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.

 

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

X-Wing Expansion: Tantive IV – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesI was very young when I was first exposed to Star Wars. Return of the Jedi was released when I was just a year old and so I was watching the Original trilogy on VHS (kids you’ll have to Google that) from around 2/3 years old. I didn’t have that seminal, life changing, moment that friends that are a few years older had. Instead I was born to a world with Star Wars and actually that makes me pretty lucky. I grew up watching and rewatching those incredible, industry changing, films countless times.

Even now, 30 odd years later, the opening scene of Episode IV is just as exciting as it was when my tiny infant mind was first exposed to intergalactic violence. And even now I still look upon the ‘Blockade Runner’ as it became known with great fondness.

So when Fantasy Flight Games announced that the Tantive IV would be released I must admit to a certain degree of nerdgasm. And with fairly good reason. Aside from being an incredibly cool looking ship and an iconic one at that, it was also going to completely change the way X-Wing played. Introducing large vessels not only could make for some scenarios very close to the kind available on the X-Wing PC game but introduce campaigns and even ship to ship combat rather than just snubfighters.

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When the Tantive IV arrived from the good people at Firestorm Games I was, according to my wife, as excited as a kid at Christmas. Who am I to argue. I was. It’s the Tantive IV for crying out loud! And it’s massive. I thought the Rebel Transport was big (a review will eventually be written I promise) but the Tantive is crazy big. Below is a size comparison (swanky star mat kindly provided by Deep Cut Studio) and as you can see it dwarfs the transport and makes the X-Wing look very flimsy indeed.

IMG_3026But as one would expect from something classified in the game as Epic. And it is. Very. But so is the truly embarrassing amount of packaging. I’ve commented on this before but it’s just mad on this occasion. If Fantasy Flight were willing to have just one window on the box rather than two it could be half the height. Granted, most of it can be recycled but it’s an unnecessary cost of production which gets built into the cost of the model.

The model itself is impressive. The larger the X-Wing models get the better the detail – stands to reason – so the Tantive is impressive. I even brought up images on Google to compare the model with the original and it’s all pretty faithfully done, right down to the asymmetrical hull sections. The ventral turrets and radar dish move which is a nice touch. But be aware they’re a little on the flimsy side so if you don’t have a case for the Tantive make sure you keep the plastic tray it comes in so you can keep it safe between games. It is epic though. I mean so impressive. And the joy of scrutinising the model and identifying little details cannot be emphasised enough. Being able to use this ship in a game is, well, epic. There’s also the usual stack of cardboard. Cards, upgrades, energy tokens etc. And all produced to Fantasy Flight’s usual standards.

What really lets the Tantive IV down, however, is the paint job. Now I appreciate and accept that having mass-produced pre-painted models is going to mean a drop in quality somewhere along the road, especially considering the volumes Fantasy Flight are being forced to ship now. However some parts of the paint job are just down right sloppy. And for the money they’re asking this shouldn’t be the case. Of all the ships I own – which is a lot – this is the only ship I think I’m going to have to repaint. Not because the quality is staggeringly under par compared to the rest of the range but because it’s so big the flaws are glaring obvious which is a bit of a shame. Overall and when on the board it does look awesome but once you spot a mistake your eye will be drawn to it every time.

In game terms the Tantive behaves rather differently to its more agile cousins. For start its a walling cow of a craft when it comes to movement. There’s two reasons for this. 1 the designers shrewdly acknowledged that it was represented at the speed depicted in A New Hope it’d fly off the board in a single turn. 2 this game is about the fighters ultimately and being able to have a squadron of anything swarming around a Corellian Corvette is immensely cool. Just putting an X-Wing or the Falcon next to it gives me hobby stirrings so you can only image what it’s like in-game.

The Tantive – again in difference to the fact that to behave any way would make it devastating – has to generate energy before it can do anything. For those that remember Titan Legions and using the Imperator or Mega Gargants, it’s not entirely dissimilar to that. Energy is produced and then directed to systems which allow it to perform special actions and fire secondary weapon systems. The good news is firing its range 5 (yes I said 5) turbo lasers isn’t included. It’s assumed there’s enough energy available to fire primary weapons and drive the engines. As the ship takes damage energy can be lost or you have to make the choice between diverting energy to make repairs to continue to fight. It’s kind of a game within a game which is a nice touch.

Upgrades can obviously augment the energy levels as well as generally up its lethality. Not that much is needed. Especially if you have a fighter escort within the vulnerable 1-2 ranges. However the option to take Prince Leia, Raymus Antilles, R2D2 and C3PO is pretty cool and most of the upgrades are worth taking. And some of them can be taken with other craft as well so there’s some nice buffs to be had across your fleet with our without the Tantive IV on the board.

The added bonus that comes with the Tantive IV box is a campaign leaflet which is something that’s always been lacking. Yes there’s been missions but they’ve always been stand alone. This adds the missing piece of the puzzle. Whilst not long or complicated it’s something you can build on and gives you a series of missions that allow you to bust out the Tantive in various capacities which certainly increases your return on investment.

Although the X-Wing Miniature Game has never been about value for money. It’s been about Star Wars on your gaming board. It’s about X-Wings facing down TIE Fighters and daring dogfights. Heroes and villains, good and evil and some way cool ships all smashed together in the form of little plastic ships. So in those terms the Tantive IV ticks all the boxes because it’s the iconic ship of the Rebellion, a desperate and ultimately failed gambit and all wrapped up in that gorgeous looking craft. And it’s all mine.

The X-Wing Miniature Game expansion, the Tantive IV is available from Firestorm Games priced £67.49.

Codex Orks – A Review

warhammer-40000-logoThe first Codex of 7th Edition and one so sorely deserved, the Orks having been passed over during the 5th & 6th edition iterations. I have no idea why it took so long for the Games Workshop to give the Orks an updating although I must confess the likes of the Dark Eldar did need it more. Because they were shit.

So the warbosses of the world can rest a little easier on their piles of teef and loot, safe in the knowledge that they’ve finally got a new Codex. And it’s really quite good…

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First up the background is a cracking read. It’s the first time in ages I’ve felt really engaged by the background. Perhaps waiting so long between the iterations has given the design studio plenty of time to mull things over. Whatever the reason the Codex feels more coherent and more complete than it ever has before. Whilst not every page is original content everything has been tidied up and the expansion of the background around Ork society is incredibly interesting to the point that I went from having no interest in collecting an Ork army to really wanting to collect an Ork army. And I hadn’t read the army list yet.

An awful lot of effort has gone into making the Orks feel like a civilisation rather than a vague, mindless conglomeration of tribes that sort of maybe invade places and are sort of maybe a problem. The downside of this big zero gravity moon step forward in the background is that it goes too far the other way. Much like the rule book it beats you over the head with the utter hopelessness of humanity’s situation which is irritating but the writing around it is strong enough that you push it to one side. What isn’t awesome about the writing is the…you guessed it…typos! It ran great guns for the first half of the background but then mistakes started to creep in and one sentence just made no sense. Literally none. And that’s pretty shonky editing.

That aside, the background is fantastic and really well presented along with the rest of the book with some ace new artwork and klan descriptions that really help you to understand who you could be collecting rather than just the cool shit you can justify taking. It still justifies it of course but in a far more interesting way. But best of all the background reintroduced Freebooterz in a such a manner that I can see players actually taking an army of them now. They’re no longer a 30-year-old foot note, but a viable army thanks to having something concrete written about them.

No Codex would be complete without the photo section which, like the Galaxy at War book is a little thick but beautifully shot. As I flicked through the pages I did feel slightly taken for a ride (a) because there was lots of photos and (b) they were only of one klan. Which means supplementary codices, which is a bit of a con if you don’t want to paint you Orks yellow.

The army list has a streamlined layout which personally I’m not wild about. In previous Codices the book would describe each unit in turn, detailing special rules etc then provide you with a handy-dandy army list at the back with all the points values so it was all tidy. With the new Codex Orks all the information is on the single page. This makes for a lot of page flicking made worse by the fact that the weapons and upgrades are all at the back in the traditional format. Whilst it’s not the end of the world and leaves space for more fluff, more units and more upgrades, it’s a less efficient way of working an army list as units in the same part of the organisation chart were all on the same page, or as much as possible.

The main changes to the army list revolve around the special rules. Ere We Go makes up for the changes to Furious Charge, making it far more likely Orks will make it into combat thanks to a re-roll. The Mob Rule has also changed much to non-Ork players’ delight. It was far too powerful and was massively open to abuse. Now it feels more like the Animosity roll from Warhammer but instead of your mobs doing feck all they count as rallied but it may result in a few Orks being stomped into the dirt. So very much a two-edged sword. I suspect this’ll be toned down in the next edition because it does seem a tad heavy-handed.

Obviously the big and exciting new entry to the Codex is the mandatory walker model. Although the Orks get two. Because…well because fuck you basically. The Gorkanaut and Morkanaut are big, nasty and expensive. But the bigness comes with big shooty weapons and armour 13 to the front and sides. And as one would expect from a new Ork unit, it has weapons of one stripe or another bolted to every surface. Throw in the fact that they have a transport capacity and the Morkanaut can take a kustom force field and it makes for Orky levels of lethality. Flashgitz too have had a tweak to make them worth taking with a reduction of points and some shiny new models and further allows gamers to take a themed Freebooterz army.

Indeed the book is full of dakka related lethality and whilst the naming convention behind Da Dead Shiny Shooter or Da Finkin Cap may not be everyone’s cup of tea there’s no denying the new and exciting ways in which to inflict misery on your opponent. The Orks as an army seems to channel the most fundamental rule of wargaming: rolling lots of dice is fun. Things like the Deffstorm mega cannon which allows you to roll 3D6 Strength 6 shots a turn.

The only thing that counts against the army is the sheer volume of unit options. There’s tonnes of them and you’ll never be able to take everything you want within the usual force organisation structure which is a bit of a downer but with some careful planning you can take most of it. But I suppose the point of the Orks is that they have a solution for every enemy. By having a strong core to your army and a few options in the Elite, Fast Attack and Heavy Support slots you can simply swap one unit for another depending on who you’re going up against. Granted this is good news for the Games Workshop but as you’ll need hundreds of models for your army anyway, what difference does another 20 or 30 make? And the fact is they’re all useful. There’s nothing in the Codex I wouldn’t take. Sure there’s stuff I’d take over the others out of preference but there’s nothing in there that makes me question its place in the army.

Codex Orks is immensely fun to read. The background is engaging and genuinely a huge leap forward from where the Orks were. The army list is varied and whilst some of the rules have been changed or toned down a bit the green menace is still exactly that. The book has found the perfect balance between presenting the Orks as being the ‘fun’ army and being a force that will simply smash you to bleeding bloody chunks. All this adds up to a great book and an army that I’m so sold on I’m going to start collecting them.

Codex Orks is available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00

X-Wing Expansion: E-Wing – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesI’ve always loved the E-Wing. Ever since I read the Dark Empire comic book. At the time my brother and I were elbow deep in the Expanded Universe and the X-Wing game series on the PC. I waited and waited for a patch or expansion for the E-Wing but it never came to be. So when Fantasy Flight announced the E-Wing would be released I may of squee’d a bit. Just a bit.

Ewing_negvvThe E-Wing was designed to have the punch of the X-Wing with the speed and manoeuvrability of the A-Wing it was the first star fighter commissioned by the New Republic. With an enhanced sensor suite and engines, a large torpedo magazine and greater firepower it should have replaced the A-Wing but critical overheating problems slowed its roll out and in the end became a fighter that complimented, rather than replaced,

With this in mind I got my hands of two E-Wings to mirror the interceptor/fast mover role of my two A-Wings. With a solid core of 5 X-Wings and a flight of bombers in the form of Y-Wings and a B-Wing, they would give me the edge of Imperial players allowing  me to deal with nasties like TIE Bombers before cutting back and splatting the more troublesome Defenders.

I’d wondered how Fantasy Flight would tackle the E-Wing as the lasers were even flimsier than that of the X-WIngs and their locations would almost guarantee them breaking off.

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Rather simply they just tweaked the lasers, making them shorter and thicker so the model would be robust but not at the cost of the ship design. And I do love the design. It’s slightly crude and a bit of a shit kicker which is great because the Rebel ships always had that slightly rough and ready feel. But the model actually has quite a lot of detail faithfully recreated from the comic books including the the support strut from the hull to the stabiliser foil, the armoured hatch to the astromech compartment and the various bits of hardware on its flanks. It’s a very cool model.

Rule wise it’s not quite the stone cold killer I was expecting/hoping (delete as appropriate). Don’t get me wrong – it gets one more shield than an A-Wing and has overall better manoeuvrability it doesn’t come with terribly sexy upgrades. They’re useful but noting to get too excited about. The named E-Wing pilots are also incredibly expensive. To the point that I thought it was a typo. 35 and 32 points. Wedge Antilles, generally regarded as the greatest fighter pilot ever, is only 29 points.

The more expensive pilot is my joint favourite (with Wedge) character in Star Wars. Corran Horn. A former CorSec officer, he joined the New Republic as a member of the newly reformed Rogue Squadron under Wedge Antilles. He later discovered he had Force powers and became a powerful Jedi and staunch ally of Luke Skywalker. So quite why he’s flying an E-Wing I don’t know, but I’m delighted to have him in my squadron. His pilot trait allows you to make your next turn’s attack at the end of the current activation. This is extremely useful as it can mean the difference between taking return fire and not. Finishing an enemy and not or taking down two targets in quick succession. As traits go it’s pretty awesome. Throw in a skill of 8 and he’s pretty lethal. Partner him with any of other pilot aces – Luke, Wedge, Tycho – and it all gets a little bit unpleasant.

The second named E-Wing pilot, Etahn A’Baht lacks skill – only 5 – but it does get to turn a hit into a critical if the ship it’s targeting attempts to defend. Which is nice. But at 32 points, with the aforementioned skill of 5, he’s a risk as Imperials will get to shoot before him and that could be a problem. Although E-Wings get to focus, evade, lock-on and barrel roll so they are very nimble. This not only increases their survivability but increases your chances of getting in behind the Imperials to counter attack.

Whilst expensive the E-Wing is worth the points. The extra shield gives it that extra bit of survivability and the two pilot traits are very useful. Partnered with other craft and timed right they’d be invaluable. Moreover the do a fantastic job of not only taking the fight to the Empire but being able to double back and allow the squadron to encircle their enemies. This is a very good thing.

I’m fairly delighted with the E-Wing expansion pack.The model is way cool. The upgrades and cost of the pilots is a little disappointing but there’s no escaping just how useful the pilots are in a fight. Especially Corran Horn. 

The X-Wing Miniatures Game range is available at Firestorm Games from £6.29.

 

Warhammer 40k 7th Edition – A Review

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So 7th Edition has been unleashed upon the world. I’d like to say that I was eagerly anticipating its release but if I’m honest I felt fairly indifferent about the whole thing. Mainly because I do my best to avoid rumours and I really hate the way Games Workshop give people a week’s notice to find £50.

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Of course to avoid all the rumours flying around concerning 7th Edition I’d have to delete my social media accounts, not talk to any of my friends and quite possibly move somewhere fairly far away and possibly underground. The persistent rumour was that it would be Blood Angels and not Space Wolves joining Orks in the new boxset. Another was that there wouldn’t be a boxset at all. Well done Games Workshop you finally got one over on us.

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In a way I’m quite glad I ignored the rumours because when 7th Edition finally came out I had the opportunity to be surprised by a book I’d already owned 5 times previously. And that was quite a novel feeling. Of course the main change is that the Games Workshop have heeded the cries of its customers and split the book into three – hobby, fluff and rules. This is welcome news for gamers – particularly tournament gamers – who no longer have to lug around a chuffing heavy book with them wherever they go. They are also stunning to look at. It’s a real departure from the traditional with this iteration. It has new type faces, bold colour block, new stylised aquilas and groovy new art up the whazoo. Plus some of the best pieces from the previous edition. The books feel cyberpunk rather than sci-gothic which is actually a pretty clever. For the first time it feels like a work talking a bout the universe rather than a document from the universe. Which I think makes it far more relate-able for those who just want to paint some toys or play some games, not go balls deep into the fluff. And breaking it into three makes it more digestible. But, for me, harder to get into. Mainly because I do my reading in snatched hours so as I finished one part I was usually nowhere near the others.

A Galaxy of War – the hobby book – is, for me, a huge indulgence. It’s padded to hell and basically a hardback version of Warhammer Visions which is a bit poor. Lots of full page or double page photos which are totally unnecessary. It could be half the thickness, still look good and make just as much contribution to your hobby. I suspect it was thickened up because it would rather put lie to the principle that the wargaming is divided into three equal parts – painting/modelling, gaming and background. There are some new and pretty good hobby articles in there which is very refreshing considering the last couple of iterations have been rehashes of the ones before them. And it’s also cool to see a proper article about collecting an army and giving it some personality. It has nothing to with it being Ultramarines by the way. Although it’s nice to see Captain ‘Angryman’ Agemman getting some love considering he’s contributed almost as much to the Codex Astartes as Marneus Calgar. It’s the first hobby section in a while that I can see a seasoned gamer actually taking the trouble to read. I can’t promise they won’t get bored by the huge amounts of wasted space but at least there’s some value to it. Especially with the changes to the Citadel paint range in the last couple of years.

The book I was looking forward to most, it’s no surprise, was Dark Millennium – the background book – but it was the one that disappointed the most. Now I’ve been immersed in the Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium for the best part of 25 years so I’m aware that the Imperium is not a happy or easy place to live but this book was so utterly bleak to the extent that when I reached the timeline I was questioning what the point of playing any more. In the past there was always an element of hope. Yes humanity was besieged on all sides and the outlook was grim but through strength or arms and sacrifice humanity had a chance. That has been replaced with a bludgeoning hopelessness that does beg the question why anyone would bother. And it lacks finesse. There’s no ambiguity which was always Games Workshop’s strength over its competitors. Everything was myth and legend and open to interpretation. Debating the background has always been a bit of a hobby within a hobby for me. 7th Edition just seems to be a bit…factual. Not bad by any chalk just factual. But I suppose that does tie in with the idea that this is a book about the 41st Millennium rather than a book from the 41st Millennium. Some aspects of Imperial society have been nicely fleshed out – the Imperial Knights being slotted in for one – but it does get a tad repetitive. And if you’re anyone but a lapdog of the Emperor then you may not enjoy this book because 88 pages of the 128 pages is given over to the Imperium. Granted it’s been padded with the usual large pieces of artwork but still. The Eldar – one of the most important players in a galaxy gone mad gets two pages. And that’s split between Dark Eldar and full fat Eldar. There’s a fair few pages about Chaos but even that is Imperium-centric. I stress it’s not a bad read but the old guard, those few of us that are left, may find it a bit of a direction shift.

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And finally the rules themselves. I’ve heard more than a few people call 7th Edition Warhammer 40,000 v2.1 and with good reason as it seems to have tightened up the rules that have been evolving since third edition and added in some of the best bits of 2nd Edition. They started in the previous version with Over Watch and the like but that face that unbound armies are back is very welcome indeed because for the first time since I collected it, I can now use my Ultramarines 1st Company without borrowing rules from another army. This is joyous news. There’s other big changes like a dedicated psychic phase bringing it back in line with Warhammer having spent 16 years making it different. There’s little rule tweaks particularly around cover and line of sight. There’s clarifications around Over Watch and a raft of other things. But most importantly: vehicles don’t suck any more. There’s been no real rule changes other than to damage table. As I said in my review of 6th Edition the studio completely failed to notice that mid strength rapid firing weapons – like assault  cannons – had become the most valuable in the game because they could glance vehicles to death. Whilst this is still true, they no longer can get a lucky kill in on a penetrating hit. The only way you can now outright destroy a vehicle is if you have a weapon that’s designed to do the job. Which. Makes. Sense. Suddenly lascannons and multimeltas are worth taking again. The best lesser weapons can hope for is to destroy weapons or immobilise them. A lot of effort has gone into the ‘gaming’ aspect, specifically scenarios and missions. Taking the throwaway after thought that was the 6th edition offering and making it a clear and digestible and, most importantly, good. The woeful, soul crushing, miserable Compendium of Special Rules has been thrown out in favour of something logical – rules grouped together by type. It actually means you can find rules too. Which is novel.

Overall the 7th Edition of the Warhammer 40,000 rules feel the tightest they’ve been…um…ever. The books are gorgeous and aside from sterility in the background it’s a strong offering from Games Workshop. The flyers are still over powerered – the Heldrake still being mental – and the fact that there’s still millions of special rules, however nicely they’ve been organised, means it can still frustrate but it’s not enough to put me off.

It’s been a long journey since 3rd Edition hit the shelves back in 1998 and it’s actually been fascinating watching that rule set evolve and see some of the facets of 2nd make a return. Not all the changes have been well received but then again you can’t please all the people all the time. I think there’s probably another iteration (or two) to go before Warhammer 40,000 hits that sweet spot where everything is working in harmony but for now I’d 7th Edition is pretty close.

For me the consideration that’s gone into the small details is what makes it good. Clarifying small but significant sentences cuts down rule flicking, arguing and prevents anyone from feeling hard done by when they lose the inevitable roll off. It’s just a far more well rounded offering and feels more robust because of it. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve felt confident in the rules I’m reading.

The Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition rules is available from Firestorm Games priced £45.00.

Valhalla Review

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At Salute I saw a lot of wonderful things, but each game system seemed to follow a similar path of a needing a large rulebook costing about £20,  so it’s nice to see a different approach in Valhalla, published by East Street Games. A Viking era skirmish game, harking back to the idea of cheap rule sets, no fixed model range and an emphasis on modifying as required rather than sticking to the letter of the rules.

It also has a unique online component built into the game, whereby you generate your warband, record any experience gained, and can then watch it grow with each victory.

As for the rules themselves, well they’re pretty solid, albeit with a few glaring holes that, at times, may be irritating. The most interesting of them is that you have several lines of health boxes which means, as they are filled in due to injury, a fighter gets progressively worse at fighting to represent having taken a few blows.

Games focus around ‘benches’ – groups of warriors commanded by a powerful leader who sets the morale and tells the warriors what to do. Each turn models have three action points to use which each model must use before moving to another, making turns quick and fast even with a dozen models on the table. In a nice nod to realism, you set your warriors tasks at the beginning of the game such as ‘burn those houses’ or ‘capture those villagers’ which your warriors won’t deviate from unless provoked, so its even possible that games could happen and warriors not encounter a fight at all, or else a crafty defender could pick off an opponent from afar before they have time to react.

Sod the historical realism though I hear you cry- how good is the combat!? Pleasantly brutal I have to say. Evoking the fast and deadly nature of hand to hand combat at the time, heroics by single models will result in a quick death for them as they get surrounded by enemies. So players with lone models caught off guard have to resort to stalling tactics until their friends turn up, or else risk running away. It’s for a good reason that Valhalla insists you start a game together as one bench. Teamwork is the name of the game here.

Now to talk about the online component, it’s pretty easy to set up and generate your own warband. Upload pictures of your models, choose what nationality you would like (Cornish, Saxon, Viking etc), the type of warrior you want, generate your models stats and then choose weaponry and equipment. Each page is dedicated to a single task, so you are never confused about what to do or how to do it and its a pretty quick process, with my two bands of Cornish and Gailic warriors (each 8 models strong) being generated in 30 mins.

Now the online mode is handy, but it also reveals some of the drawbacks of the method. For one, it relies on the East Street Games having the time to update the game as it promises it will. The rulebook itself has no scenarios in it and none on the site as of this time, so it would have been useful to have a few in the rulebook to get peoples imaginations going and tide them over until East Street Games found the time to upload a few more to the website. The reliance on the site for keeping track of each models generation, growth and equipment may irk a few used to doing that with pen and paper after each game. There’s also a few formatting errors in the rulebook that were very obvious and should have been caught by someone before printing happened.

Overall though, Valhalla is worth your time. Its a game that will reward you the more time you put into it if you are willing to meet it half way initially. The solid base of rules and encouragement of modding and changing the game yourself is an attitude I wish more game developers had.

If there’s a Viking era skirmish game worth trying today, try Valhalla. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at both the depth to the rules and at how cheap the game is, probably being £50+ for the two warbands of 12 warriors a side (depending on where you buy them) and a core rules system that should only get better with time.

Not bad for rules that only cost me £5.

Valhalla is available from East Street Games.

X-Wing Expansion: B-Wing – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight Games

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the B-Wing. When it dove into view in Return of the Jedi I was fascinated by the design. Of all the Rebel fighters it looked the least like a conventional/modern/atmospheric craft. But this had a lot to do with it being designed by Admiral Ackbar, a Mon Calamari who has no reason to think like a human and therefore design like one. In the movie it seemed to keep up with the fighting and the squadron did themselves proud in the Battle for Endor taking down two Imperial Star Destroyers.

When I got my hands on the X-Wing game for the PC and my opinion soured slightly. Whilst undeniably well armed, the B-Wing was a turd to fly. Slow and lazy in its turns, it was a pig to fly in a dog fight. Whilst I appreciate it’s a bomber and shouldn’t be in the middle of a furball it was an often inescapable situation in that game. Especially if you were a young, aggressive rookie pilot like I was back in the day. I can’t say I’ve mellowed in my piloting style but I do now, at least, appreciate the combat role the B-Wing is supposed to play which is that of a ship killer. How convenient that two are now available…

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Similarly with the X-Wing Miniatures game I wasn’t sure about including a B-Wing in my rag-tag interpretation of Rogue Squadron. Especially as the majority of the unit is made up of fast-moving X-Wings and even faster moving A-Wings & E-Wings (the latter are on their way and a review will follow). That was, however, until I read the rules for the B-Wing.

Whilst slow and alarmingly prone to stress, it is as well shielded as the Millennium Falcon and nearly as well armed. And for near enough half the points. That’s incredibly good. Partner a B-Wing with the Falcon, or a couple of Y-Wings and you have an incredibly capable killing blow after the fighting wedge of your fast movers punches a hole in the enemy formation.

Whilst I can’t see myself taking one (or more) B-Wing in every game I can definitely see the pros in taking one at all.Especially against larger craft. Aside from its crazy resilience to damage and meaty amounts of basic fire power the two special rules on offer from the character pilots are incredibly good. Being able to either prevent a critical hit from being cancelled or being able to re-roll a dice when under stress (which will happen al lot!) is very useful. Not cheap however. 31 and 28 points respectively. But this has something to do with the B-Wing being nails and able to take piles of upgrades including two missile types which is just as well because the expansion comes with both proton torpedoes and advanced proton torpedoes. For 6 points (ouch) the advanced torpedoes gives you 5 dice and allows any blank results to be turned into focus results. Which if you’re smart ensures you utterly destroy whatever you shoot at.

To be honest, you’d be mad not to take all the upgrades for the B-Wing. The Fire Control System being a must for 2 points, giving you a target lock on the ship you just fired on. For. Two. Points. Chuck in a focus action and advanced torpedoes and that’s a heady mix and shaves a turn off delivering the aforementioned destruction. However, all this kitting up will set you back around 15 points. On top of the 28-31 points for the pilot and ship. Or to put it another way, roughly the same number of points as the Falcon. The only saving grace being it’s harder to hit.

The model itself is actually pretty cool. And massive. It’s significantly bigger than the X-Wing and dwarfs the A-Wing which makes the B-Wing pretty good value for that reason alone. Fantasy Flight did a nice job of work around the design of the ship and the flight stand. And already I’ve seen conversion were gamers have worked the stand loose and rotated it 90 degrees to get the horizontal pose which actually works better.

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The B-Wing is a bit of a surprise choice for me. I was expecting to be indifferent at best but I can actually see a real benefit to taking them in your fleet. Whilst very high in points they have more than potential enough to make those points back thanks to the prodigious amounts of damage it can do. Its lack of speed isn’t such a problem because targets will be flying towards it. The hard part will be keeping it  alive once the Imperials get behind it because it lacks the ability to turn and face. I’m not sure how it’ll fit in with my aggressive playing style but if used correctly the B-Wing is a devastating asset.

The X-Wing Miniatures Game B-Wing Expansion is available from Firestorm Games priced £10.79.

Deep Cut Studios Space Battle Mat – A Review

deepcutstudioYou may remember a little while ago I took a look at the Ice Planet battle mat from Gale Force 9 for use with the X-Wing Miniatures Game. I came across Deep-Cut Studio and their wide range of game mats not just for X-Wing but a wide range of tabletop and RPG systems as well.

I got my hands on the Deep Space mat, again for use with X-Wing with the idea of making a direct comparison against the GF9 product.

miniature_games_mat_space_2The Gale Force 9 mat had converted me to game mats. They’re a great all in one solution for those that lack the time or the skill to create something similar. The best news about the Deep-Cut Studio mats is that they’re available in sizes between 3×3 and 6×4 which is fantastic. This means games of all stripes can get an awesome looking gaming mat for not lots of money.

And awesome is the word. My first impressions were that it’s really very pretty. Whereas the GF9 mat felt photoshopped, albeit still looking pretty cool, the Deep Space mat from Deep-Cut was more like looking at something taken with the Hubble Telescope. It’s incredibly good-looking to the point it’s almost a shame to put models on it. And that makes it completely beautiful. The richness of colour is very impressive. The standard of print is exceptional. Whereas the GF9 mat felt slight over saturated with ink, Deep-Cut’s feels like a press quality item. Which is what you want for something you’re paying cashy money for.

It’s thinner than the GF9 mat which means it rolls out easier but takes a fair bit longer for the ends to settle flat but it’s not a massive deal. Just give yourself a few extra minutes when you unroll it. And because the PVC seems to take the ink better there’s no signs of wear or rubbing which was my big peeve. The thinness does make rolling it back up a bit of a faff because it lacks the rigidity to tapped into a tidy roll but again, it’s not a big deal but extra care is needed.

But going back to the look of the mat, it’s just a joy to play across. The models look fantastic and thanks to the sizes available it means Gothic players get to enjoy gorgeous playing spaces as well. And this makes me extremely happy. It doesn’t mean I’m going to spontaneously start painting my Gothic fleet but it’s nice to know the grey plastic will have a good-looking backdrop.

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Come on! Look at it! It’s just epic. And it makes anything you put on there look epic. And considering what I put on there are Star Wars ships which are, by definition, epic; there’s a shit tonne of epicness in that photo.

The battle mat from Deep-Cut Studio is an excellent product. It looks fantastic, it’s produced to a high standard and the 3×3″ mat I got is cheaper than the GF9 version and I know which I prefer. I’m really keen to see what some of the other mats look like, particularly other space mats and ones that could be used for Bolt Action.

The mats are available direct from Deep-Cut Studio priced £22.90.