Saturday, 30 July 2011

4-Way 40k: The Rematch! Part 1

Remember the last time I did this I said it was the last time I would do such a thing? I lied. We managed to squeeze in another one. Here is the introduction.

The Last Ultimate Final Battle 4-Way Challenge...Game...Thing.

Scenario: Same one as last time. 4 objectives in a rectangle in board centre. Any unit can score. The objective furthest away from the player's deployment zone is their Vital Objective and is worth 2 points to them and them alone.

Armies: This time the armies were 1250 a side, with me using the Exercitus with some borrowed Grey Knights from 'Scape, who used his Eldar. Twin K used Chaos again. Meanwhile, in honour of his victory last time, Twin P became King P, who used Tau again. The lists were:

Master Bryss' Exercitus Ordo Hereticus (with Grey Knight support): 1249
Varan "Countsy-as" Oclis
2 Storm Bolter Warriors, 2 Plascannon Servitors, Jokaero (rolled better armour) in a Chimera
10 Crusaders in a Rhino
6 Crusaders in a Las-Plas Razorback
5 Terminators with 2 pairs of Falchions, Halberd, Psycannon and Anval Thawn
Vindicare Assassin
5 Interceptors with psybolt ammo, Psycannon and Hammer

Cyberscape7's Eldar: 1251
Avatar of Khaine
10 Dire Avengers with two-gun Exarch and Bladestorm
10 Dire Avengers with shimmershield Exarch and Defend in a Wave Serpent with twin-linked Bright Lances and Spirit Stones
5 Rangers
5 Howling Banshees with Mirrosword Exarch with both powers
Falcon with Eldar Missile Launcher and Holo-Fields
Fire Prism with Holo-Fields
Wraithlord with Wraithsword and Shuriken Cannon

Twin K's Chaos Marine: 1249
9 Thousand Sons including Sorceror with melta-bombs and Doombolt, in a Rhino with extra armour.
15 Chaos Marines with 2 melta guns
10 Chaos Marines with missile launcher
1 Obliterator
1 Obliterator
Predator with lascannon sponsons

King P's Tau: 1250- ish
Shas'O with plasma rifle, missile pod, multi-tracker and 2 Shield Drones
Shas'O with twin fusion blaster, missile pod, hard-wired multi-tracker and 2 Shield Drones
8 Fire Warriors inc. Shas'Ui with markerlight
7 Fire Warriors inc. Shas'Ui with markerlight and Marker Drone
3 Stealth Suits with targeting arrays and Shas'Vre with bonding knife
Crisis Suit with plasma rifle, missile pod, targeting array, hard-wired multi-tracker and Gun Drone
6 Pathfinders in a Devilfish with disruption pods
2 Piranhas with fusion blasters and disruption pods
Piranha with fusion blaster and disruption pods
Hammerhead with railgun, smart missile system and disruption pods

Pre-Game: Turn order was P, 'Scape, K and then me. Everyone bar me deployed all their units, while I chose to reserve my Interceptors and Deep Strike my Termies (read: half my shooting power).

Part 2

Part 2 will come...soon...ish, as will the rest of the links for the RM page.

The Shawn Abreu Treasury: Necron Recombinants

Sometimes a unit has such an awesome name you absolutely have to know what it is. Recombinants is not a misnomer - Shawn Abreu's latest addition to the rules bank has a captivating origin story, simple yet interesting. Unnumbered multitudes of Necron warriors and other constructs have collected beneath the churned soil of countless battlefields. Where do all of these extra parts go? Well the re-animated guardians let nothing go to waste.

A misshapen, lopsided killing machine is perfect nightmare fuel and comes attached to some pretty interesting rules (and some very inspiring concept art). The Recombinants are an alternate Troops choice in an army that desperately needs one. Common sense rules additions include Fearless and Disruption Fields. Honestly why Necrons aren't all Fearless is perplexing and signature special rules should rarely be an  upgrade you actually have to pay for. Most of the time they should be a freebie to counterbalance the codex's opportunity cost. 

The Recobinants feature a very interesting new rule to express their background as haphazardly constructed 'Terminators'. "Apotheosis" is the kind of unique special rule that I would like each and every unit entry to partake of. Each unit should have a special rule of this caliber in order to bring the game's focus back to those role-playing elements that separate wargaming from chess and board games.

However the 'Apotheosis' rule does need some clarification. Solar Flare should probably read: "All models within 2D6 inches suffer a wound. This wound causes Instant Death." Also, remember that it's typically good policy to separate a rule's 'fluff' from it's mechanic by placing the latter in a different paragraph. That way any time you have to remind yourself what the rule does you can go directly to the second paragraph knowing that you won't have to look any further. In general I feel this rule suffered from layout issues - there wasn't enough space on the page to expand on it.

The points cost for the Recombinants is fair. They are more expensive than the current warriors but the small increase takes into account that warriors are already overcosted in their current iteration. 2 Attacks stock also gives the unit some compensation for their abysmal Initiative and static deployment options.

As with most Necron units there are no options and that's ok in a situation such as this one wherein the special rule gives enough variety on its own. However I would like to have seen some kind of unit upgrade that makes the 'Apotheosis' rule a little easier to control. Something to the effect of "Roll 2D6 instead of one and take the highest." or a simple re-roll. Totally random results tend to put a damper on strategy which makes the game less fun - predictable averages are the way to go.


Saturday, 23 July 2011

Hints for Homebrew: Monstrous Creatures

Monstrous Creatures, or "Minor Threat That Dies from 10 Lascannon shots on Turn 1 Creatures" as some Tyranid players may be inclined to say, are a mixed lot in 40k. In theory, they are supposed to rip through tanks and take much more punishment than infantry. Some of them are also expected to do this while firing heavy guns. Unfortunately, even a double 6 to pen could still be 'Crew Shaken' and too many of these creatures are not tough enough. Hopefully these creatures will see a buff in the forthcoming 6th edition (although I'm sceptical), but for now here are some hints to help you avoid the common GW pitfalls.

1) Base pricing is very, very important: Monstrous Creatures suffer more than anyone from bad pricing, as most are one-man units, which not only means the enemy will have more stuff to aim at the rest of the army, but also means if that one model dies, you lose between 1/5 and 1/10 of your army in one blow. The GW range go between about 90 and 200, but I feel that the higher price ones need a significant drop, so a cap of 160 is probably more reasonable.

The basic, no extra gear price should always take into account the fact that the unit is Monstrous, the Toughness, Saves and Wounds (Strength is less important because of 2D6 penetration and ignoring armour), ranged guns and extra rules. For minimum stats, I would suggest no less than S and T5 and at least three Wounds, but the rest is an open book.

Good Example: The Talos Pain Engine is a great all-rounder creature, with good gun options and resilience, with the power to get tougher. The clincher is its cheap 100 point base cost, enabling it to compete with the Ravager in foot/Webway lists. It only represents about 1/19th of a 2000 point army with some extra gear, so it isn't weakening the usually fragile DE so much.

Bad Example: As much as I hate to say it, the Tyranid Carnifex. This is a classic example of GW putting far too much value on Strength. With weak Toughness for a Monster and no Invulnerable Save, it dies far more easily than aforementioned Talos despite being nearly 1/10th of a 2000 point list if you give it a Stranglethorn (and I assure you it does next to nothing with no gun, ask my gaming buddy 'Scape). Plus there's the whole Synapse thing, limiting deployment tactics. In the old book a basic two-talon Fex was 115-ish, and it was identical to this. Why the change?

Generally monsters have a few wargear options, that fall into the following categories: dakka enhancers, mobility enhancers, combat enhancers and survival enhancers. You get the picture. Monster options should be ones that improve on the standard monster capabilities. I'll brush over each category:

2) Dakka Enhancers: I was going to write 'more guns,' but why have a ball when I could have an Edgeless Safety Cube? Gun pricing is incredibly simple and can be covered in general later so I'll only talk about the two things relevant to monsters. Whatever the base gun price, modify it based on whether or not it is affected by Relentless and the BS of the monster.

Good Example: The Talos' twin-linked heat lance. A basic one is 12 for Scourges, but the Talos' weaker accuracy reduces base price (maybe to 6-8 using Bryss' Improvised Points Theory), with another increase for twin-linkage. I couldn't find a good heavy weapon one, sorry. I might have done the heavy psycannon if I had the Codex on me.

Bad Example: The Wraithlord's 40-point Bright Lance. Eldar are bad for this in general, but why should it cost 10 more than for Guardians, who can also fire it on the move, have the same accuracy and find it easier to get a Cover Save?

This category also includes increases to BS, twin linkage and the ability to fire at two targets. Generally the first and third options should fall between 10 and 20 depending on base accuracy and gun strength, and the second should be betwen 1/3 and 2/3 of the base gun cost.

Example: Plasma gun= 15 points. Twin-linked plasma gun= 20 points.

3) Mobility Enhancers: Previously the sole domain of the Flyrant, more and more monsters are getting faster through the power to move like Jump Infantry. The key to getting this right is not to charge a king's ransom for the privilege. Simple as. As a side note, I'd love to see a Jet Pack creature. Or indeed any form of new mobility enhancer besides Wings. The Dreadknight doesn't count, its still a Jump Pack.

Good Example: The Daemon Prince. 20 points is reasonable considering the Prince isn't that tough for a Monster at 5/5. It works out at 130 for a base winged Prince, which is acceptable fare in my book considering my beloved Talos.

Bad Example: The Daemon Prince. 60 points is abysmal considering the Prince isn't that tough for a Monster at 5/5. It works out at 140 for a base winged Prince, which is terrible fare in my book considering my beloved Talos.

If you can't tell, the previous paragraph is about the Chaos Daemons version, which has to pay 30 more still for a 3+ Armour Save, while the CSM one gets it free.

4) Combat Enhancers: This is the biggest category, including more attacks, strength/initiative/WS boosts, grenades, etc. GW will generally overcost Strength (ref: the lascannon) and undercost Initiative, attacks go between 15-20 depending on Strength, while grenades fall between 5-15 depending on type. Although I agree with the second two, Strength boosts shouldn't really go beyond 20.

Good Examples: To upgrade a Keeper of Secrets to S7 from S6, you pay 15 points. It costs a Carnifex 5 points for offensive grenades. It costs a Hive Tyrant 10 points for Furious Charge, making him S7/I6 for one turn. The CSM Prince pays 10 points to get 5 Attacks and not 4.

Bad Examples: To raise the CSM Prince to I6, it costs 5 points. Yep, 5 points and you're striking before that Relic Blade/Sybarite Agoniser and at the same time as Halberds.

5) Survival Enhancers: Easily the most expensive of all MC wargear, this includes better Toughness, Armour, regeneration, Feel No Pain, the works. These should be expensive but not crazy expensive. Invulnerable Saves should be the most expensive gear type (maybe 15 for 5+, 25 for 4+, etc). Do not put a 2+ armour save over 30 points. This is mainly because the things that are fired at Monsters that wound on 3+ or better normally ignore your save anyway, making that armour a useless sink.

Good Example: 25 point Regeneration. Once you've lost half your wounds on your Trygon, this could put you over the halfway mark 50% of the time. If it was 35, it would be worthless but at 25 it's worth a punt.

Bad Example: 40 point Armoured Shell on the Tyrant. It's only Toughness 6, so dies to plasma. Plasma ignores your Terminator-priced armour. This is why I put that in bold.

6) Some fixes to consider when you design your Creature: I believe Monsters are too weak compared to vehicles. I've seen ideas floating around, but here are some fixes that would really help out and don't re-invent the wheel.

Seriously consider Feel No Pain regardless. It's overused on infantry but underused on the units that should have it. The cost of this should be in the base price (obvious I know, but I'm putting it in case you re-invent the Daemon Prince/Carnifex/Trygon).

Monsters get Feel No Pain against AP1 and AP2 weapons if it has the rule, as well as against combat weapons that allow no Save if the wielder's Strength is under the Toughness of the monster (this way power fists are still effective).

Monsters impose a -1 Leadership penalty on all non-Fearless enemy units within 6" and always get +1 to combat resolution (I'm also sick of combat being a draw because of the low attacks number).

Against vehicles, attacks by Monstrous Creatures count as AP1.

I will get round to doing Special Characters, Vehicles, etc in the near future, although I suspect Characters will be a long one, possibly multi-part.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Shawn Abreu Treasury: Dark Apostle

Warhammer 40,000 has been around for quite some time and, over the years, has collected a great deal of lore or "fluff." For the most part much of this lore makes its way into the rules, if only superficially, but there's a ton of material out there for anyone who is willing to search.

Dark Apostles are the olden-day trademark of the Word Bearer Legion and were actually in the official Chaos Space Marine codex years ago. Now that all the flavor of chaos has been reduced to musty gruel units such as this one can only exist in the player's imagination as "counts-as" or something similar. We were never really good at using our imaginations here at RM.

Shawn's fluff in this entry is on par with previous contributions. It's not long-winded or overly focused on blood & gore as a GW entry might have been. It gives enough information to make the unit catch your eye amongst other codex entries because it has a rather unique personality - it's not simply more angry marines from the warp.

Now on to the rules!

The first thing that stands out about the Dark Apostle is his dark points cost. Why 110 points? I've noticed that Mr. Abreu does tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to points values but there's no way I'm spending 110 on this guy as he is a kind of mirror image of the overpriced Space Marine Chaplain and not even as useful due to his 'Litanies of Battle' equivalent only working once per game.

The Chaplain himself rarely sees the tabletop nowadays and who can be surprised when more mainstream HQ choices offering so many benefits to the army? It's not just the points cost of the Chaplain that makes him so difficult to include but the opportunity cost that comes with replacing your Null Zone Librarian or Lysander, Vulkan, Khan, etc. 

This opportunity cost is less obvious when it comes to the Chaos codex but there's still the fact that Blood Angels can take several cheaper "Dark Apostles" in the form or Sanquinary Priests whose very same ability works all the time rather than just once per game. And even those single wound priests have more options than this entry boasts. 

The final nail in the coffin for me is the fact that a Word Bearer's army is very likely to be represented by the mass inclusion of Khorne Berzerkers in the list. 'Zerkers already have Furious Charge! Therefore they are only truly benefitting from the Feel No Pain special rule and only if the general has found a way to keep all of his units within roughly 13 inches of each other - unlikely as the enemy is likely scattering to avoid the possibility of a multi-charge. 

In conclusion the Dark Apostle makes for an interesting entry but one that will have a hard time making a significant impact on the tabletop. A combination of high points costs and restrictive special rules would have me picking a different HQ every time. I would like to see some changes that reflect the current 40k environment rather the rules wasteland of the Chaos Codex - more power and more options.


Saturday, 16 July 2011

Grey Knight Magnet Force- The Pilot

In 2011 Games Workshop released the plastic Grey Knights, a twenty quid kit with twenty billion configuration options. Now, a typical GW customer would need about 6-8 of these to create all the different available squads, but I've decided to have a play about with 2x1 magnets for the first time. It's not perfect since I am an amateur, but the results are as follows:

OK, the basics go like this. The heads are magnetised on all 5 so I can later acquire more helmets for white Purifier helmets. The arms go off on all but 1, front left. Centre back has had a two handed blade converted into a one-handed one for convenience. Weapons wise there are two psycannons in case I go Purgation. Currently I don't have enough shoulder pads for an all-sword basic loadout, so there will always be a special weapon.

I've magnetised the backpacks on all of them (it's a no-brainer). You'll notice Hammer Guy has no longer got a hammer, out of all my GKs he is the only one to have magnetised hands. This means I can swap him between sword and hammer.

Incidentally, the box at the back is there to a) prove I don't have an Aston and b) add a bit of high-class imagery to the Grey Knights. To me, GKs are Astons, Blood Angels are Ferrari and Ultramarines are...Ford. Because according to statistics they are common, and VW was far too German for a British built wargame.

When Hammer Guy doesn't want either hammer or sword, he goes Warding Stave. I put this in just because I could, and it might come in useful some day.

These guys will first see use...tomorrow, as Interceptors, as I play 4-way 40k again. If you're lucky I'll bat-rep it.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Kill Team Review: Great Expectations

Ever had something start small and just escalate completely beyond your control? Something similar happened to me last night when I arrived home from work and decided to download the 'Kill Team' Arcade Game from Xbox Live.

'Kill Team' is  the prologue to THQ and Relic's upcoming AAA title 'Space Marine.' Weighing in at 800 MS points (about $10) the cost is about average for XBL arcade library but delivers above average bang-for-your-buck. You control a warrior of the Adeptus Astartes as he boards an Ork Kill Kruzer and attempts to disassemble it via the blood and guts of every man, woman and Ork on board. It's a grisly hack-and-slash affair whose simple gameplay is augmented beautifully by an expansive three-dimensional environment. A selection of classes (Librarian, Techmarine, Sternguard and Vanguard Veteran) offer variety as well replayability.

The narrative is a robust coagulation of mindless violence and Warhammer 40,000-style grimdark. Controls are minimalistic but rather than making the game stale the simplistic gameplay affords the campaign an easy flow and makes it approachable to anyone with two thumbs rather than just the gaming elite. Actions and obstacles are repetitive to a large degree but this is more due to the game's unapologetic love of brutality rather than a lack of alternative content.

There are issues with the title despite how unexpectedly fun it turned out to be. Some models had pathfinding issues that led them to wander in circles - particularly near cutscenes. And since we're on the subject this game has too many cutscenes in light of the steep difficulty spikes that players will face during certain missions meaning you'll have to watch those 5-10 seconds of animation over and over again. The class system fails (or succeeds depending on how you look at it) to give the player an all-around skill set so if you're a shooty marine on a melee mission... good luck. These problems made the game frustrating in the way that side scrolling action-shooters have always been frustrating. It's all part of that nostalgic charm I suppose but I could do with a more innovative way to extend a game's longevity.

One thing that surfaces again and again throughout the campaign is just how immersed  the design studio is in the 40k lore. The opening cinematic features a Caestus Assault Ram (from Forgeworld) and a BFG Kill Kruzer. There are constant nods and tips of the hat to the franchise's origins such as the in-game interchangeability of the Ork Burnaz and Lootaz (because they come from the same box, get it?).

This is what makes the wait for 'Space Marine' even more exciting. Knowing that the Relic team has mastered the 40k sub-culture in such a total way that even their innovations feel like they belonged there all along. This is a development studio that knows their fan-base and they're got in on display in every frame. They heard all the nerds wondering "can anyone get 40k right in a video game?" and they're answer is 'Kill Team.' If you're a fan of the 40k mythos this game was made for you.


Warpath- Bryss' Thoughts

Hello! Yes, I'm still here, I've just been quiet! Hello and welcome to Top Bryss, where tonight I shall be reviewing the cheapest new wargame marque out there, the Italian-built Warpath. It's a small company, with only two models, the Marauder and and the Forgefather, to its name right now, but that isn't going to stop me being brutal about what to expect with Warpath.

So, the basics. It costs zero thousand pounds, it comes with minimalistic bells and whistles, goes from nought to Turn 6 slightly faster than the heavier 40k stuff and comes with few optional upgrades. Because of the way the armies are laid out, the manufacturer of Warpath has ensured you can even buy other parts from other companies and still use them with no problem in this game, a key example being the Forgefathers' ability to easily utilise the iconic Space Marine parts (and I'm guessing from the Corporation art I've seen the Imperial Guard will get a look-in, too).

But this is all well and good on paper, but how does it perform in real life? To find out, I had a traditional Top Bryss drag race. After some more serious tests also, I have formed a conclusion about what to expect, what I like, and what I hate.

The first thing to expect is that you will miss. A lot. For a system that claims to be far-futurey, the guns of this realm have the accuracy of a blind duck. Expect most shots fired for at least half the game to hit on 6s due to the mind-boggling number of minus modifiers. The enemy moved an inch? That's a modifier. More than half-range away? That's a modifier. Enemy in cover? That's a modifier. The makers suggest using Warpath in off-road areas with lots and lots of terrain, so expect at least two of those, plus more, to apply at any given time. And as most units in the two shown races hit on 4s, well. This is all well and good for medieval archers, but in a sci-fi setting it's just stupid.

This also feeds in to the another thing to expect. This game, unlike 40k, doesn't let you down slowly. Rather than have squads depleted gradually, they flat-out vanish into thin air, while in combat you're expected to watch as your men die with no hope of fighting back. During my drag race, there were times my opponent was nearly set on giving up as the game simply refused to let his army fight back properly, and that's not something a wargame should encourage.

Now, at this point you may shout at me "You blithering idiot! 40k does that too!" And I agree. However, 40k does provide lifelines, like krak grenades, S4 vs Rear Armour 10, and the ability to hit back in combat, often on a reasonable 4+, something I refer to as Flukey Combat Mechanic. Here, you can either damage something, or you can't. Which brings me to the thing I hate the most.

Mantic forces and encourages you to build armies THEIR WAY much more than 40k.

Mantic cites Warpath as a "sci-fi mass battle" game, and boy, do they mean it. Let's start at the bottom, with 500 point games, a reasonable total for beginners. For that I should be able to have as my Forgefathers army two squads of 10 Steel Warriors and an Iron Ancestor or Heavy Drakkar. Because of this and the ludicrously poor shooting skills of everyone in this universe, my opponent must take lots of anti-tank BFGs in order to win. However, they cost 40 billion points each (nothing is cheap here, nothing), which means not a lot of room for bodies on the ground, which makes his army easier to wipe out. Of course, he could take an identical army, which leads to a luck-based mission where inevitably all that's left is the Ancestors/Drakkars, and that's no fun either.

Now let's look at 2000. Here, Mantic give me sizeable discounts for 20-man squads over 10 and options for more BFGs per unit, BFGs I can actually afford because of said discounts. Although this creates a better experience all-round I don't feel like I've built an individual army. I just feel like I'm playing one game over and over. And that's fine for chess, but here I want to have individual armies, not one consisting of 6 blobs and 6 tanks.

Combined with a lack of long-range outside one choice, this feels like it belongs in the past, as a fantasy game. Like my co-presenter Atrotos, I haven't seen a copy of the other model Mantic manufactures, Kings of War so I can't confirm my suspicions, but I strongly believe in them.

That's not to say I despise this game. I do like the clever mechanic that lets you Not-Outflank further up the board as the game goes on. I like how cover isn't simply a cheap, irritating shot nullifier. I really like how the Monsters here are just as tough as vehicles, something 40k really lacks and makes Nids suffer for.

But I can't shake the feeling that all I'm doing is praising technicalities, like on a McLaren, rather than praising how fun it is, like a Ferrari ( and I know them well, I've been in at least three). I suspect many people like 40k because it is flawed. Well, it's probably why the British took to it anyway. Warpath offers a cold, soulless experience where there are winners and losers. And that's all it is to me right now.

About the Author: Master Bryss is a lower middle-class wannabe playboy teenager. He enjoys tea, gaming of all sorts and getting an adrenaline fix, preferably from something loud and fast. His handbrake turns need a bit of work, and he has only crashed once, into a fence he swears wasn't there when he looked.

Anyway, hopefully this proves I'm not dead. I will return to a state of regularity soon enough, although Shawn has done an excellent job of giving me a few weeks off.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Bryss and 'Scape Versus Warpath

I'm so easily distracted. Today was meant to be a pleasing day of driving practice and casual browsing. However, it all went a bit wrong when I got this message at my favourite daily hyperbole site:

It appears IE has finally seen the real truth. I laughed so hard at that.

Anyway, as I massaged away my frustration, I came upon some notes I wrote the other day. Apparently I used 40k minis, with my usual 40k partner, but played a DIFFERENT GAME!

Yes, I tried Warpath, for the simple reasons that a) it was free, b) I can fit the entire rulebook on my Kindle for easy reference and c) it's sorta my duty as an RM author. Now, we all know that Mantic made this game for huge massive battles, but I wanted to see if it would work as a casual game at a much lower level. 700 points in fact, one of my favourite 40k points levels.

We played at 'Scape's house, hence the lack of texture and actual terrain. So this is what American FLGS tables feel like...

We rolled the Not-Victory points mission. Of the two armies, I preferred the feel of the Forgefathers, so I used them against 'Scape's Orx Marauders, proxied by his Ultramarines and Orks respectively. These were our first ever Warpath lists, built without any clue about what the other player had or what was needed to win in Warpath. Mine was:

Master Bryss' Cyberscape7's Ultramadwarfs- 685
10 Steel Warriors with Heat Cannon (10 Tactical Marines with missile launcher)
10 Hel Valkyrs with 2 Heat Hammers (10 Assault Marines with two plasma pistols)
Iron Ancestor with Hailstorm Autocannon (Venerable Dread with assault cannon)
Heavy Drakkar with Hailstorm Autocannon and two Heat Cannons ( Land Raider Redeemer)

Cyberscape7's Orkx- 690
20 Grunts with a Ripper (20 Slugga Boyz including one Klaw Nob)
5 Rifle Grunts with a Machine Gun (4 Shoota Boyz and a Loota)
5 Jumpers with a Ripper (5 Stormbouz including one Klaw Nob)
20 Stunts (20 Grotz)
Captain with Ripper and Heavy Suit (Warboss with Power Klaw)
Attackster with Anti-Tank Gun (Deffkopta with Rokkit Launcha)

Notice we didn't get to the full 700. This is because Mantic didn't have the foresight to include cheap wargear. That's minus points for Mantic there.

I won the roll off and placed my first Heavy Suppo...oh. Wrong game, wrong edition. Anyway, we each deployed units in turn, with me leaving my Hel Valkyrs as Reinforcements and 'Scape doing the same for his Attackster and Jumpers.

'Scape won the roll off to go first. We felt a strange sense of nostalgia...

Turn 1
The Jumpers immediately enter play on the Marauder long edge, as eager as, well, Stormboyz really. The other units all go forward At The Double, bar the Riflers, who stay put.

The Rifle Grunts fire their standard 8 shots at my Steel Warriors and do very well despite the modifiers, rolling 5 6s to hit and causing 3 damage. The squad's Big Fu...Ballistic Firepower Guarantor doesn't do as well and fails to penetrate my defences. I pass my Nerve Test.

Turn 1.5
I know Mantic seems to count each player turn as a game on, but this is my format and I'm sticking to it. My reinforcements don't come in, so I move the Heavy Drakkar forward at normal speed and Halt everything else.

The Drakkar fires at the Grunt mob and manages to cause 3 damage with the Hailstorm but nothing with the other guns. I then fire the other Hailstorm in my army, that of the Ancestor, at the Grunts and cause 4 more damage. The Steel Warriors fire everything at the Stunts, and cause 3 damage with their basic guns (this 'everything is Piercing' things does a bit to make up for the fact that no-one in this game seems to know how to fire a gun properly). In the resulting Nerve Tests, the Stunts pass and the Grunts are Suppressed for the next turn.

Turn 2
Thanks to triple speed, the Jumpers charge my Heavy Drakkar. The Captain Stunts continues to move at double speed, and the Riflers and Stunts move at normal speed to get to a slightly better firing position.

In shooting, the two squads that can shoot fire at my SW (I can't help but think of Wolves, sorry) but cause a pitiful 1 damage between them, and I hold my Nerve again.

The first ever melee of the game goes badly, as no damage is caused.

Turn 2.5
The miracle of pre-measure means I can experiment with tactics, and in the end decide to reverse with the Drakkar (maybe the rules say I can't, but if the future doesn't know what reverse gear is then I'm worried) and move closer to the Steel Warriors, who Halt, with my Ancestor. No sign of the Valkyrs.

The Drakkar fires at the Jumpers and causes 3 damage with its guns. The Ancestor elects to attack the Grunts, causing 3 more damage. I choose to use the split fire mechanic with my Steelers (not those ones, I'm a Brit). The squad BFG fires at the Captain, but misses because the targeter clearly hasn't been invented yet. The normal Firepower of the squad goes into the Stunts again, causing 4 damage, but they hold firm due to the high Nerve of 20-man squads.

Turn 3
By this point 'Scape is understandably frustrated by how much damage I seem to be doing and how little he seems to respond with. So he does the sensible thing and charges my Steelers with his Captain and Stunts, who pass their Craven test they need to do if they try being proper Orxez. The Attackster shows up on his long edge (none of us using the quite nice outflank mechanic).

The turn goes straight to melee, and his Captain causes 4 damage. In a display proving why these Not-Grotz don't need no handler, the Stunts actually damage me in combat. Twice. The resulting Nerve Test obliterates my squad, who obviously don't fight back. It's the law here that resistance is useless.

Turn 3.5
Still no Valkyrs riding in for me. I try out the Overrun mechanic on the Jumpers with my Heavy Drakkar, which causes a disappointing one damage. This prevents me from shooting this turn too, which makes it even more disappointing. I charge the Captain with my Ancestor. The Jumpers pass their Nerve Test.

Because in this dimension Not-Dreadnoughts lose an attack for having a single gun, I only have two attacks against the Captain, and only damage him once, with him passing his Nerve check.

Turn 4
The Captain elects to re-charge my Ancestor, and the Jumpers join the one-sided fight, while the Stunts run for their lives into cover. Now they're behaving like proper Grotz!

The Attackster attempts to shoot my Drakkar, and misses. Not like we expected any less.

Combat doesn't go well due to poor rolls and the Ancestor's 10+ Defence, with no damage caused.

Turn 4.5
The Valkyrs come in at board centre, while I re-charge the Captain with my Ancestor and pivot the Drakkar.

The Heavy Drakkar suffers heavy accuracy penalites while shooting the far-away Stunts in cover, and causes 2 damage, which doesn't faze the squad, thanks in part to the Inspiring properties of the Captain.

My Ancestor damages the Captain once again, and he hold firm.

Turn 5
The Rifle Grunts move at the double through cover again, expecting the Valkyrs to be coming their way soon. The same units as last time charge the Ancestor.

The Attackster shoots the Drakkar. At first we thought it failed. Then, the next turn, we realised that equalling the Defence score means damage, and promptly put a marker on the tank. It ignored it anyway.

The Orx fail at combat again.

Turn 5.5
I move at triple speed with my Valkyrs, but I still can't quite charge anything. I move the Drakkar to get closer to the Stunts to improve my aim. Three guesses as to what the Ancestor does.

The two damage markers the Drakkar causes on the Stunts prove too much, and they are suppressed.

In melee the Ancestor's high power attacks finally kill the Captain.

Turn 6
The Jumpers again charge the Ancestor. End of.

The At gun still fails to damage the 11+ Defence Heavy Drakkar, but 3 damage is put on the Hel Valkyrs by the Rifle Grunts, but they hold.

Finally, the Jumpers' Ripper causes 2 damage to the Ancestor, but he holds firm. There is no more the Marauders can do to swing the game in their favour.

Turn the Last
And to add insult to injury, in my last turn I manage to wipe out the Stunts with my Drakkar and wipe out the Jumpers with my Iron Ancestor. The only units to survive are the Rifle Grunts I never touched, and the Attackster I did damage with the Hel Valkyr Heat Hammers, which it survived.

Clear Winner: Forgefathers...

This game has made things clear to me that I didn't consider before. I have now formulated my opinion proper on this game, something that will go on RM within a week or two, depending on Atrotos' post schedule. To close this dismal massacre, I asked 'Scape his views on Warpath. I received the following thought-provoking answer:


There you have it. Normal schedule will now resume, while I formulate a Clarksonic review of this game.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Warpath - Some Initial Thoughts

Spent some time today reviewing Mantic's sci-fi wargame, 'Warpath.' The Beta rules and a couple of test-army lists are available here

Well there's mistaking that most of these rules are lifted directly from 40k. Alessio Cavatore's name is quite literally all over this document. You'll recognize the player turn phases, the true LoS rules, and such details as difficult terrain and the run-or-shoot mechanic. 

What this means is that many of us fence-sitters waiting to see how this franchise will pan out don't have to leave our "comfort zone" when testing these rules. The calm, cautious side of your brain will scream "It's a trap!" over and over like a Star Wars .gif. Some buttered, syrupy pancakes are sitting in the middle of a forest with some dead leaves barely concealing the rope and Mantic is behind a bush wringing their hands in anticipation…

Well just one taste can't hurt… can it?

Let's start with the fact that there is an open beta testing phase to the rules. Is this just a ploy to underscore GW's terrible product support? Will it get yanked if the 40k community decides to jump ship and support Mantic? How will they organize the feedback if the game catches on and tens of thousands of emails are coming in every week?

The rules are already pretty streamlined and the use of 5th edition as a foundation already means that nothing too terrible will be uncovered during testing. Mantic just wants us to know it's there if we want it but I won't bet on feedback leading to any significant changes. 

Even those parts of the rules that are not found in the 5th edition rulebook may seem a little familiar. Modifiers to hit based on movement? Streamlined movement? Cover is a modifier rather than a 'save'? Flyers rolled into the main rulebook - not an irrelevant expansion? Squad leaders gaining new importance? The 6th edition rumors are still cooling on the windowsill and now we get a beta ruleset with some striking resemblances. This could be Alessio telling us he knows what 6th edition has to offer from his time at GW and he plans to stay one step ahead. 

The rules breach unfamiliar territory in that squad management is handled slightly differently. Models are not removed until the entire unit is destroyed. This streamlines casualties quite a bit and makes squad performance a little more predictable. There's no chance, say, of having only the Meltagun in the squad die rendering the rest of the unit functionally useless. 

Speaking of special weapons Alessio allows us to fire them at separate targets to the rest of the squad. Finally! Combined with the damage counter system models not carrying special weapons (or BFG's as Alessio likes to call them) are more than just ablative wounds. This is an obvious snipe at one of 5th edition's flaws and a good shot at that. 

On the the negative side IGOUGO deployment is resurrected - I don't think anybody missed that structure from 4th edition. Also with only three different missions, the third being a combination of the first two, I can see the game getting a little stale after a year or so of regular play. I suspect frequent rules injections will keep things fresh however. After all stagnation is one of GW's primary issues and Mantic is attacking those issues with a vengeance. 

The entire ruleset is just 16 pages long. Obviously it doesn't have any fluff but it does manage some pictures and it's really easy to imagine the final document being under 50 pages or more but with all of the armylists included. I was unable to find a copy of the Kings of War rules but that could be used to confirm my suspicions of a very concise final rulebook.

So those are some thoughts for now. I'll try to get a team of brave and naive young playtesters to see if the game really is as fun as it appears to be. Is Warpath a "40k-killer"? Only the models and the background can say for sure.

Who said Grey Knights suck in small games?

So here's the deal. Both Cyberscape7 and I started Grey Knights in two different ways. I went the 'core of henchmen' route, him the pure GK. Yesterday I played 700 points of his GK with both my ridiculously small Eldar force and my Exercitus. His list was:

Libby with Nemesis Daemon Hammer, psybolt ammunition, a shedload of powers
5 Termies including 2 pairs of falchions, a psycannon and Justicar Thawn
5-man Strike Squad with two halberds, warding stave and psilencer

On to summaries.

Game 1- Exercitus/GK

I brought Oclis and his shooty squad in a Chimera, 9 Crusaders in a Rhino, 8 Crusaders in a Rhino and my Vindicare. We played the First Contact scenario from Battle Missions with me as the Nids, with objective placement modified to three objectives near the centre. The team mascot gave Coteaz' unit better armour.

His squads ended up in zones 1 and 6, opposite each other. I brought on everything bar one Crusader squad in Turn 1, with the Vindi moving into cover and the two vehicles moving on 12" and popping smoke. In his turn, my Vindicare died horribly (again?!) and my Rhino asploded.

Next turn my other Crusaders arrived and rushed to the objective, and I cut down his Strike Squad to one man after firing my plascannon Servitors and Chimera on them and the last man fled. I tried to assault the Termies with my Crusaders. The squad was at 5 men after poor rolls for wounding in the explosion. 'Scape cast Sanctuary! It was super effective! 4 Crusaders died, and the last died in combat. So much for 3++ being the new black then...

His last PAGK rallied and hid for the rest of the game. The next game turns for the Termies consisted of them blowing up my Chimera, while I tried to kill him. Thankfully for me by game end I had to make his now depleted unit choose a unit to attack, and would have won with one objective regardless. Incidentally, Thawn never got back up.

Game 2- Eldar/GK

My army here was a Farseer with spear, stones, Doom, Guide and Mind War, ten Guardians with a Conceal Warlock and starcannon, ten DAs with two-gun Exarch and Bladestorm, five Pathfinders and two War Walkers, one with 2 EMLs and the other 2 Scatter Lasers. Mission was Capture and Control, Dawn of War deployment.

I started by deploying my Guardian squad, he put down his Strikes. I put both War Walkers in proper reserves and infiltrated the Pathfinders. We exchanged fire for a while, while my DAs came on and claimed my home objective. They did nothing else worthwhile all game, really.

His Termies and Libby had a mishap and were delayed until Turn 3, by which point the Strikes were dead. When they marched on, they slaughtered my Guardians, while my Farseer failed to Mind War their psycannon but Doomed the squad, while my Pathfinders ran for their lives to my central base at the objective. Even the Scatter Laser War Walker was casually brushed aside with Might of Titan, failing to hold off the squad as they charged my base, although I cut the squad size in half over the course of the game.

In this hard-fought skirmish, Thawn got back up and showed off his ability to change the dynamic of a small game like this, by claiming the objective in the GK deployment zone and staying out of range of me for a long while. The only reason I won was a lucky krak shot from my War Walker causing Thawn to fail a save in Turn 6 and not get back up in his turn (I went first).

Eldar of Lit-Han Craftworld thank Isha there was no Turn 7

Moral: Grey Knights are surprisingly good in small games. I shall have to tell this to the guy I fight in the Round X....Fight! series, who vehemently claims, among other things, that the GK 'Dex wasn't made for the humans, that Thawn and ranged Dreadnoughts suck and most importantly that GK can't possibly do small games and have a good chance of winning. By my estimation, the GK came damn close.

And to believe he's going to Throne of Skulls. Coming soon, more Exercitus shots, and I launch Project Moonside, an attempt to reverse the 40k rules inspired by a particularly bizarre narrative I GM'd recently.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Exercitus hits 1000!

Yep. The Exercitus Hereticus, an army plan that's been with me since starting this blog, has reached the grand total of 1,019 points (more if I borrow my Space Marine Land Raider and claim it's Admech driven). Well, it would be a nice, round 1,049 if I had two more GW-legal Crusaders, but since my other two Crusaders are in fact Aragorn and Boromir with some new armour they are for home games only. On to the pictographs!

One of the 9-man Crusader Squads. Each has a Rhino for transport. Now, I know what you're thinking. Bretonnian Men-At Arms are indeed 16 in a box (which made this conversion a bargain, the only work needing done was GS wiring on the pole-arms.). The two extra are in fact Valkyrie crewmen with Space Marine power swords and storm shields. You can just make out one in squad centre. They serve as leaders in the army background.

Here you see my shooty squad, which is in desperate need of more men and a cover save. Varan Oclis, my Countseaz, lives in this squad, which also features an orange monkey, some evil Plasma Cannon Servitors, (one of whom looks familiar somehow...) and a C-Beamer Techmarine who hangs out with them too, which I repainted from it's old terrible scheme I did as a 12-year old youth. Seriously, I've waited 5 years for something to use that model for, and now he has his place. I'm so happy. This unit has a choice of either a Razorback or Chimera as a transport.

Incidentally, on the far left you can make out a thin, grey blob. That's my Vindicare. He's rather nondescript, which is how he should be. Now for some of my favourite models in the army:

When we last saw Crusader Aeneas he was grey. Now he isnt. That green blob on his mate is the wiring, which was the first GS work I ever did and hence isn't the best. The blades were done in my favourite paint mix, metallic blue from Necron Abyss and Mithril Silver.

The very sinister, very moody SV-01 (SV-02 has a number too, but on his back). Notice
he hasn't got any human flesh left. I don't care about Servitor fluff, he looks awesome. I really struggled to find a third colour, then decided to re-use the black/white motif on my Admech- associated units.

Team mascot.

What? That's the whole point of monkeys, isn't it? More Exercitus shots coming soon, plus painted Malys.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Round Two: Fight!

Today I played two games. The second game was against Blood Angels at 1250, which was fairly hard-fought but I managed to do a last minute objective grab and killed everything bar one Libby. But that's not the main story.

No, the main story is whether or not I did any better against Grey Knights with my beloved Dark Eldar. Well, the answer is yes...and also no.

Y'see, today's game really highlighted why Kill Points as a mechanic sucks. His list was essentially the same as the last one, except he lost Psybolt Rounds on everything and got a Rhino for his Purifiers. Mine has been posted previously.

I killed his entire army bar his Grand Master, who spent the game cowering in a large castle, and his Storm Raven, which flitted about and shot me sometimes. He killed two Haemos, some Trueborn,a Raider, some Harlies, Malys, some Incubi and a Ravager. I still had 90% of my Kabalites, 2/3 of my Raiders, 3/4 of my Wyches and a Talos, and yet the mechanics dictate he won. I killed about 1250 points of stuff, he killed about 900. For once I actually see T'Leeks' point.

At least it was actually a fun game this time. My 10 Wyches killed 10 Termies single handedly (in a few turns) with some awesome shardnet technique, I found out what happens when Malys and 6 Incubi charge 10 Puries (it doesn't go well, even with Cleansing Flame Malys'd away) and my 40 Kabalite plan went rather well, although by the time I got all 40 on the only thing in range were the depleted Puries.

Issues? My Portal squads died horribly after I set them down, I forgot Malys's redeploy rule and went second and I still seem unable to pin down the Storm Raven. Fortitude! The moral of the story? Never let your opponent set up the terrain. Some Grand Master he turned out to be...

In more positive news, I have acquired my test 5 PAGK for magnetisation, acquired 100 magnets and realised I need half of them just for those 5. Oclis is painted, as is Malys, and I re-did an old Techmarine in Grey Knight colours. More on them soon.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Shawn Abreu Treasury: Dark Eldar Avatar

Hello all,

Today's epic artwork spearheads another of Shawn Abreu contributions to the fluid world of game design - the Dark Eldar Avatar. An interesting and succint piece of 'fluff' preludes some Mr. Abreu's rules entry. The image of Dark Eldar cultists sacrificing their more docile kin to mocking mirror image of the true avatar is a chilling which naturally fits right in with 40k's grim aesthetic. As I read through the few sentences I was reminded of Bryss' work on the Dark Eldar what seems like forever ago. 

I am excited about the sharing of rules across non-MEQ codices. It gives me confidence in the rules design potential of the non-imperial codices. This entry is a reminder that, even though Mr. Kelly's Dark Eldar codex is probably the best ever released, there is yet more that could be done with it. 

That said I was not wholly satisfied with this entry. It is more or less exactly the same as the regular Avatar but deviates in that units within 12" gain the Furious Charge and Rage Universal Special Rules. The benefits of these rules are dubious to say the least. Furious Charge is already available through the 'Power from Pain' special rule and the 'Rage' special rule is a massive handicap even on uber-units such as the Death Company. 

The addition of a (another) strong, aura-generating Monstrous Creature in the Dark Eldar force org. chart has great potential. It makes all-foot lists more interesting and more viable just as it has done for regular Eldar these past few years. It gives the army a solid "hammer" unit at a bargain price and draws fire away from those flimsy transports. It does lack the ultimate power of the 'invulnerable save+Fortune' combo but I think a very minor adjustment to the rules could amend that. 

What I would like to see added to this beast is the 'Power from Pain' special rule. This helps transmit this Avatar's darker nature and would make it more believable as a Dark Eldar construct. Secondly I would change the 'Hatred' rule so that rather than spreading Furious Charge and Rage it simply granted all units an extra 'Pain Token' as long as they were within 12 inches. ("All units with the 'Power from Pain' special rule with at least one model within 12" of the Dark Avatar count as having one more Pain Token than they normally would have. The effects of the extra token are immediately lost if the distance to the unit exceeds 12" for any reason.") That final clarification is to help with situations such as charges wherein one unit might begin the phase within 12" but end further away. 

I do not feel a points adjustment is really necessary even with this amendment. The regular Avatar's access to the Fortune psychic power is an opportunity cost that weighs down heavily on the Dark Avatar. Likewise the presence of the Webway portal as a means of deployment adds flexibility to the Avatar slow maneuvers. 

Thanks to Shawn for his contribution and I look forward to reviewing his next one.