Alright, now that I’ve got most of my complaining over with in part one, and now that I’ve had the chance to take the army for a test-drive, I’d like to talk about the new rules and tactics. There are definitely things that this Codex gets right other than just Typhus (though, a week of reflection later, and I’m still pretty sold on Typhus). Last time I started with a few things that the new Codex got right, and then tore it apart. This time, I’ll start with what I know are a couple of nitpicks, and then I’ll move into the wealth of things that I liked about how the new Death Guard work. First – and this is a nitpick, surely – I’m not a fan of the new datacard aesthetics. The 8th Edition cardbacks had distinct art to differentiate between Strategems, Objectives, and Psychic Powers – I would have liked to see something like this to differentiate between the different types of cards used in 9th, and I also think that the 8th Edition cards had stronger, more evocative artwork on the backs. The box art for 9th’s is definitely an improvement, however.
What I do like about the new datacards however – even if they’re not as nice on the eyes – is that the layout is definitely simpler, more plain black-and-white, and more beginner friendly. I was also astonished at the number of Stratagems in the Codex and in the Datacards themselves – there seemed to be just as many cards as in the 8th Edition pack, and that’s with 9th Edition doing away with all of the Tactical Objective cards. I felt mixed on this, though leaning positive; I think the number of strategems could be confusing or potentially overwhelming for someone just getting into the game or learning the army, but I love that there are so many strategems that are keyed to specific units, like the Myphitic Blight-hauler and the Foetid Bloat-drone, that line up with the fluff established for those units.
There’s more that I like about the new rules than the Stratagems, though. First, while I know that there were concerns about the way that the new Disgustingly Resilient rule worked, I found that in practice – especially given that Plague Marines have two wounds each now – the new Disgustingly Resilient played out brilliantly. It didn’t completely change the game, but it meant that on my opponent’s turn they had to make some hard decisions on just how much to focus their fire, and what heavy weapons they had to fire into which targets. I was skeptical of this when it was initially posted, but I’d consider this one a win.
Secondly, I’m thrilled with the way that the various Plague Companies work and the rules that they get to work with. Because my army is fairly machine and Daemon-Engine heavy, I decided to go with The Inexorable, which gives me a whole toolkit of fun stuff to play with. The part that really stood out to me was the Stratagem that lets me cripple an opponent’s attempted charge – since I’ve yet to win a game against my best friend, who’s a “Genestealer-Rush”-style Tyranid player, this gives me a potential hard counter that I’m looking forward to trying out the next time we have a chance to play. I also think this Plague Company fits the very rust-heavy paint scheme I’ve bestowed on my army.
I’m also very excited to play with the new Crusade rules in the future. One of the things that stood out to me the most was the idea that by giving your Death Guard too many Chaos boons you actually risked permanently turning them into Chaos Spawn, no takebacks. While the thought of accidentally turning my Lord of Contagion or Biologus Putrifier into a 1 PL unit with a bad dice roll is daunting, this fits brilliantly with the fluff and with Chaos as a concept and I think this is a really bold way to punish excessive min-maxing of Crusade abilities.
I’m also excited to play around with Virulence points and building my own plagues – though I have mixed feelings on the idea that you start with a random plague. I can’t complain much about my *checks and double-checks notes* “Oozing Debilitated Sores,” but I think it might have been more interesting to build a plague completely from the ground up, a point at a time, rather than getting to start off with a fully-formed plague from a dice roll. It feels like it gives too much of an advantage right out of the gate to a player just for having picked Death Guard, instead of doing the step-by-step work over time to get to the rewarding feeling of having your own, complete pathogen.
Which brings me to another thing I like, and I think this will be the last thing I explore at length this time around – Deadly Pathogens. This feels like an amazing addition that synergizes on the tabletop really well with the abilities that various Characters bring into play, but also feels like it adds just a little more distinctiveness and customization to your characters. I’ve already upgraded a couple of my Crusade characters, and despite the modest PL cost these have definite potential to make your Death Guard more deadly, especially given how some of the abilities synergize not only with Characters themselves but with some of the strategems in the Datacard deck.
While I still have some concerns with rules or configurations of some units being more complicated than needed, and being perhaps less than friendly to beginners (and I’m looking right at the Plague Marines on this), I think that overall the rules give a good balance between new character customization and flavor options and a streamlined experience when actually playing the game. I think that the new rules also render Death Guard a more viable Elite-heavy army than they were before, with some of the changes to the Foetid Virion characters, and characters like the Lord of Contagion who have become a whole lot scarier with new weapon profiles and with the removal of Advance restrictions. I found that running my Death Guard in a game recently felt a lot more fun than some of the previous games I’d done, even if I had more units overall on the tabletop and was trying to accomplish more with them.
I hope this was helpful for new DG players or useful to someone thinking of picking them up, and maybe if this goes over well maybe I’ll do some other codex reviews or even fluff-reviews in the future! Thanks for sticking around and reading.