Codex Astra Militarum – A Review

warhammer-40000-logo With their name changed for reasons unknown, or at least unconfirmed *cough* copyright *cough*, here comes the Star Army – or Astra Militarum in High Gothic.  Or just the plain old Imperial Guard to those of us who will always know them as such (it even says so on the title page). Astra Militarum Codex We’re mostly all familiar with the new format Codex’s so I’ll just say it’s on par with the best of them.  The artwork is beautiful, it’s full colour (although I still reserve my love for the monochrome inks) and top quality throughout, everything you expect from the hardbacks. I’ve been quite looking forward to seeing what [insert authors name here as Games Workshop won’t tell you anymore] has done for the Imperial Guard as I wasn’t a big fan of the last codex, I don’t know why. Maybe because it was crap (in my humble opinion). Specifically, I didn’t like how the orders worked – the 6” range for Platoon Command squads was just unworkable, Vox Casters didn’t give you extra range to issue orders which just seemed plain stupid to me.  Seeing as how the orders system was supposed to be the Imperial Guard’s ‘thing’, I didn’t feel like it was executed properly as it wasn’t inclusive of most of the list, and forced you to either play in a very limited way, always take Ursarker Creed, or join the Valkyrie party like everyone else who wanted to occasionally win a game. So addressing the orders first, you’ll be happy to know they have changed for the better – not perfect, but definitely better.  It’s a blanket 12” range for everyone now unless stated in a special rule – and this can be extended out to 18” through the Warlord Trait table. The Imperium can send a message trillions of miles across the galaxy, but still can’t send one from one side of the battlefield to the other, so Vox Casters still don’t affect range – granting you the re-roll to the leadership test for the order to be carried out instead.  There are more orders now for total of nine – three of which are still for senior officers only, defined with an additional special rule over the new ‘Voice of Command’ rule which is what enables you to issue orders in the first place.  But a few of the old orders have gone (like go to ground) so a lot of the list is actually new – and also better accommodates things like Storm Troopers, I mean Storm Army, I mean Militarum Tempestus. Damn copyright. The Storm Troopers have changed considerably, now taken as elite platoons in the same way as standard infantry, with the officer able to issue orders to them and so actually including them in the whole army ‘thing’ this time round whereas before they just…weren’t really.  This is a good thing as it removes some of the reliance on the Valkyries as it becomes difficult to move an entire platoon around in flyers and is not really feasible points wise now the Valkyrie/Vulture points cost has gone up massively – which it needed to, as they were a bit too good.  And this leads into the primary reason for the new Rhinox Transport coming into being: it’s a cheap, heavily gunned transport able to negotiate difficult terrain – essentially a poor troopers Valkyrie on tracks – and now the go to method of moving around your expensive Storm Troopers without inviting the dangers of deep strike. It’s also worth noting Storm Troopers have now lost their Hellpistols and so are significantly worse in the assaults they often find themselves in, what with being so daring and everything. I’m unsure of the reasoning behind this, but the cynic in me is looking at the Ogryn shaped other new kit that came out and is now the only unit which can actually do anything in an assault without placing your Command units in harm’s way. Which is a shame because, for as much as Storm Troopers had a definite lean towards shooting, they are still supposed to be special forces bad asses who could mix it up in an assault too. A big plus is the addition of Tank Commanders, enabling you to do proper armoured companies with Veteran Grenadiers mounted in Chimera’s still acting as your troops.  The tank orders, whilst not amazing, encourage you to race your Leman Russ’ around the board terrifying your opponent, which sounds fun.  But while this is good if you are doing an armoured company, it may not be so desirable if you’re sticking with some foot sloggers. The orders also revolve around taking squadrons of tanks which again, is something that would typically appeal to armoured companies over everything else – in short, standard Tank Commanders only makes sense if you’re doing an armoured company.  Everyone else can take Knight Commander Pask –who’s got even better, and cheaper, and he now has a different effect depending on the type of tank he’s riding in (whilst also clearing up any ambiguity over what he could ride in for the pedantic souls amongst us). Take him with an Executioner and you can fire a single large blast instead 3 small ones, or give a Punisher Rending? Yes please, thank you very much, don’t mind if I do, much obliged….you get the picture, he’s cool. Very cool.

The Paskinator - now with added Rendingness

The Paskinator – now with added Rending

Some of the Tanks have got cheaper (although a couple did go up a bit too), most notably the aforementioned Executioner – which I’m guessing is to compensate for the fact it tends to glance itself to death with the inevitable overheats that come from firing three plasma cannons a turn.  But at least that can part pay for Pask, and then if you’re only firing a single large blast the chances are even slimmer. Conscripts also made it onto the reduced points list and are now very cheap – presumably in line with the Chaos Cultists who are identical. This makes horde armies more appealing now and if you can get your Commissar ‘Voice of Command’ via two of the Warlord Traits they can issue orders to them too – as long as they are your only HQ choice that is, which is a nice bit of character making its way back into the list.  And I think that’s where the book triumphs, it brings the character of the army back and away from the special characters you were forced to take previously.  There are of course casualties in doing this (poor Marbo) and it will never have the full flavour of a list dedicated to each world (still a possibility?), but it’s enough for you to generally field the army you want in the way you want. The book is a big improvement on its predecessor. The unit choices are generally cheaper and work better with each other, giving you a little more flexibility in what is an otherwise clunky army.  The improved order system keeps the flavour of the army intact and rewards you for holding your nerve and timing them right for maximum effect. It’s methodical, organised death – just the way the Imperial Guard should be.

Codex Astra Militarum is available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.

-Lee

Amera City Block Ruins – A Review

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It’s been a good few weeks since Salute and now the excitement of building all of the things has worn off slightly, it’s about time I put fingers to keyboard and typed up some reviews. First up is the City Block Ruins from Amera Plastic Mouldings.

City Block Ruin (with Buttresses cut to fit)

City Block Ruin (with Buttresses cut to fit)

I’ve never had the pleasure of assembling one of Amera’s kits before, although I have played over a number of them, so building one was going to be a new experience for me. For those of you who don’t know: Amera’s kits are made from vacuum formed plastic sheets which are very durable and almost act like a frame-work, or blank canvas if you will, for you to put in as much or as little effort as you wish into getting the piece ready for the table top.  Some effort does have to go into cutting out the pieces from these sheets, but it’s nothing more than the trimming you have to do with any kit, and you can be quite rough and ready depending on the look you’re going for.

This was one thing I found myself having to get accustomed to as I’m so used to carefully trimming and assembling each piece so as not to do anything wrong.  The Amera kits are quite a departure from that and allow you to go cutting pieces all over the place and so alien was this concept to me I actually had to consult the website to check how I was supposed to use the buttresses, only to find out you just cut them to the desired length and put them wherever you want – which left me feeling slightly silly at not having surmised this myself [He even checked with me. - Ed].

The kit itself is surprisingly big, topping out at just about 4 levels if you include the ground floor and is significantly wide enough that it almost accounts for an entire building itself and thus needs less supporting scenery to represent a complete building footprint.  Equivalent kits from other companies often don’t cover enough ground and need at least another full kit to complete what could be considered a realistic structure – whereas you could get away with just adding some piles of rubble with this just to show where part of the building had collapsed. Or seeing as they’re half the price of comparable kits you could just get two and make one even bigger ruin, whatever you want really – and therein lays one of the pieces biggest strengths, its cost.  At less than £10 a pop you don’t have to compromise with your scenery coverage on a board as you’ll generally be getting double the amount, and this enables you to do some pretty epic looking boards without breaking the bank. I’m sure many of us have gazed across a fully modelled board in awe and then resigned ourselves to the thought we will likely never come to owning such a pretty set of matching terrain – but with Amera you can.

The blank canvas approach makes owning a an entire board’s worth of matching scenery a reality by keeping it simple and giving you the option of adding as much or as little detail as you want.  Only got time for a basecoat and a drybrush – no problem, it looks fine.  Or sand it up and add some flock? Now it looks even better.  Or you can go to town and start adding in details like interior walls and extra structures like scaffolds to make it look really good.  The point is it’s up to you and it does the job no matter how much effort you put into it. I personally love building terrain – it was one of things that really drew me into the hobby when I was a kid.  Back then it was all on you to find interesting bits and pieces that could represent structures and then detail them to look realistic, and this is an evolution of that. It brings back some of the creativity that has been somewhat lost with the growth of more complex scenery ranges which has taken away the need to be inventive.

Amera - City Block Ruin (painted)

£9.95 for what is almost a complete building is great value, and it’s almost a victim of Amera’s cheap prices across the range – the same price can also get you even more impressive pieces.  But like I said, as they are so reasonably priced you don’t have to compromise, you don’t have to go straight for the biggest pieces you can afford because you need to stretch your budget as far you can. Instead you can pick the right piece for the right job without worrying if you’ll have enough, which means you should assemble a better and looking and better playing scenery set as a result.  And if you need a ruined building that is versatile enough to suit almost any 28mm game that uses a gun then look no further, this one does the job perfectly well.

The City Block Ruin is available from Amera Plastic Mouldings for £9.95.  Additional City Block Buttresses Sets are also available priced £1.50.

-Lee

Forge World Empire Landship – A Review

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When the idea for ‘A Tale of Two Armies’ was first mooted, the understandable wrangling over which armies we would collect ensued with both Phil and I swinging between various options.  The decision to collect an Empire army, and then base it on my Marienburger warband I collected for Mordheim, was swung in the end by a very large and very impressive model – The Empire’s Marienburg Class Landship from Forgeworld.

landship1

When I first laid eyes on it I just knew it would be the centre piece for my Empire army, serving as Ludvig von Bomberg’s (ahem) Flagship.  The character of the army was to include the weird and wonderful – and most expensive pieces a general could ever wish for, and this was a perfect fit.  And I reasoned any Marienburger with the means to own such a mighty machine of war would insist on riding in it personally over a mere horse, or Sigmar forbid, on foot.  Unfortunately the rules don’t allow for it to be used as either a mount or a Chariot (they really should look into that) so he would only ever be present as a decoration. The kit even comes with a suitable character model in the form of the ship’s Captain – along with 5 other crewmen.  All are fantastic sculpts in their own right and represent great value for money if you were to weigh up how much a set of 6 would cost to purchase separately.

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The fine sculpting doesn’t stop with the crew either, the whole model is covered in nice details – like the individually designed shields covering the fo’castle, or the figurehead that’s seen better days.  All these details on a model of this size make it quite daunting to tackle painting wise, the photographs on the Forgeworld website show it in comparison to things like a Giant and a Steam Tank, and it’s no less impressive in the flesh – it’s massive, and will tower over most things.  Thankfully, the hull and boiler are cast together in just two very hefty pieces which helps cut down on the number of parts (of which there are still many), but it does mean a lot of time and effort needs to go into making sure these fit together as perfectly as possible and a lot of dry fitting and test assembly is recommended.  Unfortunately due its size and complexity, the Landship falls firmly into the category of subassemblies, which will need painting separately and then putting together afterwards – which is something I’m always keen to avoid but is understandable on something this size.  For example, the location of the cannon makes the area impossible to paint if the fo’castle is glued in place – and still difficult if not.  And the mast is definitely a piece to leave gluing in until last as it obstructs the whole interior. Ditto the Skaven Doomwheel-esque rear wheels.

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Rules wise, the Landship is not quite the beast I would have expected – especially given its points cost.  Offensively it falls significantly short of the only model you could really compare it to – the Steam Tank.  Its cannon is the lighter Strength 7 version instead of the standard 10, and it doesn’t have the same destructive potential in combat, doing only D6 impact hits compared with the D6 plus D3 per Steam Point expended in moving for the Steam Tank.  It does have the advantage of having Thunderstomp and close combat attacks to win a combat with – but it’s only D6 attacks at a lowly Weapon Skill and Strength of 3.  In comparison to the Steam Tank’s ‘Grind’, which again does D3 automatic hits per Steam Point at its usual Strength of 6, you’d have to say again the Steam Tank is the better.  The Land Ship’s secondary ranged attack of a Fusillade comprising D6 Hand Gun shots is not really something you can compare with the Steam Gun on the Tank as they are very different weapons, but with the premium placed on template weapons in 8th Edition Warhammer, yet again the Steam Tank is looking the winner.  Weapon for weapon, it’s quite easy to see which unit will be doing the most damage on the battlefield.

Defensively it’s a bit more even.  They have the same toughness of 6, and although the Steam Tank has the better Armour save of 1+ to the Landship’s 3+, the Landship has 2 more wounds (for a whopping 12!) and a 6+ Ward Save.  It also doesn’t have to rely on Steam Point generation to carry out its actions and potentially damage itself in the process.

They are of course very similar machines with merely a slightly different focus. The Steam Tank has the sheer brute force and damage potential, whereas the Landship is the more reliable (somehow!) of the two and more likely to see the end of the battle, even if it does have a scarily unforgiving misfire table for when it goes wrong – just pray you don’t roll a double 1 or 6 when charging.

Generally I can see myself using the Landship to proxy a second Steam Tank most of the time and then using it as intended for larger battles or special scenarios.  It’s an effective war machine that will terrify your opponent through its sheer size if not its damage output, but at 300 points it’s a tough decision as to whether it will be worth the points.  It’s certainly a hard task for your opponent to get points out of it and the non-reliance on Steam generation is a definitive advantage – but is it enough to overlook the raw destructive power of the 50 point cheaper Steam Tank (who I’ve just remembered also has an Engineer with another gun)?  If it was based on looks alone it’s an all hands down yes, but as always the choice is yours.

Lee

The Empire Marienburg Class Landship is available from Forgeworld priced £118.50

Salute in Review: What Happened To All The Spending?

Salute 2014Must…buy…toys…must…buy…toys….  No it’s not Mat, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so. Instead it was me wandering around aimlessly trying to find shizzle to buy at the end of Salute on Saturday. I went in with a good idea of what I wanted but after picking up my hefty (and heavy) Forge World order, purchases were unfortunately few and far between.

The day went largely as expected in accordance with the pre-Salute post – far more business over pleasure and the vast majority of my time was spent engaged in conversations with gaming companies old and new. It was a very productive day on that front with some downright fantastic agreements made with several major companies and numerous encouraging discussions with others, who were also showing signs of following suit.  Despite the dedicated focus we still ran out of time at the end and missed out on several stands we wanted to visit, there just weren’t enough hours in the day in truth.

The walks between the companies we wanted to talk to was where I attempted to find the things I wanted to buy.  Some bits for my Warhammer Empire army were high on the list but there was an absolute dearth of their products available, being limited to just boxes of State Troops and the occasional Greatswords.  I know Games Workshop removed many of the items I needed from the list available to independent stockists but I thought given the scale of the event some would still be available from the three I wanted: Demigryphs, Helblaster, Pistoliers/Outriders. But no.  I did grab an absolute bargain in the form of a brand new metal Marius Leitdorf for just £4 – yes you read that right. Just £4.  A pricing error? Who knows, but I didn’t wait around to ask.  I also bagged a pack of Purple and Gold dice to go with my Emperors Children, very fitting I thought, and a ruined building from Amera Plastic Mouldings (review to follow soon). But that was it. I had still spent a hefty sum on my Forge World order, but I went home with £160 still burning through my pocket and now charring the flesh of my thigh.  So here’s what I got (because most of my stuff came as bags of parts, which aren’t very exciting, I’ve used images from web):

LEGION SICARAN BATTLE TANKEMPEROR'S CHILDREN PHOENIX TERMINATORS

Marius Leitdorf36 PEARL DICE - 6 SIDED & 12mm SIDES - PURPLE !!Z214 - City Block Ruins

 

I think you’ll agree that if any Imperial Tank could ever be considered sexy, the Sicaran would be it – with it’s sleek profile and…er…armour plates. Backing it up with a pimp set of Phoenix Guard means I should have one good looking army once they hit the table top alongside one of last years Salute purchases, the Emperors Children Contemptor Dreadnought (with twin Kheres and a back up Power Claw, of course).

At the time of writing I have just ordered a variety of the magnets I wanted and now have to further resort to trawling the web to satisfy my hobby cravings and try to find things that can convince me to part with my cash – but it’s not the same.  When your there and it’s in your hands something almost takes over you, and you just start throwing money in peoples faces and running off before someone’s mind changes. Still, at least I’ll get a free Space Marine Captain if I order from Games Workshop direct.

Until next year, the sound of Neil singing the Salute theme tune will remain a memory.

 

*The Salute theme tune goes as thus: Saying the word Salute repeatedly to the tune of Black Adder (writing credit: Rob Mossop).*

The Shell Case does Salute – Lee

Salute 2014

As the 12th April comes ever closer and the prospect of another day filled with nothing but the sights, sounds and smells of the UK’s best all-round gaming show (and with the recent trend with Games Day, arguably just the outright best) fills our every waking thought (especially Mat’s – it’s his first time and he’s really quite excited), the members of The Shell Case team attending Salute this year (sorry Ashley, next time maybe?) have taken time to reflect on their hopes and expectations for Salute 2014.

Here’s Lee’s thoughts:

Lee

This year’s Salute is going to be a little different for me.  With my new role as Deputy Editor and increased responsibilities within The Shell Case, this time round will be significantly more business focused than previously.  Whereas last year I visited each stand and cooed approvingly at their products whilst Phil chatted to his contacts (or attempted to make new ones), this time I must attempt to join in the conversations – whilst cooing approvingly at their products. Hopefully I can pick up a few things and acquaint myself with those who support us. We also have some new companies we are interested in working with, and Salute brings many exciting possibilities.

The most important stop I must make on the day is…the Forgeworld stand (I’m only human, and a wargamer).  I should be taking delivery of a Sicaran Battle Tank and a set of Phoenix Guard Terminators – so I’m very excited (and maybe even a Mannan’s Blades bundle depending on how the day, and the wallet goes). I have a Helblaster shaped hole to fill in my Empire army (Phil will be pleased) and I’m also going to be keeping an eye out for some good quality modelling hardware – a Paint Station, some Micro Magnets and the like.  Aside from that, I’ll just see where my wandering takes me.

I’m also looking forward to meeting up with my fellow writers at The Shell Case (those that can make it) now being more familiar with their work – along with anyone else that wants to say hi.  In all honesty, the 12th can’t come soon enough.

Battlefleet Gothic Scratch Build – Space Dock

All the fun Phil and Matt have been having with their X-Wing adventures has inspired me to do something of my own relating to star ships and space battles, although rather than Star Wars being my theatre of war I returned to one of my favourite games – Battle Fleet Gothic.

I’m lucky enough to own a sizeable Imperial fleet with every ship in the Rulebook represented at least once, along with a decent supporting fleet of Space Marines, but something I never invested in was the array of orbital defences and installations that were available at the time. The problem with correcting this regret is with Battlefleet Gothic models no longer available from Games Workshop, the second-hand market is the only way to now obtain these models – and with some of the rarer kits selling for eye watering prices this isn’t always a viable option. An example is the Ramilles class Star Fortress from Forgeworld – always a model I’ve wanted to own but it never found its way into my possession – the only one I’ve seen on eBay is over £200. As much I want this model I’m not going to part with that sort of money to own it, so instead I will go down the not often walked path of scratch building my own sizeable space installation. However, building your very own version of Ramilles Star Fort is a daunting proposition and given the number of components it would consume you may even be better off just splashing the cash for a real one. Plus, it’s not always a good idea to attempt to create an exact replica of an existing model as your efforts will mostly be judged on how well it matches the original rather than its own merits.

So a Space Station of some description was on the cards and after flicking through the Battlefleet Gothic rulebook I came across the Space Dock built by Dave Andrews and thought for a first foray I’d build my own version of this superb model. It was a good size and didn’t need the uniformity of components a perfectly symmetrical piece would require, letting you just do your own thing as long as it looked cool. I sifted through my bits box and came up with a ton of components with the required level of detail, and after throwing in an Imperial Cruiser frame I was getting genuinely excited over how the project was shaping up. The key components turned out to be the old Imperial Guard Dozer Blade support arms which were perfect for the docking bays, and really set the size for the whole piece. I experimented with a couple of different lay outs like having two bays on either side with the complex at one end, but the demands of that symmetry meant the single row with the main complex off to one side was the better option – that Dave Andrews knew what he was doing.

I spent a long while playing around with all the parts before I started gluing things together, and as structures started to emerge from the pile of pieces I was started to push them into specific roles. Aside from the ubiquitous Main Complex, there’s the adjoining Communications Array, four Docking Bays with three Repair Pylons, Control Tower Complex with adjoining Flak Tower and finally the Eagle shaped Precinct House. I have my favourites and my not so favourites but all in all I was very happy with the amount of detail and purpose I was able to fit into each one – with a paint job hopefully only going to add to the intricacy of the buildings. It’ll be torture painting the thousands of little lights but it’ll be worth it. I hope.

The actual structure of the piece was just a piece of foam board I had lying around with a dissected layer of smooth card over the top and edged with odd lengths of sprue. An extra layer underneath gave it enough strength and then some plastic panels glued on gave a solid socket for the two flying bases to plug into.

It’s about 98% done construction wise as I’m going to add a few teeny tiny details to the deck like storage areas, crate stacks and the like just to give it a bit more life and usage because it’s looking slightly too sterile right now – for a Space Station. And maybe some more antennas, you know, because you can never have enough of those. Have a look for yourself and see what you think.

The image shows most of the pieces I used but there’s more that are either obscured or too obscure to mention. I found Tau parts really useful, particularly their Crisis suit weapons – well, all weapons in general really as they have a really handy combination of intricate machinery and smooth surfaces which are perfect. I almost found as much enjoyment at discovering an interesting part that could be used as I did in building the thing – and I like building things, a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed the building phase and I hope that by showing the model pre paint job it can demonstrate how all manner of odds and ends can be combined into something more special. Your bits boxes are treasure troves, use them, they are your friends. They don’t get good overnight, they need feeding to reach their potential, but if you’ve been doing the hobby for as long as I have you forget where half the stuff came from and it becomes an adventure in itself – just be prepared to lose an hour or two and make a bit of a mess.

SpaceStationNumbered

I now need to do the model justice with its paint scheme, but I’m not too sure which way to go. I was thinking a military grey and black/dark grey combination to give it a functional look but I’m open to suggestions – maybe a poll can decide?

Empire Greatswords – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copy

Woohoo! I’ve finally got my hands on a box of Greatswords, who are one of the units in the Empire list I am genuinely excited about from both a gaming and hobby perspective. When I first skimmed through the Empire book and started piecing together in my head what I wanted my army to look like, a massed unit of Greatswords standing proud in the centre of my battle line was an image I definitely wanted to see through to completion. They are the elite infantry of man. Clad in Full Plate armour and wielding their hefty swords, they are one of the units in the Empire army that can do some significant damage to the enemy.  A horde of 40 would certainly help them do that but alas, as with everything in the current Empire book, a compromise has to reached as they are not cheap, so a trimmed down 30-35 will be more likely – and affordable [Poor baby. - Ed].

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There has been some debate over whether Greatswords are actually a worthwhile choice as their points cost makes them a very significant investment.  At 11 points each they weigh in at almost double that of the staple Halberdier and it’s been argued that the 100-150 points you save by going with a Halberdier block come in very handy elsewhere in the army – and this of course is an extremely valid argument.  A unit of 5 Outriders, for example, is only 105 points for 15 Handgun shots per turn – on top of those 40 Halberdiers.  Or even another Helblaster perhaps? (cackle)

However, my opinion is that Greatswords offer you one of the best options for dealing with elite troops head on in combat.  I plan on taking quite an infantry heavy army – three large blocks with one of them being the Greatswords, because I think Empire armies look way cool when there are a lot of boots/socks/tights on the ground.  However my opponents plays Khorne for A Tale of Two Armies, which has many units (read all) which fall into the ‘Infantry Blender’ category that can quite easily chop their way through half a horde of state troops a turn.

In the Greatswords I believe the Empire have a unit that can actually stand up to these and then dish some hurt back.  Their Weapon Skill of 4 is only a limited improvement in my situation against the combat superstars of Chaos, but against many other armies it vastly improves their survivability by immediately cutting 25% off the numbers of wounds they would suffer.  When you then add in the Full Plate armour save of 4+ that’s potentially another 50% off the wounds tally, meaning not only do they stick around for twice as long, but they give up less combat resolution in the process making it easier to break your opponent.

When it’s their turn to strike they can really dish out the hurt – even against heavily armoured opponents with the -2 armour save from their Strength 5 attacks.  They are one of the few Empire units you’d probably want to run a bit wider than the minimum of 5 as you do want to make the most of their high strength attacks, and as they’re Stubborn you don’t have to worry about stacking ranks to gain Steadfast.  We know they can wound easily but the only problem is hitting the target, Weapon Skill 4 is good but not great, but this is where the Empire army synergy comes into play.

The Celestial Hurricanum is almost a must have if going for an Infantry heavy army. The +1 to hit bubble is invaluable for actually doing some damage to your opponent rather than just holding him in combat.  With your Greatswords now hitting on 3’s and wounding on 2’s or 3’s they are going to leave a mark.  If you really fancy juicing them up, put a Warrior Priest in there (or better yet, an Arch Lector for Leadership 9 Stubborn) for re-rolling misses straight off the bat and then your choice between re-rolling to wound, for increased damage output, or a 5+ Ward Save to make them even harder to shift.  You’ve now got a unit that even Chaos Warriors would hesitate to engage – start throwing in magic buffs and it’s getting silly. But I’ll again mention the cost, all this doesn’t come cheap and it really has to be part of your strategy to get all your units working together and squeezing the most out of your army.  Your points investment gets you a unit that doesn’t need to hold on for dear life while help comes over the horizon like your state troops will, they can mix it up and even though they may not always win, they will have almost certainly ground your opponent down and held them in combat for a long while – giving you time to prioritize who gets assistance and when.  Just remember to keep you Battle Standard Bearer close by as you wouldn’t want your 400+ point unit running away due to one unlucky dice roll.

As for the models themselves?  They’re – ahem – great. Sorry couldn’t resist.  But seriously, they’re a really nice plastic kit with minimal mould lines and some very desirable components for use on them and elsewhere.  Their design is excellent and lends itself easily to a more lavish paint job with the slashed sleeves just crying out for a colour combination befitting their status.  You get two sets of arms for every soldier letting you choose between straight or wiggly sword blades, a load of extra torsos and multiple head options.  But that’s where the one gripe about this set comes in, with Games Workshop charging over £25 a pop for only ten pairs of legs on bases, the set is actually only missing just that – more legs.  You could make another 2 or 3 out of each box if you had the legs to do it! Buy two boxes of them and if you could find somewhere selling individual components then get hold of some more legs (I did) and your unit size increases a nice chunk. Thankfully our friends at Firestorm Games charge less than Games Workshop so make sure you buy them from them as that shrinks a potential outlay for a large unit of 30 from £76.50 to more like the £45.90 for two boxes plus the cost of obtaining a some extra legs and a torso or two– not too shabby.

It’s going to be a daunting task to paint up 30 or 40 of these guys but the effect on display when they’re done will be well worth it – and hopefully they’ll repay my faith and effort in their performances on the table top.  To arms!

Empire Greatswords are available from Firestorm Games priced £22.95.

Hero Crusade

Having just recently played the thoroughly enjoyable Firefly game, The Chaps caught a bit of board game fever and wanted to organise an evening playing a myriad of our favourite cardboard based entertainment.  A second go on Firefly was welcome and Space Hulk always goes down well, amongst the numerous other potentials.

Now Space Hulk is a game that’s close to my heart and really demonstrates what you can do with a boxed game through the quality of the pieces, variety of the board, and tactical game mechanic. Whenever the game is mentioned I’m reminded of the time I was fortunate enough to get the last copy in London (really) when its release sneaked out so sneakily I almost missed it entirely.

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I was late picking up my copy of White Dwarf that month and was not yet keyed in with social media, so by the time I realised that yes, one of my favourite childhood games had actually been re-released, I was very late to the party.  My local store at the time was the Plaza on Oxford Street and upon walking in the lack of Space Hulk shaped boxes on the shelves worried me – and my fears were confirmed when the staff informed me they had none left and then proceeded to reel through all the other stores they had already called trying to get more.  The only possibility was the Bromley branch (barely even London) which had two left – down to one by the time he managed to get the words ‘reserve it’ out of his mouth.  Lucky me. But even more luckily the store manager was attending a meeting at that store in a few days, so he let me have a box that had already been sold and was awaiting collection in a week and would bring the reserved one back with him.  So I got to walk out of Plaza that day with the last box of Space Hulk to be sold in London grinning like an idiot – super mega lucky me.

All this got me thinking, are Games Workshop missing a vitally important component from their Machine Spirit?  Their special release games have largely been a success (although they over egged it a bit with Dreadfleet), but is there a place for something a bit more permanent?  And focussed?  Board or Boxed games provide a ready-made doorway into their IP’s and their absence seems to be a missed opportunity. There were two (well, three) games that led me up the path of war gaming and I know I won’t be alone when I say their names; Hero Quest and Space Crusade (and to a lesser extent Battle Masters).  These are still two of my most favouritest games to this day, I own them, I play them, I’ll never forget them. For those of you who don’t know, these three games were made in conjunction with MB Games and had a very wide distribution as a result – retailers you would NEVER see Games Workshop products in today.  They even had TV adverts (I know, right?!) such was the benefit of working with a mainstream manufacturer like Milton Bradley.  And it worked, an entire generation of war gamers born out a present they got for their birthday from granddad that he picked up in Argos [I got mine at the tender age of 7 from my parents. -Ed].

We all know the company recently posted far from good financial results and this has been largely attributed to their prices over anything lacking product wise.  From what I’ve heard, they conducted price tests which demonstrated customers (i.e. us) were willing to pay whatever the price (with a pinch of salt) to obtain what they wanted from the company.  You can form your own opinions as to the veracity and ethicality of this information but taking it at face value I would say in principal it’s true – we all know we are paying significant amounts of money for things that don’t have an inherent value to anyone other than ourselves as a community, but we enjoy our hobby and are willing to pay to do so.  Am I not going to buy those Empire State Troops because you only get 10 in a box now?  Of course I am – eventually.  Although the rise of eBay has provided the savvy wargamer with an alternative retailer with which they can obtain their wants cheaper, not to mention the Independents who regularly sell for less than RRP.  Games Workshop has taken steps to limit the impact these have on its sales by cutting the range available to its independents stockists as well reducing their trade discounts, and some would argue that part of the reason for phasing out metal models entirely was to tear the bottom out of the resale market.  I must assume they would have factored in people leaving the hobby as a result of the prices rising, so far above the rate of inflation (at least I would hope so), and is expected anytime prices go up, but one area I think they have seriously underestimated the affect their business strategy is having is at the entry-level – the young ‘uns.

I am personally of the opinion that the hobby has never been harder to get into as a child than now, despite the games having been aligned more to younger gamers than in the past – the myriad of products at very steep prices means the start-up cost has gone way beyond the reach of your average 12-year-old to enjoy fully, even with birthdays and Christmases.  You can learn more complex rules with practice, but you can’t magic money into your pockets.  I don’t have any numbers to back this up but I can’t imagine the new starter uptake could be improving given the current economic climate combined with the premium pricing of products, and their financial results seem to agree. I did notice Games Workshop were cunning in their approach and closed a number of stores in order to open others in the more affluent areas (of London) no doubt as part of their strategy to raise prices whilst maintaining the influx of new starters, but you can’t say that it worked, at least not on a company-wide basis. Maybe because even though kids with little knowledge on the value of money may be willing to pay whatever the cost, perhaps their parents weren’t? Or maybe that new Xbox or Playstation game which is cheaper than a box of centurions is just too tempting – and better value?

I know times change, businesses progress, tastes differ, the world moves on.  GW no doubt had its reasons for not continuing with this particular approach but is it time to re-evaluate this view?  I don’t see their prices coming down any time, like ever, maybe freezing for a while at best, so a moderately priced all in one game could eventually (we’re talking long-term) provide the sorely needed influx of new blood the company needs to brighten its future.  Cast your net far and wide, as the saying goes, and you will catch many…er… children?

There’s rumours abound as to what the next special release will be, if there still is one, Bloodbowl perhaps?  Regardless, I will most likely buy it as these are the games I grew up with and still enjoy. The seed was planted long ago and has taken route so deep it can never be fully torn out.  But I fear I’m in a dwindling group with the fewer young gamers coming through having no experience of these games and sharing a lesser bond with the hobby for it. Older gamers will understand even more than I having seen the birth of the company and the changes it’s gone through.  Specialist Games have gone the way of the Dodo that’s yet another way uptake has been eroded by the company’s need for profit.  But all is not lost, things break and can be fixed (anyone who’s bought Games Workshop’s glue can attest to that), it’s just whether those who make the decisions can make the right ones this time.

Empire Celestial Hurricanum – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyPhil just had to get one more review in before Christmas and it fell to old muggins here to get the job done. So sit back with your coco/brandy/hot toddy/hot piece of ass and enjoy.

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After I had finished reviewing the Empire army book one of the units I came away thinking would be fairly key to the performance of any future army of mine were the magical chariots of doom, aka the Celestial Hurricanum and Luminark of Hysh.  They each offer a great unit buff to your army with a very handy 12” bubble, added bonus to dice to your magic phase and also possess a bound spell to complete a trifecta of goodness.

I was certain I was going to include one of them in my army, and maybe both in a 3,000 point list [Beardy fucker. -Ed.] if I could stretch the points far enough – which in the end they didn’t (as anyone who’s written a list for the current Empire army will know too well).

Having settled on just the one (for now) I had the task of choosing between them, which actually turned out to be easier than I thought. When I scored the two’s abilities the Hurricanum came up trumps quite convincingly, although it must be said the Luminark is still a very viable option.  The Hurricanum wins on the bubble effect with the +1 to hit being very useful in adding some sorely needed combat effectiveness to the very lowly rank and file, whereas the Luminark’s 6+ ward save, although desirable, wasn’t going to stop them dying in their droves.  Likewise the bonus dice in the magic phase, an extra power dice being infinitely more desirable for me (given my Khorne playing opponent) than the extra dispel dice.

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The bound spell is where it was a bit harder to choose between them. The Luminark casts Solheim’s Bolt of Illumination which is a very dangerous Strength 8 bolt thrower with flaming attacks that causes D3 wounds and no armour saves (yikes!), which is perfect for disposing of all the scary monsters and monstrous cavalry running around.  In comparison the Hurricanum is a little more subtle with its Storm of Shemtek, which scatters a small template that causes a random weather affect – most results cause hits at varying strengths with other minor side effects, and the most interesting being the tornado that rotates the target’s facing. One small gripe is that the ‘Sudden Downpour’ result causes no additional effects on the target – I thought an effect on black powder weapons would have been suitable here, friend or foe, as it’s just logical.  For sheer destructive power I’d say the Luminark is superior, but at the same time it’s that obvious damage which means you’re unlikely to ever get the spell off as your opponent will almost always keep a dice or two back to dispel it.  You can of course use this to try to get other spells off but the less obvious nature of the Storm of Shemtek means most opponents will ignore it which then could potentially result in a game winning result with the afore-mentioned tornado.

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Games Workshop seems to like making its new kits very appealing when they’re first released, no doubt in order to boost sales, and these are no exception as they are both a steal for the points.  Like I said earlier, if I could, I would take both but points be scarce least so instead I must choose. Even though the Hurricanum is the better of the two, the Luminark no doubt has its many uses and that mega laser beam of death just does not keep quiet – it constantly whispers its power to you like the oversized assembly of rings it is. As such, I’ve been looking into the possibility of assembling it so that you can flip between the two – you can easily switch out the contraption mounted on the top as each has its own dedicated parts, and then as long as you build the platform to the rear it won’t obstruct anything on top.  This is no big deal as I think any wizard operating the Hurricanum would actually be staring up at it at the back rather than just ignoring it as he rides up front so this doesn’t spoil the aesthetic.  The peripheral telescopes and what nots can go anywhere as can the scribes who crew it, the only real obstacle is the paint job.  Something a bit more neutral will be needed with more definition being possible on the contraptions themselves but it is possible.  I think I might actually give it a go, if it doesn’t look right I’ll just settle on the most appropriate and look to getting another at some stage.

As a bonus you also get an extra wizard included in the box, which is nice.  Either a Light or Celestial wizard of course which gives you the possibility of mounting your Wizard Lords onto their respective magical chariot.  Everyone I’ve spoken to seems to think this is a bad idea though as it offers no additional protection and presents your most powerful individual model as a huge shiny bull’s eye. Eggs and baskets basically, but no bother as a bonus wizard on foot is better than kick in the baubles [Nice Christmas reference. -Ed].

Overall I think this is a great kit, I know not everyone was a fan of the design but I think it’s the right kind of crazy for the Empire.  The sheer size and ambition of the Hurricanum again being the better of the two.  The frames are packed full of cool little bits and pieces which will find their way onto your other models and guess what? You get new horses! Yay! If you also consider the bonus wizard that’s included, that has actual value, half of the Empire Wizards box which retails for up to £18. Once you knock that off the price it’s pretty reasonable.  And we already know rules wise is pretty amazing for the points, so what are you waiting for?

The Hurricanum/Luminark kit is available from Firestorm Games priced £29.25.

A Tale of Two Armies: Genesis of a Hero

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As part of A Tale of Two Armies one of the things we wanted to look at, as part of the wider narrative, was how hero and villain of the piece evolved from our early conversations to the characters they’ll become at the series’ conclusion. I elected to go first as I had the luxury of having much of my character’s back story long ago established.

‘It all started with a game of Mordheim’ I guess is the best way to begin explaining the almost sentient growth of a humble assembly of plastic pieces into a character worthy enough to actually write about.

When The Chaps decided to run a Mordheim Campaign and we were deciding who would do which warband, I plumped for the rich boys of Marienburg figuring the extra gold pieces they had would give me a significant head start to turn them into a dominant force – even if they were a bit lacking in the rules department.  That gold enabled me to tool up my Captain with all the cool toys he could want including a pair of very shiny, and very expensive, Duelling Pistols.  I had the image of a lethal sharpshooter in my mind, wading through combat, picking off enemies one after the other with deadly accurate head shots – none able to get close for fear of ending up face down in the dirt in an expanding pool of their own vital fluids. But it never really happened like that, quite the opposite really.

During the campaign von Bomburg wasn’t exactly living up to those expectations I had when gleefully listing his equipment I invested so heavily in. Dice are fickle at best of times but he could almost be guaranteed to roll a ‘1’ when it really mattered.  During the early days of a character’s progression you forgive poor performances knowing that experience will no doubt improve through skills and stat increases. von Bomburg had now accumulated a few of these (through the rest of his warband performing quite well – love those crossbows), most notably an extra point of Ballistic Skill taking him to a very healthy 5 and the Pistolier skill letting him shoot both of his pistols together if needed.  And a suit Gromril armour – very handy indeed. With the firepower at his disposal he should have been kicking asses and taking names, but it just wasn’t happening for him.

The specific game in question has been mentioned before in other posts and relates specifically to Bomburg’s lack of shooting accuracy.  As this game was playing out he was demonstrating his usual ineptitude with all things ballistic only this time he happened to be in the beer garden of the town tavern.  Standing upon a table acting all heroic like, he took careful aim at the horde of enemies rushing towards him and his fellow Marienburgers, and then proceeded to miss both his shots despite hitting on 2’s as if bestowed with eyes that stared at each other. As this stage his sub par performances could go unnoticed no longer and the rest of The Chaps threw their 2 pence/cents/maple leaves worth into the mire of my disappointment. Amongst the usual tit for tat one comment was latched upon which was he must have been enjoying the beer garden a bit too much and thus impaired his vision [That may have been me... - Ed.].  It stuck and so began the effervescent evolution of Ludwig von Bomburg – the wealthy drunkard fallen on hard times. The son of a wealthy family looking for adventure whilst slowly drinking his fortune away. Somewhere between Paul Whitehouse’s 13th Duke of Wybourne and Rowley Birkin QC (for those of you that watch The Fast Show) – he no doubt possessed the sleazy suaveness of the former but was far more inebriated like the latter.

As the campaign continued, von Bomburg’s performance did improve under the avalanche of additional skills he acquired but he was always below what was expected – the others feared his potential, but never surprised by his failure.  As Bomburg’s ability had improved somewhat during the campaign it seemed natural that he would once have been a formidable foe – the kind of which I wanted at the start, but impact of life’s vices had dulled his skills. The constant state of combat he endures in Mordheim being enough to reawaken some of the potential he lost to the drink, drugs and women.

Another of von Bomburg’s traits were brought to light when he seized on an opportunity to take down Ian’s Vampire who had got a little isolated – von Bomburg stepped forward pistols in hand and proceeded to miss with both shots. von Bomburg and Ian’s Vampire have a little history as way back in the first games of the campaign von Bomburg critically wounded him which resulted in him losing his hand. With us being the fun guys we are, we decided to let Ian graft the crossbow pistol he possessed permanently onto the stump to mitigate such a severe blow so early in the campaign and add a bit of character to proceedings.  This had not been forgotten and so the tables now reversed as Ian managed to distract von Bomburg’s guards and charge him with said Vampire in retaliation. Bomburg was easily out matched but through a healthy dose of luck he managed to survive several rounds of combat and long enough for Ian to fail his route test as my Marienburgers dispatched his minions – sparing Bomburg his doom.  The outcome highlighted that he’s really really lucky when it comes to staying alive. There’s the time he got brained by the handgun only for me to remember his Lucky Charm at the very last second prior to removing the model, or the time he side stepped that Strength 5 lightning bolt.  He rarely dies and always seems to have a way out a sticky situation – often thanks to his long-suffering bodyguard, Viktor holding the enemy up long enough for him make his escape.

By this time I had themed all of the Marienburg warband around what would have been members of his household guard; Viktor was the head of the Household Guard with the Halberdiers being members, one of the Young bloods was his disturbed cousin etc. but Viktor with his role as bodyguard stood out as a key figure in Bomburg’s development – constantly being the difference between him living and dying.  We started to fill out why Viktor accompanied von Bomburg and why Bomburg was even in Mordheim in the first place, a fall from grace seemed to fit the bill and tied in with his truly outrageous drinking, overall poor performance punctuated with flourishes of mad skills.

As Phil and I started to make our foray into the wider Old World in the ‘A Tale of Two Armies’ series it was a no-brainer to expand the Marienburg warband into a fully fledged army of the Empire, but that would then need an explanation as to where any such army he would have been part of had gone and then led to him coming to the cursed city. Part of this story has been told in the articles Phil has been writing and without wishing to spoil anything I can only say so much – the short of it being he loses much and leads his final few followers into Mordheim as a final gambit.

Bomburg has come a long way from the original model I created for my captain using parts from the old Mordheim box.  After the Pub Garden incident I remodelled him to have a wine glass in hand and moved the second pistol to his belt to better represent his character.  He’s tremendous fun to play and almost takes the decision-making out of my hands with his personality deciding what he should do. I’m now getting just as much enjoyment bringing his supporting cast up to a similar level with the dour Viktor and perverted relative having already been mentioned and accumulating their own anecdotes.

Playing games in A Tale of Two Armies allows me to see von Bomburg as a young man, before years of war and booze ruined his mind and as the narrative develops we’ll learn more just what brings von Bomburg to his fate of a tortured existence amidst the ruins of Mordheim.

I’ve also come into possession of a few plastic wine bottles and have designs in mind to add them to the Captain of the Land Ship from Forgeworld and give the young von Bomburg the model he deserves.  It’s an absolutely ace piece and comes with a fantastic looking crew – particularly said Captain.  It would be perfectly fitting as his chariot of choosing, being overly wealthy (at the time) he would no doubt select the biggest and most expensive vehicle he could find.  I can’t wait to send it careening across the battlefield with him loose at the wheel, it’s practically what Warhammer was made for!