Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cartoon Bad Guys (and Good Guys)

In this short article, I wanted to briefly talk about a few views that have been developing in the back of my mind with the recent releases that we have seen from Games Workshop -- and specifically the Death Guard chaos space marine faction for 40k.

My long term readers will know that I have owned a Death Guard army of one flavour or another since my youth. In modelling the Death Guard post-Heresy, I have long opted for the green colours of decay mixed in with browns and reds of flowing blood and the occasional purple of diseased flesh. Combined together, they make for a gritty and rather grim interpretation of the downfall of a once great legion and represents the monsters that they have become. Unconcerned with the feelings of the flesh and the dents in their armour, with the odd mutation here and there, they are a particular type of repugnant that only the grim dark can fathom.

In the new releases of the Death Guard, I have become a little concerned that the representation of these notorious bad guys has become a little bit more cartoonish. By this, I mean that the mutations have become almost laughable -- not so much the subtle change here and there, an odd horn growing out of the head or an addition to the armour, but a big gut of teeth and a mouth in the place of a stomach. Not some revealed corrupted flesh where the armour has dropped off, but exposed spines leaking gaseous effluent.

Now before I go further, I will readily concede the point that the ancient Great Unclean One miniature had a belly full of teeth option. So these kinds of changes are not without precedent by any means. The opening of the guts to intestines and the baring of naked spines have long since been with the Death Guard and the daemons of Nurgle in general.

However, the thing that is new for me is the sheer degree and the in-your-face style of these mutations. Many of the newer space marines in the Death Guard seem almost like an exaggerated cartoon of themselves in a number of regards. The over the top tentacles instead of arms. The exposed flesh is on almost every miniature. Combined with the proportions, it all adds up for me as being an army that now looks too cartoonish rather than inherently dark and foreboding. To much Skeletor's assistants, and too little fallen from grace.

Okay. Those are probably controversial views. I suspect that the comments below will soon have people chipping in saying they like the new sculpts. I can see merit in the sculpts, to be clear. But I do wish that not every single Death Guard marine was so over the top with the mutations and naked flesh. Just a little bit more subtle fallen angels please, and less of the cartoon bad guy would make it much better for me.

Let me end by saying something positive. I like the new Mortarion. In fact, I like this interpretation of the primarch even better than the Forge World sculpt. It shows him in his full corruption. Still wearing the battle plate from millennia ago. Still wielding his preferred scythe. Still holding Lantern. Still everything that he was. Yet darker. More grim. A true spectre on the battlefield. With appropriate levels of Nurgle built in along with the wings. His visage is that of a man who has been through a lot and has grudges unfulfilled. I really dig it.

Okay, I'm going to hide from the flak now...

Monday, September 18, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Acastus Knight Porphyrion

Rounding off our examination of units from Inferno, we have the Knight Porphyrion. This is a brand new chassis in the Horus Heresy and one that is very rare. Indeed, even the largest of Houses only have a couple as it is the ultimate sign of the Machine god's favour.

The background story behind them seem a bit odd as well: only those who have fought a brother over a matter of honour seem to obtain them.

Other than that, they are the supreme enforcers of a House's will over their scions.

It is a Knight. It is great.

More specifically though. It has a pair of magna las cannons that are twin linked. These dish out a large blast with Ordnance 2 and AP2 at S=10. Magnificent really!

Combined with this, it comes with auto cannons as standard along with iron storm missiles. Overall, this is a lethal level of firepower that will attract attention from across the board from all enemies. And rightly too. For if this Knight is not dealt with, it will represent a significant threat to most units across the board.

On top of this, it has BS=5 and good armour compared to other knights and a healthy hull point count.

This is not a close combat knight. Forget it. It is a shooty knight.

Although I like the naked knight, I do like this one as well:

Porphyrion with autocannons replaced with Irad-Cleanser (495 points).
Ouch. Just ouch. This is deadly to everything. Swap to las cannons if you have the points. It matters little. It is still a beast!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Vultarax Stratos-Automata Maniple

Hunter-killer. Rapid response. A scout. A lethal exploratory. An early mobile gun platform for the Great Crusade to help humanity expand its empire through the stars themselves. And a silent tribute to the Forge World of Anetarbraxus that was shattered to molten shards in the Mandragoran Incursion.

It is fundamentally a highly mobile weapons platform that in the future of 40k would become notorious for being blighted by Nurgle.

The weapons are standard fare to rather nice. They include two havoc missile launcher bays, a vultarax arc blaster that comes in handy with the Haywire rule at S=6, and a set of optional power blades that have rending at AP2.

The Vultarax has very few weaknesses realistically, although it will struggle against certain terminators in melee unless it takes the power blades.

3 Vultarax with power blades (570 points).
Expensive to be clear, but a very valuable asset on the table top that will certainly give any opponent a moment's pause to consider their options.

1 Vultarax, power blades, blessed simulacra (200 points).
A distraction, albeit a very powerful one. This can lurk behind some cover on deployment only to come out in to the open to rain death and then scoot to engage in close combat. Its a bit of a deal with it, or it will deal with you kind of arrangement. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Karacnos Assault Tank

A Triaros tank that has had its interior fitted with the mechanisms for the support of a weapon that should have been banned by the Geneva Convention and never made it through to the 30th millennium. The shells are (and I quote) "small plasma implosion devices wrapped around  highly toxic radium-cobalt isotope cores". If this description along didn't want to make a world press for a good deal and join the Imperium, I'm not sure anything would.

The main weapon of this tank is horrendous (as suggested above). It is heavy 3 with a range of special add on rules including the deadly rad-phage as well as ignoring cover saves. Although the AP is only 4, it makes up for it in the wealth of bonus rules it gets and can really be a great weapon for taking our infantry by the bucket load. Even terminators from the Death Guard would look at this weapon twice.

Beyond that, the side sponsons have their own little servitor brains that mean they can target different units and snap shot at BS=2. The armour on the front is a great AV=14 as well, and it comes with the shock ram that the Triaros takes as standard.

The tank has hazardous munitions that mean it can explode with a large radii. So one might want to keep one's own infantry a little bit away from the tank. Just in case.

Other than that, the points value might plausibly put some players off wanting this unit, but not many.

Just one to toy about with given that there are very few upgrades available here.

Karacnos, with blessed auto simulacra and smoke launchers (235 points).
You could add other things like extra armour or hunter killer missiles. But they're not strictly needed. I personally like the blessed autosimulacra rule myself, so that is why it is present. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Secutarii Hoplite Phalanx

The Hoplite Phalanx is the mainstay of the Secutarii forces. They are equipped to cope with challenging battlefields and to seek out and destroy enemy infantry who might otherwise be seeking to put an end to the towering monstrosities of the machine god itself. Beyond that, they are rather good at some small scale fights far from the feet of the titans and should not be underestimated.

The main strengths of this unit comes from a combination of the war gear that they are carrying. The 5+ invulnerable save from the mag-inverter shields is excellent and on par with terminators. The Kyropatris field generator argues for large sized squads to make the most of the bonuses that it gives to saves and penalties to incoming firepower. Meanwhile, the arc lance itself is a really nice weapon in both melee and short range which double up as a vehicle killer thanks to its haywire properties.

The main problem with this unit is the toughness of three characteristic. Yes, they have the invulnerable saving throw and a feel no pain save as well. Yes, the interlocking protocols of the Kyropatris fields is going to keep them alive longer. Fundamentally, however, the sheer weight of incoming fire will force them to take too many saves in the long term. In some ways, this is reflected in their price value. Coupled with this, the arc lance is certainly not a long range weapon. So if they want to go hunting, they need a method to get close. The Triaros transport is therefore recommended if they are not lurking at the feet of a titan.

There are not too many upgrades available here: most of them are about the Alpha of the squad. So, I will keep the build suggestions short, accordingly.

Hoplites with 10 members, Alpha with radium pistol and Omnispex (145 points).
Something of a baseline unit here. Grab a transport and go hunting, or keep near the feet of a titan. Or just hunker down in a bunker.

Hoplites with 20 members, Alpha with radium pistol and Omnispex (265 points).
A squad for the feet of a titan. Take augury scanner and shatter spheres to taste.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Secutarii Peltast Phalanx

These guys are the hammer on which lesser beings are smashed for the machine god, short of the titans themselves. Their role in the Secutarii army is to concentrate fire power against anything that would be an ambusher, or hide away in cover and take out a super heavy. As such, they are a very offensively designed unit and one that has the potential to excel in a number of areas of the game -- for a price.

The customisability of this unit is very nice. I think there are several roles here. The first one is to arm them all with arc rifles and then go hunting for tanks to take out with haywire grenades. The second is to use the S4 AP3 shots of hammer shot rounds to take out space marine enemies. The third is to go down the radium route and max out the number of wounds inflicted. The fourth is to provide shrouded through their special Blind Barrage rule. With two units of these using it, it can even provide shrouded to a super heavy!

Toughness of 3. Save of 4+. They are not the best troops in the game, but with a little thought (or a dedicated transport) they will survive long enough to hang around to get a job done.

Plus, they can get expensive. As the build below will illustrate.

10 Peltasts, all with arc rifles (220 points).
This is a dedicated tank hunter build. Place them in a transport to get close enough then unleash the volley of haywire. Halve the number of arc rifles if you are feeling lucky and to save on points -- I think I prefer to keep the numbers high and the chances of extreme unlucky failure low though.

10 Peltasts, hammershot rounds, Alpha with Omnispex (160 points).
A bit more of a baseline build, and one that can take out space marine squads.

10 Peltasts, all with radium carbines, Alpha with Omnispex and augury scanner (135 points).
Again, they will need a transport, but they can cause all sorts of problems for an ill prepared enemy.

20 Peltasts, Alpha with radium pistol, refractor field, Omnispex and augury scanner (260 points).
Weight of numbers. That is all. Take multiple squads for shrouding your favourite nearby titan.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Old Earth

Announced today via the Warhammer Community website, the latest Horus Heresy book from the Black Library that will be hitting the shelves in December this year is entitled "Old Earth" with the subtitle of "The the Gates of Terra". 

Ostensively a Salamanders Legion book, it promises to tell the tale of what happens next in Primarch Vulkan's on-going saga. On-going, since he simply will not die. Having been bodily transported to Mount Deathfire, he re-awakens once more at the end of the previous book. The outline for Old Earth suggests that he will have to choose between vengeance and duty. I think the title of the book kind of gives away what he might be choosing ultimately. However, we know in the background tales it is the White Scars (already depicted in the Horus Heresy series) and Blood Angels who reach Terra to join up with the Imperial Fists to defend against the oncoming storm of traitors and chaos powers. So what is with Vulkan choosing to go to Earth? Presumably he doesn't make it? Or is somehow way-laid. Or better yet, unlike the promotional material, perhaps he does opt for vengeance after all and that is why he never made it back. Heck, Vulkan has been put through literal hell between what happened to him at the hands of his brother, Night Haunter, and several other things besides (burning up in an atmosphere being near the top of the list as well). 

More than this, there is a throw-away line in the description for Old Earth that really got me interested. There are rumours of the mysterious return of Ferrus Manus as well. I mean, what the? How did this come about? Surely at best he was a fragment of a conscience inside Fulgrim's rattling brain. 

On the upside, only a few more months to wait to determine the answer to these riddles and questions. Will any ret-conning be happening? Or will Vulkan and the Salamanders never make it back to the Throne World after all. I'm going to wager on the latter. They won't deviate from the established background that significantly. Let's just not talk about Emperor Sanguinius, okay?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Secutarii Axiarch

Axiarchs are the leaders of the Secutarii cult within the Mechanicus. Rather than being selected on merit, they are chosen for having defended a downed titan, or having recovered one from the field -- one of the most "sacred" of tasks that the sect are called on to perform. Subject to further testing and evaluation, they are then rebuilt in armour forged from a dead titan and upgraded with protocols to replace parts of their brain. The outcome is something beyond a space marine.

First of all, the stat line of an Axiarch is splendid. Strictly better than a space marine baseline with three wounds and attacks, this is a character to be reckoned with. Moreover, it is also a cheap character for the baseline price.

The Axiarch comes with a small artillery of special rules and equipment. Firstly the Titanshard armour is basically power armour with added bonuses. The It Will Not Die rule chief amongst them means that this HQ will not go down without a prolonged fight. This is magnificent in the 30k environment for a HQ to have outside of a Primarch, and at such cheap points levels too.

One of the main reasons for having the Axiarch though is the ability to select fro the Binaric Stratagems. There are four of these and each of them applies to Secutarii in the detachment that have the Hazard Protocols. The first gives a bonus to feel no pain, the second move through cover, the third a bonus on the vehicle damage table roll, and the fourth preferred enemy against infantry. This can be a tough choice as I like many of these. Move through cover is somewhat situational, so I would probably opt for one of the others. Given that the titan should be working against enemy vehicles, the extra pip in vehicle damage is not too important. Hence I'd prefer either the preferred enemy for better aggression, or the feel no pain bonus for better defensiveness. I would err on the side of the feel no pain probably.

The chief weakness is the 3+ armour save. It is probably wise to invest in some invulnerable saves for this character via a mag-inverter shield as part of the build perhaps, but a cheap Axiarch can still be had at the baseline entry to take advantage of the precision shots. Just make sure to join him up with a unit to gain some additional benefit from the Kyropatris Field.

A pair of builds to consider below.

Axiarch with power fist (65 points).
Cheap. Cheerful. Yet still powerful and a character to contend with.

Axiarch with arc lance and mag-inverter shield, omnispex and augury scanner (90 points).
Take shatter spheres to taste if wanted. This build combines offence with defence and can be very good in various situations that require him to take on enemy infantry.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Secutarii Titan Guard Rules

Background material evaluation.
Developed in parallel to the Skitarii legions, the Secutarii share many of the ancient and near unknowable ways of old Mars. Their purpose is, simply put, to defend the titan legions. This might seem absurd at some level. But there are many threats to titans. The Secutarii are there to take care of would be ambushers and human sized targets that would simply not regularly be targeted by the building-shaking and tank-busting weaponry of the titans. Further, they are there to mop up the human sized remnants of anything the titans blow up. Like the people who are being transported in tanks or the ones taking cover in a bunker that the titan targets. They are also regularly deployed to defend a titan landing zone or just generally help with the titan legions, as required.

 In all of this, the background of the Secutarii comes across as very in line with the Martian way of doing things. They are highly dedicated to the machine god and go about cybernetically enhancing themselves and replacing critical organs with ones that do not possess the weaknesses of the flesh.

Rules Review.
Firstly, it is important to note that the Secutarii deploy as Taghmata. However, unless one possesses a titan in the army list, they cannot be used as compulsory selections. This makes a lot of sense really.

As Titan Guard, they are literally inspired to insane levels of bravery and therefore re-roll morale and feel no pain rolls within a wide bubble of any titan. This rule encourages the Secutarii to stay close to a nearby titan. This is fluffy and ultimately a good thing for the flavour of this army.

With Secutarii Hazard Protocols, they can act as one and boost their BS and snap shot BS for one turn. This comes at the expense of being able to make run moves (you probably were not going to do that anyway I'd think) and a penalty to WS and I.

The Kyroptis Field is a small field generator contained in each Secutarii that gets stronger (overlaps or constructively reinforces each other) with larger numbers close together. With 5 models, you get a re-roll of "1" for saving throws. With 10 or more, they get an Iron Hands inspired reduction in incoming fire by one. This is amazing and encourages large blobs of Secutarii to be deployed. Of course, this being Horus Heresy, you were probably erring on the side of large blobs of troops anyway I would suspect.

The Omnispex is a cute addition to some units causing a penalty in cover saving throw. Obviously this is situational, but can be very powerful.

Beyond these rules, some of their weapons provide for interesting options including rules like Haywire. Other special rules include Rad Poisoning that deals 2 wounds instead of 1 wound when the to-wound roll is a natural 6. Parabolic shot meanwhile means that one need not have a direct line of sight to the target which can be useful in some situations (e.g., hiding behind Titan's legs!).

The Secutarii are an army list that wants to go big and try to stay close to Titans. In some ways it reminds me of a human cyborg version of 40k Tyranids, but with different options and the big beasts costing heaps more!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Necromunda Underhive and Evolving Team Games

One of the main bits of news passing through the internet over the past 24 hours from Games Workshop is the revealing of Necromunda Underhive. I have fond memories of the original version of this game, and of analogues in Warhammer Fantasy.

I will start with the latter. When Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness was released, its impact was huge and broad. Not just in fantasy but in 40k as well. What were once nearly abstract chaos entities were given very concrete forms in a very specific and hierarchical manner. More than this though, the Realms of Chaos books introduced new ways to have battles and new ways to consider building armies. One of these was to build up your very own chaos war band from scratch and improve it from mission to mission. Sure, there were pitfalls along the way (the notorious 1d1000 chart in the same book had some serious balancing issues that were barely levelled out by the large number of possible outcomes on the chaos attribute chart that your war band chaos lord could get, and indeed: her or his followers). But the idea that you could "evolve" your team from game to game is one that struck a chord with many an old-timer.

Fast forward a little bit and we see this kind of idea take shape with Necromunda. You control an under hive gang of violent men (and / or) women hell bent on proving themselves better than all others, taking control of different areas and potentially suffering from serious testosterone poisoning. However, the thing that struck me here was not so much the random gains that one could make to individuals. No. Rather it was that the person in control of the gang could "upgrade" them from mission to mission. A reclaimed flamer was perhaps discovered in a long forgotten alleyway in the darkness of the under hive that was brought back to functionality by the gang. Now one of your gang members is happily toting a (very useful) flamer to cleanse all in her path. It is this upgrade and evolution that really holds the appeal to me. Having members of the clan or gang get better over time and still risk permanent death by the end of the next game is exciting, heart breaking, and interesting. It adds a new dimension of caring about the team and the individuals within it that is not generally seen in Warhammer 40,000 so much. Well, not unless you are one of those painters who scribes the name of each and every miniature on to their base or their shoulder pads. I sometimes feel Dark Angels should engage in this a bit more, myself. I digress though.

Beyond this thought (and attractive feature) is the fact that for perhaps the first time, the game moved away from the epic scale battles and skirmishes fought by the elite Imperium and the malevolent Orks (etc.). These kind of skirmishes were at a very much lower level (pun not intended) and between distinctly ordinary citizens of the hives of the Imperium. Thus, we got a little bit closer to the grim darkness of everyday life for some of the (not quite average) citizenry of the Imperium. We got closer to explaining how the hierarchy of the Imperium works with the rich on the upper spires of the Hives controlling the wealth and industries, the elites below them, the working classes facilitating the production of promethium (or whatever it is they do - I'm not entirely clear), the slave classes and the down and outs below them, and the gangers at the lower levels literally fighting for their very lives on a day to day basis. It might not be Nostramo, but it might be close. What it did show was the very real grim dark nature of the setting in a new light. 

In some ways, this kind of game can be seen here and there in different formats. For instance, Frost Grave focuses exceptionally well on a wizard and her entourage trying to Lara Croft the pickings out of a frozen waste land. Kingdom Death might be a further example of this where a band of survivors tries to build up their village over several Lantern Years and improve their lot by taking out various monsters in the heinous world that surrounds them.

These kinds of evolutionary games are very well done. It is really appealing to see Games Workshop once again go down this route in a very complete and well thought through manner. Although I may or may not purchase the new Necromunda ultimately, it really does bode well for this type of game and game system. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Imperial Castellum Stronghold Unboxed

This is one of those pieces that I have long wanted to own ever since it came out: the Imperial Castellum Stronghold. Remarkably, it is also my first ever purchase in the Realms of Battle style of board pieces. This ultimately means that I may end up getting more at some point. But we will see how this one goes first.

My Horus Heresy Review of the Imperial Castellum Stronghold can be found here. Clearly there are many build options to think about if we are going to use it as part of a game. For my Alpha Legion - if indeed I use it for them - it will come as a surprise for many opponents who are just not ready to face either an Alpha Legion force holed up inside the Stronghold -- or a portion of it that are infiltrating way beyond its boarders. Who says that the Alpha Legion are no good at fortifying their positions. With tanks hunters special rule on the battlements, I think this idea has a lot of potential. 

Obviously, it can also be used as a scenery piece in its own right without needed to think of using it for any kind of force. In doing so, I think I would want to consider a special deployment zone arrangement so that the Castellum is situated in no man's land at the commencement of any game given how good it could be if all its rules are in play. Otherwise, it could just be used as pure "scenery" in the sense of blocking lines of sight and being able to be clambered all over.

The picture above shows the Imperial Castellum Stronghold straight out of the boxing. It comes in a very large box from Forge World that is very well packed and protected from minor dents whilst in transit. 

What surprised me a little was that the resin it was cast from is black. I think I was expecting some kind of grey colour to be perfectly honest. At first, I even worried that they had sold me some kind of second hand one that had already received an undercoat of black spray paint. But no. The resin on this piece really is black to begin with.

Being cast of this material, the details on the piece are really crisp in most places. Indeed, there are very few holes or mis-cast portions anywhere on the entire model. Cleaning up flash lines will take minimal work. That said, I think I will glue in to place some small stones and scatter material before I undercoat this board centre piece just to add to its ambience. More on this project at a later date. Its going to be a long-term project!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Alien Wasteland Gaming Mat (Kraken Mats)

Following a high profile and well-conceived kickstarter campaign a few years ago, Kraken launched a wide range of gaming mats for sale. They presently retail through the German company, FantasyWelt, for about the same price as high quality mats from other companies (about the same as special runs from Game Mat EU for instance -- which in turn is higher than their regular gaming mats or mats from Deep Cut Studio). 

One of the key things that Kraken sells their mats on is that they really constructed genuine playing boards for their principle photography. Most of their mats has their basis in a custom board that has been specifically constructed for gaming. After building and painting their boards, they then proceed to photograph it professionally at high resolution multiple times over. After this, it enters post production where the individual photographs are stitched together and overlaid (if needed) to produce a final big composite image. This image then has some post-processing applied to it. Some of their gaming mats have more post-processing effects applied than others it seems. The bottom line though is that the final image for production in to a gaming mat is simply not one hundred per cent digital. It really is based on a custom board build specifically to be photographed and transferred to mouse mat material for printing. 

It was on this basis that I decided I would make a purchase or two from Kraken.

Below is one of my purchases, laid out in partial sunshine in my back yard. This is the Alien Wasteland gaming mat. Clearly, it is Necron inspired in background from a first glance. But there is a whole lot more going on within the details here. 

The first thing that strikes me about the mat is the sheer level of detail present. Unlike some rival products, the gaming mat is not simply a backdrop that is filled up with much bland detail -- I'm sure many of us know of featureless mats of green grass, yellow sandy deserts, or NASA produced pictures of the Martian surface from orbit for instance. Instead, since the gaming mat has been produced from a real textured gaming board, there is an incredible level of detail present here. This ranges from the grains of red and black sand that are clear in the board, through to the painting of the green highlights that streak across the plains. 

My only real criticism is that some of the shadows and reliefs might have been implemented better. But to be honest, it really is not noticeable at all. Plus: it is actually what it should look like from a top-down vantage point anyway. Hence this is no criticism at all. It is actually a compliment that the photography is absolutely spot on and what it should look like in "real life". 

Below is a close up of one of the plateau regions.

The shadows caused by the nearby "raised" plateaus are clearly visible here toward the lower right of the shiny molten looking sea portion. Speaking of that, it is very clear that a whole lot of work has gone in to the construction of the real life custom board that was produced for this photograph. Everything, and I mean everything here is just in so much detail. The game mat is just as much a piece of artwork as anything else if I am perfectly honest. The raised plateaus have been done tremendous justice with their green markings across the surface. I have no idea how the molten looking ocean was made, but that is a real highlight for me as well. It really is so well textured overall. As if that were not enough, the paint job looks splendid with the right combinations of what I presume are airbrush techniques, highlighting and some selective drybrushing going on. It really is just splendid. 

How does it play though?

I subjected it to the best test that I could come up with. The daughter test. Jumping up and down on the mat and dancing and twirling all over it caused no real issue for it, and my girl was delighted with the mat. She wanted to use it herself for her own games (of Warhammer ... and of other games too). Full marks for robustness from me then. The rear of the mat is mouse mat material (I refuse to use anything else these days) hence the tumble of die on its surface is muffled rather than very loud. Additionally, any little spills of water on the surface of the mat can be rubbed / wiped away with minimal fuss.

Overall then, this is a very high quality product. I am highly pleased with this purchase and would certainly recommend these mats to my friends across the blogosphere and the gaming community. 

My intent is to try to produce some pseudo-necron looking scenery in the longer term to go with this gaming mat. I'm thinking dark coloured monoliths highlighted by green streaks across their surface (see here for a much earlier prototype) or maybe even electronic looking devices strewn across the surface to make for a very alien feeling planetscape. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Games Workshop Liverpool

This article is about Liverpool in England, United Kingdom. As opposed to Liverpool in New South Wales, Australia. Just so that we are clear from the outset(!)

I get the chance to do a bit of travel in the course of performing my job. Whenever I visit a place that I've not been to before, or not been to in a very long time, I attempt to visit the local Games Workshop store and do a bit of a "Mystery Shopper" act. My long term readers will know all about this via my reviews of stores from around England and Australia over many years. Today, it is Liverpool's turn. 

Liverpool is a city that I know well from my younger days - I had relatives who hailed from that part of the world. In a number of ways, Liverpool can potentially be misunderstood by those from outside the region. Let me tell you: it really is a high quality, International city of great dimensions and immense promise. Indeed, its history is littered with important contributions to the Empire of yester-century, let alone the cultural importance of its outputs in entertainment and sport. Don't let certain Fleet Street tabloid publications (which are banned or simply not sold in certain parts of this great city, I might add) sway your ideas about Liverpool -- it really is an amazing place and I do highly recommend it should you ever get chance to visit. The regeneration that has happened in this city over the past decade or so is amazing. The dock lands have completely been regenerated and the "Liverpool One" area is as high quality as one could want. There are more historic (listed) buildings in this city than almost anywhere else outside of London in the UK and there's something for everyone here. 

The Games Workshop in the city is not called Games Workshop. Instead, it is entitled Warhammer. It is one of those stores that have been re-branded in recent years. I still do not know quite how I feel about it, but the look of the store from the outside is very slick and it fits in well with its surroundings.

The physical location of the store is amazing. It is a unit that is right next door to Central Station. Explicitly, it is in the same building as Central Station. For those that do not know, Liverpool has an extensive underground railway system with a number of different lines. In the centre of Liverpool, the underground Wirral line go in a circle around a number of key stations (Lime Street, Central, James Street, and Moorfields) whilst the City Line and Northern Line cross through both Central and Moorfields. I really do not know how much Games Workshop is forking out to rent a unit in a location like this, but I can only imagine it must be a lot. Seriously: its location inside Central Station building is amazing. The sheer amount of footfall that happens in this area is huge. It has almost unrivalled access for anyone coming here from greater Liverpool, the inner city, and from the Wirral. I cannot underscore enough what a great and accessible location this is -- it is one of the best that I have been to to find and locate to say the least. 

The store itself is modest to slightly larger than some I've been to. There are several displays, and obvious items displayed in the front window for shoppers to have a gander at. The interior of the store is well laid out. Although the tables are nicely sized, there is still room to go around the edges and look at the merchandise on offer whilst people are painting or playing at the main table. 

The guys at the store asked me if I was going to take part in the Konor campaign. I politely said that I probably would, but it would be back at my home Games Workshop and that I was just visiting. They asked me about my armies. I mentioned Death Guard and the Alpha Legion and how I was toying with the idea of making my 30k army fit the 40k mould. I'm not yet sold on re-starting a 40k Death Guard army just yet to be honest, but the guys at the store did seem very interested in the fact that I was rather the veteran gamer with a long knowledge of the history of the game and surrounding fluff. I bought a couple of things before leaving. Overall, the staff were very friendly and I don't have a bad word to say about the store. Top marks from me. But over the top marks from me for the location. I was blown away how accessible it is and how easy to find (its certainly not tucked away in some shopping mall like others are). 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Grand Cultivator

Catching up on recent news from the gaming sphere, this chap stumbled across my desk, as I'm sure it did yours as well. Slimed on to my desk might have been a better turn of phrase though. This is Nurgle's Grand Cultivator, Horticulous Slimux. 

He is a plague bearer mounted on top of a monstrous garden snail-like creature in essence. I want to make a couple of observations here. Firstly, this miniature is one that has been featured (probably repeatedly) on the official Warhammer Community rumours mill. Check out the legs of the "snail" (I know -- snails don't have legs, but I haven't got another noun for it just yet) -- these are the ones that have been featured on the rumour site over the past few months. 

The miniature itself interests me from a number of different angles. Firstly is the sheer whimsy and joviality involved in the sculpt. By this, I mean the pose and demeanour of Slimux himself, the "face" of the snail, and the hapless nurgling that has been left dangling in front of the snail. Obviously the nurgling is being used as a kind of bait to lure the snail ever onward. Its a bit like the old cartoons of carrots being used of a lure in front of a donkey to urge it onward. The eyes of the snail are directed right at the little nurgling, who in turn is wrapped in in some kind of vine and is looking grumpy about his situation. 

Slimux himself seems to be rather chilled and laid back. He is chewing on an old bone (freshly plucked from the Garden of Nurgle probably) in much the same way as a cartoonish version of a farmer might have some wheat or crop in his mouth. Or at least I think that is what the vibe they were going for is. Given the short length of the bone, it could be that they were going for a cigar replacement instead as well. 

Striking on the painting side of things is the existence of the eyeballs. Not only on the snail, but also on Slimux. In the older fluff, plague bearers would be depicted as having white eyes (almost in totality) to represent some kind of blindness disease. This guy is just yellowed, as is his mount. Speaking of the older fluff, Nurgle and his minions are often depicted as being rather happy. Since through decay comes rebirth of life and vitality. I think this aspect is communicated very well in the sculpt overall with smiles all around (of one kind or another) and a certain level of levity associated with the vibe of what is being depicted. I've not seen this communicated outside of goblins and orcs (Orks) in a long while and its good so see something like this appear after all these years.

Further interesting aspects of the sculpt include the Venus flytrap looking plant on the rear of the miniature painted in red. I have not seen much like this elsewhere. Being towed behind are ploughing implements to break up the land ready for Nurgle's special cultivation treatments. These little details all add up to a very whimsy miniature that looks more ready for happy gardening (or even a party) than warfare. Then again, that is part of the point. Slimux is really harkening back to some of the earlier materials in a way I've not seen in a while. Its a nice new, slightly risky even, direction and one I'm pleased to see the sculptors take. 


Dear Readers,

We are now back from holidays and lining up new posts for the coming week. Thanks for your patience and support (and thank you in particular to those of you who messaged me over the holidays -- I think I've got back to you all now, but if not, just gimme a shout).

More very soon.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Summer Break

Dear Readers,

I will be taking a little break from blogging for the next couple of weeks due to the Northern Hemisphere Summer holidays. 

I hope you have enjoyed the materials so far this year. We will be continuing with the Horus Heresy Review series in the coming months, as well as the usual digest of wargaming, photos, painting, terrain and other assorted hobby goodness. But for now, its time to recharge some proverbial batteries and take a seasonal break. See you in mid-August!

JabberJabber :)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Natural Rock Stacks

Today, I wanted to write about and highlight a set of rock stacks that have been in my collection for some time. They are supposed to represent natural rock formations as might be seen in hot, dry locations around the world as a result of erosion over many millions of years. Not quite buttes, they're more of a set of rocks stacked on top of each other that have resisted further erosion over time. 

Creating these kinds of terrain is actually remarkably simple and easy to do. The key ingredients are:

(1) Plentiful styrofoam;
(2) Hot wire cutter;
(3) Paints;
(4) PVA glue;
(5) MDF base.

Obviously, one doesn't need an MDF base for these items, but I find that it does help preserve the lifetime of the piece. Also obviously, most hobbyists will have paint in their collection. However, I tend to use textured paint for these kinds of projects to try to give a more natural feeling to them. I would certainly recommend that others try them out if they don't already own some. Making your own textured paint can also be achieved through the addition of PVA glue ... but that isn't so kind on your brushes in the long term, so I tend to stick with pre-made and shop-bought textured paint for my projects. Styrofoam packaging is plentiful in this day and age. Just keep some around in your bits box rather than send it to a landfill, and you're sorted.

Perhaps the hardest item to acquire is the hot wire cutter -- I would recommend mail ordering it if you do not live in or near to a major city shopping precinct as they can be tough to casually track down. This is an integral ingredient as it is needed to slice in to the foam and shape it to the desired morphology. To achieve this, I basically rule together cubes of foam on top of each other using PVA glue and base them on the MDF board. I then slice inward and outward at regular intervals to create the rock shapes. 

Painting them over with a dark undercoat and then a textured layer of brown works wonders. A brief dry brush with a slightly lighter vanilla colour and the job is done. Total working time is a couple of hours, but I think the results are very nice indeed.

Below is a picture of the desert themed board that I regularly use them on (top right hand corner). I think they fit in very well here. Although they also don't look too out of place on Martian themed boards either.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Warlord-Sinister Pattern Psi-Titan

Assumed to be granted permission to exist by no less than the Hand of the Emperor Himself, the Warlord Sinister is a psychic version of the regular Warlord Titan.

At some level, I can't actually believe that I'm reviewing this. As amazing as the Warlord is itself, the level of "wow" goes up to eleven with the psychic variant. In short, this titan is fuelled by the mental energies of captured psykers that are subsequently bled to a dry husk in service of the Imperium. Grim.

The psychic pilot rule gives this amazing beast a psychic mastery level of 3 and several reasonable quality powers alongside it. These include the ability nova a cover-ignoring soul blaze, the ability to repair hull points on the move, and a haywire vs vehicles or d6 hits vs toughness things models auto-hit witchfire.

Anything within 12 inches has to take a leadership check or fall back due to its shroud of terror that it emits. And should anyone wish to charge this thing (why would you do such a thing????) has to take a -3 leadership modified check.

It has access to a unique weapon called the Sinistramanus Tenebrae. We shall call it the left hand of darkness for the sake of my spell checker. This weapon has a huge range of 120 inches with an apocalyptic sized blast radius with Vortex / Fleshbane / Poison within the inner, middle and outer circles in play.

On top of this, it is a Warlord Titan. Game breaking AV=15 on the front and sides and a rather impressive 30 hull points behind 6 void shields. I will simply refer the reader to my previous article on the regular warlord titan at this point.

It explodes in a 36 inch radius when it goes down. And it will kill stuff with D strength hits in doing so in all probability.

Other than that, there are really no weaknesses. Thank Alpharius!

Here are two of my suggestions. You cannot go too wrong overall though.

Psi-Titan with Left Hand of Darkness, Titan Power Claw, Two Vortex Missile Banks (3400 points).
This is a close combat titan(!). Fire off the missiles and then get stuck in once the enemy has been softened up with the Left Hand. It gives the opponent a sporting chance at least. Joking. I actually don't even like this build. But its still ridiculous.

Psi-Titan with Left Hand of Darkness, Belicosa Pattern Volcano Cannon, 2 laser blasters (3350 points).
I like the shooting output potential of this titan. I like it a whole lot. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Legio Custodes Contemptor Galatus Dreadnought

The best way to describe this dreadnought is as an anchor point. Armed and armoured with some of the best technology in the Imperium and a pilot who was possible a great friend of the Emperor himself, the Galatus is simply an amazing power house for the slaughter of any enemy of the Imperium from within or without.

There are so many strengths here. The Praesidium shield for a starting point is amazing for the fact that it allows re-rolling of invulnerable saves. Better still, it reduces the typical to-hit roll by one (basically non-gargantuan creatures), meaning that its almost certainly going to have an edge in close combat almost all of the time.

The warblade it carries is amazing as well. Shred, rampage and AP2 mean that it will tear in to almost anything. And just for fun, an inbuilt incinerator as well. Who could want for more?

Look, it is not a Caladius. But you knew that already, right? I'm just pointing the Caladius out as it occupies the same force organization chart slot as the Galatus. That is all. There's competition here. And the Galatus doesn't move like a grav tank.

This is a very powerful choice that will literally chew up whole enemy infantry units in close combat. Getting the dreadnought there might be a challenge, but one that it should be surviving. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Legio Custodes Caladius Grav-Attack Squadron

The Caladius is a mobile weapons platform in a nutshell. It boasts the Iliatrus accelerator cannon that would later be retro-fitted to the Sicaran for the space marine legions, and can potentially take heavy blaze cannons instead in the much rarer annihilator pattern upgrade.

Fast. Deadly. Lots of fire power. Flexible in a pinch. And very handy to have on your side.

The primary draw back here for me is the armour value of 11 on the rear. Other than that, it really is a decent tank overall and comparable to a predator or a sicaran from the more familiar space marine arsenal.

They are so fast and deadly, that they are rather forgiving on the controlling player and I think they're going to see a good amount of use in either variety.

1 Caladius, armoured ceramite (205 points).
A bit of a baseline build. Take extra armour to taste.

1 Caladius, Blaze Cannons, armoured ceramite (220 points).
An interesting choice here. The exoshock rule can provide a vital extra result for the controlling player that can readily see the demise of any tank it is looking to take out. Overall, well worth the price being paid so long as a good target can be brought in to range. It could be very good against enemy knights for instance. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Legio Custodes Sagittarum Guard Squad

Theirs is the laying down of withering firepower from a vast distance. Theirs is also pattern recognition and recall to a scary degree. The ability to read a crowd from a vast distance away and pick out what might happen next are all hallmarks of this incredible group of warriors - rare even for Custodes.

Like all Custodes, they will be tough to dislodge.

The Adrastus bolt caliver is an odd sort of weapon. Its like a heavy bolter to be honest, but with a shorter range. Hence, although they can lay down withering firepower, other squads will do it better.

Arguably, its the second profile that you are taking the Adrastus for: the disintegration beam. With armour bane and AP2, these guys can certainly get almost any job done. But their range is very short.

I'm not sold particularly on this squad. They seem to lack the sheer firepower for their points compared to other heavy bolter units in the game. And the anti-tank mode is perilously short range. Hence they could make good distraction squads to place near enemy tanks. But its hard to see other utility for them as they're bound to get caught up in a tarpit (intentionally or otherwise) after this kind of alpha strike.

3 Sagittarum Guard, melta bombs, teleport transponder (215 points).
I wouldn't really take anything more than this to be honest. Use them to take out a tank and then tar pit the occupants and slowly kill them over the subsequent rounds. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Sisters of Silence Seeker Cadre

Purge the mutant! Cut off their retreat and encircle them all for the future of the Imperium! Or at least that's how I mentally picture this squad being used. The background indicates that their primary use was being deployed on the flanks and the rear of the field to ensure that enemy psykers could in no way escape what was coming for them. More than this, they are also an intimidation weapon. Their presence says to planetary governors that they must comply with the tithe and relinquish psykers to them. I can certainly buy that point of view with ease.

Fundamentally, this is a highly manoeuvrable flamer squad. As such, I think it has a lot of potential. However, to fully exploit it, I would recommend having a transport to unload them out of. Cadre tactics with infiltrate can be a good substitute here as well.

Alternatively, the grenade launchers with psyk-out grenades is a fascinating alternative for them to use.

Like all Sisters of Silence, their toughness is an ever present issue. Hence I think the way to regard this squad is as an alpha-strike squad. Deployed from infiltrate or a vehicle, they should be laying down some significant fire (or fire power!) before retreating away, or tar pitting an enemy.

5 Seekers, Mistress with power weapon (95 points).
Cheap and cheerful. And expendable. Set up with infiltrate to push an enemy to distraction. Take multiples at this points cost to be honest.

10 Seekers, Mistress with power weapon (145 points).
Still cheap. But so much flame!

10 Seekers, each with grenade launchers (185 points).
For when you really need to cause perils of the warp on your enemy psyker. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Legio Custodes Pallas Grav-Attack Squadron

The Pallas is supposed to be a hunter-killer with very high quality manoeuvrability and insertion options. It does not disappoint in these arenas. Based on the Coronus, it is smaller and meant to be lighter. It is also flexible in terms of its build.

Fast. Deadly and flexible.

This speeder is actually rather weak in some regards. With only an AV=12 on the front and two hull points, the Pallas will readily be shot down. Hence one needs to think carefully about how to best use these Pallas speeders.

I would advocate here that the Custodes player uses them as a flank attack, rather than straight up the centre. They need to be thinking about exploiting side armours, rear armours and taking care of rear elements of the enemy force.

1 Pallas, extra armour (90 points).
Useful, even if there's only one of them.

3 Pallas, 1 with adrathic devastator, all with extra armour and search lights (293 points).
The points add up fast here. This unit can handle many things in the game, but it must be used intelligently with a specific target in mind.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Legio Custodes Agamatus Jetbike Squadron

Custodes on jetbikes? You bet. This is one of the most amazing concepts in the game to be honest. Riding their golden steeds, these bikers are simply amazing and will likely be able to turn the tide of a battle if used prudently.

Where to begin? They've got it all really. Ranging from a toughness that can not be instant killed, multiple wounds, through to firing once with each weapon and re-rolling of charge distances coupled with being armed with power lances, misericordia and bolt cannons. Oh, and there is the usual custodes armour in combination with a refractor field too. Seriously. They're amazing.

I can't think of many. One can argue the points cost is high. But that is justifiably high.

I'd advocate keeping it simple here. They really don't need too many extras. Indeed, the heavy weapons that are optional here are not worth it outside of heavy support options. I'd argue they're not needed. Particularly if you think the jet bikes could get tar pitted with other units (thanks to the power lances perhaps).

3 Agamatus with melta bombs (230 points).
Keep it simple. Things will still die to them.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Sisters of Silence Pursuer Cadre

These sisters are the beast handlers. The ambushers. The quick and the agile. They hunt down targets at the periphery of the main force and given cyber jackals or hawks to help them along.

Let me be honest. I don't actually like this squad too much. Nor do I rate it particularly highly. I think it could have been actuated better than it actually is.

That said, the jackals are reasonably okay. I would take them in preference to the hawks just due to their superior utility for the squad. Although I guess that the hawks could be used as meat shields thanks to the relative high number of ablative wounds.

Other than that, they get fleet and move through cover. I'm a bit "shrug" about this to be honest.

They're still sisters of silence with a human toughness level and therefore very weak and flimsy. The beasts do little to add to this, although the jackals do have T=4 which is competitive with space marines that they might find themselves facing.

Cadre with 3 Jackals, 1 jackal with a flamer; mistress with Charnabal Sabre (100 points).
A bit of a base line build. Take a transport. Take a different unit actually!

Cadre with 6 pursuers, 3 Steeltalon Wings, 3 jackals (140 points).
Still cheap, but with lots of wounds now. Will still fit inside an Acquisitor.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Ramblings about the Death Guard Codex and Miniatures

My long term blog readers will be away that I have various soft spots for some armies, and am an avid collector of others. The latter includes the Death Guard of the 40k era.

Thus far, I have held off purchasing any more Death Guard chaos space marine miniatures. This has been for a number of reasons. Most importantly, I felt that I had completed my Death Guard collection a number of years ago and I had almost everything that I could have wanted to have in my collection (plus or minus some concessions). Vindicators, chaos lords on bikes, predators, plaguebearers, plague marines, and their rhinos were amongst many that I own and have played extensively with over the years and generally not embarrassed myself at tournaments with either. Also, I've been working on other things of later (e.g., my 30k Alpha Legion force) which is approaching a similar level of completion.

However, now that the Death Guard Codex has been announced recently along with the other codex releases (e.g., core space marines, etc.), I am sorely tempted to get back in to the Death Guard. I think the new codex is exactly what the community has been wanting for many MANY years to be honest. Well, even just cult terminators would have made many people happy I think. Myself included. I wonder what other delights the Grandfather Nurgle might have included in that book for us?

How have other people been finding the new miniatures?
At first, I thought that they were a bit dis-proportioned and not quite up to the same quality as the Forge World upgrade set. But now I'm not so sure. I do like the look of the pox walkers to say the least. And an army of shambling plague zombies does appeal at some level. But I'm still torn and not too sure.

Anyway, those are my internal ramblings for today. More in future weeks no doubt!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A quick Vanguard Detachment for 8th

I have been thinking about how to translate some of my Space Marines forces in to 8th edition recently. So, here is a quick and dirty Vanguard detachment that I came up with. It is based on the Alpha Legion 30k miniatures that I already own and is simply an experiment to see how some of the points costs and power levels might translate across.

HQ: Captain with Thunder Hammer; Librarian with force stave
Elites: 10 Company Veterans, Sergeant with Power Fist; Contemptor with Kheres; second Contemptor with Kheres; Tartaros terminator squad with plasma blaster
Fast Attack: Assault Squad with 2 plasma pistols and sergeant with plasma pistol and thunder hammer.

Total Points = 1192.

Power Level = 72.

Okay, so this is a very quick and frankly dirty list that needs a lot more thought. However, it is a viable list that will give some pause for thought for opponents in how to deal with the multiple threats (contemptors) simultaneously whilst watching out for the faster moving assault squad backed up by both veterans and terminators.

The librarian is there for utility and the captain was originally meant to be represented by Dynat and might not be a bad approximation for the model at the time of writing. 

The points and power levels are low, so this is an army that is meant for a fast moving game and one that can be concluded in under 1.5 hours with a bit of luck. I might test it out against other people at a later date and see how it goes!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Wargames Gallery: Tau Assault the Big Guns that Never Tire

Truly, the big guns never tired in this game between the Death Korps of Krieg and Tau in our Goodbye to 7th Tournament a few weeks ago!

Monday, July 3, 2017

FAQ for 8th

Released yesterday, the FAQ for 8th Edition 40k is already out and available!:

Some interesting inclusions, clarifications, and omissions:

* Units occupying upper floors of buildings still have no FAQ for them (re being charged)
* Assault squads now have access to melta and plasma guns
* The points values for Typhus vs Lord of Contagion have NOT been corrected
* More than nine inches away does mean more than 9 inches away (thank you very much!)
* You can fire your vindicator backwards. Because vehicles are always turning on the spot during a turn.
* Do Orks re roll one or two die when they charge?
* What about Warp Time and Deepstriking?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Tactical Objectives for 8th Edition

Alongside other purchases, I bought a set of 8th Edition Tactical Objectives for the new Warhammer 40,000 rules.

The quality of these cards is high. Or maybe I just used to play with dilapidated playing cards too much when I was younger? They are easily shuffled if needed and dealt out with ease. That said, these cards are matt finished, rather than anything else. I might grab some of my old Magic:The Gathering card sleeves for these cards perhaps in order to improve their longevity.

The design of the cards is very functional. This ranges from their rounded corners through to the rules themselves and the pictures on the (sub set of) cards that illustrate their point (or are gratuitous space marines!).

Now, I know that many people have a dislike to these kinds of tactical objective cards. And I for one can readily understand why. The lack of option to ditch one of these cards that is simply not obtainable is a royal pain. I would expect to see many house rules allowing players to re-draw a card that is simply not obtainable. That said, there are of course command points in play that can help a player do exactly that. So maybe its not all bad?

Of course, at its base level, the cards are adding in an extra random element to certain games of 40k in 8th edition. Whether this is good as a ground levelling concept, or bad just because it is too random is up for debate.

That said, I do like these cards and their implementation. I just had hoped for them all to be usable in all missions.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Horus Heresy Rules

I'm a bit late to the proverbial party on this one. But on the Warhammer community website, it has been announced that the Horus Heresy will be getting their own rules set. This is not new, of course, as we have known about it for a while.

What strikes me is the replies on the Games Workshop Facebook group. When asked whether the psychic phase was going to be revised or not, there were a lot of non committal answers given. Why would this be so? Have Forge World or GW not agreed upon the rules yet? Are things in such a state of flux that straight forward questions like this cannot be answered? Or perhaps are we saving ourselves up for spoilers that will be revealed later.

From what was stated though, it is clear that the Horus Heresy rules are going to be an updated version of 7th with all of the needless stuff eliminated from the set. So entries like "And They Shall Know No Fear" will likely be removed from this rule book and other rules (perhaps a full explainer of "Primarch" rules) will be inserted?

In all of this, I'm somewhat torn. I do like the effort they have made to keep things in 7th at some level. But at another level, its really disheartening that the community has been split like this. I'd still like to play against Eldar using whatever set of rules we can. But should that be 7th or 8th edition? I no longer know. No one does. Until there is a 30k Eldar book released, I guess we will do what we can. Which will probably mean I write a space marine army list for my Alpha Legion. It will lack all the character that I have grown accustomed to though. Equally, this is a fate shared by 40k armies like the Raven Guard (or basically anything that isn't vanilla marines). Hopefully the newer 40k codex releases will give some flavour back to these armies and I can write some kind of army list for 8th that would be an Alpha Legion analogue (perhaps based on the Raven Guard -- hence my mentioning them in particular).

Monday, June 26, 2017

8th Edition Command Dice - Thoughts

I decided to order a set of Games Workshop's "command dice" when I ordered my copy of the hard back 8th edition rule book.

These die are a bit of a novelty thing for me if I'm perfectly honest. In the picture above, I show them fresh out of the plastic cylinder tube (top of image) that they came in. The skulls on the die in the middle of the image make it tough to see or discern the actual number being rolled in my opinion. For die, it would have been better to just use pips or a single number in a recognisable font. 

That said, the express purpose of these die is to keep track of the command points that one has in their pool. It is for this purpose that I'm going to give them a pass mark. The thing is, these die are very obviously different to any other die in anyone's collection. As such, they are hugely distinct. This is fundamentally what makes them perfect for this kind of "keeping tabs" usage. I will personally be using them in this manner. Most assuredly, I will never be using them for rolling purposes. 

The final six die (lower part of the image) are for combat statuses. They make it simpler to keep track of various things that are going on during the game and the phases that happen. I am uncertain if I will actually use these particular die. I'm a bit on the fence about them. Take, for instance, the ones that show footprints inside an arrow. The design is precisely the same as the plastic counters / markers that came out with 5th edition. I never even used the full array of counters -- particularly the run ones! Hence, my feelings about these 6 die are exactly the same that I had in 5th edition. Just a bit of a gimmick really. 

Hence, overall, I'll be using some of these die, but not all of them. Would be interested to hear other people's point of view in the comments or via Facebook

Sunday, June 25, 2017

8th Edition Story

Most of what I'm about to put in writing has already been stated plenty of times over. Today, I wanted to chime in with an old timer's point of view. As my long term readers will be (painfully or otherwise) aware, I have been involved in this hobby since Rogue Trader days to a greater or lesser extent.

Over that time period, I've seen a vast number of things change. Not just rules, but the setting as well. Back in the old days, Tau were nowhere. Necrons did not exist. Tyranids were gaunt looking things. Genestealers were beasts that lurked on space hulks and infected whole planets much as they do right now, but were not connected to the Tyranids. Unlike Zoats. They were a Tyranid slave race. Eldar were pirates. They didn't have any aspect warriors at all. Orks were orks. And some of them liked Khorne so much that they worshipped him. (some were also hyribized by genestealers). As did some of the Night Lords. The Alpha Legion might have been Slaanesh fanatics. The Iron Warriors might have been slightly too.

Many people will contend that the 40k timeline has never evolved. I would agree, but with the critical caveat that it has evolved by ret-con to a strong degree. Eldar were once piratical maniacs to be feared. But now they're the seed of a new victory over the chaos gods. The necrons were merely asleep. The Tyranids were always on their way, you see.

With 8th edition, the timeline has truly advanced for the first time in a long time. The return of Guilliman is simply unprecedented in all of 40k. And with him, the ten thousand year long plan that no one ever heard of, or discovered, to build better space marines. The Primaris Space marines. But they don't fit in rhino tanks much like terminators don't. Drop pod armies also seem to be a thing that is about to be dropped in to the past.

The new 40k seems ripe with new possibilities. Although I am cautious about the story line being advanced significantly, I actually don't mind. I think this has been coming for a while and I approve of it. I will be looking forward to seeing where it actually winds up in the months and years ahead. Will they truly consider other sweeping moves like this? Or is it better that we all burned in the fires of Horus' ambition after all?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Note to Self: Mission Design

There exist a wide variety of ways in which to design missions for Warhammer 40,000, Warhammer 30,000, Age of Sigmar, and all manner of other games. One of the defining features of the Games Workshop approach to mission design is that there is no "automatic win" button. In some war-games, the killing of the general might represent an automatic win condition and the game would stop at that very instant. This generally does not happen in 40k.

Indeed, the closest thing to an automatic win is usually (but not always) a complete massacre of the opposing force.

When this condition is met, the winner usually is considered to have won the "primary" mission. Arguably, they have also secured all of the secondaries and perhaps tertiaries (if they are being used) as well.

But herein is the point that I want to make. If the winner in a massacre is presumed to have achieved maximum points, what about the loser? 

In our recent tournament, we designed it so that both the winner and the loser had things to still play for even late on in the game.

For those people aiming for a massacre style victory, we awarded one additional point for achieving this goal. Hence we had some players attempting to avoid being completely massacred just for the sake of not giving away that final tournament point to their opponent if at all possible. This is a good thing and reflects not wanting to give up. Added to this, we implemented secondaries and tertiary missions that could be achieved even if a massacre victory was scored against them.

The most obvious one is "Slay the Warlord". This can be achieved even if one is massacred (and obviously happens by default if one is victorious in a massacre victory!). 

Another is "First Strike" -- this is the same as first blood, but either player can achieve it. All they have to do is kill an entire unit in the first turn of the game. This not only alleviates the bias from achieving first blood from who goes first (which is undeniably a huge contributing factor), but gives both players something to aim for.

Other examples include moving a particular unit to a particular destination during the course of a game. This can still happen for anyone who subsequently gets massacred.

Hence, when designing missions, we like to frequently include at least one or two (secondaries or tertiaries) that can be scored by someone who eventually gets massacred regardless. It still gives people something to play for. Of course, there are still aspects of the game, such as having a unit in the oppositions deployment zone at the end of the game, that cannot be achieved if one is massacred. Instead, perhaps award a secondary or tertiary for moving all of ones own units out of their deployment zone (and thus score secondaries that way) rather than depend on the state of the game on the final turn. In this way, both players have things to aim for that they can achieve tournament points for during the game, and not just at the end. Meanwhile, having that extra point for a total wipe out victory will drive the win-at-all-costs player onward, and probably to distraction (as we experienced the other week!). 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

8th Edition Rulebook First Impressions

It feels like a very long time since I pre-ordered my copy of the 8th Edition rulebook. (Note to self: it isn't that long ago really!). It also feels like a long time since Games Workshop send me their notification email that it had been dispatched. (Note to self: it wasn't -- it was totally consistent with the expectation date of dispatch!). It feels like it has been in the postal system for quite some time. (Note to self: you are absolutely correct in that assumption, even if you're wrong about the other two!). 

But finally. FINALLY! It is here!

The shrink wrapping in the picture certainly didn't last too long, rest assured!

There are a number of facets of this new rulebook that I would like to comment on. I don't think I will do it all in one post though. So today, I'm going to focus on global impressions.

Firstly is the organisation of the book itself. Most of the background material is presented to the front end of the book, with a strong focus on the Imperium of Man itself. This is to be expected at some level. Yet, it does represent a deviation from some of the other core presentations where the rules came nearer to the front and the background materials to the back of the book. And of course, it differs from the 7th edition rule book that had three different volumes combine in one sturdy cardboard sleeve. 

I rather like the idea of having a lot more focus on the background and on the fluff side of things right up front. Being an old-timer (Rogue Trader) person, this certainly appeals to me. I just find it a pity that they could not small-font all the unit entries in to the back of the book as well instead of having several different pseudo-codexes produced alongside this (and codexes that are going to be outdated rather quickly if I'm reading between the lines correctly). That would have been much better, and probably would have harkened back to the Rogue Trader era a bit more for us very old timers!

Gaming Photography.
The second and final thing that I'm going to note for today is some of the photography. If I flick through the older rulebooks and search for people playing the game, they are generally (but maybe not exclusively) white males. Many appearing somewhat middle-aged. In this rule book, what is striking to me is how this has changed (for the better) to have more women visibly playing the game. Now, of course, these are probably staged photographs. But with daughters of my own who are getting in to the hobby, I welcome this change of focus away from men and encouraging women and girls in to the hobby. About (redacted) time frankly. Gaming should not be seen as a white, male, young person (possibly testosterone poisoned judging by some of the comments on various forums out there) hobby. It is for everyone who is interested. 

Good on Games Workshop for updated their marketing, sincerely from me. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Battle Report: Ynnari vs Alpha Legion (1500 pts)

The final in the series of battle reports today from the "End of 7th" tournament we had. This time, I am using my 30k Alpha Legion forces against Eldar Ynnari, in the third match of three (following on from the Tau in Game Two). 

I also have a confession to make. This was the first time ever that I'd faced a true Ynnari Eldar force. I really had not much of a clue what to expect beyond knowing the mechanics of the "burst" a little bit.

My forces remained unchanged from the previous matchup: 

Alpha Legion List: 
HQs: Autilon Skorr (Pride of the Legion Rite of War), Master of Signals 
Elites: Contemptor Mortis Dreadnought (Kheres) 
Troops: Assault Squad (plasma pitols, serg with thunder hammer); Terminator Squad (Axes, plasma blaster, thunder hammer); Veteran Squad (two melta guns) 
Fast Attack: Storm Eagle (las cannons) 
Heavy Support: Heavy support squad (missile launchers)

The Ynnari were running the following.

Ynnari Eldar List:
Reborn Host
HQs: Eldard, Farseer with singing spear and Anath'lan stone
Elites: 5 Wraithguard, Death Jester with lost shroud, haywire grenades, shrieker cannon, Shadowseer with mask of secrets, haywire grenades, mastery lvl 2, neuro disruptor
Troops: 5 Rangers, 3 wind riders with scatter lasers

Aspect Host Formation: 4xDire Avengers with exarch; 6xDire Avengers with exarch and wave serpent (target matrix, holo fields, shuriken cannon, spirit stones, bright lance), 5xWarp Spiders with exarch.

Ulthew Strikeforce:
Elites: 10x Black Guardians with eldar missile launcher platform 

To be honest, I was dreading facing this list. Plenty of firepower in there and nothing I can do against the psychic strength of the list either. 

The one thing -- and it was a very critical thing -- that I had going for me was that I managed to gain the initiative to go first. Deploying across the board, I decided that I wanted to take out the Eldar piecemeal style and target their key assets. The game objective was the simplest one possible: annihilation of the enemy. The winner would be decided by the points value of the opposition we managed to take down. Really as simple as that.

Early Turns (and the flank).

In the early turns, I advanced my foot-slogging veterans up the table to try to out gun the dire avengers that they had in front of them. They took several out.

But they were rapidly reinforced by the jet bikes who retaliated well against my marines.

A game of cat and mouse followed on this particular side of the board featuring me trying to keep pace with the Eldar and gunning them down whenever I could. The chance to charge the Eldar never really materialised, so I relied on the bolters and the melta guns I had to do the dirty work here. But it was not without significant casualties. 

Middle Turns (and the rest of the board).
In the middle of the game, several key things happened, broadly in swift succession.

The first one was that I made the mistake of killing the warp spiders with the Master of Signals. This prompted the Death Jester to spike in his burst. Its a very nasty combination that I hadn't really thought about too hard. The Death Jester shot at my assault squad, forcing them to take a morale test. Which they dutifully failed and started fleeing backwards off the table.

Rallying them the next turn, I charged them toward the Jester. Shooting on overwatch, the Jester killed again. By the time I'd taken out the wave serpent with my contemptor dreadnought, he was bursting again. I really didn't think that vehicles could cause a burst, but they do. Drat. I'll remember that for next time.

Hence, by the time I actually managed to get in to combat with the Jester, the situation looked grim for my assault squad.

However, the thunder hammer marine was able to prevail here and finish the job finally. But it was a close run thing.

The turning point in the game really only came about when I managed to get my storm eagle on to the board though. With its extra fire power, it soon started to eliminate wraith guard and shadow seer. Eldrad lasted a little while longer, but eventually Skorr claimed his head for the Legion. Not bad for the King head hunter!

Late Turns.
By the end of the fourth turn, there were few Eldar left on the table due to the fire power (and fluke die rolls that I was managing to pull off). The sheer firepower that the storm eagle was pumping out eliminated any threat to it from the board.

The last few threats were the highly mobile units that were still around.

My decimated veteran squad finally did the trick though, seeing off the final jet bikes and their dreaded scatter lasers to ensure that the Alpha Legion scored a decisive Massacre victory by the 5th turn. No eldar left on this world whatsoever.

I hindsight, I was very lucky. Although I played my set up correctly, the fact that I went first really sealed the match up. I think if I went second, it would have been a completely different story altogether. 

Combined with the master of signals doing a lot of the (lucky) dirty work with the orbital blast and the storm eagle coming on to team up its firepower with the contemptor, the game was sealed by the fourth turn. 

However, the lessons learnt here were painful. The Ynnari burst moves thanks to the death of nearby units is immensely powerful and one that I won't forget in a hurry!
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