Orks: Coping with an Outdated Codex

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I first started playing 40k when third edition came out. Phil had convinced my Dad to get into it and I shortly followed. I made a vague attempt to collect Imperial Guard but they weren’t for me, despite the awesome old metal models. They felt too structured. Too…sensible. I fell out of love with 40k for a while after, before a couple of years ago Jeremy gave me the Ork contents of the 5th edition 40k boxset as a birthday present. Phil followed that up with a copy of the Codex. And so began my journey collecting an army with the same level of finesse and sophistication as me…As a collector of Orks I am happy to say, without any prejudice what-so-ever, that it doesn’t matter what army you collect and what species they are: I hate them.

The answer to why this is, quite simple; it is partially because its fun to hate every other army, it makes them easier to kill, but mostly down to jealousy. I’m jealous of your guns, technology, your ballistic skill, reliability and your initiative. So why bother collecting Orks? Well they are just so different. It’s not just their great background and their rules but it is the general character of the whole army. You can guarantee that even if you play the same way every time, no two games will ever play out the same.

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However, considering they are an army with such great variety, for the Orks, nothing has changed in a very long time and this is making it harder and harder for them to remain a competitive force. I know they are not the only army still waiting on a new 6th edition codex, and I know their current book is very well written (which is probably why it has survived all of the games rule changes over the years), but the fact of the matter is the Orks have not had a new codex since the 4th edition of Warhammer 40,000 way back in 2007. For the last 2 editions of the game I have seen other armies getting shiny new guns, units and some brilliantly devastating new rules and this leads me back to the whole jealousy thing.

A week or so ago I agreed to play a new member of our group using Phil’s Ultramarines, using the new Codex: Space Marines and 6th edition rules. As far as the armies in the Warhammer 40K universe go, I have always reserved my most bitter animosity for the Space Marines. I have always felt that as cool as they look and their background is, they are the 40k Universe’s equivalent of that guy we all knew at school who never put any effort in but passes every test, always wins and as well as this, somehow gets the girl… Not that the Space Marines have any desire or need for such things. They are in fact the kind of army that make me want to run full speed across the battlefield towards them, shouting at the top of my lungs, and hit them hard in the face with something quite sharp or heavy (or both). Luckily for me this has always been the most effective way of winning, especially as an Ork will usually find that even in Power Armour, if you hit them hard enough (and enough times), they are just as squishy as anyone else.

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When preparing for the battle it was plain to see that on paper, just as they always have, the two forces look completely unbalanced with the Orks seeming to be completely out matched. The Marines can shoot further and far more accurately and even their base guns will ignore most Ork Armour, so there is no point in getting into a prolonged gun battle with them. The Space Marines are also as strong and as tough as most Orks and most importantly they are far less likely to run away. This of course poses a problem as unlike most other armies, even if you beat them in combat they are not going anywhere. To remedy this I plumbed the extensive green skin archives and consulted with some of the finest Ork tacticians, to come up with an almost fool-proof plan.

The plan was an old one but a classic. Overwhelm your opponent with sheer weight of numbers and grind them down. Then combine this with getting to them fast, or better yet very fast. Revolutionary! Granted it’s not the most elegant of plans but this is Orks not Eldar, and I have always found in the 5th edition of 40K that when in doubt this has proven to be the only way to really go toe-to-toe with and stand a chance of beating Space Marines.

I took large mobs of Boyz, some fast troops like Storm Boyz, Deff Koptas  and some trucks, plus a few special troops to deal with the inevitable well armoured tanks. Killa Kans and Tank Bustas specifically. I then ensured that set up my army in a good Waargh! formation; a wide line mixing fast vehicles in amongst the mobs to make sure I could hit his line in 2 waves. It got off to a good start as I lost fewer casualties than expected to gunfire and got my first units to the Space marine lines within 2 turns, but that is where the 6th edition changes made a difference and it all went wrong.

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(Some of the currently unpainted Waargh!)

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Warbosses and Nobs are now more vulnerable than ever, as instant kills have to be double the target’s toughness, not more than double. This is a game changer, as there are a good number of strength 10 weapons a space marine force can take. When I finally made it into combat I came across the next game changer. Furious charge is no longer as effective as it used to be. And the new overwatch rule means that some of the edge has been blunted from an Ork charge. Granted hitting on 6′s does limit the risk but rapid-firing boltguns will mean on average two Ork boys will drop. Seeing as you take from the front that can make the difference between a charge being successful and not. Which makes deployment, how you move mobs through the space and how you and when you choose to attack your targets more important than ever.

Don’t get me wrong, Orks do still dish out plenty of pain but the rule changes impact noticeably. Overwatch has the potential, given enough fire power and enough luck, to render your charge impotent. Which kinda sucks considering the assault phase is my thing. Between those changes and stuff like initiative being used  to determine whether or not a defeated unit runs, and a new Space Marine Codex, means that I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board.

The new Ork Codex can’t come soon enough and you better believe I’ll be getting it day of release and Believe me when I say I am looking forward to the new codex and I hope to be reviewing some great new rules or stat changes to level up the playing field a bit.

Dark Angels Deathwing – A Review

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Following on from my review of Codex Dark Angels a few days ago I thought I’d follow it up with a kit that has got more than a few people yapping. I refer to, of course, the Deathwing Terminator box…

m2990106a_99120101096_DeathwingXtBox_873x627Now the first thing is that the box gives you enough plastic to make either a Deathwing Command Squad, a Deathwing Terminator Squad or the new, shiny, and the much lusted after Deathwing Knights. That’s three sprues crammed with lots and lots of bits and pieces. That includes two lots of shoulder pads, two lots of torso front halves and lots of weapons and very shiny command squad components including a 3D banner.

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Now if you’re the sort of gamer that likes to keep their models simple then the Dark Angels and especially the Deathwing may not be for you. Every surface is crammed with detail. Wings, cloaked figures and swords litter every surface. Even the barrel recesses of the assault cannon have Deathwing swords.

There will be those that don’t like this seemingly limitless upchuck of Imperial and Dark Angel iconography but it is canonical as the Dark Angels are all about demonstrating their loyalty to the Imperium, all the while hunting down the traitorous brethren. Even the exhaust vents on the back half of the bodies have intrados like church windows. And, I have to be honest, it’s those simple touches that go a long way to making the Deathwing kit awesome. Aside from all the overt awesome features.

You also get a healthy range of weapons which are equally decorated and due to the flexibility of the kit the storm bolters, for the first time, aren’t attached to arms. This does mean, should the mood so take you, you can have your Deathwing Terminators looking pretty gangsta.

It’s hard not to marvel (and be slightly overwhelmed) by the sheer amount of detail on each of the components. Yes it may be a little over the top in places. In others it’s ludicrously over the top. But every component was sculpted by someone who embraced what it means to be a Dark Angel and a member of the Deathwing. There’s also lots of nice little touches that suggest that these suits of Terminator armour were some of the first of their kind possessing design features that hark back to the Horus Heresy or just after. This is an extremely cool touch. Apart from the studs on the groinal area is a bit much though.

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There is, however, a bit of a design fault. The back half of the torso is the part of the model where the shoulder mounts go atop, which you glue the arms of your choice to the Terminator. The arms on the standard Terminators have a recess that allows you to, essentially, slide on the arm which ensures a good bond and keeps the arms nice and close to the body. With the Deathwing, however,  the raised are on the back half is there but the recess on the arms isn’t. They’re flat which means there’s a gap.

There’s also nothing to stop the arm from slipping out-of-place. This is not only going to add to build time as you’ll have to make sure the arm is set before moving on, but will most likely lead to mistakes, especially if you’re the kind of gamer who just likes to get em built and get em on the board. In fact, if you look at the images above, and the one below.

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It just makes the Deathwing look a bit…slopey shouldered. This could be how they’ve been built but it proves the point that unless you get the positioning exactly right or trim down the raised parts of the torso. The shoulders themselves are also wider than normal so, once the pauldrons are stuck on they appear blockier than they otherwise should. However I rather feel like the arms were designed for the Deathwing Knights as the bulkier bodies means they need slightly wider arms so the shoulder pads don’t get in the way. Plus they’re far less noticeable for the same reason.

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The Deathwing Knights have gotten a lot of attention within the community because they’re a new unit, with new rules and big sticks of smiting. They also look fucking awesome. If the monastic aspect of the Dark Angels wasn’t apparent enough, it is with these bad boys. They all look hard as nails with the aforementioned sticks of smiting – which is probably the coolest weapon I’ve seen in a while – and their flashy storm shields. The cowled heads are immense, especially the dude with the Osmotic Gill, and add a touch of menace. Except for the Knight Master, he looks a little daft, but that’s as much to do with the pose.

The big fat downside to the kit – and specifically the Deathwing Knights – is that the flexibility has come at the cost of versatility. You can only have your Deathwing Knights in one pose – slight moving of arms up and down aside – because the heads are attached to the bodies and the bodies don’t allow for any repositioning because the tabards get in the way. The result will be that if you choose to take more than 5 in an army they’ll be looking near identical. Admittedly there’s only so much variety with other plastic Terminators but I’ve got 55 in my Ultramarines army and I’ve managed to make them all look different, albeit slightly. Plus, you only get 4 maces in a Deathwing box which means if you choose to take a squad of 10 you’ll have to do a conversion because you can’t take two flails of absolution. Not being funny or anything but that was a bit thick of the Games Workshop. Plus everyone’s Deathwing Knight squads are going to look roughly identical, which is a bit of a shame.

Personally, if money was no object for them as a business and me as a customer I would have liked to have seen the Deathwing Squad as one box and the Command/Deathwing Knight squad as another. I think it would have allowed for far more diverse kits with the iconography ramping up depending on how senior the members of the Deathwing are. It’d also leave room enough on the sprues for a sufficient number of weapons and a bit more flexibility. Weirdly, by cramming so much in they’ve made them less multipart and more like push-togethers.

One thing I’m not entirely sold on is the Watcher that comes with the set. Now I understand that he’s to bear the perfidious relic into combat – which you’re mental not to take – but unless Mammas and Pappas survive to see the 41st millennium and are making suits of Power Armour Junior I really struggle to see why the model is sculpted with a power armoured foot poking out of the bottom.

Conversion wise, there’s a lot of potential. There are lots of options and spare odds and sods that can be used for other things. Lop off the arm of the plasma cannon and, with a little patience, you can convert it with a regular marine to spice up a tactical squad. And if you have the patience of a saint and the hands of a surgeon you can carefully scrape away all the iconography on the Knights and they would look awesome in a Black Templars army or, and this is where my thinking is, in a Chaos army. Especially for the likes of the Word Bearers, Thousand Sons and my (in development) Dark Knights.

It’s a great kit with lots of options. If you want Dark Angels but don’t want the bangles and baubles then get the standard boxes because they will put you off. There is a lot going on with these models. Personally, as I’ve always been a…ahem…closet Dark Angels fan I’m not afraid of it. The models are brilliant and capture a lot of the theatre that made the Blood Angels Terminators in the Space Hulk box so good.

The Deathwing box is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

Codex Dark Angels – A Review

warhammer 40000 logoA long time I ago, in the latter years of the 20th Century I saw a picture of Space Marines painted dark green. They had red shoulder trims, red boltguns and looked awesome. A real contrast to the bright red and bright blue Space Marines that I was used to seeing. So I bought a book called Codex Angels of Death because within its pages was the history and army list of these dark green heroes of the Imperium. And they were called the Dark Angels.

It was at that moment that I started wargaming properly. I read the book cover to cover. Then I read the Dark Angels section over and over and over again. I was intrigued by their relentless pursuit of justice. Their dogged devotion to duty. And character models back in 1996 looked the tits.

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Although I’ve collected many armies and played many games since then I have always had a soft spot for the scions of Caliban. Aside from the looking cool, they had the Deathwing, the Ravenwing and the grittiest background. More than any other loyalist Space Marine force. The previous Codex was an opportunity for the Games Workshop to rekindle the fire that was largely snuffed out by the Codex Pamphlet era supplement that offered sod all background and sod all excitement. It never really delivered. It was badly written, confusing and offered nothing new. And the new models gave us nothing more than a Deathwing box with a sergeant head with a hair helmet.

So when the rumour mill started to grind away about the Dark Angels being the first marine codex for 6th edition I was cautiously optimistic. I saw 6th edition Codex Dark Angels as the wargaming equivalent of the upcoming Man of Steel following 5th editions piss poor Superman Returns.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room. The book is full of typos and mistakes. It’s pretty inexcusable for a company as big as Games Workshop, with the resources of Games Workshop to release a book that clearly wasn’t proof read and charge £30 for it. It’ll inevitably be corrected with the second print – or at least I hope so – but anyone buying it now should be aware of it. It’s not going to ruin your life or anything but you should be aware. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Games Workshop releases an Errata that includes amended entries you can cut out and stick into the book.

That aside, the book is beautiful. The artwork from the borders to the illustrations are stunning. They’ve also learned their lesson with the back page fold out, making the page of slightly thicker stock so it’ll take the punishment of being constantly opened and closed. I also thought it was marginally undersized so it won’t get crease to buggery like the Codex Chaos Space Marine one did but it was actually folded at such a woefully wonky angle that I can only conclude that it was done by a child. And as with Codex Chaos Space Marines, the lining paper at the front of the book is only single skin so it sinks where the embossing is.

The book also follows the same layout as C:CSM: history, units, pretty pictures (of which there are many), army lists. Which also means it still has that irritation of not including all the special rules in the book so you’ll spend your games jumping between the Codex and the rule book just to find out what all the cool stuff is for your units. For the sake of half a page it would have been worth it.

But what of the content? Well, the background isn’t that much different from the previous iteration other than it being far tidier, coherent and with far greater emphasis on the deep dark secrets that the Chapter is known for. Actually, I’m under selling it. The background is great. It cleverly highlights the colossal levels of deviousness displayed by the chapter on a local and galactic scale. The close ties that they share with the other Unforgiven Chapters is described as ‘legion building’. Very strong words within the canon and has significant implications considering the inevitable second Heresy that the fluff is strongly hinting at.

They also go to lengths to fully explain how the Dark Angels chapter functions and how, in fact, everything is lies with in lies within half truths within rituals. The Dark Angels do everything they can to monitor, and hoodwink one another until enough trust has been garnered to take your next step up the ladder. And then you get a dose of truth that blows your mindhole. It kinda reminds of the Cardassians from Star Trek Deep Space Nine – not to be confused with the Kardashians who, as far as I can tell, make money by pimping themselves out.

Now I can’t quite remember if the previous codices ever spelt out what the biggest secret of all – that no one knew – was. But they do in this one. Which kind of tickles me because there are loads of passages that start with or include the words ‘shrouded in mystery’ and the biggest mystery of the lot they just lay on the table. Ho-hum, at least it’ll kill off a few pointless debates on hobby forums.

Army list wise a few things are apparent: 1. Dark Angels have plasma weapons up the arse. 2. Those plasma weapons still get hot. 3. Lots of your Space Marines are going to die from self inflicted plasma wounds. But more than this, the Deathwing and Ravenwing are getting more attention (and more of the good shit) than ever before. And rightly so as it is these two secretive companies that give the Dark Angels their unique selling point both in game and fluff terms.

The interesting twist from the fluff point of view is the introduction of Knights in both the 1st & 2nd companies. I’ll get on to what that means in game terms in a moment but these new additions brings them far more in line with the Dark Angels we’ve seen in the Horus Heresy series. Those books weren’t for everyone but it threw up some very interesting ideas about the Dark Angels and their internal politics and moved them away from the warrior monk role and firmly into a pseudo-religious brotherhood of crusading knights. They are superstitious and paranoid and ritual is very important. It ties them in with the murky past of Caliban and it certainly explains and justifies all the trinkets and baubles hanging off their armour far more than before. And knowing that now, I like the models a heck of a lot more than I did.

Interestingly it makes them the opposite side of the same coin to Space Wolves more than ever before. Whereas the Space Wolves totems etc are barbaric and rooted in paganism, the Dark Angels icons are far more in line with the Imperial Creed. Where the Space Wolves are hot headed and seemingly unruly the Dark Angels are taciturn and disciplined in the extreme. For the Dark Angels the line between Space Marines worshipping the Emperor as a God instead of just an immortal being of extraordinary power has been blurred more than ever.

But what of the new units themselves?

The obvious candidates are the Deathwing Knights, the Ravenwing Knights and the two new flyers. It’s safe to say that we can expect a new/mental (delete as appropriate) unit for each new army as they come out. The interesting one will be the Space Wolves seeing as they hate to fly. But again this is a nice contrast with the Dark Angels who seem to bloody love it.

The Deathwing generally are pretty nails. The Deathwing assault rule means you can just heap misery on your opponent in the form of deep striking Terminators that you don’t have to role reserves for. Co-ordinate that with homing beacons and there’s going to be a world of hurt. Especially when you throw in Vengeful Strike which makes all ranged weapons twin-linked for that round of shooting. As if assault cannons weren’t nasty enough. Command Squads get the added bonus of split fire. Which has the potential for utter face-kickery.

The Deathwing Knights are at first glance horrid. They get to run about the place with weapon skill 5 and providing they’re base to base with two or more models they get +1 Toughness as well. Before they get into combat this’ll be invaluable, dramatically reducing the effectiveness of assault cannons, plasma guns etc. At 235 points for 5, it’s worth the fussy positioning. They also get precision strike in combat as if weapon skill 5, and fist fulls of dice weren’t enough. Weapon wise, the majority of the unit are armed with Maces of Absolution which are +2 strength AP4 power mauls which although you’ll be wounding they won’t be spanking units of Chaos Space Terminators around the board, even with Bane of the Traitor. Which is kind of what they’re there for. They can, however, once per game, amp up the power to +6 strength and AP2. So Knights will be able to spank something big without breaking a sweat. But only once. My concern about fielding Knights against a Chaos army is that units of Chaos Terminators, Possessed or Chosen could run rings around them in a fight for the simple fact that the Dark Angel player will be forced to either use their Smite Mode for a swift and decisive kill or risk holding it back against the next threat. The Flail of the Unforgiven with +2 strength and AP3 is slightly better but you can only give it to the Knight Master (with his 3 basic attacks) and will just about mang anything.

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The Ravenwing also get some love with the new and utterly awful looking Land Speeder Vengeance which basically gives you a rapid firing plasma cannon that you can overcharge. On a really flimsy skimmer. Or you can take the Dark Shroud which can…er…shroud your Dark Angels. If I’m honest, aside from the nonsensical design it feels like over egging the pudding as the Dark Angels list has an abundance of unique rules and units like the completely awesome looking Nephilim and slightly silly looking Dark Talon which adds all the heavy fire that the Ravenwing could need. Not that they really needed any. And not that the Vengeance offered any because it’s just an expensive Land Speeder with a plasma weapon. That Dark Angels seem to have a fetish for.

The flyers themselves are armed to the teeth and for the first time since all the flyers came out I can see a genuine tactical use for them. Especially the Nephilim. And for all the hype around the mysterious Rift Cannon it’s fairly uninteresting. Beyond blinding your opponent, it’s a strength 5 AP zero frag missile. I’d rather take the Avenger Mega Bolter. Which is mega. And a bolter. And is strength 6. And fires 5 shots. A turn. Am I over selling it?

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The Ravenwing Black Knights are much like the Deathwing Knights. Lots of attacks, lots of rules to make them utterly heinous and come with Plasma talons – short ranged plasma guns – and Corvus Hammers which render. So they’re horrid. Easily on par with Terminators albeit in a slightly modified role. But they are best used in concert which exactly reflects the background.

I suppose the thing that excites me about the Dark Angels (please hold the Lionel Johnson jokes) is that the army list intensely reflects the background. The look of the models, the obvious tactics as well as some of the more eccentric wargear all embodies the most secretive, mysterious and grim Space Marine chapter in the Imperium.

Codex Dark Angels is available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00

More Dark Angel Image Leaks

As 2012 draws to a close some cheeky bugger has chucked a whole load of Dark Angel snaps onto the internet including a few close-ups of rules, unit details, the new Asmodai model (about fooking time) and a few other choice bits and bobs including the Dark Talon/Nephilim kit. Be warned, the images are blurry.

Enjoy…

DeathwingKnight1 DeathwingKnight2 DeathwingKnight3 DeathwingCommandBox DW_WDPage1 Turret DarkTalonCloseUp Rules DarkTalon1 DarkTalon2 DAChapterOrg_WD Units Rules2 Sammael Successors ForceOrg Ravenwing1 Ravenwing2 DTDetail DWKnight DWKnight2 Banner DWKnight3 DW_CommandDetail DeathwingKnight4 DeathwingCommander DeathwingKnight5 DeathwingDetail Watcher ForceOrg2 BannerDetail Nephilim DeathwingKnight6 NewAsmodai Asmodai RavenwingDetail Commander2 NephilimCloseUp DeathwingCommandApothecary Bethor

Crusade of Fire

Games Workshop have unveiled a 96 page full colour campaign book entitled Crusade of Fire. Available to pre-order it does rather seem that they’re sticking with their ‘we don’t tell no-one, nuthin’ strategy because heaven for fend we should have a spare £25 to buy a copy.

Anyway, here’s some fluff and snaps…

Crusade of Fire is a campaign system for Warhammer 40,000 that enables you to join the campaign to control the Corvus Sub-sector. Whether you choose to join the Crusade of Fire itself, the foul Servants of Ruin or the bloodthirsty Prophets of War, the fate of the sub-sector lies in your hands. 

This 96-page, full-colour hardcover book features exclusive artwork and a host of dynamic new rules. As well as the campaign system itself, the book contains rules that can be used in any Warhammer 40,000 game, from massive multi-player scenarios fought in low-gravity environments or in bunkers deep below the ground, to expanded rules for Flyers. It also features rules for playing games in the gladiatorial arenas of Commorragh as well as for fighting battles on the surface of a Daemon World. 

Crusade of Fire also features the story of nine hobbyists as they play through the campaign, including detailed battle reports, fantastic army showcases and turn-by-turn accounts of their conquest.

Painting Dark Angels with Robin Fitton

For those that haven’t heard of the awesome Robin Fitton, he’s the genius behind Gruntz 15mm. If you haven’t heard of the game flagellate yourself then click here.

Robin has been working on a new Dark Angel army for Warhammer 40k and he asked me if I would mind posting his progress on The Shell Case. All too happy to oblige, here’s the first part in his journey to a horde moody green Space Marines…

Phase 1 : Initial construction and base spray coating on a Dark Angels force.
I recently bought the Warhammer 40K Dark Vengeance and decided to build a Dark Angel force using the models in the box as a base. The chaos models from the box set were sold to a friend but I was sad to see them go because the detail level was very good.  I have 30 years experience of painting and playing wargames but have not played 40K since the days of Rogue Trader rules, when I had a mix of Imperial Guard and Space Marine models.  Now drawn back to the game with this latest set of rules I decide to follow the guides provided by GW for the paint work.  I am following the “How to paint Dark Angels”  iPad book from Games Workshop and I am going to use almost exactly the technique they suggest in the guide.
The Citadel paints from the new 2012 range will be used for all the paint work with the possible addition of the odd non-GW paint, thinner or wash where appropriate. The iPad painting guide is straight forward with some nice stage by stage images, however the first 3 stage images on of the Dark Angel space marine is very “Dark” and considering that I am viewing on a super sharp iPad retina display I would like to think that they could have done a better job of the photography. It is interesting how they suggest airbrushing them in the guide to complete a base coat but they don’t provide any tips on how to do it. I have been airbrushing for about 6 years, so I am familiar with the technique and it would have been great to see at least a photo in the iPad guide of the airbrushing or painting stages.  There are also no tips on actual brushing in the guide with no video content. It just shows you what sized GW brush to use and the only video is a 3 second Games Workshop logo that appears when you open the iBook.
The construction of the miniatures from the box set was very easy. What I did not factor into the time frame was the amount of mould lines on the models that would need cleaning. They have done a good job with the models and a lot of the plastic lines are hidden behind joins but I boosted the basic set with 10 tactical squad members which added to the clean up.  The main clean up locations on a space marine are the outside and inside legs,  arms (wrists), the rounded exhausts on the back packs, the top of head seam, the weapon seam (down the centre line of the bolters) and last but not least the top of the back pack. The top of the backpack is an ugly spot. It is slightly recessed, so you can’t easily get a knife in to clean it up. If it is a model that you are adding a plastic symbol to you can hide the top of the back pack.  All of these lines were cleaned up using a fresh sharp blade and I use  a subtle scraping action along the lines to scrub them off, rather than cutting a hack through them.  I then finished off most of the tidy up with some ultra fine sandpaper from Tamiya. This is made for plastic manga kits and does a great job of cleaning up the edges and seams without making them rough.   Weapon barrels were all drilled out and the bikes had their exhausts drilled (photos of bikes in next phase).
I took a lot of care and about 3 weeks to slowly prepare the models.  This was completed in front of the TV with the family and was probably about 12 hours total prep time over the course of 3 weeks.  There are an additional 5 terminators and 10 space marines plus a dreadnought in this prep.  Despite the hours and effort I still missed the odd line or edge on the models, but I am happy with the overall result.
Before priming I based the models using a mix of coral sand, GW gravel and other chunks of slate. I use neat PVA glue to stick on the sand, then once dry it gets a water thinned extra coat of PVA to seal the sand onto the bases.  Sealing the sand makes it rock hard, like mini-concrete bases and won’t rub off.
For the base primer spray I used Tamiya fine grey, instead of the black from GW. The black would not take the dark green very well when airbrushing and I prefer to be able to see the colour going onto the model when airbrushing. So the mid tone grey from Tamiya is perfect for me.
I always lay them down for a final spray to make sure the primer has got in all the nooks and crannies.
I used the Valejo airbrush thinners with the Caliban green from GW and it thins it down perfectly.  I was worried the thinner would react with GW paint but it was spot on and mixed up well with a cocktail stick before poor the result into the airbrush. Getting the mix right to thin the thick GW paint takes some care and I end up with a liquid with the consistency of milk. You can watch my airbrushing tutorial at the bottom of the page.
It can take a little while to dry…

I was impressed by the speed of the new GW painting guide, it is all about getting the best tabletop look to the model but with minimum time. However if you want to follow the guide fully for the Dark Angels you need about 35 pots of the new paint which is expensive and in many cases they appear to switch to a different grey or brown colour on some details which you could get away with using a similar colour on, rather than buying about 40% of the new colour range.

The line up: Small team of 5 veterans on the back row, Middle row tactical squad from the new 40K box set, Front row addition tactical squad. And as an added bonus a close up of my Belial conversion…

 

 

Raptors/Warp Talons – A Review

The path to damnation moves on a pace with a review of the all new Raptors/Warp Talons box. There’s been a lot of excitement surrounding this kit, and rightly so, as it’s the first ever plastic Raptor kit finally making the unit financially viable. It’s also the first Raptor unit that doesn’t look shit.

Once again, as with all the other new Chaos models, you get two sprues for your £20.50 retail but credit where credit’s due; the Games Workshop did a remarkable job of cramming a lot of components on to those two sprues.

Aside from their being components up the arse they’re sensibly placed so cutting them out is easy and avoids hacking lumps out of them by accident. This is a good thing. The other good thing is that, for a change, all the spare parts from the kit, regardless of which option you choose to build, are genuinely useful. Except the spare feet you get. They’re not useful at all. The chainswords are awesome looking and would work on an Aspiring Champion or even in a unit of Bezerkers and you even get a couple of special weapons including a plasmagun that rather appears to be eating itself. Which is nice.

By far my favourite part is the jump packs. Aside from being intelligently designed so join lines are minimal, they are reminiscent of the original jump packs from Rogue Trader days which have been co-opted into the Horus Heresy lore. On top of this the thrusters actually look the part and have integrated directional fins so overall they actually look like they could propel its wearer.

I opted to build the Warp Talons because they tie in with my Dark Knights and as I clipped out all the various bits and pieces I was really impressed by not only the level of detail but the quality of the casting. There were few, if any, mould lines so cleaning was very quick. Overall all the parts are awesome. The leg poses are dynamic which gives a fantastic sense of movement and the torsos strike the right balance between uniformity and individuality. Variations in the paint job will go far in helping to make the bodies, at least, look different at first glance if you take a unit of 10.

However, the lightning claws are a bit of a mixed bag. They come in paired sets. Three of them are cool. Two of them are not (although one is arguably borderline). And because you only get five that’s going to lead to disappointment as well as severely limit variation. It’s something Games Workshop have always struggled with. You just need to look at the Space Wolves Grey Hunter box to know what I’m talking about. They’ve never managed to capture the sense of movement for claws that are supposed to be ‘attacking’ without them looking clumsy and the two attacking/punching sets that come with the box are no exception and it boils down to careful positioning on the model and the right set of legs to get the best out of them.

Sadly the same is true of the Warp Talon helmets. The majority are look ace but one looks like it belongs in an episode of Samurai Jack and the other looks like a Palaeotherium’s head from Ice Age. If you don’t know what one of them is I have kindly provided you with an illustration…

It’s either that or a creepy jester type cowl. Regardless, it’s pap and no it’s not the paint job, it’s just a poor sculpt. Happily the box comes with 10 heads in all so you can actually mix things up a bit but the big problem is that because they’re so individual looking repetition is disappointing and that’s the issue with Chaos Marines over their loyalist brothers. Space Marines are supposed to look the same, with slight variations but unity is the key. In a unit like Warp Talons, or even Raptors, because of the superb detail the similarities actually count against them.

So there’s quite a few negatives and there’s little point in me pretending they aren’t there. There are disappointments the main one being the lack of variety the individuality of each component, or pair of component, causes. However, what the Games Workshop get right, they really get right. The shoulder pads are inspired. The mutations showing the synthetic muscle fibres beneath the ceramite. The subtle mutations in the armour allow for convincing units whichever way you build them. Making the feet multipart is another brilliant idea as it clearly separates the two units and emphasises the differences between them clarifying how far down the path of heresy they have taken.

The fins on the side of the jump packs intended for the Warp Talons I really wasn’t sure about. In the photos they look kinda daft and spoil the feel of dynamism but having built them for myself I can see them properly and at the angle they actually sit. It’s a simple touch but further highlights the cyber-organic nature of specialist/veteran Chaos units and how the mutations overtake them.

Warp Talons in the game is something I’ve talked about elsewhere so I’ll not bore you with it again but suffice to say that deep striking Daemonic nutters with lightning claws is horrid.

Overall I am actually very impressed with the Raptors/Warp Talons box although you may not know it. There are things about the box I don’t like but that’s probably true of everything I review. The fact is that the kit is well thought out albeit more so for the Raptors than the Warp Talons. The detail is excellent on every single piece, even down to the belt feeds on the bolt pistols and the crab claw tip on one of the chainswords. The helmets, for the most part, are cool, sleek and deep-fried in menace (Mr Floppy-nose aside). To get the best out of a unit of 10 Warp Talons or, heaven for fend, two units of 10, there’s going to be some serious conversion work involved but fortunately they’re plastic and one marine part fits another so chopping and changing shouldn’t be too bad.

I do wish there had been slightly more choice with the head and weapon options for the Warp Talons as, considering the emphasis put on them by Games Workshop, they are rather starved of options and variation, which is a crying shame. But, all in all an awesome kit.

The Raptors/Warp Talons box is available from Firestorm Games priced £18.45

Chaos Fiends – A Review

Part 4 of my Chaos Space Marine run down is the ‘Fiends box. I’ll be honest, when I first saw the pictures I wasn’t convinced. Yes the Forgefiend had fooking huge guns and yes the Maulerfiend looked like it could…maul something but neither one particularly spoke to me.

The funny thing about this kit, more than any thing else I’ve seen of the new Chaos stuff, Dark Vengeance included, is that you need to understand the rules to understand the model. I think this is partly because the model, on its own, is a tad disappointing. At least from the  product shots. Considering it’s supposed to be a daemon caged within a machine it’s surprisingly okay about it. It lacks the dynamism of the Heldrake and of their Juggernaught cousins.

That said, when you crack the seal open and get a look at the box what you’re presented with is a superbly designed kit. I mean genius. I’ve always had misgivings about the mutli-kits that GW started punting out because basically you’re paying a premium for a load of plastic you can’t do anything with other than stick in your bits box and desperately think of something to do with it all. And, honestly, that’s exactly what you’ll end up with the ‘Fiend box. Especially if you opt for the Maulerfiend over the Forgefiend.

However, the intelligence of the design is quite striking. It uses the body well so simple limb swamps have a striking result. Granted all the pictures of the Maulerfiend are with the Lasher Tendrils, which is an upgrade, rather than with the standard Magma Cutters it comes with but the parts well designed, actually fit together and go a long way to making the Maulerfiend look the beast it’s supposed to be.

The Forgefiend doesn’t fare so well, being incredibly static which is a shame because it’s component parts are actually awesome. Both the Ectoplasma cannons and the Hades autocannons look impressive with some really nice details, especially the Ectoplasma head which completely changes the feel of the model from that of a beast to a monster. But all it does is, essentially stand there.

And speaking of heads I’m actually surprising myself by going out to bat for the standard head. Because generally speaking I thought it looks stupid. It’s actually completely awesome but let down by being glued on the studio model in a pose that makes it look dopey and painted in such a way that made the fangs look comic rather than menacing. Yes the tongue is a bit much but you can’t win them all.

Whichever model you opt for you’re getting a chunky toy for your efforts. The two sprues (yes only two for £40 full retail) have a lot of bit. Big bits. Big bits with lots of detail. Big bits with lots of detail that actually feel Chaotic rather than spiky. And it’s about damn time.

The model feels crude yet ornamental. Artifice was at the heart of the Fiends before crudity and barbarity intervened. It’s the principle behind servitors taken to a horrid, violent, extreme. There’s subtle details on the model that make you wonder if the Fiends are just driven insane with pain and merely lashing out mindlessly. But perhaps I’m over thinking it. The massive limbs and the tremendously big, savage, animalistic looking weapons certainly do the job of creating menace.

 

Which is rather the point of using the Fiends. They’re shit scary and can potentially do some real damage on the board. Having thought long and hard about the options and considering my Dark Knights are a Night Lords splinter I have opted for the Forgefiend because it represents mobile heavy fire power. He’s a little pricy though, 200 points if you take the Ectoplasma head but it’s three weapon systems that are, as far as I can tell, not twin linked. This is somewhat of a two-edged sword because lobbing out 8 strength 8, AP4, shots from the Hades autocannon followed by a strenght 8, AP2, plasma shot is just sick. However the BS of 3 can, potentially, limit its effectiveness. The obvious choice would be to take 3 Ectoplasma cannons but then you run the risk of blowing yourself up.

The Maulerfiend on the other hand gets two power fists, can move through cover, leap tall buildings in a single bound and then fuck them over for 125 points. But it’s still only WS3 and initiative 3 which means against a Space Marine Dreadnought or a Wraithlord it’s going to get hurt. Not might, will. It’s absolutely at its best manging soft and squishy units and vehicles, thanks the its Magma Cutters getting Armourbane. Considering GW has made such a big deal out of the Lasher Tendrils they have rather limited use, only really benefiting you against units with high attacks. My advice; as you can build both options, do so and use magnets or pins to swap them over depending on who you’re fighting against.

Both are daemonic, obviously, and both get Fleet which even made me say ‘fuck you’ and I’m collecting the army. Maybe it’s just GW admitting that the only way for walkers to survive a game is to get into combat…

On top of those rules, the Fiends get Daemonforge which allows you to, once per game, re-roll any failed to wound rolls in a single shooting or assault phase. Which is horrid and potentially decisive. Although as it’s a one hit wonder it’s one of those rules that you may never use because you’re ‘saving it for the right moment’. And were Fleet not enough to help get your Fiends kicking people in the face, they also get It Will Not Die which allows it to recover a Hull Point on a 5+. Which actually makes them quite tough. Granted there is a huge array of weapons that are now a threat to armour 12 vehicles but still, it’s a huge boon and still for relatively low points. Particularly in the case of the Maulerfiend.

The Fiend kit is actually pretty impressive. The Forgefiend is a little static but the overall look is still imposing and the guns are huge. The Maulerfiend is slightly more dynamic but not much but it’s obvious menace makes up for it. There’s some real conversion value in the kits as well and the rules are actually pretty awesome as walkers are superb in 6th Edition.

The Forgefiend/Mailerfiend kit is available from Firestorm Games priced £36.00

Chaos Heldrake – A Review

Part three in my Chaos Space Marine review is none other than the all new, and most talked about model in the range, Heldrake.

It’s proved a bit of a Marmite model. You either love it or you hate it. I think it’s mixed reception is down to the product photography as on the box it looks rather flat. I also think an unimaginative pose and a fussy paint scheme didn’t help either. It’s also a very brave move by the Games Workshop to so dramatically move away from the more traditional vehicles and a huge jump away from the Hell Talon and Hell Blade from Forge World that I’ve secretly yearned after ever since they came out. If anyone has a spare £100 by the way…

But on to my not so humble opinion.

So, what’s in the box? Well two sprues, an instruction booklet, which is actually quite well done, and a shit load of Nottingham’s finest oxygen. Which for £45 retail is a bit of a sting considering a Land Raider is the same money and that’s a small oil field’s worth of plastic and has moving parts up the arse. However, when the sprues are examined you can see just how much they’re able to cram on to a frame. It all adds up to quite a hefty kit. Which is just as well, I suppose.

That said, with the advent of digital design there’s been a definite shift in design ethos and I wonder if the Land Raider would be as sophisticated a kit as it is if it were designed now. The Heldrake is as hollow as an Easter egg and despite the comparative lack of plastic it does give the remarkable impression of space. But as it’s a fucking great daemon bird it’s not hard.

As I started to build the kit I realised that it was far from the flat or fixed model I saw in the pictures, and expected it to be. As I built the body, neck and head I realised that because it uses ball and socket joints it’s surprisingly poseable. The spine spikes along the neck limit those poses and they won’t always look quite right but it’s still poseable all the same and it gives the wargamer that very important opportunity for individuality as no one wants a set piece like that to look the same as everyone else’s. If I’m honest a couple of refinements here and there and it would have been even more so, but you can’t have everything.

The casting quality, largely to do with the digital design, is excellent. Very crisp and pretty much mould line free. The sprues are laid out intelligently and means the bits you need are pretty much in order that you need them. Which is nice. However where it all comes unstuck, literally, is the fecking massive wings.

 

They are immensely cool and very cleverly designed balancing the crude industrial nature of its construction with its avian origins. However it’s a huge amount of weight on the ball joint that attaches to the main body. It took ages for the arms to set. And that’s assuming the wings don’t drop off the arms during the process because they too are attached via a relatively small ball joint.

Because of the near magical properties of plastic glue, once it’s set it’s set until the end of time but it’s getting to that point that is the issue. I was able to cook and eat a meal in the time it took for the ball joint attaching the wings to the body to set. If you’re building the Heldrake in a rush or you accidentally break it you may just want to kill yourself.

On the upside because the shoulder and claws are all ball joints it allows, again, a degree of posability. Not much mind you, but enough that with the body sat on the flying stand at the correct angle you can get some pretty good effects. But as it’s got such a short body and dumpy rear legs you want to try and pose it to emphasise the wings anyway.

I attempted to model the Heldrake like it was banking round to flame some poor defenceless unit. Hopefully the picture does it justice but just going on looks and feel it’s a very impressive model.

In game terms the Heldrake is just plain nasty. So nasty I almost feel bad that I’ll be fielding one (yes only one) in my Dark Knights. Although only it’s armour is only 12, 12, 10 because it can zoom a Space Marine with a lascannon only has a 1 in 72 chance taking it out in a 6 turn game. So a unit of Devastators with four lascannons get a 1 in 16 chance. And that’s a far bigger outlay in points than their target. Granted rapid firing weapons like autocannons and assault cannons will statistically fare better, but flyers generally are just a nightmare to deal with in 6th Edition.

A Heldrake if you take the Baleflamer, unbelievably for free, has a 2 in 3 chance of killing a Space Marine. Statistically it’ll take out 6 Space Marines every turn whilst your opponent struggles to hit it. That is nasty. For the points the Heldrake is absolutely lethal and a genuine tactical headache as it’ll swoop across the battle field toasting enemies with impunity. And providing it stays away from anything with the Skyfire special rule it will make it’ll more than make its points back. Plus, because it’s such a scary bugger, it will draw a lot of attention. Of course this could mean it’ll get shot down a lot sooner but if your opponent is shooting at that then they’re not shooting at other things.

The Heldrake model, is for all its faff and frustrations is an awesome model. It’s covered in detail and oozes malice. Even the body feels like a separate organism. That said, the body feels a little cheap as the mouth/thruster/thing shows just how hollow the body is which destroys the illusion somewhat. Apart from that the model screams unholy experiments between creature and machine, of speed and unleashed violence. It is a completely brilliant model and I cannot wait to unleash it on the board.

The Heldrake is available from Firestorm Games priced £40.50