For some reason, in the last few months, "Counts-as" armies have become a topic of heated discussion. People have been really bashing some of the writers on the Bell of Lost Souls for articles on "counts-as" armies. Reading the comments on these articles, I was surprised at how many people were loudly complaining about counts-as armies. but after reading many many comments on the topic (many not even commenting on an article about counts-as armies), I have decided that there is one major problem with counts-as armies...
No one knows what counts-as means. I'm pretty sure that everyone has a completely different picture in mind when they talk about counts-as armies. When this big debate over counts-as armies began, no one took the time to clearly define what on earth they were talking about. now the debate has gotten so out of hand, that any time an article mentions "counts-as" it starts off a major round of angry comments. even articles that have nothing to do with the topic have people randomly saying things like "actually they're all just counting as space wolves". All this down talk is really putting counts-as armies in a bad light!
So what is a true counts-as army? its easier to start with what is NOT considered counts-as and go from there. with that in mind, we'll discuss three major categories of armies that have somehow found themselves lumped into the counts-as debate: army variants, proxies, and traditional counts-as armies.
Army varients are a staple of Warhammer 40k. Variants take many forms, the simplest of which is a change in the color scheme for your chosen army. for example, my very first army was Eldar. but I wasn't playing any old boring Eldar, I was playing Aliatoc Craftworld eldar! which really just meant I painted them blue. This is highly encouraged by most gamers, as no one wants to have an army that looks just like everyone else's.
So how did this get confused with "Counts-As"? During all of the complaining about "Counts-As", some of these beautiful army variants got thrown under the bus. The example I am going to use here is Goatboy's Space Goat army, the army that started all of the "Counts-As" hate on BOLS.
|Poor space goats...|
Really, this army is just the natural continuation of the army variant (albeit much better executed than my blue eldar). Each unit is converted, but still adheres to the space wolf design. Knowing that they are space wolves, it is very easy to spot which ones are long fangs, which ones are priests, and that the guy on a giant mount is probably a thunderwolf cav/lord. some of the models/bits are from other armies (like the Juggernaut) but what converted army out there doesn't use some bits from other armies, or even other miniature ranges? but still, people lopped this very obvious space wolf army variant in with the "Counts-As" armies.
With this in mind, I would put all of the following examples firmly in the "army variant" category:
- Space Goats
- Yellow Blood Angels
- Ork Kult of Speed
- little Timmy's "Ubermarines", a space marine chapter using his own color scheme, but still using C:SM
The key here is that the armies in question are all converted in some manor (from a simple paint scheme/minor conversions to heavily converted guys that look like farm animals), but are still at their heart part of the Codex they are using.
This is what most people are really complaining about. instead of saying "uggh, more count-as armies", many of these people are really saying "stop proxying your models! if you want to play space wolves, go buy some space wolves!" Proxying is what happens when you take models from one army and use them for another army. there are many varying degrees to consider here, but at some level they are all proxies.
Proxies come in to the "Counts-As" argument when someone proxies an army and then says "these guys count as space marines today" when his opponent can clearly see they are khorne berserkers. it leads to confusion on the tabletop and frustration from players who end up playing against nothing but space wolves. "Real" space wolf players get annoyed because they worked hard painting and modelling their beloved army, and a bunch of newer players are just tossing their black reach ultramarines on the table and calling them grey hunters.
Proxying is done for many different reasons. new players will often proxy units or entire armies before making a major purchase. maybe the new kid in your store wants to see if thunderhammer terminators are actually worth it before dropping 100 bucks of his meager income on a full squad. Some players will use proxies because they are tired of their old codex (yeah that's you C:CSM). a lot of "chaos" players have started using Codex:SW ("your longfangs make for much better havoks than ours do...")
The danger comes when a player who is clearly proxing their old marine army as a new blood angel/space wolf/grey knight army tries to make excuses. If you're proxying your army, its not a bad thing. there are plenty of good reasons to do so. Just don't try to call your WAAC longfang/razorspam army a "better fit in the fluff" for your chaos marines.
|chaos marines + warriors of chaos bits != space wolves|
The big example for this one is going to be Goatboys Word Bearers. Sorry Goatboy. I know he put a lot of work into the conversions and stuff in the army, but it shouldn't be called a "Counts-As" army. most of the models in the army were made up of mostly Chaos Space Marine bits, and the Word Bearers are definitely part of the chaos marines. The deciding factor in my mind is that you could easily make a Word Bearers army using the existing Chaos book, and don't need to use a loyalist codex to make a fluffy Word Bearers list work. It wasn't a fluffy counts-as army, it wasn't even distinctly "Word Bearers". it looked like a chaos space marine army, but played like a space wolf army. therefore, it was a proxy
- Goatboy's Word Bearers
- Space Marines of the Generic Chapter - painted neutral colors and used as a different army each month
- Raiders standing in for venoms
- marines with heavy bolters acting as grey knights with psycannons
- chaos marine army using blood angels codex
- converted pre-heresy death guard army being used as black templars
Traditional Counts-As is rarer than you would believe after all the debates recently. In my mind, a traditional counts-as army is where you use converted models to represent an army that does not have a codex, or cannot possibly be done using their current codex. if you're using a space marine codex to represent something from a different marine codex or even a xenos codex, you're not making a counts-as army because that army can be done using their own codex.
|They used to exist. kind of like unicorns. and common sense|
I don't want to define this category too narrowly, as there are a ton of good examples of counts-as armies out there, and people are really really creative when finding some minute little sub-faction in the universe of 40K and then making an army around them. We had a guy in our club who was making an adeptus mechanicus army using the space wolf codex. There is no adeptus mech. codex, and that may never change. but he found a way to use stuff in the space wolf codex to represent techmarines and their mechanical creations going to war to defend their world.
Some examples of counts-as armies:
(hopefully) my Harlequin army
Squats using the IG codex
Exodite Eldar using Codex:DE
Iron Legion Chaos marines using IG codex
So where do you fall on the counts-as debate? what "Counts-as" counts-as? did I miss the mark on any of my definitions/examples? let me know if the comments below. also, if you have an awesome counts-as army, share it with us!