Monday, 31 October 2011

Rules Rant: Legion of the Damnedest Waste of Points

Hey guys,

One of the main issues Games Workshop designers have is the lack of scalability in their points system. With "Spam" being an often used and often loathed tactic in the game each codex author is forced to treat each entry as if it will be maxed out. Thus many Elite choices are still-born ideas - scuttled before they can even be considered for inclusion. Because there is a real chance that their above-average abilities will become game breaking when used en masse every model is costed to reflect this danger. Hence 16 points per model for a Storm Trooper, 40 points for an Ogryn and, God help us, 30 points for a Damned Legionnaire.

The Legion of the Damned entry is a ghastly miscalculation. A poor, poor joke on anyone that was excited by skeletal marine models and hot-rod flame designs (admittedly a niche within a niche). A unit of five starts at 155 points and will shoot up to 215 with the obligatory multi-melta, melta, combi-melta combo (to make the most of their obligatory derp strike).

So you have a 200+ point unit with no deployment options and no real role on the battlefield beyond stoic meltacide. What stands between this overpriced gimmicky unit and oblivion? The Unyielding Spectres special rule was cause for much "oooohing" and "aaaaahing" many moons ago when the codex was still fresh and a 3+ Invulnerable save was the feline's sleeping garments. To the more astute observer, however, a 3++ isn't worth much when attached to a 3+ model. What this means, essentially, is that despite all their bells and whistles this Terminator-costed unit will die to approximately 15 wounds or 3 wounds per model.

Meanwhile the Legionnaires suffer horribly from a lack of mobility. Slow and Purposeful means Relentless as well needing to roll as if in difficult terrain when moving. Units with this rule generally benefit from being in cover as often as possible (where only the benefits of the rule would be in effect) but seeing as the rules for cover are stupid being obscured does nothing for the unit's survivability. Moreover although S&P is a hard drawback in and of itself for a unit with no transport options the unit's weapons are also costed at a ridiculous premium.

So lets get this straight: You have to buy a set of ridiculously mis-costed models and then pay again through the Slow and Purposeful restriction. After that you can pay a third time since only a couple of models in the squad are useful beyond soaking up wounds allowing you to top it all off by giving up a total of 50 points for two melta weapons (whose ability to hit is not augmented in any way setting you up for the ultimate Failpocalypse when both shots whif).


Well at least you get 2 Attacks base! And the Damned Sergeant has WS 5!

Luckily someone did take a glance at a scatter die and notice that this unit will scatter 2 out of 3 times. So they gave us a re-roll which might help. It's not terribly likely to be an accurate Deep Strike even so but every little bit helps I suppose.


Saturday, 29 October 2011

Necrons Up For Pre-Order (A History Lesson)

Blah, blah, late to the party blah. Point is, I'm officially excited now. Everything is coming together nicely. My mind is turning to the inevitable Top Bryss review, which will be gushing to the extreme, unlike the other two. Probably.

I mean, I was really up for Dark Eldar, but in the timeline of when I started small armies of nearly every race in the game (no Sisters, no spin-offs, them's the only rules), Dark Eldar are, err... technically fifth most recent. The reverse order goes something like:

Chaos Marines
Dark Eldar
Witch Hunters (later upgraded to Grey Knights as my Inquisition force)
Imperial Guard
Space Marines

I started Necrons all the way back in 2004, when a friend recommended I started with something with a 3+ save. I have no idea how he talked me into it, mind, but ah well. A couple of weeks later I had a Codex, a Necron Lord and a box of Warriors. A few weeks after that, I did beginner sessions in my local GW. Back then each week we focused on one section of the FOC, and in the end I had a Lord, 24 Warriors, 5 Immortals, 1 Wraith, 6 Scarabs, a Tomb Spyder and a Heavy Destroyer.

From there began the struggle for victory.

I fought hard with that army and never secured a single win for months. The further in I got, new things were acquired. More Heavies, more Wraiths, Flayed Ones, more Warriors, some Destroyers, the Monolith.

In the first game I played with the Monolith, a 1500 versus Black Templars, I secured my first win. From thereon I started to gain a better ratio. To this day I maintain that one day during a game a beginner will 'click' and immediately start playing better. A few years later, I passed on this method to 'Scape, who also began with Necrons.

It suffices to say that both of us have waited nearly as long as our favoured tomb lords for this.

An eldritch green glow
Falls upon the worlds, as they
Rise to their birthright.

Bryss' Improvised Points Theory #3: Clear and Instinctive Perception

I realise now that I can't cover everything, although I think with some time I should be able to get quite close. The one last easy thing to cover with my theory is Special Characters, which I'll do in a Hints article.

My general approach here has been to try and convert everything to a construction method whereby I can cost the constituent parts of everything, add it up, divide it if I need to, and come up with the actual points value. Problem is, this puts the costs I've come up with in an all-encompassing bubble, and it's not quite like that in real life.

Really, there are three main seperate bubbles; Ward, Cruddace and Kelly. Of these, Kelly's Bubble is unreliable because of how much it has changed with each Codex he writes. Look at the 8-point Guardian compared to the 9-point Kabalite. Although these are technically within the same bubble, they're completely different in costing. The Guardian, like a lot of early 4th stuff, is less than the sum of its parts. The Kabalite on the other hand is much more efficient. Kelly's bubble and Ward's interact in the field of power armour, and they don't even become similar there. Case in point, Grey Hunters versus Tactical Marines.

Ward's bubble is the main power-armour section, which has shown signs of change the further on he goes, like the seeming acknowledgement of the power of TH/SS Termies and the subsequent points increase they received in Blood Angels. And Cruddace's Bubble.... let's not go there, he hasn't quite got to the point of what-I-call 'good design' yet. Case in point, the Guard Codex doesn't really have any appealing Elites choices bar the PBS, because it gets you an extra Chimera (that's not a choice, that's an "Extra plastic brick, Sir?") or the cheap suicide of Marbo. Then comes Tyranids, who have far too much of the same thing lodged in Elites, and then Sisters, who go back to having not-great choices...everywhere bar FA and HS, really.

Point is, these bubbles don't really interact except when the armies are tested against each other in a practical test. I don't know how much note-comparing goes on, but I'm going to be pessimistic and say they just get on with their own jobs.

Which leads me to the actual point of today. How I generally cost things roughly. Clear and Instinctive Perception. I'm not a very good explainer, so I'll go through a practical example first.

Let's say I want to create a unit of Imperial Guard Bikers. They will have a statline indentical to a Guardsman except T4, will be Bikes, and will not have a weapon mounted on their bikes.

So a bit like that then. The first thing I'll do is look for a comparison. The most obvious choice is the Reaver Jetbike, as it has T4 and a 5+ save already. It's 22. An actual Imperial Guardsman is 5. So I now have a range.

To get the Reaver statline down, I need -1WS, -1BS, -3I, -1Ld, replace splinter rifle with lasgun, lose bladevanes and lose Skilled Rider, then there's the Reaver's 36" boost. There's also Eldar Jetbikes, but I don't count this because it's race-specific and is replaced with Orders. Simplistically, that's -9, which makes 13. I now have to decide whether I am happy with this cost or I want to make any changes (usually adding or subtracting a few points until it feels 'right'). Sometimes this takes me well away from my original subtractions, but that's fine so long as it works. In this case I'm happy with 13.

I now have to decide the base unit cost as it's a race that gets Sergeants for free. With non-Imperial races or units without Sergeants this step can be ignored. If I say the base unit is 5, that makes 70, as there's no way I'm making Sarge 10 points considering that the extra Attack is worthless.

From this stage you add optional extras with their own independent costs. For new and exclusive stuff, a Unit Discount Principle generally applies. For example, it's 3 points per model in a Veteran squad for Carapace armour. HQ units pay 4 each, which leads me to believe in a one-off premium rule (never mind that for now).

Anyhow, I want to give the Bikers the ability to become Veteran Bikers, which involves +1BS and the Skiller Rider rule. 3-4 per model sounds about right here considering the rest of the Codex they have to fit into. I usually err on the side of caution with a backup cost if others think it's too high, so we'll say 4 per biker. You now have a unit. So, in conclusion, the steps of Bryss' Clear and Instinctive Perception Costing Rule are:

1. Decide what you want.
2. Look for the closest point of comparison.
3. Add or subtract 1 per stat point and special rule, excluding all inclusive Codex rules.
4. If you don't like this, play around with cost until you personally are happy.
(5.) Make a back-up cost if you know you might overcost.
(6.) Determine unit size and Sergeant cost if appropriate
7. Add wargear and new rules.

This marks the end of the infantry section of BIPT. Turns out original is best after all. Independent Characters on the way soon-ish.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Rules Rant: Lictor Lulz

Hello again!

It's Monday which means it's time to snatch a GW rules-failure from the deep (DEEP) barrel of poor game design decisions and go to town. Tonight I'm playing the game on "Easy" and picking something from the Tyranid codex.

If I had to describe the Tyranid codex to someone who knew nothing about the game I might say it's like two trains, one full of kittens, puppies and adorable piglets and one full of tiny orphans collided head-on at full speed, as viewed in agonizingly slow motion. Okay maybe that's the current Sisters of Battle "codex" but the bugs from outer space aren't much prettier.

So let's look at the Lictor entry shall we?

If one's not careful it's easy to be accidentally impressed by the Lictor's stats. WS 6 you say! As well as S and I 6? Fantastic let's just see how many points tha- Oh. Oh, not so great then. The Lictor is gutted almost straight out of the gate due to an inexplicably high cost in comparison to other far more useful Elites choices.

However, you might be attached to the model and determined to used the Lictor and any cost and so you ask yourself "What does the Lictor do?"

Hmmm, well Flesh Hooks are a Str 6 ranged weapon now for some reason so maybe the Lictor is meant to shoot vehicles in their rear armor upon its sneaky arrival. Sadly, BS3 and too few shots will defenestrate that theory rather quickly. Not only does the Lictor suck monkey testicles when it comes to effective shooting with his low BS and  fickle timing he disallows you from taking the absolutely critical shooty elements that are found almost exclusively in the Elites section.

Perhaps the Lictor is more of a support unit! You know, kind of like a Tervigon. In the novel "Warriors of Ultramar" a Tyranid Lictor is presented as the scout element - sniffing out bio-mass-rich worlds for the rest of the Hive Fleet to descend upon with accuracy and the element of surprise still firmly in their grasp. To represent this Mr. Cruddace requisitioned for his Lictor friend a Teleport Homer of sorts to carry around in his chitin and give friendly deepstrikers a hand. However, our friend Robin failed to have this special rule make sense in any way that might have been useful to the player desperate (and you must be desperate) enough to use one.

Supposedly the Lictor has been in hiding all along awaiting his chance to strike at an isolated or weakened target whilst his pheromones and psychic summons bring his kin ever close to the planet-shaped dinner table. Except on the table top his pheromones only start to help the turn after the one he showed up in - as if he'd just arrived himself instead of being there all along. Thanks Lictor! You're a true friend! There's only one way this reserve rolling could play out: Turn 2, roll for reserves and… everyone's in except the Lictor because GW hates Tyranid players.

The Lictor can't assault when he comes out of hiding (you know, it's not like he was waiting in ambush all along etc etc.) so your Teleport Homie is going to be kind of vulnerable in the time it takes for him to do his job and help others on the table. You know what you could do to mitigate this though? You could take 3 Lictors in the same Elites slot! Yes, just 63 euros (plus shipping) is enough for you to field three Lictors (for which you will receive exactly zero extra bonuses beside a lighter wallet) in one awesome unit which will appear whenever it feels like and will likely fail to kill anything before it dies to the quiet tears of its owner.

Man does GW know how to design a support unit or what?


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Bryss' Improvised Points Theory #2: Are Guns Formulaic?

Infantry are hard to do. Guns are easier. Let's do that. For now.

First off, I'm a great improviser. What follows is as real-time and spontaneous as I can get. This should hopefully cover my whole thought process. But it might be wrong, and you'll have to tell me that. I'll lay down some principles and get to work.

Observation #1: Guns are wargear: I know this seems obvious, but we need to know where we stand on this. The fact that they are wargear is important because of opportunity cost. An Imperial Guardsman and a Space Marine theoretically (Troop Marines get the Tactical 5 Point Discount) pay the same points for the same gun, despite one upgrading a superior weapon. In a way though, this is helpful. If the Guardsman had to pay 15 for a meltagun rather than 10, it leaves a massive imbalance between him (20) and the 26 point Marine. And that's probably the last thing we want.

Observation #2: The Ballistic Skill Ignorance Rule: I don't care if you're BS3 or 4, you pay the same cost for the gun. This helps makes gun cost more formulaic, but I'm still undecided on whether or not this is a good thing.

Observation #3: Range, Range, Range: After a lot of thought, I've decided that range is the most crucial factor in deciding cost. After all, things like melta weapons rarely go above 10 points (except the Heat Lance, which obviously also pays for Lance), whereas lascannons go for ridiculously inflated prices, despite being not quite as efficient, especially at a lower BS.

Observation #B4: Standard units and inflation: I'm considering 12" to be 1 unit of range. So 12" is R1. I know some guns are 6", but they are pistols and so pay for the extra attack opportunity. Which I think inflates because you get a powerful shot and still retain that extra attack, and you can fire before you charge.

So, to the actual working out bit: Unlike vehicles, I don't have a base template to work from...or do I? Gun costing hasn't changed much over the 4th-5th transition. I can reliably cost a bolter as 2 points from the Grey Knights, which means the lasgun must be 1. For that, I lose all AP and 1 point of S.

From bolter to meltagun, I lose 12" range and a potential extra shot and gain Melta, 4S and -4AP. The simplest method says +4, +4, -1, -1, then Melta. So 8, then 2 for Melta.

From bolter to lascannon, I gain 24" range, 5S and -3AP but lose a shot. This says +5, +3, +2, -1, but that makes...11. Where do the other 9 points come from?

And while I'm at it, what on earth do I do with Poison?

Conclusion: The simplest solution isn't the right one.

OK, but I've got one more idea. Top Bryss Maths: Similar to the three wound infantryman, let's upscale it so there's more wiggle room, and then downscale it roughly again. I suspect a factor of 10 is too big, so let's try 5. Conveniently, a bolter is now 10, and a lasgun 5.

To get from lasgun to boltgun, I figure +4 and +1, as AP goes up twice and is more important than S until we reach heights of S5-6 or better (ie. not defensive weapons).

To get from boltgun to meltagun, I have to find 40 points. Nope, I don't, it's shorter range. 45 then. 35 if we take Melta as 10. To get to AP1, hmm, let's try 31, 26, 19 for the inflation at the 1-3 levels. This leaves roughly 5 points per extra bit of S. And points is not an exact science now, is it?

To get from meltagun to lascannon, we need +1, -1, +3, -Melta, with 50 more points to find. 60 once Melta's gone. 55 to S9. Back to 62. This leaves... an average of 20 per point of range. If I previously got to 24" with 5, an average of nearly 30. I know range is inflated, but this is ridiculous.

Aha, but what if I also inflate S? Then I have 26 per point. 11 and 15. Or 10 and 16. That means I leap by about 5 extra per new bit of range above 24". I like this theory, I'll do some more work on it... hurts....
Next time, I try to make this actually work. Maybe with Xenos weaponry and poison too. If there is any semblance of right-ness in it.

Friday, 21 October 2011

High Gothic For Dummies #3

Bryss' Paintshop strikes again!
No Haiku Thursday this week in favour of more Latin-based mockery. Today, we'll talk about the 'Nids. It's good practise these days to give animals Latin names. Now, when it came to Tyranids GW had an amazingly original idea and gave them High Gothic names. Well, they were in the 4th Edition Codex anyway. Let's see what they're like....

Tyranicus: This is the main Tyranid genus, which splits into smaller categories. As ever it isn't a real word, however tyrannicus with two ns is 'tyrannical.' This doesn't surprise me.

Gauntii: The Gaunt genus, and not a real word. It's typical Ork Latin, but at least they got the third declension plural right. Assuming that's what they aimed for. Which it isn't.

Corporaptor: The Genestealer genus, from corpus, 'body,' and raptor 'robber.' So a body robber then. A rare example of genuine intelligence from the GW Latin Department. If it exists.

Boletus: Given as the genus of Spore Mines, this is the word for 'mushroom.' The full Gothic name of the fairly useless bombs, boletus minoris, means 'small(er) mushroom.' Again, kudos to you, theoretical GW Latin guy.

With that out of the way, let's move on to species names.

Hive Tyrant: tyranicus praefactor. As praefactus means 'commander' and a -tor version doesn't exist, let's call him 'Tyranid Commander.'

Tyrant Guard: tyranicus scutatus. This literally translates as 'Tyranid carrying a shield,' as scutatus is a present participle. Wow, it actually seems like most of this is well thought out. Why didn't Cruddace requisition new names for Hive Guard and Pyrovores and the like? We'll never know.

Tyranid Warrior: tyranicus gladius. I'll give you three guesses. Yep, you got it, 'Tyranid Sword.'

Termagant: gauntii virago. (Bryss looks at dictionary. Bryss bursts out laughing.) This one is 'Tyranid Warrior-Maid.'

I...had far too much fun making this.
And on that bombshell I'm going to leave it there. So I can pick up my sides before they fully split open at the ridiculousness of that image.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Alt40k Package 1: Sniper

Hello all, my name’s Max and welcome to my new series over here on Rules Manufactorum, Alt40k Packages! 

For those of you who don’t know me, I normally ply my trade over on Defending Humanity, but the idea of working on some alt 40k projects here at RM proved too good a chance to pass up.

I’ll be looking at different rules from 40k each week and see what we can do to try and either improve, make closer to the fluff or just change for the heck of it. The key to this is to make small, modular changes to our game that are easy to incorporate but have wide reaching effects. The idea is that if you like a given rules package you can easily swap it in without worrying too much about affecting multiple rules at once.

Of course, simply arm chair generaling isn’t enough- we need some actual results to see if the changes are beneficial or not! So, every so often I’ll include a battle report showing one or more of my proposed changes in action and we’ll see whether I went too far or not far enough.

Well, that’s enough introduction, let’s get to it!
Sniper. This word brings a very specific image to mind. Elite, deadly marksmen picking off choice targets at extreme range. The originators of the old motto of one shot, one kill, snipers are cold, practical men that take out their targets with meticulous planning, sowing fear and confusion among the ranks of the enemy.
Unfortunately that image has no place on our tabletop, where most “snipers” are just as likely to waste ammo simply winging Guardsmen as they are choosing actually lethal spots. And that’s if they even hit the target in the first place!
Simply put, snipers in the dark future of the 41st millennium aren’t terribly good at their jobs. Terrible accuracy, insignificant wounding power and the general uselessness of pinning oftentimes means that a sniper unit will pick off maybe 3-4 wounds per game before they are put out of their misery, and odds are that the affected unit won’t even care. The one area that they do excel in is wounding Monstrous Creatures, but even then the mighty big game hunters can’t seem to manage to put down the beasties too terribly well.

Another problem with snipers is that they don't really fill a unique role in the battlefield of the 41st millennium. Pinning can be done with barrage weapons, anti infantry can be done by line squads, and anti heavy infantry/monstrous creatures is done infinitely better by heavy weapons such as missile launchers. Sounds bad right? And well, it is. But that’s what we’re here for! So what are the key areas that we want to improve to help bring more talent back to these snipers?
  • Accuracy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a terrible shot, if you have a scope and have been trained on a sniper rifle you should be a better shot than your average line trooper.
  • Sniping. There’s no point in being a sniper if you can’t “snipe” chosen targets from inside a squad.
  • Anti-vehicle. Yes, snipers should still not be all stars against mech, but the cinematic appeal of shooting the driver through the windshield still stands. Plus, tabletop wise if snipers can’t help demech the enemy they lose a lot of value.

So how can we rewrite the Sniper rules to incorporate these different concepts? My suggestions are given below. Like all rules that I suggest, you can take individual parts of the rule to use in your game or use the whole thing, depending on your preferences.
  • Sniper weapons all have the rending and pinning Universal Special Rules.
  • Sniper rifles are usually equipped with high powered scopes or are used by soldiers with eagle eyes. When using a Sniper weapon the attacking model always hits on a 2+ regardless of its ballistic skill. However, when rolling to wound resolve the roll using the attacking model’s ballistic skill. So a model with BS 3 will wound on a 4+ and a model with BS 4 will wound on a 3+.
  • Against vehicles, sniper weapons have a strength equal to the firing model’s BS, which, combined with the rending rule, represents their chances of successfully hitting exposed crew, vision ports, fuel or ammo storage, etc.
  • Snipers are tasked with eliminating command and high value targets from opposing forces. Every third wound caused by Sniper weapons is allocated by the shooting model’s player rather than the defending player.
Let’s see how this rule affects some of our common snipers.
BS 3
Before: 16.7% chance of a normal wound, 8.3% chance of a rend
Now: 27.8% chance of a normal wound, 13.9% chance of a rend
BS 4
Before: 25% chance of a normal wound, 11.1% chance of a rend
Now: 41.7% chance of a normal wound, 13.9% chance of a rend
BS 5
Before: 27.8% chance of a normal wound, 13.9% chance of a rend
Now: 55.6% chance of a normal wound, 13.9% chance of a rend
Marked improvement from total wounds but little improvement in the number of rends. Believe it or not, I didn't simply increase the hit rate so that they could just do more wounds. With 1/3  wounds allocated by the attacking player dealing more wounds is essential for a Sniper unit to be able to pick out any troublesome models in the unit.

For example, with 10 Space Marine Scouts we're now able to put on average one wound wherever we want it, but with a smaller band of 5 we'd only get that chance probably every other turn. I think this is enough to get the Scouts noticed but probably not enough to make them overpowered, while also making sure that small bands of Snipers can have a fair chance at sniping models. And, in this age of Mech, let’s take a look at the chance of glancing and penetrating vehicles:

BS 3
1.3% chance of a glance and 2.6% chance of a pen on AV 10
2.0% chance of a glance and 4.0% chance of a pen on AV 10
BS 4
1.8% chance of a glance and 3.6% chance of a pen on AV 10
5.4% chance of a pen on AV 10
BS 5:
2.3% chance of a glance and 4.6% chance of a pen on AV 10
5.4% chance of a pen on AV 10 or 11

So, still not amazing at taking out mech but they at least have a fighting chance now.
Overall I hope that I've helped find a niche for Snipers in the game of 40k. Not as powerful as a Vindicaire and not as dedicated anti-infantry as your standard machine gunner squad but still able to make their own unique contribution to the battlefield.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope that you’ll join me next time as we take another ability to task. Let me know what you think of this mechanic, and if you can think of a better way to improve it, let me know!


Monday, 17 October 2011

Bryss and 'Scape Present: Mythbusters, Marneus Calgar Edition

Recently, 'Scape got Marneus Calgar. I had the honour of fighting him with my 'Nids yesterday (close game, won by a lucky Warp Lance), and afterwards something like this happened:

The one on the right is me. Images manipulated from 'Scape's own mini and Wobbly Model Syndrome, again.

Ah, the wonders of British panel shows...
So, the idea is simple. Marneus Calgar will undergo five fluff-based challenges, to see if they are fact or myth. Let the games... begin!

Trial 1: Gate Defence

The Premise: Marneus Calgar once held off a mob of Orks for a day and a night to stop them breaching some fortress.

The Trial: Calgar must hold off the following Ork mob for two turns: 20 Boyz inc. Nob with klaw, 2 Burnas, 5 Lootas, a Trukk and 2 Warbikers (they were the closest Orks I had to hand). The first turn is Night Fighting.

 The Result: On Turn 1 the Orks surged forward, and managed to wound Our Hero once with their terrible shooting.  In return, Calgar Orbital Struck the Boyz, and killed 4.

On Turn 2 the Burnas and Boyz charged, while the Lootas wounded the Ultramarine once. In combat, only the Nob could wound Calgar, who slew 10 Orks in return, half of which was No Retreat.

In Calgar's turn a lowly Boy killed him before he could fight back. Yeah, that worked out.

End Result: MYTH.

Trial 2: Combat by Champion #1

The Premise: Calgar defeated the Avatar of Alaitoc in single combat.

The Trial: Fight to the death. Both combatants count as charging.

The Result: In a tense first round, the Avatar wounded Calgar three times! However, the brave blue man wasn't about to quit, and smote the Avatar flat in a single round. Rock on.

End Result: FACT.

Trial 3: The Uprising

The Premise: Calgar repelled the Night Lords from a planet by rallying the local populace as an army.

The Trial: Calgar and 10 Conscripts versus twenty Chaos Marines. As Calgar gathers more men, they turn from Conscripts to Storm Troopers.

The Result: Calgar took the initiative and rallied 2 men to his cause. In his first turn he killed 2 Night Lords. In return, the Night Lords killed 2 Conscripts.

This pattern continued for a few turns until eventually Calgar and 5 men charged the Night Lords and broke their morale.

End result: FACT.

Trial 4: Combat by Champion #2

The Premise: Calgar has supposedly smote the Daemon Prince M'Kar The Reborn twice. It can't be too hard to do it again, right?

The Trial: Calgar versus a Daemon Prince with Unholy Might. Not hard. Again, both have a charge bonus.

The Result: In the first turn both combatants lost 2 Wounds. Unfortunately, in the second M'Kar flattened Calgar. Oh.

End Result: MYTH.

Trial 5: The Most Exaggerated One Of Them All

The Premise: Calgar fought the Swarmlord for five days and five nights.

The Trial: Another combat, however Calgar only wins if he kills the Swarmlord on Turn 5.

I don't have a proper Swarmlord yet. Sorry.
The Result: In Turn 1 the Swarmlord inflicted 2 Wounds, and Calgar one.

In Turn 2 Swarmy inflicted one Wound, and Calgar none.

In Turn 3 Calgar gets another hit in, and the Swarmlord does not.

In Turn 4....the Swarmlord killed Calgar.

End Result: MEGA-MYTH.

So, as it turns out Calgar ain't so hot. Still, a good effort from the Guilliman wannabe. Thank you for watching, and goodnight!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Bryss' Improvised Points Theory #1: What On Earth Is A Point Worth?

Confused Word Bearer nicked from Wobbly Model Syndrome

In order to get a better view of whether or not he could know anything, the philosopher Descartes went on a mental journey. In a similar fashion, one month after the release of the Dark Eldar Codex I planned to write a blog article in which I too went on a mental journey to find myself a Points Theory for Infantry. About 15 minutes in, I gave up. Now, I’m back to try again.
You see, although Bryss’ Improvised Points Theory works fairly well on vehicles, infantry are a completely different kettle of fish. I first tried classifying the one point model as a statline with 1 of everything bar BS (which is zero) and Save (nothing). The problem with that is that it didn’t offer much value for points compared to the Gretchin. And that’s saying something.
Then came the incredibly likely possiblity of Codex Deflation, where things get cheaper by the 'Dex (with certain glaring exceptions). And finally, how do I know these are the correct points values? Perhaps an evil demon is deceiving me into thinking these are what points are.
I'm going to assume that is nonsense though, and strip myself of all points knowledge, and look at this problem afresh. This is Meditation #1. The idea is that by the end of this I will have a working cost system for myself to use, based partially on the GW system and partially on my own changes.
The Key System: If the Observation just has a number, it is something GW does. If it has B in front of the number, it is a personal add-on.
Observation #1: The Base-Wargear Divide: When I wrote the article that inspired the Hints for Homebrew series, on unique  Troops, I divided their components into stats, gun and rules. The standard 40k unit has all these things plus a series of upgrades. My first observation of this theory is that the same thing is costed differently depending on whether it is part of the base or is added as wargear.
Why I came to this conclusion: The Warrior Henchman. This serves as a 'make your own Troop' unit entry. Using this entry you can make Hong-Kong knock-offs of Storm Troopers, Space Marines and Dire Avengers. Just pick a gun and and an armour type.
Observation #1.5: Atrotos' Standalone Principle: This gets named after the Fabricator General as it's him that really highlighted this for me. There is no opportunity cost in most of 40k. If you upgrade your weapon, you pay for that weapon in full without taking off the cost of the weapon it replaces.
Why I came to this conclusion: "Up to Incubi may replace their Punishers with Blasters for +15 points." I'm sorry, but that Punisher would be worth 15 in wargear points. I should get it for free. This is why I'm happy that Incubi are different in the new Codex.
 Observation #B2: The Free Stats Law: When costing a model, the first point of every stat bar BS, Ld and Sv are free. The first 4 points of Ld are free. The others both cost from the get-go. The other free item is a single close combat weapon.
Why I came to this conclusion: It would be stupid to factor in this each time, it's always going to be there. As for Ld4, that's just one less than the lowest Ld in game (Gaunts). The one CCW does nothing extra on its own, and can be upgraded to a pistol later.
Observation #B3: The Upstair-Downstairs Cost Theory: Currently, when determining how well-costed a Character is, it won't be compared to any other character, it will just be over/under costed. Small infantry will be compared, because at their cost level they compete and are comparible with much more. However, I've had an idea. If I were to merge three Imperial Guardsmen together into one model, the result is a Guarsdsman with three Wounds and Attacks (and three lasguns, but you can only fire one still), costing 15 points. A Company Commander is 22. Those 7 points net him +1BS, +1WS and +2Ld, not too bad, assuming +2.5 for each Skill and 1 for Ld.
This should mean that, given that my character costing theory works, I can theoretically cost my basic Troop by creating a very basic character profile and dividing the cost by 3. Result.
The next one of these will contain more rabid speculation, as I introduce the Cogito and clearly and distinctly perceive how to cost more complex models.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Haiku Thursday: Back To Normality

After two solid modelling posts in free-form style, I thought I would return to a more classical style for this Haiku Thursday, simply because there isn't really much going on in the Haus of Bryss right now. I painted my spare-parts Haemonculus, but I'm not putting that up because my painting skills aren't so great when I can't cheat with ink. It's not that I'm not happy with the outcome, I just swing between optimism and pessimism a lot. M-hmm. Anyway, I'm waffling. Today's subject is the Primarchs. It's a sort of monologuey artistic thing. Hopefully it should be obvious which Primarch is which.

"Curse of perfection,
Drive me to grotesque lustre,
As harsh gun-horns play."

"We are the Hydra,
Two necks come from bloody spills
For unknown masters."

"Cherub of glory,
Held aloft by sacrifice,
Forget not my rage."

"I am not Primarch
of the Ultramarines, that
job is Lord Mat Ward's."

Well, at least the last one is obvious. I'm off to ponder what on earth I'm going to put on RM this Saturday.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Rules Rant: Howl Like a Wolf If You Saw This Coming

Lukas by skeenoman

Do you own a Space Wolves codex? Ever noticed the massive blank spot on the bottom half of page 89? Right below the Grey Hunters' entry? Yes, that peculiar shaded area. You might have wondered what was meant to go there and so I'll answer that for you.

Oftentimes when our brains see something very traumatic or strange the mind does it's best to suppress the memory of it. What hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars worth of therapy might reveal to the recovering gaming mind is the Blood Claws entry in all its loathsome overcosted-ness.

Blood Claws are a peculiar unit in game design terms. Fluff-wise they are meant to be inferior to their more seasoned Grey Hunter brethren but in game terms they have been costed the same indicating that what they lack in experience they make up for in sheer savagery. Let's take a look.

15 points per model for stats that are identical to Space Marine scouts but with power armor trying and failing to make for a riot of useful special rules (infiltrate, move through cover, scouts). They have a Bolt Pistol and Close Combat Weapon… so they have less weapons than their Grey Hunter equivalents. They have the oft-taken-for-granted special rules that all space marines enjoy, namely ATSKNF and something to replace Combat Tactics (in this case Counter-Attack and Acute Senses).

In the options section we find they can take the same special weapons as the Grey Hunters… for the same points? But with Ballistic Skill 3? What's more they can only take a second weapon if they number 15 strong ruining almost any attempt to keep their Headstrong rule at bay by placing them in a transport and raising the cost in points to a ridiculous level.

The lack of special weapon shouldn't affect us all that much anyway since there's a great chance they'll never get to use them. The wonderfully inconvenient Headstrong special rule disallows us from shooting if the squad is within 6 inches of an enemy. Yes that does mean that if you're standing next to an enemy Land Raider with a humming meltagun prepped and ready to go you have to assault it instead. Don't worry though! The Headstrong special rule makes it very clear that you'll still benefit from the Berserk Charge special rule! Phew!

Speaking of the Berserk Charge rule, this is what really gives the Wolf Claws the edge when compared with Grey Hunters. It gives each model +2 Attacks for charging rather than the usual +1. Naturally this rule helps not at all when being charged but that's cool since you have… that thing… that one thing that makes it easier for you to assault instead of being assaulted. Fleet maybe? No, they don't have that… Oh! A dedicated Land Raider so you don't have to lose out on Long Fangs! No, they don't have that either. Well maybe… No. Heck at least the Wolf Standard will make those charges even more devastating!

Never one to quit quickly when beating a beast of burden I say we should take a look at the Wolf Claws' very own upgrade character, Lukas the Trickster. Luke has a mediocre HQ's statline which makes him good for a hidden troop character. The fact that you could get another whole squad off of his points cost alone will not deter us in examining his fail further.

When Codex: Space Wolves had first come out I remember everyone going on about how amazing Luke's Last Laugh rules was. He could kill anything just by dying! What an excellent mechanic - good thing they didn't make this guy cheaper - he would be the bane of heavy hitting IC's everywhere! Just imagine! Luke's squad is going toe to toe with a beast like Thrakka. Perfect! Thrakka's owner rolls his attacks, 4 hit and one gets allocated to Luke! But what's this? "All successful To Hit rolls allocated against Lukas… must be re-rolled." That's right, Luke's cloak makes him impossible to hit. 3 Blood claws still die though and the unit breaks (Luke has Ld 8 just like a normal BC - wouldn't want him buffing the squad by accident!). Next turn the unit is shot at by a mob of Lootas. It's depleted and so wounds wrap around and kill Lukas. He's still in base contact with his own squad since they've just fallen back from CC. The two players roll a die and the squad disappears. Awesome, Lukas' Last Laugh special rule doesn't specify enemy models - just take out whatever's touching Luke at the time and make a note to stick another pin in your GW playtesting department voodoo doll.

Man these Blood Claws are something else. Restless and Headstrong to no end. They're so out of control they couldn't even be trusted to keep their bad design to the troops section. They've infected the Fast Attack slot as well with their Skyclaw and Swiftclaw nonsense. Just because you're on a bike and it might kill you doesn't mean you shouldn't assault whatever's closest, in terrain or not! Superb!

There's a reason whenever someone tells me how much better the Space Wolf codex is than the regular marine codex I never run short of arguments to the contrary. And if you're having doubts yourself, why dear reader, all you need do is flip to the Wolf Guard entry and see how many points it takes to make your swiftclaws remotely useable. Boner-breaking special rules for the win!


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Scratchbuilt Haemonculus

I must admit, I'm not a big fan of the new GW Haemonculus. I like Rakarth, but the standard guy is a to say it.... he looks like he'd much rather give you a hug than cut you to ribbons and put you back together again albeit with your tongue and right thumb switched around for a laugh. I'm also a big fan of walking on feet rather than all this tentacles nonsense. And considering the enormous size of my bitz lair, I decided to try my hand at making one myself.

One week of parts-searching and one long day of green-stuffing and gluing to the tune of 'Eye of the Tiger' later...

Much better.

Behold the Haemonculus! I can't actually tell which gender it's meant to be, so we'll say it's indeterminate. That's what I get for using a Daemonette head...

Not much going on at the back, like most 40k models, mainly due to me not wanting a spine-thingy on the back. 

In battle I'll use it with a standard splinter pistol and close combat weapon (as I originally wanted a standard gearless 50 pointer), with the crystal raygun thingy switching between various bits of arcane wargear. Because it's much more flashy than my other (old metal) Haemonculi, this can also serve as an Ancient.

The list of bitz used in this conversion is possibly my longest yet, with parts taken from about 12 different plastic kits. The full list is as follows:

  • Daemonette head
  • Imperial Guard rebreather from the Command Squad sprue
  • Skaven torso and crystal from the Doomwheel
  • Eldar Guardian back body
  • Dire Avenger grenades and shuriken pistol
  • Small antenna thingy from the Mawloc
  • Tabard from the Chaos Terminator Lord
  • Lower body from the Baneblade tank commander
  • Sword from the Black Ark Corsairs
  • Pincer knife hand-thing from the old Dark Eldar Warrior kit
If that isn't a testament to the diversity of my collection I don't know what is. Hopefully it, plus the two pain engines and two Raider crew, can be painted soon.

Hints For Homebrew: Veterans

Permission to write a new Hints article, sir?
Before I begin, I'd like to issue a quick reminder about the recently announced contest. The prize money has been doubled by Atrotos, bringing it to £38.58 ($60) for the winner and £25.72 ($40) for the runner-up (if Google is to be believed).

Veterans are a staple of 40k. Apart from Daemons and Tyranids, all armies in the game have them, however the unit is not always used to its full potential. This to me is a travesty considering that they should be among your best troops, and hopefully this series of pointers will help you avoid the common GW pitfalls.

1) Veterans do not always have to be Elites: To me, a Veteran is an upgraded version of your basic troop unit. So things like 'Ard Boyz, IG Veterans and Vanguard are still Veterans. The important thing when deciding where to put your Veterans in the Force Chart is that all-important theme of competition. If your Veterans unit clearly struggles to compete with the other things in your Elites slot, you should consider putting it somewhere else.

Good Example #1: Space Marine Sternguard. With access to 2+ Poison and combi-weapons for everyone, they are a strong flexible unit that doesn't really fit anywhere else.

Good Example #2: IG Veterans.They have a basic trooper statline, only with BS4. Putting them in Troops gives the Guard player a choice between numbers or accuracy and special weapon/demo charge utility. OK, maybe the only thing they'd compete with is the Psyker Battle Squad and Marbo, but I'd rather not be locked into taking Platoons as my only Troop.

Bad Example: Chaos Chosen. Considering how cheap Chaos Terminators are, they need some kind of extra factor. They got Infiltrate instead. Yeah, that worked.

2) Veterans should NOT just be your basic Troop with an extra Attack...: GW seems to be moving away from this now, but you should still avoid the 'Veteran Attacks Conundrum.' Just because the unit is a Veteran does not mean that by default they should cost more for an extra Attack, especially one they will never use willingly. Unless the unit has an active combat role, an extra Attack is a meaningless cop-out.

Good Example: Hekatrix Bloodbrides. An extra Attack helps the unit move from being a tarpit like its Troop Cousin the Wych into being something that can carry a character into combat and still fight well on its own.

Bad Example: Kabalite Trueborn. Why oh why do they have two Attacks? What possible reason do you have, Mr Kelly, for giving a unit with no combat upgrades outside of the Dracon 2 Attacks? I can attest from personal experience that it really doesn't help them at all.

2.5)...1 more Leadership....: Short, sweet, exampleless. A Veteran is not a Troop with Ld9. End of.

Bad Example: Well, I'd love to say exampleless, but then I remembered the new Celestians. They're identical to Battle Sisters option-wise, but have the VAC and Ld9. I'd say more, but I'm too lazy to. Just like the rest of that pitiful Codex.

2.75)...and more upgrades.: Yes, the basic Veteran should have more options than its brother in Troops, but options for the sake of options is a no-go. The added options should give them a different niche in the army to the Troop. And one or more new upgrades that help to do this wouldn't go amiss.

Good Example: I return to Trueborn. The reason they are a viable choice is the insane number of anti-tank guns that they can fit inside a Venom. However, the option of shardcarbines and two splinter cannons  gives them a barrage of anti-infantry instead, so the upgrades are useful in making a unit that can easily do two different things.

Bad Example: Chosen. They can take multiple special weapons, but so can Havocs, so they're not unique. They can have a few power weapons, shame that for some reason they didn't get the extra Attack (why?). If you want a small suicide melta unit, you use 3 Termies with combi-meltas. This unit seems very viable for a Monday rant.

3) Don't make the unit cost more than the sum of its parts: With all the options available to these units, points costs can sometimes get out of hand. Help prevent this by shaving unneccesary things and keeping the base cost down. Otherwise, the unit could become prohibitively expensive.

Good Example: Back to Guard. At 70 points for the 10 men, with a transport and a couple of weapons you'd be hard-pressed to go over 150-75.

Bad Example: Sternguard. 25 points a head is an awful lot in an expensive army like Marines. If only that extra Attack was gone...

Worse Example: Vanguard. How much for Jump Packs? How much for a special rule that might not even work?

4) On Special Rules: Because the Veteran is based on the Troop, extra rules are often not needed. Don't feel you need to give them one. That said, it can sometimes add a bit of character, so play around and see what works.

Good Example: It used to be that Space Marine Veterans could buy things like Furious Charge for 3 points a head. Vanguard could have used that over Intervention. Shame, it would have been more useful.

Bad Example: Chosen. Infiltrate. Bad. It just seems tacked-on to try and make it useful. Shame that, unlike Scout, it doesn't work with a Rhino.

And that's Veterans done. Characters is still WIP as ever. I have no idea what I'm writing next Saturday, but I'll be back then.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Haiku Thursday: Modelling Edition #2: The Sequel

Ah, welcome back to the relaxing corner of Bryssling that holds Haiku Thursday, solid proof that xenos players are "da awesome" as Sinsynn put it. Anyway, remember when I built Fridgey? He was originally planned to be magnetised between both Pain Engines. Then I had a better idea...

I like tentacles,
I like to save my money,
Here is both at once,

I built a Cronos
Entirely from my bitz box
Here it is, enjoy.

The Daemon Prince kit
Had two torsos, I took one
And gave it a base

Held together with green stuff and Scottish inventiveness.

This out of the way,
I found a Carnifex kit
And used a good bit.

It's the Deathleaper trick again, only this time I have a use for the side bitz.

With this thing glued on,
There was a massive gap, so
I plugged it with those

Side bitz I cut off,
At the same time took the arms
And Green Stuffed them on.

Now, my putty skills
Had left some bad blobs
I had a good fix.

I attached thin bitz
Like acupuncture needles
Fits the theme quite well.

The basic Cronos minus trimmings. I'll pass the excess GS off as fleshcraft.

I drilled small holes in the hardened GS to fit the needle things in. There were noticable back gaps at this stage, we'll solve this later. Those gaps were massive until I realised I could use the carapace bitz to plug them.
Added the back spines
And a clear Spirit Vortex
A clear flying base.

Trimmed the front a bit
To make the probe mask fit on.
There, instant Cronos.

Now the finished pics,
With actual information
That isn't haiku.

Yes, I still had the actual Spirit Vortex bit left over, but I have plans for that...

This should make it clear where I put the back bitz that normally go into the holes on the Talos shell. It's simple, effective gap filling.
It kinda looks like it's swimming.
Still experimenting with greens that don't hurt the eyes to read. For my next trick, I'm making myself a new Haemonculus from spares. I know it's not as impressive, but I've run out of big stuff to make.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Dark Eldar Webway Efficiency Dilemna

Or DEWED for short. Anyway, to the actual point, eh?

The above is the aftermath of 6 turns of the following:

This List- 1999
Haemonculus with liquifier gun, venom blade and Webway Portal
Haemonculus with liquifier gun and Webway Portal
20 Kabalites with two splinter cannons, blaster and Sybarite
20 Kabalites with two splinter cannons, blaster and Sybarite
10 Wyches with two shardnets and Hekatrix with agoniser
Raider with flickerfield (for Wyches)
9 Trueborn with 2 splinter cannons
Raider with flickerfield (for Trueborn and non-venomous Haemo)
7 Incubi with Klaivex with demiklaives and Onslaught
Raider with flickerfield (for Incubi)
8 Harlequins with 2 fusion pistols, 2 kisses, Shadowseer, Death Jester and Master with power sword
5 Reaver Jetbikes
Ravager with night shield and flickerfield
Talos with chain-flails
Tactics are simple enough. Drop the Webways with help of Harleys and Trueborn Turn 1, then have stuff turn up and shoot. In the event of DoW, use a Kabablob or to drop one portal then place the other later. It's not perfect, but still does an adequate job.
Point is, although it's not as good as it could be (weaker in DoW, could do with 2 Harleys over the Trueborn, I'd really like some Scourges over the black-sheep Reavers), I'm worried about using it. See, with one notable exception (Grey freaking Knights), my regualar opponent's lists are a tiny bit lacking, although not due to lack of tactical acumen (something I really didn't want to say face-to-face because I am not T'Leeks and have human decency).
This isn't a bad thing, don't get me wrong. In cases such as this, my fun-based philosophy tells me I should consider a) not using Dark Eldar at high enough levels to do efficiency-listing and b) breaking out a weaker or smaller army, like my Orks, Tau or Tyranids (or my catastrophically unlucky Exercitus). However, I really, really like using Dark Eldar. And they're not exactly a pushover at 750 or less anyway, when I have enough Raiders to pull it off.
The few of you lucky enough to be reading this are watching me go through an important transition as a player. Compared to 1-2 years ago, my tactical powers, modelling skills and painting have really come on (think of it as a sort of 40k puberty minus the mood swings and you're not far off), and although I'm nowhere near as skillful as some others, I'm at a nice stage.
What I need to decide now is whether or not to carry making the most efficient lists possible with my model count every single time I write one up, whether or not to diversify and slowly work on all 10 of my armies (something I will explain later) or focus on something less developed (Tau, Orks or Daemons seem the most likely candidates here). I'm not quitting DE full-time, as Haiku Thursday will show, but I feel like I need to use something...else.
Interesting times abound.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Rules Rant: Where Rules Go To Die

Nork 'Derp' Deddog
Hello Readers,

Welcome to the new Monday spot - 'Rules Rant: Where Rules Go To Die.' All settled in? Good. Let's get started!

One of the most satisfying things about this hobby, after the painting, conversions and gaming are spoken for, is the ranting. Gamers are one of the worst societies humanity has to offer. Constantly bickering, rules lawyering, whining,  pining, lying, bragging and, most importantly, RAGING.

Nerds do love to rage.

And that's what this article series is about. Excavating those niggling nerd-hysteria inducing rules and entries and laying them out. Steamrolling them, stabbing them 5D6 times and tossing them off the edge of the table. Women get Mr. Ben and Mr. Jerry - nerds get Rules Rant. I can make the frustration go away fellas.

Today's mark is the inspirationally titled Nork Deddog (pronounced by swallowing hard and saying 'Dead Dog' right afterwards). Our bulky friend weighs in at a titanic 110 points plus whatever unspecified amount of opportunities you can imagine and has an Ogryn's statline which is punctuated by a S and T of 5 and 4 Attacks and 3 Wounds.

The  statline is where this tragedy begins. Being part of a mixed unit 40k does not care one lick what Toughness Nork has. He'll be wounded on the same roll as everyone else in the squad due to majority toughness until only he and one other model are left.

 So glad I payed those points! But what else do I get?

Leadership 8? The Officer has 9.

WS 4? 15 point Bodyguards have that also. Together two bodyguards will generate 50% more attacks and will allow double the amount of wound allocation shenanigans to protect your officer. Combining the bodyguards with Nork would make a pretty hard combat unit by IG standards! Lucky for us Mr. Cruddace spotted this 'imba', underhanded combo and laid it low with a flick on his keyboard - Nork disallows the inclusion of any more bodyguards. Awesome.

But wait! There's more!

Nork also has Feel No Pain… which the medic already covered but it's nice of him to offer. He's got furious charge… but Col. "One Man Show" Straken already beefed up your CCS and thought to bring along Fearless as well (just in case you were going to mention Stubborn). For 15 points less.

Hmmm. 4+ save? If your CCS is geared for combat you already paid those 20 points to give everyone Carapace, why pay this premium again?

But you've got to give the guy points for sheer uniqueness - it's not everyday you come across a 100+ point model that allows you to lose 2(TWO!!) other far more important models upon failing a Leadership test (Loyal to the End Special Rule).

And in case your Company Command Squads had lofty ideas of riding to battle to the stirring strings of 'Flight of the Valkyries' you can have the satisfaction of grounding them since Nork's Bulky rule will keep their feet on the ground and out of a  tempting Valkyrie chassis. After all, a 1st turn charge from an Ogryn (courtesy of the Scout special rule) is too devastating to even consider - meltabomb toting Veterans are far more discreet.

Sometimes GW's design team just holds up their hands and says, "Fine! We didn't playtest it, alright?! Are you happy now?!" Such instances tend to fill my Nerd Hulk Quota but instead of turning green and defenestrating my wife's MAC I think I'll give them a hand.

Bullet point time!

  • Erase NORK DEDDOG entry
  • COMPANY COMMAND SQUAD entry under "Regimental Advisors" add:
    • Any Bodyguard may be upgraded to an Ogryn Bone'ead… +25 points (see page 42)

If it were up to me I would have included an Ogryn Command Squad to unlock a single Ogryn Squad as Troops - thus Nork would actually have a place as this would afford the unit much more flavor. Nork's point cost would still need to be drastically reduced and he would need the Eternal Warrior special rule to make the most of his "Look Out - Arghh!" rule. An Ogryn-sized special close combat weapon would be great - otherwise he'll always struggle to make wounds stick and his point cost will remain a hindrance. Such things I would write if I were around when the GW design team were working feverishly to produce Codex: IG. 

Alas, I am not on the GW design team. Yet ;).