As Phil made the fairly straight forward to decision to get another battalion box to give him his next 500 points (and beyond) I had to do something thinking about what would best to deal with even more blood crazed, heavily armoured hard nuts. The obvious option was more cannons but I decided that nothing with a little bit more manoeuvrability…
To the whistle of escaping steam and the clank and grind of pistons and gears, the Empire Steam Tank has rolled into my possession. Excited? Me? Yup.
When I initially ran the rule over the new incarnation of the Steam Tank I was unconvinced. A lot had been done to reduce the models effectiveness in-game and even with a significant points reduction it seemed to be a choice of vanity over necessity and potentially a point sink. However, reading how others used them in their games I realised it was still an immensely useful unit but in a different way – a way very much in keeping with the current Empire list (for better or worse depending on your opinion).
The biggest grumble had been the reduction of its Toughness from 10 to 6 making it far more vulnerable to damage from higher strength enemies – followed by the Steam Gun no longer ignoring armour saves blunting its teeth considerably. My main concern was the new steam generation method meant you could misfire even at full wounds. When combined with the lower toughness and thus increased damage being sustained it could be seen as a bit of a liability as there would be a 1 in 3 chance of misfiring after taking just a single wound. Which is a bit shit.
The misfire table could be mitigated somewhat by limiting the amount of steam you produced – but that meant losing yet more effectiveness from the unit. The cannon was better (now just a standard Great Cannon with variable range) and the point cost had gone down by 50 to 250 points, but like I said, I was still unconvinced.
However, the consensus seems to be that regardless of its perceived reduced output, its use as a roadblock to tie up dangerous units was still unrivalled and worth the price of entry alone. The improved cannon also meant that if all else fails it could still be used as a piece of artillery without the need for a unit to babysit it. The misfire table, although inconvenient, is more forgiving than its previous version, so although you will misfire more often it will be less severe and you should still be able to do at least something most of the time. The all-conquering all-powerful Steam Tank of old had gone, and in its place was a leaner machine which had to be used more tactically to get the most benefit out of it for the good of your army. Able to hold up, divert and mitigate enemy strong points but not necessarily kill them, it at would at least buy you the time needed for your plan to work.
It all points to the ‘combined arms’ approach that The Cruddace seemed to have been aiming for with rather iffy success. And of course, it’s all still theoretical for me having yet to use it in a game (coming soon), but it has at least convinced me it still has its uses in an army where every point is precious, and I can’t wait it try it out.
The kit itself it wonderfully simple to assemble whilst still being crammed with detail and possessing a refreshing degree of sturdiness. It’s a far, and welcome, cry from the old metal kit which was utter misery to build and required near pro-sculpting skills to plug and smooth all the gaps between components.
There are a few nice choices to make too, like which cannon barrel to choose (I went with the hexagonal one) and what to hang off the tail hook. You don’t even have to attach the heraldry with it all being separate enabling you to field a stripped down, more aggressive looking vehicle. Which is actually way cool and side steps the recurring grumble that everyone’s models look pretty much the same, despite being a plastic multi-part kit.
The Engineer you get with it is ace and comes with a multitude of options for his head, arms/weapons choice, and if you’re smart you don’t have to permanently glue him in and can use him on foot. There are a few gripes however, firstly the size of the finished kit – I’m sure the old metal version used to be bigger. Don’t get me wrong, it more than fills it’s base and will stand as tall as any cavalry unit (minus the lances) but it is a tank and I would have thought it’s transition to plastic would mean it could have grown in size rather than shrink.
Secondly, speaking of the old metal kit, does anyone remember the mail order only variants? You had the fighting platform variant, the mortar variant, the battering ram etc. They were great fun and worked well with the Empire’s tendency to tinker and innovate. Again with the transition to plastic along with GW’s love of giving you model options rather than the actual models themselves, it seems to me to be another missed opportunity to do something a bit special. Up the price slightly, throw in an extra frame, and you’ve got a kit that can fulfil multiple roles –again in keeping with army character of having a tool for every job.
Overall it is a very good kit – the model really is one of the better ones. My gripes aside, I’m just a bit too fond of the good ‘ol days, you’ll not be disappointed in its appearance or its performance. It’s a piece you can really go to town on painting wise and it will take pride of place at the forefront of your army once you’ve finished driving it around the tabletop whilst making funny noises (you know the ones). Who knows, if all goes well you may even want to take two – much to your opponents dismay. Good luck and happy grinding.
Sadly the Empire Steam Tank is no longer available from Firestorm Games due to a change in GW’s trade range but there’s plenty to choose from, prices starting at £8.10.