Warhammer Armies Dwarfs Cover Revealed

Generally speaking I think all the Warhammer Armies cover art has been pretty awesome. The Dwarfs one doesn’t disappoint. It possesses such grim determination whilst being quite understated. It’s not exploding with violence. Understated is good. This may seem at odds with the stereotypical view of Dwarfs, especially thanks to the beer swilling, house tidying, song singing, pipe smoking, leary bunch of bearded bastards shown in Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit, but in Warhammer I see them as a far more solemn bunch. Mainly because their homes keep getting overrun by Orcs and Skaven keep stealing all their shit.

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Empire Greatswords – A Review

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Woohoo! I’ve finally got my hands on a box of Greatswords, who are one of the units in the Empire list I am genuinely excited about from both a gaming and hobby perspective. When I first skimmed through the Empire book and started piecing together in my head what I wanted my army to look like, a massed unit of Greatswords standing proud in the centre of my battle line was an image I definitely wanted to see through to completion. They are the elite infantry of man. Clad in Full Plate armour and wielding their hefty swords, they are one of the units in the Empire army that can do some significant damage to the enemy.  A horde of 40 would certainly help them do that but alas, as with everything in the current Empire book, a compromise has to reached as they are not cheap, so a trimmed down 30-35 will be more likely – and affordable [Poor baby. – Ed].

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There has been some debate over whether Greatswords are actually a worthwhile choice as their points cost makes them a very significant investment.  At 11 points each they weigh in at almost double that of the staple Halberdier and it’s been argued that the 100-150 points you save by going with a Halberdier block come in very handy elsewhere in the army – and this of course is an extremely valid argument.  A unit of 5 Outriders, for example, is only 105 points for 15 Handgun shots per turn – on top of those 40 Halberdiers.  Or even another Helblaster perhaps? (cackle)

However, my opinion is that Greatswords offer you one of the best options for dealing with elite troops head on in combat.  I plan on taking quite an infantry heavy army – three large blocks with one of them being the Greatswords, because I think Empire armies look way cool when there are a lot of boots/socks/tights on the ground.  However my opponents plays Khorne for A Tale of Two Armies, which has many units (read all) which fall into the ‘Infantry Blender’ category that can quite easily chop their way through half a horde of state troops a turn.

In the Greatswords I believe the Empire have a unit that can actually stand up to these and then dish some hurt back.  Their Weapon Skill of 4 is only a limited improvement in my situation against the combat superstars of Chaos, but against many other armies it vastly improves their survivability by immediately cutting 25% off the numbers of wounds they would suffer.  When you then add in the Full Plate armour save of 4+ that’s potentially another 50% off the wounds tally, meaning not only do they stick around for twice as long, but they give up less combat resolution in the process making it easier to break your opponent.

When it’s their turn to strike they can really dish out the hurt – even against heavily armoured opponents with the -2 armour save from their Strength 5 attacks.  They are one of the few Empire units you’d probably want to run a bit wider than the minimum of 5 as you do want to make the most of their high strength attacks, and as they’re Stubborn you don’t have to worry about stacking ranks to gain Steadfast.  We know they can wound easily but the only problem is hitting the target, Weapon Skill 4 is good but not great, but this is where the Empire army synergy comes into play.

The Celestial Hurricanum is almost a must have if going for an Infantry heavy army. The +1 to hit bubble is invaluable for actually doing some damage to your opponent rather than just holding him in combat.  With your Greatswords now hitting on 3’s and wounding on 2’s or 3’s they are going to leave a mark.  If you really fancy juicing them up, put a Warrior Priest in there (or better yet, an Arch Lector for Leadership 9 Stubborn) for re-rolling misses straight off the bat and then your choice between re-rolling to wound, for increased damage output, or a 5+ Ward Save to make them even harder to shift.  You’ve now got a unit that even Chaos Warriors would hesitate to engage – start throwing in magic buffs and it’s getting silly. But I’ll again mention the cost, all this doesn’t come cheap and it really has to be part of your strategy to get all your units working together and squeezing the most out of your army.  Your points investment gets you a unit that doesn’t need to hold on for dear life while help comes over the horizon like your state troops will, they can mix it up and even though they may not always win, they will have almost certainly ground your opponent down and held them in combat for a long while – giving you time to prioritize who gets assistance and when.  Just remember to keep you Battle Standard Bearer close by as you wouldn’t want your 400+ point unit running away due to one unlucky dice roll.

As for the models themselves?  They’re – ahem – great. Sorry couldn’t resist.  But seriously, they’re a really nice plastic kit with minimal mould lines and some very desirable components for use on them and elsewhere.  Their design is excellent and lends itself easily to a more lavish paint job with the slashed sleeves just crying out for a colour combination befitting their status.  You get two sets of arms for every soldier letting you choose between straight or wiggly sword blades, a load of extra torsos and multiple head options.  But that’s where the one gripe about this set comes in, with Games Workshop charging over £25 a pop for only ten pairs of legs on bases, the set is actually only missing just that – more legs.  You could make another 2 or 3 out of each box if you had the legs to do it! Buy two boxes of them and if you could find somewhere selling individual components then get hold of some more legs (I did) and your unit size increases a nice chunk. Thankfully our friends at Firestorm Games charge less than Games Workshop so make sure you buy them from them as that shrinks a potential outlay for a large unit of 30 from £76.50 to more like the £45.90 for two boxes plus the cost of obtaining a some extra legs and a torso or two– not too shabby.

It’s going to be a daunting task to paint up 30 or 40 of these guys but the effect on display when they’re done will be well worth it – and hopefully they’ll repay my faith and effort in their performances on the table top.  To arms!

Empire Greatswords are available from Firestorm Games priced £22.95.

Warhammer Dwarfs Available to Pre-Order

The latest iteration of Warhammer Armies Dwarfs is about to drop and with it some beardy new releases. Sadly the standard Dwarf warriors aren’t amongst them And by the looks of things, neither are the Trollslayers. Which means that Avatars of War will be doing a roaring trade in the coming weeks because there Dwarf models are just better. So very much better.

So what’s up for grabs? Well a box of 10 Hammerers/Longbeards for £30…

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These actually look pretty sweet. They kinda look power armoured which is no bad thing.

BelegarIronhammer01_873x627Belegar Ironhammer.  New character and an utterly stupid helmet. I’m not too convinced by this guy. Aside from the general lack of fine detail the model lacks dynamism. He weighs in at £13.DragonSlayer01_873x627On the other hand the Dragon Slayer has dynamism in spades but again, let seems to lack the finer detail we’d expect from metal or Finecast. Or, again, Avatars of War. The Dragon Slayer too is £13.

Empire Celestial Hurricanum – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyPhil just had to get one more review in before Christmas and it fell to old muggins here to get the job done. So sit back with your coco/brandy/hot toddy/hot piece of ass and enjoy.

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After I had finished reviewing the Empire army book one of the units I came away thinking would be fairly key to the performance of any future army of mine were the magical chariots of doom, aka the Celestial Hurricanum and Luminark of Hysh.  They each offer a great unit buff to your army with a very handy 12” bubble, added bonus to dice to your magic phase and also possess a bound spell to complete a trifecta of goodness.

I was certain I was going to include one of them in my army, and maybe both in a 3,000 point list [Beardy fucker. -Ed.] if I could stretch the points far enough – which in the end they didn’t (as anyone who’s written a list for the current Empire army will know too well).

Having settled on just the one (for now) I had the task of choosing between them, which actually turned out to be easier than I thought. When I scored the two’s abilities the Hurricanum came up trumps quite convincingly, although it must be said the Luminark is still a very viable option.  The Hurricanum wins on the bubble effect with the +1 to hit being very useful in adding some sorely needed combat effectiveness to the very lowly rank and file, whereas the Luminark’s 6+ ward save, although desirable, wasn’t going to stop them dying in their droves.  Likewise the bonus dice in the magic phase, an extra power dice being infinitely more desirable for me (given my Khorne playing opponent) than the extra dispel dice.

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The bound spell is where it was a bit harder to choose between them. The Luminark casts Solheim’s Bolt of Illumination which is a very dangerous Strength 8 bolt thrower with flaming attacks that causes D3 wounds and no armour saves (yikes!), which is perfect for disposing of all the scary monsters and monstrous cavalry running around.  In comparison the Hurricanum is a little more subtle with its Storm of Shemtek, which scatters a small template that causes a random weather affect – most results cause hits at varying strengths with other minor side effects, and the most interesting being the tornado that rotates the target’s facing. One small gripe is that the ‘Sudden Downpour’ result causes no additional effects on the target – I thought an effect on black powder weapons would have been suitable here, friend or foe, as it’s just logical.  For sheer destructive power I’d say the Luminark is superior, but at the same time it’s that obvious damage which means you’re unlikely to ever get the spell off as your opponent will almost always keep a dice or two back to dispel it.  You can of course use this to try to get other spells off but the less obvious nature of the Storm of Shemtek means most opponents will ignore it which then could potentially result in a game winning result with the afore-mentioned tornado.

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Games Workshop seems to like making its new kits very appealing when they’re first released, no doubt in order to boost sales, and these are no exception as they are both a steal for the points.  Like I said earlier, if I could, I would take both but points be scarce least so instead I must choose. Even though the Hurricanum is the better of the two, the Luminark no doubt has its many uses and that mega laser beam of death just does not keep quiet – it constantly whispers its power to you like the oversized assembly of rings it is. As such, I’ve been looking into the possibility of assembling it so that you can flip between the two – you can easily switch out the contraption mounted on the top as each has its own dedicated parts, and then as long as you build the platform to the rear it won’t obstruct anything on top.  This is no big deal as I think any wizard operating the Hurricanum would actually be staring up at it at the back rather than just ignoring it as he rides up front so this doesn’t spoil the aesthetic.  The peripheral telescopes and what nots can go anywhere as can the scribes who crew it, the only real obstacle is the paint job.  Something a bit more neutral will be needed with more definition being possible on the contraptions themselves but it is possible.  I think I might actually give it a go, if it doesn’t look right I’ll just settle on the most appropriate and look to getting another at some stage.

As a bonus you also get an extra wizard included in the box, which is nice.  Either a Light or Celestial wizard of course which gives you the possibility of mounting your Wizard Lords onto their respective magical chariot.  Everyone I’ve spoken to seems to think this is a bad idea though as it offers no additional protection and presents your most powerful individual model as a huge shiny bull’s eye. Eggs and baskets basically, but no bother as a bonus wizard on foot is better than kick in the baubles [Nice Christmas reference. -Ed].

Overall I think this is a great kit, I know not everyone was a fan of the design but I think it’s the right kind of crazy for the Empire.  The sheer size and ambition of the Hurricanum again being the better of the two.  The frames are packed full of cool little bits and pieces which will find their way onto your other models and guess what? You get new horses! Yay! If you also consider the bonus wizard that’s included, that has actual value, half of the Empire Wizards box which retails for up to £18. Once you knock that off the price it’s pretty reasonable.  And we already know rules wise is pretty amazing for the points, so what are you waiting for?

The Hurricanum/Luminark kit is available from Firestorm Games priced £29.25.

A Tale of Two Armies: Genesis of a Hero

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As part of A Tale of Two Armies one of the things we wanted to look at, as part of the wider narrative, was how hero and villain of the piece evolved from our early conversations to the characters they’ll become at the series’ conclusion. I elected to go first as I had the luxury of having much of my character’s back story long ago established.

‘It all started with a game of Mordheim’ I guess is the best way to begin explaining the almost sentient growth of a humble assembly of plastic pieces into a character worthy enough to actually write about.

When The Chaps decided to run a Mordheim Campaign and we were deciding who would do which warband, I plumped for the rich boys of Marienburg figuring the extra gold pieces they had would give me a significant head start to turn them into a dominant force – even if they were a bit lacking in the rules department.  That gold enabled me to tool up my Captain with all the cool toys he could want including a pair of very shiny, and very expensive, Duelling Pistols.  I had the image of a lethal sharpshooter in my mind, wading through combat, picking off enemies one after the other with deadly accurate head shots – none able to get close for fear of ending up face down in the dirt in an expanding pool of their own vital fluids. But it never really happened like that, quite the opposite really.

During the campaign von Bomburg wasn’t exactly living up to those expectations I had when gleefully listing his equipment I invested so heavily in. Dice are fickle at best of times but he could almost be guaranteed to roll a ‘1’ when it really mattered.  During the early days of a character’s progression you forgive poor performances knowing that experience will no doubt improve through skills and stat increases. von Bomburg had now accumulated a few of these (through the rest of his warband performing quite well – love those crossbows), most notably an extra point of Ballistic Skill taking him to a very healthy 5 and the Pistolier skill letting him shoot both of his pistols together if needed.  And a suit Gromril armour – very handy indeed. With the firepower at his disposal he should have been kicking asses and taking names, but it just wasn’t happening for him.

The specific game in question has been mentioned before in other posts and relates specifically to Bomburg’s lack of shooting accuracy.  As this game was playing out he was demonstrating his usual ineptitude with all things ballistic only this time he happened to be in the beer garden of the town tavern.  Standing upon a table acting all heroic like, he took careful aim at the horde of enemies rushing towards him and his fellow Marienburgers, and then proceeded to miss both his shots despite hitting on 2’s as if bestowed with eyes that stared at each other. As this stage his sub par performances could go unnoticed no longer and the rest of The Chaps threw their 2 pence/cents/maple leaves worth into the mire of my disappointment. Amongst the usual tit for tat one comment was latched upon which was he must have been enjoying the beer garden a bit too much and thus impaired his vision [That may have been me… – Ed.].  It stuck and so began the effervescent evolution of Ludwig von Bomburg – the wealthy drunkard fallen on hard times. The son of a wealthy family looking for adventure whilst slowly drinking his fortune away. Somewhere between Paul Whitehouse’s 13th Duke of Wybourne and Rowley Birkin QC (for those of you that watch The Fast Show) – he no doubt possessed the sleazy suaveness of the former but was far more inebriated like the latter.

As the campaign continued, von Bomburg’s performance did improve under the avalanche of additional skills he acquired but he was always below what was expected – the others feared his potential, but never surprised by his failure.  As Bomburg’s ability had improved somewhat during the campaign it seemed natural that he would once have been a formidable foe – the kind of which I wanted at the start, but impact of life’s vices had dulled his skills. The constant state of combat he endures in Mordheim being enough to reawaken some of the potential he lost to the drink, drugs and women.

Another of von Bomburg’s traits were brought to light when he seized on an opportunity to take down Ian’s Vampire who had got a little isolated – von Bomburg stepped forward pistols in hand and proceeded to miss with both shots. von Bomburg and Ian’s Vampire have a little history as way back in the first games of the campaign von Bomburg critically wounded him which resulted in him losing his hand. With us being the fun guys we are, we decided to let Ian graft the crossbow pistol he possessed permanently onto the stump to mitigate such a severe blow so early in the campaign and add a bit of character to proceedings.  This had not been forgotten and so the tables now reversed as Ian managed to distract von Bomburg’s guards and charge him with said Vampire in retaliation. Bomburg was easily out matched but through a healthy dose of luck he managed to survive several rounds of combat and long enough for Ian to fail his route test as my Marienburgers dispatched his minions – sparing Bomburg his doom.  The outcome highlighted that he’s really really lucky when it comes to staying alive. There’s the time he got brained by the handgun only for me to remember his Lucky Charm at the very last second prior to removing the model, or the time he side stepped that Strength 5 lightning bolt.  He rarely dies and always seems to have a way out a sticky situation – often thanks to his long-suffering bodyguard, Viktor holding the enemy up long enough for him make his escape.

By this time I had themed all of the Marienburg warband around what would have been members of his household guard; Viktor was the head of the Household Guard with the Halberdiers being members, one of the Young bloods was his disturbed cousin etc. but Viktor with his role as bodyguard stood out as a key figure in Bomburg’s development – constantly being the difference between him living and dying.  We started to fill out why Viktor accompanied von Bomburg and why Bomburg was even in Mordheim in the first place, a fall from grace seemed to fit the bill and tied in with his truly outrageous drinking, overall poor performance punctuated with flourishes of mad skills.

As Phil and I started to make our foray into the wider Old World in the ‘A Tale of Two Armies’ series it was a no-brainer to expand the Marienburg warband into a fully fledged army of the Empire, but that would then need an explanation as to where any such army he would have been part of had gone and then led to him coming to the cursed city. Part of this story has been told in the articles Phil has been writing and without wishing to spoil anything I can only say so much – the short of it being he loses much and leads his final few followers into Mordheim as a final gambit.

Bomburg has come a long way from the original model I created for my captain using parts from the old Mordheim box.  After the Pub Garden incident I remodelled him to have a wine glass in hand and moved the second pistol to his belt to better represent his character.  He’s tremendous fun to play and almost takes the decision-making out of my hands with his personality deciding what he should do. I’m now getting just as much enjoyment bringing his supporting cast up to a similar level with the dour Viktor and perverted relative having already been mentioned and accumulating their own anecdotes.

Playing games in A Tale of Two Armies allows me to see von Bomburg as a young man, before years of war and booze ruined his mind and as the narrative develops we’ll learn more just what brings von Bomburg to his fate of a tortured existence amidst the ruins of Mordheim.

I’ve also come into possession of a few plastic wine bottles and have designs in mind to add them to the Captain of the Land Ship from Forgeworld and give the young von Bomburg the model he deserves.  It’s an absolutely ace piece and comes with a fantastic looking crew – particularly said Captain.  It would be perfectly fitting as his chariot of choosing, being overly wealthy (at the time) he would no doubt select the biggest and most expensive vehicle he could find.  I can’t wait to send it careening across the battlefield with him loose at the wheel, it’s practically what Warhammer was made for!

Chaos Dragon Ogres – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAs we’re closing in on Christmas I thought I’d cram in one more review for the ongoing A Tale of Two Armies series and a unit that will feature in my 2,000 point list.

Warhammer-logoThe Dragon Ogres were always a unit I wanted in my Chaos army of old but never bothered for two reasons. One, they were expensive and looked shit. Even all those years ago when standards were lower, they were pretty awful models. The situation was only exacerbated when the Shaggoth came out what must be knocking on a decade ago.

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So there was much rejoicing in the streets when not only were the Dragon Ogres re-released but re-released in plastic. The price hadn’t got any better more on that later.

Whilst the overall look of the Dragon Ogres hasn’t changed much – it’s an Ogre torso on Dragon legs – the design has moved on by huge zero gravity moon steps. For a start the lower half feels reptilian. Not dragon-like as such, but the subtle scaling of a crocodile rather than the ugly, angular scales of the recent plastic dragons. These are just little flourishes instead. The effect is quite striking and highlights that these creatures aren’t Dragons, or the result of a drunken night between a Dragon, an Ogre and a condom past its expiration date. These are a breed of creature given the name of Dragon Ogre. It’s an important point of difference. It just makes them more, if the word can be used, believable. However, for all that very organic looking design, including the distinctly crocodilian, rigid, tales the feet are pretty poor. They kinda look like latex boots worn by the poor bastard forced to wear the alien suit in Mighty Morphing Power Rangers. To be fair, it’s a minor grumble, but something that probably shouldn’t have made it past the prototype because they do look a bit odd.

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But on to the Ogre half. Of the design evolution this was the part of was happiest about. The huge and stupid looking great weapons have vanished along with the huge stupid looking face that looked like they’d come off worse in a game of chicken with a castle wall. But instead of making them look like Ogres (because they’re not) they refined the original, making the features more human, whilst retaining the bestial feel. The under bite, orcish ears and flat features are all inspired improvements from the previous model. Throw in the spine spikes and slight scaling on the back and you have something that feels like it was born rather than created, if that makes sense. The weapons and armour are also a perfect balance between crude yet crafted. You get the impression they were gifted but not maintained rather than crafted by crude, ill-educated hands as in the case of Ogres and Orcs. But most importantly they look cruel and brutal, much like their owners.

Whilst a lot of the newer kits tend to give you lots of air in the middle of your model, rather than plastic, the sculpt on the Dragon Ogres is a little more generous. Everything slots together rather well and gives quite a nice feeling of solidity which makes up for the fact that at full retail each model is over £11. So roughly how much the metal model was before it came off the shelves… But at least you won’t have the frustrations and heartache of the old models that would either shed their base or their weapon between games.

In the game Dragon Ogres are, at first glance, a bit of an odd fit. They’re hugely hard-hitting, like the rest of the army and can keep pace with the likes of Knights, Skullcrushers and Warhounds, but they suffer from Initiative 2. You’d be forgiven for thinking they serve little purpose in a Warriors of Chaos army considering the army relies on the ability to deliver a devastating barrage of attacks before their opponents get the chance. However, it’s the one unit in the game you can give great weapons to without any penalty what-so-ever as they’re going to be striking after 80% of the units in Warhammer. Which is fine.  Because the other thing to remember is that Chaos don’t have a lot of very high strength units. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t lack punch, but having a unit of 3 Dragon Ogres running around at Strength 7 with 3 attacks each is tasty. It means you have something in your army that are a threat to Steam Tanks and monstrous cavalry. The 4 wounds is handy too and slightly offsets their below average (for Chaos) base save. Unfortunately at 60 points a model they’re too expensive to be used as a distraction or sacrificial unit but that will be an inevitable side effect of using them along side other units as opponents will be forced to choose between damaging a mortal unit or trying to soften up the Dragon Ogres before they get to attack. Despite the aforementioned 4 wounds does make that tough but it’s offset by the fairly low toughness of 4 as well. Although if you’re sensible and use them to deliver the flank charge you’ll mitigate that somewhat.

Dragon Ogres are possibly one of the most important units in a Warriors of Chaos army. Their obvious hammer blow tactics means Warriors of Chaos have something to deal with the really nasty stuff in other armies. Granted they’ll need support thanks to the low initiative and relatively low toughness but adopt a combined armed approach and they’ll just devour everything.

Dragon Ogres are available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

A Tale of Two Armies – Chapter 3

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAnd so we get to chapter 3 of the expanding tale of Ludwig von Bomburg and his nemesis; von Strauss the Red. This narrative relates to the 1,000 point game Lee & I played a month ago – yes I’ve been very slack.

von Strauss eyed the Empire army with grudging respect as they barreled towards the sacked town. Armour glistened, elaborate banners snapped in the breeze and blades were sharpened to a perfect and keen edge.

The beastmen were as craven as von Strauss had hoped. They were swept aside against the tide of the Empire’s charge as they thundered into the small, ruined, townstead. Blades rose and fell in the morning sun, glimmering like broken shards of light chased by a rainbow of deep claret. A few gors turned to face their attackers, running to improvised defences and lunging and stabbing with crude spears and rusted swords. It made no difference, the herd was in full-blown route. The morning air was filled with the thud of flesh cutting meat, brays of pain, wordless cries of rage and the drumbeat of hundreds of hooves and feet at full run. Carrion birds, gorged on the carcasses of the townsfolk, took flight on broad oily black wings, crying out their disgust, hooked beaks snapping at one another before settling into a lazy circling flight above the town awaiting fresh feed.

von Strauss jumped down from the rocky outcropping he was using as a vantage point and surveyed his own force. The might of the Blood God was arrayed before him. Knights in spiked armour, atop cruel and violent steeds jostled for position at the front of the charge. Along side them Juggernauts snorted and stamped, their own riders itching to cut flesh and break bone. Further down the line, amongst the trees, he could see the form of Baduk. Charged with commanding the second wave, he was hungry to prove his worth. Perhaps too hungry: he was pacing the line with his weapon drawn, every now and then turning to charge ahead before stopping himself. The path of Khorne was a difficult one. The weakest lost themselves to mindless blood lust and were little more than mindless warriors to feed into the gears of the war machine, but those that could control and channel the blood lust were true horrors of war. Baduk was teetering on the edge, his mortal form still adjusting to the blessed power bestowed upon him by their God. 

‘Hold!’ von Strauss roared. They need only wait mere moments more. Just long enough for the Empire force to chase the herd into the woods. Already he could see von Bomburg halting a portion of his force, as expected, to garrison the town, search for survivors and douse the fires. Just a few moments more and they’d be alone and powerless to stop what was to follow. The bray of the Dragon Ogres that had pledged themselves to his cause emphasised the point. The hulking beasts fought amongst themselves to prove their might, thudding clawed fists into pug jaws, snapping teeth amidst barks of mild amusement.

von Strauss turned as the last of the pursuing Imperial units disappeared into the treeline and raised his hand ready to signal the advance.

‘After them!’ Baduk’s voice cut through the background hum of an army ready for war. His words were immediately met with a roar of approval and the hundreds of bodies around von Strauss surged forwards even as he roared the order to hold. Baduk was already tearing through the trees, axes raised high above his head, those contingents closest to him in hot pursuit.

‘Hold!’ von Strauss bellowed just as Baduk’s own order to charge echoed through the trees. The blood lust had been left to build too long, the need to kill left unsaited and it was too much for the weak souls at his command crumbled beneath the weight of their unholy addiction and surged into the woods. von Strauss roared his frustration to the heavens, lashing out with his blade at anyone within reach damn fool enough to disobey his orders.

As the stampede died away and the dust settled he was left with barely a battalion of men. To his utter surprise some of his knights and skullcrushers had stayed by his side. Clearly the prospect of bloodletting not as powerful as the knowledge of what von Strauss would do to them if they dare disobey him.

He knew he had no choice. His army would have given themselves away. von Bomburg would know a large force was in the forest and either be fortifying his position or falling back to the mountain city of Middenheim. Taking one last look at the fraction of the army he now commanded he silently dropped his sword in a chopping action and his army advanced.

***

‘Sir.’ Viktor called as he lowering the telescope, ‘I think you better come and see this.’ The grizzled veteran and head of the von Bomburg household guard rested a hand on the shattered wall defences and sighed with the weariness of a career soldier at war. His lord was quick to respond, yanking the looking-glass from Viktor’s hand before cursing extensively.

von Bomburg drew his sword as he recognized a familiar figure at a quickening horde of warriors of the North. Breaking ahead of the force Knights on massive cruel steeds and hulking steel monstrosities were closing the distance at an alarming rate. He felt the cold steel of fear grip him and he felt the weight of the hip flask at his hip. He turned to Viktor, his guard commander disturbingly calm.

‘Muster the men.’

***

The soldiers of the Empire had advanced under the bellows of their sergeants to put distance between them and the town in the hope sparing any survivors that may be cowering in the ruins. The grass was long under foot and low hillocks offered no protection and only obscured line of sight to the detachment of handgunners and the cannon at von Bomburg’s disposal. The sparing of the peasants meant there was nowhere for von Bomrburg’s men to hide when the hulking cavalry at von Strauss’ disposal broke apart the Imperial line. Against the broken ribs of Immelscheld the foul knights of von Strauss’ army smashed aside their Imperial counterparts as quickly and as efficiently as a farmer bringing in the harvest. von Bomburg watched in horror as they were butchered to a man just as the knights on the daemonic creatures rode past the unit of Demigryphs gifted to him by Middenheim and smashed through his lines, slaying their way through his ranged units and the precious cannon at his disposal.

He watched in stunned disbelief as the two units slowly dismantled his forces. All around him his men died to the axe blows and swings of cruel edged swords. Just eight soldiers and their mounts, that’s all they were. And the two infantry units, with von Strauss at their head, had yet to engage. Perhaps Sigmar had decided it was his time after all…

Then he spotted them, the Demigryph knights that had failed to stop the cavalry charge were left perfectly positioned to attack the rag-tag group of Northmen running towards his own beleaguered unit. And attack they did. The foul tempered Demigryphs stormed into the marauders and butchered them. The knights atop them barely had time to draw their blades before little more than bloody chunks of the tribesman remained.

von Strauss and his unit turned to face the threat but his men knew it was hopeless and some of their numbered dragged him away from the fight, risking mortal wounds at the hands of their lord as he vented his rage, but better death at the hands of their lord than a lifetime of torture at the hands of Khorne for failing him.

von Bomburg stood at the centre of a raging storm of pain and death. His men gave their lives for him, dozens dying to just pull down a single Knight. They would prevail through sheer weight of numbers but the cost would be great. The Demigryphs collided with the warriors atop the daemon creatures and they tore bloody chunks from one another. The brass and metal beasts snorted and snapped as the Demigryphs screeched and flailed, claws of bone and steel crashing in sprays of blood and liquid fire. But already battered and bloodied from prolonged fighting the skullcrushers were driven off as the last of the knights were overwhelmed.

He stood on shaking legs, utterly unharmed with barely a dozen men left alive around him. The rest of his army he already knew were dead, torn asunder by the rest of von Strauss’ force and no doubt the fell beasts that he now knew had lured them from the safety of the mountain city. All around him lay the price of his folly. The broken bodies of his men and the foul corpses of his enemy lay entwined.

As he trudged back up the steep slope towards Middenheim with the survivors in tow he knew that he’d see von Strauss again and that the man would ultimately kill him. He would have no choice but to return to Marienburg shrouded in shame and begin the muster all over again.

***

At the edge of the woods an elegant rider watched the crushed warrior with keen, slate coloured eyes. His hair was long, pale and tinted purple and perfumed with a mixture of oils. Delicate ink work swirled up bare, tightly muscled, arms leading up to a suit of exquisitely crafted silver armour beneath which white robes patterned with pink flames.

‘Come on Ludwig, old boy, chin up.’

Warhammer Armies: Lizardmen – A Review

Warhammer-logoAs I slight change of gear for my ongoing adventures in the Warhammer World I have decided to take a look at the Lizardmen army book. The last time I gave the scaly denizens of Lustria any attention what-so-ever was back when they were in the Warhammer starter set opposite the Bretonnians. Back there and back then they were pretty impressive both as models and as a fighting force. They were also fresh and offered up new hobby challenges. Of course the main hobby challenge was that the models dated very quickly and the available range was tiny.

I’ve ignored the Lizardmen ever since to be honest. Even when the previous iteration came out and the shelves were flooded with Stargate toting Stegadons and massive massive Carnosaurs. But that was always my problem with the Lizardmen, interesting models, but the army list just didn’t pull my focus.

LizardmenBook copy

I’m not entirely sure what it was about the new book that did pull my focus as some of the newer models are a bit on the iffy side. But pulled it was and here I am writing about it. It helps that the book is gorgeous. As with all the new army books it feels premium, which is just as well considering the price, and it’s packed full of artwork and lots of lovely photos of the big fat scary (and scaly) kits you can now plough your money into.

So first thing’s first, the background is awesome. I mean really awesome. I’m reliably informed that nothing’s really changed from the previous book, but as I’ve not read that, it’s new to me. It’s just so well paced and compellingly written. And for the first time ever I feel like they have a place in the Warhammer World beyond giant lizards living in a jungle. All the stuff about Lizardmen culture and the role they have to play in the grand scheme of things is fascinating. Everything feels like it has a purpose now and it’s really interesting how elements of Lizardmen society is reflected throughout the Warhammer World, and the Lizardmen themselves possessing a slightly sinister undertone that belies the seeming nobility of their undertaking.

They’re a bunch of snakes in the grass basically. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

But on to the army list. Which is sick. And I thought Warriors of Chaos were bad! If anyone bemoans Chaos and whinges that they’re too hard I’m just going to hit them over the head with the Lizardmen book until they give in, or their skull does, whichever happens first. Designed specifically to go up against Chaos, the Lizardmen army is incredibly difficult to deal with as all their weaknesses are offset. Shit initiative? That’s okay, you can have two wounds? Not good enough? Okay, well you can be cheaper than Chaos Warriors but on paper be just as good. Still not good enough? Okay, we’ll give some of your guys Predatory Fighter which gives you an extra attack for every 6 you roll in combat. Nasty.

Not good enough? Okay, how about being able to field 6 Stegaons in an army? Yes, 6. And I’ve double and triple checked that. And the mental thing is that it’s a viable, if rather wanky, army selection. But let’s be honest, who doesn’t find the idea of a herd – I think we can call 6 a herd – of Stegadons stampeding down the board a very appealing one?

Despite the woeful amount of variety in the core choices available to Lizardmen, the army list has crazy amounts of variety almost to the point that you can quite comfortably come up with an army variation to take on all comers with very little thought what-so-ever. That’s not to say they’re the easy option of the beginners army because they’re really not. To get the best out of your army requires a lot of planning and a fair amount of sacrifice as you won’t be able to fit all the cool stuff and if you try you’ll have an army that doesn’t quite work. Whilst the Games Workshop has done a sterling job of writing the army list to reflect the Lizardmen society it isn’t quite the harmonised hegemony of the Tau Empire so a combined arms army list won’t necessarily do you any favours.

That said when you’ve got fear causing flyers with armour-piercing & killing blow (I know right?!), chuffing great beasties that stomp the shit out of everything and magic up the whazoo it’s hard not to want to take everything.

Although, rather refreshingly, you don’t have to make the Slann, magic and magic items your first port of call despite it being the obvious one. The army is plenty enough brawn to hold its own with a balance of Saurus, beasties and Skinks harrying flanks to even need to touch magic. Although there’s plenty about those three sections that will get you hot and hard. Unless you’re going up against it then you’re manliness will shrivel to the size of a press stud. Because it’s horrid. But don’t kid yourself, the spells are immense. And Slann can channel magic through one another allowing the exchange of spells. Which can be extremely bloody handy, turning magic missiles into mobile artillery and affording vulnerable units sudden and well-timed magical protection.

Some of the magic items available to the Lizardmen are a little bit mad. And not all that dear either. For 40 points you can equip the Sacred Stegadon Helm of Itza which not only gives +1 Armour and +1 Toughness it gives you D3 impact hits. My personal favourite, however, is the Horn of Kygor which, for 35 points, gives all monsters in the army – which includes monstrous cavalry, mounts, chariot beasts etc – Frenzy for a turn. If timed right, and considering the nature of the army, that’s a lot of dice being rolled for a very low-cost. There’s other tasty stuff in there like the Blade of Realities which ignores all saves but at 100 points I’d struggle to justify spending that.

The Lizardmen book is a superb read. The army is a little much in places to the point I’d feel as embarrassed fielding them as I would Warriors of Chaos. That said they are an interesting and exciting army to field with an equally rich model range – slightly dated Saurus models aside. Although opponents would groan at the sheer volume of rampaging monsters the challenge lies in figuring out how to deal with them.

I never thought I’d find another Warhammer army that excites me as much as Warriors of Chaos does that’d I’d want to collect them but I’m happy on this occasion to be wrong. Now to tell the wife…

Warhammer Armies Lizardmen is available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.

Empire Steam Tank – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAs Phil made the fairly straight forward to decision to get another battalion box to give him his next 500 points (and beyond) I had to do something thinking about what would best to deal with even more blood crazed, heavily armoured hard nuts. The obvious option was more cannons but I decided that nothing with a little bit more manoeuvrability…

Warhammer-logo

To the whistle of escaping steam and the clank and grind of pistons and gears, the Empire Steam Tank has rolled into my possession.  Excited?  Me? Yup.

When I initially ran the rule over the new incarnation of the Steam Tank I was unconvinced.  A lot had been done to reduce the models effectiveness in-game and even with a significant points reduction it seemed to be a choice of vanity over necessity and potentially a point sink.  However, reading how others used them in their games I realised it was still an immensely useful unit but in a different way – a way very much in keeping with the current Empire list (for better or worse depending on your opinion).

SteamTank

The biggest grumble had been the reduction of its Toughness from 10 to 6 making it far more vulnerable to damage from higher strength enemies – followed by the Steam Gun no longer ignoring armour saves blunting its teeth considerably.  My main concern was the new steam generation method meant you could misfire even at full wounds. When combined with the lower toughness and thus increased damage being sustained it could be seen as a bit of a liability as there would be a 1 in 3 chance of misfiring after taking just a single wound. Which is a bit shit.

The misfire table could be mitigated somewhat by limiting the amount of steam you produced – but that meant losing yet more effectiveness from the unit. The cannon was better (now just a standard Great Cannon with variable range) and the point cost had gone down by 50 to 250 points, but like I said, I was still unconvinced.

However, the consensus seems to be that regardless of its perceived reduced output, its use as a roadblock to tie up dangerous units was still unrivalled and worth the price of entry alone.  The improved cannon also meant that if all else fails it could still be used as a piece of artillery without the need for a unit to babysit it.  The misfire table, although inconvenient, is more forgiving than its previous version, so although you will misfire more often it will be less severe and you should still be able to do at least something most of the time. The all-conquering all-powerful Steam Tank of old had gone, and in its place was a leaner machine which had to be used more tactically to get the most benefit out of it for the good of your army. Able to hold up, divert and mitigate enemy strong points but not necessarily kill them, it at would at least buy you the time needed for your plan to work.

It all points to the ‘combined arms’ approach that The Cruddace seemed to have been aiming for with rather iffy success. And of course, it’s all still theoretical for me having yet to use it in a game (coming soon), but it has at least convinced me it still has its uses in an army where every point is precious, and I can’t wait it try it out.

The kit itself it wonderfully simple to assemble whilst still being crammed with detail and possessing a refreshing degree of sturdiness. It’s a far, and welcome, cry from the old metal kit which was utter misery to build and required near pro-sculpting skills to plug and smooth all the gaps between components.

There are a few nice choices to make too, like which cannon barrel to choose (I went with the hexagonal one) and what to hang off the tail hook.  You don’t even have to attach the heraldry with it all being separate enabling you to field a stripped down, more aggressive looking vehicle. Which is actually way cool and side steps the recurring grumble that everyone’s models look pretty much the same, despite being a plastic multi-part kit.

The Engineer you get with it is ace and comes with a multitude of options for his head, arms/weapons choice, and if you’re smart you don’t have to permanently glue him in and can use him on foot. There are a few gripes however, firstly the size of the finished kit – I’m sure the old metal version used to be bigger.  Don’t get me wrong, it more than fills it’s base and will stand as tall as any cavalry unit (minus the lances) but it is a tank and I would have thought it’s transition to plastic would mean it could have grown in size rather than shrink.

Secondly, speaking of the old metal kit, does anyone remember the mail order only variants? You had the fighting platform variant, the mortar variant, the battering ram etc. They were great fun and worked well with the Empire’s tendency to tinker and innovate.  Again with the transition to plastic along with GW’s love of giving you model options rather than the actual models themselves, it seems to me to be another missed opportunity to do something a bit special.  Up the price slightly, throw in an extra frame, and you’ve got a kit that can fulfil multiple roles –again in keeping with army character of having a tool for every job.

Overall it is a very good kit – the model really is one of the better ones.  My gripes aside, I’m just a bit too fond of the good ‘ol days, you’ll not be disappointed in its appearance or its performance.  It’s a piece you can really go to town on painting wise and it will take pride of place at the forefront of your army once you’ve finished driving it around the tabletop whilst making funny noises (you know the ones).  Who knows, if all goes well you may even want to take two – much to your opponents dismay.  Good luck and happy grinding.

Sadly the Empire Steam Tank is no longer available from Firestorm Games due to a change in GW’s trade range but there’s plenty to choose from, prices starting at £8.10.