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.

White Dwarf “Wood Elves” – A Review

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From the mists of Athel Loren emerge the warriors of the Wood Elves to repel the encroachment of man and daemon alike…

Today we get our first official look at the new Wood Elves as they return with a vengeance to the world of Warhammer. Anyone who’s been involved in the fantasy tabletop Games Workshop scene will know that Wood Elves have been long overdue an update (to put it mildly) and there’s no doubt now, that despite many of the rumours regarding scrapping them, combining them into a dual or multiple army book with Bretonnians, Games Workshop have given them a full army book makeover and the results look pretty special!

Thematic shifts

One of the most interesting shifts in the Wood Elf army is the emphasis that Mat Ward seems to have placed on the duality of the Wood Elves and their alignment to nature as both a creative and destructive force. This is borne out in what little we know of their rules (through things like access to both Dark and High magic lores, with the suspicion of more like this to come) and in the way that they are described, as walking a dual path, embracing the unpredictability of their choices and revelling in the somewhat chaotic environment that they reside within.

New Models

The most obvious changes with the release of an army book refresh prior to anyone actually having seen the inside of it (not available until next Saturday), is the model range. This week’s White Dwarf (issue number 13, not unlucky for Wood Elf players) contains new models across the range, including characters, monsters and new infantry in the form of what could be a new Eternal Guard kit.

Treeman!

Model

The biggest release, in both change of style and size of model has to be the new treeman model. Available as a ‘triple kit’ and capable of being assembled either as a Treeman, a Treeman Ancient, and the special character Ancient ‘Durthu’ (that’s him with the giant sword on the front cover) it’s a stunningly detailed kit with a myriad of options available to the hobbyist putting it together. The leaked pics available earlier in the week have already proved that it’s something of a marmite kit on first impressions, but I predict that few will be unswayed once they see it in the plastic, as it were. It’s obviously a break from the traditional Tolkien-esque versions available for the Wood Elves previously and I suspect that’s in no small part due to the Lord of the Rings line that Games Workshop have been selling since the Wood Elves were last re-done. The new Treeman kit certainly will make it clear to everyone whether you’re using a model that is what Games Workshop call a “Warhammer Wood ElfTreeman” as opposed to a “Lord of the Rings Ent”.

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Rules

The rules for Durthu, included in full in White Dwarf, are interesting and he looks like he’ll be a very cool option for anyone’s army. Your standard Treeman probably hasn’t changed that much but the Ancient Treeman certainly has – they are now all spellcasters (as is Durthu, as the oldest of all Treeman Ancients) and though it remains to be seen what lore choices standard Ancients get (Durthu is a Level 1 in Beasts) it will certainly give Wood Elves an interesting new dimension – especially given that standard spellweavers now have access to Dark and High magic alongside the 8 standard schools, albeit with their own special lore attributes. Durthu is also listed as having the “Blessings of the Ancients” special rule, which isn’t articulated anywhere. I presume that’s what makes him a Treeman Ancient, or possibly the big cheese of all Treeman Ancients, but that’ll take the army book to work out. Durhtu also has the rather nasty Tree Whack option in melee, which allows him to sacrifice his 5 standard attacks (at WS7, S6!) for one big bertha, that requires your target to fail an initiative test for you to deal d6 wounds with no armour save – ouch!

Araloth and other special characters

Model

The main character model featured in White Dwarf is Araloth, again with his rules, a Wood Elf noble who was diverted from his arrogant path by an encounter with an Elven Goddess. Araloth’s model is rather nice, posed giving flight to his hawk Skaryn, who can pluck the eye from any enemy careless enough to leave it unguarded. There also look to be a number of other new special character models appearing, but pictures are rather small so we’ll await confirmation on that front when the army book arrives!

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Rules

Araloth has a number of generic special rules, such as Always Strikes First (does this mean this isn’t a standard rule for all Wood Elves as had been previously rumoured? Or is it simply Games Workshop listing it this way in White Dwarf to avoid revealing more than they want to?) and Stubborn. He is armed with an Asrai Spear, which itself appears to suggest that any ‘Asrai’ weapons will be armour piercing (Asrai arrows, anyone?). A further interesting comment by one of the Games Workshop staff interviewed about using Araloth is the comment that “If you keep him in a wood, he’ll be able to re-roll To Wound rolls of a 1”, which suggests that Wood Elves may gain some benefits from being inside a wood as a general army special rule.

Eternal Guard?

One of the most interesting new models on show (though you have to peer quite hard to see them) are potential new Eternal Guard models. The Eternal Guard are definitely still in the army, as they’re mentioned several times in White Dwarf by those interviewed, and it would seem that they will retain their role as the ‘elite guard’ and ‘hard hitters’ of the Wood Elf army. The new models, if Eternal Guard they are, appear to be armed with a two-handed extended axe type weapon that could either be a halberd or a two-handed weapon. Whatever it turns out to be, I’m assuming it will be an ‘Asrai’ weapon as well, meaning it’ll either be S4 Armour Piercing, or S5 Armour Piercing. If Wood Elves don’t get ASF across the board, it’s probably going to be a halberd, but it will be interesting to see how it turns out. Either way, the new models look pretty damn cool.

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And what models are not there?

No pics of stag rider models in this White Dwarf, though two different art-works featuring them are in there, including those in the leaks earlier in the week. There aren’t any pics of treekin either – which given the way that the Treeman model now fits the theme of the dryad models suggests that there could well be new models forthcoming from them, but that’s a long way from confirmed. There is a very ‘in the background’ picture of a warhawk rider, but it’s impossible to say whether it’s new or old.

And the rest…

There’s also a nice paint splatter section on painting a Treeman, a whole load of interview content with people who’ve used the new Wood Elves in battle and lots of lovely pictures!

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A Tale of Two Armies – Chapter 2

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAhead of the narrative to go with the 1,000 point game Lee and I played a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to write a middle part to set the scene, if you will.

von Strauss grunted with satisfaction as Baduk’s axe impacted against the chest of his beastman opponent with a wet snap of a split sternum. The beast grunted its own sound of simple approval, a cloud of steam billowing from a scarred snout, as the life bled from its eyes as quickly as it poured from his ruptured heart.  The beastman dropped to the wooded ground in an expanding pool of blood that blackened the grass and soaked the soil beneath. von Strauss eyed the herd master carefully. These twisted children of Chaos were unpredictable at best, stupid at worst, and as likely to turn on their allies as their enemies if the hunger took them too soon in battle.

von Strauss was loathed to deal with  the herd beasts at all but he needed their brutish simplicity to draw out his quarry from behind Middenheims grat gates. He knew the arrogant fool would be keen to prove his worth following the injuries he suffered at the hands of Baduk. von Strauss could sympathise, he too had suffered wounds and with it the displeasure of his patron. Baduk’s protection of his liege despite near fatal wounds of his own had earned exultation. Baduk’s ascension had been painful for both of them. von Strauss’ failure to slay von Bomburg had drawn Khorne’s attention. As Baduk had endured the fire trials the flames had leapt from the fire pit and enveloped von Strauss. The heat had burned him to his core. His skin had become liquid, mingled with his vital fluids, and flowed from the seams of his armour, swirling around his glowing red form. He hadn’t made a sound. To utter a word of protest would be to invite his doom.

As the embers of the fires grew dim and Baduk’s body crumpled to the floor, his armour creaking and pinging as it cooled in the night air. All around them the rest of von Strauss’ force stood in silent reverence. von Strauss himself stood reborn. He stood far taller than he had been and his armour was a resplendent crimson horror. The armour he’d worn into the Northern Wastes and had protected his body ever since was no more. Every edge was razor-sharp and made of brass and gold. The plates were swirling crimson coalescing into leering daemonic faces before dissipating into maddening patterns. He knew without having to try that he’d never be able to remove his armour again and his face would forever be the hollow eye sockets and vertical slit of his helm. Such is the price of failure.

Following the duel the von Strauss and the herdmaster had entered negotiations for their assistance. Trying to understand the beast’s gutteral tones was all but impossible but they had somehow made it work. At its conclusion the herdmaster had insisted on a feast to celebrate the alliance and the promise of man flesh that would keep the herd fed for weeks. Herds of twisted creatures cavorted and brayed as they feasted on raw, rotting, carcasses the origins of which von Strauss couldn’t determine. The clearing was ruined by black, jagged, herdstones adorned with crude runes of power that von Strauss could only just identify. They were all a far cry from the symbols of power that were inscribed on the armour of his men. The earth around the herdstones bubbled and seethed with the unholy powers infused in the rock. One moment the soil melted and bubbled like liquid, the next it was leering sucking mouths.

The beastmen bounded through fires, off rocks and on to one another’s backs rutting and biting and fighting the prospect of raiding an Imperial town too much for their simple minds. Minotaurs clubbed smaller creatures to the ground and ripped them apart, gulping down wet bloody chunks of flesh, the bones audibly cracking as the powerful jaws of the minotaurs made short work of their diminutive cousins. von Strauss and his men stood like crimson statues watching the orgiastic display impassively. If von Strauss could sneer he would have, Khorne didn’t need cavorting or debasement to prove obedience but skulls and murder. His hollow eyes rested on the herdmaster who, in turn, was looking on at his beasts like a proud father. von Strauss would take great pleasure in offering up his skull to Khorne once he’d served his purpose.

***

Immelscheld was a town much like any other in the Empire. A dense collection of rundown homes, a chapel, a watch house and a low, crumbling, curtain wall. Unlike many, but not all, of the towns of the Empire this town had been chosen by the fickle Gods of fate to be the object of ruin. As the sun dipped into the luminous hours of early evening the beastmen broke cover and charged. Far too far from the town, the attack was poorly positioned, by von Strauss’ design, so the small garrison could be roused to arms. von Strauss watched them run hurriedly to the walls, yanking on chainmail and struggling to tie beltswords around their waists.

The small garrison had fought bravely, not a man fleeing in the face of the maddened, drooling, horde of beastmen as they hacked their way into the down. von Strauss was reluctantly impressed by the garrison commander’s tactics: issuing every man under his authority to man the walls with a crossbow, felling dozens of beastmen and faltering their first charge. It gave the defenders just enough time to draw their swords. It mattered very little to von Strauss, all that mattered was the town burned and Middenheim responded. von Strauss watched at the head of his vst host, concealed in the woods South East of the town. The beastmen brayed and bleated as they sacked the town, citizens attempting to flee burning homes being cut down or set upon, snouts coming up bloody. von Strauss looked skywards as if sensing his patron’s attentions. Already the carrion birds circled, the heat from the burning town making them bob and wheel in the updraft as roofs collapsed in a shower of swirling sparks. The doomed town took a long time to die. Long enough for the beastmen to gorge themselves on the town’s inhabitants and pass out amidst the smouldering ruins. 

***

The first rays of light brought with it the trumpeting of horns and the snap of banners caught on the wind. At the head of a grand host of men in black plate armour Baron von Bomburg marched with renewed purpose. His own armour was polished with lapping paste to a brilliant sheen so it shone in the light of the early morning like a second sun. And he felt as luminous as he appeared. The healing process had been long but nothing compared to the time it took to recover his physique. Endless swordrill with Viktor had slowly sharpened his skills, rifle drill with his handgunners had brought back his aim and time with his fellow nobles had honed his mind once more to the art of strategy.

When a messenger from Immelscheld had reached the gates of Middenheim, exhausted close unto death, von Bomburg had relished the opportunity to put his abilities to the test, and to run out his army that had marched for so long to reach the mountain city only to find the Chaos raiders they’d been summoned to fight had vanished. von Bomburg spared a look at Viktor, ever at his side, and the rest of his household guard resplendent in the livery of his house and he felt his breast swell with pride. No finer unit of infantry existed outside the greatsword regiments charged with the protection of the Elector Counts.

Horns trumpeted again drawing von Bomburg’s attention to the town ahead. It was a smouldering ruin, blackened timbers from homes jutting into the sky like broken ribs. The chapel had fared only slightly better but that had only meant the beastmen had defiled it with feces and symbols and runes that made his eyes hurt. Bodies lay strewn in the streets and the town square, burst open from crude axes or torn to ragged pieces by inhumanly strong arms.

He glanced at Viktor and saw his look of disgust reflected in his oldest friend’s face. Viktor nodded towards his liege and brought his arm down in a chopping action. The horns sounded once more, causing dark and twisted shapes to caper from buildings and beneath broken down wagons and hurried towards the tumbled down walls. von Bomburg drew his sword, holding it aloft for all his men to see, a gleaming blade etched with symbols of power he didn’t understand.

‘Charge!’

Chaos Worshippers Anonymous

I got the demons codex recently, and whilst I toy with writing a review for it (it’s coming, trust me), it’s given me time to think back on Chaos in its myriad forms. From first reading about the pantheon of Chaos in Warhammer & 40k, it’s been by far the most fascinating concept of the two universes to me. As as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best thing Games Workshop have developed (originally created but not copyrighted by Michael Moorecock – numpty) and released to the world. It’s close to perfection as an idea. To poorly mangle a famous saying, if Games Workshop hadn’t invented Chaos, someone would have had to invent it anyway*. The concept of Chaos is so intrinsic to both settings: so key to how they work, that without them I truly believe that Games Workshop would not have half the success or fan base it does now.

But what makes the concept of the Chaos Gods so appealing or compelling? Beyond simple lustings for power, eternal life at the head of Empires, fantasies, wish fulfilment and golden toilet seats that is? I believe it’s that there is a complexity to them. Admittedly there’s always been a section of the fandom that like to pigeon-hole each of the gods into something simple like Khorne = close combat, Nurgle = disease. Etcetera etcetera. And I can understand why and that’s fine, the hobby is broad and inclusive and not everyone needs to delve into the lore to enjoy it.

Since third edition 40k, Games Workshop have always tried to keep things simple in the main army books. Its only been the introduction of books like the Libre Chaotica and the original Realms of Chaos books that came close to truly describing the eldritch terror of the Chaos Gods.

More than that I think what makes people identify with them so much is because of how, deep down, we recognise how easy it would be to become a disciple of the Ruinous Powers. Because to truly understand nature of chaos, you have to understand that all the gods are intrinsically linked to the underlying theme of addiction.

“insert joke about quitting smoking here”

Now am I saying that all addicts are potential Chaos worshippers? Or that to truly understand the nature of them you have to be an addict yourself? Of course not. For a start, that completely denigrate anyone involved in the argument and is a disingenuous one at best, that undercuts the real world horror of substance misuse and dependency. It’s just acknowledging that to me at least, that the two groups share some similarities and that it may be why a lot of people have trouble grasping that nature of Chaos. As a society we’re all fairly egocentric and struggle to empathise unless we have gone through or know people in such situations. There’s also a lot bad information, opinions, misconceptions and good old fashion bollocks out there.

Being an addict is not something you just ‘give up’. You often just replace it with something else**. I remember reading the origin of Haargroth the Blooded One when the idea of Chaos first properly ‘clicked’ with me. The story of a young man abused by society who finally snaps and gains fulfilment and acceptance in mindless anger. It really struck a chord with a younger me. I realised how in reality he wasn’t much different from how I felt at that age and just how seductive that could be to a person who had had no power before. That’s what Chaos is at its core. It’s a way of seeking refuge from a world you can’t quite gel with, be it elevating yourself above it via Tzeentch or Nurgle, or succumbing to crazed desire via Khorne or Slannesh. But what all their followers have in common is obsession. That’s the key driving point of addiction and dependency.

To give it a frame of reference: The film ‘Get him to the Greek’ starred Russell Brand as a washed up rockstar and Jonah Hill of Superbad fame. It’s ok, if not brilliant. But something Brand (and if anyone has experience of addiction and dependency) said struck a chord with me:

“You know I used to be sober. When I was sober I was worried about: ‘Aw, is this the twilight of my career?’ ‘Is the mother of my child a cruel, evil, brilliant, savant, idiot genius?’ ‘Am I bringing up my kid the right way?’ Now, I just worry about drugs. Your life’s to-do list must be a baffling document. You’re worried about so many things, Aaron. You’re worried about: ‘Will we get to the show?’ ‘Will I perform well?’ ‘Will you get the credit that you deserve?’ Mine has on it but one word. Do you know what that word is?”

Now, go and approach everything you have ever thought about Chaos and its worshippers from that perspective.  See how that changes everything?

To be a worshipper of Chaos is to start from a point where every addict starts. It’s one where the tempted dip their toe in and get a taste for something. Then they slowly take more and more until the effect generated compared to the side effects is no longer an equal balance. That’s what makes the Emperor’s Children chasers of excess in any form. Their addiction has rewired their entire brain and body chemistry until they can only experience the world properly via an ever-increasing excess. Of course they can still rationalise. Of course they can still operate as functional beings. But to those Chaos worshippers who are so far down the path as to be almost unreachable, the world is a grey to them unless they are experiencing that high.

I mean sure, real world addictions don’t end up with you growing an extra arm or becoming a writhing ball of mutation. But the path taken to that end is very similar.

It’s a reminder that we aren’t so far removed from desperation and just how great fiction of any sort can be exploring the parts of humanity that we would rather not dwell on. It’s what makes the Chaos Gods so scary to me, because I know, that if the Chaos Gods existed I would have already joined them.

Forget super powered marines of death. Forget daemons that want to feast on your soul. The Chaos Gods would have a lot of us within seconds and it would have been something we would have willingly offered. Now that’s terrifying.

*I’ve been told the sentence should really read  “If Games Workshop hadn’t plagiarised and then stolen ownership of the idea of Chaos from Micheal Moorecock, they would have had to hire someone to do it for them anyway”, but its diverting attention away from the main topic of this post and I’ve found it doesn’t really trip off the tongue that easily ;). Still, perhaps something for a future column. 
**I could talk for thousands of words about this, but it’s not the time or place. As it is though I’m so far left field from most normal topics covering wargaming that I don’t want to invite even more Editorial wrath 😛
All Images in this article are Copyright of Games Workshop.

Chaos Marauders – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAnd now my attention falls to the Chaos Marauders. I actually had dozens of these when I last had a Chaos army. I forget how I acquired them. I suspect they were part of the army box or some such. But I didn’t build any of them. When the Chaos army went – about 8 years ago now – they went right along with it, apart from some sprues I found about two years ago at the bottom of a huge plastic storage box full of sprues whilst having a clear out. I shortly after gave them to Lee for his Slanneshi army. Because I’m nice like that.

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So, up to now, Marauders have not had much, read any, love from me at all. As Lee and I had opted for the battalion boxes to kick off A Tale of Two Armies it did mean that I’d be taking at least one unit of the bare topped bastards in my army. Gaming wise this didn’t bother me as they’re more than a match for the average human but as a rule I resent paying points for anything that doesn’t come with Chaos Armour.

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So what do you get in the kit? Well, lots and lots of space. The Marauders are a few years old now so haven’t benefited from the advancements the Games Workshop has made in cramming sprues with lots of stuff. But you do get parts enough to make your barbarian horde with hand weapon and shield or flails. Flail equipped marauders are obviously proper badass but the point of save the shield gives makes it an even toss up over what to arm them with.

As with many of the older regiment kits the Marauders come in many parts. Many many parts. So many parts that they took longer to build than the rest of the battalion. This does rather beg the question; are they worth the bother considering they will get carved up. Yes and no but more on that later.

Despite the woeful amount of clipping, filing and gluing it’s a pretty good kit. Although some of the poses are on the rigid side, a couple of the heads are a bit shit, and the detail is a little light compared to newer kits. But considering there’s twenty of them that’s no bad thing from a painting perspective. Doubly so from a gaming one considering the rate at which they’ll die. Despite those things they still look cool and there’s enough nice touches (and the shields are way cool) on the models that you’ll manage to batch paint them without blowing your brains out.

That said there is a lot of skin on those models which, again, means will boil down to the technique you use to paint them. Otherwise I can see it being the one unit in your army that doesn’t get past base coating. And that would be a shame because the Marauders do have a lot going for them and when they’re all ranked up they look brilliant and I totally get the appeal of hordes.

Which brings me to whether or not Marauders are worth the bother and the yes/no answer. The no they’ll take fooking ages to paint. On top of the time it takes to build them you can be left feeling like you’ve climbed a hobby mountain. And as they’re really at their best in units of two or three it could make one groan somewhat. I certainly did as I worked on my army lists and concluded a second battalion would probably be the way to go to get a solid core to my army.

However, the Marauders in the game are extremely useful. They’re cheap enough that you can use them to screen your harder hitting, and therefore more expensive, units. You can use them to protect your flanks when your warhounds inevitably get munched by knights. Or you can just send them right up the middle to kick face. Which they will do quite comfortably.

It’s certainly a bonus having an expendable unit on hand that will give a good account of itself. Or against a softer target, punch a hole or hold a flank long enough for the rest of the army to respond. It being a largely elite – and therefore high points – force, Marauders represent a real boon thanks to their low-cost and above average combat performance. The big minus is their lack of armour but that’s fine too. If the enemy is shooting them or hacking them into bleeding chunks of meat then they’re not threatening the flank of another more vital unit.

Point for point and penny for penny I don’t like them as much as Warhounds but there is no denying they have a genuine use on the field. And there’s no denying the damage they can do given half a chance plus the added bonus of forcing opponents into choosing the lesser or two evils to tussle with. Either way it presents a marked advantage.

The Marauders of Chaos box is available from Firestorm Games priced £18.

Leaked Dark Elves Images

They’re blurry, poor quality and likely to give you a migraine but below is a whole heap of leaked Dark Elves images. There’s some interesting kits in there including a fooking massive Hydra, new Witch Elves, and a wheeled temple of Khaine type thing which looks aamzing. Looks like I’ll be collecting two Warhammer Armies…

Chaos Warhounds – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyWhen it came to choosing our army compositions one of my first thought – past knights, warriors and Skullcrushers – was the need for Warhounds. As my army had a powerful urge to go hooning off to kick and mang face regardless of whether or not it’s a terribly sensible, or safe, idea it was obvious that Warhounds would be needed to both deal with warmachines as well as protect my flanks from cavalry, or at least, slow them down for a turn.

Warhammer-logoI actually have a couple of Warhounds that I’ve used for my Witch Hunter Mordheim warband but I converted them so never really took the time to appreciate them beyond fulfilling a need that didn’t require me using the utterly awful hound models available from the Mordheim range, now lost to the ages.

Back when I last rolled dice in anger with a Chaos army I had two units of the metal Warhounds and I must be honest, they were some of my favourite models. From the posing to the casting quality they were some of the best models around at the time. They were quick to clean, easy to build and fun to paint so I must admit to mixed feelings about using the new plastic Warhounds instead.

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This was mainly because they were a big change from the old models. The metal models were very much a case of mutated hounds or wolves. Feral dogs that had fallen foul of Chaos. The new ones, however, didn’t quite tell the same story. Instead, and rightly so, the new Warhounds are now creatures that exist in the Northern Wastes, their bodies twisted by mutation, their form evolving to into powerful, vicious killers.

WoCWarhoundsMainThe fact that the models are now plastic is a bit of a double-edged sword because, on the one hand, the variety of tales and horns means that you can get a surprising amount of variety in the models when mixed and matched across all the various poses the dogs are in. This means that, in theory, two units should look suitably different. The downside is that the sculpting and the layout of the frames were a tad on the lazy side which means that the big shaggy manes lack definition in places, coupled with scrunched up features the overall effect is a tad comical. It does resolve itself once you start slapping paint on them but I can see it putting some off.

The other thing is that the bodies come in two halves which means a join line runs along the length of the model which does mean the muzzles of the Warhounds are spoilt a bit but considering they’re only 6 points a model and will never see the end of the game it’s not worth putting in the work to plug the gaps. And I suppose that’s the compromise. For the money you get a full unit of Warhounds that look good – slight bugbears aside – that’ll be quick to paint and will do the job they’re intended to do once on the board.

Even when I worked for the company a unit the same size would have cost a lot more. Yes they’d have been metal and yes they probably would have looked cooler but it’s a changing world and had they not been re-released as a plastic kit they would have gone up further in price or been turned into Finecast and no one, in their right mind, would buy them for the cost alone.

And that would be a shame because for the points Warhounds are fantastic. They’re quick, they’re better than the average human in a fight, they’re cheap and that means reasonable units to run interference and tie up Imperial Knights who, thanks to the new rules, won’t strike first. Which in way is quite cinematic. Noble knights charging forward in the name of Emperor and country only to get pounced on by a park or rabid and starving hounds, the need to feed overriding any sense of self-preservation. And they don’t count towards your total force allocations.

And the cherry on the cake is that you can give them upgrades. Like Scaly Skin. Granted percentile-wise the increases are quite high but the overall cost to the army is low and potential rewards significant. Obviously in small games you’d never bother but there’s definitely benefit to juicing your dogs in bigger games as holding up a big expensive unit for a turn or two with a comparatively cheap and worthless unit of dogs is a huge tactical boon, especially to the army I’m collecting.

For the money and for the point Warhounds are ace. The models aren’t perfect and to get the best out of them warrants more attention than their points value deserves but it’s a preference thing at the end of the day. You can do an outstanding job on them because they have the detail on the heads to really make each one pop, I just doubt I would.

Regardless of how I paint them they’ll be in my army in spades because they’re just too good not to.

Chaos Warhounds are available from Firestorm Games priced £13.95.

A Tale of Two Armies – The First 500

TaleOfTwoArmies copy

Lee and I have been debating, deliberating and…something else beginning with ‘d’ to come up with our first 500 point army lists. We decided that the most effective way of kicking things off would be to base them on the contents of the Warhammer Battalion boxes. This would also give us a healthy jump on the next 500 points we’d have to get built and painted next month.

So we give you the first 500…points.

Khorne

Exalted Champion – von Strauss the Red – 110 points
Mark of Khorne +10
Additional Hand Weapon +3
TOTAL 123 points

10 Chaos Warriors – 140 points
Mark of Khorne +20
Shields +10
TOTAL 170 points

15 Chaos Marauders – 90 points
Mark of Khorne +30
Light Armour +15
Shields +15
Chieftan +10
Standard +10
TOTAL 170 points

6 Chaos Warhounds – 36 points
TOTAL 36 points

chaos

OVERALL TOTAL 499 points

Empire

Captain – Ludwig von Bomburg – 60 points
Full Plate Armour +6
Sword of Might +20
Enchanted Shield +5
TOTAL 91 points

19 Halberdiers – 114 points
Sergeant +10
Standard +10
Musician +10
TOTAL 144 points

5 Archers (detachment) – 35 points
TOTAL 35 points

5 Imperial Knights – 110 points
Greatweapons – FREE
TOTAL 110 points

Great Cannon – 120 points
TOTAL 120 points

Empire2

OVERALL TOTAL 500 points

Chaos Lord on Foot – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyFollowers on Twitter will know that I got rather excited by the A Tale of Two Armies. So much so that I went out during my lunch hour and bought the Chaos Lord on foot so I’d have a nice army general ahead of the fun and games of putting together the first 500 points (army lists to follow). And this was also before I’d got my hands on the army book. So it’s fair to say that I was a bit keen…

Warhammer-logoI opted for the Lord on foot because it occurred to me that I wouldn’t need a mounted lord until my army was knocking on the door of 1500 points or possibly even 2000. Plus the plastic model is really quite cool and gave me the luxury of painting something man-sized that wouldn’t mean too much money wasted if I totally ruined it.

ChaosLordThere’s an awful lot of controversy about the growing number of plastic character models that have been coming these last few years. It started off as a multipart plastic Space Marine captain for £12 and everyone went mental. Then the plastic lord sets for Empire, Orcs, and High Elves which have stayed at a fairly reasonable £18 for two blokes – one mounted, one on foot – which everyone quite liked despite the limited poses. But as armies have come out single character models have been released for comparatively high prices.

So what do you get for your money aside from a character made of plastic? Well he’s a fair old size, helped along by the handy piece of rock he’s perched on top of, and that’s discounting the thoroughly badass spear and the thoroughly Pans Labyrinth horns growing from his head.

It’s a brilliant model. Aside from looking fantastic and being cast all but perfectly, it’s very cleverly designed so everything slots together seamlessly without any horrid gaps that some of the newer plastic kits have been guilty of. He was clipped, cleaned glued and undercoated in the space of an hour which is pretty good going.

And that included the time to swap out the head. Yes, I swapped the head. I have nothing against the head the model comes with. It’s perfectly fine, and I think the slightly bovine features is an inspired touch along with horns that actually look like they may have grown over time. It just doesn’t work with what I’m doing with the narrative of A Tale of Two Armies. So I acquired a Chaos Warrior head (thanks Lee) and with some tinkering discovered that repositioning the head to be looking to the side completely changed the look and feel of the model.

ChaosLordComparison

The standard pose exudes almost a thuggishness that works brilliantly well and one can imagine him gradually building up to a relentless charge with horns lowered. By turning the head it just makes the model seem like violence is much more immanent and going to be personally much more unpleasant.  Both versions give the impression of an unpleasant end, they just come at it from a different point of view. Which suits me fie.

And actually highlights one of the best things about plastic kits – they’re so easy to convert. Just a head swap totally changed the look of the model. Imagine what a change or armament would do. And on top of it all, the basic model that you have to work with looks so cool. Some careful snipping could see the torso mounted on the legs of Chaos Knight model as an alternative to the current mounted lord. Not cheap mind, but our hobby isn’t so crap or get off the pot.

The armour is incredibly detailed and thanks to the plastic it’s crisply cast, easy to see and easy to paint. Nothing feels half done or bodged like it can do with the likes of the, now old, Space Marine tactical squad. Everything feels very deliberate and has none of the unpleasant angular look that has dogged some of the newer plastics. I especially like the cloak and how it’s split with the chuffing massive sword sticking out the back. Which goes nicely with the chuffing massive spear. Which is chuffing massive. And has the coolest blade ever. And, again, because the detail is so crisp it’s very straight forward to paint. Which means it’s fun to paint. Like the rest of the model. And with none of the faff that cleaning metal characters came with in the old days.

In game terms a Chaos Lord doesn’t get much nastier. A stat line that makes a Vampire Lord nervous, a menagerie of creatures to sit atop – although we’ll not talk about those here – and a hand dandy selection of magical items too. Although the mutations available does make him proper bonkers. 5 points to cause fear? Don’t mind if I do. Or Soul Feeder for 10 points which allows the model to regain a wound for each wound inflicted. I’m sorry but that’s mad. And that’s on top of the magic items. It does mean of course that the average lord will rock up at least 250 points and it’ll still get its face blown off by a cannon.  Still, if I were to let that happen I’d kinda deserve it.

The plastic Chaos Lord on foot is a superb model. The armour is well thought out and I love the vambraces that protrude out beyond the gauntlets which will puncture faces long before the fists make contact. Which is nice. The weapons are suitably exaggerated and the overall menace of the model is pretty much perfect. To lead my fledgling Khorne army it’s perfect and to (eventually) be demoted to a Hero leading the warrior regiments it’s justly so again.

The Chaos Lord on foot is available from Firestorm Games priced £13.50.

The Empire – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copy

So this was it, the first step into the unknown, the book for my new army of choice – The Empire. As Phil and I discussed the project it seemed only natural to continue the exploits of my much-loved Mordheim Captain and his followers into the wider Old World. But as we talked about the narrative we realised that despite Bomberg’s Bombardiers success amongst the ruins of Mordheim, it would make a far more interesting story of how he ended up the drunken, washed up, treasure hunter. So A Tale of Two Armies is basically a prequel to the campaign that The Chaps and I have been playing all this time. The up shot will be some more narrative focussed stuff for the campaign which we’ll be posting on The Shell Case towards the end of the year, into next as AToTA draws to a close.

Warhammer-logo

Now obviously this review is somewhat outdated in terms of its timing versus the books release date and a lot of what is written here as already been said, so I’ll try to not linger too long on the obvious points. It’s also worth mentioning that these opinions are based on a comparison between the previous army book and the new one, with as much consideration given to the 8th edition rules as possible without actually having played the army in its new state.

The Empire army book is in the standard hardback format, all very well presented and good production quality. The colour artwork is beautiful, as are the page headers and frame details.  Although I will point out that some of the very best pieces of artwork from the previous book have not returned. This seems to be simply because they weren’t colour, and inferior pieces have been included because someone bothered to colour them in. This is a shame as I’m a big fan of the black and white inks, and thought they conveyed the mood of certain scenes better than if they were coloured.

The Empire

The background is largely unchanged and I didn’t find out anything much I didn’t already know with a lot of passages either only slightly rewritten or lifted directly from the previous book. I was slightly miffed at this as I expected a bit more considering the price. The new look map is a riot of colour and visually stunning.  In fact a few more detailing specific areas or the Old World’s position in the wider world instead of the tiny corner image provided would have been welcome. The timeline and magic orders/magic wheel have been tidied up and set into some great looking layouts – the colour graphics bring the pages to life. Overall it’s a great looking book from start to finish.

Having a quick glance at the model galleries my eyes were first drawn to the new kits which I had seen in White Dwarf.  Generally they’re pretty good models.  The Demigryph Knights look fab, the Luminark/Hurricanum although different and likely to divide opinion, reinforces the magical yet mechanical theme ever-present in The Empire (I really like the Blue one). The Large Griffon with General was an obvious release with ‘Monster Hammer’ in full swing at the moment, but the Witch Hunter was a little expected and is way cool. I was extremely disappointed the old Empire Knights kit is still kicking around, they are really showing their age and it doesn’t even look like they painted up a fresh set for the new army book – they look absolutely awful.  But seeing as they’re in the battalion box I guess Games Workshop thought it could get away with it for the time being.

I couldn’t resist flicking to the rules section of The Empire book to see what they could all do. Demigryph Knights? Yes please. Magical chariot things? Seem pretty good for the points. Big ol’ Griffin? Now even bigger, thank you very much. Witch Hunter? Oh yes. The Demigryph Knights are a truly hard-hitting unit giving the army some sorely needed bite (or peck) in attack while the Magic Wagons have some handy radius effects to buff your units to go with their bound spells which have potential – either lobbing meteors at your face or firing solar-powered lasers. I immediately thought about taking both in my forthcoming army. [Oh goody… – Ed.]

Now usually I’m a Warriors of Chaos player (Slannesh if you want to know. Because I’m a pervert if you must know), and my opponents used to include a number of Empire players so I developed a healthy black powder aversion and know all the things to look out for in The Empire book when you’re of the armoured persuasion– which is most of it. And seeing as my main opponent is going to be using an all Khorne force I kept all these lessons in mind and flicked eagerly to the war machines to see what manner of nastiness I now had access to.  To my horror the once proud ranks of the Imperial artillery has been whittled down mostly to an occasional option rather than an army staple.

Almost of all it has gone up in points and some pieces have also had their rules changed for the worse. Now I know rule changes in 8th edition have meant some reining in has been necessary, specifically relating to the way templates work and the removal of guess range, but did a Mortar really need to be reduced to Strength 2 and then have its points increased by 33%? I detected the beginnings of a more sinister motive at work here.  On to core. Everything except Spearmen and Archers have gone up in points and the Knights got a single, solitary, point reduction. I tried to think of a reason why a swordsman deserved to go up in points when it had got worse with -1 Initiative (now one of the most important stats in 8th edition).  My fears were now terrors.

Special choices are a mixed bag. We know Demigryphs are awesome, Greatswords have gone up for no reason but still represent a solid block of choppy death. The addition of stubborn knights in the Reiksguard has potential but Flagellants have suffered with their table of crazy person skills not being quite what it was. On the surface the Rare choices didn’t look too bad.  There was the addition of the magical chariots which looked good value and the Steam Tank has been reduced by a substantial 50 points, while the Helstorm had gotten both worse and slightly more expensive.

I focused on the changes made to two of the scariest units for a Chaos player to face in the form of the Helblaster and Steam Tank.  As I guessed, the 50 point reduction for the Steam Tank had come at a price – it is now more unreliable to use and the steam turret no longer ignores armour saves.  By having to roll the artillery dice straight away when you use it and the number of Steam points you generated being used to affect any misfire means you are now unable to adjust how many Steam points you want to generate to prevent it from misfiring.  It’s a subtle change but a significant one, meaning they’re unlikely to survive the game if you’re generating more than 3 points a turn and unlikely to do as much as they used to once suffering a single wound – if you don’t want it to explode. Conversely, the Helblaster has been made more reliable – the first misfire rolled now only halves the remaining shots with a second misfire resulting in a roll on the misfire table (and the third is kaboom for everybody involved).  Again, a subtle change but one that now means the Helblaster has lost some of its destructive potential while being less likely to explode. I scratched my head briefly as to which direction the author was trying for to end up taking these two units in opposite directions, but it soon became apparent.

Now, I have it on good authority that the author, Robin Cruddace, is a Chaos player (he wrote that book too if you couldn’t tell). I also have knowledge that the army he liked playing against the least, owing to a number of plates of his own arse being served to him, was The Empire.  I mentioned before I detected a sinister undertone during my analysis of the army list and it seems to have been realised – Robin Cruddace has taken the opportunity to dick on the army he had the most trouble beating.  I know this sound’s somewhat reactionary and a little whiny, but remember I’m a Chaos player normally and with that hat on I had a grin across my face when reading this book.  Almost every unit that you would choose for its effectiveness on Toughness 4, high armour save troops has been made worse or more expensive: Hand gunners and Crossbows? Check.  Halberdiers? Check.  Artillery? Check.  Steam Tank? Check. Greatswords? Check. It goes on and on.

Now I’m not saying the list is bad. It actually looks like it plays rather well against most opponents, which has always been the Empire’s strength.  But at the same time it’s a master work of subterfuge for the forces of Chaos with slight tweaks, switches and distractions throughout all working together to improve the Warriors of Chaos’ chances against its typical nemesis.  I only hope Mr. Cruddace goes on to write the next iteration of the Skaven book because if he puts half as much effort into that as he has into the subtleties of this book it should be an absolute stinker.

The Heroes section is strong and you will want all of them – although warrior priests really pay for their point reduction. The new ‘Hold the Line’ rule for Generals/Captains means you should run away less – but you will need it as you’re not going to kill much with your core units. The Runefang has gone down in points – but almost every other item has gone up. The internal balance of the army is atrocious with some units being all but useless (Flagellants and the Helstorm really lose out) but the new units are bargains points wise (the cynics will say to sell more – you decide).

Despite all of this I still really want to do the army. I now feel more like an embattled Captain of the Empire, an underdog against the mighty horrors arrayed before him. Not expected to win, just to give a good account of himself before the end comes. I resent being forced to play a specific way just to win and will always resist it, preferring to have a theme behind everything I do.  My concept for the army was always to take as much of the crazy stuff as possible to fit my General’s character and I’m going to still do this. I love The Empire range and am struggling to decide what to take from the vast wealth of options available – which can only be a good thing surely?  It’s just that none of that has anything to do with the book’s author which is a shame. Only time will tell if it can stand up to the close combat monsters of Khorne with its shooting adversely affected and core troops a bit thinner on the ground, but I’m wholeheartedly looking forward to the challenge.

As a final note; Games Workshop, please always put at least two people in charge of writing army books/codices – they’ll will balance each other’s biases. Just a thought.

The Empire book is available from Firestorm Games priced £24.75.