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].

EMPGreatswords_873x627

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.

space hulk 3

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.

Warhammer-logo

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.

CelestialHurricanum01_873x627

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.

LuminarkHysh01_873x627

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

TaleOfTwoArmies copy

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!

Empire Steam Tank – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAs Phil made the fairly straight forward to decision to get another battalion box to give him his next 500 points (and beyond) I had to do something thinking about what would best to deal with even more blood crazed, heavily armoured hard nuts. The obvious option was more cannons but I decided that nothing with a little bit more manoeuvrability…

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To the whistle of escaping steam and the clank and grind of pistons and gears, the Empire Steam Tank has rolled into my possession.  Excited?  Me? Yup.

When I initially ran the rule over the new incarnation of the Steam Tank I was unconvinced.  A lot had been done to reduce the models effectiveness in-game and even with a significant points reduction it seemed to be a choice of vanity over necessity and potentially a point sink.  However, reading how others used them in their games I realised it was still an immensely useful unit but in a different way – a way very much in keeping with the current Empire list (for better or worse depending on your opinion).

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The biggest grumble had been the reduction of its Toughness from 10 to 6 making it far more vulnerable to damage from higher strength enemies – followed by the Steam Gun no longer ignoring armour saves blunting its teeth considerably.  My main concern was the new steam generation method meant you could misfire even at full wounds. When combined with the lower toughness and thus increased damage being sustained it could be seen as a bit of a liability as there would be a 1 in 3 chance of misfiring after taking just a single wound. Which is a bit shit.

The misfire table could be mitigated somewhat by limiting the amount of steam you produced – but that meant losing yet more effectiveness from the unit. The cannon was better (now just a standard Great Cannon with variable range) and the point cost had gone down by 50 to 250 points, but like I said, I was still unconvinced.

However, the consensus seems to be that regardless of its perceived reduced output, its use as a roadblock to tie up dangerous units was still unrivalled and worth the price of entry alone.  The improved cannon also meant that if all else fails it could still be used as a piece of artillery without the need for a unit to babysit it.  The misfire table, although inconvenient, is more forgiving than its previous version, so although you will misfire more often it will be less severe and you should still be able to do at least something most of the time. The all-conquering all-powerful Steam Tank of old had gone, and in its place was a leaner machine which had to be used more tactically to get the most benefit out of it for the good of your army. Able to hold up, divert and mitigate enemy strong points but not necessarily kill them, it at would at least buy you the time needed for your plan to work.

It all points to the ‘combined arms’ approach that The Cruddace seemed to have been aiming for with rather iffy success. And of course, it’s all still theoretical for me having yet to use it in a game (coming soon), but it has at least convinced me it still has its uses in an army where every point is precious, and I can’t wait it try it out.

The kit itself it wonderfully simple to assemble whilst still being crammed with detail and possessing a refreshing degree of sturdiness. It’s a far, and welcome, cry from the old metal kit which was utter misery to build and required near pro-sculpting skills to plug and smooth all the gaps between components.

There are a few nice choices to make too, like which cannon barrel to choose (I went with the hexagonal one) and what to hang off the tail hook.  You don’t even have to attach the heraldry with it all being separate enabling you to field a stripped down, more aggressive looking vehicle. Which is actually way cool and side steps the recurring grumble that everyone’s models look pretty much the same, despite being a plastic multi-part kit.

The Engineer you get with it is ace and comes with a multitude of options for his head, arms/weapons choice, and if you’re smart you don’t have to permanently glue him in and can use him on foot. There are a few gripes however, firstly the size of the finished kit – I’m sure the old metal version used to be bigger.  Don’t get me wrong, it more than fills it’s base and will stand as tall as any cavalry unit (minus the lances) but it is a tank and I would have thought it’s transition to plastic would mean it could have grown in size rather than shrink.

Secondly, speaking of the old metal kit, does anyone remember the mail order only variants? You had the fighting platform variant, the mortar variant, the battering ram etc. They were great fun and worked well with the Empire’s tendency to tinker and innovate.  Again with the transition to plastic along with GW’s love of giving you model options rather than the actual models themselves, it seems to me to be another missed opportunity to do something a bit special.  Up the price slightly, throw in an extra frame, and you’ve got a kit that can fulfil multiple roles –again in keeping with army character of having a tool for every job.

Overall it is a very good kit – the model really is one of the better ones.  My gripes aside, I’m just a bit too fond of the good ‘ol days, you’ll not be disappointed in its appearance or its performance.  It’s a piece you can really go to town on painting wise and it will take pride of place at the forefront of your army once you’ve finished driving it around the tabletop whilst making funny noises (you know the ones).  Who knows, if all goes well you may even want to take two – much to your opponents dismay.  Good luck and happy grinding.

Sadly the Empire Steam Tank is no longer available from Firestorm Games due to a change in GW’s trade range but there’s plenty to choose from, prices starting at £8.10.

Empire Demigryph Knights – A Review

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The second unit of reinforcements for my 1,000 point list comes in the form of the new and very promising Demigryph Knights.  I mentioned in the Wizard review I needed to give my force some more teeth, well it turned out to be some beak instead.  And claws, lots of claws.

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I don’t know about you but I really like the models for the Demigryph Knights. They have right balance of fantasy and functionality that, for me, is required in an Empire army. The oversized, heavy plate, barding gives them a real sense of war worthiness: something to keep all but the pontiest of sticks at bay, all the  while the Demigryphs get down to the business of ripping off faces.

Their riders regal and imposing with just a tinge of arrogance to them, which is exactly as they should be seeing as they’re knights. Riding on Demigryphs. With big sticks. Of the three poses for the Demigryphs themselves, one is awesome, one is good, and the last one is a bit meh – it’s cocking its head to the side which although accurate fluff wise, is a little too much like an oversized chocobo for me. Younger readers will have to Google what one of those is. You young whipper snappers. They really are another unit goes under the ‘reward’ title for painting as they look great and as there’s only three of them you’ll stay the course in terms of effort.

Demigryphs

When Games Workshop started to release Monstrous Cavalry for the various armies I wasn’t sure if the Empire would even get any at all, or if they did what would the mounts be as the Pegasus had sort of been bagsied by the Bretonnians, despite it still being a mount choice in the Empire book. The use of a ‘half’ griffon made me wonder why I hadn’t thought of it before, which is a good sign as the decision is a little obvious in hindsight and makes total sense. Rare praise for Games Workshop these days. And in doing so has given the Empire a unit capable of actually doing some real damage in combat (honestly).

The Knights themselves are fantastic, and just make me weep over the missed opportunity that is the old Knightly Order kit even more.  The heads are great, gifting you the pleasure of choosing which ones to leave out rather than which ones to include – likewise for the shields, plenty of good choice with a nice range. The stylization of certain armour elements into pointed beak shapes works really well and really tells the story that these guys are an elite unit rather than Knights given Demigryphs to ride for the day. All the weapons arms/options included look good enough to make you pause for a difficult aesthetic choice. If and when the old Knights do get a new kit, if they look anything like this there will be much rejoicing in the street, songs will be sung, mead will be drunk and babies will be named in honour of the sculptor. I’m predicting a significant rise in the number of Empire cavalry armies you’ll see galloping around what with them being a pretty good investment for the points.

Rules wise, you couldn’t ask for much more as an Empire player: the Demigryph Knights are a unit to be feared by almost anything. [Except Skullcrushers! -Ed.]  The Demigryph itself kicks out 3 Strength 5 attacks basic plus another for its Stomp for a total of 4 at Strength 5, and then the already Inner Circle Knight on its back adds another at either Strength 5 or 6 depending on how you arm them.  But this is where one of the very few annoyances rears its head: if you choose to equip them with halberds instead of lances (which is a choice most people would usually go for) there’s no rules exception for using a halberd while mounted so you lose your shield.  The 1+ armour save is a big deal for mounted units and sacrificing it for an extra point of Strength is not a decision to be taken lightly – and most seem to have stuck with the Lances as a result.  I fail to see why the Halberd could not have been an upgrade rather than a free weapon swap and let you still use the shield – as represented on the models themselves.

But still, with a box of three being able to chuck out up to 16 attacks at Strength 5 or 6, they can tear apart small to medium-sized units and elites really have a lot to fear as the Demigryphs have the armour-piercing rule to boot giving them -3 to armour saves.  With the errata on Monstrous Cavalry stating you use the higher value for both Wounds and Toughness now, you’ve also got a unit that is now quite resilient too at Toughness 4, 1+ armour save and 3 wounds each.  Deliver them into an enemy flank and they’ll eat anything. Someone even mathed out that they can beat Skull Crushers in straight up combat as the Initiative 4 on the Demigryph means it goes before the Juggernaut, and that’s at 12 points less per model too. [It's worth noting though that the article go the Skullcrushers armour save wrong so it's probably about even. -Ed.] It’s just a pity you can’t take them as character mounts, but maybe that is just taking the cracker.

Demigryph Knights are available from Firestorm Games priced £30.15.

Empire Battle Wizards – A Review

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With the 500 points game in the bag (and the blood running off the table in rivers), the next 500 was on the horizon and it was time to think about how I could improve on the core force and give it some more teeth.  It was fairly easy to guess what Phil’s additions were going be, he already had a unit of Fear causing (yes, really) Chaos Knights [Hells yeah! -Ed.] on his mantel piece and I knew the box of fear causing (yes, really) Skullcrushers wouldn’t be far behind.  Armed with this information and fully aware that I had very little, if anything, that could stand up to their offensive abilities I resorted to the one area where I had the advantage – Magic.

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It’s not that the Empire is particularly good at Magic, there are races a lot better at it than they, but the fact they can select from all of the eight Lore’s of Magic is what gives them an advantage over most races. This ability means there should be a wizard for all occasions, and when you then consider my opponent has selected an army that eschews Magic in favour of large axes, having this kind of versatility becomes extremely useful, crucial even. [I couldn't make it too easy for myself. - Ed.]

In one army so lacking in units that can charge into a combat safe in the knowledge they will bludgeon their way through their target in an explosion of body parts, what do you then do against an army that is made up almost entirely of the bastards? The typical tactic is twofold: Shoot them – a lot (and then again just to be sure), and then gang up on what’s left. But this has been made a lot harder in the 8th edition Empire book as most units went up in points and this has had the very real effect of taking away one or two units from you depending on the army size.

This makes a 2 on 1 situation actually rather difficult to engineer in your favour – buts that’s where the Magic comes in. With no enemy wizards arrayed against me I am already at an advantage over any dispel attempts as he will not be adding any magic levels to his dispel attempt rolls and should mean I can get at least one decent spell off a turn. But what would be my Lore of choice for any plucky Battle Wizards I sent to war? There are some very good ones to choose from but in a game this size with what I’m up against, there’s really only one – Metal. [Bastard. -Ed.]

Who’s read the Lore of Metal signature spell? Well it’s practically made for destroying targets in Chaos armour and this is what I will be using to swing the odds in my favour. If I could get just one decent cast to remove a small elite unit, it would make engineering that favourable combat far more likely. When you look at some of the Augment/Hex spells present in the Lore too it’s a one of the best to use when facing Chaos no question – in particular Khorne.

With my wizard decided I got my hands on the Empire Battle Wizard box.

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Know the lore you want to take is important as the Battle Wizard box comes with a lot of components and I had to down to the business of selecting the ones I wanted from the array of choice laid out on the frames. In the box there are two main body sections with which to assemble two Wizards but three sets of arms to give some real variety in the poses.

One of the poses is easily the best and a no brainer in selecting, so it becomes a toss-up between the other two. The crystal ball pair of arms was a bit too Celestial for me (plus I remembered you get a Celestial Wizard in the Hurricanum kit too – but I’m getting ahead of myself) so I went with the more animatedly posed arms and it was these I used for my Metal Wizard – with the potential to double up as a Light Wizard depending on the paint job. I gave him a book to be reading off and I really liked the Celestial Wizard staff top over the nondescript meteor symbol, so I removed all the protrusions to reduce it to a simple orb contained within a crescent of metal, very fitting I thought. Combined with the animated pose, the components portray a Battle Wizard on the brink of unleashing a devastating spell, so far so good.

For the second Battle Wizard the sheer beauty of the components pretty much forced me to do a Death Wizard with the rose entwined scythe and hourglass combo being too good to pass up, but I’m thinking I’ll end up using him for Shadow instead as it’s a better Lore that suits the army better – and a grey Wizard is just a bit boring. There were loads of other good components to choose from and you can make most of the Lore’s quite easily, the exceptions being Life and Beasts. And by exceptions I mean pieces synonymous with those Lore’s. You can still make a generic Battle Wizard and paint it to suit though. They look an absolute treat to paint too, but I’ll have to resist and get some rank and file done first for there are many and characters are few.

The Battle Wizard box was one of the first of the multi-part plastic character kits to come out along with the Empire General box. They’ve aged rather well, despite the stylised design not being to everyone’s taste. The slightly angular look of the robes weirdly works for the wizards but the array of items and details on the rest of the models make the robes the backdrop to the main event. Although, again, stuff like the flaming sword isn’t going to get everyone excited, all the other bits are way cool. And all the spares you’ll have knocking around will come in very handy be it pimping characters or making your Mordheim warband a bit more interesting/occult.

 

All in all a it’s good kit for the money. Two Battle Wizards and a bunch of really good components to use on the rest of the army, everyone’s a winner. Except Khorne, they’ll likely die a molten death.

Empire Battle Wizards are available from Firestorm Games priced £16.20.