Monday, December 10, 2012

Ward vs Kelly

I've been hearing a lot of talk lately about what codex author people prefer. Nobody likes Robin Cruddace's books, but people seem really split on Matt Ward and Phil Kelly. I think this all started as a joke with the Church of Kelly, but people seem to be discussing it seriously. The overall perception seems to be that:

1) Ward codices are cut-throat competitive but one dimensional, producing only one or two good builds.

2) Kelly codices are fluffier, more well-rounded, and have more competitive builds. It's argued that they stand the test of time better.

I started thinking about it, and I really don't think this pattern holds up. The main argument for Matt Ward writing hardcore codices is the Grey Knights. I'll completely grant this fact, as Paladin lists are at least rock hard and always look the same. The only other codex I can think of that produced such a one dimensional death star list is Codex: Orks with Nob Bikers. It's worth noting that this was a Phil Kelly codex.

On the other hand, Phil Kelly is touted as the author of the Dark Eldar and Chaos Space Marine books, both of which are excellent codices allowing multiple builds and with a variety of fluffy yet useful units. The same applies to Codex: Eldar, though it is showing its age. However, people tend to leave out Codex: Space Wolves. As far as one-dimensional lists go, it's hard to beat the Space Wolves. While there are a multitude of fluffy units, how often do you see anything other than Grey Hunters, Long Fangs, and Rune Priests?

 Matt Ward, however, wrote the Space Marine and Blood Angel codices. Both books are well-rounded with very few obviously bad units (and nothing as ridiculously over the top as Thunderwolf Cavalry). In fact, I routinely here people say that Blood Angels is one of the most balanced codices in the game, with a multitude of useful builds that all compete well without being easy wins. In addition, he wrote the Necron codex, which is widely touted as an interesting, multi-faceted book.

My point is that both authors have wrote predominantly fun, fluffy books that have improved the game in my opinion. They each have written one arguably over-powered codex recently, in the form of Grey Knights and Space Wolves. As far as I'm concerned, I'd be really happy to hear that either author is  writing the codex for my favorite army.


  1. Nice post. Definitely think there's something to this.

    As far as I understand the GW design process, Phil Kelly will have been told "we've designed these ridiculous space wolves-riding giant wolves miniatures - write them in."

    From my experience, opinion the Ward Necron Codex divides opinion a little more than this.

    But overall, I'd saw Ward is over-maligned, great post.

  2. I'm not sure I agree about the Blood Angels... or maybe it's just that my favorite build (null deployed descent of angels) never really panned out, and as of 6th edition is completely dead. You can play 'em as codex marines with a little something extra that emphasizes close combat a little more, or you can use 'em to spam fast vehicles, but that's really it. I think you need at least four viable builds before a codex can be called "varied."

    That said, I have been having a ton of fun with my Exorcists, who are played out of Ward's Space Marine codex. Now, *that* I will agree is a deep and varied codex with a lot of options.

    Btw, my plan for saving Descent of Angels is to Ally a small Blood Angels drop list with a small Sisters of Battle mech list. The idea is that between vehicles, power armor, and an army-wide 6+ invulnerable save, the Sisters can survive a turn without the Angels. When the Angels do drop, the Sisters act as screening, to give the Angels a chance to launch assaults. With their focus on melta, the Sisters will also do a good job of popping any transports I still come across or putting a dent in heavy infantry who might give the Angels a run for their money in assault. Including a squad of dominion and a Baal predator keeps the list fast on its feet, as I have two units I can scout redeploy in addition to the elements that deep strike.

  3. Interesting read and it definitely give something to think about. I believe that Ward is vilified because of his fluff-writing in Codex: Space Marines, which was pretty terrible in some places. But in the army list dept., he seems to get around pretty well. I just don't like his inclusion of the "Fantasy dimension" into the new 40k rules.



  4. Its like herding cats really, if its a Ward codex you hear 'OMG is OP Broken!!! If its a Kelly codex you hear: its meh/underpowered...(generally from the vocal minority/tourney crowd on BoLS).

    Also, didn't Cruddace write the IG codex which is nothing to sneeze at. I think he just takes a hit (repeatedly) for then Nids.

    Still, read the fluff on Draigo and explain how that's not a 'mary sue' kind of story.

  5. Several of you have made the point that Matt Ward's writing of fluff is insane. I agree with that, at least as far as Space Marines go (I kind of like his Necrons fluff). His Blood Angel background sounds like the script for an episode of Dragon Ball Z, and the Grey Knights fluff is even more over the top. I think the Grey Knights bathing in the blood of Sisters of Battle to sanctify their armor tops even Draigo carving his name into Mortarion's heart. My thoughts in the article are more related to the army list than the background.

    As far as the Necrons go, I've had only good experience playing against them. That said, I haven't played the 10+ flier list so I can't pass judgment on that.

    As far as Blood Angels go, I played a primarily Descent of Angels list from the release of the latest codex to the end of 5th. I met with pretty good success, though a pure deep striking list has some issues (as I've discussed previously). I've seen quite a few viable BA lists played, generally along the lines of Assault Marines backed by Devastators, Bikes backed by Assault Marines, or Predators backed by Assault Marines. Beyond that, there's always the possibility for a standard Marine build with a bit of extra speed and durability.

    @Mark Stone: I have a similar plan for my DoA Blood Angels, using Imperial Guard rather than Sisters. I think Sisters will work just fine (better units though a bit more expensive); honestly, I picked IG mainly because they're more affordable. Please keep me posted on how the BA/Sisters list works out.

  6. @Codicer

    Will do. All I need now is to find a way to get my hands on 25+ sisters, one more rhino, and an immolator, all on the cheap...

  7. @ Mark

    And there you have the reason I went with IG. The Sisters will surely look better though.

  8. Well, I managed to solve that problem.

    When my army was stolen, I used it as an excuse to restart with the Dark Vengeance set. I traded the six chosen for a dreadnought and a rhino, which was good because I really needed that rhino (and I really *wanted* a dreadnought because they look awesome, even though they aren't so hot these days...). More relevantly, I just traded the rest of the set (cultists, Kranon, helbrute) for twenty Sisters of Battle. Depending on their loadout (I'll find out when they get here), I'll need to buy between six and ten more.

    Given that I also discovered a spare predator chassis lying around (the turret had long since been lost), which I was able to convert into a rhino, I'm actually just a few more battle sisters, a rhino, and an exorcists (which I'll probably make out of a razorback kit, as I'm not too fond of the immolator kit). So, depending on the vicissitudes of eBay, I'm probably only about fifty to sixty bucks away from 1850 points of allied Sisters and Blood Angels.


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