The Lone Hero

Jason over at The Warsculptor wrote a blog post in response to a conversation on Twitter that he and I had trying to convince him to give other game systems a pop.

Entitled ‘Why I’m Narrow Minded‘ Jason talks about his predisposition for the lone warrior triumphing over adversity. It’s an interesting point of view and one I partially share. It’s well documented that I love the Halo games and this is partly down to the epically heroic deeds of the Master Chief. And like Jason I like the Space Marines because each one can face down dozens of lesser foes and prevail. And if you’ve played the Space Marine video game that is very much the case.

However, I was thinking about this and although a Space Marine is a fearsome foe, it is the brotherhood that makes them so strong. Individually they are mighty, together they are unstoppable. They are self-sufficient killers but self-sufficient killers working in concert, supporting one another is a waking hell for their enemies. There is no shortage of heroic acts committed by the individual on the battlefield and there’s something to be said for nobility in sacrifice, however those sacrifices are a waste of life if their battle brothers aren’t there to take advantage of it. Even the Master Chief doesn’t act alone. Cortana (a ship AI if you’re unfamiliar), and a variety of un-augmented humans help the Chief, usually at tremendous personal sacrifice. Yes the Chief wins the day; standing against impossible odds alone, but he couldn’t have got there without help.

Similarly, the role of a leader is a solitary one. Burdened with the weight of command it takes extraordinary souls to lead, even greater ones to keep those under them alive. Indeed there is no greater torment for a leader to order men to their deaths. But it is done so in the hope that it will save lives and defeat the enemy. There is no lonelier role. Especially at the helm of a space faring ship of war.

I grew up on a diet of Transformers, Thundercats and a handful of other 80’s cartoons that drummed into me, over and over again, that working as a team, combined with inspired leadership wins the day. And you always always do the right thing, even if it means making the tough decision. Needless to say my idealism and the real world come into conflict on a regular basis.

But the point is that whereas Jason looks to the lone warrior I look to the fleets of brave men and women on board mighty space vessels and the few that have the mettle to command them. Those few who will sail their vessel into the guns of the enemy knowing they might never return but knowing if they don’t their sacrifice will save the lives of their fellow servicemen. The enormity of that responsibility humbles me, especially as there are people in military’s all over the world that have to make those decisions far too often and with very real consequences.

Even the humble Rhino has a hero at the wheel. A Space Marine that drives into enemy fire to transport or even rescue his battle brothers and will do so no matter the personal cost. Those Space Marine players out there know that Rhino’s are lucky to make the end of a game.

I completely see Jason’s point, I actually share it to a degree but I think where he sees spaceships with hordes of faceless crew I see a ship full of heroes, all of them doing what they must to win the day. All of them put their faith in their ship, their comrades and their commanding office to see them through to the dawn. And those commanding officers have to have faith in their crew that they will perform admirably during the hellstorm that is space warfare. And, I imagine, no small amount of faith being put in the almighty for good measure. The Gothic War novels by Gordon Rennie do an incredibly job of capturing space battles in the 41st Millennium and capturing the humanity amongst the enormity of the endeavour.

No matter what a soldier’s role they are all heroes for they do their duty and may even make the ultimate sacrifice in the process. And all to allow that Lone Warrior to commit an extraordinary act that wins the day.

I <3 Battlefleet Gothic

It’s true, I do. I always have from the moment I played my first game. I’ll admit that initially I struggled with a game being set within a very specific time period as I felt it limited the games scope (which it kinda does) but this doesn’t detract from what an awesome game it is.

As some of you know I was at home today full of plague so I had time on my hands so I decided to finally build the last 4 remaining cruisers for my monster Imperial Fleet. These have been sat on a shelf for literally years. So many years, in fact, that it’s actually embarrassing. And along side them was a Retribution class battleship and a Blackstone Fortress which I’ve still not built.

With this in mind it’s fair to say that, perhaps, I don’t love Gothic. If I did I’d have my 6,600 point fleet not only built but painted. The simple answer is; when you have no one to play against it’s easy to lose passion for a project.

But lately I’ve been inspired. Partly because I’ve gotten into Space-based-wargaming again through Firestorm Armada but also because a new guy at work use to be, like me, a member of staff during the early 2000s when the company put the hobby ahead of sales. Through lunchtime conversations we have reignited one another’s passion for Battlefleet Gothic. It prompted me to finally break the seals on the model boxes and him to build a space station ala the one in the rulebook. Yes, I know, his is a cooler expression of creativity (and a cooler model than shown in the book) but he doesn’t have a blog so he can bite me.

So why do I love Gothic? Well, for one thing, the models are awesome. The Imperial ships especially. I don’t think anything evokes the scale of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe, or the conflict, better than those ships in that game. They’re just epic. They’re also a joy to build with just enough level of customisation to make your fleet varied without sending you insane with an endless list of weapon systems and fiddly model components to stick on. I concluded today that the Imperial Cruiser kit is one of my favourite models ever. And after 22 years of buying, building and (sometimes) painting models that’s quite a statement.

The game itself is a perfect combination of elegance, tactics and old-fashioned naval manoeuvres that make it easy to play, difficult to master. You can always spot a novice playing Gothic a mile off because they lack that utterly focussed and sheer bloody minded approach to combat. This chap at work, Lee, described my tactics in Warhammer 40,000 using my Ultramarines as a hammer blow. A single decisive strike that breaks the back of my opponent. All or nothing, do or die. In Gothic I’m entirely more brutal; my fleet tasked to operate as hunting packs that isolate and dominate the enemy until nothing is left. It requires nerves of steel, a willingness to sacrifice the few so the many take the day, and total faith in the ships and the weapons at your disposal.

I’ve talked about this before both online and with my friends. I’m a lucky person when playing wargames. So much so one friend in particular always thinks twice about playing me. And not because I take beardy armies or anything like that, but because I almost always beat the odds. And I put it down to having total faith in my army/fleet selection, the decisions I’ve made and that those squads/ships will perform admirably. Obviously there’s more to it than that but an iron will is very unnerving in an opponent which has its advantages when you are the opponent.

But I digress. Why do I love Battlefleet Gothic so much? Because it’s a space opera. It’s a delicate dance of monstrous ships of war. It’s steeled nerves and all or nothing gambit. It’s daring broadsides or heroic bombing runs. It’s also a game will excellent models, well written rules and something you can have fun with only 4 ships a side should the mood take you.

If you’ve never  played it or long ago gave up I strongly urge you to embrace what is one of the best games ever made. True fact.

The Sorylians Have Landed

My Sorylians finally arrived, courtesy of Firestorm Games this week. I ordered a starter fleet and a carrier (although I’ve ordered another 400 points worth already) and I have to say I’m very pleased with them and hugely excited. The models are lovely although I have to confess being a tad disappointed with metal engines for the frigates making them horribly back heavy, but also the poorly thought out position and depth of the holes for the flying stands to sit in. Fortunately I have that ‘new army feeling’ so was quite happy to sit and painstakingly bore out the holes, whilst watching Top Gear Challenges 4, so the ships would sit safely on their stands for a couple of hours.

To be fair, part of the determination was the knowledge that I was using them Friday night so needed to have a built fleet ready to go (I won by the way) but that doesn’t account for the fact that at 11.30pm I was outside undercoating them by the light coming through the kitchen window.

This fresh enthusiasm is quite something for me and goes beyond ‘new army syndrome’. I think it’s partly because it’s properly new rather than the variation on a theme, but also because it was a decision I agonized over – as you’ve read.I’m really looking forward to painting them. My dilemma and one I’ll need helping with, is the colour scheme. Now the Sorylians are reptiloids so I was thinking, aside from the obvious bits being metal in colour, something organic – something to reflect who and what they are. Below are four ideas; feel free to cast your votes. There’s no guarantee I’ll pay any attention but hey it’ll be interesting to see what you think.

This will be the first of a few posts chronicling the development of my Sorylian fleet so stay tuned…

Big is Beautiful

Dreadnoughts are on the way for Spartan Games’ Firestorm Armada so I thought I’d take the opportunity to showcase a couple of the images for the four classes thus far published on their site. I make no bones about loving space based games. I love Gothic for the game and I love it for the ships. A massive warship sailing through the void is very powerful stuff. And probably has everything to do with me being brought up on a diet of Star Wars, Star Trek and half a dozen sci-fi based cartoons.

So Firestorm is no exception. Big spaceships which either look awesome of ooze menace is what gets me excited. So enjoy the grabs and as and when release information becomes available I’ll let you know…

Terran Alliance Titan Class Dreadnought 

Titan Class Dreadnought alongside the Razorthorn Class Battleship

Directorate Persecution Class Dreadnought

Persecution Class Dreadnought alongside the Judgement Class Battleship

Dindrenzi Retribution Class Dreadnought

Retribution Class Dreadnought alongside the Conqueror Class Battleship

Sorylian Broadsword Class Dreadnought

Broadsword Class Dreadnought alongside a Swordbreaker Class Battleship
& Skyhammer Class Cruiser