Gamers Gonna Game

It’s that time of year again when the Games Workshop releases their financials and the community explodes with rumours that they’re going under, that Hasbro will buy them out, that they’re woefully out of touch and they can basically go fuck themselves.

I freely admit to being guilty of this to some degree in the past. I’m the first to admit that I gripe about the pricing model either on The Shell Case or on Of Dice & Men (I promise there’ll be another episode up soon!) with some regularity. And I stand by those comments. The models are expensive. But you know what? I still play their games and I still pay their prices so who’s the bigger mug?

Reading Twitter today I was quite shocked by some of the comments that wargamers were making. Whilst I’m sure similar comments were made 6 months ago and the 6 months before that and so on, I’ve just never noticed until now.

For a hobby that is as inclusive as ours I’m bummed out to see so many people are willing the company to fail. People that moved to Warmachine or other game systems as an act of protest or to spite the Games Workshop – as if the Games Workshop knows each and every one of us and gives a shit what we do, say or think – berate for playing Games Workshop games and celebrate every penny lost in profit as a personal victory. And before I get pelted with angry comments I have to point out that no company genuinely gives a shit what we do, say or think. Not truly. If they did the XBox One would be free and delivered on a velvet pillow by the glamour model of my choice (don’t pretend I’m the only one who made the suggestion on the forums).encourage

I play Games Workshop games. I play the games they discontinued too and whilst I really wish they hadn’t canned Battlefleet Gothic and Mordheim, I understand why they did. But as I say, my understanding, my compliance or even consent is not required. Just my acceptance because there’s sod all I can do about it. Because I’ll live a longer happier life if I do. And not because they’ll send the Black Ships for me otherwise.

But I also play other games. I love Mantic’s Dreadball. Although they’ve been in a case for a while , I really enjoy Dystopian Wars and Firestorm Armada. I love X-Wing. And Studio McVey’s Sedition Wars, and lots more games beside. Whilst I’m not a fan of the Warmachine fluff or the sculpting style I can appreciate the quality of the game. And I know I ‘bash on it’ during episodes of Of Dice & Men, but it is all in jest. I honestly don’t give a monkeys what games people play. All I care about is everyone having fun.

Games nights with The Chaps – good and dear friends all – are a bevy of game systems and that’s cool because the key ingredient is we’re having a giggle. Good games, good models, good mates and good banter. What more could you possibly want. Apart from maybe the aforementioned glamour model to serve light refreshments. But you can’t win them all.

The point is this, before arguments break out – and I’ve seen it happen – just let it go. I urge all to stop sabre rattling. To stop clamouring for a company’s demise when that company not only represents a lot of enjoyment but people’s livelihoods as well. It is callous to forget that there are folk, just like you and I, doing a job there. A select few make the decisions that impact on us and whether or not we agree with those decisions, the majority shouldn’t be punished. Yes people are entitled to and should have opinions and yes they should be discussed but let’s remember the object of the exercise is not to win at all costs, or to be nasty or snide or bitter or resentful for some imagined slight. We have zero rights. Zero say. You’re a director or a board member you have as much entitlement to piss and moan as you have to tell me what colour socks to wear.

DontBeADickYes it’s frustrating that prices go up. Yes Games Workshop have us over a barrel and yes they know it. But the reality is this: play their games or don’t. Pay their prices or don’t. Just don’t be a dick about it.

Battlefield in a Box Asteroids – A Review

There’s been a distinct inter-planetary flavour to our gaming activities at Shell Case Towers. X-Wing miniatures and warships of the 41st Millennium have been taking to gaming boards and, as is often the case, my mind turned to scenery. I’d already taken a look at the Gale Force 9 Space Game Mat and used it for our third X-Wing Battle Report. So it only seemed right, considering Mat & I have Slave 1 & the Millennium Falcon to give a shakedown, that I take a look at the Battlefield in a Box Asteroids, also from Gale Force 9.

If you’d said to me a year ago that I’d be playing a pre-painted wargame, on a pre-painted game mat, with pre-painted scenery I’d have called you mental. And possibly a heretic or some such. There may have been some objects thrown. And mother’s insulted…

The point is that I was a bit of a puritan. But if this site, the wargaming world that I’ve been exploring, and being a father has taught me anything, it’s don’t be a snob and have fun. So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.


However, I admit to a degree of scepticism before the asteroids arrived. I’ve seen some pretty iffy pre-painted terrain in my time and all of it was expensive into the bargain. So I opened the box expecting something akin to the castles you get for gold fish.

However the followings things surprised me: the asteroids were heavy. I just assumed they’d be plastic, and shit. But they weren’t. At all. The sculpt of the asteroids was so nicely done that I actually thought they were pumice. Which I know kinda makes me a bit thick but hey. The pre-paint was also incredibly good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to win prizes but for a gaming board? Hells yeah. And I love the mix of floating and flat asteroids. It gives that badly needed element of three dimensions that often gets lost in a tabletop. Just be careful when you cut the flying stands from the sprue. The plastic is oh so brittle. One stand (fortunately each base set comes with two) shattered when I clipped it free. Not broke. Shattered.


Scale wise they’re a little on the large size for games like Gothic. At least not without making the game a real dance of death. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing but for any manly sized game I wouldn’t use the whole box. Because things would crash. A lot. However two or three on a board would look superb and make a dice change from the usual planets that I usually end up using.

For X-Wing, however, they’re pretty much spot on. Throw in a few fighters and a game mat and you’ve got something that looks a bit special…not that I did that. The picture below is a coincidence.


As a single area of terrain they work brilliantly and the fact that the size compliments the X-Wing miniatures so nicely is a real bonus. However the rub is this – you get 8 in a box which is good but really give the impression of density you’ll need two boxes. Mat and I will be getting at least two more so we can set up an asteroid field board for Battle Report IV. And at the best part of the £30 that’s a bit of a rough deal.

That’s not to say it isn’t good value. The asteroids are all a good size and the design is wonderfully natural. I suspect pumice was involved at some point, along with a shit load of modelling clay. But I don’t care because it works. They feel like asteroids and thanks to the table standard paint job they look like it too. Granted they’re not perfect, and there’s a few bits that bugged my but there’d be a few bits that would have bugged if I’d painted them so I have to be forgiving. But the point is I didn’t have to paint them. And really that’s the big selling point for the price tag. You’re paying for the convenience. You’re paying your money not just for some pretty awesome looking asteroids but some pretty awesome asteroids that are painted and ready to go, straight out of the box.

And for that, I’m willing to pay.

The Gale Force 9 Battelfield in a Box Asteroids are available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.

Battlefleet Gothic Scratch Build – Space Dock

All the fun Phil and Matt have been having with their X-Wing adventures has inspired me to do something of my own relating to star ships and space battles, although rather than Star Wars being my theatre of war I returned to one of my favourite games – Battle Fleet Gothic.

I’m lucky enough to own a sizeable Imperial fleet with every ship in the Rulebook represented at least once, along with a decent supporting fleet of Space Marines, but something I never invested in was the array of orbital defences and installations that were available at the time. The problem with correcting this regret is with Battlefleet Gothic models no longer available from Games Workshop, the second-hand market is the only way to now obtain these models – and with some of the rarer kits selling for eye watering prices this isn’t always a viable option. An example is the Ramilles class Star Fortress from Forgeworld – always a model I’ve wanted to own but it never found its way into my possession – the only one I’ve seen on eBay is over £200. As much I want this model I’m not going to part with that sort of money to own it, so instead I will go down the not often walked path of scratch building my own sizeable space installation. However, building your very own version of Ramilles Star Fort is a daunting proposition and given the number of components it would consume you may even be better off just splashing the cash for a real one. Plus, it’s not always a good idea to attempt to create an exact replica of an existing model as your efforts will mostly be judged on how well it matches the original rather than its own merits.

So a Space Station of some description was on the cards and after flicking through the Battlefleet Gothic rulebook I came across the Space Dock built by Dave Andrews and thought for a first foray I’d build my own version of this superb model. It was a good size and didn’t need the uniformity of components a perfectly symmetrical piece would require, letting you just do your own thing as long as it looked cool. I sifted through my bits box and came up with a ton of components with the required level of detail, and after throwing in an Imperial Cruiser frame I was getting genuinely excited over how the project was shaping up. The key components turned out to be the old Imperial Guard Dozer Blade support arms which were perfect for the docking bays, and really set the size for the whole piece. I experimented with a couple of different lay outs like having two bays on either side with the complex at one end, but the demands of that symmetry meant the single row with the main complex off to one side was the better option – that Dave Andrews knew what he was doing.

I spent a long while playing around with all the parts before I started gluing things together, and as structures started to emerge from the pile of pieces I was started to push them into specific roles. Aside from the ubiquitous Main Complex, there’s the adjoining Communications Array, four Docking Bays with three Repair Pylons, Control Tower Complex with adjoining Flak Tower and finally the Eagle shaped Precinct House. I have my favourites and my not so favourites but all in all I was very happy with the amount of detail and purpose I was able to fit into each one – with a paint job hopefully only going to add to the intricacy of the buildings. It’ll be torture painting the thousands of little lights but it’ll be worth it. I hope.

The actual structure of the piece was just a piece of foam board I had lying around with a dissected layer of smooth card over the top and edged with odd lengths of sprue. An extra layer underneath gave it enough strength and then some plastic panels glued on gave a solid socket for the two flying bases to plug into.

It’s about 98% done construction wise as I’m going to add a few teeny tiny details to the deck like storage areas, crate stacks and the like just to give it a bit more life and usage because it’s looking slightly too sterile right now – for a Space Station. And maybe some more antennas, you know, because you can never have enough of those. Have a look for yourself and see what you think.

The image shows most of the pieces I used but there’s more that are either obscured or too obscure to mention. I found Tau parts really useful, particularly their Crisis suit weapons – well, all weapons in general really as they have a really handy combination of intricate machinery and smooth surfaces which are perfect. I almost found as much enjoyment at discovering an interesting part that could be used as I did in building the thing – and I like building things, a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed the building phase and I hope that by showing the model pre paint job it can demonstrate how all manner of odds and ends can be combined into something more special. Your bits boxes are treasure troves, use them, they are your friends. They don’t get good overnight, they need feeding to reach their potential, but if you’ve been doing the hobby for as long as I have you forget where half the stuff came from and it becomes an adventure in itself – just be prepared to lose an hour or two and make a bit of a mess.


I now need to do the model justice with its paint scheme, but I’m not too sure which way to go. I was thinking a military grey and black/dark grey combination to give it a functional look but I’m open to suggestions – maybe a poll can decide?

A Tribute to Battlefleet Gothic

battlefleetgothic copy

Although I have a great fondness for all the Specialist Games, the greatest lament for me is the passing into legend of Battlefleet Gothic. If there was ever such a thing as a perfect game Battlefleet Gothic, in my opinion, is it.

It came out during what I consider to be the Golden Age of Games Workshop (1998-2002) when everything they did had the customer at its heart. Games were good and models were better. Gothic was the proverbial golden egg as it not only had superb rules, phenomenal back story and staggeringly good miniatures, it was also beautifully presented.


Aside from being a landscape book which was a one-off until Dreadfleet beached itself on our shores, it was the first game to use any kind of computer jiggery pockery in its artwork. It was a gorgeous game.

But Gothic, aside from being a brilliant read, lovely to look at and having some of the best models ever made by the Games Workhop, or anyone for that matter, it was utterly inspired for two very good reasons. One, the rules were incredible and two the background was instrumental in opening up the 40k Universe that Inquisitor and the Black Library ran with.

It was a brave thing to set a game in a specific point in the 40k timeline but it gave the game a sense of drama and occasion. This meant that game stayed focussed and meant that ranges of models weren’t rushed out to meet demand. Gothic also spelled out just what a monstrously complicated thing it is to mobilise a space fleet, let alone navigate it safely from one side of a segmentum to another. And the cherry on the cake was just how grim life could be on an Imperial warship. The iconic illustration of the indentured crew manually reloading the torpedo tubes will stay with me forever. It epitomises the Imperium and the Warhammer 40,000 universe as a whole: staggering scale, unimaginable destructive power, barely understood technology and the blood and sacrifice of the nameless masses.


Battlefleet Gothic’s setting became an integral part of the 40k canon, not only giving us some insight into Abaddon’s ambitions and tremendous foresight and deviousness, but set up events for the 13th Black Crusade which, I’m fairly certain, is technically still raging. It gave us the mad as bat shit planet killer and the mysterious Blackstone Fortresses. The latter of which would be referenced and speculated upon for years to come.

It was a brilliant, brutal and unrelenting tale of loss and tragedy. Of sacrifice and nobility. Of desperation and hollow victories. And the tireless, unrelenting work of the servants of the Emperor to bring to heel the foulness of Chaos. Whole worlds burned at the whim of madmen and for the pleasure of dark Gods. And millions stood against the darkness so billions could live at the behest of Warmasters and the distant Emperor. It’s was a space opera of tremendous scale and it was destruction on a scale never matched before or since. Apocalypse may have some massive kits but for all the strength and AP, nothing could compare to the misery an Imperial Warship can unleash on a world. Or a planetkiller.


But all of that is just the setting for the game itself. Which is brilliant. It was an evolution from the Epic 40,000 mechanic. Actually it was more than that as it took all the things that worked and made them better. Then made it work for spaceships. Not just any spaceships though: the lumbering clapped out old crocks of the 41st Millennium.

What made it really clever though was that it turned those lumbering clapped out old crocks into elegant, glittering shoals of destruction. Battlefleet Gothic is the most elegant game I’ve ever played. It perfectly balanced all the phases so movement was as important as shooting. Special Orders could swing the balance of a game just as a well-timed torpedo volley. Because the majority of fleets had to move every game was a delicate dance of fleets forced to sail through enemy lines, braced for incoming fire, all the while seeking ruin upon them. It consistently challenged the gamer to perfect every move so even if an attack failed they would be well placed to come about and try again.

The other thing that made the game so clever was the simple concept that so many games before and since have failed to grasp…space combat happens over tremendous distances. Hitting a moving target hundreds of kilometres away with solid ordnance is roughly the same as me trying to hit a flea at the end of my back garden, with a bow and arrow, whilst hopping. It is a staggeringly complicated thing to do. There were more than a few gamers that hated the ‘take x number of dice and subtract y because of range and positioning’ but it made sense. It was simple and it prevented huge swathes of your fleet being annihilated on the first turn. Like another game I could mention.

That’s not to say some fleets didn’t have advantages and often the opening gambit could be the winning gambit but this is true of naval battles throughout history. And beauty was that no matter which fleet you chose, if you were smart and understood their strengths that win could easily be yours be it for the Imperium, Orks or anyone else.

The real tragedy of Battlefleet Gothic was that it was almost perfect. The rules were solid. The models brilliant. It had nowhere to go. So when it was moved under Fanatic and subjected to a wave of ill tested rules and some truly horrid sculpts the thorough bred felt like a mongrel. It started to feel cheap, and messy and unloved. And the greater tragedy is that the people charged with its care loved the game but were starved of the resources to take it where it needed to go. Which was out of the Gothic sector and into the wider Imperium.

And they tried. I mean they really did. Battlefleet Armageddon came close but never really worked because Fanatic couldn’t resolve the casting issues surrounding the Armageddon ship variants. Unfortunately the money had already been spent and it killed any hope of trying anything new. So Gothic, perhaps more than any of the other Specialist Games was left to drift.

Battlefleet Gothic’s legacy however doesn’t just lay in its own pages or models but on those of Epic Armageddon. The success of Gothic and its evolved mechanic gave new life to one of Games Workshop’s greatest endeavours. There is no denying that the community brought about Epic’s revival, or that it played a direct part in taking it to a finished, printed, product. But it was Gothic that gave it life. Like a doner, shared the very best of itself to make something great.

Battlefleet Gothic is my absolute all time favourite game. It’s my favourite because it’s a brilliant game. It’s my favourite because it’s a brilliant story. It’s my favourite game because of the brilliant models. And it’s my favourite because it was the beginning of something. It proved that the story was as important as the game. That the story inspired campaigns and grand fleets and grander games. It validated Black Library’s efforts – the novels Execution Hour & Shadow Point that accompanied the game were seminal – and paved the way for Inquisitor and later Epic Armageddon. Battlefleet Gothic was, for me, the brightest star in the Golden Age and a star that gave life to other parts of the hobby. And it did it all without anyone one realising.

Good hunting Battefleet Gothic.

A Farewell to Specialist Games

gravestone copy

It is common knowledge to all, by now, that the Specialist Games range is all but dead. The Games Workshop is no longer producing miniatures and the rule books have been withdrawn from sale.

With its demise I and the rest of The Shell Case team have decided that we had to do something to mark its passing. So, we have taken it upon ourselves to write a tribute to the games we loved the most. One will go up each day over this week, starting with Adam’s tribute Blood Bowl and working our way through the other games in the range, ending the week with my true love: Battlefleet Gothic. Sadly there won’t be one for Warmaster because none of us really played it, so if there’s someone out there that would like to write a guest post then get in touch.

The games will undoubtedly live on in the hearts of gamers everywhere but couldn’t let these incredible game fall into memory without giving them a send off of our own.

Stay tuned…

Special No More

So it would seem that the Specialist Games part of the Games Workshop will be closing its doors. Although Games Workshop had left the greatest of all its children out in the cold for years now, it did still produce the models and make the rules available. Throwing their pariah child the barest scraps to keep going.

Despite this, Battlefleet Gothic, Mordheim and Epic Armageddon and others found a place in many a gamer’s heart. Including mine. Gothic is still my favourite game and Mordheim the most played amongst me and The Chaps. This love affair has endured despite no updates since Fanatic magazine and some truly terrible sculpts that would put most gamers off. It has endured through price hikes and restricted ranges. It. Has. Endured.

But no more. Games Workshop has announced that when the current stocks of metal models sell out, that’s it. No more. Ever. And, sadly Forge World are towing the company line and will be withdrawing from sale all Battlefleet Gothic and Epic lines from their site.

This doesn’t come as a surprise as the moment they announced Finecast I knew Specialist Games’ days were finally numbered. It’s a genuine tragedy that the most loved games the company have ever produced are the ones they loved the least and supported even less than that.

What this means of course, is that if you want to get your hands of anything for those games then you’ll have to be quick. It also means the second-hand market is going to go mental.

Although it’d be nice if the rules were still made available but with no models it’d be pointless so it really looks like this is it. It’s an inevitable course of things I suppose. All good things must come to an end but I’m struggling with the thought that when I speak about Battlefleet Gothic or Mordheim to a novice or returning gamer I will have to do so in the past tense. That soon gamers won’t have that same pang of excitement I got cracking open a box of Imperial Cruisers or a Battleship is just terrible.

Worse still, new gamers coming to the Games Workshop for the very first time won’t even know they existed.

I don’t particularly blame Games Workshop for making the decision. I’m amazed it took them this long. They tolerated the Specialist Games range far longer than their current business decisions suggested they would. But I suspect that the Specialist Games ranges were making a loss and that would only be tolerated for so long.

It’s an end of an era for Games Workshop – even with a limited boxset of Blood Bowl rumoured to be on the horizon – and it’s an end of an era for me and many others.

To the Specialist Games range and all those that have written rules and scenarios and sculpted models: I salute you. And will miss you dearly.

A Few of My Favourite Things

I’m at home not feeling very well today. Between that and feeling stressed about work, I’m feeling rather sorry for myself. So, in an effort to cheer myself up I decided to build an Epic Warlord Titan that I managed to blag off a mate in my long-term effort to rebuild my Adeptus Titanicus force that I long ago sold. The silly thing is that although it’s one of my all time favourite models, it’s an absolute bastard to build.

But it got me thinking about my favourite models. It’s a long long list. You can’t play wargames for 22 and a half (the half is important dmmit!) years and not build a long list of toys that was either inspirational, seminal or massively fucking awesome. Or all of the above. So, with a little bit of thought I’ve done a top 10 of my all time favourite models.

There’ll be quite a few Games Workshop models in it because the vast majority of my gaming years have been spent playing their games. And for those that disagree with my choices, bite me, do your own list.

10. Imperial Cruiser – Space Fleet

The first White Dwarf I ever bought at the tender age of 7 years old had Space Fleet on the front cover. At this point I didn’t understand that Games Workshop was more than Hero Quest. I’d seen a previous issue with it on the cover and therefore made the intellectual leap that White Dwarf (seeing as the drawing for the Dwarf was lifted from Hero Quest) was associated.

I was initially really disappointed to find that there was nothing in there about my newly acquired beloved game. But then I got to the bit about Space Fleet and my mind, already dosed on Star Wars, exploded into a realm of galactic possibilities that I’ve never moved away from. I did eventually get Space Fleet which wasn’t the best game ever but I didn’t care because the models, to me, were just epic.

9. The Barbarian – Hero Quest

The model hasn’t aged well. In fact, it’s entirely possible that if a sculptor produced something like that now they’d be sacked. But the fact remains that it was this single solitary model that got me into wargaming. My brother’s best friend had brought his set of Hero Quest over and this was one of the first model I saw and the heroic stance and the massive sword sold me completely.

8. Kurt Helborg – Warhammer Fantasy

The Master of the Reiksguard and a double hard bastard. At first I didn’t like this model but when I really looked at it I saw what a fantastic model it really is and it inspired me to collect a Reiksguard army. Sadly the project was never completed and I had to sell the models once again because I was caught short, but this model was seminal for as it encouraged me to start collecting themed armies. I also think it was quite seminal for Games Workshop as it was around this time that they started to produce some pant tighteningly beautiful character models.

7. Freebooter

A bit of a cheat really as this is an entire range but the Freebooter models have sparked such a love affair for me with my Mordheim Warband, I couldn’t imagine having them any other way. I’ve posted about my warband here so I won’t bang on about them now.

6. FSA Battleship – Dystopian Wars

The FSA Battleship blew me away when I first saw it. It doesn’t get more Steam Punk than an aotmically powered paddle steamer with clock work 9lb cannons. It’s just ace. And even through I’ve sold my FSA fleet in favour of the Covenant of Antarctica I’ll never forget it and the emotions it provoked in me.

5. Sorylian Battleship – Firestorm Armada

This bad boy gets the number 5 slot only because the Spartan Games models are recent additions to my life and I’m yet to develop the attachment that I have with other models but it was this model that totally and completely sold me on giving Spartan Games a try. Weirdly I bought Dystopian Wars first but I think that was entirely because I really wanted to try something new and Steam Punk was totally unexplored territory for me. But the Sorylian Swordbreaker is a fantastic looking ship and fearsome in the game. I never get tired of looking at it.

4. Space Marine Land Raider – Warhammer 40,000

The Space Marine Land Raider was one of my favourite models and I was immensely jealous of my brother for saving up his pocket-money and buying one. I’m two and a half years younger and I was always shit at saving. The sense of achievement I felt saving for a MkI Rhino was utterly destroyed when he came home with what is now known as the Proteus pattern. The first model I bought when I became a Games Workshop member of staff was the new Land Raider. It’s a beast. It’s an incredibly well designed and thought out model, its doors open and everything. And over the years I’ve built 12 of the bloody things. But it just sums up the indomitable will of Space Marines and for that reason I simply love it.

3. Imperial Cruisers – Battlefleet Gothic

I’m massively in love with Space Ships if you couldn’t tell by now. And also Battlefleet Gothic is largely responsible for this. Not only that but the game and these distinctive models blew open the Warhammer 40,000 universe for me. And the two novels – Execution Hour & Shadow Point are epic. But I love these models. I love how versatile the kit is and just how cool they are.

2. Warlord Titan – Epic Armageddon

Not a massive shock really seeing as I’ve been talking about this model recently. It’s just the tits. I mean look at it! A striding building sized weapon of war. I had a Adeptus Titanicus force a few years ago with 3 Warlords in it, each one modified slightly to make them unique. I had to sell the force because it was that or not eat and I often get a pang of regret. It’s my hope I can rebuild the force, starting with the one I’ve just built…

1. Multi-part plastic Space Marines – Warhmmaer 40,000

Unsurprisingly the multipart Space Marines made it to the top spot. I’ve been collecting Space Marines for years and years in one form or another – most recently my Ultramarines. When the multi-part kit came out, replacing those God-awful push together models from Second Edition Warhammer 40,000 I felt like I fell in love with Space Marines all over again. I’ve literally built hundreds of these models and I’ve never ever grown board of doing so, because they look so fucking cool.

So there you go, a few of my favourite things.

Being a bit Special

There’s been a lot of chatter on the interwebs lately about the lack of love the Games Workshop shows for its Specialist Range. I think this has been largely prompted by Fantasy Flight Games’ expanding range of licensed products such as the all new Blood Bowl Manager game. Although there’s a few rumours floating around that Blood Bowl will be the next in line for the Space Hulk treatment. Personally, I’d be quite happy with that because I think it’s the one game that never worked terribly well. I’m probably also the only one who thinks that.

There’s quite a few strong opinions out there. Some are understandable and passionate, others are the usual bilious nonsense that seems to follow Games Workshop around like a bad smell. As the Specialist Games range has been largely my sole focus for the Games Workshop part of my wargaming hobby at the moment I thought I’d wade in.

Whatever people feel, the simple truth behind Games Workshop’s lack of support towards the Specialist Games range boils down to three things:

1. There’s no money in it. This argument won’t come as a surprise to anyone. Any doubt gamers had that profit was at the forefront of Games Workshop’s mind has vanished following the recent price increases. But it’s a true and a fair reason (to a point – no profit means no company). Once you have the rules and a warband box for Mordheim you don’t need to spend another penny if you don’t want to. And all companies rely on repeat business.

2. The Specialist Games ranges stall peoples development in the hobby. This argument may well be anchored in economics but it’s valid. From my experience as a member of staff when Specialist Games was in its heyday, gamers that just played those games didn’t develop their modelling, painting and gaming skills as quickly as other gamers. A gamer that spent a couple of years playing skirmish games before graduating to Warhammer or 40k had their arses handed to them which put them off progressing further. Especially those that considered themselves ‘experienced gamers’.

3. There’s no space. The truth is there’s only so much space in a hobby store for stock and gaming boards and so the company has to give the space to what sells. Especially as ranges are getting bigger all the time. Even the Black Library is relegated to the smallest space possible in most stores. Granted more could be done online but the Games Workshop’s success is based on interaction and sharing the hobby with like-minded people. And, again, you’d still have to pay someone to write free content for a game that makes the business no real money in the first place.

I suppose, really it’s one reason when you scratch beneath the surface of points 2 & 3. Money. And that’s not unreasonable, but it does suck.

So, what can we as gamers do to enjoy the Specialist Games without the ongoing support of the publishers?
Obviously there’s nothing you can do about the lack of models or the relatively high cost of those that are. eBay is the obvious place to go but as I’ve talked about in my By Proxy post, starting a Necromunda gang that way can cost you twice as much as it should. Proxying is the obvious place to go but that’s not being covered here.

The great thing about the Specialist Games range is that the core rules are free to download from the website which is bloody handy and saves you a tidy bit of cash. Granted, printing it is a bind and it’s never the same as having the real deal but for zero investment you can suck it up if you ask me.

Beyond that and trying to track down the supplement magazines, the only thing left to you is writing campaigns.
And actually this is where the Specialist Games range gets one over on Warhammer & 40k because Epic Armageddon, Battlefleet Gothic, Mordheim and Necromunda are all set within a very specific place or time that gives you a very solid and detailed foundation from which to build your campaign on. Most of the leg work has already been done with regards to who’s who and why you’re there. All that’s left for you to do is think up a storyline, come up with some cracking scenarios and have fun. And I certainly have been with the chaps. You just need to have a read of the Blood in the Barrows scenario in the gaming resources part of this site to see that. And Inquisitor gives you a complete blank canvas. But that game does my box in so I’ll not say much more about it.

And if you’re feeling really adventurous, there’s nothing to stop you from revising the rules yourself, a bit like the chaps at Coreheim did. It’s certainly an option and could give your game of choice a new lease on life I’d ask yourself first; is it really worth the effort?

Granted we still come back to the issue of models and often the need to proxy which becomes increasingly difficult with games like Epic & Battlefleet Gothic but the ranges are still largely intact. Especially for Gothic which reinforces my belief that the game is like the Games Workshop’s bastard love child. It desperately wants to embrace it as their own and give it all the love and support it needs but to do so would be at a tremendous financial and personal cost.

I don’t think Games Workshop willingly abandoned the Specialist Games range. If they really wanted them gone they’d just pretend they never existed like Gorkamorka. I just think that the business has a very single-minded strategy which doesn’t leave any wiggle room. Do I like it? No. Is it cost-effective? Yes. And with the recent, cliff like, drop off in sales that Dreadfleet will go some way to rescuing them from, probably as the result of the price increases, there’s even less chance the company will have the funds to put into these wonderful and very special games.

Down The Docks

The quite excellent @NationOfLee asked me on Twitter this evening what I’d do to start a fleet for the incredibly awesome Battlefleet Gothic. As some of you read a day or so ago, I have an unbridled fondness for this game in just about every way you can for a tabletop wargame. The game is awesome, the models are awesome, the tactics are awesome. Generally, it’s awesome.

So what, I have been asked, should one consider when starting a Gothic fleet? Well, certain rules are pretty universal the first and foremost is, as with my post about collecting a Warhammer 40,000 army, you have to love the models. You have to look at the ships that will form the bulk of your fleet – Imperial Cruisers for example – and you have to get lost in the possibilities not just from the modelling and painting side of things but what it must be like to be aboard a kilometre long ship of war destined to sail into the void to face who knows what.

You have to love the models.

Next it’s probably advisable to establish a maximum fleet size. I didn’t do this and now I have a fleet so vast that I struggle to find an opponent with a fleet big enough I can use everything. Then again, thanks to the Games Workshop relegating Specialist Games to third world status I generally struggle to find an opponent at all.
But anyway, deciding the size of your fleet will help you focus and decide what you really want rather than succumbing to the impish voice in your head that screams ‘I want fucking everything!’ Okay, maybe not an impish voice…

After that the Galaxy is your oyster. I recommend studying the fleet lists thoroughly as seemingly pathetic escorts, when grouped together, can become the bane of even a battleship. They’re also a heck of a lot cheaper than cruisers. Sure they’ll die but you’ll make your points back and then some, providing you’re not foolish with them.

My approach to fleet building works on a simple principle which is one of narrative. If a small task force had been deployed what would it consist of? A battle cruiser, a lance equipped ship, a weapons battery equipped ship and something with fighter bays. And mucho torpedoes (I’m an Imperial player after all). Throw in a few Cobras and a couple of frigates and that’s an effective fighting force. Now, let’s expand upon that principle. A fleet is broken down into battle groups and task forces that are scattered across a region for patrol missions etc. So when the galactic shit hits the interstellar fan those groups are recalled back into the fleet. So essentially it becomes a case of replicating this principle, mixing it up a bit so a unit with Dauntless Light Cruisers for raider patrols etc.

The point is that a fleet needs to feel like a cohesive fighting force. You need to be able to look at your fleet and feel confident that all your bases are covered. Battleships need CAP (combat air patrol) and escort support. Cruisers need to work in concert to compensate short comings and vulnerabilities.

And finally, a word on tactics. You also have to be utterly fearless when it comes to Gothic or any space based game. Naval warfare is all about holding your nerve. Send out the first wave or torpedoes and hold fast. Don’t break, don’t blink, don’t hesitate because once the bastards are amongst you it’s the decisions you made long before you built your ships that will decide the outcome.