White Dwarf “Wood Elves” – A Review

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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”.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Salute in Review: What Happened To All The Spending?

Salute 2014Must…buy…toys…must…buy…toys….  No it’s not Mat, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so. Instead it was me wandering around aimlessly trying to find shizzle to buy at the end of Salute on Saturday. I went in with a good idea of what I wanted but after picking up my hefty (and heavy) Forge World order, purchases were unfortunately few and far between.

The day went largely as expected in accordance with the pre-Salute post – far more business over pleasure and the vast majority of my time was spent engaged in conversations with gaming companies old and new. It was a very productive day on that front with some downright fantastic agreements made with several major companies and numerous encouraging discussions with others, who were also showing signs of following suit.  Despite the dedicated focus we still ran out of time at the end and missed out on several stands we wanted to visit, there just weren’t enough hours in the day in truth.

The walks between the companies we wanted to talk to was where I attempted to find the things I wanted to buy.  Some bits for my Warhammer Empire army were high on the list but there was an absolute dearth of their products available, being limited to just boxes of State Troops and the occasional Greatswords.  I know Games Workshop removed many of the items I needed from the list available to independent stockists but I thought given the scale of the event some would still be available from the three I wanted: Demigryphs, Helblaster, Pistoliers/Outriders. But no.  I did grab an absolute bargain in the form of a brand new metal Marius Leitdorf for just £4 – yes you read that right. Just £4.  A pricing error? Who knows, but I didn’t wait around to ask.  I also bagged a pack of Purple and Gold dice to go with my Emperors Children, very fitting I thought, and a ruined building from Amera Plastic Mouldings (review to follow soon). But that was it. I had still spent a hefty sum on my Forge World order, but I went home with £160 still burning through my pocket and now charring the flesh of my thigh.  So here’s what I got (because most of my stuff came as bags of parts, which aren’t very exciting, I’ve used images from web):

LEGION SICARAN BATTLE TANKEMPEROR'S CHILDREN PHOENIX TERMINATORS

Marius Leitdorf36 PEARL DICE - 6 SIDED & 12mm SIDES - PURPLE !!Z214 - City Block Ruins

 

I think you’ll agree that if any Imperial Tank could ever be considered sexy, the Sicaran would be it – with it’s sleek profile and…er…armour plates. Backing it up with a pimp set of Phoenix Guard means I should have one good looking army once they hit the table top alongside one of last years Salute purchases, the Emperors Children Contemptor Dreadnought (with twin Kheres and a back up Power Claw, of course).

At the time of writing I have just ordered a variety of the magnets I wanted and now have to further resort to trawling the web to satisfy my hobby cravings and try to find things that can convince me to part with my cash – but it’s not the same.  When your there and it’s in your hands something almost takes over you, and you just start throwing money in peoples faces and running off before someone’s mind changes. Still, at least I’ll get a free Space Marine Captain if I order from Games Workshop direct.

Until next year, the sound of Neil singing the Salute theme tune will remain a memory.

 

*The Salute theme tune goes as thus: Saying the word Salute repeatedly to the tune of Black Adder (writing credit: Rob Mossop).*

FaQs are dead! Long live the FaQs!

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One of the immediate hot topics of conversation (OK hobby rage) after the launch of the new Games Workshop web site was the notable absence of the FaQs section. Any attempt to access them via saved links was met with a pretty clear message:

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Well it would appear that all is not lost. People are reporting receiving a common response to their enquiries to Games Workshop customer services about the missing FaQs which looks like this:

Thanks for the email regarding the FAQs on the new website.

Currently the FaQ’s are not available on the website, as the design team are taking this opportunity to fully update all the FAQ and Errata articles. This is only temporary and these FAQ’s will be made available again in the very near future. 

So, really it’s a case of “good news everyone!” as it would appear that not only are the FaQs not dead, they aren’t even just sleeping, they are getting a full refresh! Hopefully that’ll see some of the more glaring issues with some of the newer codices and army books dealt with (Lizardmen, I’m looking at you with your skink characters on terradons not being able to join units) and a nice fresh set of random rules (undead crumbling randomness, you know what you did) for us all to pore over.

 

Games Workshop Social Media Blackout

Readers with good memories may remember that I did a guest post here at the Shell Case following last year’s Spots the Space Marine firestorm, in which Games Workshop unceremoniously killed its central Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Sadly, I am here (now as a staff writer) to share similar news. It seems that Forgeworld, Black Library, Digital Editions, and the Warhammer World social media accounts have all up and disappeared. Individual store’s Facebook accounts, however, remain.

First they took away their @VoxCaster account on Twitter, then their Facebook page, but now Forgeworld!? Sirs, you have gone too far. I want to ogle your very lovely plastic crack (especially Horus) and you’ve now taken away two of my three main places to see your new releases.

You must be mad.

I’m a busy woman, I rely heavily on my newsfeeds to give me all my miniature-related news (and, let’s be honest, my “real” news, too). Who’s going to feverishly check your website for updates? Very few people. Word will still spread (across social media!) about new releases, but not as fast or as far as it does when people get it directly from your social media outlets.

I simply refuse to believe that a company as large as Games Workshop, as profit-motivated, doesn’t know how stupid this is. Every company under the sun is trying to leverage social media to reach more people and make more money.

What made Games Workshop choose to disengage from what is essentially free advertising and publicity? There must be some reasoning behind it. Even if it’s as simple as a sad attempt to avoid further ire from the community.

I honestly, naively hope that this is just a temporary move while they reshuffle their website (or websites). But my doe-eyed optimism has been crushed by Games Workshop before. As this was all done without a word or hint of happening, it seems a permanent maneuver to me.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyTo kick off A Tale of Two Armies I wanted to look at the very game we’d be collecting armies for. Of course I mean none other than Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

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As mentioned in the launch article, Lee & I both played various editions of Warhammer but as the years wore on the game fell by the wayside for us at one stage or another in favour of games our friends played more. Returning to the game came with a lot of assumed knowledge and half remembered facts and reading the latest edition of the rules it was struck by how different the game is compared to the last time I played.

Those who have continually played may disagree but the changes that I have noticed has changed Warhammer dramatically. It has become the ‘grown-ups’ game that the Games Workshop had been steering it towards for some years.

Let’s start from the top. Or the front. It is a bloody massive book. I thought the 40k rulebook was thick but crap on a crust it’s a big book. Now that presents the obvious problem that it’ll be a bastard to transport but you know what, it’s not going to make that much difference when you think how much a 3,000 point army can weigh. For me the real issue is that it’s such a pretty book that I’d worry about it getting beaten up carrying it around.

And I really do mean it’s a pretty book. It’s just nice to hold and flick through. That’s not to say it’s not without its indulgences. It has 75 pages of pictures. That’s a lot of parchment that isn’t entirely necessary. And half that could have knocked a fiver off the price. But that aside the Warhammer rule book is completely gorgeous.

But on to the game itself. It’s as much as I remember but there’s a few subtle changes that have been made in this iteration that totally changes how one would approach the game. For a start, charges are now movement plus 2D6. This, on average, makes infantry faster, heavy cavalry roughly the same and fast or Elven cavalry a touch slower. The important thing is that it games are no longer dictated by who gets in the first round of charges of the game. More so as the other big change is that all combat is fought in initiative order. So even if you do get the drop on your opponent you won’t get to put the boot in first.

These two rule changes alone are some of the most significant of the bunch and turns Warhammer from a game that was little more than a race to get the charge in which benefited some and properly screwed over others into something infinitely more tactical. With combat now fought in initiative order it actually encourages armies to play to their strengths rather than forcing them to be little more than delivery mechanisms for utterly wanky, beardy, units or a catch-all army of blandness forced to be a little bit of everything. And deployment could well be the most important thing you do all game.

Combined with the relaxing of the army building rules means that for the first time I feel like players can actually collect the armies they want rather than the armies they think they need. And more so than ever Warhammer becomes the game it was always meant to be: a delicately laid plans, deployments and then the elaborate dance of units…before they all kick each other’s heads in.

There’s other new rules like Hordes and Steadfast which put a greater emphasis on bigger units. As with Apocalypse there is a point of view that this is commercially motivated but I don’t think that’s entirely true or fair. I actually think this is more to reflect the battles depicted in the artwork and the novels. It does make certain armies much harder nuts to crack, but in light of the changes above that’s not entirely unfair. And it’s also not without its disadvantages either. Large units are vulnerable to mobbing and the Steadfast rule could stop a unit running when you’d rather it did.

There’s a smattering of new special rules to go with the rule tweaks. For a start anything with the word monster or monstrous in its classification is bloody horrid and has made me even more determined to fill my army with Skullcrushers and Dragonogres. But fear not as even the lowly infantry gets some love as all units now, not just those with long pointy sticks, get to fight with at least two ranks, the second rank getting a single supporting attack per model. This overwhelmingly benefits basic blokes as they’ll be in march larger units and only have one attack to begin with don’t lose anything, units like Chaos Warriors and Saurus really will being in smaller units and having to sacrifice dice. That said, a horde unit of either of these would just be mental.

And the changes don’t end there. Magic is no longer the army spanking bore it use to be. No longer will Vampire Counts and Elves table armies with a turn or really good spell casting. Bonus dice to power pools are no longer a given but a dice roll. Dispel pools are bigger and the miscast table is hilariously destructive. The point is that I no longer feel like I need to field a level 2 spell caster tooled with dispel scrolls just to protect my units rather than because magic forms a part of my battle plan. Again, it comes back to that important aspect of gamers being allowed to field what they want rather than what they’re being railroaded into taking.

But that’s not all. A huge amount of space has been given over to scenarios and campaigns. I really feel like this rule book is the first time they took the Warhammer world seriously. Or, more to the point, taking playing games set in the Warhammer world seriously. This is corroborated by the utterly gorgeous and coherent background section of the book. I know some gamers aren’t on board with buying the full version of the book when they’ve bought half a dozen similar ones but it is at the expense on watching the background grow and improve and it most certainly has done that.

The barrier for me with Warhammer has always been the background. It’s always felt vague and woolly. The Sigmar & Nagash trilogies drew me in and excited me hugely but there wasn’t the material there, at the time, to back it up. All that has changed. It’s been lovingly expanded on and has been beautifully presented. Add that to the aforementioned campaign and scenario improvements (and there are some really good ones in there now) and I could actually see myself writing a Warhammer campaign. And considering I started playing Warhammer about 20 years ago that really does say something.

I know I’m late to the party. I know that reviews for Warhammer came out 2 years ago with its release, but you know what? I don’t care because I have had the tremendous pleasure of rediscovering a game I thought I’d parted companies with forever. But better than that I’ve found that, whilst I’ve been away, it’s grown and matured into something far more tactical and challenging than I thought it could be. And I could not be more excited for what comes next.

This does mean that Warhammer Fantasy won’t be for everyone but I do think that those considering Warhammer but concerned it’s just 40k with swords and dragons should put those fears aside. Yes at its heart it is the same basic mechanic but it’s so much greater than the sum of its parts. It has borrowed some good bits from 40k and 40k from it but they are very different games. Very different games. And I’ve got to say, I think I might just prefer the game of Warhammer. It remains to be seen if I’ll embrace the background as completely as I have 40k’s but based on what I’ve seen so far, there’s a fair chance.

This edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle looks utterly brilliant. It’s well written, well presented and has been taken to a new and exciting place tactically speaking whilst successfully moving the game into a space for larger engagements and far more interesting armies.

The Warhammer Fantasy Battle rulebook is available from Firestorm Games priced £40.50.

A Tale of Two Armies

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Followers on Twitter will have gotten wind by now that Lee (@leefaccini) and I will be setting sail for the Olde World after a break of a fair few years. Rather than run the risk of starting with great gumption and fizzling out after gathering too many models and those models gathering too little paint, we’ll be embarking on a Tale of Two Armies.

The concept is common enough and been attempted by the various White Dwarf teams over the years under the title of a Tale of Two Gamers, but let’s be honest; you’re all far more interested in the toys than Lee and I.

So, what’s the plan? Well, put simply we shall be collecting two brand spanking new armies. Lee shall be collecting Empire and I shall be doing a pure Khorne Warriors of Chaos army.

Following from the review of the Warhammer rulebook coming up in the next few days, we’ll be reviewing our respective army books and then we’ll get down to the nitty gritty of collecting armies and kicking face…and remembering which end of the brush you’re supposed to put the paint on.

The rules will be simple:

Each month we shall collect and paint 500 points of our chosen army and play a game. As an incentive if a unit is unpainted when we meet up for the game we won’t be allowed to use it. The target will be 3,000 points after which point we’ll reward ourselves with something large and barmy from Forge World as a centre piece.

Alongside hobby articles chronicling our progress and battle reports they’ll also be reviews of all the units we collect and a growing narrative which will expand after each game is fought. Regular readers and followers will by now have heard of Ludwig Von Bomburg, Lee’s mercenary captain for Mordheim. He will be leading the Empire army in this tale in the days before he became an alcohol guzzling, womanising boar.

It’s an exciting challenge for us as between time commitments on my part and Lee taking a million years to paint anything we both struggle to complete projects and we’re looking forward to sharing it with you all. And as you may have seen at the top of the page, every article about A Tale of Two Armies will feature that banner as well as the tag. And it wouldn’t be possible without the truly humbling level of support given to The Shell Case by Firestorm Games.

So stay tuned folks…

A Look Back at Man O War

Following on from our tribute to the Specialist Games range fellow #warmonger, Michael (@M_A_Hobbs) has written about his great fondness for the long-lost Man O War.

In the Specialist Games tribute Phil (our noble leader) mentions a Golden Age in Games Workshop’s timeline; which he says was between 1998 and 2002 and it’s true that during that time Games Workshop produced some fine games and maybe the company had different ideals to what they have now. However for me the Golden Age of Games Workshop was a bit earlier; the early 90’s.

During that period we saw all sorts of games being released by the company. Board games like the original Horus Heresy and Battle for Armageddon, classic games like Epic: Space Marine, the old favourites like 40K and Warhammer Fantasy were getting new editions and Mighty Empires was allowing Warhammer players to fight larger campaigns.

But there was another game that like a firework on November the 5th, arrived with a bang, shone brightly and then vanished after what seemed like no time at all.

That game was Man O’War.

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Man O’War was a naval game set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe and was released in 1993. Players would command fleets of ships and fight battles against their enemies, it was the perfect excuse to talk like a pirate and have some fun; I loved it.

Unlike other games the entry cost for Man O’War was fairly low; a normal sized fleet would only be about a dozen ships and this meant you could get a fleet together quickly and relatively cheaply, in hindsight this may have been its downfall.

The big boxset came with an absolute pile of card counters and markers, each ship had a template that allowed you to track damage, and there were damage counters, sunken ship counters, islands and measuring sticks as well as a dozen plastic ships and sails that you could attach to them. This release was backed up with a load of metal ships that covered all the ships that were in the main rules. The main races were covered in this first wave and each race had its own style and their own pros and cons. The Elves had large fast galleys that were brittle in combat. The Dwarves were slower but had steam power so they weren’t dependent on the wind. The Orcs had ramshackle wrecks that caused havoc whenever they got into range. And so on.

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Game play was simple and introduced the idea of ships taking damage gradually over many turns before they sank, in many ways it was similar to the way Titans took damage in Epic.

In each turn players would firstly roll for initiative (this might also change wind direction) then there would be a magic phase if any fleets had a wizard on board, then would follow the action phase where players would alternatively activate a unit (maybe a squadron of smaller ships or one large ship) and they would move and then open fire if in range, or maybe try to board another ship and do some hand to hand combat. Then the other player activated a unit and so it went on until the end of a turn.

The shooting mechanic was simple, you would roll a number of dice if your guns were in range, declare if you were firing High or Low, then you would roll on the ships damage template and see which part of the ship you had hit, the enemy player would then roll a saving throw to see if the hit caused any damage, and each area that was damaged would cause an effect on the ship. This would continue until the ship was no longer able to fight or it had taken hits below the waterline that would sink it. There were rules for ramming, critical hits and fire and you could even board ships and try to capture them for victory points at the end of the game.

Later on in 1993 a supplement was released called ‘Plague Fleet’ which introduced the Chaos fleets to the game and in the following year the final supplement ‘Sea of Blood’ saw the light of day. Sea of Blood saw flying units join the various fleets as well as sea monsters that could appear during a game. New metal miniatures accompanied both releases and generally the standard of the minis was good, however it became clear that Man O’War was not generating the return that was expected and in 1995 it was removed from shelves and never sold again by Games Workshop.

In all the game lasted for 2 years, but fans being fans the legacy of the game went on, you can still pick up versions of the game on various sites but prices for some of the rarer miniatures are high as you would expect.

Last year I decided to dig out my old fleets and I took the game down my club and played it with a few mates. And it was a great night, sometimes we look back at old games with rose-tinted glasses on but honestly Man O’War was as much fun to play in 2012 as it was in 1993 and for that reason I always list it in my top 3 games of all time.

I think it’s fair to say that during the early 90’s Games Workshop were trying lots of new things and were trying to work out what kind of company they wanted to be. It was clear that board games and games like Man O’War didn’t really fit in with the long-term plan for the company, and over the rest of that decade we saw less new games being released and more releases of current games. They seemed to settle on some core games which would take them forward into the new millennium and some classics were lost.

It wasn’t all bad though as in 1999 we saw the release of another game, that I always thought of as the spiritual heir to Man O’War;  Battlefleet Gothic. It plays out like an early medieval naval game, ships can only shoot in very specific arcs of fire, you can ram other ships, you can carry out boarding actions, all of which you could do in Man O’War.

Twenty years since it came into being it’s still being played and I think that speaks volumes of its quality and pedigree.

Lizardmen Leaked Images

You can almost set your watch to shonky images making their way on to the Internet just prior to the Games Workshop releasing something.

Maybe it’s all part of a cunning marketing campaign, maybe staff are disgruntled or maybe a handful of brave souls are willing to risk life and limb to provide us with some sense of what the company wants us to buy. Like some sort of office bound Batman and Robin/Red Robin/Red Hood/Nightwing.

Anyway, apologies for the terrible quality but it gives a taste.

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