Wednesday, December 21, 2016

6th Elvensword Ambassadorial Grand Tournament

We have evolved.

This year marks the 6th time we will have run our tournament and it is ascending to GT status this year.  We've come a long way from the desolation that 6th Edition imposed on some 40K communities.  Some of it is just people being petty and playing the role of armchair captains of industry, parsing every decision Games Workshop makes and nit picking until they have talked themselves out of enjoying the game.  Oh those unfortunates.  Some of it was a legitimate series of responses to an increasingly violent roll out schedule that left many people so bruised and battered they couldn't see straight.  If the books and the roll out were more reasonably priced, perhaps 6th Edition would have been better received.  Who knows?  Who cares?

The point is, numerous organizers like me had to resurrect or resuscitate as the case may be, a community in disarray.  This tournament was a central part of my attempts, though a lot of smaller fun events went into it as well.  A lot of hard working TO's deserve some credit here.

The Elvensword Ambassadorial GT is sponsored by some great companies I'd like to thank.  The website, which is excellent, has been a great tool for us and it immediately added gravitas to the event.  Jive Consulting can do one for any tournament, using any format, nationwide.   George Allen Butler is a soldier and an author who contributes directly and liberally, which gave our event the freedom to be more creative and financially lucrative for its players.  He is our title sponsor and his books, the Fox Elvensword trilogy, are available on Amazon here..  Our prizes last year for the players last year exceeded $1300 and this year we may even exceed that.  It's awesome to be able to offer that to players.  We also provide free door prizes and we feed the Ambassadors who attend a big meal and provide drinks and snacks for them free of charge.  Our venue, the Game Matrix made that possible and their support has been well above and beyond other game stores.  My own insurance agency sponsors it as well, providing the back end support we need to make it all work.

I went ahead and did a battle report of the very first mission that will be played at the GT.  It, like all of them, are a custom mission.  Feel free to comment on YouTube or here if you prefer.  keep in mind, I am no pro photographer, but it came out looking decent and pretty easy to see.

I hope you enjoy it.  The lists and mission information are all on the YouTube channel.  If you wish to attend the GT this year, it will be one of the last available to you before the end of the ITC season, and it will be a full on ITC event.  So snatch up the few remaining openings if you can and come enjoy the fun, the prizes, the ITC ranking points and the challenge. Here is a link to our rules, missions, and registration.  Everything a growing gamer needs to attend!  6th Elvensword Ambassadorial Rules link

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


I have recently taken to getting a little practice on VASSAL, which is a software engine that allows you to play Warhammer 40,000 with other people online.

One of my favorite things about VASSAL is its ability to take and place terrain and then your units, so that you can play out a turn one scenario.  So much hinges on the first turn and the skill with which you plan it in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  It is so akin to a chess game, only when you make a mistake it’s a bit easier to correct and of course the inclusion of the dice makes for drama that a chess game can never emulate. 

The trouble is that you will often come to a blog like mine or a forum and hear some really sound concepts, but you have no real way of kind of playing that out a little bit to see how to apply it with your own army.  Many people are primarily visual learners (I am more of an audial learner but I appreciate the way this visual aid helps me).

What I am recommending to people who read this is to perhaps download the Vassal engine (the 6th edition of it is actually easier to deal with, from what I have seen) and then the 40K modules for it, so that when you are reading my advice or someone else tell you how great this or that tactic could be, you can pop it open, place some terrain and “see” what is being said on a board that most closely resembles the ones you normally play on.

One thing I detest about most of the forums I am a regular contributor on is the propensity for snarky dismissive people to react to an opinion with pretty much no honest effort put to evaluating that opinion.  Yet when you have VASSAL, it is easy to illustrate to them the basic idea.  Now they can of course still argue and refute you and they may even be right some of the time; but the ability to illustrate the concept and allow for a common vision of what is being assumed is really worthwhile.  Onlookers and others can see clearly what you mean and what the terrain assumptions are which is missing in most online forums.  Even if a random personality here or there refuses to acknowledge your point, others may see it or try it.

VASSAL  has a little learning curve, as it is meant to allow you to do pretty much anything the game allows and frankly anything it doesn’t.  It’s not as if a big company developed it.  Just downloading and installing the 40K modules might prove to be annoying (initially) and require far more Internet searching than it should.  But I encourage you to go through the pain of installing it and then practicing with it.  I think you will find that you can save pictures of your work onto Photobucket or whatever site you use for such things and then be able to post those pictures at will on social media or on forums, whichever you happen to frequent so that you can engage in a good faith discussion.  There aren’t enough of them happening online and VASSAL could be of help in that regard.

The engine can be downloaded here, last time I checked:

Here is the one place i was able to find the 40K modules you will need.  I'm posting both here for completeness sake, but would recommend using Version 6 of the Vassal40K modules unless someone can figure out what I am doing wrong on this 7th Edition one,.  Lol.  You get strange pop ups when you go to the site so just close them out and ignore them.

Version 6:
Version 7:

Here's to hoping for better and more civil online discourse!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Getting started in Warhammer 40,000

An online friend text'd me and said "After all this time, I still don't have a solid direction I want to go in 40K'

We talked about it back and forth and this is a friendly guy I have known for a long time.  He has always "run into walls' as he puts it, and been very discouraged by his lack of progress in either making a decision on the faction he wants to play and the way he wants to play it.  

He is probably the hardest person I have ever tried to give advice to because his general emotional state is more relevant than his tactical acumen.  I mean how can you gain tactical acumen without practice and how can one practice without commitment to the particular faction and their methods of war?  So it's tough to tell him which direction to head.  The best direction I told him, was "towards the fun".

This did however trigger in me the idea of writing a short blog on the problem of peoples difficulty in just getting started.

People see the models that Games Workshop produces and they realize in a stunning epiphany that there are actual rules for playing this as a game which is usually an incredibly exciting moment of revaluation for new gamers, and one they often remember in some way  The first thing I explain to them is that they are better off playing a couple of warm up games with a friend and getting the hang of the rules before moving on to making any big decisions about which factions they would want to play.  The enthusiasm grows quickly as a rule and they want to get those models and build them post haste so no matter how good the advice, they plunge in.

The second thing I tell them, flat out to their aces is that unless they are themselves playing others at the same basic place in the game, there will be losses and they will be many in number.  I am a competitive guy so my wife got me a Tau army and i painted it and was playing veterans almost within a week.  I lost 13 of my first fifteen games as some of my loyal readers know.  It was quite an ice bath.

I think peoples expectations must be tempered when they first play, but this kind of brought home how important it is to bring someone with you into the hobby.  I mean if you are going to start playing this game and start to even eventually consider competitive play in tournaments, nothing is a better idea than having a competitive player moderate the game and help both sides with lists.  If you want to play this game, bring a friend!  This is really important advice.  I don't hear anyone giving this advice because in their haste to "help" the player learn the hobby, they often simply overwhelm them.  being "too good" is a problem but not if the person entering it gets to know the game with a friend and latches on to a mentor that can teach you both.

This has two great side benefits.  One is that you are much more likely to learn the game correctly.  By correctly I don't just mean the rules.  I also mean the social conventions that people at your shop generally conform to.  For example, some shops play rubble (which is a 4+ cover save) as being the entire base of the terrain piece while other shops do not include the outer edges of a building to be considered as rubble (the Main Rulebook sort of took the old "Area terrain" idea, scrapped it, but did offer up "Rubble" as a terrain type to use in its place in 7E).  The second benefit is that it removes the highly honed competitive strength of the mentors list from the equation and allows the mentor to guide both sides on their list building.

We know that the cost for an army can become exorbitant if you aren't real clear in what you want to buy, before buying it. that makes it twice as good an ideas to bring a friend into the hobby with you.  You can benefit from model swaps if you purchase the starter box sets and the cost in general goes down for both of you.  In addition as you build your force you also have the added benefit of being able to do it incrementally and the guy you brought with you into the hobby need feel no pressure to speed up his purchases or make ill advised ones.  After all the mentor will be there to guide both of them.

So when and if you ever find out the Tzeentchian secret that these world class ridiculously awesome models actually come with rules that allow you to play with them (which still blows my mind after all this time) bring a friend into the hobby with you, seek out a mentor and explain to them that the two of you would love his help in moderating and help in to grow both collections.  

Mentors will also probably know a lot of people who have models they can let the newest member of the fraternity borrow to try out, or flat give them.  The gaming community is all about the newest person and helping them (if it's a good community) and I know many players locally have been huge beneficiaries of gaining models to their collections just by the people the mentor may know.

Making a decision on which way you want to go, both as far as which faction and how deep, is easier when you grow WITH someone who is right there with you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Coming of the Adepta Sororitas

The rumors are flying thick now.  People have physically viewed the new Canoness and there is now credible evidence of the Sisters of Battle being wrought in the foundries of Games Workshop.

This is pleasing to me on multiple levels.  The first is that the CEO of the company which changed last year, has really seemed to be more in touch with the fans as a fan base.  he is giving us what we want and we are consuming it at record pace.  The company is doing well again and not in small part to the change in tone from the company and the added responsiveness they are showing in their FAQ's and their approach to them.

The Adepta Sororitas have been a really awesome looking army for a long time and suffered from mediocre rules for a long time.   The question for GW has always been "is there even a market for this".  I think they have allowed the poor sales of the Adepta Sororitas drown out the basic advice the players have been giving to GW for a literal decade:  make them plastic.  We would buy them if they were plastic, pose-able, and if the aesthetic elements SOME don't like could be changed without an incredible amount of conversion work.  The fans have been telling GW point blank what it would take to get them to buy this army.  those things are, in no particular order:

Celestians that don't suck.  These may easily go down in GW history as the biggest failure to find a place for a unit that has ever been seen. Celestians have been almost unusable for every edition they have been in and they only VERY briefly got close to getting it right when the White Dwarf allowed them to go relentless with their Multi-meltas.  One hopes for greater things here.  Possibly a second troops choice.

Penitent Engines that can compete with any of the Imperial variants on any level.  Here again they briefly kind of got it right when the White Dwarf was out and the Penitent Engines became faster.  Speed would be a very acceptable trade off for the range and initiative hit these monsters take. People aren't loading up on power fists like they used to (not even close, as that used to be a GIVEN in units before 6th Edition).  So it would make sense to take these and improve them.  And these things are made of metal and i mean they are hard as hell to keep together.  I own three and I kind of gave up trying to keep them glued.  when you have to resort to epoxy to make it happen you know its time for Plastic.

Arco-Flagellants were the hidden jewel in the Witch Hunters Codex but were relegated to insignificance in every other version.  They were the original Flayed Ones, only better.  STR 5 Power Weapons with D6 attacks was simply awesome.  Invul save from the drugs they were on was great too.  The Deathcult Assassins now fill this role in every way except STR, and so they had to come up with a way to incorporate the Arco-Flagellants and frankly, they kind of failed.  The horror of the Arco Flagellants suggests Fear would be a good upgrade for them.  but something significant should be done.  Any thoughts on that?  share them below!

I personally like the Sisters Repentia and their Synergies with the Canoness and the High Priest himself, Uriah.  I have turned that into a hell of a unit.  A points reduction could help but the unit more or less works well.  I might suggest that their 3+ FnP becomes a +2 bonus to their Shield of Faith for the round they activate it.

The Canoness needs to be able to take more gear.  She would be much more sought after if she could gear up more but as they call the war gear "artifacts" and she can only take one, it's very limiting in her value and I think that simple change could go a long way.  Like Tau Commanders and their Signature Systems, Canoness needs to be a Swiss army knife that can assist all her units in some synergistic way.  A deep look at her war gear and making it mesh with every unit in the codex would be great.

Uriah is already awesome.

The Sororitas Command Squad was actually decent in the White Dwarf despite the opinions of those who thought otherwise (not that they ever even tried it).  I think they need to make this a real centerpiece possibility for the army.  Also, being specifically Celestians (that don't suck) which get the Celestian ability along with the Command groups ability would be a step in the right direction.  Currently it SAYS they are Celestians, yet they do not actually let you have the Celestian Act of Faith for them.  It might definitely make Celestians more interesting in the Command Squad.

Formations are a super obvious area that Sisters lack in.  Of all the Codex's that would benefit heavily from a Battle Company style of formation, this one definitely is in that mix.  The Sisters of Battle as currently written excel as a mechanized column.  They thrive in that way.  Thy carry the same firepower or better in some cases as Space Marines but with stats that are far less stellar.  Still, this means that like Skitarii, they bring the pain early and often, they weather losses at least half way decent and then do it again.  So any kind of relief on the costs of transports is going to help.  Optionally if reliving the error that is Battle Companies isn't something GW wants to do (and lord knows I question their restraint butcha never know) I think that increasing the Shield of Faith saves via a formation could be just as good.  Imagine being able to roll the thunder forward and getting a 5+ Invul save, which makes the open terrain as good as any cover and better because it does not require terrain checks at that point.  Another concept if they stay with the armored column as the preferred way to play them, would be to offer them a once per game option to assault from their dedicated (only) transports.  While assault isnt the forte of the Sisters of Battle I can promise you it is the forte of CERTAIN Sisters of Battle and of course the possibility of an improved Celestian Squad could improve that utility.

I also would find it fascinating if they could create Formations around the concept of Faith itself.  For example, the Martyrdom mechanic which has always been with the Sisters of Battle is very cool.  what might they do in a Formation to accentuate this central theme of the force?  Thoughts?  Leave them below!

As you can see from this list, the Codex is marred with imperfections or omissions, none of which requires extensive help and all of which make for a visually impressive army.  Even despite these challenges I have won far more than I have lost with Sisters of Battle and can tell you that the appetite for this army is there, lurking in the shadows.  Like the Tau Empire which was maligned like crazy in every edition until the 6th edition, the buyers will come out to play if you make the Codex competitive with the super powers of the landscape, Eldar Scatter Bike spam, Space Marine Battle Companies and things like the Tau Empire dual Riptide Wing type lists.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Dark Eldar Battle Report

Here's a quick hitter of a battle report for you.  I wrote it in my usual cinematic style.  Enjoy

My Dark Eldar fought the Hammer of the Emperor. Quarters deployment.

They brought Knight Commander Pask and his three tank unit along with a bevy of other tanks. there must have been four or five Chimeras, 6 Leman Russ variants and a bunch of soldiers sprinkled in along with Wyverns (Wyverns are so good!).

The Dark Eldar skulked in ruins while the enemy fired a couple of shots, glancing a Raider but otherwise leaving them unharmed under the cover of night. The hornets nest was ruffled and the Raiders screamed across the gulf between the two forces, occupying the center of the Battlefield, while the Ravagers took shots at the Demolisher to silence its gun for a round. Pask ordered his men to open fire and they obliterated the Dark Eldar Warlord, his transport and all but one of his (now wounded) Abberations thanks to the devastation wrought by the Wyverns. First Blood and the glory of slaying the Warlord went to the Emperors finest. The Emperors mailed fist also smashed at the hulls of other transports, finally dumping the other Grotesque unit out unceremoniously in the middle of the field.
The smiles quickly faded as reserves arrived. The BeastMaster lashed his dark Menagerie from the shadows and into the fray, coming from reserve on the enemies southern flank, while a venom far in my deployment zone alighted to the ground to start handling objectives. Overhead screamed the dread engines of none other than the VoidRaven Bomber. Thanks to his adroit disposition of Troops, Pask forced the Bomber to have nowhere to land and drop its bomb, so it was left to attempt the murder of the Wyverns without it. It killed one while stunning and tearing at the other.

Meanwhile, the lone Abberation that was allowed to live smashed into the damaged Demolisher and wrecked it.  The Court of the Archon streamed forth and smashed both Commander Pask and one of his two attendant tanks into oblivion, leaving the third barely functional. The Grotesques smashed into the blockading Chimeras, tearing them asunder. The full on wrath of the Archons was made manifest in that moment.  The blood orgy could begin.
The Executioner turned around and blasted the Court of the Archon knowing that to do so left the dangerous Abberation behind it.  Most of his compadres joined in until only two Sslyth and an Ur-Ghul remained, in vengeful counter fire. The IG Command team revved their engines and moved to a better position to fire their bombardment from next turn, while the Remaining Chimera made a mad dash to try and secure objectives later, hiding its bulk in the shadows of a large central building from the Ravagers. The Guardsman unleashed their firing fury to help protect the Wyvern while they could. Pasks remaining tank took aim and fired on the Sslyth as well but it was looking grim as the Incubi had silently arrived in the back of the Imperial Guardsmans deployment zone like a lightning bolt the previous turn.  It was made ready to form the anvil to the BeatsMasters hammer next round. Nothing seemed to work for the Guardsman entirely even though all their units got good production overall. The jinking thing that held the incubi was able to survive, albeit losing its weapon and becoming stunned.
The Dark Eldar VoidRaven Bomber streaked overhead and damaged a Chimera with its bomb and ended the Wyverns. The Incubi gushed out like ichor from the wounded Raider and obliterated a unit of guardsman. The Executioners tank commander fell to the remaining Abberation who tore open the hatches with abandon and ripped flesh and bone asunder.  The second unit of guardsman next to the Incubi were no more fortunate, killed by the Court of the Archon they had devastated with their fire.  The Sslyth advanced undaunted after overwatch killed their Ur-Ghul. The Court of the Archon was exultant and victorious. The BeastMasters , having arrived last turn, smashed into Pasks last remaining Leman Russ and killed it while the undamaged unit of Grotesques killed everything in front of them. One Ravager immobilized itself but the other didn't, slicing forward and around the large central building to kill the insolent Chimera that made a dash for objectives. All that was left was the Commander and his Chimera, surrounded on all sides, back in his original deployment zone.

A flutter of hope approached, as a lone Vindetta screamed from the skies, its fellows having been destroyed in the stratosphere above on the way in, one assumed.  It fired down on the Voidraven bomber but only glanced it. The Company Commander ordered his Master of Ordinance to fire on the clumped up BeastMasters, which he dutifully did, annihilating a huge clump of them in the center of their bunched up arrangement around the now dead dead Leman Russ.
And then his Commander pulled the pin on his grenade, to disallow any of them from being captured alive. For only the fortunate die in Dark Eldar raids and they knew it.  They now count themselves among the fortunate.
Dark Eldar Victory.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Optimized Stealth Cadre in the Field

I went to an ITC Grand Tournament this weekend and decided to use that as an excuse to get my third Ghostkeel painted, which has been sitting around for a year.  I was so excited to get those things originally and yet I somehow just never actually got around to playing the third one.

I would like to hi-lite this Formation.  This formation isn't a secret, and it has gotten a lot of play online.  It was the subject of some controversy in the ITC which fortunately got resolved.  I am here to report as a player who attends a lot of tournaments, that I have never seen it fielded.  Not one time.  Not by anyone.  We know it obviously must be used somewhere but given the incredibly competitive "meta" (boy do I despise that word) I play in, I would have thought that if the Formation were any good, it would have seen a lot of play.  It hasn't.

The strength of the Formation is its Stealthsuits.  Stealthsuits have been maligned for so long, that I wonder aloud if it is just the old bias that causes people not to make use of it.  The Stealthsuits become absolutely fantastic at killing vehicles without the need for a Fusion Blaster in the unit.  Because they need no Fusion Blaster to kill a vehicle, it increases their already intrinsically good anti-personnel firepower by allowing them to keep their Burst Cannons.  For those who may not know, 6 stealthsuits pump out 24 STR 5 AP 5 shots from models that can use terrain to gain 2+ cover saves.  Nicely complimenting this is that when the Wall of Mirrors Formation benefit is active, they get +1 Ballistic Skill without the need for a Markerlights (or just to augment the Markerlights they do have).  Perhaps as importantly, the Wall of Mirrors Formation benefit grants the Ignore Cover rule when activated.  Finally it causes them to strike the rear armor of vehicles, which is why they don't need the Fusion Blaster anymore.

All of this happens only when they are within 6" of the Ghostkeel, so it drastically changes the normal way you'd use Stealthsuits which is as forward and independent operators working as harassment on the flanks or as stealthy line breakers.  In the Optimized Stealth Cadre, they become a mainline unit.  They and the Ghostkeel Battlesuits act like a walking hedgehog that moves forward and backwards to stay just at maximum range of the enemy, then fading back, all the while firing with abandon.

The Formation on its own is good, but when you look at how you can outfit the component parts of it, you start to see more value.  The Stealthsuits are able to use the Ghostkeels or terrain as cover, which in turn means they are essentially running around with 2+ cover saves most of the game.  Anything in the game that can negate AP plus grants a 2+ save is already brilliant.  The Stealth and Shrouded that Stealthsuits get natively makes them much harder to remove than their T3 would suggest.  In addition, if someone has Ignores Cover as a rule, the Stealthsuit has a native 3+ armor.  Only the most powerful weapons with Ignores Cover are going to take away our opportunity to survive incoming fire.  Even when the enemies are capable of all of it, as I will explain below, the enemy may not STAY capable of it for long.

The Ghostkeels come with Stealth Drones which, when alive, are allowing the Ghostkeels Shrouding, and they already have stealth.  The Drones double both bonuses when the unit is over 12" away from an enemy.  Like the Stealthsuits they therefore also walk around the board with a 2+ cover save in the open most of the time.  They are also T5, so this adds to their fortitude a great deal.  The one threat to them would be STR 10 ranged weapons which can double them out if they fail a save.  To protect against this possibility somewhat, they come with a one use only Holophoton Copuntermeasure (per Ghostkeel) which is the equivalent of an F15 throwing chaff when enemy missiles lock onto them.  The in-game effect is that against that one shooting unit, they force it to snap fire.  Ergo, once per game they could stop a Manticore or something similar from hitting their unit.  Each Ghostkeel Battlesuit has this.  You could therefore negate up to three units from firing for one round in total so choose wisely when you decide to use it.  I have chosen unwisely before.  You have to trust the shadows somewhat if you play this type of Formation but when STR 10 weapons go off, you will definitely want to mitigate that type of weapon in particular.

There is further reason to rejoice with Ghostkeels.  The unit has the FireTeam rule.  When a Tau unit has three vehicles or monstrous creatures in one unit, they get +1 Ballistic Skill.  This dovetails with the Wall of Mirrors nicely, allowing the unit to fire at BS 5 as long as the Wall of Mirrors is up.  This makes them effectively independent of the need for Markerlights (though again, the Stealthsuits could use the help sometimes, so don't get too cocky and leave the Markerlights entirely at home).

So what I did with it is I took all three Ghostkeels in the unit and their attendant 6 Stealth Drones.  I gave one of them a Velocity Tracker, all of them Early Warning Override.  I also added the TL Fusion Blaster to each one.  As far as main armaments go, I added the Ion Raker to two of therm and the Fusion Collider to one of them.

For the Stealthsuits, which you are required to take two units of in this Formation, I maxed them out at 6 each and added my favorite Stealthsuit upgrade, the Advanced Targeting System (ATS) which makes all of the shots precision shots.  This is a critical element of their defense capability because it allows them to attack with a massive number of shots into a unit that has an important upgrade in it.  The two units can pour 48 shots into a unit, which is 8 chances to snipe the Sorcerer at the center of a Screamer star, the Apothecary in the bike unit, the Sanguinary Priest in the Death Company, the Power Axes in an Imperial Guard blob squad, the Tempest Launcher in a Dark Reaper Squad, the Auspex used by the Scions of Mars, the Hunters Eye in a Biker Squad and the list goes on.  Knocking out the specialized upgrades can make a huge difference to the Tau chances at victory.

The concept is to drop the upgrade characters (and as many of the fellows around him) as possible before then dropping the boom on them with the firepower of the Ghostkeels.  This is what I meant when I said that the enemy unit may not STAY capable of negating our cover.

The Ion Raker on the Ghostkeel is typically the weapon the Internet pundits (who seemingly never actually play the Formation) recommend.  I am inclined to agree that all around it is the superior weapon, but it does have limitations the Fusion Collider does not.  So I chose to have at least one Collider.  Imagine you want to fire at three different targets using a Target Lock.  The Fusion Collider plus Twin-Linked fusion Blaster both generally have the same type of target they can go after, such as monoliths, obelisks Land Raiders and the like which Ion Rakers cannot, even with Wall of Mirrors.  Having the option to do that is important because STR 7 AP 4 Ion Rakers simply will be laughed at by such vehicles.  I want a real chance to drop those kinds of things, or at minimum damage them to the point of ineffectiveness (stunned or weapons blown off etc...).  In the case of an Obelisk its unlikely I would be splitting my fire early, but it's quite likely that I would later in the game when it has lost a lot of hull points.  I don't want to be forced to "waste" a ton of my firepower to finish it off or any Super Heavy actually.

The Ion Raker can fire in two modes.  The first is a STR 7 AP 4 grouping of six shots.  The other a large blast, STR 8 AP 4.  Like other Ion weapons it Gets hot if you do the latter.  The great thing about it though is that the blast will double out multi-wound models and get past Feel No Pain that many units can gain through various means.  The AP however does leave something to be desired against many characters and "major figures", but the volume is good and anything that gives you yet more ways around people shenanigans like FnP is a good thing.  At BS 5, the large blast will be pretty accurate.

That brings me to another reason I like having the singular Fusion Collider.  If you blow away the ablative wounds of a unit using the other weapons, you may now expose the important characters to the Small Melta blast that the Fusion Collider throws, causing Instant Death more convincingly than the Ion Raker and without Gets Hot.  As a "finishing" weapon it has a real place in the unit and as all weapons are fired as groups, it can go last.  This might seem counter-intuitive at first because it's a blast and conventional wisdom is to fire them first to maximize the number of people they hit.  In actual play there have been many times I wished I had saved it for last just for this chance to finish an important figure that the other weapons weren't as good at damaging.  At Ballistic Skill 5, the scatter isn't terrible, though still an issue.  I think you will need to do the calculations in each instance to determine how likely the characters are to survive the initial Ion Raker fusillad, and whether it seems likely that they might have the wounds to outlast it all (such as in Ork units which might be led by a Nob).  If so, then fire it beforehand but if it seems like you can get to the character after its all said and done, fire it after the ion Rakers and assuming everything stays in range, then use the TL fusion Blasters last.

After playing games with the Optimized Stealth Cadre Formation in actual tournament play I am going to rate it a definite A.  The Stealthsuits in particular just find a home here that they have never had.  I was able to wipe out four enemy vehicles and a Corsair command squad in one go using the combination of the Stealthsuits targeting vehicles, and then the Ghostkeels firing down on the other targets separately.  The Ion Raker in conjunction with the Wall of Mirrors Formation benefit is murderous to most vehicles and for everything else, there's the Fusion Collider.  The Collider ended an entire unit of Corsairs and their leader, which he was none too happy about.  That leader was about to make soup out of my Ghostkeels.  it was him or me.

I hope this opens it up for people wanting to play Stealthsuits.  While the big robots do what big robots do, the real winners were the Stealthsuits who can now be your true swiss army knife, knocking off vehicles, blowing up hordes, and Sniping out the important enemy elements.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Traitors Hate Core Units.

 The new Chaos Space Marines supplement updates the Codex: Chaos Space Marines in several ways and adds a lot of utility to both the normal Chaos Space Marine and also the Black Legion forces.

Giving Monster Hunter and Tank Hunter to Predator units of 3, and indeed allowing them to BE units of three is new.  Many people have said in the past that if they didn't take up three slots, they might well take three tanks.  The number one inequity in the Chaos Codex is against Eldar, in many peoples view.  Giving Chaos a unit of LasCannon predators means you can really lay down the pain on a WraithKnight, and make it count.  All large targets are on notice now, as it poses a very legitimate threat plus keeps the slots free for Obliterator Cults or other heavies you might want.

Traitors Hate also allows the triple Vindicator option as well now.  I am somewhat less enthused there.  I feel and always have felt that the range on them makes them very good as reserves but poor as mainline battle tanks, and are much more a deterrent than an actual offensive weapon.  Having said that, if you reserve them and bring them on now, and IF all three are in range and able to fire (the wording here is sloppy and does not make clear that all three must be in range of the target) it can fire an apocalyptic blast that gains the Ignores Cover special rule.  Well needless to say, that is really good against a lot of things.  Multi wound models and those that rely heavily on cover will not like that. You could take an entire Optimized Stealth Cadre off the board with just one blast.  Strategically, it's a strong move against Space Wulfen as well, who rely on getting to you and they tend to end up clumped after their initial target is dead.  In fact there aren't many targets that would like it very much.  It doesn't solve the basic inequity between Chaos and Eldar as much as the Predators do, but lets face it:  it's pretty damn fun to drop that template on someones horrified visage.

The big finds in the Traitors Hate book though aren't these admittedly significant changes.  The Formations that the book features are very good.  I'll start with the Core designated units, and first among them is the Black Crusade Detachment.  Like the Decurion and the many similar "super detachments" like it, this one has all new Command Benefits that reach into every Detachment that is a part of the super detachment.

You get to re-roll Warlord traits, you get Hatred against the armies of the Imperium, and you get Veterans of the Long War for free.  Now this last piece is useful right away because Detachments that are said to be Black Legion must take Veterans of the Long War.  In essence, you get to be Black Legion for free if you put them in the super formation.  How important is that?  I calculated my old Chaos Space Marine Night Lords list and how I had them set up (because I wanted the Hand of Darkness and the Eye of Night in my life), and this saved about 100 points!  Not all armies are built with Black Legion in mind of course, but for those who do, or who sorely wished they could if not for the added tax, this Black Crusade "super detachment" will be a big and welcome thing.

The Path to Glory Command Benefit is super cool.  You start getting Chaos Boons every single turn!  This is actually a big deal because the Chaos boons are by and large extremely useful and they represent serious upgrades in most cases. The best thing is, you don't have to kill anything to get the Chaos Boon.  Just assign it.  Even better, this dovetails with the new Chaos Warband Formations ability (the Core Formation you will want to use in a Black Crusade super detachments if you're going to play it as a Black Legion army), which essentially lets you gain one or both of the boons you roll, your choice... which is really a buffer against becoming a spawn and makes your characters become really powerful, really fast.

The Black Crusade super detachment requires you to take a Chaos Warband Formation, consisting of 1 Chaos Lord, 1-3 Chosen, Terminators or Possessed, 2-6 Chaos Marine units. 1-3 Raptor, Warp Talon or Chaos Bikers and 1-3 havocs or Helbrutes.  That is actually a fairly significant tax except that every single thing in the Chaos Warband Formation gets the Objective Secured rule!  Unlike some super formations, this particular benefit is specific to the units in the Chaos Warband, but it is a REALLY significant benefit.

Now my personal list wouldn't benefit as much from this Formation because being forced to slot in an extra Helbrute and a Terminator Squad to make it work (for me) would be tough to do; but this Formation is ideal for a lot of people since so much of this is commonly in normal Chaos Space Marine forces.

Two other "Core" Formnations exist besides just the Chaos Warband Formation.  You may also choose instead the Maelstrom of Gore or Lost and the Damned Formations as your Core.

For those who own a lot of cultists, or who have older IG converted armies, this is kind of fun.  A Dark Apostle and 4-9 Cultists units are the Formation.  A Tide of Traitors is one of their Formation benefits, which says that when destroyed, you get another identical unit in ongoing reserve on a 4+.  What is amazing from an objective stealing standpoint is that these new units are outflankers!  That allows you to push them forward heedless of the danger and then later in the game go after objectives.  Opponents of this Formation will want objective markers as far from the flanks as they can place them.  Even more compelling as a reason to consider it is that the Dark Apostle makes everyone zealot within 6" of him from that Formation.  So imagine them rushing forward, never breaking, clogging up units, taking up space; and when the enemy is in poor position and over committed to killing them, the units just return for more, over and over again.  Talk about not knowing where the enemy is coming from!

If Khorne is your thing, the Maelstrom of Gore is your answer.  Kharn the Betrayer and 4-8 berzerker units later and you're golden.  People actually have enough of these models in some cases to field it straight up and it's cool to see this much maligned, but much loved, Chaos character get the treatment.  The Formation gets Blood Crazed, which is Fleet, but even better is, they get +3" to their charges.  Yikes.  We've seen this have a significant impact on Skitarii and other armies, and even slaanesh units within the Codex:  Chaops Space Marines.  Getting away from the Khornites just got dicey.  The Red Rain Formation Benefit is insane.  It basically says that before anything moves (in your turn), if you're engaged you get to pile in and attack for free with no response from the enemy allowed!  This takes away some of the worry about being strung out as you deploy them in large circles to avoid blasts.  Enemies charging them to take advantage of their defensive posture (and to steal the berzerkers charge attacks) will have a rude awakening when the Khorne berzerkers shred the unit that assaulted them, then move shoot and assault again!  SURPRISE! It might be the only time an enemy ever wants to assault the berzerkers and then use the Hit and Run rule on their own turn; because doing that avoids being assaulted three times in two combat phases!  Whether the enemy does or doesn't Hit and Run against it, its a nasty ability.

The destruction Kharne himself can cause doing this alone is pretty impressive when you consider the math and it also means that downing a WraithKnight is much easier because it doesn't get to fight back before you try to kill it an extra time.  That will come as at least some consolation to players who have seen the WraithKight inconveniently smash into, hide in combat and then free themselves from helpless flattened berzerkers.

So the Chaos Space Marines now have some pretty beefy Core choices to place inside the Black Crusade Detachment.  If you have experience using these Formations I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Unlocking Sisters Repentia

The elites choices of the Adepta Sororitas might have been one of the most epic fails in Games Workshop design history.  These are terrific looking models, that have absolutely not seen their day in court.

In the Beginning...

In the Witch Hunters Codex, they were FAR too expensive to justify, especially considering that Arco-flagellants were available and pretty awesome once you learned how to use them.

In the White Dwarf Codex that came afterwards, the Arco-Flagellants ceased to be part of the Elites slot, and ceased to be elite for that matter.  Assassins disappeared entirely from the Codex.  That left the Elites slot with Celestians, and Sisters Repentia, basically.  However in the White Dwarf codex, their cost came down and they essentially gained the ability that Wulfen now have:  Once per game their Act of Faith was that upon dying, they still got their attacks.  This made them far more appetizing to use, and I suddenly took interest..  Getting them across the board was a big challenge and that in turn made me start to see that a mechanized Sisters of Battle Force was sadly going to be the way of the future.  Having said that I was able to get them to many fights at the end of 5E and into early 6E using the expedient of armored walls to protect them on the way in and sheer numbers.

Even this was more or less too expensive, and 6E ushered in a whole lot of things that made Sisters Repentia fade in excellence again.

Finally, a new actual codex came and with it yet another points cost reduction for Sisters Repentia, but the same dearth of options in the Elites slot as before.  After decades of futility it is small wonder that Sisters Repentia have seen little or no interest by the generals of the Adepta Sororitas.  With tools in your force like Dominion and Exorcists dominating the points expenditures, and Celestians being a complete joke in the new codex (yet again) the Sisters Repentia now stand as really your only true choice in the Elites slot.  I can count on one hand how many people I have seen field them... and I only need two fingers on that hand to do so.

I did however have a day in the sun using the White Dwarf version and so I set about finding a way to make use of this unit now.  I have discovered the way to do it.

The Secret Combination

The combination you need to turn this into a truly terrifying unit is affordable and explodable (meaning it can separate when appropriate when going second to take objectives or to disassemble when the unit is weak to join other units and maintain utility even beyond the life of the Sisters Repentia group itself).  The ingredients are as follows:

1 Canoness
1 Priest
1 Uriah Jacobus
1 unit of 7 Sisters Repentia

Let's Start With The Canoness

She is maligned among internet personalities and long threads have been devoted to this negativity.  I have been in the maelstrom of some of those discussions defending her, which is how I know.  Even as far back as the White Dwarf "Codex" wherein she was improved a bit, my use of her Sororitas Command Squad to good effect was questioned again and again.  That squad at the time was actually much better than people gave it credit for, but of course all they saw in it were T3 models that die the same as everyone else and were expensive.  As usual, I was the odd duck who found use in it.

In the new codex, she is a very affordable HQ with completely unremarkable "Space Marine Captain like" stats, maybe slightly worse but the price is right.  She is not a combat beast, but she does buff her unit with Hatred as her once per game Act of Faith.  She also gets the effect of the old Book of St. Lucius making her Stubborn (and therefore obviously her unit).  BOTH abilities, largely, are emulated already by Uriah and the Priest being Zealots, and in Uriahs case, the banner he carries, which might be a good reason why people haven't really gravitated to this particular build or seen her value. Sisters Repentia are already Fearless as well.  Yet she is pivotal to the units success.

So then why take her?

She is important because she can take two items you will want.  The first is the Mantle of Ophelia which St. Celestine cannot have, and the second is a plain old Rosarius.  You literally need take nothing else on her.  What this does is allows her to become an Eternal Warrior.  In addition, it gives her the 4+ invulnerable save.  These two things make her the perfect "tank" for the unit.  Her purpose in life is not to kill anything, it is to die for her cause and become a martyr.  How appropriate, don't you think?  In combat, when wounds are normally being allocated, she will be the first to take wounds, but she will be equipped to take any STR of wound and any AP.  Even a WraithKnight won't kill her before the Sisters Repentia get to strike, as you will see.  In fact it is quite likely that none of the Sisters Repentia will die no matter the enemy they strike, while the Canoness lives.

To make sure of this we add the next ingredient.

The Priest.

The Priest upgrades the Sisters Repentia greatly.  Youu gain Zealot, meaning re-rolls to hit on the charge.  That is important.  To add to the picture, he will take the Litanies of Faith, which is why Uriah isn't enough for this squad to do its work, for he cannot take it.  The Litanies make your Acts of Faith and War Hymns instantly successful when normally you would have to roll a LD check to pull them off (Priest LD is only 7).  No rolls necessary with this guy on the job.  No chance for failure.  Pretty big deal.  He himself requires no armaments.  After all, look at the unit he is attached to.  If they fail in their duty when re-rolling hits and wounds, no amount of points wasted on his puny butt will matter.  The Priests Warhymn of choice on the charge will be to re-roll wounds, so that the units already incredibly potent strike on offense will be compounded against tougher opponents like WraithKnights.

Uriah Jacobus Ascendant

The next ingredient is Uriah.  Now it is debatable whether he is a must include in general, but Uriah Jacobus shows up in a lot of competitive Adepta Sororitas lists, so taking him would be a relative normality in the list you probably would take anyways.  More common would be St. Celestine (or both) but not in this case.

Uriah is perfect for his job in this unit.  He comes with Indomitable will as his Warlord Trait and so you would choose him to be your Warlord in this instance.  The net result is that his unit gets a +1 to their 6+ Shield of Faith saves!  That means that the Sisters Repentia are now getting a 5+ Invulnerable save to replace their complete lack of armor.  To make this more impressive, he would choose in melee to use his War Hymn to re-roll all saves.  As he is also Protector of the Faith, he will allow his unit to use their Act of Faith one additional time for free, so he acts somewhat like a Simulacrum Imperialis for the unit which would do the same thing and Sisters Repentia normally cannot take a Simulacrum Imperialis, so this is quite useful.

The Banner he wields makes the units within 12" Fearless and the BIG deal with him is that he gives them all Counter Attack which as you will see, serves this unit devastatingly well, and it would serve the Battle Conclave well if they too were near him...and they should be, forming a wall of very mean, very fearless and very deadly killers.

The Guests of Honor

The final ingredient is the Mistress of Pain and her Sisters Repentia.  The Mistress is important because you will need her to accept challenges.  Worst case, she can also be used to pass a wound off from the Canoness, as the Canoness will always be leading the charge here.  Always.

The 6 Sisters Respentia come with an Act of Faith that gives them a 3+ Feel No Pain save in the Assault phase.  Because of the way the Act of Faith is written, this is activated at the beginning of the phase and therefore affects them even against Overwatch.  The unit itself whallops opponents, pumping out 24 STR 6 AP 2 chainfist attacks.  The Act of Faith can be repeated thank to Uriah which mans that unless the enemy is using something that is STR 6, that Canoness could perhaps survive 36 wounds on her own at STR 5 or less!

Putting it all Together

What does it all mean?  It means that whether you charge them or they charge you, this is what will happen:

The enemy will likely have initiative and go first or at the same time as the Canoness.  The wound pool from the enemy will be allocated to her first because she led the charge.  She is an Eternal Warrior.  Because of the War hymns, the Canoness will get a 3+ re-rollable save against these wounds!  If they are of a sufficient AP, her saves will be a 4+ re-rollable with the ability to pass off one to the Mistress or even to Uriah if necessary.  Uriah and the Priest all have 4+ invul saves (again, re-rolling failures) so this represents a pretty significant number of saves that should result in the unit taking no real damage of note barring fantastically unlikely rolls.  the 3+ Feel No Pain is just insult to injury.

The next thing that will happen is the Canoness will swing, re-rolling to hit and wound, and then Uriah and the Priest alike, along with the Mistress of Pain if she was able to be preserved.  Her Neural whips go off of majority leadership, and have shred if the majority is 8 or less, so this is a pretty mean weapon at AP 3.  Finally, the 24 STR 6 AP 2 attacks re-roll to hit and to wound.  the sheer volume of attacks and wounds suffices to demolish nearly anything.
This will happen even if the enemy charges because of Counter Attack.  If the enemy is an Imperial Knight, or anything else really, there simply won't be one at the end of the turn.  No unit in 40K can do much about Stomps, but with that many re-rollable saves, the only thing you'r really worried about on Stomps is the roll of a 6.  Yup it happens but that would be true for any unit, so no sense bemoaning that.  It's more a reflection of the Knights awesome nature than the Sisters Repentia failings.

But, But, But...

All of this should impress any opponent you use it on.  The standard argument against this will always be the same: "Yes but how do you get them there".

Fortunately there are answers to that questions.  Consider that the question isn't entirely meritorious to begin with,  Many excellent armies, the Wolfstars among them, are assault oriented and have strong assault elements in any event as part of their key strategy.  Chaos Cabals in Khornate Hound packs and Daemonkin in general as well as Tyranids and Bullyboy Orks.  So in many cases you'll never have to worry about that, because many good forces have no choice but to close if they wish to survive the Exorcist barrage and the like.  Also, objctives are a thing and in any ITC tournament, standing back all game simply won't be possible if you wish to win.

Lets assume we are talking about that percentage that does indeed have the means to stay away and just shoot you off  the table given the opportunity.  There are enough of them to address it.  Against them, the answer isn't much more complicated: Move flat out, preferably to cover in round one and get out round 2 or possibly sooner if you think terrain will permit.  The Sisters of Battle do have the means to shoot the enemy as well, and it is a rare army that will ignore 3-4 Dominion Squads on their doorstep to deal with a melee threat that will get their eventually.  If they do choose that route, the rhinos and wreckage should provide the unit plenty of space to go from cover to cover if you plan accordingly and the Dominion can feast on the enemies decision.

One underlying assumption when using this unit is that you are committed to playing as an armoured column and not primarily on foot so there will be many chances to take advantage of all that mobile cover as you approach.  You just have to keep the pressure on up front long enough to get them there, and we have those tools.

In Closing

This article is long enough so I will leave you with this thought.  The Adepta Sororitas are an army that is alive and well,  Many people wonder from afar if they could make such an army work and i can assure you that you can.  The Warhammer 40,000 game has grown somewhat complicated and the power curve has reached a deafening crescendo; but despite the many cool things armies can do and the ways they can be built, this unit can contribute an enormous amount to your win column if you undertake collecting this army.  I strong recommend considering not just this unit but the army itself.  It has literally, not figuratively, won me more tournaments than any other force, in 5h, 6th  and 7th Edition.  Not even the Tau Empire for which I am most known for playing, has done better.  With so little time left in the ITC season, I am going to be finishing up using this force and seeing how far I can take it in the standings.  I hope you do the same.  Feel free to ask me questions about the unit or the army.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


I have been able to play a couple of games against this new monstrosity.  Space Marines have recently received an especially huge helping of awesome from the tables of Games Workshop in the recent months and this was not even on most peoples radar's, I don't think.

Like when Cult Mechanicus dropped, it was as if Games Workshop had suddenly gone to its vaults and said to themselves "now let's read some of these 20 year old fan suggestions and see what we might do next..."

While the Ordo Xenos has been kind of a fluff thing for a long time and has "officially" been part of the Inquisition picture, it has never REALLY been distinctive enough from every other Space Marine who hates xenos to make its actual existence very meaningful.

Nothing changed except for one thing:  Games Workshop decided to go ahead and make it distinctive to sell more models.  The result?

The flyer alone is worth looking into the Deathwatch For.  It's armor, weapons and general utility are impressive to put it mildly.  It fires concussion missiles, carries troops, AV 11 rear armor, Assault vehicle and Ceramite playing make it just as tough as the Stormraven just about.  It looks boss as hell and it is worth the price in points for sure.

The deadly Frag Cannons are just insane.  My Grey Knights got surprised on the drop to find that two of these had been installed in the units and they are STR 6, Rending Assault 2 weapons, so clumping is a terribad idea against them.  Making life more interesting yet, the army has a mechanism wherein it can drop a unit in on you and then bring a unit from anywhere on the board TO them, allowing you to deliver a massive amount of pain to any ones doorstep. The Relics are interesting, though the one that allows this is the most significant and will comer to be a hallmark of most competitive versions of this army.  Castling and waiting was my only answer to it and by and large it worked, but many armies are just going to get devastated by these weapons.

Another interesting feature is that the codex allows you to field singular Vanguard Veteran models or even singular Terminator models as units.  I have already seen what SIX solo Terminators can do with Missiles and Storm Bolters attacked for about 65 points total for each.  It's a REALLY smart idea for the codex and it certainly made an impression.

The codex is elite, and the number of models will be low as a rule but they hit so hard and come from everywhere.  Veterans are actually your troops choices making all your expenditures in the codex fairly spendy.  There are no rookies in this force.  Everything is Veteran or better.

Another interesting feature of the codex is that it features a bent towards killing things from a certain battlefield Role.  there are formations that specifically allow you to create a unit that can re-roll to wound and penetrate things of a certain Battlefield role.  This is a new take on an old theme:  excuses to twin link things.  The lethality of this when combined by the weapons and special ammunitions of the Deathwatch makes it a terrifying prospect to face and brings into sharp focus the need to have ways to work with reserves and to influence them.

The Skyhammer should consider itself on notice because even though the Skyhammer is very good, this might be better.  the shock and awe and re-rolling is going to make everything the Deathwatch shoot a sure bet to force saves if not outright ignore them.

"Lethal" probably isn't even strong enough a word to use.

It suffers the same problem as most elite armies but absolutely compensates for it by allowing MSU play in a way that no army I can think of does other than Tyranids (their Mucolid Spore + Hive Tyrant  + solo model combo gives you very similar results, which is MSU with super bad ass units to back them up and confuse priority) and the Tau Empire (with its monat suit drops from the Farsight Enclaves).

The point here is this.  The first game you play against this force, spread out in big circles and do not get caught off guard by the drops.  It is going to be a bumpy couple of turns before you start to see the effects of whittling their numbers down.

Color me very impressed with most of it.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mont'Ka and the Farsight Enclaves toolbox

I attended the Bay Area Open this year, the first big major 200 player type event I have been in.  I have played in numerous 100 player events but nothing quite on that scale.

It bought home some lessons from the front and in particular I want to write about the Mont'Ka supplement which among other things, features the Tau Empire and it's new take on the Farsight Enclave.

The Combined Arms Detachment has been a mainstay in my forces for the Objecive Secured power that it brings.  Going second is not nearly as big a deal if you have Obsec and you will go second at least 50% of the time.  So given the percentages, it has always made sense to me that having Objective Secured forces is nearly a must unless your plan is to utterly wipe the enemy out.  I'll be honest, this almost never happens, which further accentuates the value of Objective Secured units.

The Tau Empire has an especially good option for this in the Mont'Ka supplement because it allows the Farsight Enclave forces of the Tau Empire to utilize Crisis Teams as Troops choices.  This was already excellent in previous editions but in 5E required you to take a character that just wasn't exciting and perhaps a bit pricey, Commander Farsight himself.  In the 6th Edition codex we have now, this is no longer the case.  To have a Farsight force you merely have to say that it is one and install Bonding Knives (and their attendant cost) on the units that can take them.  Done.  Big difference!

Bonding Knives aren't universally hailed as an excellent points expenditure but it is an entirely acceptable cost when you can take the Crisis Teams as Objective Secured Troops Choices.  The Knife itself just means that the unit with it can use Heroic Morale, regrouping at any size.  That's cool I guess.  Units like Ghostkeels practically demand you take the Bonding Knives, because the unit is nine strong at its largest and three drone deaths can send the entire unit packing.  Not good.  I've actually had it happen and its embarrassing when you have two Ghostkeels who simply can't regroup.  So Optimized Stealth Cadres should ALWAYS be taken as Farsight Enclave Formations even if the rest of the force is not!

For taking this nominal tax, you receive Preferred Enemy (Orks) in Close combat (only) but that isn't really all you get.

The current forces I am seeing at major events are absolutely festooned with Psyker ferocity.  There are enough Psykers to choke a horse and at serious events, you would be a fool not to anticipate that at LEAST one of those foes will have such a thing at their disposal.  Just to give you some perspective, there were multiple 6+ Flyrant lists at the Bay Area Open, along with multiple lists with large numbers of Sorcerous Daemons allied with Sorcerous Conclaves (or Cabals) of Psykers.  Eldar were plentiful and with them came the might of the likes of Eldrad and his cronies.  Believe me when I say that Psykers are going to be a part of your diet if you decide to compete.  The Tau Empire isn't exactly equipped to do much about it.  When the Tau Empire forces have to start at BS 1 because of the Invisibility Psyker power, it's going to take a ton of Markerlights to even hope for useful shots.  I had 11 Markerlights in my force and it wasn't nearly enough for the kind of Psyker onslaught I saw.

The Mont'Ka book provides a rare Tau answer to the problem in their Signature Systems which become available to you if you are a Farsight Enclave in the form of the Talisman of Athas Moloch.

The Talisman is an extremely good value.  For 25 points you get both a 5+ Invulnerable save and the ability, within 12", to bounce Psychic powers on a 4+.  A Shield Generator can't even compete with that in the grand scheme of things.  That is fantastic production for the points.  Now obviously this only really impacts powers that are pointed at the affected Tau Empire model so what is it we are spending these points to avoid?

Well for starters, the dreaded Chaos Cabal and its Imperial brethren, the Librarious Conclaves.  both are now seeing adept use by their respective generals and in the case of the Cabal, the Tau Empire has a serious threat in that they come stock with a power that would allow it to take control of a Stormsurge and fire off all it's weapons before it has the chance to use them in unison with markerlights!  This has actually happened to me at the hands of Alex Gonzalez and its a pretty devastating blow when it occurs.  If a Chaos player brings its Chaos Knight and buffs its saves to the nth degree, as they are wont to do, you will lose your best chance at killing it.  Likwise the Librarious Conclave can cause all manner of nasty powers.  Just a Tigurious showing up on your doorstep in a pod with his best friends can Psychic Shriek and otherwise whallop a Tau Force in pretty convincing fashion.  Eldar similarly have a lot of Leadership attacks they can use in the Psyker phase and they can bring them to bear via their allies.  The Webway Portal wielding Dark Eldar are better than any pod ever thought of trying to be.  Flying Hive Tyrants can unleash a pretty healthy dose of Psyker attacks as can the Chaos Daemons from platforms that are hard to hit.

Given all of that, you are well advised to gain what foothold you can on probability and stop the powers you can't afford to have go off.  It will take courage not to pop this too early but if you paid attention to how many dice the enemy has left and what powers he has left, you should be able to pick out the one that has to be stopped, and use the Talisman to stop it.

60-70% of the enemies you face are Adeptes Astartes of some sort.  The Dark Angels won the Bay Area open this year (to, I would suggest, some surprise).  The Talisman isn't the only thing you might find situationaly useful in the Farsight arsenal.

The MorrorCodex is an overpriced piece of wargear to be certain but the effect it can have when used to empower high volume shooters like the Heavy Burst Cannon wielding Riptides and the WraithKnight-bane that is the Stormsurge is notable.

One problem you have with the heavy Burst Cannon is that it Gets Hot when Nova Charged.  Still worth doing, pretty much always, but being able to re-roll 1's to hit and of course 1's to wound is great when Nova Charging those babies.  Many less chances to take wounds and many less points need be spent on the expensive Feel No Pain upgrade.  I saw a lot of points being spent on Feel No Pain (and frankly it paid off a lot of the time) but with that many less chances to worry about Gets Hot, via the Preferred Enemy that the Mirrorcodex provides, you might consider the MirrorCodex's 6" radius  to be a middle ground alternative to protecting yourself against Gets Hot results.

The Mirrorcodex only works against Space Marines or Imperial Guard most of the time (on a 6 it grants universal Preferred Enemy that round).  So its not a perfect solution but it is definitely not a poke in the eye.  Another value it yields if you think about it is that for some lists, you may just not be able to afford the extra Formation you need to make your Riptides into a Riptide Wing (I know, heresy right?).  I ran into this problem.  My list has three Formations in it and in ITC games, that's the limit.  So in order for me to bring the three Riptides it needed to fall into my Combined Arms Detachment.  Okay fine.  But then how do I increase their shooting effecitveness at least the way the Riptide Wing ability would have?  The MirrorCodex could help with that, again in a more situational way.

The Mirrorcodex also gives you a bonus of +1 to seize the Initiative.  This is a great boon, because it can be added to the bonus of +1 to seize when the enemy has a Super Heavy.  Add to this the re-roll bonus that you can get from, say...  the Callidus Assassin, Comms Relay or Inquisitor Coteaz?  This is not inconsiderable.  So while I consider the Mirrorcodex to be expensive, it falls very far from the "useless tripe" tree some might claim it to come from.  It would be useful in those situations, like I've said, wherein you are out of Formations and wish to buff your suits and when you wish to have the flexibility to control the game by going first against something that maybe looks daunting.  The alternative of course is to allow people to go before you do unabated.  That works for some battle plans much better than others.

The Seismic Fibrillator Node is basically an enormously powerful version of the Grav Wave Drone.  It makes everything Difficult Terrain and makes difficult terrain into dangerous terrain, much like the Necron ability could do.  A 36" radius is enormous and covers most of the board.  It can be used on the enemies turn though it affects everyone til it is turned off (on a 1-4 at the end of the turn).  So for a gun line Tau army, this is pretty magnificent.  All Cavalry such as Thunderwolf Cavalry on the board will definitely dislike it and any assault unit would find it hard to love.

Now we are seeing a lot of Battle Companies, a lot of Thunderwolf Cavalry forces, a lot of Tau Empire suit based forces (and the Drones that typically like to jump out to target you and back again), so the ability to do this is relevant and could force a number of morale checks on units, additional casualties, as well as slowing them down.  Further, it plays to the one Tau Empire strength: shooting as long and prolifically as possible.

Personally this seems like an excellent thing to add to a Crisis Bodyguard to avoid encumbering the Commander further.  It is relatively inexpensive for the task, can be deep struck in if you have reserve manipulation in your list, outflanked in (if you have the gear or Warlord trait to allow it) or simply standing there waiting.  Once it has gone off, the Bodyguard is free to do as it will.

This could be useful if you are not willing to add a Detachment for an Inquisitor and his Servo Skulls but you still want to make scouts pay in some way.  It can't stop them from Scouting, so what you would do to maximize the usefulness here is you would need a unit of Kroot to infiltrate, spreading out and thusly blocking the Scouts from Redeploying (as Scouts cannot redeploy closer than  12", the Infiltrators effectively do what Servo Skulls do if they are placed in front of the scouts).  Now the only downside here is that they could have Infiltrators and use them to stop you from doing this.  That would be in the minority of cases, comparatively, but you do take that risk when you decide not to use Servo Skulls.  Assuming you have decided not to take the Servo Skulls, Kroot would solve your problem most of the time.  The Seismic Fibrilator would then make your enemies life rather miserable until it ceases.  The Kroot wall would limit movement in general so as to mitigate the turn one charge shenanigans of Thunderwolf Cavalry and the like.  So there are several good reasons to take the Kroot with or without the Seismic Fibrilator Node.  It just happen that the Seismic Fibrilator Node makes that journey ever more perilous and in a real way.

Another interesting tool of the Farsight Enclaves:  Fusion Blades

These substantially increase the threat of a Commander and the advantage over the Onager Gauntlet is of course that you get 5 attacks on the charge at STR 8 AP 1.  No one but a fool would want to lock horns with that!  That would be great if it weren't at Initiative 3.  Like the Penitent Engine, this otherwise excellent idea falls short of the mark for 30 points, but given that most people give their commanders 2+ Armor, an invulnerable save and Feel No Pain...  the usefulness of this isn't as poor as it first appears to be.  I won't say that I get excited about the prospect of a true melee beast being available to the Tau Empire, but I think any Tau General can remember a dozen times, easily, that he wished he could have done more than watched it happen as his Warlord Point was taken from him in close combat he couldn't possibly win.  A Commander can definitely win a combat with these.

I would also offer my own experiences at the Bay Area open as a cautionary tale at this point.  Tertiary objectives were THE reason my losses happened and my opponents in the game the whole time.  I found out the hard way that tertiary objectives determined my games with annoying regularity in both directions!  So perhaps the points to give your Warlord a chance is worth it.

The Warscaper Drone is really interesting gear for a few reasons.  First, it is pretty cool that you can bring an Ethereal, attach him to a kroot unit and throw a shield Drone or two with hiim so that one of them can become the Warscaper Drone.  Kroot Warriors use Pule Weapons which the Ethereal can cause to fire three times per model at short range (sans the Kroot Gun).  His Homing Beacon can call in the Crisis teams for support flawlessly nearby, and of course all the obvious bonus's to their leadership are there as well.  The Warscaper Drone also allows the unit to ignore the effects of the Seismic Fibrilator Node which could be handy.  The Drone obviates the need to take a Kroot Hound if you don't want one, as the Ethereal will now provide Acute Senses through the Warscaper Drone.  This setup brings a fair amount of firepower, that won't likely run, to the flanks of the enemy.

Another interesting tidbit is that the Drone also does to enemies what the Fibrilator Node does, only within 12" so a little added defensive ability for the Kroot who are in harms way can make a difference for them.

The Allied Advance Cadre which will see almost no play in competitive environments (just a wild guess but...) could become a bit more potent given their increase of 1 to ballistic skill, and the terrain effects of the Warscaper.

Overall it is kind of a niche piece of Wargear but it does present interesting possibilities.

The Mont'ka supplement has interesting wargear and exploring it will be fun.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Movement as a weapon.

I have kind of seen movement as a weapon for a long time.  It was SO clearly illustrated to me in my last game that I felt compelled to post about its virtue.

There is an incredibly potent build for Space Wolves that is being used by Chancy Rickey (you can look for him in the ITC rankings).  It is very good.  VERY fast and it hits like a truck.  I really mean it.  That list will crack the skulls of anything and anyone it reaches.

Having said that, it is hyper aggressive and in your face as lists go.  And so I decided, playing Dark Eldar (and at that, kind of a hodge podge Dark Eldar force) that I would attempt to get him to chase into me as he is already wont to do...and then...  use units to interminably fence him in from going back towards their objective!  My shooting wasn't overly impressive in the force (2 venoms plus kabalites inside, two Ravagers, 3 Raiders with Lances and a Voidraven Bomber that could come in later) but it was potent enough to give him pause about letting me shoot him for too long.  His 3+ invuls made my shots far less valuable but still...

This worked very well.  It required that I be willing to sacrifice vehicles, and then units inside but the important part of the equation wasn't what I was losing (and it was a lot).  The Equation favored me in only one way:  where and when I was losing them.  So in round 2 he rushed at me on the left flank when his pods showed up and were ready to join the grand melee.  In turn three he was massacring my Beastpack but they managed to turn four, both my ravagers which moved between him and the objectives died horribly...  and in round 5 my Beast pack which had run away, came back to block him again.  The Bomber joined in on the merriment as well, slaying his entire Devastator squad just so he would have to crack my vehicles the hard way.  I used other units being blown out of transports to form rainbows and blockade his other units in similar fashion to the Beastpack.  While I was hopelessly outgunned in melee (and I took a melee force!) I refused to compete with him on his ground and give in to my urges to charge him in most cases, preferring to stall and impede until the very end of the game when the Power From Pain chart was in full bloom.

This worked.  The final score was 21-0.

There are many more times when movement has serves as a way to penalize over aggressive enemy units.  Null deployment kind of draws the enemy to disparate corners of the board in order to flood them from behind with firepower they cannot then get back to in time to stop.

The concept of simply BEING somewhere is exemplified in Multiple Small Unit (MSU) strategies also.  I took 23 point Crisis Teams with nothing on them and used them to negate enemy scoring in a bunch of places during ITC missions.  Going second made those little guys pay off.  The resources used to kill one suit were, needless to say, exorbitant in some cases.

Yet another good way movement can be a weapon is to play the falling retreat game.  By pushing something up that cant compete, the enemy is forced to slow down to kill it rather than speed up and kill it.  When you force that decision with something, the enemy cannot possibly know how their shooting will go so they have to decide if they want their assault unit to handle it or just to keep pushing the field and hope the shooting doesn't go poorly.  Should they opt to move around the obstacle instead of charging it you've done some good.  Then when the unit is sent packing you just regroup, spread out and block again, running instead of shooting when necessary to regain the position.  this works better with Space Marine Forces of course but it can be used with others if their initiative is high enough to handle the fall backs.

Ablating the enemy's choices can be as good as ablating wounds at times and I really enjoy the movement part of the game.

Think about how you can maneuver and gain an advantage over superior hyper aggressive units.  I think that we get very wrapped up in kill ratios and damage output and the like as far as discussion goes but sometimes the best weapon is where and when you are.  Some enemies simply will not be overcome by strength of arms.  When you see that, you can despair...or strike!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Sisters of Battle on the way?

The rumor on the interwebz, whether true or not, was that the molds were worn out for the actual Sisters of Battle models prompting GW to make a decision.  They have been liquidating their existing stock, as compared to what they had been doing with it, which was melting it down for reuse and they upped the prices quite a bit as they did so.

Nonetheless, the faithful have gathered up what they can.  At first many feared there might be a Squatting in the offing.  But then hope shined through the gaps in the dark foliage overhead to reveal that in upcoming publications, the Sisters of Battle will be featured.  Rejoice, for the Emperor is surely with you.

I see that going one of three ways.

If it is simply fluff and lore, it will be an exploratory effort to see what the interest levels are, and with the possible advent of the new FAQ regarding the Adepta Sororitas, they are at least making an effort to support the line for now so an exploratory effort makes sense.  If interest and commentary is low on it then perhaps they will not be overly zealous in expending resources on the line in the short term.

...But...  It has been said about one million times that players would delve right into the line if it had updated plastics that look awesome.  Well I don't foresee that as being any great problem for a company that produces ridiculous quality models (in a good way) like Games Workshop does.  Even those who do not enjoy the business model enjoy the product and Games Workshop has been trading on that fact in dire times and in good for quite a while.

So the second way this can go is with a new codex.  In it I would not at all be surprised for them to fully port over the Forge World Repressor tanks as a multi-kit you can build into the Rhino or the Immolator as well.  Naturally with a price bump so that those JUST wanting an Immolator or a Rhino with all the Sororitas filigree will have to pay a little more for it.  I also would then foresee the availability of your choice of heads for the Sisters of Battle and the usual scalping they do in order to get the special weapons models by including "one of each" in every Sisters of Battle box.  For new collectors, no problem.  For old ones, hopefully you got them while you could.

Another interesting prognostication I will make on the matter is the possibility of a flyer being added to their repertoire.  Whether it would be the Forge World one or not is pretty debatable.  My reasoning behind thinking they will create a new one is because I know that Skies of Death lacks stats and such for the Forge World models and so a new jet would be needed in order to stat them completely.  It is also possible they could use the product drop as the excuse TO give some of those same planes stats you can use.  But ultimately Games Workshop makes more money with a new plane.  Edge goes to making more money.  They are, after all, not running a charity for disgruntled gamers (the resources needed to run such a charity would be astronomical).

The last way this can go is to incorporate the Adepta Sororitas forces into a splash release like the Raven Guard and the Imperial Guard got for example.  In that scenario, new models may still be coming because of the mold issue, but perhaps not as extensive a commitment will be made on that end.  In that case only the Sisters of Battle models themselves would be replaced and possibly the Exorcist which is (currently) a monstrously poorly designed model that requires a lot of conversion work on its gun to fit right but for which a plastic gun sprue could be produced and embraced most likely and most easily.

All of this wild speculation on my part is as much wish listing as anything but it does seem very plausible that we will be seeing the Adepta Sororitas in their full panoply sooner than later.  I for one would be quite excited by the prospect.

Oh and for the love of all that is holy, one hopes they get Celestians right this time.  They were onto something when it came to them in the White Dwarf version of the Codex, but are now kind of the black sheep again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

7th Edition Ork Tools

I am constantly reminded every time an ork steps onto the field how much I appreciate this one army among the sea of never ending shenanigans players bring to the table.  it does exactly what it looks like it does.  That is novel on it's own in a game full of c-c-c-c-combo breakers! (older video gamers will appreciate the reference)

It is a brutal (but kunnin') force, and I decided to bring mine to a tournament last weekend.  I had a few good games with them and realized that other than taking them out and putting them away, they are super fun.

While preparing, I was able to remind myself of all the things they do well.

Unexpectedly Good Artillery

Let's face it:  most players don't even show up with Ork artillery.  Available to them however are Mek Guns which are some of the neatest units in the game for almost no price at all.  Mek Guns come in a lot of variety and one of those varieties is the Traktor kannon.  It is stronger (STR 8 AP 3 instead of the usual STR 7 AP 4 anti-air missiles most get) at anti-air operations and automatically adds an immobilized result to any other results it gets when smashing flyers.  So really, two hits with Trakor Kannons and a plane is probably finished.  Hitting on Gretchen at BS 3 isn't the worst thing in the world when you have five Mek Guns.  That forces planes that enjoy living to jink.  Against Flying Circus's, it gives the flying monster a whopping -3 to its grounding check which is enormously important if you want to take one down and slaughter it with Meganobz.  And you do.

If you have lootas and are content to count on them for anti-air duty, then you can instead take the Kustom Mega Kannons which are essentially STR 8 Plasma cannons.  Zzap guns are unreliable and probably aren't as good, but they embody everything orky:  random STR and the chance to kill its own crew but with the chance to pump out some serious low cost AP 2 firepower.  The ork artillery compares favorably when you look at its cost to almost any kind of hard hitting unit the enemy can boast.  A base Devastator squad with Plasma Cannons for example is T4, 5 wounds and costs about 130 points.  The Kustom Mega Kannons?  150 points with 20 Tough 7 wounds to give!  The comparison isn't even close and you get better firepower at the cost of a little accuracy.

There is a dirty little secret here too in that a Mega armored character can make the artillery unit mobile, granting slow and purposeful to the unit.  This can provide added opportunity for clever deployment and objective snagging when it's least expected.

Bone Crushing Melee Force

Whether it be Nurgle infested Spawn or Power Armored Sisters of Battle, the orks bring it hard and fast in melee.  4 attacks on a charge at STR 4 is almost as good as Necron Flayed ones and while they can't truly compete with the Flayed ones, the Ork hordes are also not as likely to give up the fight until they are well and truly devastated.  They also don't cost nearly as much.  30 Boyz in a unit will mill your bones to dust in one round, and their unique morale rules make breaking them a real challenge.

MegaNobz are a strong part of the codex's ability to project melee might forward into the enemy.  They've grown to be one of my favorite things in the codex s some here know, because a two wound 2+ save running around with a Powerfist screams to be used  It has seemed to me that they compliment well if the Ork horde charges first and locks the elements the Nobz don't want to fight first and then the Nobz come into the least fair matchup possible.  Then just let the orks do their whittling...and the Meganobz do the final culling of the flock.

Ego Annihilating Psyker Energies

Underestimated is the onslaught of Ork Psykers.  I did a blog on that already which you can find here:  Ork Psyker article

Suffice it is to say, the orks can obliterate their enemies with an awesome array of firepower from their Psykers, and this aspect of the codex is no doubt the one most overlooked.  When people say Orks aren't competitive, I wonder if it is simply a lack of imagination.  Consider that a strong Psychic attack by Orks, which many armies simply can't stop, can decimate squads on its own with powers like Power Vomit, Frazzle and Da' Krunch.  It's a lot of added firepower to units if you want it.

Confounding Relics

Da' Lucky Stikk on a MegaArmored Warboss is truly a thing of beauty giving it an enormous edge in protecting his flock.  He alone can tank a huge number of wounds for the unit he is in and so long as you keep him out of challenges, he will rack up an impressive kill total to turn the battle way in the favor of the ork mobz so keeping him at the fore of the unit when charging is important.

Ork Warlord traits are very very good and the Finkin' Kap let's you have two of them instead of just one.  All of them are useful, especially if you don't have Da Lucky Stikk (and you won't if you select the Finkin' Kap).

Cheaper Than Cheap Gofers

My great Uncle used to call my sister and I his Gofers.  As in "Go fer this' or "Go fer that", because he could get us to bring him tools or whatever he needed while he worked.  What an Orky thing to say.

Gretchen are the gofers of the Ork race.  The little bastard are uber cheap and baby sit objectives or just simply sit where they are told very well.  If there is one unit whose whole reason for being is merely to EXIST in a given space, the Gretchen have mastered it.  They are the galaxy's cheapest gofers, stumbling blocks, cover save generators and charge insurers.  Put them in front of your melee unit and watch as the enemy kills them in frustration, unable to get at the unit they really wanted to kill.  Or roll your 5+ cover saves and protect the Meganobz using these entirely useless Gretchen who just use forest and ruin cover to make a shooting units life nigh meaningless in actual impact.  

In Warhammer 40,000, things die.  Making the enemy units use up their kills for the day on something so fruitless is fun.

Ork Bikers are Wiz Bang

Yup, I took and cleared out an entire battle company with the orks you see above and at the spear of that attack were the Bikerz and their silly cover saves.  Bursting forward and going flat out turn one while Night fight is in effect?  Sheesh.  I was able to blast into the enemy lines with the unit round 2, hold there and then do it again, ripping apart his backfield round 3.  It was a runaway freight train of hurt, and by round three I had other things in his face as you'd expect.  Zoom in and look.  This guy even had Whirlwinds, which are frighteningly good against Orks.

The other fun thing was that the bikerz can really shoot.  The volume of decent strength shooting was a very pleasant surprise as I have learned to use them more.  

Different Plans For Different Manz

The Tau Empire would have been able to force me into a different plan, but that's entirely okay because fortunately the Orks are capable of different plans.  The Battle Company just happened to be susceptible to this one.  

This force included Kommandos and plenty of ability to push models up to the front, even in Hammer and Anvil deployment.  4 trukks, a Biker squad and Kommandos ensured that I could most definitely pin the enemy in while the rest of my orks slowly crossed the intervening no mans land.

I will be playing orks more I think.  Everyone pretty much wins when orks are being placed on the table, or so it seems to me.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Guest Articles

Starting soon I am going to hand pick a few guest articles to appear here.  I do not like to post as often as some blogs, once or twice a month is the norm.  I do that because I want to actually have something to say instead of whoring for clicks as seems the norm.

Those contributors will be people whose judgement I actually trust on the subject and I will of course edit them to make certain the work has value and is presented in a great form for you, the reader.

If you feel particularly qualified to speak on a certain topic, you can e-mail me at so that we can discuss it.  I am not looking to do this all the time, but recent conversations have made clear to me that there are some pretty great insights we could be sharing here, and the best people to speak to them are the ones who have the most passion for it.

A recent example was a rather contentious discussion on a large forum wherein the member of the forum is pretty much constantly down on his Blood Angels.  Knowing someone who is very good with them, I started a discourse with him and I think his insights will be valuable.  Be looking for that help soon.

If you've been looking for help on a particular subject, army or whatever, let me know.  I know a lot of really good generals who might know what you want to know if I do not.  My prerequisite in general for posting here is that someone out there would actually care what we have to say.  If people are silent on something, why waste the space here to address it other than just senationalizing no-news?

Feel free to post below any ideas for guest articles you think I should pursue.  Thank you for your input and for visiting to hear what I have to say once in a while.  I appreciate you all for the comments you've left and your contributions to my processing of ideas.  the Unorthodoxy Empire grows.  If you have friends who might find my unorthodoxy useful, steer them here as well.  The more the merrier.