What To Do About the Inquisition

Updated February 2012 – Since I wrote this article, ‘Codex: Daemonhunters’ has been replaced by ‘Codex: Grey Knights’ and ‘Codex: Witch Hunters’ has been replaced by ‘Codex: Sisters of Battle’ (in White Dwarf). Some of the problems I described have been fixed by virtue of Inquisitors only appearing the the former: the latter reverting to a pure Ecclesiarchy force.

Some background – I’m a long time 40k player, having started my Imperial Guard army when the 1st edition plastic boxed set came out, and my Sisters of Battle when the 2nd edition Codex came out. I even have one of those old ‘Inquisitor in Terminator Armour’ models.

So what’s the problem?

The basic problem is that the Daemonhunters and Witch Hunters Codices are among the oldest Codices still playable in Warhammer 40,000. In fact they came out when the game was in its 3rd edition, and it is now up to 5th edition. I think the real problem is that they are seen as less powerful than more recent codices.

The popular solution

The idea that is being talked about around the web is that they could be revived as a combined ‘Codex: Inquisition’. It would update units from Daemonhunters and Witch Hunters, and add new units for the other branch of the Inquisition, the Ordo Xenos or Alien Hunters. During the update, the codex would be balanced against other current armies.

I feel this would be a mistake – it needs more thought put into it than just an update of the current situation. I’ll try and describe some reasons.

The Inquisition is not an army

In the 40k background, Inquisitors are clearly important and powerful figures. They have inspired the games Inquisitor and Dark Heresy, and many Black Library novels. But Inquisitors are individuals, not line fighting forces. While they might appear on the battlefield from time to time, the place for them is alongside requisitioned Imperial troops, Guard or Marines. Because of the way 40k is structured now, the codices were written to make Inquisitors have separate armies, but they should really be seen as part of the Imperial structure.

The Inquisition Codices are not just about the Inquisition

In order to make up enough different units to make a viable codex in the 3rd edition style, the Inquisition codices seem to have become the dumping ground for anything that is Imperial but not the Guard or Marines. There are several different organisations represented:

Inquisition

Obviously the Inquisition themselves appear, but are only really represented by Inquisitors and their retinues, Stormtroopers, Death Cult and Daemonhosts.

Ecclesiarchy

As a pre-existing Sisters of Battle player I was quite annoyed by the ret-con in Witch Hunters which made them attached to the Ordo Hereticus. In fact most of the units in Witch Hunters are really Ecclesiarchy/Adeptus Ministorum troops.

Adeptus Arbites

Only appear as a ’designer’s note’

Grey Knights

Really were attached to the Inquisition in the background previously, so this is less of a problem.

Assassins

Again, are really a separate Imperial organisation.

They still don’t have a great choice of units

Even after bundling together various troops, the codices are still lacking in viable choices. In Fast Attack in particular there is only really one properly different unit, the Seraphim, out of two codices. (Dominions and Grey Knights Teleport squads are just minor variations on Troops choices).

The codices were intentionally ‘fluffy’

These codices were not intended to be ‘competitive’ in the same way as other armies – they exist to flesh out units which are in the background but wouldn’t otherwise appear in the game. The ‘adversaries’ and ‘narratives’ sections in the books demonstrate that they were aimed at players who want to set up their own scenarios which are as much about story-telling as playing the game. So the ‘power level’ problem of these codices isn’t because they are out of date – they were always that way.

Inquisitors are very specialised

The names of the codices kind of give this away. They are specialised organisations which are dedicated to fighting one kind of foe. So Daemonhunters are (or should be) powerful against Daemons, but not so great against other armies. Again, this fits well with the background, but does not make for good tournament or pick-up play when you don’t know what army you’ll be facing.

A fork in the road

At this point, a decision probably needs to be made. Should the Inquisition be made into a ‘standard’ army which is balanced for tournament style play? Or should they be kept as ‘fluffy’ rules which reflect the wealth of the 40k background?

To fit the background, Inquisition forces should continue to ally with or use allies from the other Imperial armies, but this makes it difficult to balance out all the possibilities. For tournament play, it might be better if allying was disallowed, but then the army would need some more generally useful choices. They would also need abilities which are more generally useful against all opponents rather than their specialisations.

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