Reflections on an Old World

A week or so ago I reviewed the all new, all shiny, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. I reflected on the idea that this game wasn’t Warhammer Fantasy Battles ninth Edition but the first edition of an entirely new game.

It’s fair comment as whilst the models haven’t changed just about everything else has from the army names, to the rules, to the Warhammer world itself. Which got me to thinking: just what are the veterans of Warhammer supposed to do now?

What I mean by this is this some of us have spent a very long time not just learning vast amounts of rules and stat lines but absorbing, remembering, understanding and debating the background. Understanding the background wasn’t just part of understanding why these mighty empires were at war but why the armies and units were designed the way they were. It also gave us insight how best to use them.

Thus far it seems all this knowledge is now broadly surplus to requirements. This is somewhat of a bitter pill for me because I got into the hobby far younger than most and so saying goodbye to the Warhammer World as it was is saying goodbye to 25 years of study in one form or another. It’s left me feeling…homeless for want of a better word. It does feel like that’s slightly the point. The amount I spend on Warhammer Fantasy is slight. I have a large Warriors of Chaos army that requires tweaking rather than investment. Because of its size I’m unlikely to invest in a second army of similar size. Therefore can I be called a Games Workshop customer? Strictly speaking: no.

Fresh, enthused, cash rich, time rich, new gamers are what the Games Workshop are after. The 10 year olds and above who haven’t discovered boobs yet or if they have it’s because they cracked their parent’s password to get to the really good sites on the internet.

Going purely off the back of the shonky book included in the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar boxset there is little or no talk of the time before it all went a little bit Adventure Time. That of course doesn’t mean there won’t be but it seems almost counter productive to go to the trouble of hitting the big red reset button of destiny only to go back to the old stuff.

My question is this: what the hell am I supposed to do now? If any future book references the old background new gamers aren’t going to have a fucking clue what the writer is banging on about. Heaven for fend they reference something from the Time of Legends books. The history before the history if you will.

I feel like I’m going to become akin to a clan elder. In charge of tomes of history and trotted out for special occasions to tut and look whimsical about a place called the Old World. A place where heroes of valour commanded armies of light to hold back towering villains of tremendous power and their hordes of foul creatures, corrupted men and capering daemons.

How do you summarise 30 plus years of history in a conversation? You can’t. It once took me three hours to tell a friend a brief history of the 40k Universe. Three. Hours.

So where does that leave me, The Chaps and other veteran Warhammer players? Do we walk away? Hit the red reset button of destiny ourselves wipe the slate clean and embrace the brave new/mental world and just get on with it? Or do we become living relics? Become those clan elders and gather as much knowledge as we can and guard it jealously against time and the seep of the new canon.

The sad truth is suspect it’ll be somewhere in the middle. Some of the old guard will walk away. Others will play both versions and the rest will become those living relics. I certainly feel like one.

But as I said in my review, the great thing about the re-imagining of Warhammer is that eighth edition will remain forever as it is: the strongest version of that pillar of wargaming heritage and epic fantasy battles. It’ll never be updated, the army books won’t change. And as long as we can find square bases our armies can continue to march in beautiful sharp cornered blocks in numbers that fill the board.

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe the wargaming world has changed and we, like Warhammer, have to move with the times or become obsolete. I’m certainly not ready to give up on Warhammer Fantasy Battles and maybe that says more about me than I realised.

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar – A Review

gw-rules-bannerI leave the hobby alone for five minutes!

A lot has changed during my hiatus. There’s bat shit crazy amounts of new stuff for X-Wing. There’s whole new armies for 40k and yet more re-released rulebooks. Spartan Games has landed a Halo fleet game (soooo getting that!) and it seems the entire Warhammer World has been destroyed. Careless.

Now I must be honest, I wasn’t living in a hole in the ground, I was aware that 9th Edition Warhammer was looming. I was also aware of the End Times books and the bonkers models but as I couldn’t give it any time I didn’t give it any thought. Oh what a mistake that was. It was a mistake because 9th Edition Warhammer isn’t 9th Edition anything. Warhammer ended with 8th Edition. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, 1st Edition, however has been unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Well I was unsuspecting so sod the rest of you.

If I’m honest, for the interests of this review, it’s actually a good thing I didn’t have a clue what the hell was going on. It’s kept me far more objective than someone that’s been in the hobby as long as I have has any right being. Because it’s changed. A. Lot.

The premise is basically this: everything is fucked. No really. The Warhammer World as we knew it has been destroyed. Archaon decided to blow everything up. Just coz. The result was Chaos running riot over the world and the fabric of reality unravelling like a sweat shop jumper. There are now multiple plains on which the various forces of order, chaos, death, destruction and candy floss duke it out for…well, I have no idea what for because there’s nothing left worth holding on to. It’s a Chaos wasteland. Not to be confused with a teenage wasteland, that would have more cider cans and used condoms I suspect.

The problem is most of that information was explained to me by my brother Sunday evening because I haven’t read the End Times books and without them you don’t have a clue what the background book is banging on about. Whoever wrote it tried to follow a similar mythical vein to Warhammer 40,000 but falls so woefully short of the mark that it’s just a confused, vague, mess. I have no idea how new gamers are supposed to understand the first thing about the world when the writer clearly didn’t.

And it’s not just that it’s vague, it’s poorly written. The word vengeance is so heinous in its overuse that I gave up keeping a tally. The number of ways they’ve tried to cram the word Sigmar into places, items and objects is embarrassing. There is only one, maybe two, references to other races in the game and there is nothing remotely scroll-like about the warscrolls, but on to those later.

On the upside the book is beautiful. It’s nicely put together and the artwork is amazing. The layout is broken down into logical sections allowing new gamers to absorb the information (and they’re going to need to!) before moving on to the next. I suppose that’s the point of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, it’s not aimed at old wargaming dinosaurs like me. It’s for a new and far younger audience that have grown up on a diet of Pokemon, Adventure Time and copious amounts of Capri Sun. The book bludgeons you over the head with heroes and villains. Of vengeance and slaughter. It’s kinda like sitting next to the weird chatty person on the bus. After a while you just tune out.

The reason I’ve spent 600 words complaining about the background, or lack thereof, is because I’m a fluff gamer. It’s the background that kept me into the various Games Workshop systems all the while my wallet begged me to leave. The fact that it was always five minutes to midnight, at the very brink of annihilation, is what made it compelling. The small glimmer of hope, the nobility of sacrifice, the feats of heroism and all supported by a rich and vibrant history. Boy is it history now. So much so it’s only referenced as the time before. The Games Workshop have hit the big red reset button of destiny. Warhammer is dead. Long live Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.

And speaking of the hammer wielding God-King: his gold clad Fantasy Marines, also known as the Stormcast Eternal (no really) are really quite awesome models. I mean seriously cool. Side stepping the quite shameless attempt to waggle them at young gamers shouting ‘hey these are like those Space Marines you like but with big hammers’, they are quite excellently sculpted. The detail on them is not just impressive but cleverly incorporated into the design. And us old buggers will inevitably draw comparisons to MkI Thunder Armour.

They’re big too. Bigger than a Terminator big. They feel substantial and look every bit the vengeful (fantasy) Angels of Death you’d want them to be. Plus all the hammers look amazing. Considering it’s a bit of a gimmick, they actually do a good job of making all the various hammers look distinct yet fit for purpose. That purpose being vengeance. Apparently. The styling is very close to that of the Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard which will no doubt spark a deluge of highly groovy conversions although I certainly wouldn’t want to try to get the comet sigil of all the surfaces.

Truth be told, I don’t have a problem with their being a Space Marine style army in Warhammer. It’s been lacking for years. If you wanted to do an elite army your options were either Warriors of Chaos or some super wanky army list that made you lose friends quicker than acute halitosis. Or something so achingly characterful that you’d lose all the time. So hooray, big armour clad (vengeful) heroes for everyone.

WHAgeofSigmarBoxENG01

Equally the Khorne models are awesome. Some of the poses are a little flat with the time-honoured brandishing weapons to the side poses, but the detail is there in spades and considering it’s Khorne it doesn’t get too daft. Apart from Bloodstoker, he’s shit. Even the icon bearer, Bloodsecrator (no really) doesn’t look preposterous. The icon itself is fantastic and would have made a stupendous battle standard-bearer for 8th Edition – and he still might sports fans. You’d think the spinal column he has for a ponytail would be eyebrow raisingly silly but actually it just works.

I’m side stepping Khorgoraths model because whilst it isn’t bad, it doesn’t wow me either but it’s such a shameless rip off of the Slaughterbrute from 40k that it pretty much has the same pose. Tisk tisk.

The Blood Warriors are my favourites though. Effectively the equivalent of the Chaos Space Marines in the 40k boxset the level of detail on them is impressive and they’d make fantastic Chosen warriors in the 8th Edition army. As would the lower level Bloodreavers to be honest, they’re that hench.

But on to the game itself. Now, a lot has been said about the lack of points and such and one must assume the Games Workshop has something up its sleeve on this topic because if it was simply a case of ‘I have 20 blokes, you have 20 blokes’ why are the number of models you get for each side in the box different? There’s clearly a balance there which suggests, at some point, there will be a system for selecting your forces.

I deliberately didn’t use the word armies there because you can’t take them any more. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is very much a detachment level game like 40k is/was. Whilst the rules have been streamlined to near collectible card game levels of simplicity, the multiple wounds for every model on the board would make it impossible to play a large game. More on that shortly.

It’s been widely publicised that the rules have gone from a big beast of a book to 4 sides of A4. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of the biggest barriers to entry for any kind of wargame is the size of the rules. Stripping it back to little more than a pamphlet is a very brave move and a clear signal from the Games Workshop that they want as many people enjoying the game as possible. I’d like to point out it probably would have been less hassle just to make the models cheaper but there we go…

If I were to cast my mind back to the distant past of the early noughties when I worked for the Games Workshop Warhammer was by far the hardest game to get younger games psyched about. Not because the world was lacking, far from it (*cough cough*) but because the intricacies of deployment and movement were lost on them or seemed like too much hassle compared to the board next door which had blokes running around in every direction blowing one another’s faces off. When a game went well it really went well and Little Jimmy would toddle out of the store having spent all his allowance as well as his father’s booze fund for the month. But for every 3 Warhammer starter sets I sold, I’d sell 9 40k’s.

Under the new rules the longest section, by a mile, is the battlefield section. This actually makes a great deal of sense as one of the big draws for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar isn’t just the new shiny models – although they are – but the mad as bat shit world those models now inhabit. Because it’s all a bit mental boards can be as varied as those used in games of Warhmmer 40,000. And because the models are now on round bases the boards can be used almost universally.

This is a shrewd move by Games Workshop. It encourages the hobbyist to go all out on a board, buying up all the things, knowing that they can use it for either system (more or less). The logic is that gamers were put off purchasing because they knew they were going to do have to build a board twice. Two large hobby projects that don’t involve armies would put off just about everyone except Lee of The Chaps. But the cost remains. Now a daemon world board, for example, is now good for both systems.

The rules for movement are largely unchanged. You have a value, you move the value etc. Shooting and combat are now so aligned in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar that they may as well have written one long section called ‘Twatting Shit’. Again, this isn’t a criticism but to highlight how surprisingly elegant they’ve made the rules. All weapons have a range. You may raise a cynical eyebrow but it makes sense. A bloody great big hammer has a longer range/reach than a regular hammer. It’s logic lifted straight from the pages of Inquisitor and that was a great game.

It’s weapons and not the man that do the heavy lifting in W:AoS, which has more irony  than perhaps was intended. The profile of the model has been stripped right back to Movement, Wounds, Bravery and Save. And because of how the weapons work it stops characters from becoming complete monsters like they could in 8th Edition thanks to the heady cocktail of weapons and items available to them. They’re still as tough as old boots but due to the way some weapons can inflict multiple points of damage they’re not invincible either.

But the system is simpler because there’s no charts any more. A weapon has a number of attacks, a required roll to hit, roll to wound and will inflict x number of damage points/wounds. It also has a rending value which is the fancy new name for the save modifier.

Indeed the fact that some weapons can inflict multiple wounds is just as well because most models have multiple wounds now which is gonna mean lots of record keeping. Which would have been a nightmare under the old system with so many models on the board. And that’s really the biggest thing I had to reconcile with: Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is not a game of big fisty-cuffs any more.

Again, this isn’t a complaint as such. Big games of 8th Edition Warhammer took forever to play depending on your army and rules knowledge. It’s a huge barrier to entry. Throw in the precise set up and movement and it’s little wonder Games Workshop had such a hard time not just drawing in, but keeping younger gamers. Granted, there’s an argument to be had for the game being for the seasoned gamer but how commercially viable is that?

You can now get through a game similar in size increments to 40k in an evening and still have time to tell smutty jokes to your mates. This, if we’re really honest with ourselves, is a good thing.

I really like the rules. It makes life so much simpler. I hate the stupid names they’re trying to give everything but you can’t win them all. And some of the special rules included in the book are a bit iffy but overall, they’re pretty strong and, perhaps the biggest thing, they’re quick!

Where it gets let down – and I’m by no means the first person to say this – is the army structure and points system. In that there isn’t one. You can literally take whatever the hell you like as long as the forces are equal. Which is impossible to determine because there are no values.

I understand the logic – if you take a wanky army no one will play you so take a balanced army. Games Workshop has woefully underestimated the sheer volume of beardy, smelly, friendless tossers that prowl games clubs and infest tournaments looking for some poor unsuspecting (and usually novice) gamer to absolutely destroy. I’ve known dozens of them over the years. I’m willing to bet that everyone can think of at least one at their local hobby store or club as well.

Moreover the people with the biggest model collections will win. Not because they’re using the most models but because they can pull out the unit that will best counter the army of someone who is just starting out. The whole idea relies on people being good and decent which isn’t impossible, just very hard with no guidelines on how to balance your forces.

The daft thing is I could take a starting army of Chaos Lords. Under the rules I can summon a Slave to Darkness unit per model per turn on a 4+. So for every Lord I take I can attempt to summon anything in the army which has the Slave to Darkness special rule. Chaos Warriors come in units of at least 10. And I may be getting this wrong but I think I could summon more Chaos Lords too. Who in turn can summon more on top. It’s just mental! Again the counter argument is ‘but no one would play you’. 1. That’s just not true and 2. the argument should never ever take place. Points limits, unit limits and army organisation was never and is not a bad thing. It was far easier to spot a power-gamer before. Now everyone has the potential to be one.

And as I’m on the subject of the warscrolls – three things.

1. It’s an utterly stupid, deliberately commercial, name aimed at Generation I Choose You!

2. It’s awesome that Games Workshop have made warscrolls available for all the various armies for free. I have no idea if these are just place holders, whether or not new books will come out or if it’ll stay digital. That’s not for here, it’s just cool that we got something for free. However…

3. Whoever wrote the warscrolls was either high, mentally deranged or has utter contempt for those that would use them. There are special rules within the warscrolls that demand gamers to grunt like animals, shout Waaagh or lay on some form of amateur dramatics if they want to get the most out of certain special rules or spells. Seriously.

Now I’m the first to admit to inciting a Waaagh of a Sunday morning with a table full of beginners. But they were 10. And even they felt like twats. How is a seasoned gamer in his 40’s or 50’s supposed to feel about shouting Waaagh in his dining room or, worse, a games club if he wants to use his army properly? It’s insulting.

It’s insulting because Games Workshop are either so woefully out of touch that they thought it was a good idea or they wanted to stop people from using certain units because they’re being phased out and it would soften the blow. I can’t accept that someone woke up one morning thinking that it would be a valuable and worthwhile addition to the rules to have gamers cavort for the amusement of others.

So what of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar? Well, if you hadn’t guessed: I’m a bit mixed on the whole thing. The models are stupendous. I mean really top-notch. A little bonkers in places but that’s hardly a new direction for Games Worksop, or indeed most wargaming companies.

The background is mess. Not poor as such, just poorly written (there’s a difference) and very confused. It needs seriously tightening up if there’s going to be a second edition Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. I honestly didn’t have the foggiest idea what was going on until I got the summary from my brother. And this is bad because it’s obviously aimed at a new and much younger audience who probably wouldn’t have read the End Times books.

The rules are actually very good. Super slick and whilst pixie dice will no doubt be needed it’s a significantly smaller commitment in time. Throw in the fact that you need fewer models for a good-sized game and the impact of hobby time shrinks as well which means more people will complete projects. And when I say people I mean me. Huzzah.

The army lists/warscrolls/post-it notes of power/whatever are stupidly named but nicely laid out and, more or less, pretty clear in their intent. But some of the free to download warscrolls have some utterly maddening rules in them so I strongly urge you to take a red pen to them.

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar isn’t 9th Edition no matter what anyone says. It just isn’t. It’s a totally different beast living in a totally different world. Actually nine of them. And you know what? It’s fine. Overall it’s a reasonable attempt. It’s a good game let down by the simple fact that the majority, if not all, of the lore keepers, who wrote the really strong stuff, departed years ago and the heavy lifting is now done by the Black Library writers.

I freely admit that I will continue to play 8th Edition. For me it was the best, and as it turns out, last version of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. I will complete my Warriors of Chaos army as best I can and enjoy 8th Edition the same way I do Mordheim: as a finished game, forever unchanging.

But I can also see myself playing Age of Sigmar in some small way. It’s a good game. But the departure for me is that I won’t be invested in this world the way I was the old one. 26 years of hobby experience aside (shut up I started when I was very young), the world just isnt’ as rich and it won’t be for a little while yet I fear. Which is fine as long as I know going in.

Should seasoned gamers pick up Warhammer: Age of Sigmar? Yes, they absolutely should. Firstly, the models are awesome and have fantastic hobby potential. Secondly, t’s a great game and should be enjoyed as such, just leave your memories at home next to your shattered innocence.

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is available from Firestorm Games priced £63.75.

The Daughter of Lahmia

As I mentioned in my return post, I’m working on an Undead warband for Mordheim. I’ve always toyed with Undead armies. I’ve found the background fascinating and the models – for the most part – pretty awesome. The two things that always stayed my hand were the fairly (and by fairly I mean very) dull core choices and I fucking hate painting skeletons. Actually no, I don’t. I fucking hate painting lots of skeletons. And a I have a general, roll my eyes, dislike of zombies.

So a Mordheim warband is a good fit as I get t avoid the things that bug me about the Undead army whilst indulging in the stuff I like. Namely vampires. Plus, with all the End Times stuff going on, I wouldn’t know where to start with a Warhammer army at the moment. My brother has kindly leant me the first 4 books and so far I’ve read…none of them. In my defence Batman comic books are an easier read right now.

On to the Vampires themselves. For a long time the Undead army was just the von Carstein dynasty – or more accurately a rip off of the hammer horror vampires of old right down to the silly outfits and the . The introduction of the Necrarchs, Blood Dragons, Lahmians and (latterly) Strigoi was a seminal moment in the evolution of the Vampire Counts and suddenly presented us with noble families that conjured images of a supernatural war of the roses-esque Undead fight for power. Which is actually pretty cool.

For gaming the Blood Dragons were the lure. For uniqueness of army selection and awesomeness of vampire model the Strigoi won out. But for background and pure fascination the Lahmians has always been my go to house of choice. The Lahmian Court is where it all began. Lahmians are the purest of all the Vampires. They are bewitching, beguiling, enthralling and yet utterly savage and evil. The juxtaposition amuses me.

Needless to say when I toyed with the idea of an Undead warband it was always with a Lahmian at its head. Then I impulsively bought one on eBay. Then I bought a few more things and I had to conclude: well, shit, looks like I’m doing a Lahmian warband…

The story I wanted to tell with my Lahmian was one akin to a wandering succubus. Forever displaced from her homeland and unable to stay in one place for too long, I wanted the Necromancer and her thralls to reflect a journey that would have taken her from one corner of the Warhammer world to the other. If the numbers of models available to me weren’t so limited I could have told a far richer story.

99070207004_WightKingNEW01

The Necromancer is actually the Wight King model. I liked the idea of a Sorcerer King, ruling a land tucked out of sight from the prying eyes of Gods and men, so utterly convinced of his magical might and right to subjugate, having his will and all he built stripped away in the face of the Lahmian’s ancient power and beguiling beauty. Even in death the sorcerer cannot slip the bewitching bonds of his mistress, being driven mad as in his undeath he has all the urges and desires of a living man. He hungers but cannot eat. He tires but cannot sleep. He lusts but can never feel. He’s forced to watch an endless parade of simpering fools fawn over his beloved, all cursed to fall from favour, all blessed to die at her hand or someone else’s.

Thralls

The Beloved and Thralls I wanted to feel like great warriors fallen from grace. Their souls, minds and very bodies a secondary consideration in favour of their mistress. In the same way I chose a sorcerer king type for my necromancer, the thralls all had to feel far flung. They don’t get much further flung than a Dark Elf Blackark Fleetmaster. Both Neil and Lee raised eyebrows at this choice more so than the Empire Duellist and a Bretonnian Grail Knight, but the important thing to remember is the powerlessness that mortal minds have against something as ancient as a vampire, even the iron hard will of an Elf. There was something aptly perverse about having a Grail Knight as a thrall. The idea of a Grail Knight abandoning his sacred oaths is all but unheard of. And for the Grail Knight his soul would be forever tormented by that fact. Utterly committed to the Lahmian yet disgusted at the dishonourable wretch staring back from his reflection. The Empire Duellist is an entirely more straight forward affair. Enthralled and yet emasculated by the presence of a Fleetmaster and a Grail Knight he pledges the service of his household guard to her cause, foolishly believing it has trucked favour. A man so hopelessly lost spends as much time challenging his tenuous allies as he does fighting the enemies of his beloved.

I did seriously consider getting an Ogre Bodyguard as the Warband progresses to convey just how far the alluring immortal had travelled. Essentially the dimwitted Ogre would follow the Lahmian around in a state of childlike infatuation. In the end, however I decided to opt for a Vargheist instead. It tells a very different story but, I think a far more compelling one. The creature is all that remains of the Lahmians once true love. Driven to ever greater acts of wickedness through insane jealousy he embraced too deeply the creature that lurked within him. Devolved into a near mindless beast, the Vargheist is the Lahmian’s shadow, protecting her from any and all. Too savage to be instinct, too bestial to be anything other than a lost creature.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – this is why I love Mordheim. A few simple decisions surrounding model selection and the story changes from a wandering vampire with a drooling lustful Ogre in tow, to a once great Lahmian princess with a gaggle of enthralled hangers-on and the twisted shadow of her true love, devotedly at her side.

As I get the models together I’ll write some more solid background and maybe a short story or two. And maybe you might even see some photos of painted models. But let’s not get a nose bleed about it.

Empire vs Khorne Tactica Part 2

TaleOfTwoArmies copy

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

Warhammer-logo

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

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

Empire Tactica fig 1

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

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

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

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

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

Empire Tactica fig 2

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

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

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

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

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

That New Army Feel

I got my hands on the new Codex Orks earlier in the week (review coming very soon) and I’ve been reading it every chance I get and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it. So much so I’m considering collecting an army of them. I don’t have much luck collecting enemies of the Imperium but the Orks I’m feeling particularly jazzed about.

60030103005_CodexOrksENG

The issue I have is that I’m also planning a Lizardmen army once I (finally) finish my Warriors of Chaos army which has stalled somewhat of late. 

The reality is that I’ll probably end up doing both. Much to my wife’s dismay. Because there’s something fundamentally magic about finding an army that you really like to the extent that you want to part with hard earned cash to collect it. It’s a bit like a new relationship. Lots of excitement and trying to learn as much about them as possible. Occasionally a friend might advise caution or tell you all the bad bits that you don’t want to hear like they’re high maintenance.

But ultimately you don’t care because they’re so shiny and new and they’ll let you do stuff that your other armies won’t let you do. And if you’re really lucky you can field them at the same time…

Okay enough of that metaphor.

But the point remains, there’s nothing quite like that new army feel. The excitement of reading the army book, learning their place within the world and the first tentative thoughts around army formations.

Pouring over the model range, the eternal struggle between what’s shiny or characterful verses what will actually win you games. The latter rarely wins for me. And of course the ultimate question – once you’ve settled on your first purchases – what colour are you going to paint them? I never worry about the last one because I get too carried away with the collecting bit to actually apply brush to model. But I always have very high minded ideas and that has to count for something.

There’s obviously the trap of new army syndrome. The waves of shiny models, the new or updated rules and the hype is hard to ignore. I’ve fallen into the trap a couple of times. The Grey Knights stick in my mind the most. I bought the codex, worked out a 3,000 point army list then I realised I found them utterly boring. Just my opinion mind, please don’t fan rage me. I guess the moral of the story is: buy the book, read the book. If you’re agonising over what to take rather than struggling to find inspiration for your army list then they’re probably a keeper.

The hardest part of starting a new army is not going crazy. Resisting the urge to buy stuff before you’ve written an army list, or buying loads of stuff at once so you can get that first game in. I do it every time. 500 points isn’t manly enough so I collect the first 1,000 points. Which is just too many models to be a manageable new painting project so then it becomes a mountain to climb. Unless it was like my Covenant fleet which was black with a bit of copper and wood…

The point is this – be sensible. Don’t be envious of other people’s armies or feel like you need to race to get to 3,000 points because you want to play a proper sized game. Basically don’t do what I’ve been doing for 25 years. I’ve only ever completed one 40k army. And that was my Ultramarines when they were 2,000 points. The models to take them to 3,000 were partially painted. My Ultramarines are now 9,500 points… So…yeah…

99120208010_LizardmenBattalionNEW01

Starter sets, battle force and battalion boxes are a good jumping off point. They’re not as crammed as they use to be and you don’t always get everything you want but with a thriving second hand market there’s always a buyer for the units you don’t want. And chances are it’ll still work out cheaper anyway.

So to return to my earlier metaphor, starting a new army is a lot like starting a new relationship. There’s lots of temptation to go too fast too quickly. Too get too invested only to discover that there’s just no love there. And there’s always that one friend who can’t resist saying ‘I told you so’. But get it right and it’s a joy. It’s effortless and everything evolves naturally. 

Now, how many Stegadons can I take again…

Forge World Empire Landship – A Review

fw-logo

 

When the idea for ‘A Tale of Two Armies’ was first mooted, the understandable wrangling over which armies we would collect ensued with both Phil and I swinging between various options.  The decision to collect an Empire army, and then base it on my Marienburger warband I collected for Mordheim, was swung in the end by a very large and very impressive model – The Empire’s Marienburg Class Landship from Forgeworld.

landship1

When I first laid eyes on it I just knew it would be the centre piece for my Empire army, serving as Ludvig von Bomberg’s (ahem) Flagship.  The character of the army was to include the weird and wonderful – and most expensive pieces a general could ever wish for, and this was a perfect fit.  And I reasoned any Marienburger with the means to own such a mighty machine of war would insist on riding in it personally over a mere horse, or Sigmar forbid, on foot.  Unfortunately the rules don’t allow for it to be used as either a mount or a Chariot (they really should look into that) so he would only ever be present as a decoration. The kit even comes with a suitable character model in the form of the ship’s Captain – along with 5 other crewmen.  All are fantastic sculpts in their own right and represent great value for money if you were to weigh up how much a set of 6 would cost to purchase separately.

landship13

The fine sculpting doesn’t stop with the crew either, the whole model is covered in nice details – like the individually designed shields covering the fo’castle, or the figurehead that’s seen better days.  All these details on a model of this size make it quite daunting to tackle painting wise, the photographs on the Forgeworld website show it in comparison to things like a Giant and a Steam Tank, and it’s no less impressive in the flesh – it’s massive, and will tower over most things.  Thankfully, the hull and boiler are cast together in just two very hefty pieces which helps cut down on the number of parts (of which there are still many), but it does mean a lot of time and effort needs to go into making sure these fit together as perfectly as possible and a lot of dry fitting and test assembly is recommended.  Unfortunately due its size and complexity, the Landship falls firmly into the category of subassemblies, which will need painting separately and then putting together afterwards – which is something I’m always keen to avoid but is understandable on something this size.  For example, the location of the cannon makes the area impossible to paint if the fo’castle is glued in place – and still difficult if not.  And the mast is definitely a piece to leave gluing in until last as it obstructs the whole interior. Ditto the Skaven Doomwheel-esque rear wheels.

landship15

Rules wise, the Landship is not quite the beast I would have expected – especially given its points cost.  Offensively it falls significantly short of the only model you could really compare it to – the Steam Tank.  Its cannon is the lighter Strength 7 version instead of the standard 10, and it doesn’t have the same destructive potential in combat, doing only D6 impact hits compared with the D6 plus D3 per Steam Point expended in moving for the Steam Tank.  It does have the advantage of having Thunderstomp and close combat attacks to win a combat with – but it’s only D6 attacks at a lowly Weapon Skill and Strength of 3.  In comparison to the Steam Tank’s ‘Grind’, which again does D3 automatic hits per Steam Point at its usual Strength of 6, you’d have to say again the Steam Tank is the better.  The Land Ship’s secondary ranged attack of a Fusillade comprising D6 Hand Gun shots is not really something you can compare with the Steam Gun on the Tank as they are very different weapons, but with the premium placed on template weapons in 8th Edition Warhammer, yet again the Steam Tank is looking the winner.  Weapon for weapon, it’s quite easy to see which unit will be doing the most damage on the battlefield.

Defensively it’s a bit more even.  They have the same toughness of 6, and although the Steam Tank has the better Armour save of 1+ to the Landship’s 3+, the Landship has 2 more wounds (for a whopping 12!) and a 6+ Ward Save.  It also doesn’t have to rely on Steam Point generation to carry out its actions and potentially damage itself in the process.

They are of course very similar machines with merely a slightly different focus. The Steam Tank has the sheer brute force and damage potential, whereas the Landship is the more reliable (somehow!) of the two and more likely to see the end of the battle, even if it does have a scarily unforgiving misfire table for when it goes wrong – just pray you don’t roll a double 1 or 6 when charging.

Generally I can see myself using the Landship to proxy a second Steam Tank most of the time and then using it as intended for larger battles or special scenarios.  It’s an effective war machine that will terrify your opponent through its sheer size if not its damage output, but at 300 points it’s a tough decision as to whether it will be worth the points.  It’s certainly a hard task for your opponent to get points out of it and the non-reliance on Steam generation is a definitive advantage – but is it enough to overlook the raw destructive power of the 50 point cheaper Steam Tank (who I’ve just remembered also has an Engineer with another gun)?  If it was based on looks alone it’s an all hands down yes, but as always the choice is yours.

Lee

The Empire Marienburg Class Landship is available from Forgeworld priced £118.50

White Dwarf “Wood Elves” – A Review

wd-13_cover_we
From the mists of Athel Loren emerge the warriors of the Wood Elves to repel the encroachment of man and daemon alike…

Today we get our first official look at the new Wood Elves as they return with a vengeance to the world of Warhammer. Anyone who’s been involved in the fantasy tabletop Games Workshop scene will know that Wood Elves have been long overdue an update (to put it mildly) and there’s no doubt now, that despite many of the rumours regarding scrapping them, combining them into a dual or multiple army book with Bretonnians, Games Workshop have given them a full army book makeover and the results look pretty special!

Thematic shifts

One of the most interesting shifts in the Wood Elf army is the emphasis that Mat Ward seems to have placed on the duality of the Wood Elves and their alignment to nature as both a creative and destructive force. This is borne out in what little we know of their rules (through things like access to both Dark and High magic lores, with the suspicion of more like this to come) and in the way that they are described, as walking a dual path, embracing the unpredictability of their choices and revelling in the somewhat chaotic environment that they reside within.

New Models

The most obvious changes with the release of an army book refresh prior to anyone actually having seen the inside of it (not available until next Saturday), is the model range. This week’s White Dwarf (issue number 13, not unlucky for Wood Elf players) contains new models across the range, including characters, monsters and new infantry in the form of what could be a new Eternal Guard kit.

Treeman!

Model

The biggest release, in both change of style and size of model has to be the new treeman model. Available as a ‘triple kit’ and capable of being assembled either as a Treeman, a Treeman Ancient, and the special character Ancient ‘Durthu’ (that’s him with the giant sword on the front cover) it’s a stunningly detailed kit with a myriad of options available to the hobbyist putting it together. The leaked pics available earlier in the week have already proved that it’s something of a marmite kit on first impressions, but I predict that few will be unswayed once they see it in the plastic, as it were. It’s obviously a break from the traditional Tolkien-esque versions available for the Wood Elves previously and I suspect that’s in no small part due to the Lord of the Rings line that Games Workshop have been selling since the Wood Elves were last re-done. The new Treeman kit certainly will make it clear to everyone whether you’re using a model that is what Games Workshop call a “Warhammer Wood ElfTreeman” as opposed to a “Lord of the Rings Ent”.

wd-13_we_3_treemanancient

Rules

The rules for Durthu, included in full in White Dwarf, are interesting and he looks like he’ll be a very cool option for anyone’s army. Your standard Treeman probably hasn’t changed that much but the Ancient Treeman certainly has – they are now all spellcasters (as is Durthu, as the oldest of all Treeman Ancients) and though it remains to be seen what lore choices standard Ancients get (Durthu is a Level 1 in Beasts) it will certainly give Wood Elves an interesting new dimension – especially given that standard spellweavers now have access to Dark and High magic alongside the 8 standard schools, albeit with their own special lore attributes. Durthu is also listed as having the “Blessings of the Ancients” special rule, which isn’t articulated anywhere. I presume that’s what makes him a Treeman Ancient, or possibly the big cheese of all Treeman Ancients, but that’ll take the army book to work out. Durhtu also has the rather nasty Tree Whack option in melee, which allows him to sacrifice his 5 standard attacks (at WS7, S6!) for one big bertha, that requires your target to fail an initiative test for you to deal d6 wounds with no armour save – ouch!

Araloth and other special characters

Model

The main character model featured in White Dwarf is Araloth, again with his rules, a Wood Elf noble who was diverted from his arrogant path by an encounter with an Elven Goddess. Araloth’s model is rather nice, posed giving flight to his hawk Skaryn, who can pluck the eye from any enemy careless enough to leave it unguarded. There also look to be a number of other new special character models appearing, but pictures are rather small so we’ll await confirmation on that front when the army book arrives!

wd-13_we_1

Rules

Araloth has a number of generic special rules, such as Always Strikes First (does this mean this isn’t a standard rule for all Wood Elves as had been previously rumoured? Or is it simply Games Workshop listing it this way in White Dwarf to avoid revealing more than they want to?) and Stubborn. He is armed with an Asrai Spear, which itself appears to suggest that any ‘Asrai’ weapons will be armour piercing (Asrai arrows, anyone?). A further interesting comment by one of the Games Workshop staff interviewed about using Araloth is the comment that “If you keep him in a wood, he’ll be able to re-roll To Wound rolls of a 1″, which suggests that Wood Elves may gain some benefits from being inside a wood as a general army special rule.

Eternal Guard?

One of the most interesting new models on show (though you have to peer quite hard to see them) are potential new Eternal Guard models. The Eternal Guard are definitely still in the army, as they’re mentioned several times in White Dwarf by those interviewed, and it would seem that they will retain their role as the ‘elite guard’ and ‘hard hitters’ of the Wood Elf army. The new models, if Eternal Guard they are, appear to be armed with a two-handed extended axe type weapon that could either be a halberd or a two-handed weapon. Whatever it turns out to be, I’m assuming it will be an ‘Asrai’ weapon as well, meaning it’ll either be S4 Armour Piercing, or S5 Armour Piercing. If Wood Elves don’t get ASF across the board, it’s probably going to be a halberd, but it will be interesting to see how it turns out. Either way, the new models look pretty damn cool.

wd-13_we_2_eternalguard

And what models are not there?

No pics of stag rider models in this White Dwarf, though two different art-works featuring them are in there, including those in the leaks earlier in the week. There aren’t any pics of treekin either – which given the way that the Treeman model now fits the theme of the dryad models suggests that there could well be new models forthcoming from them, but that’s a long way from confirmed. There is a very ‘in the background’ picture of a warhawk rider, but it’s impossible to say whether it’s new or old.

And the rest…

There’s also a nice paint splatter section on painting a Treeman, a whole load of interview content with people who’ve used the new Wood Elves in battle and lots of lovely pictures!

wd-13_backcover_we