It can be really fun to think of counts-as armies and units for 40k. There are so many great gems in the long-running background of the game that are crying out for imaginative modelling. When I was younger I used to enjoy the wholesale invention of units and rules, but nowadays I prefer to work within the framework of the existing rules for a few reasons.
Firstly, it gives you more freedom to use your awesome counts-as force competitively or against someone you’ve never met without having to worry about balance or accusations of cheating. Secondly, I find it hard to know when to stop modifying a system – at what point does it stop being Warhammer 40k and start being My Totally Awesome 40k-Derivative Sci-fi Wargame? Counts-as solves all those problems, plus I find it fun to try to fit old or untreated ideas into the existing material.
So without further ado, here are a few counts-as ideas I’ve had. Some are more original than others, and some are for units rather than armies. I should probably add that they are all themed, not counts-as for the purposes of competitive play. So there’s no Space Wolves as Ultramarines or anything like that.
Feel free to use any of these ideas or add your own, I know I’ll never get around to making any of them (probably):
- Genestealer Cult using Codex: Orks: This is probably my favourite. With Gretchin as civilian cultists, Ork Boyz as brood brothers/hybrids and Nobz as bigger hybrids, I think the ramshackle weapons, poor discipline and savage, fanatical close combat abilities reflect a Genestealer Cult well. The trukks with big shootas could even function as limos with heavy stubbers. With a bit of imagination the HQs could be all manner of huge and/or psychic hybrids, magi or broodlords. A kustom force field could easily be a psychic defence field for example.
- Space Ninja using Codex Imperial Guard: Imagine a medieval Imperial world similar to fantasy feudal Japan, ruled by ninja clans like in the Ninja Scroll anime or Tenchu games. With Al’Rahem as your platoon commander and troops made up of Veterans with the Forward Sentries doctrine and Penal Legionnaires, you’d have an army of skirmishing martial-arts warriors. I imagine them with simple baggy green uniforms with brown armour and scarves on their faces. You could even use Dark Eldar mandrake legs for the officers, now that they’re finecast and easy to hack to bits.
- Speaking of Penal Legion, what about modelling Penal Legion as Underhive Scavvies or mutants, pressed into battle? Or Ash Waste nomads? If you think about how they work in-game they are perfect for any sort of skirmish troops.
- Ratlings as child soldiers. This one is a little grim, but how about a hard-pressed world that forces children and conscripted women into the Guard as sharpshooters? It explains the reduced Weapon Skill, Strength and Leadership, and you don’t have to have space hobbits or snipers who are inexplicably weaker and more cowardly than the rest of your army. It’s hard to source models for this though (I may have tried . . .)
- Adeptus Mechanicus using Codex: Witch Hunters: This idea is almost outdated now, so I wish I’d done it before, but think about it: Arco-flagellants as electro-priests, Inquisitors as Magi, Sisters of Battle as Skitarii (the power armour is their augmetics, and Faith is experimental tech or combat drugs). Assassins as cyborg operatives. It would be so easy and so cool.
- Finally, this one isn’t much of a stretch, but what about Dark Eldar as Eldar Corsairs? Just model them using craftworld and Warhammer Elf bits as well, and you have those lovable 80’s space-pirates, like Dark Eldar minus the leather and cruelty.
Like I said, feel free to use or share. I’d love to see some of these ideas come to life, and I don’t have the time to do it. If I think of any more I’ll do another one of these.