Ork Trukk Boyz – A Review

warhammer-40000-logoI’ve been immersed in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe for a long time. First Space Crusade, then Epic, then Warhammer 40,000 itself. And although I’ve always been a staunch and loyal defender of the Imperium my eye has always wandered towards the Orks, the way teenager’s strays towards the part of the news stand that has all the boobies in it. Even when the Orks were square jawed green apes who couldn’t figure out how a trigger worked, I was oddly fascinated.

Never enough to collect them though. I didn’t own any Orks until Gorkamorka made its brief appearance and I bought what is, to this day, one of my favourite models ever – a metal Ork Nob.

img07180nmI did enjoy this brief foray into Orkishness and if I had more people to play than my brother, I probably would have properly got into Gorkamorka and eventually got an Ork army. But it wasn’t to be.

And so time wore on and with each iteration of 40k, so too were the Orks tweaked and improved. And whilst it’s the current Codex Orks that has swayed into collecting them (1,000 points and counting), it’s the models from 1998 that really began to fire my imagination.

And so I find myself in possession of some along with the Ork Trukk, the kit that hailed a huge design shift for Orks, away from the truly woeful Trukks and general square, blocky and characterless constructs of old.

It was the release of the Trukk that almost swayed me last time. Especially when Neil got one for his – then – fledging Ork army. Compared to the its older brother it was a real coup. Aside from being bigger, it actually felt like an Ork vehicle.

TrukkNEW01The Trukk is a superb kit. It’s a huge amount of fun to build – for the most part. And manages to feel Orky without being comical or like it’d never actually work in the ‘real world’. I love the fact that engine has a fan and belts (albeit they’ll be a sod to paint). There are drive shafts and a transfer box and everything which is way cool. And the dirty exhausts are probably my favourite but of the who engine. Can’t tell you why, they just look perfect on the model.

In some ways it reminds me of the Airfix kits I used to build before I plunged into fantasy and sci-fi realms and was never seen again. Just the way the kit builds up and gradually takes shape over time. My only gripe with the Trukk is that the cab is too small to fit the Orks in easily. It’s a huge pain to fit the driver in, even though it’s a nice touch that you can decide to make the Trukk a left or right hand drive. But I had to cut bits down and leave the awesome gear stick out to fit everything in. Now I’m a pretty bright guy, but even I couldn’t figure out how to make it all fit in with out brute force and prying pegs into position. And the gunner sits higher than the weapons mount that you’re supposed to glue him to. Which is pretty damn annoying. It forces you to have the gunner at a daft angle much like the image above.

Aside from that, the kit goes together beautifully and, excluding clipping and cleaning, went together in a bout half an hour. And I was actually a little bummed when I finished it because it was so much fun. It’s kinda nice to be starting a new army – especially one that needs as many models as Orks – and to enjoy building the basic transport as much as I did.

In game terms it’s just awesome. For 30 points you get a hefty weapon included with the option of upgrading to an even heftier weapon – a rokkit launcher – for free. And being open-topped, the Trukk makes for a very cheap Ork delivery system. With the speed vehicles can now move at it makes up for just being able to cram 12 Boyz in. And now that insufferable damage table has been removed I can take them guilt free. The new rule of being able to roll to offset penetrating damage is pretty handy and whilst does nothing to keep the vehicle alive for longer, it does prevent it from being immobilized or destroyed. Because those are the only two results that matter to an Ork player.

OrkBoyz10NEW01As I say, I’ve always liked the Ork Boyz models. And considering their age they look pretty sweet. And whilst the poses are a little stale compared to the newer models, considering you need bloody tonnes of them that’s not the end of the world. And the better news is that they go together quick. Forty-five minutes from clipping to built isn’t to be sniffed at. Again because you need tonnes of them that’s a huge labour savour.

The nice thing is that the decisions are limited to: Shoota Boyz or Slugga. Big Shoota or Rokkit Launcher. Power Klaw or Big Choppa. And that’s pretty much it. Poses are all but irrelevant as they’ll be one of two hundred on the Boyz by the time your army reaches the manly heights of 3,000 points. Space Marines it’s all about cool poses and injecting subtle but important nuisances of personality into the build. With Orks it’s all about conveying the level of krump someone will experience when the horde makes contact.

And they just go together so easily. Very little cleaning or trimming. You’ve got enough variety of heads and torsos that you can build 10 without them look too samey, but on the board they all look the same anyway, so don’t sweat. it.

Sixty points earn you a butt tonne of rampaging unpleasantness. As a life long Space Marine player I’ve always been pretty dismissive of Ork Boyz. Mainly because I know my army well and always try to be disciplined with fire patterns so when Orks do make contact they’ve been so badly whittled down that a Tactical Squad can break the back of the assault and send them packing. However, having played a game with the Orks – quite rare for me in early unit reviews – I can say that if you use Ork Boyz wisely, much like the Tactical Marine, you’ll never need go any place else for your stable source of misery.

The armour upgrade is pretty much essential which does make them a lot more expensive but the trade-off is survival. Marines will have to pour twice as many shots into the Orks to kill the same number they would normally and that just isn’t enough if the whole army is kitted out that way. It guarantees a healthy percentage of your Orks will make it into combat and krump things. And when you consider the Marines will be outnumbered 4:1 that’s pretty grim. There’s a case for just doubling up on the number of boyz you’ve got but that isn’t tenable in larger games and there’s also a financial element that can’t be ignored. The Boyz are a lot more expensive now than they were on release. Twice as expensive to be exact.

Whilst I was originally distracted by the oh-so-awesome Flash Gitz, Dakka Jet (review coming very soon) and the Gorka/Morkanaut in the Codex, I’ve found myself really surprised at the fighting effectiveness of these incredibly cheap basic troops. Four attacks each for Slugga Boyz is not to be sniffed at, for 6 points. Should a mob of 20 make contact that’s fist fulls of dice, which, let’s be honest, is one of the biggest appeals about fielding horde armies in the first place.

Whilst I accept they were only squishy Guard in the game I played, a unit of 10 Shoota boyz (so 1 less attack remember) tore a squad to pieces with attacks to spare. The squad then got hammered by shooting from a unit of Stormtroopers, a command HQ, and a Guard squad until only the Nob remained. Who then went about tearing apart the Guard squad on his own. Using an army gives you whole new respect for their potential as a fighting force over just playing against them. And whilst Orks and Ork Boyz have clear weaknesses – shonky BS and Initiative to name just two – it’s made up for in other ways. The cheapness and brute force being the obvious ones. Plus it’s quite liberating taking an army where you can be a bit more cavalier with casualties, but I found it made me play more aggressively which was to my benefit.

As a jumping off point into the weird and whacky world of Orks, the Trukk Boyz box is pretty much a must buy if for no other reason than you save a fiver. It gives the army some badly needed manoeuvrability either for the Boyz or another element of the force, and gives you the beginnings of that all important – and very potent – fighting core to your army. And whilst the two kits that make up the box aren’t the newest models in the range they are still as wonderfully Orky as anything else and no one should feel bad that the Ork Boyz weren’t updated in the latest round of releases.

The Trukk Boyz box is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50
Ork Boyz are available from Firestorm Games priced £16.20 and the Trukk £20.25

Mark of War – Creating a Fantasy World

mow logoHopefully, if you’ve been following me on any form of social media you will have noticed that I’ve been blathering about a new project called Mark of War. At the basic level, it’s a tabletop miniatures game that you play on your PC or Mac or (if the funding goes well) your iThingy.

Look at this picture, it really saves me several thousand words.

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If you aren’t aware of it, please go and look at the website now, or look at Phil’s first thoughts here,  and mark the 25th of August on your calendar as the day the Kickstarter launches.

>Patient whistling, those still around cast the occasional glance at each other, silence gets a bit more awkward, a couple of people leave…<

Great, you’re back!

On the website is a whole section dedicated to the armies you’ll be able to field. The major ones have been announced by now, and I’m taking this opportunity to talk a little bit more about the world in general, to piece it all together for you and give an insight of how we’ve been going about this.

Armies_Kingdom-1009x1024A few months back the lovely people at Warpforged Games asked me if I would do some work with them on the background and world of Mark of War. They had come up with a basic premise, they knew which races they wanted to develop armies for and some of the image concepts were underway. From my point of view, pretty much ideal – not a total blank page but plenty of room to get adventurous! The underlying history of Mark of War is essentially the story of Lucifer’s fall smushed together with Revelations. Angels and demons and the apocalypse, oh my.

Anyway, regular readers of my work will know that I’m not renowned for moral absolutism, and my experience with Warhammer has taught me that everyone has a perspective, even if you’re a blood-crazed worshipper of dark and forbidden gods. Good and evil, man, are just, like, your viewpoint, m’kay? The Lucifer character morphed from being the Corruptor to being dubbed the Liberator by his followers. Get where this is going?

So, the Creator, um, creates everything with the help of divine servants. There’s a rebellion over how humans should learn about the greater secrets of the universe and the Liberator and friends are turned into demons, while the obedient divine servants become angels. The Liberator and other demons hate the Creator for this, and turn a whole load of humans into orcs, creating a vast horde with which they will wipe out the Creator’s works.

mow orc modelAt the same time, the Liberator has been whispering all kinds of juicy secrets to the humans, enticing them away from the rigid laws of the Creator, leading to the rise of the Ascended.

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Faced with this assault, the Creator realises that the humans cannot survive on their own. The Creator sends the angels down from the heavens to lay their touch upon a bunch of humans, thus bringing into the world the elves, who can aid the loyal humans against the oncoming legions of the Liberator.

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There is a big war and pretty much the Creator’s armies lose. City after city falls to the orcs and Ascended until only one remains – Westfort.

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At the very brink of victory, the individualism and selfishness brought about by the Liberator’s interference comes full circle and most of the Ascended leave the battle to follow their own desires, abandoning the orcs in the biggest assault in creation. Even so, the orcs are on the verge of winning, and in a desperate last act the Creator breaks the world, opening up the Rift. This consumes the demons, the Liberator, the Creator, kills most of the orcs and unleashes all sorts of monsters, as well as irrevocably flooding the world with Essence (magic but with a cooler, more relevant name). Westfort just about survives to become the capital of the Kingdom, and after a hundred years have passed, the stage is set for these factions to battle for domination once more.

Banner_OrcsThe idea of Essence, the energy used by the creator at the birth of the world, has gained some traction, and I think will make for an interesting magic system when we’ve had a bit more time to work on it. Similarly, the Rift is a literal bottomless pit of fun monsters and horrible things yet to be revealed.

My point is, there is a nice metaphysical, almost theological underpinning to the world right from the outset. It feels… big. One might even hazard epic. A battleground not just between armies but between ideas. We’re working hard to make sure that each of the factions has some real motivation and depth, which players will be able to latch onto when they are fighting their battles, and delve into and argue about discuss when they’re not.

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So, please come along to the forums and talk about what you would like to see, in the game and in the background. We’ve only just begun creating this world and I’m really excited by the possibilities. If you are too, please back the Kickstarter so that Mark of War can become a reality,

Thanks, see you on the battlefield!

Deep Cut Studios Epic Play Space Mat – A Review

deepcutstudioYou may remember back in June I reviewed a 3×3 space mat from Deep Cut Studio and I really rather liked it. Being someone who appreciates beautiful things – and with a massive X-Wing fleet – I got back in touch with Deep Cut to see if I could look at their 6×4 foot mats and they kindly obliged. Just as a teaser we’ve played a 400 point X-Wing game over this thing and we’ve got a game with the Tantive IV coming up so watch this space for the prettiest X-Wing battle report this side of Tatooine.

wargames_terrain_mat_planetsAfter I reviewed the 3×3 mat I had a couple of The Chaps and people on Twitter ask me if the mat was really that good, especially compared to the better known Gale Force 9’s product. In a word? Yes it is. And its big brother is even more so. To be clear it’s not made of a different material or possessed with an AI that strokes your ego every time you move your X-Wings (although that would be wicked cool), there’s just more of it. There’s more material which means a bigger gaming space and that means bigger games. Because it’s 6×4 rather than 3×3 or even 6×3 it’s Battlefleet Gothic compatible which fills me with such unbridled joy even I can’t find the words.

But more over it is completely and utterly beautiful. Mat and I are both in marketing. We both appreciate a good bit of design and we’re both hyper critical especially on things we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking we could do better. Mat’s exact words, when I unrolled it the other week at games night, were ‘Oh my God! That’s gorgeous.’ And he’s right.

I’ve been in the hobby a long time and in terms of my painting skill I’ve hit my plateau. I’m as good as I’m ever going to be plus or minus a few skill points. Equally I’ve hit the time wall that everyone hits when they do silly things like grow up, get jobs and have children. My personal time is very limited and the time I do have I try to indulge in all the various different facets of my hobby, but the one area that always gets neglected is – I’m sure you’ll all be stunned to learn – painting. And not just my armies: my scenery too. And my boards. These stupendous games mats offer people like me the opportunity to play across breathtaking boards that aren’t normally scene outside of places like Warhammr World or Babylon 5.

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The production value of the design is crazy. The previous mat was like looking at something from Astronomy Picture of the Day which, for all I know, it could have been. Not that I would have cared. But this is an entirely original creation. Time and effort and skill went into designing the mat. Not to mention the faultless printing of it.

It is a bit of a faff to get in and out of the cardboard tube and you either need to reverse roll it or flatten it with a couple of figure cases when you first lay it flat, to prevent curling, but they’re minor, trivial, gripes that in no way detract from the product. And the benefit of playing over a pretty sexy looking space board. And the fact that 6×4 is available breathes life into a game that could grow stale trapped within the confines of a 3×3 gaming space. That’s not to say smaller games of X-Wing aren’t fun or even that the space is tiresome, but it’s just nice to be able to kick things up a notch from time to time and the mat from Deep Cut Studio allows you to do just that.

And the cost for this 6×4 beauty? A trifling £39.90. Now to put that in perspective, I did make a space board a while back and the paint cost me – at those prices – £30. Today that’d be more like £50.  And whilst it looks pretty cool it isn’t anything compared to the mat and doesn’t include the cost of the boards themselves.

The epic 6×4 game mat lives up to that word. It’s a stunning looking mat and the fact that Deep Cut Studio offer other sizes over the standard 3×3 puts them head and shoulders above Gale Force 9. Throw in the fact they look better, they’re made better and are better value makes them the best and first choice for gaming mats.

You can pick up the game mats direct from Deep Cut Studio.

Badrukk’s Flash Gitz – A Review

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I’ve concluded I’m a bad man. I’m a bad man because I promised that I wouldn’t collect any more Games Workshop armies because one uber Ultramarines army was enough. Then I decided I wanted a Warriors of Chaos army for Warhammer Fantasy. So I made a new promise that I’d only collect one army for each game. Then the Lizardmen came out and I started lusting after those. I have the book so it’s really only a matter of time before the first purchases are made. And then I reviewed Codex Orks and it all went a bit wrong.

In the same way that I said I’d only get a couple of bits for X-Wing I have told big fat stinking lies and now I have a little under 1,000 points worth of Orks, kicking off with the gaggle of green skins available called Badrukk’s Flash Gitz. A handy-dandy box with Kaptin Badrukk, 10 Flash Gitz and 6 Ammo Runts. This box is interesting for two reasons – 1. It’s the first time Games Workshop have done a mixed plastic and resin box which gives me hope for more boxes like this cropping up. And 2. You actually save a decent amount of money. Granted it’s on the Ammo Runts as they’re basically free but as they’re quite useful to Flash Gitz I’ll take it.

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As soon as Freebooterz cropped up in the fluff of the new book I’d already decided I was going to collect those should I be damn fool enough to give in to my baser hobby urges (I know, I know!). I’ve always loved Freebooterz I love the fact that they are basically dimwitted pirates, albeit dimwitted pirates with large ships, large guns and no sense of self-preservation. It also tickles me that the Freebooterz feel no bond or comradery with other Orks and would happily bankrupt a Warboss in exchange for the use of their ships. They are the Ork equivalent of scoundrels. And I can think of two scoundrels that the geek community are extremely fond of.

So it was inevitable really that I would take Kaptin Badrukk as my army’s warboss (although Lee, Mat and I have agreed to no special characters for our new armies) as I want my army to be as brash and as ostentatious as it’s possible for an Ork army to be. I don’t even care if I win games, I just want to look bat shit crazy whilst I’m doing it. Kaptin Badrukk as a model – regardless of the character’s rules, does that exceptionally well. He’s an Ork pirate. In space. Give him a massive gun and he’s perfect. Oh wait…

99800103019_KaptinBadrukkNEW01The model is awesome. Hands down my favourite Ork infantry model and one of my favourite models in recent years. Whilst he’s not dynamically posed like a lot of the new generation Games Workshop models it’s reminiscent of the old John Blanche and Mark Gibbons artwork from when I was young in the hobby. And for that reason alone I love it. Whilst Finecast is still wildly unpopular amongst hobbyists, and even I admit to having some bad experiences, Badrukk is perfectly cast. Although the Games Workshop certainly embraced the first part of the Flash Gitz moniker because there’s a lot of it. But at least it’s nowhere stupid that will ruin the model with the exception of the sword tip but as that’s pointing downwards it shouldn’t make much difference when it’s on a base and painted. Yes I said it!

The Badrukk model is that perfect blend of Orkiness smashed together with human clothing and technology. The heavily modified Ripper Gun, the stolen naval medals hanging from the very human looking hat. And course the well-tailored, if heavily augmented, naval coat. And I love the overturned chest of teef. And only when you scrutinise the model you start to notice all the other teef. The teef lining the choppa. The teef hemming the collar of the coat. Badrukk is a rich bitch.

And he has the toys to prove it. Armed with Da Rippa, it’s a basically an Assault 3 plasma gun. Which is hideous. Fortunately he also comes with a Gitfinda so between that and that number of shots its chucking out, you should kill some folk. The Goldtoof armour will help keep Badrukk alive whilst you do it with a 3+ save and a 5+ invulnerable. For an Ork that’s a tasty load out.

The rub is that for 110 points he’s bot as beefy as a Warboss. He gets a point less strength, toughness, wound and initiative which is quite a hit considering you can buff up a Warboss for fewer points and only really lose out on a point of save and the invulnerable. Da Rippa though is a meaty weapon and he’ll make his points back providing you play aggressively enough with him.

By putting him with some Flash Gitz for example…

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These models are awesome. I mean really really cool. I haven’t had this much fun building models in ages. The kit is as Orky as it can get. The Snazzguns have 8 components to them and there’s so many options that no two guns will look the same and that’s pretty cool. Throw in the variety of heads and the 5 components to make the boss poles and it makes for some fantastically individual (and flashy) models. They do take bloody ages to build though. It’s not time wasted however because the end result is a centre piece unit that rivals even the big stuff in the Ork army. The size, detail, customisation and sheer bat shit craziness of them is incredibly impressive. And I love the little homages to the original models from way back when.

It’s just all the little touches that really set the Flash Gitz off. Built a twin drum mag rotary cannon? Well that’s not enough dakka, so why not stick a big shoota on the underside just to make sure? Your Snazzgun not loud enough? No problem, fit it with a sound deck. No gag. It’s in there just look on the sprues. One of the coolest bits are the strings of casings you can have coming out of the ejection ports, just to really sell the action. The downside of those is they’ll like snap off at some point and it only makes storing large models even harder. They’re already terminator size models without the boss poles or anything else.

The Gitfindas are a little clumsy even by Ork standards. They don’t feel Orky they just feel like an after thought. Everything else just works beautifully on the kit. I don’t hate them by any means I just don’t think they’re as strong as the rest of the bits on the sprue. The nice thing is that they’re optional so you can leave them off. I’ve done a mix in my squad of 10 as some are cooler than others. But that just adds to the Orky ramshackle look.

The Ammo Runts are a cool addition to the box and add not only an air of pomposity to the Flash Gitz in so much as they have minions following them around but their weapons are so powerful that they need said minions to follow them around with heavily laden with boxes of ammo, which is a nice touch. The models are pretty cool and well cast. My only thought is, whilst awesome and basically for free I’d have happily had them left out and the box be cheaper by a tenner. This said, Ammo Runts to a unit that really needs to hit with their shooting to get the most of out of them, they go a long way to boosting the combat effectiveness of the Flash Gitz. Although that’s true of all Orks, ramshackle guns or no.

And of course no Ork unit would be complete without the ramshackle rules to go with it (see what I did there?). The Snazzguns for all their ostentatious glory are a tad unpredictable. They chuck out an impressive Assault 3 at Strength 5 at a 24 inch range giving the Orks a tasty base of fire, supported immeasurably by the Gitfindas and the option to take Ammo Runts so shots will hit and have enough wallop to wound. Where it gets iffy is the AP is a D6 roll. The average roll is a 4 which means you’ll be dropping everything except Marines and Necrons which isn’t bad but the unpredictability does mean you’re always taking a risk when hurling shots at heavier targets.

The other problem they have is that they can’t upgrade their armour like Ork Boyz so they’re very vulnerable to return fire. Only their two wounds stops them from being mown down and at 220 points for 10 without upgrades, they’re a weighty investment in an Ork army. As with much of the meatier Ork units the answer usually revolves around mounting them in a vehicle of some sort and or putting them near a kustom force field.

But despite the question marks against them, it doesn’t take much for Flash Gitz to make back their points and more if you’re sensible with them and choose targets wisely. And the fact of the matter is that they have the stat-line of a Nob getting 4 attacks on the assault. So they’re just as capable at smashing skulls with the blunt end of their Snazzguns as they are blasting skulls to cinders with the business end.

Whilst Flash Gitz aren’t for everyone or for every army – the points value alone making some think twice – I think they’re awesome and will be a staple of my Freebooterz army…once I’ve thought of a cool name for Badrukk.

Kaptin Badrukk’s Flash Gitz are available from Firestorm Games priced £72.00.

Boxes of 5 Flash Gitz are also available from Firestorm Games priced £28.80.

 

Empire vs Khorne Tactica Part 2

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In Part 1 of this Tactica, we covered which units to take against the pure combat focus of a Khorne army and with an idea of what your list includes, let’s now look at deploying and using them effectively.

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I’m a firm believer in having a strong core at the heart of your army with everything else flowing around it – the expendable stuff, and that word synergy is at its most prominent at this point as you will want as many of your units as possible to benefit from your ability ‘bubbles’ and not have to spend time shuffling about after the game starts to get into range.

By keeping your core intact you can still win even if the rest of your army gets smeared into a fine red paste, which is still a very real possibility no matter how well you’ve prepared.  This core will of course tend to be your slower foot troops who don’t tend to move much, backed up by their support elements which make them better, and the simple diagram below shows that by deploying them in a compact line with the Celestial Hurricanum behind them, all three infantry blocks will be benefitting from the +1 to hit in combat.  The white squares in the Greatsword unit represent characters which can also then spread their influence to these units – namely the re-rolling of Leadership tests provided by your Battle Standard Bearer and the increased Leadership of 9 provided by your General in the shape of an Arch Lector. This entire group is now re-rolling its Leadership tests on an unmodified Ld of 9 (through Steadfast and Stubborn) whilst hitting back on 3’s with a ton of Strength 4 and 5 attacks. The Lector is also granting Hatred to the Greatswords and can also cast a prayer on them either increasing their chances to wound or improving their survivability. It would take a brave enemy General to charge headlong into that and he will bleed for the damage he inflicts – and seeing as you have around 110-120 wounds in that formation he’ll be hard pressed to outlast you.

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Once you throw in your Archer Detachments that can range in front of your line, you should be able to divert enemies units looking to charge you and set up favourable flank charges for when you do want to step out of formation.  This core also has the benefit of accounting for a significant proportion of your points making it harder for your opponent to achieve a victory and easier for you to avoid defeat.

Some of your more combat capable units can also act as powerful deterrents to those who think themselves strong enough to break your core.  For example, a Steam Tank makes a brilliant protector of this formations flank, it’s hard as nails and unbreakable letting you focus on what’s in front of you.  A counterattacking unit of Demigryphs or Knights can also fulfil this role.

If circumstances are permitting, always endeavour to get a unit of Demigryphs in a position to flank the enemy. This doesn’t have to be out on a flank necessarily, simply using a piece of terrain to hide behind waiting for the enemy to come past is just as, if not more useful.  At worst it delays your enemy as he doesn’t want to get flanked, at best you get to pull off a devastating charge that can roll right up a battle line.

You should always try to place your cannons out on the flanks and this is for two reasons. Many opponents forget to look sideways across a battlefield when moving their army forwards and often assume you will shoot the unit directly in front of the Cannon in an effort to keep them alive. Whilst this is an option, shooting across the battle field into the flanks of units of Skull Crushers and Chaos Knights is far more damaging to your opponent.  Your Cannons’ days are numbered as your opponent will do much to remove them as a threat as quickly as possible, so their only job is to inflict as much damage as possible before they go. The other reason to put them on the flanks plays into this.  They’re a great distraction and buy the rest of your army time while they’re being dealt with – and if they’re way out on a flank it’s even longer before their disposers get back into the fight.  I usually deploy the small halberdier units with my cannons to buy them another turn or two of firing to really soften up the enemy before they go and make sure my opponent has to commit a significant unit or two to deal with them – playing even further into reason two.

In the compressed battle line below, you can see the core formation in the centre – although it can be positioned anywhere – supported by the Steam Tank and unit of Knights protecting its flanks. These, and any other units, moving to assist the centre also have the advantage of coming under your ability bubbles too, further adding to their potential.  The Cannons are way out wide supported by the small halberdier units and the Demigryphs are well placed on either side to support either the centre by arcing around or the flank if necessary, or even to advance forwards and punch a hole through vulnerable points through the enemy line.  You can also see how a simple copse of trees can be hidden behind to set up a trap for any unit advancing on the core formations, with the screen of skirmishing archers being used to pull enemy units into favourable positions for flank or dual charges.

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By angling the archers correctly, you should be able to ensure a flank charge at least somewhere along the line and your opponent will likely be hoping to pass his Ld tests to stop his frenzied units charging into your traps.  Don’t be afraid to advance your skirmish screen aggressively to take the initiative away from your opponent who is used to having it when playing with such an offensive army. By getting those archer units high up the board you can clog up his approach with unexpected combats or slowed units trying to avoid getting into combat with them, and then overrunning into your lines unsupported.

The elements not visible in the diagram such as the Helblaster, Outriders etc. can be placed where they are needed as your enemy deploys.   If you can see he’s going to try to rush your core in force, put your Helblaster down in the centre to really make him suffer – or even abandon his plan. If he’s emphasizing (refusing) a flank, you should have an opportunity for your Outriders to find a prime firing position. A lot will depend on how your opponent deploys so try to keep your best stuff until the end. Things like Halberdiers and Knights aren’t going to hold many surprises with where they go, but the likes of Demigryphs and Steam Tanks are crucial units so try to get favourable match ups across the board to maximise their damage potential – and your opponent will be doing the same as he will be fully aware of the danger these units possess. Steam Tanks need to avoid anything with multiple high strength attacks like Slaughterbrutes, Dragon Ogres and tooled up characters. Demigryphs should simply avoid wasting their offensive power on grinding down units in multiple rounds of combat.  They are the point of the blade and if applied correctly should be able to take on almost any unit if they avoid a frontal charge.

The army is also surprisingly offensive when needed, with three mounted offensive units plus a Steam Tank battering ram, you can really take the initiative when the time comes and launch a crippling counter attack to carry the day.  Look for gaps or vulnerable points in the enemy line, as charges are made these holes will appear and capitalising on those moments to get a unit in behind his line will create a real headache as to how to deal with them – all the while you’re pounding him with black powder and magic.

Don’t be afraid to feed your expendable units into his to buy you the time you need to whittle him down with your shooting and get into position with your best units.  Expendable covers everything that isn’t in your core formation – even things like the Demigryphs.  As long as they are buying you an advantage with their sacrifice, you know that by protecting your core (which accounts for around half your victory points) you can still win.

The trick is to get him to underestimate your army.  Let him think he can roll over any unit you’ve got without consideration with his hulking combat monsters, ignoring the risks of charging across the board as fast as he can [With a Khorne army one doesn't have much choice in the matter. - Ed].  Capitalising on his overconfidence and haste in avoiding warmachine fire will let you dictate where the combats happen and with who. Constantly deflect his best units, either into flank traps or off the board to waste their time, and only taking them on when the circumstances are in your favour.  Do this and you will win the battle.

X-Wing Expansion: Lambda Class Shuttle – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesA slightly different tack for me for this X-Wing ship review. I’m going Imperial. But just this once. I’m Imperial-curious I guess you could say. And for my dabble in the Dark Side I’ll be looking at the iconic and epically cool Lambda Class Shuttle.

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First: the model. Which is, even by the gaming standard pre-paint jobs that Fantasy Flight churn out, not awesome. Admittedly there’s not a lot you can do with a grey ship with lots of flat surfaces but visible brush strokes are a little much. The model itself though is way cool and I love the fact that the wings move. As arguably there will never be a situation when the wings will be folded up they didn’t have to design the model with movable wings so it’s kind cool that they did.

And that’s really the point of the Lambda Class. It’s just cool. It looks bad ass. It looks bad ass despite the average paint job and the alarmingly flimsy blaster cannons mounted on the wings. Those buggers will snap faster than someone with anger management issues at a twat convention.

In the game the Lambda Class Shuttle is a mess of contradictions. In terms of movement it is a slow, wallowing, turd of a ship that is quite at odds with the fast movers that make up the bulk of the Imperial fleet. This does mean it’ll need baby sitters like a teenager needs supervision at the magazine rack. That said, it’ll take some killing. With 5 shields and hull points it’s very solid and that makes it a problem for Rebels as their smaller numbers requires them to make clean kills and move on to the next one. Ten hits are a heck of a lot of punishment to have to dish out. Not to mention having to wade through all the other ships to get to the shuttle in the first place.

And it’s no slouch in a fight either with three shots and for 2 points it can take an anti-pursuit laser which means, much like the Firespray, you can only really catch it amidships. But for around 10 points less. However this fact does actually play to the Rebel’s strengths but providing you’ve not left the Lambda Class alone you should have a very meaty anchor unit in your fleet.

So the Lambda Class is a slow-moving, durable, weapons platform and a rally point. But that’s not all. Oh no. The pilots provide very useful advantages like taking on stress tokens or target locks which keeps you flimsier but faster fighter in the fight for longer. Colonel Jendon can assign his blue target lock action to another ship, presumably even if they can’t normally acquire it. Which for the likes of a TIE fighter is very useful indeed. Double that up with the ST-321 upgrade and you can acquire a target lock on any enemy on the board. Which, for an extra 3 points, is a lethal mix.

All the upgrades are a bit mental actually and none of them are over 3 points. Including being able to take Darth Vadar who gives you the opportunity to inflict a critical hit on a target in exchange for taking 2 points of damage. A two-edged sword but timed right and it could be decisive. Although the cheekiest card by a mile is the Rebel captive who inflicts a stress token on any Rebel ship firing on the user. Which is just horrendous and anyone using the Lambda Class without that card should probably have a slap. And, theoretically, on the basis that Rebel captives aren’t in that short supply, you can take one per shuttle.

And really that’s the Lambda Class Shuttle‘s strength: investing in sensible upgrades which dramatically increase the fleets longevity, allowing you to offset its weaknesses. And then take two.

I gameplay terms I’m not sure at which point you’d take a Lambda Class Shuttle over other elements. Especially now things like the TIE Defender is readily(isn) available. The unit buffs and upgrades are a strong lure but it’s slow speed forces you to change tactics and that’s worth considering. Points wise it’s embarrassingly cheap for what it gives you. TIE Defenders are the more expensive option and it’s only their aggression and tasty mix of Ion Cannons and Laser Cannons that makes them my first choice but in the right scenario a Lambda class is devastating. Especially anything that requires the Rebels to attack a specific point. The fact that the Lambda can actually come to a complete stop gives you floating bunkers and that’s terrifying.

The Lambda Class Shuttle is available from Firestorm Games priced £19.99.

-Phil

Empire vs Khorne Tactica Part 1

 

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAs we near the end of our ‘Tale of Two Armies’ series, I thought it would be helpful for those interested to put the lessons I have learnt into a Tactica article of sorts – but one that focuses on tackling a specific opponent. This is the first part of that article which will cover general army selection against a foe which favours combat over all else, with the second part moving on to deployment and tactics.

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I’ve enjoyed a large amount of success in the series of games Phil and I have played out, only losing once in the first game – to a total bloodbath where but a single Chaos Warrior was left standing at the end, a Pyrrhic victory if there ever was one.  This was in stark contrast to how I thought the series was going to go after the decision was taken to do it and getting my hands on the army books.  I still stand by what I said in my Empire Army Book review, the subtleties of the changes in the Empire book still leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth knowing what the author’s motivations were, and the fact that the list suffers from significant imbalances corroborates my opinions when paired with the Chaos book.

I feel a large portion of my success was actually down to Phil’s choice of which Chaos God to theme his army on as much as it is to my playing ability. Playing as Khorne is certainly a limitation – at least when it comes to playing the Empire.  I’m sure it would have been harder for me to succeed if I was playing against say, an Undivided list, with all its magical gizmos and tailoring potential – it has a hideously powerful potential in the hands of someone willing to throw any kind of theme or fluff out the window. The lack of any shooting or magic are both huge advantages to an Empire player as you don’t have to invest any of those precious points into protecting yourself from those elements and can focus more on directly dealing with the biggest threats you know you’ll face. But anyway, on to what I’ve learnt which will hopefully benefit those budding Empire General’s out there for the times when they’ve run into an army of Khorne frothing at the mouth.

Army List Selection

Games of Warhammer Fantasy Battle can be won and lost before a dice is even rolled, the choices you make in building your list will have a significant say in how easy or hard your games will be to win.

Frenzied Khorne units are like lawnmowers when it comes to the green grass of the Empire.  Most of your soldiers will die horribly by the wagon load in a stand up fight – you will typically be striking last, with inferior weapon skill, lower strength, and with far less attacks. You will need numbers, and it will be crucial to get your units working together – synergy is a term used a lot with Empire armies and harnessing it is the key to victory.

For your Core, you will need at least one, maybe two, big blocks of State Troops to act as both an anchor for your battle line and an anvil to break the enemy on.  They will need to hold their ground in the face of the whirlwind of death that will inevitably hack its way to them, at least 40-50 bodies if you’re going down the single block route.  I personally prefer to go with two units of 35-40 but that’s what works for me against my opponent and it can be hard to maintain character support across the two of them which we will come onto a bit later.  Which type of State Troops to use for this depends on your style of play, but there are some definite good and bad choices when it comes to deciding which to field.

Swordsmen are the most durable being able to make full use of shields that also provide them with a parry save, plus having an extra point of WS meaning Marauders and Hounds only hit you on 4+ instead of 3+ adds to their durability. They are great for absorbing attacks but will kill very little in return, particularly against anything wearing Chaos Armour.  They are an ideal choice for a true anvil with which to hold the enemy against, but are also the most expensive in points per man.

Halberdiers can actually kill something occasionally, but will die doing so. The extra strength helps with causing wounds and also getting through the thick armour you’ll face. However, the inability to use a shield at the same time as a Halberd means they die very quickly. For a mere 6 points they are generally considered to be the best all round choice in any Empire Army – shields are only worth taking against armies with lots of shooting so leave them behind against Chaos and take more bodies instead.  They are probably the best choice against Chaos.

Spearmen give you many attacks – albeit with very little chance of success against the high toughness and armour saves.  The Spears also make them very static and completely defensive as they only work if they don’t charge. They are the worst choice against Chaos, limited in their usefulness to only the weaker units, which are few in a Chaos army.

To back up your block/s you can add in detachments if you so choose – although there is a lot of debate as to whether they are worth it anymore after the changes made to them. My opinion is generally no, with one exception. There is a definite use for smaller 10/15/20 man units in the army, for sure, but now without the benefit of the auto flank counter charge rule, attaching them to parent units means they often just provide additional squishy bodies for your opponents superior troops to kill and gain yet more combat resolution with – that goes double for Chaos units, and triple for Khorne.  Add in all the Psychology involved with having them in amongst your line means I rather have the flexibility of taking small units on their own.  Independent 10 man Halberdier units (cheap) are fantastically useful and can be used as warmarchine protectors, charge redirectors, speed bumps, flank protectors etc.  Easily worth the measly 60 points they cost per unit.  The exception is for the lowly Archer – they’re brilliant.  They can range in front of the army and become a very irritating distraction for your opponent who must overcome their charge redirecting and blocking. Panic isn’t a problem when they die as they are out in front and the fact they can shoot is just a bonus which lets them soften up the hounds which are usually tasked with removing them.  Costing as little as 35 points in units of 5 makes them invaluable at buying you time – they are one of the most important units available to the Empire.

The rest of the ranged State Troops unfortunately are poor.  They are now very expensive for what they do and against a Khorne army with no real shooting or magic to worry about the more fragile Outriders are a much better choice.  10 Handgunners costs you 90 points for 10 shots, 5 Outriders cost you 105 points for 15 shots – all at the same equivalent BS.  Plus the Outriders get a free move at the start of the game to get into a better position, and also have horses for if they ever do need to move again – which you should avoid.

Knightly Orders are decent. The 1+ armour save is still very hard for even Chaos Warriors to get through, just stay away from Chaos Knights, or worse Skull Crushers,  who will still make a mess of them. You can also choose to equip them with Greatswords as you’ll be striking last anyway, but losing the 1+ save is a big decision as it’s their biggest strength. They won’t win in a head on charge against most units but get them in a flank and they will be hard to shift – particularly the Stubborn Reiksguard who can pin a unit in place almost indefinitely.  Their problem is they struggle to deal out enough damage and need character support if you want them to charge through units of any significance – mounted Warrior Priest’s help them massively with their Hatred.

One of, if not the best units available to you will be the Demigryph Knights – they are the one truly combat capable unit available to the Empire and can eat their way through almost anything if you play them right – just don’t forget you’re playing Chaos who are also very combat capable.  If you’re careless with them they will die just as quickly as anything else in the Empire army. Their armour-piercing beaks are tailor-made to beat Chaos units, get them in a Flank and watch them go – its carnage. Take two units if possible.

Warmachines are fairly straight forward.  The Steam Tank is a beast and you should always take it when possible.  Its hull mounted cannon is a bonus but it’s the D6 plus D3 impact hits per steam point used in moving when it charges is where the real use is. Plough it into units like Chaos Knights and Warriors and watch it mangle them – but stay away from Dragon Ogres unless you’re confident of crippling them in the impact.  Their S7 Great Weapons can do a lot of damage and at 4 wounds each are still durable despite the lack of decent armour or high toughness. The steam turret is still useful against Chaos despite their smaller units and generally high toughness.  One bad roll for armour saves can still be crippling if you ramp it up to S4 so keep an eye out for opportunities to use it.

Take at least one Cannon, preferable two – there’s multitude of fast-moving units with either high armour or multiple wounds running around for you to shoot at: Skull crushers, Dragon Ogres, Chariots, Chaos Knights, Slaughterbrutes etc. Back these up with a Volley Gun and Engineer (he’s a must).  Chaos players are terrified of the Helblaster and rightly so – it can and will remove entire units when it fires using the Engineers BS and re-roll, and will also act as an area denial weapon.

A few other things I’ve found useful are Greatswords and the Celestial Hurricanum.  Greatswords are a 50/50 for a lot of Empire players as they’re expensive, but against Chaos Warriors their weapons can wreak havoc against their tough units. Put a Battle Standard bearer in the unit and they will (almost) never ever run away. Cold blooded, unmodified leadership 8 with a re-roll is nearly impossible to break and it’s easier to just slay the entire unit, and although expensive they are very hard to get points out of because of this.  The Hurricanum enjoys the benefit being something of a wild card as well providing some reliable effects. The +1 to hit 6” bubble is valuable beyond measure for your troop blocks and means that when you do finally get to hit back, those numbers you’ve sunk your points into will do some serious damage.  It also provides an extra power dice to help get those all-important spells off, and that means the random weather spell is a bit of a bonus afterthought really – you’d take it for the first two reasons alone.

And last but no means least, we have the characters – Empire armies rely very heavily on them and thankfully they’re cheap.  First up is a Captain upgraded to a Battle Standard Bearer and he really is non-negotiable as it will be the rock of your entire army. Back him up with as with a few Warrior priests where you think you’ll need them and you should have a pretty formidable formation all benefitting from each others abilities. After you include the previously mentioned Engineer for the Helblaster, you just need some Magical firepower in the form of some wizard levels – Level 2 or more, it’s up to you really. As you don’t have to worry about any spells coming back your way you can put as much or as little into magic levels as you want. Lore of Metal really hurts Khorne with their sky-high armour saves so I take at least one Wizard with that lore in my army. The biggest choice you will face in your character selection is who to make your general.  A Wizard Lord gives you access to the very desirable Ld 9 and can hang back from the battle line relatively safe.  Another good choice is to make one of the Warrior Priests an Arch Lector, who can sit in your battle line and benefit the whole formation with his leadership and prayers – just remember to protect him adequately.

Things like Grand Masters and Generals are good but typically being mounted they tend to move away from your force so the army doesn’t usually benefit from the leadership bonus.  Sitting still in units are a waste of points for what a cheaper character can do – and if you do want them to go charging off to plough through enemy units you really have to invest the points in his unit and his magic items – which all significantly weakens the rest of your army.  Besides, who’s stupid enough to actually go chasing a Khorne army?

So based on what I’ve gone over, in a 3000 point list you should have a unit roster looking something like this:

Captain – BSB

Wizard/s

Engineer

Arch Lector/Warrior Priests/s

Halberdier Block  x2

Small Halberdier Unit  x2

Inner Circle Knights Block

Archer detachment  x2

Demigryphs  x2

Greatsword Block

Outriders

Great Cannon  x2

Steam Tank

Helblaster Volley Gun

Celestial Hurricanum

Don’t be under any illusions, its hard work getting it all to fit – there just never seems to be enough points when making Empire lists – but it can be done. Some sacrifices will need to be made depending on how many magic levels you want or how many points you wish to invest in magic items.  A few things can easily be trimmed to free up points like the Outriders or one of the small halberdier units, but by including at least most of the units above you should have a flexible and tough army that your opponent will struggle to do any meaningful damage to.

In the next part we’ll look at deploying the army to get the maximum benefit out of each unit and how to use them once battle is joined.

-Lee