Warhammer 40,000 – Coping with Change

So most of us have had 8th edition for a little while now and have likely invested in an Index or two.

Aside from ditching the 3rd edition mechanic almost entirely which has served as a rebirth for a number of weapons and tactics,  there has been a conscious effort to redress the balance for certain armies. Armies that, no matter how hard the design studio tried, were consistently mugged off by every codex that came out for them.

The main victims were the Imperial Guard, Tyranids and Orks who for years never quite lived up to the potential, despite a consistent top up of new and groovy models. Arguably Eldar and Dark Eldar occupied the other slots in the ‘Top 5 Most Mugged Off Armies’ chart but they are less of a focus.

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Speed

One of the biggest changes from 7th to 8th edition was reintroducing different move rates. Back in 1998 I actually really liked the change because it made things simpler and made the game feel faster.

Back then it probably did play faster too but as the years and the editions wore on more and more special rules had to be introduced to cope with the dizzying array of faster units, including flyers the game introduced.

It became clumsy, awkward and completely deballed the argument for having flat movement values in the first place. So they’ve gone.

This is extremely good news for Eldar armies but it’s utterly terrifying for another fighting Tyranids. Because by the Emperor’s shrivelled nut sack are they quick.

Whilst the majority may shrug because they should be, it blows all army compositions and battle plans that rely on gun lines clear out of the water. Some units under 8th edition can more or less assault on turn 1. That’s 2nd edition levels of crazy and I love it.

This is the 41st Millennium after all where either insanely advanced tech, unholy powers of the Immaterium or super fast, super agile alien life forms exist. Of course shit should move that fast.

Those who relied on whittling down enemy units with shooting and then weathering the inevitable assault with superior stats need to think again because you no longer have that kind of time.

For Guard players the change in movement coupled with the move towards treating vehicles like infantry has turned the Leman Russ variants into hilarious and incredibly hard to kill, fast-moving flanking units as opposed to the armoured pill boxes of yesteryear.

Survival

As if blinding speed wasn’t bad enough, the flimsy base units aren’t so flimsy any more. With the change of AP from a value weapons can ignore to a modifier – ala 2nd Edition – Imperial Guard, Hormagaunts and Ork Boys all get a save against most basic weapons.

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This is a major change because up to now mobs of Orks could be culled with almost impunity by Space Marines unless the Ork players coughed up for the ‘Ard Boy upgrade. Which, again, completely undermined a big advantage for fielding Orks: numbers.

The same was true for Imperial Guard. Take Grenadiers or storm troopers or be prepared for a very static game.

Whilst standing still and shooting (or attempting to) everything that moves is a tried and tested tactic of the Imperial Guard, it doesn’t take long for that way of playing to get old.

With how modifiers work: Tyranids, Orks and Imperial Guard become a lot more dynamic. Of course leapfrogging form one building to another will still keep your blokes alive for longer because of the +1 to armour save, but they now stand a fighting chance when they’re forced to run across open ground too.

It’s hard to say who benefits the more from this as all of the flimsier armies benefits. The only armies who don’t are the Space Marine derived. But on the upside they get a more gripping game.

Power

In 8th edition a lot of things got a lot more power from units to weapons.

The move to flat rolls over tables means that Orks, who have suffered for years with a statline that never really reflected the sheer brutality of the army, are now horrendous.

Broadly speaking 8th edition favours horde armies over any other but Tyranids and Orks definitely come out on top.

The durability when combined with higher to hit and wound rolls have turned the lowly Ork boy in to a combat monster. Whilst I’m of the opinion this is a positive and needed to happen, a lot of gamers are about to get smacked around by opponents that historically posed no real threat.

Orks are now fucking mental.

Anyone who read my review of the core rules will start to see that the apple cart his so much been upset as been shelled from space.

But it goes further than that. Guard’s traditional utter mediocrity is no completely offset by the fact that everything can wound everything.

Whilst you’re unlikely to lose a Land Raider to concentrated lasgun fire, it is now possible.

But for the Imperial Guard it isn’t just the fact that infantry units are now incredibly worthwhile, it’s the sheer variety of special and heavy weapons you can cram into the army.

For example Plasma weapons have always been handy but now they are more or less the go to ‘everything killer’. Although there are more powerful weapons out there, point for point – especially as the plasma gun is as destructive as a plasma cannon – they can tackle most things.

A plasma gun and a plasma pistol in every squad and suddenly you have units that can overwhelm small elite units and chip away at medium and light tanks with ease.

Brace, Brace, Brace!

Whilst Space Marines make out okay in 8th edition, not least because of the addition of Primaris marines, it’s the horde armies that are the ones to watch. Especially with the introduction of power levels.

Asymmetric gaming overwhelmingly benefits horde armies simply because they get the most pop for their points. If you’re using the Open War deck (which everyone should because it’s awesome) then you can be in for some really fun and very messy games.

Of course the real prize-fight will be seeing one horde army face off against another. Especially Orks vs Tyranids. Speed and aggression vs savagery and unrelenting toughness.

 

Fast Movers in 40k

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Last Thursday I got a game of 40k in using my new Ork army. As it was their second outing I thought I’d mix it up a bit and give the Dakkajet a try because, well it’s freaking cool. For reasons passing my understanding, I told Lee I’d be taking a flyer which prompted him to tweak his army list to cram in a Strom Raven. I can’t blame him, I just wanted to be a sod and spend all game strafing him with impunity.

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I was my usual jammy self and managed to get my Dakkajet on the board at the start of turn 2 and immediately set about hosing down an Imperial Guard squad. The Storm Raven came on the following turn and turned the sky around my Dakkajet into a swirling storm of explosions and hot lead in an attempt to turn the Howlin Git into a big cloud of tin foil and fire. But as I mentioned, I was jammy. Passing 6 out of the 7 Jink saves forced upon me resulted in me breaking off and attacking a second Guard section with the Raven in hot pursuit. The Dakkajet’s number as inevitably up but it struck me how (a) cinematic it all looked (b) how flyers didn’t break the game as I feared and (c) how introducing flyers is a natural evolution in army selection and encourages gamers to take ‘all comers’ lists rather than tailoring them to suit a specific force or army composition.

Lee had a tactical advantage in so much as I’d told him I was taking a flyer. However ‘best practice’ as it were suggests that he should allow for that likelihood anyway. With pretty much every army having a flyer of some sort it’s reasonable for us as gamers to have a contingency to deal with them should we find the sky filling up with fast movers. Units with skyfire rules or an upgrade or ammo type. A flyer of your own is not unreasonable and if it turns out your opponent hasn’t taken one then you get to dominate the skies. It’s not exactly a lose lose situation other than the often heavy point investment required. Or you make the decision to ignore it and hope for the best. Having witnessed what my piddly Ork flyer can do I don’t necessarily recommend that option. A flyer will rarely win you the game, but it will give your opponent a headache whilst the rest of your army does the business.

But the point is this: Flyers were an important missing piece of the 40k puzzle. I was quite possibly the biggest sceptic (well joint first with Lee) when they first started to appear in 40k. It was a combination of things as to why. Firstly it was how simply flyers worked in Space Marine – that was never going to translate well in the creaking behemoth that is the 40k rule book. Secondly, the rules seemed reminiscent of Epic 40k. Which was such a wallowing turd of a game I was immediately concerned. And finally my feeling was that they would unbalance the game and give Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines and Necrons an insurmountable edge.

Whilst the latter is partially true it re-emphasises the point that 40k is at its best when armies are interesting. Built around combined arms rather than designing a power list to spank the living shit out of your opponent in three turns or less. And then hit on their momma. Solid cores of troops, elite units, assault elements, armour, artillery. All working together to the greatest effect. Add in aircraft and it all suddenly makes sense. It adds an extra layer to the combat, adds a new threat to the previously tame skies. It forces gamers to think in three dimensions beyond vantage points in buildings.

Plus it’s outrageous amounts of fun. Building the kits is awesome. It takes those early days of building Airfix F14 super Tomcats to a whole new (and way cooler) level. And using them is ace. They look great on the board, the rules make for new and interesting tactical decisions for both players. And board set up too has never been more important. Playing hideously open boards that have no place being anywhere other than Warhammer Fantasy or Lord of the Rings will spell doom and misery for any units that fall under the guns of a flyer. But I suppose that could make for interesting scenarios too and allow you to recreate the odd scene from the Gaunt’s Ghosts series. No bad thing there.

In short – flyers have changed the game of 40k far more than I ever realised, and for the better. The potential for aerial shenanigans encourages gamers to write more flexible army lists. Tactics have to be rethought and adapted. The space has never been more three-dimensional and board layout is vital to affording your troops the protection they’ll need. It doesn’t mean flyers are overpowered because they’re not. They’ll still get shot to bits by one another and even without skyfire, it’s not as hard as you’d think to shoot something down, because I’ve done it. Of course there’s a commercial argument. If you have a flyer I have to buy one too. Little bit of yes, little bit of no. No one forces you to do anything and there are alternatives. But I struggle to entertain the financial point of view because chances are we’ve already spent a couple of hundred pounds on our armies already. What’s another thirty? Flyers represent an opportunity to bring some of the excitement, dynamism and scale from the artwork to the board. And that cannot be a bad thing.

-Phil

Codex Astra Militarum – A Review

warhammer-40000-logo With their name changed for reasons unknown, or at least unconfirmed *cough* copyright *cough*, here comes the Star Army – or Astra Militarum in High Gothic.  Or just the plain old Imperial Guard to those of us who will always know them as such (it even says so on the title page). Astra Militarum Codex We’re mostly all familiar with the new format Codex’s so I’ll just say it’s on par with the best of them.  The artwork is beautiful, it’s full colour (although I still reserve my love for the monochrome inks) and top quality throughout, everything you expect from the hardbacks. I’ve been quite looking forward to seeing what [insert authors name here as Games Workshop won’t tell you anymore] has done for the Imperial Guard as I wasn’t a big fan of the last codex, I don’t know why. Maybe because it was crap (in my humble opinion). Specifically, I didn’t like how the orders worked – the 6” range for Platoon Command squads was just unworkable, Vox Casters didn’t give you extra range to issue orders which just seemed plain stupid to me.  Seeing as how the orders system was supposed to be the Imperial Guard’s ‘thing’, I didn’t feel like it was executed properly as it wasn’t inclusive of most of the list, and forced you to either play in a very limited way, always take Ursarker Creed, or join the Valkyrie party like everyone else who wanted to occasionally win a game. So addressing the orders first, you’ll be happy to know they have changed for the better – not perfect, but definitely better.  It’s a blanket 12” range for everyone now unless stated in a special rule – and this can be extended out to 18” through the Warlord Trait table. The Imperium can send a message trillions of miles across the galaxy, but still can’t send one from one side of the battlefield to the other, so Vox Casters still don’t affect range – granting you the re-roll to the leadership test for the order to be carried out instead.  There are more orders now for total of nine – three of which are still for senior officers only, defined with an additional special rule over the new ‘Voice of Command’ rule which is what enables you to issue orders in the first place.  But a few of the old orders have gone (like go to ground) so a lot of the list is actually new – and also better accommodates things like Storm Troopers, I mean Storm Army, I mean Militarum Tempestus. Damn copyright. The Storm Troopers have changed considerably, now taken as elite platoons in the same way as standard infantry, with the officer able to issue orders to them and so actually including them in the whole army ‘thing’ this time round whereas before they just…weren’t really.  This is a good thing as it removes some of the reliance on the Valkyries as it becomes difficult to move an entire platoon around in flyers and is not really feasible points wise now the Valkyrie/Vulture points cost has gone up massively – which it needed to, as they were a bit too good.  And this leads into the primary reason for the new Rhinox Transport coming into being: it’s a cheap, heavily gunned transport able to negotiate difficult terrain – essentially a poor troopers Valkyrie on tracks – and now the go to method of moving around your expensive Storm Troopers without inviting the dangers of deep strike. It’s also worth noting Storm Troopers have now lost their Hellpistols and so are significantly worse in the assaults they often find themselves in, what with being so daring and everything. I’m unsure of the reasoning behind this, but the cynic in me is looking at the Ogryn shaped other new kit that came out and is now the only unit which can actually do anything in an assault without placing your Command units in harm’s way. Which is a shame because, for as much as Storm Troopers had a definite lean towards shooting, they are still supposed to be special forces bad asses who could mix it up in an assault too. A big plus is the addition of Tank Commanders, enabling you to do proper armoured companies with Veteran Grenadiers mounted in Chimera’s still acting as your troops.  The tank orders, whilst not amazing, encourage you to race your Leman Russ’ around the board terrifying your opponent, which sounds fun.  But while this is good if you are doing an armoured company, it may not be so desirable if you’re sticking with some foot sloggers. The orders also revolve around taking squadrons of tanks which again, is something that would typically appeal to armoured companies over everything else – in short, standard Tank Commanders only makes sense if you’re doing an armoured company.  Everyone else can take Knight Commander Pask –who’s got even better, and cheaper, and he now has a different effect depending on the type of tank he’s riding in (whilst also clearing up any ambiguity over what he could ride in for the pedantic souls amongst us). Take him with an Executioner and you can fire a single large blast instead 3 small ones, or give a Punisher Rending? Yes please, thank you very much, don’t mind if I do, much obliged….you get the picture, he’s cool. Very cool.

The Paskinator - now with added Rendingness
The Paskinator – now with added Rending

Some of the Tanks have got cheaper (although a couple did go up a bit too), most notably the aforementioned Executioner – which I’m guessing is to compensate for the fact it tends to glance itself to death with the inevitable overheats that come from firing three plasma cannons a turn.  But at least that can part pay for Pask, and then if you’re only firing a single large blast the chances are even slimmer. Conscripts also made it onto the reduced points list and are now very cheap – presumably in line with the Chaos Cultists who are identical. This makes horde armies more appealing now and if you can get your Commissar ‘Voice of Command’ via two of the Warlord Traits they can issue orders to them too – as long as they are your only HQ choice that is, which is a nice bit of character making its way back into the list.  And I think that’s where the book triumphs, it brings the character of the army back and away from the special characters you were forced to take previously.  There are of course casualties in doing this (poor Marbo) and it will never have the full flavour of a list dedicated to each world (still a possibility?), but it’s enough for you to generally field the army you want in the way you want. The book is a big improvement on its predecessor. The unit choices are generally cheaper and work better with each other, giving you a little more flexibility in what is an otherwise clunky army.  The improved order system keeps the flavour of the army intact and rewards you for holding your nerve and timing them right for maximum effect. It’s methodical, organised death – just the way the Imperial Guard should be.

Codex Astra Militarum is available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.

-Lee

Leaked White Dwarf Astra Militarum Images

As the new Codex rumbles towards release as unstoppable as the Leman Russ battle tank it’ll no doubt over power, here’s the inevitable last-minute leaked images from the upcoming White Dwarf of the new shit for the freshly renamed Astra Militarum including the Wyvern. The badass twin brother of the equally badass Hydra. I make no bones: I want an army just for this kit. And the Valkyries.

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New Ogryn and Hydra Flak Tank Images Leaked

The Flak Tank looks awesome and is a welcome, and long-awaited, addition to the Imperial Guard arsenal. The Ogryns kinda look like the love children of Sloth from the Goonies…

Sloth

Sloth Love Chunk…y guns.

Allegedly called Darog’s regiment the range includes a Ogryn officer – presumably Darog and a grizzled veteran type with a very well-kept moustache. The models are pretty heavily stylised, with lots of chap angles and lots of little nods towards the Ogre Kingdoms models. Particularly with regards to the footwear and a penchant for protecting the gut area.

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The Hydra looks way cool. I can see this kit being a big seller as gamers the world over will want to add it to their Guard (Militarum) armies as well as make use of all the cool bits for conversions. I’d happily stick that turret on a Rhino. Sadly, from the picture, it looks like the rumoured replacement Guard is a fiction and the Basilisk, that could really do with an update, is also staying as is.HydraFlakTank

Leaked Imperial Guard Codex Cover

It seems that the Imperial Guard are no more. At least not in the sense that we’ve known and loved them all these years. It seems they are now the Space Army – or Astra Militarum. I suspect this is the catch all organisational term applied to the Imperial Armed Forces – so the Guard, the Munitorum etc etc.

Either way, the cover is gorgeous. This may have to be a purchase. And may well mean I finally collect my air cavalry army.

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And just to emphasis the departure from the traditional guard here’s a shot of the new Taurox and the Tempestus Scions. The former looks like some God-awful kitbash from a WWII half track, some Sister of Battle kits, an Ork Wagon and a few spare Imperial components. Tha latter look like a merging of the awesome Kasrkin models and the atrocious original plastic Stormtrooper models. I strongly urge Guard players the world over to buy up as many Kasrkin models as you can because I think there’s going to be some quite iffy models to accompany this release.

Taurox

Scions

It looks like this Codex could be the biggest army shake up ever.

 

 

Fire Caste – A Review

Though I do read my fair share of books and in my time I’ve consumed enough fiction from Black Library to break even the sturdiest of book shelves, it is very much 40k fiction rather than ‘literature’. Yet reading Fire Caste, written by Peter Fehervari, I got the sense of something I rarely get from Games Workshop’s publishing arm. Fire Caste is a book that works just as well as literature separate from the 40k universe as a part of it. This book is the one of the few fully adult science fiction novels I’ve read in the Black Library line.

Fire Caste reminds me of something I had forgotten about after years of reading bolter porn. Which is that the 40k universe has so much potential as a legitimate science fiction universe that’s so often squandered on just recreating the tabletop game in novel form. Whilst Fire Caste isn’t a perfect novel by any means, it manages to juggle the larger nature of 40k metaphysics and the battle scenes that the less mature players turn up for.

Let me be up front. If you were assuming that Fire Caste is about the Tau, then you are in for a shock. The Tau are used more as secondary antagonists and as a way to drive the plot, though they do play an important part early on and in the final act of the book.

Instead, the novel follows the stories of an Imperial Guard regiment, The Arkan Confederates, and a lone half mad Commissar called Holt Iverson. Together they fight to discover just what is really happening on the planet of Phaedra, all the while running from the deamons of their past which in 40k, joyously, means both figuratively and literally.

Now whilst that may seem like a typical story for the Black Library, what makes it stand out is Fehervari’s writing style. More than most other books in the BL catalogue, the author seems to grasp that the Warhammer 40K universe is much better when it leaves things to the imagination and has many half-truths floating around. The books setting, a sort of chaosified Vietnam, is massively condemnatory of war in general, the horrors it allows and its overall futility.

These themes, along with a rather different take on the Tau will probably put off a lot of readers who are used to the Black Library’s standard diet of bombs and bullets sautéed in blood, served up on a platter of Ork guts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And I’ve certainly seen a lot of complaints about how open-ended the book leaves certain threads.

It’s worth persevering though. Fire Caste gives us the great character of Holt Iverson who I’m sure will be in other novels (though perhaps not in the traditional sense) and gives us a very interesting portrayal of the Greater Good, after it’s been subject to a 50 year unwinnable war and all the while steeped in the nature of the corrosive touch of chaos.

Along with Atlas Infernal, I have a feeling that the second wave of Black Library writers will be allowed to dig into the weirdness of 40k to give that crazy fucked up universe its proper dues. I can’t wait.

Fire Caste is available from The Black Library, Amazon and most highstreet booksellers.

A History of Menasa

@jraferguson has been working on his Imperial Guard army background for a little while now. And seeing as the old bugger has finally put fingers to keyboard and put it up on his blog, it seemed only right that I repost it. Because I’m nice like that. Red it here.