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The Tiger Roars 

Vehicle Design Rules? Thanks, but No Thanks
By now, you've probably heard about the Vehicle Design Rules (VDR) in White Dwarf #251 (and later reprinted in the first Chapter Approved compilation). These rules, written by Jervis Johnson, allow you to build your own vehicles and use them in 40K. Build ‘em, paint ‘em, write ‘em up, and put ‘em on the table. The rules allow for a wide variety of creations and are, judging by the posts I’ve seen on electronic bulletin boards, extremely popular.

But they're not for me. I’ll be sticking with my “off-the-shelf” vehicles. Why? 

Cost
These new vehicles are very expensive. When I read the new rules, the first thing I tried to create was the Apex Predator, a variation of the Predator Annihilator that has three twin-linked lascannons. I got the idea for the Apex when I was converting my tank and all I had to use for the side sponsons were twin-linked lascannons from an old Land Raider kit. 

Here’s the point breakdown I came up with, keeping all other characteristics (besides weaponry) the same as the Predator Annihilator:

Apex Predator


Apex Predator:
Armor Front: 13  Side: 11  Rear: 10
60 pts
Speed Normal
10 pts
Weaponry Three twin-linked lascannons
159 pts
Other Fully armored
10 pts
Total
...
239 pts
Compared with:  
Codex Version Predator Annihilator w/ lascannon sponsons
145 pts
Difference:
...
+94 pts

When I had originally created the Apex, I thought it should be 180 points. Admittedly, being able to reroll three dice instead of one is really good, but with the new rules, the Apex costs almost as much as a Land Raider, despite having thinner armor and no transport capacity. And that doesn’t include almost-mandatory vehicle upgrades like extra armor and smoke launchers, or a hunter-killer missile (which I’m fond of). 

My Fighting Tiger army is over 6000 points already and I’ve never been able to use all of it at once. I certainly don’t need to make the units I have much more expensive than they already are. 

Reeling from how much the Apex Predator would cost, I thought about using the rules to make smaller, less expensive changes to my vehicles. I had always envisioned my big Dreadnought, Shiva the Destroyer, (below) as being a real hand-to-hand monster, even for a Dread. Plus I thought it would be a hoot to have that big Voltron head I glued to him be more than decoration—those jaws could really work! So I set about to give Shiva an extra attack:

Shiva the Destroyer


Shiva the Destroyer:
Armor Front: 12  Side: 12  Rear: 10
60 pts
Speed Normal
10 pts
Weaponry Assault cannon; heavy flamer; Dreadnought ccw w/ Ferocious ability (+1 Attack)
110 pts
Other Fully armored
10 pts
Total
...
190 pts
Compared with:
Codex Version Dreadnought w/ assault cannon, heavy flamer, and Dreadnought close combat weapon
115 pts
Difference:
...
+75 pts

Cripes! Another 75 points for an extra attack every round? Fat lot of good that spending those extra 75 points would do me if a Bright lance pasted Shiva on Turn 1, eh?

All right, I thought to myself, how about if I used the new rules to save myself some points? In building my other two Dreadnoughts, Surya and Vashtar, I had used the smaller, Rogue Trader-era Dreads. Surely it was reasonable that these Dreads were less armored than the “current” ones—maybe I could save myself a bunch of points by reducing their armor and counting them as Small vehicles?

Tiger Eternal Surya Ashoka
Above: Tiger Eternal Surya Ashoka

Surya Ashoka:
Armor Front: 11  Side: 11  Rear: 10
45 pts
Speed Normal (Size: Small)
5 pts
Weaponry Twin-linked lascannon; missile launcher
93 pts
Other Fully armored
10 pts
Total
...
153 pts
Compared with:
Codex Version Dreadnought w/ twin-linked lascannon and missile launcher
135 pts
Difference:
...
+18 pts

Sheesh, an extra 18 points for less armor. Let's see what the "new and improved" Vashtar would cost... 

Shrendi Vashtar, Tiger Eternal
Above: Tiger Eternal Shrendi Vashtar

Shrendi Vashtar:
Armor Front: 11  Side: 11  Rear: 10
45 pts
Speed Normal (Size: Small)
5 pts
Weaponry Multi-melta; heavy flamer; Dreadnought ccw 
95 pts
Other Fully armored
10 pts
Total
...
155 pts
Compared with:
Codex Version Dreadnought w/ multi-melta, heavy flamer, and Dreadnought close combat weapon
125 pts
Difference:
...
+30 pts

You gotta be kidding me, Ace! I reduce the armor by a point on the front and sides and I pay 30 points more? Get outta town! 

Consistency
The second reason why I’m not using the Vehicle Design Rules is that I’ve been burned by this sort of thing before—twice, actually. I started playing in 1987, with the Rogue Trader rules that allowed you to build your own vehicles. So I did—I had:

  • The Mosquito: a one-man flyer armed with grenade launchers 
  • The Marut: equivalent of a flying Land Raider (made from a helicopter model)
  • The Cassandra: a one-man tank armed with a missile launcher 
  • Kitty's Dragon: a 2 foot long flying troop transport (a toy SR-71) 
(Cut me some slack on the goofy names, okay? I was a lot younger then....)

I wasn’t the only one in our gaming group to have scratch-built vehicles. My friend Pat had a four-legged tank (The Mock Turtle) for his Squats. Our pal Thom had a Robotech conversion (The Twinkie-Buster) armed with missile pods and dedicated to hunting "twinkies"--Eldar, that is (Thom had a dim view of Eldar). For a birthday present, I made my friend Brian a four-armed Dreadnought for his Khorne army.

The 2nd Edition rules didn’t allow for “Do-It-Yourself” vehicles, so all those creations eventually hit the trashcan. I argued loudly (and obnoxiously) to keep mine, but in the end I realized that Rogue Trader was history and that if I wanted to keep playing 40K I had to adjust. So I parted with all my conversions and bought, built and painted brand new vehicles: bikes, Land Speeders, a Whirlwind, a Predator, a Dreadnought. 

2nd Edition did allow some customization, however. The Dark Millennium supplement allowed you to swap weapons. So my bikes had storm bolters instead of bolters, one Rhino had a heavy flamer, my Land Raider had two battle cannons and a multilaser, and my Predator Annihilator had multi-meltas in the sponsons (now THAT was a tank-hunting vehicle). I swapped out the weapons on every vehicle I owned. Every one.

I was well-pleased—until 3rd Edition came along. Lo and behold, the rules for alternate weapons on vehicles were gone. So guess what? I spent a fair amount of time converting the weapons on every vehicle I owned to conform to the new rules. I wasn’t too unhappy, but I wasn’t exactly tickled either. I had really liked that heavy flamer on the Rhino. Ah well, I thought. Such is the price of a better set of rules.

And so all was right again in my world—until the VDR appeared, telling me that I could have my Rhino with the heavy flamer again (at quite a high price, of course). Well, no thank you. Consider this my vote of no confidence in the new rules. Plastic and metal is a bit more permanent than rules printed on paper or displayed on an electronic screen: after all, Games Workshop can change rules in literally minutes but it takes a bit longer for me to change my vehicles—again. Given their track record of changing the vehicle rules with every edition, how do I know these brand new rules will be around in a few years? How do I know they won’t join the Space Marine jetbikes and my Mosquito in the trashcan? The answer is that there is no assurance. 

Update
After this article was originally posted, my friend Pat built for me the Vedic Siege Gun (below), to which I applied the Vehicle Design Rules and have used in a few games. So I must have changed my mind, right?

Vedic Siege Gun

Well, sorta. This piece was originally intended as a piece of scenery, but just on a lark, I brainstormed what I could do with it using the VDR. At 140 points, it didn't turn out too expensive, mostly because I reined in: it's basically a lumbering Predator with an Earthshaker cannon. Sounds cool, but one good hit renders it useless. Still, it draws a lot of enemy attention and can dish a solid punch with a very long reach. 

But if Pat hadn't have made it for me, I wouldn't have gone out and built it myself. And if Games Workshop decides to abolish VDR a few years from now, I won't be crushed: this piece will go back to being scenery. 

I hope I haven't thoroughly bummed you out and turned you away from the new vehicle rules. If you're going to use them, have fun and good luck. I advise you, though, not to sink too many points or too much money into your creations. 
 

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© copyright Kenton Kilgore, November 2000.

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Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle