Friday, July 21, 2017

Letters From The Front

Day 1

The Supreme Commander of the T'au, Aun'Va of the Undying Spirit himself, on the battlefield?  Awe inspiring.  It has been since my Fire Knife ritual since I felt such closeness to my brethren.  The sense of oneness in his presence was on a whole other scale.

I looked to my left, into the eyes of my Shas'ui and it was as if I looked at myself in that moment. For he and I were not singular, but of one mind, one purpose and one spirit.  The entirety of the battlefield was filled with the rightness of this.  Aun'Va, the fulfillment of many prayers set next to me quietly, as if he weren't bothered by the whipping winds that cast his banners into disarray.  His Honor Guard payed equally little heed.

Clustered behind a ruin were the Harlequin forces.  All eyes were there as they slid into our range.  The eyes of Aun'Va flicked to the Gun Rigs and the air tore itself apart to make way for the Railgun shots that fired.  It was as if the Supremacy Railguns had been waiting for the near imperceptible motion for decades.  With its shot followed the chorus of rail rifles, Rocket launchers, and the mighty Pulse Blastcannon far above from the mammoth Stormsurge battlesuit in whose shadow the Aun nestled comfortably and unafraid.

The explosions that shattered the Harlequin bike unit, the initial focal point of the Aun's contempt, echoed from across the battlefield and were the signal that all would be well.  The glorious pyrotechnics were transmitted in muted form through my helmet and it was the sweetest cacophony I had heard all day.

The Harlequins, realizing their stealthy approach was finally discovered, streaked forth towards my brethren with speed that might have put Pirahna's to shame.  In mere seconds, another attack bike unit was on the right flank, approaching an objective the Kroot Hounds were baying to protect.  No matter.  The Aun's calm was my calm.  The Venom-like vehicles that bore their elite was within a nose cilia of the Gunrigs and their malevolent intent was clear.

I lifted my rail rifle and with the power of Aun'Va unleashed war upon them.  I could feel the pulse rifle bucking with force but it was as if it were a simple math problem in my head.  for with Aun'Va near, my clarity of thought allowed me to exactly predict the strength and direction of its reaction, my musculature naturally responded to the calmly delivered information, adjusting to allow me to fire even more rapidly and accurately than I ever could have thought possible.  The result?  Obliterated Skyweavers and their unhappy combatants spilled onto the battlefield as if vomited their in distaste.

The Sniper Drones on the huge machinery behind me unleashed on the strangely dressed Harlequin leaders who hid like cowards behind their previous hiding place.  The Sniper Drone teams were guided further by the presence of their Firesight Marksman and the Drone Controller on the Stormsurge battle suit.  They took a heavy toll before the Kroot Hounds closed in...

Enemy jet fighters that screamed overhead exploded the head of all four of my squad mates with some arcane weapon, leaving only me alive.  I felt some kind of force over me, as if it emanated from the Aun himself, and I was safe, barely.  as if he had chosen me for a purpose.  My brothers had done an excellent job of interposing themselves between the Aun and the jets, saving him for the Greater good and so it was time to return the favor.

I threw my rifle up over my shoulder, and ran towards the Harlequins as their pistols tore the Gun Rigs to pieces.  Some sort of dark sorcery was upon their weapons for they were but mere pistols, yet destroyed Gun Rigs like Lascannons might.  No time for worry.  Time for sacrifice.  I threw myself into the fray with other brave fire warriors and butt-struck them until they were dead.  Though their technology might be as terrifying as ours, they were no match for Tau Empire ferocity.

There wasn't much left when the battle ended.  The remaining jet, its wings barely remaining attached retreated at what speed it could muster.  Two of their leaders who had cowered from our Sniper Drones ran away and the jetbike Squadron that we had left alive hid among the rubble of the battle, then shot off into the distance.  They had slowed us down far too much unfortunately and Aun'Va's reassuring gaze told us it was wiser t oaccept their narrow escape and prepare for the next assault than to over extend and pursue.  He never said thsoe words, but I could somehow...feel the meaning of his thoughts.  The Fire Warriors of the Arctic Corps remained where once enemies had stood.  The death of my brothers will be celebrated for serving such noble purpose.

Day 2
The artifacts we seek clearly have value.  More have come.  The Blood Angels Sept is well known to T'au, their madness noted frequently.

My reinforcements came, and I was named Shas'ui for my charge into danger and the honor brought me by my squad mates sacrifice.  I felt no pride, for there should be none in duty.  I humbly accepted the commission and the responsibility that came with it.

The enemy brought a Prophyrion titan with it to our left, multiple Death Company near it, and then their Razorbacks and other soldiers to the right.

I deployed my Fire Warriors further from the Titan, while a lone Gun Rig and its Pathfinder crew bravely acted independently over there with some Kroot Hounds to try and get shots on the monster.  Aun'Va commanded the StormSurge to cast its shadow onto a building where the Aun might view his conquest comfortably with the Sniper Drones, fire Warriors inside it.  The other Gun rigs were to my right.  

As had happened the previous encounter, Aun'Va took the initiative and the GunRigs and StormSurge fired into the enormous beast, shearing half its fortitude away in one go.  the Kroot took to the middle and Kroot Hounds advanced along the flanks as they were wont to do.  The rest of our guns trained themselves on the maddened Death Company whose nature we knew well.  We eliminated an entire group of them at one time i nthe center of their line to make a statement:  erasure protocols would be in effect.  The enemy surged to the center and none other but Gabriel Seth and his men bound from their Razorback and smashed into the Kroot Carnivore lines, but they held just barely.

I could see the Kroot struggling with the power armored Demi-Gods in the ruins and ordered my men forward along with the two Gun Rigs.  We would not forsake them and we would take those objectives.  Seeing us, the Kroot Shaper ordered his Mercenaries to back away from the melee and allowed my squad to spray the enemy with our rapid firing guns.  They fell like wheat, thundrous concussions smashing in their armor and sending them tumbling among the wreckage to BECOME wreckage.  Gabriel Seth remained and I ordered my men to pursue them further, Sniper Drones blasting him from overhead.  As we surged I heard a sound like a Agonwood tree splitting and falling, only when I looked, it was the Prophyrion being cut down the middle by the Supremacy Railguns.  A cheer went up in my helmets audial circuits and it was played back to me as well.  I could see far on my right the Kroot Hounds had reached a Rhino and were clawing and digging at it, smelling the prey within.  The Kroot on the left near the Prophyrion had no one to oppose them for the Death Company there had been shattered by the Stormsurge and the Pathfinders.

The enemy bravely attempted to come to the aid of their Rhino to my right and their Priest rushed to Gabriels side to try and keep him safe.  The Sniper Drones tagged the commander, almost killing him.  the Stormsurge turned around after being hammered by the Razorbacks and prepared to return fire, nearly destroying a transport and further injuring the Priest who was now its closest target.

I took all of this in through my overhead display and kept my men moving into position.  I ordered them to stop and fire.  The chatter of our pulse blasts was followed by the explosion of the hull of the Razorback we sought to finish, but we were sure to nod to the pilots of the Stormsurge for they had done the real work.  We let loose with everything we had to finish the damaged thing.

In moments, the battlefield was empty, with nothing to oppose us in sight.  As swiftly as the enormous prophyrion has stomped forward, the battle was over with nary a member of mankind to speak sense into.  Supreme victory was ours.

Day 3
The Space Wolves as well?  Surely this planets secrets were beyond measure or value.  The sound of them flying was our first indicator, but of course the Imperial Knight heading straight for us from its forest camouflage was the first we saw.  As it broke cover, so did two Devastator Squads far from us.  The jets were faster and they screamed overhead...like directly overhead.  in no time the enemy was upon us and would be rappelling down ropes to kill us.

Aun'Va swept his hands wide, one hand pointing to the Kroot Shaper, the other to the Supremacy Railgun wielding Gunrigs.  Then he said simply "Be done with what must be done".

A tear trickled down my cheak and alighted on my chin strap.  To hear his actual voice...there are no words.  I put my rifle to my shoulder and found my squad had done the same in perfect synchronicity.   We fired, and fired and fried.  The entire sky lit up and burned for the amusement of Aun'Va, as tears and then outright rents appeared in the ceramite  armor flying above us.  Markerlights formed a crazy spotlight circus on the hulls and everywhere they went followed Tau firepower.  The Kroot Hounds ran forward and literally circled the landing zone of the planes, giving the occupants nowhere to go if it crashed...and crash they did.  Our entire Tau force had focused down the two birds with precision no other army could match and the people inside the dying planes screamed as their wreckage plummeted to earth, killing them all.  All hands were lost and the precious few capable of crawling from it were quickly beset by hounds.

The reckless Imperial Knight was relatively untouched, sustaining only minor attention, and charged into the side of the Stormsurge to try and kill it, Aun'Va's look of consternation was all the army needed as a reminder of their duty and as one I began to fire into the oncoming behemoth.  We struck blow after hammering blow into the thing and it took a mass of damage from us.  After all the Stormsurge was essentially surrounded by its friends and our unity was devastating.  The Knight sparked and sprang leaks everywhere but struck out with its mighty blows, bashing the Stormsurge.  but it too was a titan.  The Stormsurge backed away as its auto-reloaders worked to prepare it for its purpose.

The Kroot Hounds streaked full speed forward towards the Devastators who were doing serious damage, having killed two of the Gunrigs.  That left the decisive blow to come from us against the Knight.

I looked to my brothers and asked simply:  "If not us, then who?" and I moved towards the Knight rifle up and firing.  Despite almost engulfing our entire fussilade the thing would not go down and we were closing fast.  The Knight took notice and turned towards its final tormentors as if to squash me and my squad to end the argument.  We were unafraid and our weapons bucked i nour hands, stopping it in its tracks.  It came crashing to the ground at our very feet.  The Shaper howled in victory and encouragement as the Hounds attacked and swamped the Devastators in the final fight they would ever be in.

I took a moment to adjust my helmet, and take in the sight.  They say one soldier in the Fire Caste can do anything.  Before me was proof that even the smallest things, a kroot Hound or a Fire Warrior, could topple titans or build empires.  The Imperium of man would do well to remember that.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The First 8th Edition Warhammer 40,000 Post to the Unorthodoxy Empire

Allow me to remind you why we are all here.

There are a legion of internet personalities and lesser known blow hards whose only goal in life is to attempt to join the cool kids club by becoming sheep themselves.  They ostracize anyone who has a tuft of anything but the same white fur they all prefer, and they employ and enjoy the mob mentality when it comes to telling you what is and is not possible, even directly attacking you as if this somehow made their point any better.

We on the other hand subscribe to the mad scientist philosophy.  We know that the designers aren't all complete idiots, that they had an idea when they created each unit and they imagined uses for them that may require synergies in order to manifest their usage to maximum effect.  There truly are easter egg units, whose value is very specifically for those who would take the effort and time to identify and practice with them.  For us, the road less traveled is not only more fun, but validating on some level.  For it is one thing to plunk a bunch of "great units" on the board and pretend like your skill has anything to do with the outcome...  and it's quite another to show your skill in play and through creative thought.  We endeavor to improve the skill and the diversity of units we can use effectively.  Sometimes we even succeed.

That really is the essence of why I bother writing this blog.  You may notice that I have never monetized it and have never sought to profit from it.  As I like to point out from time to time, the goal here isn't to inundate you with click bait or post so prolifically that we become a destination for those with the addiction as a way of making money.  We obviously appreciate those who regularly come to listen and offer their own great perspective in the notes below.  I write this blog because there are wins to be had and because skill matters.  The General matters.  That is not a message trumpeted often and it is a view that has been vociferously opposed on these very pages.

Half the fun of any blog is reading the responses and with them, learning yet more from those who think of possibilities, and not limitations, first and foremost.  The Blogger may have the podium but the audience can add a great deal to the discussion and I've learned things from you and extended my own thoughts on the blogs subject line just by reading what you come back with.  It's pretty great.

And now I am ready to begin writing about this edition.

I will wrap up by telling you that my first dozen games of Warhammer 40K in 8th Edition are in the books.  I have fought the Necrons, the Tau Empire, the Blood Angels, Orks, Imperial Guard, Adeptas Astartes, and the Craftworld Eldar.  To date I have not lost.  I am finding that the strategies I am using are working well.  I offer that up to qualify myself in saying that while I have not seen the entire panoramic view of all the armies and have had the advantage (and disadvantage) of dealing with a new ruleset which will require an adjustment period for my opponents and for me, it is a good start and it encourages me to keep writing about what I learn.

As 8th Edition is new, there have already been some bumps in the road.  In my first nine games I was overestimating what it cost me to war gear my units.  So I was at somewhat of a disadvantage.  the last three I played without that error and it helped considerably.  Another bump in the road has been tearing free my preconceptions which are the natural hangover of an edition change.  I have had to correct myself on a number of occasions as I attempted to learn the terrain rules (which have changed a lot and which will require some Tournament Organizer interventions at first).  The intuitive way the Armor Piercing (AP) system works has lulled me a couple of times into underestimating the way some weapons worked at first.  you really do need to pay sharp attention to the details of the changes to make sure you're not missing out on opportunities.  One example is the strange way Plasma works now.

In 8th Edition I have played as the Dark Eldar and as the Militarum Tempestus.  I focused in on them in order to learn the game, and moreso the Dark Eldar at first.  Their changes intrigued me so much that I had to find out if they were as cool as they looked.  As I get more games in I will start to explore the others I own so stay tuned for that.

Any thoughts you have about 8th Edition, please post them below.  Rules changes you noticed or important little tactics you've learned are all valuable information for us to hear.  Let us know what you're finding and get ready for more articles here.

It's on like Donkey Kong now.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

7th Edition Warhammer 40,000: The End

It is like the conclusion to Return of the Jedi, isn't it?  Recall the moment?  Darth Vader has been dragged quite literally towards a ship that can carry both he and Luke to safety.  One redeemed, the other with realized purpose and the torch nearly passed on.




7th Edition:  "You were right about me"

So it is here.  I will not post another 7th Edition based post, and it is strange to think that the data bank of memories and tactical notes, clues, tricks and themed forces will slowly lose meaning over time as people forget what it was like to play 7th Edition or even what some of the terminology meant.  A generation of gamers will come to have never played it, and will never understand the things I wrote, or even the gist of some of the lessons to be learned.  For the present company of Generals who form the Unorthodoxy Empire, I salute you all as we head on into this brave new world of 8th Edition.

I have struggled with the implications.  For posterity, it's good to note that the new CEO of the company has done an absolutely smashing job at the helm, easing people into the transition towards 8th Edition and avoiding the missteps of the Age of Sigmar (AoS).  AoS was nothing short of a jarring stab in the back by the old regime.  Not only was it catastrophically wasteful of peoples money, but it was simply not even a game on the same plane as Warhammer Fantasy had been.  En masse, model collections became obsolete overnight.  The company flushed hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of dollars of their clients money down the toilet and did not apologize for doing so.

The new leadership led us up to this new edition with leaks and then with full blown "FAQ's" (which were little more than promotional pieces) followed by...actual FAQ's with a LOT of information in each one.  They have allowed us to digest and discuss each change like never before, giving us a little breathing room to assimilate and come to accept the new reality and many blogs are dedicated to the pontification it breeds.

The information we have is that 12 pages comprises the primary rules, while the "War Scrolls" approach of the Age of Sigmar will be repeated for the units themselves.  You will be able to download the individual unit information if you have enough patience, and a printer.  Perhaps most significantly, all units you own are promised their own data sheet so nothing should be driven into obsolescence.  We were also apprised that there would indeed be supplements, 5 of them to represent the five categories of factions, as Games Workshop sees them.  These are what we assume collate much of the information for you.  They will likely expand on it much the way Age of Sigmar did...eventually...

7th Edition was an apology edition much like the movie Highlander III was an apology for Highlander II.  It stopped the incredible bleeding of Warhammer 40,000 fans that occurred when the latch to Pandora's box was carelessly left untended during sixth edition.  8th Edition will need to justify its sleek new look, an obvious effort to attract new gamers with rules they can easily learn, if not master as easily.  They adroitly went out of their way to allow the "major voices" in the tournament scene have the rules and play them ahead of time, and even write articles so that the gaming populous would accept the new rules with more open arms.  Strategically intelligent and it seems to have had its desired effect, much like the play testing of 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons did.

I really do hope that you have enjoyed reading my blog as it is a labor of love.  I don't see waves and waves of comments or anything, but I see the view statistics and they have grown steadily over the years which means either I'm saying something interesting or you're incredibly bored.  I hope its the former and not the latter but whatever your motivation for reading...keep doing so.  I will be back and my dedication to the road less traveled will continue.  Our quest hasn't changed, Generals.  We still seek to find the diamond in the rough.

If you have thoughts about 8th Edition, share them.  I'd love to discuss it below.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Warhammer 40,000 Skill vs.Codex Debate: The Myth Is Busted

"Anecdotal" is what people say when they don't wan’t to have to actually admit someone wins with the unorthodox.   It's a slap in the face.

What no one gets to do is pretend your wins did not happen.  Nor do they get to suggest that you could never in a million years win with a list you just won with.  That’s just spitting in the face of the most relevant data you have:  actual games.

In this game, the general matters more.  Not because you say so, but because the facts support you on that.

Here was a little noodling I did after I was challenged on the efficacy of Dark Eldar, but this study really speaks to a lot of factions.  I wrote this as an answer to someone’s arguments online and have expanded it here.  I hope you find it interesting and if you do, share it.

There were 4 Dark Eldar Generals in the Independent Tournament Circuit (ITC) that scored in the 400 point club.  That refers to those whose points total for the 2016 ITC season in their best five events was 400+.  I am further talking about those who did it within a specific faction.  Obviously these are the most relevant scores, the top representatives of their faction much like a Gold Glove Third Baseman is the best fielder at his position or the team MVP is the most valuable player to his team.  These are the best at what they play and they show how the position can be played.

Only four Dark Eldar generals did this out of 157 who attempted it .  That's only  2.5% of Dark Eldar who could live up to that level of play using that Codex.  Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?  I was wisely told to believe things for good sound reasons instead of reasons that sound good.  So i looked at the rest.  Do you know what I found?  

28 attained it as Eldar; but it took them 714 Generals to do it.  True story!   3.9%, which means it’s not even happening 2% more often!  Not such a jump as you might have been led to believe by the all-knowing Internet is it?  If someone had told you when you were buying your army "hey you’re only going to have a 4% chance of reaching the 400+ club with that army” would you play it?  Would you even buy it, once shown proof that few ever do?  Of course you would have.  Right?

Chaos Space Marines had just 3 Generals in the 400+ Club out of 370 Generals who tried.  0.81%.  yet you cannot ignore that three did it.  The actual frequency is worse, but still we see it happening.  It sounds worse than 3.9% but to be honest...  neither sounds particularly high when faced with the reality of the number either way.

When you look at competitiveness, you have to ask yourself the following question if you want the answer to mean anything:  of those attempting to compete in the ITC, who are demonstrably the best players as proven by their points, using a certain army, can the Codex compete to reach that elite sort of 400+ club standing everyone wants to be in?  Those are generally your local heroes at Warhammer.  They are the ones you expect to win a lot of the time.  They are the bellwethers for the codex, not the rest.  They have somehow grasped that which the codex offered when it was put out there while the others have not (yet).

In that context, it’s quite surprising how far apart those percentages aren’t!  As they are relevant and considered "power armies", here's a few more for you to chew on:

Cult Mechanicus only had four players make it to the 400+ club out of 211, and no one is screaming about how bad War Convocations are.  That’s 1.89% and worse than Dark Eldar!

Adepta Astartes armies, despite their Battle Companies, boasted only twelve out of 1107 Generals making it to the 400 club.  About 1.1%.  Easily the most surprising number of them all.  Still want to argue that the general doesn’t matter?  Still want to argue that Codex’s win?  It would seem that Dark Eldar give you the better chance!

These are objectively true numbers, proven in actual games, with no less than an entire YEAR of results comprising an enormous number of games played at tournament only levels!

How did Dark Angels do, who won some really big events this year?    Just four made the 400+ club, out of 326 who tried.  Just 1.2% could do it, yet people give all kinds of praise to the Codex and none for Dark Eldar who produced the same number of stars in far less attempts.  Why?  Someone good won something with it, that's why.  Not because the Codex was so much better.  It had lots of chances to prove otherwise 

Another shocker:  nine Tau Generals made it...but there were 601 of them trying.  Here again:  1.5%.  Yet we hear claims of their cheddar echoing across the Web.  Those are the facts, folks.  Not my facts.  The facts.

I can go on.  The take away is obvious.  Consider this as well:

Player scores that went much higher were included in this, and those were people willing to travel the country in pursuit of as many major events as they could afford to (and for that matter couldn't truly afford to).  The guy who took first place in the ITC went to 50% more events than the guy who took second, and thus had far more chances to get "best five" results.

Matt Root, the ultimate winner, won mostly with Cult Mechanicus…you know… the force only 1.89% of the players could even reach the 400 club with!  Do the math.

Skill matters most.  If Matt Root committed the same energy to another force, it’s quite likely he’d be right up there again vying for the finals.  Before you say no, I'll give you proof.  Matt Root was in the top 1% in 2015 as well (not a surprise).  Would you like to know what he racked up those points playing?

He was in the 400+ Club that year too, in the top 1%...playing Orks.  Enough said, I think.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

ITC Mission 3

I made a commitment to compete earnestly in the Independent Tournament Circuit (ITC) last year.  Sometimes you just want to know where you stand.  It is surprisingly challenging to go to that many "serious" events, along with the pressure of actually caring what happens, instead of my more typical point of view which is that it's just fun to get three games in and hey, only one person can win it so there's no real pressure.  You hope it happens but it's $10 for a good time if it doesn't.  This was different because I actually felt the pressure to win, in every single event.  I won't lie, it's not an entirely pleasant feeling actually, and losing seems to sting more than it does when you're playing just to enjoy the event in general.

Looking at the way they ranked players, I could see that anyone who had 400+ points was in relatively rare air, and so my goal was to both get over the 400+ point mark and be in the top 5% of the 5575 players who gave it a shot this year.  I am happy to report both things happened, and I was in the top 3% without even attending the largest and most points rich tournament, the Las Vegas Open and attending only two majors.  Not too shabby.  I say all that so that you will understand that my experience on this subject of ITC Missions is substantial.

As intensely as I competed this year, I saw the ITC missions many times.  The one I specifically didn't like, and that has generated a LOT of consternation among its players, is Mission 3.  For your reference, here is a link to their missions: ITC Missions link

Take a look at Mission 3.  It is a terrible mission.  It was with shock that I realized they were moving forward to keep it in the list of missions for 2017, given how many negative comments I get about it.  Even more disconcerting is that there isn't a hew and cry over it anywhere that I have seen online,.  Surprising.  So I thought I would raise the hew and cry for you.

The mission uses Vanguard Strike as its deployment zone.  That seems innocuous until you think about the Maelstrom objectives on this one.  The longest possible distance between two points that exists on the board are the diametrically opposed corners.  Its the one Deployment Zone where the models can meaningfully be placed at those distances and still face the enemy and yet capture the Maelstrom objectives of the mission if need be without being isolated from them as much.  All of that is seemingly innocuous.  The reason it becomes not so innocuous is that you will have an objective in your deployment zone to start.  Objective 6 is more or less a given if you are MSU and simply killing the units as they enter your 12" backfield, without moving much if any of your force.  The worst of the Maelstrom objectives is #4.  MSU forces can sit idly within their own deployment zone and casually score Objective 4.

Space Marine Battle Companies essentially win the Maelstrom component of this mission immediately.  They can easily have 26 units units, and possible more.  In comparison, the average number of units tends to be 12-16 for other armies.  It can more or less score most of the Maelstrom objectives at will with the volume of free transports they can employ in that mission.  A Battle Company SHOULD be able to easily score Objective 2 or 3 (whichever one they are sitting on to start the game) with Objective Secured and sheer mass.  They will take Objective 4 by default every time they roll it.  Anyone they face who isn't a Battle Company will be unable to stop it.  Objective 6 can be argued if the enemy gets a death star into the backfield, but otherwise, 6 is a given also, as ITC missions do not allow you to score them until the START of your turn, giving the Battle Company ample time to focus down on the interloper if it means denying them their points and focusing down on an enemy with a vast array of weapons they can afford because of their transports being free is likely.  Gravity Spam is a thing in Battle Companies.  Nothing "normal" will last long enough to stop the Battle Company from scoring 6, but some units can withstand it, so we son't call that a given.  However they can definitely make it hard for an opponent to attempt with sheer bulk.  5 is a debatable one, and probably no easier for either opponent.  Number 1 also debatable, but the Objective Secured in Battle Company makes it unlikely that the opponent will score it even if the Battle Company does not.  Therefore, through addition by subtraction, the Battle Company has the advantage here also.

In ITC missions, you gain half your final Battle Points from the Maelstrom objectives, and half the Battle Points from the Primary objective (8 from each, a total of 16).  Obviously you have some secondaries as well that break ties (worth 1 each).  The Battle Company is not likely to win the Primary objective portion of the mission.  Anything is possible but its fair to note that the Battle Company, for all its winning ways, does have a lot of easy to slay kill points in it, as long as the enemy has anti-tank means.  Therefore you have an 8-8 Battle Point split in all likelihood, barring poor play or bad luck etc...  It comes down to Secondary objectives.  My first question is, should it even come to that and be such an automatic fate?  On this mission the Secondaries are First Strike (having a kill in round 1), Slay the Warlord and King of the Hill (most units within 6" of the center by games end).  The Battle Company has the advantage here, as they are likely to get First Strike like most armies, if they focus down on it, and are likely to have more units in the center simply because they started with a boat load more than their opponent.  A final score of 10-9 is very likely in these match ups.

Herein lies another issue.  A person who wants to win the tournament, at the best of times, is going to win 11-8 in these match ups against a Battle Company.  His chances of being in the number one spot are almost immediately dashed as soon as he sees the opponent, because he knows he's already lost 8 points in the Tournament against such a force even if he wins the match.  Best case, he might even go undefeated against 5 Battle Companies in a row, but so what?  Others will have scored 19x5 = 95 points going undefeated (potentially) while the undefeated guy who faced five battle companies comes away with...55?  You can see the problem clearly.  Even if the mission didn't favor the Battle Company to win (it does slightly because of the tie breakers) it definitely favors the Battle Company to "steal" points from every opponent it faces with sheer numbers of tough hulls they don't pay for.  I mean how are you ever going to get to his Objective when its ringed with so many units?  How are you ever going to outnumber him in no mans land, as the Maelstrom objective 4 demands that you do?  How will you ever stop him from stowing points away for the one he can squat on unless he falls asleep?  Objective 1 will be uphill at best for both forces.  Due to Objective 4, he has ample reason to flood the middle and ensure that.

Mission 3 in the ITC is bad.  People complain about it all the time, yet I was prompted to write this for the lack of anyone else doing it.

Objective 4 needs to be replaced with something more fair.  "Kill two Enemy Units" perhaps to balance it out in its place.  No one would ever argue with that Objective.  Objective 6 should be altered slightly as well.  It isn't nearly as egregious but it still is as simple as pie for an MSU force to get, whereas an elite or assault army suffers.  Assault needs no help in suffering.  Perhaps making it an either/or Objective like "Have at least 3 of your scoring units and no enemy scoring units at least partially within 12" of your deployment edge OR Kill 2 enemy units that are partially within your Deployment Zone at the start of the turn"

Given that it is a Kill Point Mission, it makes more sense to require two kills instead of one, as you would already be required to kill units anyways in order to win in a Purge the Alien situation.  The Deployment Zone could also be changed to a Dawn of War deployment zone which would make conventional movement far more adequate for getting to the Objective 2 and 3 (remember that you place those in your enemies deployment zone so they can be right on the enemy deployment line)

Whatever the change, I think that Mission 3 is just a Tournament killer for anyone forced to play a Battle Company.  A change like this would be very good for the Mission and the play experience.  the new Objectives I mentioned do not disadvantage the Battle Company, they just stop it from stealing an enormous amount of points from their opponent almost by default.

Mission design is a big part of the game experience and as a TO who runs a Major Tournament (defined as 5+ rounds and minimum 32 participants in the ITC) I spend a lot of time every year adjusting the missions we use slightly in order to take into account the new armies and even the new version of the game.  I think the ITC should reconsider Mission 3 in its next poll.  the situation demands a change here, I think.




Thursday, March 23, 2017

8th Edition Warhammer 40,000 rules are being floated

Games-Workshop has indicated some of the changes that are coming to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and it is a serious change that looks like it is seriously affected by previous editions of Fantasy as well as innovation moving forward.

The changes being discussed are pretty fundamental to the DNA of the game experience.  I will simply react to what I learned thus far.  Keep in mind that all of what I am reacting to is actually from Games Workshop itself, and not some rumor mill online.

To Base Or Not To base?


The first thing is a tongue in cheek joke about placing the models on square bases.  Do not count on this any time soon.  It is purely a joke, made reference to in a little video Games Workshop put out.  However, I sense that they may be considering whether or not the base itself should be used to measure things.  In a round about sort of way their joke, if one reads between the lines, isn't one about the actual bases being changed but about whether they should matter at all.  I imagine in the end that they will, but Warhammer Fantasy uses literal model parts for ranges, so it isn't fanciful to think they could do something similar here.

Timing


The timing of the 8th Edition surprised me.  They make mention that it could be coming in time for Adepticon next year!  That gives us a pretty definite time frame to speculate on actually, as we know most of the time they won't use the new rules if it drops less than 30 days from when the tournament is to be!  March 22nd 2018 is Adepticon 2018, so given that the release dates are often end of week for delivery reasons, my money is on April 18th 2018 or sooner.  A new update from Games Workshop that dropped on 4/22 says this year!

Three Ways to Play

As some have speculated, they are drawing on the dubious way in which Warhammer Fantasy rolled out and there will be three modes to play in.  they describe these modes as open, narrative and matched play.

I think open play boils down to an unbound, anything goes version in which the players determine the forces and they may well not be balanced in the least.  While I honestly cannot understand the actual attraction, having played in the chaos (pardon the pun) that was the initial release of Age of Sigmar, there seems no ACTUAL downside to at least allowing it.  People will rarely, if ever, prefer it but whats the harm in saying its an option?  Not much.

The second version, narrative play, strikes me as a way to play historic battles and set up specific scenarios which are campaign-like, with each battle building upon the previous one and it will allow Games Workshop to sell their campaign books in a more literal way.  Much like Dungeons and Dragons modules, they would instruct you in how to run through the story and how to evaluate the effects of the battles on the involved forces and this could be a lot of fun.  As I have often said, the models are just stupid awesome, and the fact that there are actually RULES to play with them still blows my mind every day I am in this hobby, so this could be a really fun way to get non-competitive people to play and feel as if their battles mean something without tying as much importance to any one win or less.  It is also a lower key way to play so I am intrigued at least.

The matched play will be tournament play and I expect that to look a lot like it does now:  regimented rules, standardized missions and so on.  I would think that these rules would be presented to give every faction their day in court, whether it succeeds at it or not.  The burning question I might have is regarding the Maelstrom version of play.  Maelstrom battles are a very fun way to play 40K in a lower key way and while I disagree with the ITC's heavy use of it in competitive play, I do wonder how they will integrate this.  Why?  Because as per my article on Games Workshop Partners (click to view) they have been listening to us more.  In Games Workshops communications regarding the new edition, they directly named the people from the ITC, Adepticon and Mike from NOVA as direct contributors to their thinking on the new edition.  So if the people who run the ITC have that kind of pull, is it possible that the basic book missions will address directly how to integrate it?  I'd like the answer to that question.

Building Your Force

The best thing I heard about 8th Edition Warhammer 40,000 was in regard to benefiting entire armies that are actually representative of their factions.  For example, as cool as it might be in practice, A Riptide wing next to three Imperial Knights is never going to feel right, no matter what the final score says.  Likeways, the absurdity of Chaos Sorcerer Cabals hanging out with their Necron buddies is equally odd.  I have seen those forces and a lot like them that are abominations of the fluff.  Let's face it, the story is the thing that has made 40,000 rise above its competitors.  The entire story is very deeply responsible for the attraction, when the market is filled with other options (good ones in fact!).  Specifically, Games Workshop is talking about allowing re-rolls and army specific advantages you will get when you play purer versions of the army.  I like this middle ground because what they did before was made the actual army irrelevant, no more than a scrap pile for parts to build your doom engine with. The idea of simply taking the "best thing in this codex and the best thing in that codex" with no regard to the identities of them or the stories behind them was disappointing.  This signals a change of direction on that element of the game.


Individualized Movement Rules


An odder change is movement.  They are testing the idea of making every units movement quite specific to the unit and eliminating unit types (assumedly as far as movement goes but possibly in general) fro the core book.  I dislike this news.  It complicates the game and adds a layer of player knowledge that will be hard to keep up with.  Warhammer Fantasy used to do this and every model had its own movement statistic.  Memorizing that or dealing with codex's you don't know in organized play could get cumbersome if you need to check the movement rates on everything and while I'd love to say no one ever cheats on movement it's just not true.  I had a Necron player, a good one, move his Night Scythe 36", disembark and then run.  He wasn't allowed to shoot (and therefore could not run) He as an extremely accomplished Necron player who knew it was not legal, but he did it anyways in a fit of frustration to rob me of a few points. Given that this rule would really only be known by the Necron player in many cases, the opponent now would seemingly have to deal with delving into every codex just to make sure there are no shenanigans like this one going on.  I guess this core rules change will make the core rules smaller.  Movement would be left to Codex's in whatever form those take at that point.  That would also signal a complete removal of any value your codex's have for you.  Start selling the ones you don't use!


Imagine a World in Which Your Ranged Cannons Actually Did Something...

The crew at Games Workshop are testing the idea of Armor save modifiers in the shooting phase.  That was pretty vague.  Their end goal is to make ranged weapons "better represent how you imagine them working in your head", to quote them directly.  This could mean a lot of things.  Some will recall that armor save modifiers used to be a thing in Warhammer Fantasy.  The way it has been handled in other Games Workshop products is to reduce the armor save of the victim by any STR over 3.  For example, a STR 5 creature would inflict a -2 armor save penalty to its target.  In other iterations of the rules, such as Age of Sigmar, some weapons simply apply a penalty to saves in general.  In this paradigm, the STR is irrelevant and the weapon specifically and simply  does modify it.  We have had an Armor Piercing (AP) stat for every weapon for quite a long time.  It already represents how little armor matters to some weapons.

An "armor modifiers" approach would treat it as less like an on/off switch.  It would instead inflict a penalty to the armor save.  I took a little time to imagine how that could work using current mechanics and I was somewhat at a loss.  Take the example of an AP 4 Autocannon against Terminator armor.  In our current understanding of it, that would essentially be the same as AP -.  The massive power coursing through that shell does not translate to much of anything and is "turned off" by the enemy armor.  But that is not really how you imagine it in your mind.  Its a frigging auto cannon!  75mm guns firing into a dude should hurt, right?  May as well be a STR 7 stick for all it matters against Necron Immortals.  If the goal is to make a weapon like that be a little cooler when it lands in a guys belly, what do you do against say a Terminator?

I think that when you get hit with a STR 10 Manticore, you should be filling your pants with unpleasant waste.  If anything I am thinking they will set a base number in shooting like they did in Fantasy and anything over that number is a modifier.  For example if they set it as 6, then any ranged weapon over STR 6 will reduce the armor of its victim by one or even one per point of difference so that a STR 10 Manticore dropping shells dead on is going to reduce the save by 4 (for example).  A Tactical Terminator caught in that blast would then be a 6+ armor and still a 5+ Invulnerable save.  AP would still apply only to the base armor of 2+ and thus the 6+ does not negate his ability to take the 6+ he's been whittled to.

This enhances the value of Invulnerable saves, as I imagine those will be as inviolable as they always have been.  Again all guesswork based on what they have said.  Fun to think about.

Sweeping Assaults Swept Aside...What Does It Mean?

Another development is the direction of assaults.  They want the mechanic to favor the charger and perhaps even have the charger always going first.  As happens in other games, you run into this absurd situation where certain armies simply are cut down before they strike as they charge and then with the full weight of their momentum they get cut down again in melee.  this makes the charges a completely untenable idea, for armies that should totally be able to assault like Orks.  Lets face it:  Fire Warriors charging bravely into the fray when their enemies are upon them is pretty cool, and you gotta root for the little guys even if they are ultimately going to get their lunch money taken away.  Why would a charging unit not have the momentum?  Even Hammer of Wrath is sort of a rule that recognizes that the sheer force of a battle front hitting you can have some initial value.  Opening up the tactical option of giving the charging unit initiative in the first round of combat sounds good to me as it always did in Warhammer Fantasy.  This also gives armies that use speed instead of sheer awesomeness as a weapon a little boost, like Dark Eldar.  Assault has already been diminished in importance, so what better way to spice it up than giving aggression a chance?  And Terminators everywhere will be cheering for their resurrected value.  I like it.

Deserters Will Be Shot!


For morale they are taking a page out of the Age of Sigmar playbook and looking to install the "morale = deserters" paradigm.  In essence, they propose rolling D6+casualties taken - Leadership score and removing that many more casualties.  I can only speculate that these losses would happen win or lose which leads to some strange situations where you've killed all your foes and then explode and die in a second or subsequent round of combat.  The way they worded it made it seem as if this would be wounds dealt, not models removed, which is an important distinction indeed!  So if I lose 6 wounds, and roll a 6 (LD is 9) then I lose three more wounds.  It feels like a daemonic instability check except I don't need to know how many wounds my opponent took, just my own.

One impact of this is that you would certainly value leadership more than you do now.  Paying points for upgraded Sergeants has definitely fallen somewhat out of vogue in many forces.  I would foresee many more people taking them moving forward.

Monstrous Creatures like a Riptide will be virtually unaffected though, as even a roll of a 6 after taking 3 wounds would do nothing to him in close combat and he only has 5 to begin with!  In fact such a contest might be more favorable to the Riptide in the long run other than insofar as the fact that it virtually guarantees that in order not to get caught out in the open the following round, the Riptide will want to charge more often!  Wouldn't that be a funny quirk of such a rule?

Attrition hurts hordes.  Low armor means they will assuredly take a far worse toll from the rule.  Tyranids and orks hordes already don't need help being terrible so if a unit of Orks loses 6 guys no matter how much damage they did, exploding ork parts will be everywhere after almost any close combat.  I foresee this as the greatest argument against such a rule.  Now keep in mind that orks charging would be going first in this brave new world of Warhammer 40,000, so some of that would absolutely be fixed, but it is worth noting.  Even the best Ork charge may find itself losing a lot of fellows to a volume of attack type of a unit like Flayed Ones which are also very hearty, but I suppose that was always the case.

I also observe that this would mean that you are fighting to the death and sweeping advances would literally go away.  That is an enormously important statement. Sweeping Advances are one of the mechanics that make assault a tenable thing to do in a futuristic game like Warhammer.  Not being able to do it changes everything.  Charging and getting clogged up by say...one Fire Warrior... is going to end well for the chargers and badly for shooting forces.

I think just in the dribbles that Games Workshop shared we can see that a very different game is coming.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Musings on Speed vs. Power

It's a great question.

Tournaments are where actual money is on the line, actual street cred earned or lost, and where actual prizes are to be won.  Tournaments change the viewpoint a bit when you are attempting to plan well.

In casual games, we try out "interesting list ideas" like a 16 year old teenage girl tries out clothes.  That analogy REALLY isn't that far off, because I think we get the same kick out of "seeing how it works" as they do "seeing how it looks" on them.  The infatuation often lasts just as long.

In tournaments the luxury of screwing around kind of drops away and you are left to ask this pivotal question among many others:  Speed or power?  Which do you need more of, given that you need both to one extent or another.

On the raw surface, one might argue that the ITC values power by having both Maelstrom and Primary missions at work.  Does that really equalize them?  Not really,  Many of the Maelstrom objectives are just "kill something" anyways but a host of them are positional.  The ITC isn't TRULY advantaging speed over power, but then many of the objectives are literally impossible without speed, which puts speed at a premium simply because in any one contest you cannot afford to be physically unable to do things, even if "over time" it served you better to give on that point on occasion!

Speed advantages you by allowing you to be where and when you need to be for blockading.  Imagine for a moment that you are facing a Space Wolf player who uses the Thunderwolf Cavalry to form a super duper "Wolfstar".  It streaks across the board in one round and absolutely will assault you in turn two.  The normal proposition here is that you have "one round to do something about it" before it strikes.  Suffice it is to say, it isn't going after a fair fight when it does this.  It is there to maul your ability to hurt it in future rounds for good.  What if you were simply to vacate the area and move two Raiders into position, forcing them to target nothing more significant than a couple 55 point sacrificial lambs, for lack of anything it can get to now?  I did this to a very good player when he came to kill my Beastpack some time ago and when he got there, I moved at maximum speed away and then cordon'd the wolves off, using his own drop pod as one of the corners.  Given that games do not have unlimited rounds, you have spent up to three of the Wolfstars rounds far from anything, and killing little.  Speed allows those kinds of shenanigans.

Power units allows you to disallow the enemy his speed in the first place.  It is a form of defense really, because when you blast units down to size, you're lowering the inevitable damage you will take or their ability to position themselves the way they wished.  You are taking away their resources BEFORE they can actually sacrifice them.  Stranding an enemy who relies on speed can be very harmful to their chances, as these armies often only require one round to express that speed in order for it to be worth it.  A bevy of firepower that steals the opportunity certainly matters.  That relies on you gaining the initiative on the enemy however and as we know, that is at least in theory only happening 50% of the time!  If you faced five fast armies in a day and went first just twice, would you lose the tournament simply for losing initiative?  It surely emphasizes how important new models like Guilliman and oldies resurrected in new form such as Inquisitor Coteaz can be to a power minded list.  Utility has a place even in those instances.  

If you favor raw power, you will favor power that has serious staying ability.  MSU (Multiple Small Unit) army concepts really don't work as well when Power is your modis operandi, without toughness to back it up.  The trouble you always run into is the more elite the force, the less models you will see in your force.  Every casualty hurts.  Ask a Grey Knight player or other elite force General.  They will tell you that the raw power that the force pumps out is diminished far too quickly.  War Convocations are an example of an army that is pretty poor in the mobility department and relies on the elite power of its units.  The better generals spend the points to get as much hard core armor and protection leading those units as they are allowed.  The War Convocation does not tend to dominate tournaments because it lack the simple ability to get to where it wants to go.  Power house force components like a Riptide Wing for example, might have some elements of speed and power.  Increasingly we are seeing the units that can pump out raw power become really really sturdy as well.  Not in all cases, but certainly that is the trend.

Some additional food for thought on the matter:  Just look at the "power lists" below.  What do you see?

Tyrands:  6 Flying Hive Tyrants
Tau Empire:  StormSurge/Dual StormSurge W/ Y'Varah spam and/or Riptide Wing to back them up.
Space Wolves:  Wolfstars and Wulfen all with Thunderhammer and StormShields
Eldar:  WraithKnight+Jetbike spam with spare points spent on units to guard the line like D-Cannons.
Dark Eldar:  Venom spam with Haemonculous Coven or Corpsthief Claw allies
Space Marines:  White Scar Battle Companies featuring a thousand transports and Grav Amps.
Orks:  Meganobz in Trukks and lots of them backed by a Buzzgob Stompa
Grey Knights:  3-5 DreadKnights with deep Striking allies
Chaos Daemons:  Screamer Star with Belakor and summoning.  Possibly even Magnus.

The commonality cannot be lost on anyone.  These armies are tough, fast and powerful.  They don't tend to be MSU nor gun lines in the least (only the Battle Company can even afford to be because of its silly rules).  The pendulum strongly favors the speed here, even though it comes in all kinds of forms, whether it be the Scouting/outflanking Corpsethief Claws and Rhinos or it be the fast jump moves of the Tau Empire.  No one would take the Tyrant without the Wings.  No one would take the Y'Varah if it weren't faster than lightning.  No one would take the Kabalite Warriors without venoms if they could avoid it, and the ork general would probably not be so bold as to take Meganobz and walk them (I would but then, you know...it's me and I do those things).

In all cases, they have power and speed.  It is the speed with which that power can be deployed or pulled to safety that makes them as feared as they are, for firepower alone without the speed would leave all these choices at the mercy of faster forces that can limit their opportunities to strike.  It is that they are able to clear away from danger (or speed to it as the need may be)!

An example in the debate over Power vs. Speed:  I won with Tau Empire this year.  I was using the Gunfort for this tournament.  I used a StormSurge, a couple of Riptides (no Riptide Wing), and the rest of it was Fire Warriors, Sniper Drones and similarly ground bound things for the most part.  The list was lacking in more powerful Formations like the Drone Net.  I swept the tournament without them.  I used speed, deployment shenanigans, and good old Tau Empire Ethereal leadership.  The army didn't have lightning speed but it did have speed in the general sense, which allowed me to be JUST fast enough to get JUST far enough in my missions.  Without the luxury of the Gunfort's mobility, would the result have been the same?  Probably not.  Terrain alone would have seen t othat.  I needed mobility to win with less powerful units.  The lesson is:  it's possible.  Mobility was the ingredient that made it work.

I think the new question isn't just speed vs. mobility anymore.  A third element has been added by Celestine, Cawl, Magnus and the like:  Toughness.  The firepower of 7th Edition in all phases is lethal.  Heavy hitters without protection will disappoint.  My Fire Warriors got tough via their Gunfort, Celestine and Cawl through her rules, Magnus and WraithKnights through stat lines; and it is starting to matter as much as both speed and Power.  Toughness was never "not important", but it has taken on quite a life of its own with the extreme examples we now have, and more are on the way.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Ynnari and the BeastPack

I'm always looking for ways to make units work better than they appear to on paper.  The mad scientist in me enjoys the work.

Gathering Storm: Fracture of Biel-Tan is a supplement that just came out, which allows you to combine the Harlequins, Eldar and Dark Eldar into a Detachment that uses the same force requirements as a Combined Arms Detachment does.  They collectively become Ynarri.  You give up battle Focus and also Power From Pain in order to gain a couple of abilities, one of which is that if you are within 7" of your fellow Ynarri unit, then you unit does not have to take morale tests for taking 25% casualties.

The truth is, the Beastpack in the Codex: Dark Eldar has always had an achilles heel.  It pretty much requires you to take a BeastMaster to bolster the Leadership of the group because Psychic Shriek is a thing but also because the leadership of the BeastPack is abysmal without him there to steady them.

This is all good and fine if the enemy does not have precision shot.  Precision shot can not only pop the 5+ armor of the BeastMaster, but with just three casualties it can send the whole thing fleeing off the board in round one before you mov a muscle.  I know because it has happened to me.

There is no Duke Sliscus to protect the unit like there once was in the old codex.  Yet if you take the Dark eldar portion of the force as Ynarri you will now be able by proximity to keep the unit from failing this way.  

I was very excited to learn this.  I think giving up Battle Focus actually does matter to some units like Warp Spiders, who make excellent use of the ability but for Dark Eldar, one can easily argue that the Dark Eldar Power From Pain chart is just not fruitful enough to care if you lose it.  It's best abilities come much later than one would like it to.  Unless you field Urien Rakarth in your force, there's no economical way to wind that clock forward much faster.  There are only two HQ slots in a Ynarri formation, so you'd need to pay a fairly high tax to get more Haemonculous in the force to wind the clock forward on  enough units for the Dark Eldar Power From Pain to help you more.

Your downside is that any Troops choices you take will not be Objective Secured as they might have been otherwise.  That is a real downside but from the perspective of making the Beastpack itself a potent and persistent force in the army, there's no doubt in how useful this is on the approach and against precision shots.  The Beastpack itself does not normally benefit from Power From Pain except for the BeastMaster in the unit anyways, so it hardly matters to them if they lose Power From Pain in exchange for becoming Ynarri.

If you want beastpacks to do some work for you, definitely look at this possibility,

Monday, February 20, 2017

What To Do About Magnus The Red?

Magnus the Red deserves some special attention.  If you have not played against him yet, let me say this:  he is a world in-between.  As the Primarch that represents the Tzeentch he's a changer of games.

The model is enormous, taking up all of its base and then some.  It’s as big as the WraithKnight and much broader.  It flies around on wings and if you didn't read his unit entry you'd just assume he was a Gargantuan creature (though he is not).

I think the most important thing I could possibly tackle is the simple question:  how do you beat him?  To defeat ones enemy, one must know ones enemy.

Magnus relies on Blessings because he has only a 4 invulnerable save.  When you first see that on the page, you might not be so worried after all.  You should be.  The problem with Magnus is that his 4+ invulnerable save becomes a 3+ if he is benefiting from a Blessing which he inevitably will be and then there are psyker powers that can turn that to a 2+.  This on its own is reason to worry since it is also a Flying Monstrous Creature and therefore difficult to hit in the first place.  Magnus serves Tzeentch and as such re-rolls any 1’s on his saves.  Even worse.  He only really fails on an exact roll of a 2 (most of the time), because ones trigger re-rolls.  That is incredibly hard to get through seven times, and he does have seven wounds that are Toughness 7.  Impressed yet?

You must find weaknesses.  His primary weakness is that he can be stomped out of existence.  He is not immune to being removed by a Stomp.  They did not make the mistake of making him Gargantuan like they did with WraithKnights which he dwarfs in girth.  He almost immediately begs you to take a stomping model in your force,  if you know you could be seeing him and at tournaments.  You will be.

Deactivating his Blessings is one defense.  If he is forced to have a 4+ invul (re-rolling 1’s) he becomes a lot more susceptible to torrenting.  You can do this via the Culexus Assassin or Sisters of Silence, though you will of course have to probably go second to make that work the best that it can work (which means handing Magnus the initiative...).  Magnus is flying and is unlikely to stop flying, so he will have to move towards you to get in range and stay aloft.  This will shorten the distance the Culexus must travel before popping out and giving you your chance to strike and ground Magnus.  Once Magnus is no longer flying and is engaged, he loses a lot of his useful psyker powers (though not all and he should not be underestimated in melee).

The Sisters of Silence are kind of a new addition to 40K and I am not sure how far spread they are out there, but they certainly would be an excellent option for someone to use when dealing with Magnus.

One of the ways you will see Magnus used (and because many people seem to own a lot of winged Princes) is the Rehati Formation from the Traitor Legions book.  It allows Magnus to gather up a Flying Monstrous Creature circus of up to 9 Daemon Princes (though you won’t see more than 4 in all likelihood).  I have fought this particular variety of list a couple times now and can tell you it’s essentially four models absolutely blasting and summoning from the landscape with Psyker goodness, and often they will have at least one prince casting the Shrouding power which is a 12” bubble.  This allows the Daemon princes to Jink and act like batteries for Magnus at worst, which encourages them to keep fairly close together, lest they fall out of the bubble.  I mention this because Dark Eldar have a particularly useful tool here. 

The Crucible of Malediction is a terribly worded relic, but what it does is creates a 3D6 inch range nova like shot that auto-strikes any unit with a Psyker in it causing a STR 6 hit.  Hardly seems worth it BUT…  Think for a moment.  This means that the tightly packed Daemon Princes in the skies are all probably getting hit because they are flocking closely together!  The Crucible of Malediction is effectively  gives you skyfire, with no roll to hit, against all of them.  Impressive.  Already a very high percentage play.  STR 6 will wound Daemon Princes on a 3, Magnus on a 5.  Best part?  NO SAVE OF ANY KIND.  None of Magnus’s shenanigans work on it.  Fish for a 5 to ground him and maybe get a freebie wound on the way down!  This is probably the best chance you could ask for to take him down, so you can swamp him in a Beastmaster unit and let him rot there for the rest of the game with their babysitter HQ (one hopes made fearless by then using Power From Pain).  Assuming the worst and you “only” cause wounds to his group of Daemon Prince batteries, that’s fine.  3-4 more grounding opportunities all in one go, from one model.  You really couldn’t ask for a better deal.

Orks have the Traktor Kannons.  These babies are fun.  They can hit on 5’s, re-rolling and are Skyfire STR 8 AP 3.  Magnus may be tough but these wound him on 3’s and if they get through, it’s a grounding check at -3!  Talk about a good chance to drop a flying Monster and more importantly, it is their BEST chance.  Flyers and Flying Monstrous Creatures aren’t rare (especially the latter) so it makes more and more sense to consider ork artillery.  The fact that it is Toughness 7 does not hurt at all.  With enough tries, that artillery unit could be a hassle for Magnus and once on the ground, Magnus IS dangerous but not as bad as when he’s in the air.  A cheap Squabbling ork unit could keep him in one place for a while.  The Buzzgob Stompa will be unimpressed by his STR 7 Force Weapon methinks.  7th Edition really has made Gargantuan models “feature” models and as much an ANSWER to others as they are actually necessary for killing in general.  If it were not for the Magnus and WraithKnights of the world, many Gargantuan models would not be necessary but, here we are and here they are, to stay.

Other armies must deal with Magnus in a more circumspect way.  While Grey Knights might have enough dice to nerf the powers they really really need to (as most Grey Knight armies are easily cresting 14 dice a turn, they have at least a shot of turning one or two powers off) others do not have that luxury.

The Tau Empire for which I am most known, has no psyker defense outside the Talisman of Athas Molloch, and that's if you're willing to pay the Farsight Enclave tax (I am generally).  I recommend taking that.  There is a whole lot of Velocity Trackers they can utilize.  Overloading on this very expensive upgrade may not be advisable but look at some of the “power builds”:  Magnus is our chief concern today, but Tyranids are very strong when they are sporting five flyrants, Magnus and the Rihati formation of course, Heldrake spam in their new Formation are pretty nifty, Chaos Daemons with Be’lakor and Screamer Stars, and the list goes on.  Ravenguard won a huge tournament using some flyers that could pretty much come in turn one as well.  I think Velocity Trackers are definitely going to need to be present when Magnus is in your area.  Not having an answer for flyers is worse than the points you “waste” by doing so against armies that don’t necessitate it.  The old adage “better safe than sorry” is the operative concept.  The Stormsurge is an obvious platform to use it on.  So are the High Yield Missile Pods on your broadsides.  Given that the Tau Empire army can do little about the psyker problem directly, and given peoples propensity not to use Mysterious Objectives (which can grant Skyfire), I think it’s warranted.

My Militarum Tempestus with IG allies takes 3 Psykers in the Imperial Guardsman blob, and that Psyker defense of 5+ against things like Psychic Scream and flickering Fire is worth it.  If you weren’t a fan of boning up on Psykers before, reconsider should you play them.  Your blob-star can be a very effective weapon against a guy whose main coolness in close combat comes from swinging a Force Weapon.

Here’s a blast from the past:  Could Gloom Prisms actually be useful again to Necrons?  In a Canoptek Harvest list, especially, you will end up with a pretty fair number of Canoptek Spyders and the Gloom Prism has never been a fan favorite but Necrons may have reason to reconsider them as Magnus flies imperiously above them.


Those are just some ideas on how to handle this magnificent beast.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fall of Cadia: Initial impressions on Celestine.

It is a dire time for the Imperium...

You cannot go 10,000 years without eradicating your nemesis, and then expect good things to happen.  Now in this Gathering Storm supplement, the crashing weight of the Imperiums failures and attempts to fight wars on all fronts both strategically as well as spiritually have brought about its inevitable consequence.

As a result of this dire need has come the Fall of Cadia book.  With it has come something entirely expected:  the ability to incorporate the various factions of the Imperium into a combined force.

This was first attempted in the WitchHunters and Daemonhunters codex's although not quite in so consolidated a fashion.  Multiple Detachments kind of allowed it in another way.  The Fall of Cadia book allows you to flat out incorporate the armies of the Imperium into one force without the need for multiple detachments.

Celestine (note the distinction from Codex: Adepta Sororitas where she is Saint Celestine and does not have the same stats and rules, nor cost), Inquisitor Greyfax and Belisarius Cawl all have a special exemption, found in Fall of Cadia, The exemption is tricky so I thought I would go over this because people FACING it will need to know as surely as those using it.

The exemption says that any of these three characters can be included as an HQ choice in a Detachment that has the same Faction as they do, even though they are listed separately in Fall of Cadia.  This is kind of a tricky one on its own, because what it's saying is that their first must BE a choice.  Formations in particular often specify they require a "Space Marine Captain" for example or they might require some other specific HQ.  In those cases now or in the future, these three Independent characters could not take their place.   On the other hand in the Vestal Formation (Codex: Imperial Agents), which actually allows HQ choices, Celestine from Fall of Cadia could be incorporated as one, even though St. Celestine from Codex:Adepta Sororitas could not because she does not have that exemption, and is not listed in Codex: Imperial Agents.

The second part of the exemption is that these three characters can be included in a Combined Arms Detachment or Allied Detachment (specifically) as an HQ choice if it is one for Armies of the Imperium.  That covers a lot of armies!!!  This is great news for some because Inquisitor Greyfax is an excellent choice for any army.  Infiltrators are more and more common now in Warhammer 40,000 and more armies can do it with dangerous consequences.  The Strategic Warlord Traits table can be a pretty severe problem for some armies.  I have been victimized by it on at least two notable occasions where the enemy both infiltrated and seized.  That did not end well for me.  I for one will be seriously interested in having Greyfax on board in certain armies I own.

Celestines considerably powerful aura can be used to benefit a lot of armies and it is somewhat ironic to me that this book may well make Celestine one of the more popular models in armies!  Good for the Adepta Sororitas profile in general.  Celestine has a 12" bubble within which she can use some powers once per game,  I have already come up with some fun little crazy combinations regarding Celestine.

Imagine her once per game ability to affect Heavy Support units by granting them the Relentless rule for a round, and who it might affect.  Three Purgation Squads hopping from Rhinos and hosing down the enemy with Psycannons at full range and ballistic skill?  Could be pretty encouraging, and it removes a major nerf to the Psycannons.  Salvo?  What were they thinking?  But now you can drop them into position with Celestine to guide them.

Another fun idea is if you're playing with Iron Hands.  Her aura that affects troops makes that 6+ Feel No Pain on your Troops Choices into 5+ for a round.  That is statistically significant.

When your fellow HQ is heading into a battle that looks daunting, make them a Zealot for a round. This allows you to stand your ground and re-roll all to hits in the first round of combat.  There are a lot of challenges that might have gone the other way had you just gotten one more roll your way.  The automatic passing of Morale tests is great, but those re-rolls can be golden.  You can do it to an entire Astra Militarum blob squad without needing a Priest or Commissar, in the round that counts by using it on the Psyker in the unit, for example.

Her Fast Attack aura?  Here's a REALLY fun idea for you:  Imagine Rough Riders that get Crusader!  That actually matters to them because their base initiative is so poor.  How great would that be?  Pretty great for those of us who love the whole idea of the polish defeating the German Tanks (one battle ever, but hey).  Plenty of Marine Assault Squads would find that very exciting as well, because Crusader makes it tough for other Marines to get out of combat after being charged, as they would love to do at times.

Celestine affects Elite Choices with Furious Charge and Counter Attack.  When striking at something like a WraithKnight that can make an enormous difference to a unit.  Purifiers charging with STR 7 Halberds (9 with Hammerhand)?  Yes please?  I myself use Sisters Repentia and giving them Furious Charge would be awesome against tough stuff like a WraithKnight.  Fishing for 5's is a lot easier than 6's, and when you can re-roll them (thanks to a Priest in the unit granting them):  all the better.

All of this ignores the simple fact that Celestine herself is ridiculous.  You ESSENTIALLY have to knock out sixteen or more 2+ save wounds to get rid of her.  I'm just saying, the odds are long on that. Why sixteen?  She starts with 5 base +2 for her Geminae, and she can resurrect a Geminae once per turn.  When you kill Celestine, as before, she can rise up once but she copmes back at full strength and can start resurrecting Geminae again.  Its WORK to kill her.  If you thought Magnus was kind of a bear because you can't put wounds on him easily, wait til you try to mill through all of hers.  At T3, you're going to get a lot more chances, but no matter what you're blasting her with, 2+/4+invul saves is no picnic basket.  She's fast enough to cause headaches, her influence on her fellow units is going to be impressive and "ignoring her" will end badly, methinks.  She and her Geminae cohorts will brutalize most things.  If you can tie them up with something really tough, and stick her in place to limit the damage, you've done some good.   If she joins a Repentia squad with their AP 2, it may well rampage across the entire enemy line with seeming impunity.

This lady is a very big gun and it's a shame in some ways that they made her available to all Armies of the Imperium because frankly, it will diminish the Codex: Adepta Sororitas not to require that force in order to play her.  That being said, clearly her abilities are meant to benefit the Adepta Sororitas units (with the odd exception of the It Will Not Die power for a round which can be used on Lords of War, of which there are none).  Taking Adepta Sororitas, as I like to do, will certainly make the ladies better, without changing the units themselves, which I suppose was the point of the exercise with these splat books.

I will say that Grey Knights seem to be surprisingly awesome recipients for her powers, and I am probably going to see what kind of impact she can have while playing them.  When you compare Castellan Crowe to this...  Is it even a question?  Crowe losing the ability to make Purifiers Troops Choices was unfortunate but it does mean Celestine can replace him with ease now, and likely will.  The only question is:  Do the Purifiers in my collection now become Purgation Squads?  Hmm...




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Partners Games Workshop Needed

The Independent Tournament Circuit’s (ITC) flagship event, the Las Vegas Open 2017 ended and the winner?  Brett Perkins and his Renegades and Heretics.  Brett has been rampaging through the opposition for a couple of years now and been very close at the major events like NOVA where he took second place and now the big one, the Las Vegas Open, which catapulted him in the standings of the ITC.

It is at the culmination of this, my first real ITC season of competition, that I am reflective of what I have seen happen in the 40K universes since I began attempting to compete.

The sheer volume of new material was frightening.  As we saw with the 3.X Dungeons and Dragons roll out (and later 4.0), this does not always have a good impact on the game.  The exit of the head cheese at Games Workshop in 2015, and the new regimes alteration of attitude towards the player base, brought more than enough sales to make stock holders forget the overwhelming flood of it.

As of January 2016, profit from the sale of miniatures and games, which was the company’s core business, fell 15%.  The new leader had been installed but his impact was yet to be felt.  Had it not been for the intellectual property side of the business, it would have been a very dour outlook indeed.  Since then, however, significant changes happened.  Kevin Rountree and company had begun something, foremost among them being reconnecting with the fan base.  In the last year the stock was finally able to return to glory, and the annihilation it suffered since October of 2013 seems to have passed, approaching the 2004 numbers, where it was when I first got into the hobby!

I feel that the recuperation of the stock is in part thanks to the end of the Recession but it is also in even larger part thanks to the far more responsive leadership we now see at Games Workshop and one hopes that can continue.  Most telling is the dividend for GAW stock.  Any time the board is giving them out and they are getting larger, the health of the company is clearly easier to trust with your money.

The Las Vegas Open, the Elvensword Ambassadorial Grand Tournament and many more beyond count like them that are now being seen, are the number one driver of sales for the company in my opinion.  Never was there a better sales force than the Tournament Organizers themselves, and it is to them that Games Workshop, its retail partners and the broader fan base owe so much.  While individual Tournament Organizers (TO’s) may not really detect how much they are influencing this, as they go about their labors of love, the reality is obvious.  There were 5575 Generals ranked in the ITC this year (which means many more that were not) and there were 2218 ranked in the previous year!  One year.  Wrap your mind around that.  If you are a statistics student, you understand the magnitude of that statement.  In that same time frame, the company’s stock has soared.  Only an idiot would consider that a coincidence.  Just the existence of a ladder program, such as the one the ITC has made popular, has made Games Workshop a lot of money and my anticipation is that with the advent of the Bestcoastpairings.com software, peoples ability, worldwide, to participate will greatly increase, as will the ease with which such events can be created.

I was an extremely harsh critic of the way the ITC FAQ was built originally and I was not shy about telling people; but like Games Workshop, it seems that the good people who run the ITC were responsive to that too, and those of us who were critics have seen a lot of change in the way they go about their transparency and fan participation.  The result?  I am gratified to say that there is little to complain about now.  It has gone from a provincial “better way to play 40K” into a raging waterfall of fans.  The same transformation seesm to be starting at Games-Workshop.

Brett Perkins won the Las Vegas Open, but Games Workshop won by having passionate tournament organizers willing to even attempt such a thing.  Hundreds of events will happen this year, costing tens of thousands of hours of planning and effort showcasing their products.  It would be the wisest of courses for the company to look very seriously towards the future of those partnerships.  It will translate to money very quickly.