Sunday, January 25, 2015

Warhammer 40,000: Necrons Ascendent

The Necrons are coming and major changes are reported.

One of the scariest ones is the addition to the core Codex of the Transcendent C'Tan.  Some may know of it from Forge World dealings.  It's inclusion, even with a whopping 250 point base price tag is pretty scary and if the list of powers being floated out there as belonging to the Tesseract Vault is to be believed, you've got problems.  An Assault 6, apocalyptic Blast template at STR 7 AP 4?  Even if its weapon IS randomly determined every round, so what.  That's just crazy.  You better rush that Transcenent C'Tan or else.  Other weapons rumored to belong to the Vault are an apocalyptic Blast STR 8 AP 3.  Ever been hit with a death Strike Missile Launcher that DOESNT have to count down and doesnt have liimited ammo?  There are some other weapons it can bring to bear that are far less scary depending on what its aimed at but that Vault will rapidly become your priority, an objective unto itself.

Another rumor is 2 wound Destroyers.  Now this would really be interesting and appropriate.  While I can't say I saw that coming, if true it would propel the Destroyer back to its rightful place as a fear deserving unit worth its points.  As an opponent of the Necrons many times over, I can say that the Destroyers diminished sharply as time has gone on.  a Mechanized Necron force works so well that Destroyers simply became obsolete in a lot of ways.  Some die hards clung to them but you surely saw few if any at top tables.  That might change if the rumor is in fact true.

The Deceiver now has its own identity again and I am VERY excited about this rumor.  Strategically in Warhammer 40K there might not be anything more important than the Deployment of the army.  infinite terrain variations do make for interesting decisions and ultimately any opportunity for you to use the terrain against the opponent is awesome.  The Deceiver will now not only drop Leadership in a bubble around it but also will allow you to redeploy in almost the exact way Eldrad allows!  That's huge.  Going first ceases to be a problem when you can just shift two or three units after making the enemy line up "perfect shots" that will never happen or lining up their melee death star to land a blow it will never enjoy.

That naturally means the Nightbringer will ALSO have its own identity again.  After the Deceiver drops your Leadership, the NightBringer will Psychic Shriek you, only his ability isn't Psychic by the looks of it, so there's no stopping it.  at a hefty 240 points to start with I suppose one guaranteed Psyker power isn't too bad.  it will probably be a close combat beat stick as usual.

The Resurrection Orb  and Reanimation Protocols changed again.  This is one rule I wish they'd make up their mind on.  It will essentially be a Feel No Pain that works against any and all kinds of wounds except for removal.  So that matters because forcing morale on Necron units just got harder.  it wont matter what you hit em with they may not go down.  I'm thinking it takes a little bit away from how you envision it working but the mechanic is simple enough I suppose.  the Orb lets the unit RE-roll its Animation protocols for a turn.  Really cool.  One use though if I understand correctly.

One of the more painful possibilities is the Night Scythes are now Fast Attack choices s there's no need to take the attendant troops you might have otherwise.  Croissants in a Necron Bakery are very much a thing already and could be more of one now.  The Fast Attack slot will almost assuredly be more expensive now to occupy with Night Scythes which will limit it to an extent but KEEP IN MIND:  without the Troops inside you're saving 65 points.  So all in all it could actually be a net gain and more reason not to take Troops Choices in large numbers...

These are just my musings on the import of some of the changes coming.  We can't know for sure until the book drops officially or inevitably pages show up.  But the Necrons are Ascendant and you will want to start combing your lists and considering these new possibilities...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Warhammer 40,000 Space Marines meta thoughts

Where has this very voluminous codex taken us?

I will tell you gladly that I am simply not an especially experienced Space Marine general.  Having said that, I've played against them for so long I probably know their codex better than I know almost any of them just because I've had to face them down quite literally hundreds of times.

Taking a stroll through the book made me think about them some, now that every codex BUT the Inquisition and Adepta Sororitas have become hard bound, completing the circle pretty much of the codex's.  That completion now allows us to look back and see the codex through the lens of those changes.

I think there are a few things in the codex that have become ubiquitous from a competitive standpoint.  The Centurion Devastator Squad is of course the one that comes to mind most frequently.  Its ability to benefit from force multipliers in the army is now dread legend.  Psykers in the force allow this unit to shine like a beacon (specifically but not exclusively the Invisibility spell allows this but there are others) and so long as this unit is allowed to maraud outside of close combat, it can bring victory from a seemingly crushing defeat.

Another unit that has really been very common is the Drop Pods.  Now that they can score and are as cheap as it gets, they have really taken on a new importance.  More than that, Space Marines, as tough as they are, need to hit at full strength to get the best mileage and taking losses crossing the field is simply unwise.  Rhinos were more common than Pods, but not anymore.  Riptides and other units have changed the meta and enforced the rule of maximum aggression to win from Space Marine armies.  Pod armies do very well, especially with Vulkan He'Stan leading the charge.  Vulkan and his Salamanders haven't been seen AS often because the next unit has taken on a new power.

Bikes!  Bike armies are very good now.  Their ability to score, their speed, toughness (Jink on bikes is just silly, and Night Fight which happens in half your games is an enormous boost for them) and their numbers make them fearsome.  Bike armies, often backed by an Imperial Knight, are a thing and have won tournaments.  At minimum they have shaken up the standings tremendously because they are somewhat of a metabuster.  NATURALLY resistant to the more heinous weaponry out there, tougher than average and with speed that allows them to use reserve manipulation and the like all make the Bike armies FAR more common and deadly than ever before.  Grav guns just did wonders for them as well.

There have also been some clear losers in this codex.  Despite being given ready and copious access to anti-air tools, you don't see a lot of non-flyer answers by Space Marine players being employed.  Almost every Squad can have anti-air capability, not to speak of the Hunter, and the Stalker, Aegis Defense Lines or Bastions.   Space Marines have chosen by and large to mount anti-air on their Storm Ravens or Storm Talons.  This is a live by the sword/die by the sword mentality that REALLY surprises me.  I had really thought that other relatively inexpensive and spread out forms of anti-air would be a thing.  But no.  Here we are, with the Storm Talon being one of the cheapest flyers in the game, seeing more use than any of the aforementioned!  But the Stalker and the Hunter have been nigh extinct in lists and certainly the highly competitive ones.

Predictable losers were Sergeant Chronus,the Whirlwind, normal terminator squads, The Terminator Captain, and Chaplain Cassius.

The Whirlind is really nice but the Space marine Codex was a little to early and they didn't think to make Whirlwind Batteries possible.  It might have helped the popularity of this very underused war machine.  Even its attractive price doesn't seem like it's enough of a winning wager for the top tables.

Normal Terminators are surprisingly out of vogue despite the game being so ballistic.  The 3+ Invulnerable saves REALLY win the day in most generals estimation and this is a trend in  army building in general:  take the toughest things and be a grind to kill.  I don't think this way of thinking has a lot of merit in and of itself, but it is in fact what's happening.  Assault Terminators are by a VERY wide margin used more frequently.

Chronus is interesting.  He is much improved but he has to go in an Ultra Marines tank (only) so unless you are using an UltraMarines detachment....  That alone limits his use before you even look at his entry.  His cost is high much like the Tau Empire Tank Commnder and the tanks you'd want to put him in are expensive but what's interesting about him is that he adds a servo arm to a unit, and that's really not nothing.  So the usefulness for him, as odd as it probably seems, could be to put him in a Rhino.  When the occupants are blown out, if they combat Squad'd, one half the unit can have the Sergeant and his power weapon and the other half can take Chronus.  Of course he can also just accompany the half that has the sergeant and bring the pain.  No matter what he does, it's very interesting that he can now actually do this.  It won't get him in a lot of UltraMarine forces but it's not the most horrible thing in the world considering that Servo-arms are AP 1 and STR 8.  He could also just accompany a Land Raider whose job is to go straight into danger, because his usefulness in making the tank nigh unstoppable is cool but if it is stopped, he can avenge it with the nearest unit.  A BS 5 Land Raider is pretty cool.  Honestly he's so much better than before and yet he just is not making it to the top lists.

 Cassius and the Terminator Captain have similar problems.  They are both REALLY tough which is what people now prize in tournaments it seems (see Wave Spam, IK's and the list goes on for details).  But neither one can power up a Centurion Devastator Squad and neither one is going to give the army important traits it wants or needs like Hit and Run.  So they end up being SECOND choices and by being a second HQ choice, their cost is instantly much scrutinized and for good reason.  HQ's are inherently pricey in part because of balance and in part because they really do a lot for the force in many cases.  So you really do need an excellent reason to take a second HQ.  Cassius in particular is awesome though.

Well that's enough rambling for now.  Any thoughts to add?

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Tau Empire Advanced Targeting System

I have literally never seen anyone use this device except for me but it is a fantastic upgrade.

For those not aware, 7th Edition eliminated the Precision shot ability from Independent Characters and so outside of Sniper Rifles, there aren't many places you see Precision Shots.  The Imperial Guard have an Order they can give units to grant it and it's a very good ability for their units when they"blob" up but really it's a much more uncommon mechanic now.

The fact that Sniper Rifles lost Pinning in 7th edition has made them less attractive, making Precise Shots even less common.

The Advanced Targeting System gives the model Precision Shot and gives Characters with it a 5+ Precisions shot.  This is an absolutely fantastic upgrade if you are able to attach it to a bullet hose.  The Tau Empire have two.

The Crisis Teams can come equipped with two Burst Cannons, for a total of 24 STR 5 shots per full unit.  That's impressive, especially when hitting on 2's which means even if the targeted model doesn’t die to the wound itself, that many shots is going to rapidly remove his ablative wounds anyways!  If you are the Shas'Vre in the unit, you get 8 chances on 5+ to lay those wounds on the enemy models you want to.  This allows you to "pop" the Power Fist wielding the Death Company members or whack the incredibly dangerous Power Axe wielding Sergeants that make the Imperial Guard blobs so dangerous.  Look out Sir Rolls will obviously blunt some of it but you are talking about a mere 2 point upgrade! 

All enemy units have what I call fangs:  members who allow the unit to push over the hump and that, without those members, the unit becomes considerably more mundane.  Giving a Crisis Teams a way to pull those fangs is pretty impactful over the course of that enemy units life.  Also when someone throws a 2+ armor save "tank" out front, you can ignore him several times with this!

The Stealthsuits could conceivably be a better choice in some ways to use the Advanced Targeting System.  They also get 24 shots and have a character, though their character gets less chances at the 5+ Precision Shots.  The unit walks around with 6 wounds like the Crisis Team, BUT instant Kill wounds don't take away their firepower as quickly.  Stealthsuits have a 4+ Cover save in the open, which is amazing on its own, but add to that their ability to walk to the enemy door step with Infiltration round 1 and start pulling fangs from the get go and bouncing back?  When they are in cover they are 2+ cover saves, which they can sometimes jump back to.  If you wish to give the enemy heart burn and force them to move laterally instead of forwards as a part of your strategy, the Stealthsuits with this ability could be a very compelling reason to take the Advanced Targeting System.

One last point.  Although I can easily agree that there are more important things you need to place on Broadside Battlesuits than this upgrade, imagine sniping characters with that STR 8/AP 1 Broadside cannon.  It's fun to think about, even though it would probably be a bad idea.

In any event, as a Tau opponent, it might not be much fun to get hit with 24 or lord forbid 72 such deadly accurate shots from three such units.  An infantry army would find this getting old fast. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dice of Ice

Sharing pain is good (said the Dark Eldar player to the Eldar player over lunch).

I play a lot of Warhammer, 2-3 games per week.  My armies, of considerable size, by end of January will include in no particular order:
Chaos Space Marines (& Black Legion)
Space Marines (& Blood Angels)
Astra Militarum
Militarum Tempestus
Sisters of Battle
Grey Knights
Dark Eldar
Tau Empire (& Farsight Enclave)

I think it’s safe to say I am more well versed than many on the issue of not only what to anticipate from the enemy, but also the enormous myriad of armies and play styles that you can use.  I’ve tried them all just about and my blog is dedicated to the variety that you can find pleasure in playing.

Despite all that knowledge, experience, and most importantly, copious opportunities to actually play AS these armies, I’ve found no solution to bad dice rolling, nor the frustration I feel when the game is taken from my hands by the Dice of Ice.  Not just for a round but for a game!

It’s one thing not to be overly good at the game.  You hardly notice the dice then and many people enjoy PLAYING more than winning or losing anyways.  It’s also one thing to play a certain army for financial reasons and sometimes just lose because the army you have is the one you have.  Sometimes that means mismatches that you aren’t’ fiscally able to do much about during this blizzard of codex drops we just went through the last twelve months or so.  Understandable there again.

When you have the resources of nearly the entire 40K universe at your disposal with nigh limitless ability to adapt and learn as the new codex’s drop by actually PLAYING them in order to find the strengths that you then must plan for in your normal armies, it is nothing short of galling to lose with those now prepared armies after all that effort and resource spent, because of the Dice of Ice.

The dice in War games give us drama and that’s important.  If there were never opportunity for disaster and miraculous comebacks, then we might well not enjoy the game as much as we do.  I am not blithe to it.  But I am human.  And there is a line in the game where one bad dice roll may screw you and you’re like “okay Good game” as compared to a literal torrent of bad rolls, round after bloody round.  By all rights your opponent should be shivering in a corner and quivering with fear but instead he’s dancing on your grave and it’s all you can do to hold your embarrassment at bay.

There is no solution of course.  These things happen and one has to move on and accept the ultimate truth of war games:  you cannot win them all.  Stop trying.  Most of us do eventually accept that.  the Dice of Ice, on the rare times they strike, are such a jolting and unrelenting reminder that after such a game we are HAPPY when we get just one bad dice roll a round!   We welcome it like a friend instead of dreading it like death.

Dice of Ice struck, of course, which is why I felt the need to share the pain.  Venting is good.  I will try to keep it in mind as a humbling reminder that no matter how good you are, how well constructed the force, and no matter the number of mistakes your opponent may unwittingly make…  You can always be cut down to size by the Dice of Ice.  So revel in your victories gracefully, let the close defeats roll off of you like water off a ducks back and pray that you have practiced enough grace in both cases that the Dice of Ice don’t return to humble you!

If you have a really good Dice of Ice story, let’s hear it!