Warhammer 40,000: Regicide

So another Warhammer 40,000 game is in production. This time it’s 40k Chess. To be honest I have no feelings one way or the other on how good or not it will be. Or even how advisable it is to make a 40k version of the original strategy game when Games Workshop spend a lot of energy telling everyone theirs is the best. However the teaser and the animations look epic so for now I don’t really care.

And pay special attention to the bolters and heavy bolters when they fire. Because you can actually see the contrail of the bolt round’s rocket igniting. Which is pretty badass.

Tyranids Sighted

toxicreneOkay, it’s not much but this gribbly sod makes it pretty clear that the Tyranids are about to have another reboot. Most Tyranid players will be delighted after the last two codices were pretty sucky. Let’s hope this edition bucks the trend. Having had a couple of Tyranid armies over the years I, for one, would like them to return to their place as the horror movie close combat nightmares rather than an obviously commercially written army list.

Anyway, I’ll post more pictures as I find them.

10 Years of Dawn of War

warhammerdowI was surprised to learn today that it’s been 10 years since the release of the original Dawn of War game. This auspicious occasion couldn’t be marked without a few words about a game that I not only invested hours of my life in but helped redefine the RTS genre.

When I first heard about the game I don’t mind saying that I was not optimistic. Up to then all the Games Workshop video games had been pretty shit. With the possible exception of the Space Hulk game on the Amiga and Commodore 64. Yes, I’m that old. Sod off. However as details began to emerge about gameplay – such as making use of hard and soft cover, as well as some semblance of a force organisation chart – I started to grow more positive.

Then I saw the graphics. Whilst it looks a little dated now, at the time they looked pretty sweet. The environment felt like the 41st Millennium. The Space Marines were a loyal representation. The animation was believable. And the finishing moves for each of the commanders was awesome. And best of all you could zoom right down into the action. Granted you needed a pretty meaty machine (10 years ago) to do that and it not crash but that was and is the joy of PC gaming.

When my copy arrived and I went through the lengthy install process then hit play. And I’m so very glad I did. The opening cut scene even now looks awesome. It bugs the living hell out of me because those few Orks could never take down a squad of Space Marines. And no sane Space Marine squad sergeant would allow his unit to meet a mob of Orks in open combat, but as I say, it looks awesome.

Actually it was awe inspiring. Those kinds of animations were rarely seen let alone in a Games Workshop computer game. Moreover it declared to the world that an animated Space Marine movie was possible. We’ve had one stab at it already and the fan made Lord Inquisitor on its way. One day… But the point is that it set imaginations on fire.

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The campaign was a little ropey in terms of plot and voice acting. It was caught in that classic trap of a publisher wanting it to be accessible to non-fans and a team of writers who knew the lore but couldn’t write very well. But well enough that the campaign trundled along quite happily albeit laboriously at times. I do confess to being quite glad it was over when I finished the final mission.

What it did do very well was encourage different styles of play and tactical decisions rather than the classic ‘build a base, build loads of blokes’ approach. Which whilst fun is never gonna win you the big scores in the press.

The game also introduced us to the Blood Ravens. A most intriguing bunch who I guessed from the get-go their true origins. A chapter that likes psykers and wears red and bone armour. Remind you of anyone? That aside, they’ve become a part of the 40k lore and I’ve seen many an army take to the table. Which I think is a benchmark of the game’s success. That it’s influencing hobby as well as the hobby influencing it.

That said, it was never the plot that made Dawn of War the game we know and love today. It was how faithfully the models had been lifted from the table and put into a PC game. No one had tried to be clever with the styling or reinvent the wheel. They looked like rendered models kicking the living shit out of each other and that was and is awesome. It was incredibly satisfying watching a tactical squad take apart a unit of Ork Boyz. And the first time a Land Raider rolled off the production line and opened up with its lascannons was a very special moment.

However, where the game got really fun was the skirmish mode. 4 players, either online or AI or both, racing to build a base and kick the living daylights out of each other. My online experiences were tarnished by people running a force commander into my base, calling down a lance strike to cripple my capacity to do, well, anything and then suffer the indignity of sitting and watching a single tactical squad slowly shoot the few buildings that survived to pieces. However, if you went up against an opponent that wasn’t a total bell end it was the best fun. And you could spend hours with the delicate dance of war.

One of my favourite memories was a game against a vastly superior player to me. He was out foxing me at every turn and it was only through sheer tenacity I was able to hold him back long enough to force a withdrawal. Up to this point I’d been putting my efforts into building a strike force so instead I put everything I had into building an overlapping defence network with a few Dreadnoughts in amongst there as well. By the time the inevitable attack came there were so many heavy bolter turrets opening up that entire secitons of the map weren’t visible. And by this point I had a few squads in reserve so once committed what was a holding action became a route and I was able to roll up his force and destroy his base. It truly was a superb game.

And that’s really the point. Dawn of War is a superb game. The supplements kept the game fresh and kept fans of the armies happy. Although I never completed the Winter Assault campaign. I just found using the Imperial Guard tedious. Which is exactly how I feel about using them on the board so they clearly got the feel for the army dead on.

It’s times like this that you realise how much you enjoyed something and the only reason you stopped playing was because you forgot you had it. It’s easy to blame time but the reality is that we all filled our days with new games like Dawn of War II – which I just couldn’t get on with – and left it on a shelf to collect dust and ultimately get sold on.

But for those that did sell on your copies – you fools! – you’re in luck. The lovely people over at Relic are doing a competition to celebrate Dawn of War’s anniversary by giving away a big pile of cool shit including the games. Head over to their site to find out how you could win.

And remember, only in death does duty end… Ugh.

-Phil

Grey Knights Codex – A Review

 

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One in a million. That’s how many recruits survive Grey Knight boot camp.  And if you consider that those recruits are the top percentage of those already chosen from their home worlds as being the top specimens on their respective planets, the numbers start to get a little crazy. The entire population of Earth would probably yield barely a single Grey Knight – rounding up. That’s a whole lot of sacrifice for a single marine in silver armour, but then who else is going to remember the ever-changing names of every Daemon in the Warp and throw it in their faces?

Grey Knight Codex

The new Grey Knights Codex describes such details to give you a better understanding than ever before of lengths the Imperium has had to go to in the endless war for its soul.  On reading through the background of the frankly beautiful book, I was surprised at the number of excellent additions to their background – a stellar map showing the locations of the known daemonic  incursions and Warp storms throughout the galaxy, a detailed breakdown of the Chapter’s fighting strength, descriptions of all the Brotherhoods,  plus the names and duties of each Grandmaster and their second in command Brother Captains, a double page spread on understanding their Heraldry with examples and ideas on creating your own. It goes on and on and all works to impress upon you just how few and individual they are, and the magnitude of the task they face.

Their Chapter breakdown reads with some very specific numbers, such as 44 Purifiers and 98 Paladins – in the entire galaxy. Even when reading the same lists for marines you’re still somewhat safe in the knowledge that there are at least another thousand or so other Chapters out there to lend a hand if someone screws up. It’s all wonderfully compelling  knowing just how close humanity teeters on the edge of its doom, and the individuality the book enables you to impart on your small army of ‘man’s greatest, and fewest, heroes’ creates a firm link to the consequences should you fail.

The fantastic new artwork does a much better job of portraying their supreme fighting ability (the first double page piece is particularly impressive) and lends itself well to the idea that they are extremely proficient at killing daemons – but constantly under threat of being overwhelmed by the never-ending hordes they struggle to hold back. Usually only barely a handful of Grey Knights will be sent to deal with a potential incursion which their prognosticators can foresee (kind of like ‘Minority Report’) which enables them to show up at the right time with the minimum of force to get the job – so precious is each and every Knight – and only the greatest and most threatening of incursions warrants the mustering of a full brotherhood.

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If I’m honest, I was disappointed with the photography.  Someone got a little carried away with the lighting effects and there was no showcase of individual models which is always one of my favourite sections of an army book – I’m unsure if this is consistent across the new format Codicies but it’s not a change I’m happy with as I get a lot of inspiration from the individual efforts of the ‘Eavy Metal team.  There‘s also what look to be not one, but two non ‘Eavy Metal, and I guess ‘reader/staff submitted’, armies used in the photography and the quality just isn’t there.  They are great armies that anyone would be proud to own (although I’m not sure about the one with all the trophy racks, seems very Chaos) but in a premium book I expect premium quality throughout.

Onto the army list and there’s quite a bit of change, and you can expect a mixed reaction from existing Grey Knight players. They had a reputation as one of the stronger armies in 40k and everyone was expecting them to be toned down – and this has indeed happened.  All the Inquisitor stuff has gone completely – even down to the fluff, with only a slight link to the Inquisition being maintained. Most of the equipment and upgrades has been wiped away, no more Psycannon Bolts, or Rad grenades, or Brain Mines, it’s all gone along with all the Grey Knight specific Vehicle upgrades. It’s a bit of a shame as not only is there  still a mention of the more exotic pieces they use in the background, but it seems a lot of the army identity has now gone into the Psychic phase removing most of the choice you had in how you played with them.

Non Grey Knight players will be happy to hear the (now) Lord of War choice, Kaldor Draigo has had his wings clipped. He’s still a beast but no longer strength or toughness 5 – again, as much as this was perhaps needed, it’s still a shame to see perhaps the greatest Marine in the Galaxy reduced to a majority stat line of 4’s [I think most Space Marine players would argue that point by go on... - Ed].

You’ll be kept busy re-learning the points costs of the basic elements of the army as there’s ups and downs all over the place.  Some changes of note are Grand Masters have gone up slightly and trade-off their Grand Strategy for psychic level 2, whereas Librarians have gone down by a whopping 40 points – and a further 25 less for a level 3!  Strike squads have gone up but their equipment options have gone down so you’re still better off, and Terminators have gone down significantly but lose out on the changes to the Nemesis weapons – which is swords now have no benefit beyond being a Nemesis Force weapon and Halberds are +1 Strength instead of +2 Initiative – so the Terminators are now either less durable in combat or a lot slower. Purifiers went up slightly and the Apothecary for the Paladins is now a massive 55 points less – which equates to a free Paladin! Other highlights include special weapons now being consistently priced, which actually makes equipping one on your HQ a feasible option, and the Dreadknight has been given the sales boost treatment as you can now take a tooled up teleporting monstrosity for, on average, 70 points less!  The Vehicles are largely unchanged.

Generally the list seems to be pushing you to take more from the troops choices which is a good thing as there were some big errors in the last codex which made taking Purifiers over Strike Squads a no brainer. And with Terminators getting worse but cheaper, it’s now a harder decision to choose between the two troops choices.  However, the adjusted force organisation means you only need one as a compulsory choice and gives you an extra Elite slot at a cost of one less Heavy and Fast Attack – go figure.  I said before, it’s a shame to lose all the toys and although the Relics are some consolation, it’s taken away some of the individuality from the HQ’s that the background did such a job of adding to them.

With less being spent on your HQ and generally cheaper units overall you’re army should be larger but will rely even more on the Psychic phase to assert itself with a number of units now having access to multiple powers – and a Librarian should still be the first name on the team sheet.  Beyond him and perhaps the Dreadknight, the army balance is a lot better with more of the choices being just that, rather than easy hits and misses, and I’m looking forward to getting some more models on the table – but man am I going to miss those Rad Grenades.

-Lee

Ork Stormboyz – A Review

warhammer-40000-logoIt’s no secret that I’ve riding the green tide. It’s equally common knowledge that I’ve managed to cobble together 1,000 points already. None of it’s painted yet but that’s fine as the deal between myself, Mat & Lee is that we can’t progress past 1,000 points until it’s all painted. There’s an advantage to that though as it gives me time to get use to the army before it gets too big.

And one of my favourite parts of my budding Waaagh is the Stormboyz. What’s kinda fun for me, being part of the Old Guard, is I’ve had the luxury of watching these models change over the years and each time I thought ‘those are really cool’. They’ve just got better and better. And less fascist as well which is a good thing.

99120103020_StormboyzNEW01The thing that impresses me the most is the versatility of the kit. There are options enough that you can build 10 Stormboyz that all look different. Individuality in a horde army is rare so the luxury of coming up with different combinations is a bit of a treat. From the 10 I built my favourite is the Stormboy clutching stikbombz in both hands and one between his teeth. He looks completely mental.

I think what’s cool about the models is while the background points towards Stormboyz being disciplined and well-drilled, it’s still by Ork standards so they still have that shit kicker look that makes the Orks, as an army, look so cool. Instead of like the aforementioned fascists in grey jump suits ala the 2nd edition version. And they’re still Orks so they’re still giddy at the thought of unbridled death and destruction from above. And all that comes through on the models very well. Equally the rokkit packs are crude but have an elegant simplicity that – like the Dakkajet – points towards a barely understood higher knowledge of aerodynamics and the principles of sustained flight. The 3rd edition models had nothing more than an Acme rocket strapped to their back which would have achieved nothing more than firing its wearer high into the air only to plunge to their doom shortly after. Which, whilst funny, isn’t very believable even by 40k’s over stretched concept of the possible.

It also goes together very well. The legs and torso are attached so they’re far stronger than the older models, witch just the chest to attach. There’s also plenty of heads to choose from so you can mix and match between typical Ork heads of the zanier options like the ones shown above. Where possible opt for the zany ones. They’re just better. The only considerations when building the Stormboyz are:

Position the model towards the back of the base. Because the model is leaning forwards to simulate takeoff they’re very front heavy. Whilst this isn’t such a big problem as the old metal/plastic kits of yore they’ll still fall over and it’ll still be annoying.

The other is check all the rokkit pack parts fit together before you glue them. Whilst the vast majority are interchangeable, one or two aren’t and if it’s the last model you build in the squad you’ll be kicking yourself. Plus one or two of the nose cones will get in the way of one or two of the heads so glue that on last where possible.

Now there’s a few naysayers surrounding the use of Stormboyz primarily around their woeful armour save with no option to upgrade it. But I say this is a good thing because it encourages you to use them the way they were intended which is either with maximum aggression so you close the gap between your line and the enemy’s as quickly as possible, or you hold them back to act as a rapid response unit. Coupled with the fact that they’re relatively cheap compared to other jump infantry and they’re actually a pretty useful squad to have in the army.

Their high toughness will keep the Stormboyz safe from squishy targets like Imperial Guard when they make it in to contact, so the Ork’s low initiative isn’t so much of a problem. Against Space Marines it’s an entirely different matter but the sheer weight of attacks – and the aforementioned low-cost – will mean win or lose the Orks will always come out on top. In the game I played against Guard they made absolute mincemeat of everything they came into contact with and the addition of a Nob is brutal.

Of course that’s an ideal scenario. They were able to close rapidly and managed to avoid shooting or made it into cover when they couldn’t. The bottom line is they are very very vulnerable so there will be some games where they’ll be cut to ribbons before they do anything. How you use them so incredibly important. It’s kinda sucky from an investment point of view as a unit of 10 is the best part of £30.

If you can find ways to mitigate that all but pointless armour save then you have a very hard-hitting unit for naff all points. Time you attacks so they make contact with other elements of the army and Stormboyz have the potential to run roughshod thanks to the speed they have over their ground pounding counterparts. More so if you take a couple of units of 10.

Personally, I love the Stormboyz. The models are awesome and the best fun to build, just like the rest of the Ork models I’ve come across thus far. The level of customisation is pretty good and they just look the best when they’re built and all grouped together. They’re chunky though so be prepared for them to occupy a lot of space on the board – a bit of an issue for a horde army – and a lot of space in your figure case. But the bottom line is they’re great fun to use on the board.

Ork Stormboyz are available from Firestorm Games priced £13.95.

A Ghostly Apparition

 

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Guess who’s started a new army for 40k? It’s not my fault.  Honestly, blame Mat and Phil, they’re the ones who got me feeling all jealous and left out and stuff.  Once Phil followed Mat down the Xenos path it was only a matter of time before I caved and followed suit, which I duly did once I finally settled on an army to collect. In our gaming group Marine players feature heavily, 4 out of 7 to be exact, so when Mat decided to actually get a 40k army to play with (after selling his Tau) he figured collecting another Xenos force would be a good idea to help break up the monopoly – such a good idea in fact, that Phil and then I decided we would start new armies also of the non-good guy persuasion to add a bit of variety and eliminate those sometimes drab Blue on Blue games. Phil has now succumbed to the Green Menace to go alongside his near 10,000 points of Ultramarines, whereas I needed something to offer an alternative to the 3000+ point Marines, Guard and Grey Knights armies I already have – but I wasn’t sure what…

The new army feeling was building as I started to consider all the various races, but I found my choice somewhat more limited than I expected.  There are some I just won’t entertain – like Chaos for example. I know the whole Xenos army idea is supposed to move me out of my comfort zone but Marines with spikes stuck on them has never, ever, worked for me. Daemons lacked the things I like most in 40k – guns and vehicles, which also largely eliminates Tyranids for the same reasons.  Orks didn’t appeal to me and although Necrons may have, both were already taken.  The Tau were still good guys really and I’d already had an army of them in the past before selling them on, so I passed on taking them a second time.  The Dark Eldar were a strong option as there were a number of units/models I really liked but in the end not enough to build an army around, so that left just one non Imperial army to choose from – the Eldar. I’ve thought about collecting an Eldar army in the past, a few times in fact, as they suit my style of play and have some fantastic models, but their unit focus and squishiness always did enough to put me off.  However, the Iyanden Codex has offered me a way around this: a Ghost Warrior army! The new army feeling was well and truly buzzing now.

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An all Wraith Ghost Warrior army – 2000 points in 27 models!

‘Wraith’ type units really do have some cool looking models and nothing’s better than an army that can smash faces and look good whilst doing it. To go with that, one thing a Ghost Warrior army can never be accused of being is squishy, seeing as your standard Wraithguard troops have an impressive Toughness of 6! Add in your Wraithlords and Wraithknights with their Toughness 8 and things are looking pretty solid. However, with the sheer abundance of high strength and low AP weaponry floating around nowadays, Toughness 6 is not what it used to be and a 3+ Armour Save only takes you so far.  It was clear this army was not going to be a simple point and kill type outfit despite the tasty stat lines. Support would be essential but with the point costs being so very high it would be a hard balance to strike. Wraithguard are a costly 32 points each for something that’s still only 1 wound – plus another 10 if you want to give it a D-Scythe, meaning the army is going to be tiny. Like crazy tiny.  Like less than 20 models in a 1k army tiny. This is great news on the painting front as even I could get a whole army finished with that few models to paint in it, but it does concern me on the tactical side of things.  Phil recently stuffed almost 70 Orks into a 1k list and against a few handfuls of Wraithguard packing single shot (albeit mega powerful) guns with only a 12” range, getting overwhelmed is not only a possibility, it’s almost a certainty. They are going to need some serious rapid-firing back up, which is achievable, but breaks away a little from the pure Wraith army ideal.

The reasoning behind fielding a Wraith army in the first place is lack of manpower, so using vehicles which are piloted by just one or two Eldar to act as force multipliers makes perfect sense and opens up the tactical potential of the army – whilst still retaining its character. Including Wave Serpents is unavoidable as they’re the only transports Wraithguard can take and Warwalkers suit the aesthetic of the army as well providing the extra firepower so sorely needed – but with the Heavy Support section already looking crowded with the Wraithlords and Wraithknights taking up the slots there’s a strong possibility I’ll have to go unbound to make it work.  It’s disappointing they didn’t do a bit more for the Iyanden Codex, and something as simple as bumping Wraithlords into Elites would have made a true Wraith army more achievable with a choice in each force organisation slot (If you include Forgeworlds Wraithseer HQ – want!) – Marines get to do it with Dread’s so why not Eldar?  I’ll steer clear of everything else in the codex aside from the compulsory Seers – but there are a few things from Forgeworld which are really catching my eye. Wasps and Hornets look like they can provide all the extra firepower I need and both come under Fast Attack which would solve the overcrowded Heavy Support problem – letting me stay bound and qualifying for the all-important ‘Objective Secured’ rule.  The trade of a 5+ invulnerable for jump packs makes the Wasps even more fragile than the Warwalkers, but it’ll be fun bouncing them around the table shooting shit up while they last – especially if there’s a Wraithknight or two doing the same. I’m still worried about get swamped by horde armies, as is always the case with small elite armies, but it’ll be interesting getting the balance of the army right between guns and bodies.

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Wasp Assault Walker from Forgeworld

Painting wise, I’m undecided about whether to do the army in the yellow and blue of Iyanden as a few other colour schemes have also caught my eye. I was initially quite taken with the grey and orange of Yme Loc and as they have a rep for building titans, I thought this could translate onto my Adeptus Titanicus Eldar force.  But I have since realised the colours look far better on vehicles than they do on infantry, so I’m unsure how it will look on the abundance of long limbed walking units in the army. I could always do my own thing but that might slow things down and I’m promising to get the first 1000 points painted before I go any further.  Aaaahhh decisions. We moan, we wrangle, but we love ‘em really, it’s all part of that new army feeling.  Expect to hear of mighty Wraith constructs stomping on stuff real soon.

-Lee