Apologist: I actually really like your proposal, care to get us started on Legion Unique command abilities? I really enjoyed what 40k did with combat doctrines, however I did think it was a waste that they were only one-use. The difficulty comes in making things different to the Guard order system, but I don't see how that would be a problem if each legion had a few unique "call-in" abilities.
Effectively, my suggestion is to get rid of the Legion specific rules, in line with 8th's simple, clean approach to special rules, and replace them with a far more extensive list of Command Abilities, which effectively replicate them.
This may sound a bit pointless, but the advantage is that you can then use the built-in points cost to balance them, and to encourage the taking of certain units.
So, for example, take two sample armies. The first is an Emperor's Children, the second Iron Warriors. Both forces are identical aside from the <Legion> keywords, but would have access to their own list of Command Abilities.
To take Kais Klip's suggestions as examples; the Emperor's Children list includes:
Flawless Execution (1CP): This unit makes a 4" consolidation move, instead of 3".
Martial Pride (3CP): Once per turn, you may consecutively activate a second, different unit to fight before your opponent.
The 'meh' and 'OP?' concerns Klip himself noted can be ameliorated with pricing.
Similarly for the Iron Warriors:
Wrack: (1CP): This unit automatically passes battleshock tests if any casualties were caused by shooting this turn.
Ruin: (1CP): Grenades used by this unit can re-roll to wound against units with keyword 'vehicle' or 'structure'.
Negative ones would be additional, cheap options for the opponent:
To the Bitter End (1CP): You may extend the game by one turn (to a maximum of X).
+ Hold on, that makes my army worse! +
Yes, changing automatic stuff – like Wrack & Ruin's auto-passing morale checks from shooting – to paid-for effects seems to be a downgrade. I believe that it would give three advantages to make up for this:
1) It gives you the choice when your troops do something exceptional; and allows for big cinematic actions by spending lots of CP.
2) It creates an additional level of tactical complexity while reducing complication (i.e. there's no need for you or your opponent to remember unit special rules).
3) Army structure can be guided by access to CP.
+ Theoretical +
On this third point, it allows the Force Organisation charts to replace Rites of War; simplifying things and making them less restrictive. This way, you can take a Recon Company as currently envisioned – getting a big CP bonus if you take three Recon Squads, for example – or you can sacrifice a lot of CPs by adding in things you don't want (like the single option Force Org in the main rules of 8th, that reduces your CP total by -1)
On a smaller level, it allows you to encourage use of characterful units – taking a Legion Tactical Squad would provide 2CPs, making it full-size would provide a further 2CPs. Taking the more rare or unusual units wouldn't: reflecting the fact that the army is less familiar with them. This would encourage the use of armies as they're shown in the background – lots of troops, for example – without penalising exceptional cases.
As an example, jetbikes might provide +1CP when taken as a choice in a normal army, but in a Sky Hunter Phalanx, they'd provide +2CP per choice. In an Iron Warriors Ironfire Force org, they might be -1CP; while in a White Scars Chogorian Brotherhood Force org, they might be +6CP if all troops choices are filled with them (on top of the basic +1CP you get for taking them.
This is especially helpful for balancing Legion specific units. Ultramarine Suzereins are a popular choice, so you might make them provide just 1CP (or even 0CP); while Locutarus squads are less popular, so you might make them provide 2CP.
+ Practical +
Some Legion/unit specific rules are easy to translate across, while others require a bit more forethought. However, the additional palette of 'rules crunch' this opens up is very useful.
To summarise, the use of Command Abilities would replace both the Legion-specific rules and the Rites of War rules. It could even replace and simplify a lot of the unit-specific rules.
As an illustration, taking Emperor's Children as your army would give you:
- Basic Command Abilities – the standard ones available to all Legions.
- Legion-specific Command Abilities – those available to the Emperor's Children, mainly based on existing Leigon special rules
- If you select your army from the Maru Skara (currently a Legion specific Rite of War) Force Organisation chart, you would have access to further Command Abilities unique to that.
- If you select your army from the Pride of the Legion Force Organisation chart, you would have access to further Command Abilities unique to that.
Kais Klip's list of Command Abilities is a great example of additional options that can either be built into the Legion-specific options, or the Force Org options.
To take another example, the Alpha Legion now no longer need a relatively clunky mechanic to use other Legions' stuff – instead, they might now have access to other Legions' units more generally – but with a hefty negative CP modifier, meaning that they're less effective on the field owing to a low number of CPs to actually use.
A Force Org specific to the Alpha Legion might give them access to loads of unique Command Abilities; so if you want to take a pure Alpha Legion force (rather than relying on a gimmick), you get rewarded for it.
Another Force Org might mean that they lose all their unique Command Abilities, and instead have the option of using the other Legions Command Abilities at a slight increase in cost.
+ Summary +
Basically, strip out all the unit and Legion special rules, and replace them with a real sense of Command and Control by providing CPs liberally through army selection, but forcing players to use them to gain the benefits. I believe this would make the Legions simultaneously more similar and more characterful.
Picture the armies we mentioned earlier fighting. Currently, the Iron Warriors rules means that the IVth simply don't flee from shooting. My proposed change would mean that they won't flee from shooting, but only as long as you're prepared (or able) to spend your 'Legion resources'. This adds an additional level of granularity and tactical choice, as well as simulating the fatigue of war:
If, by the end of the game, the Emperor's Children have been able to deplete the Iron Warrior commanders' reserve (by forcing him to do stuff), the Iron Warriors will potentially lose even their iron nerve and flee from shooting. Similarly, if the Emperor's Children over-reach themselves, they'll not have sufficient CP at the end of the game to keep up their relentless speed.
Perhaps the Emperor's Children player decides not to use their Legion-specific choices, instead relying on the tried-and-true options of the basic CP list – giving a rather neat way of playing Unification Wars/pre-Primarch games without any additional work or effort.
So, there's my proposal – I realise it's a different direction, and would require quite a bit of work. I do think that starting from a clean slate would better reflect the changes and philosophy of 8th by making the game simpler, and giving players back the power to make decisions, rather than relying on the exceptionalism of their army list. It would also give Age of Darkness games an additional levels of depth and interest without adding complication or demanding the opponent's familiarity, resulting in a fairer game that better reflects the background.