Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reconstituting a Keeper of Secrets - Part I: The Plan

I have had the parts for an old (Realms of Chaos era) Keeper of Secrets model hanging around my bits box for quite some time. I think an old Keeper of Secrets would make a fine addition to my daemons armies and I figured it was about time I re-assembled the creature. Even if I don't use it as a Keeper of Secrets, I think it would make a fine counts-as daemon prince.

There is only one problem with my plan. That problem being that I'd no idea whatsoever as to what happened to its lower pair of arms and head. Maybe they got lost, maybe I sold or swapped them for something else with one of my mates, maybe they're off pursuing their own political career in Segmentum Obscuris. I just don't know and cannot remember. The point being that I'm missing vital parts required to re-assemble my Keeper of Secrets. What I have got is illustrated to the left (the image is an out-of-production catalogue page by Games Workshop).

In order to reconstitute the miniature, I needed to source at least 2 arms and a head. Knocking around my bits box was this old ogre (right). This miniature has an interesting right arm (the one holding the spiked club that is resting on his foot). The size of the arm (width-wise) is just about spot on to blend in with the general physique of the rest of the Keeper of Secrets. I also like the look of the spiked club. All of the newer greater daemons sculpted by Games Workshop possess weapons these days (in the Realms of Chaos books, Keepers went in to battle with only their natural assets ... claws and so forth).

So, I carefully cut loose the right arm of the ogre from the shoulder and the tip of the boot. Whilst I wasn't too fussed with the ugly looking shoulder end of the arm, the tip of the club required a little bit of filing down to get it looking more natural; and to remove the excess boot that came off with it.

I have sourced the final two parts for the Keeper of Secrets from the Chaos Spawn plastic kit. The head is the one with the two horns curling down and a goatee horn whilst the left arm is the large clawed arm. The plan is now to milliput them all together such that the ogre arm and chaos spawn arm are positioned below the upper claw arms (i.e. where the original arms would have gone) and to pin the head to the neck stub.

In part II, the finished Keeper of Secrets conversion will be presented along with the paint job.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Raptor Painting and Conversion Update

Today's short posting is an update on the winged chaos marine raptor squad that I've been working on recently, in pictorial form. There are now 2 raptors with melta guns, an icon bearer (Khorne), and a flying raptor. Total points cost for these 4, in addition to the aspiring champion with power fist that I already had, works out at 190 points painted so far. I'll be making up a few more raptors to add to this squad in the future. But for now here's the update picture:

I like these models! They're not quite as cool as the raptor lord with the chaos arm bit for a head, but that's all good since they will help that miniature to stand out a bit more from the crowd. Even without the mark of Khorne, these raptors are all set for tank and dreadnought hunting duties on the tabletop.

Previous postings concerning these models can be found here: Lord of the Raptors, Statistics-1 and Statistics-2.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Daemons of Lesser Powers - Part II: Lesser Daemon Packs

Continuing a series of articles presenting experimental house rules for daemons of lesser powers, today: rules for troops. These lesser daemons are based on the generic daemons from the chaos space marine codex, but transplanted to the daemons codex. As such, they're not very powerful in comparison to the lesser daemons of the big four chaos powers, but can be a handful if ignored.

In the same way as recent codex's have presented some independent characters as being army choice altering, these lesser daemon packs are also affected by the choice of herald in an army.

Lesser Daemons of a Lesser Power (Troops Slot).
Cost: 13 points each

4 4 4 4 1 4 2 10 -/5+
Unit Type: Infantry
Number per squad: 5 to 20

Special Rules: Daemon.
All armed with a single close combat weapon.

Gift one model with: Chaos Icon (+25 pts)
Gift a different model with: Chaos Instrument (+5 pts)
Gift another single model with: Flamer (+10 pts), or Warpfire (+10 pts), or Unholy Might (+5 pts)

(The flamer need not be modelled on the model - it can take the form of a breath attack or similar. However, the model should be at least painted differently from the rest of the pack).

If the force organization chart includes a herald of a lesser power with one of the following options, then all lesser daemon packs may also select it at the following additional costs.
Preferred enemy: mortals (+4 pts per model),
Preferred enemy: daemons and non-mortals (+2 pts per model).
NB: All models within a single pack must be given these upgrades.

A Herald of Malal is given daemons and non-mortals (that includes necrons!) as preferred enemies for fluff reasons. The player may then have any number of lesser daemon packs (up to force organization chart limits) with the same rule that costs 13+2= 15 pts per model.

NB: It is important to differentiate between squads that do or don't have such special rules in 5th edition; perhaps with a different painting scheme or models.

On a related note, I'm personally thinking about using some vampire counts grave guard as generic lesser daemons in my chaos space marine forces in the future. That's a story for another day, though.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another Daemonette, Another Palette

Today, another daemonette of Slaanesh to add to the previous one. This time, the flesh colour is a shade of brown rather than the more unnatural orange of the previous daemonette. Yet the garments have retained the blue and gold scheme. I still haven't quite got the hang of painting these daemonette models too well: the claws are especially giving me much grief. Should they be in a different colour to the flesh, or the same colour? I can't decide on the whole.

This model used nearly the same painting procedure as before, apart from the skin where the palette is simply a different choice. There are no tattoos on this model, it is just as is. I'm reasonably happy with this miniature, but I am going to continue my quest for a colour scheme that looks good, that I'm happy with, and is different to the purple-and-pale-purple exhibited in the codex. I'm sensing that I'll end up with a squad of daemonettes all in different colour schemes at this rate. That might not be such a bad outcome overall, however!

The base deserves a quick mention here as well. It is plasticard glued on top of a regular circular base with a small amount of industrial-looking rubbish (sand and off-clippings of plastic sprues) glued to one edge. The yellow tiles are suggestive of an urban setting. Traffic markings perhaps, or a daemon-wrecked discotheque!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Copse of Trees

In the tutorial on how to make trees like model railway modellers, I detailed the general method that I used for making a single tree (but admittedly, only one type of tree). By repeating the instructions many times over, it won't take too long to create a whole copse, woodland, or forest of trees!

Today's posting, I hope, will give readers some inspiration as to what can be achieved and the kinds of variations that are possible. Therefore, that's all I'm going to write today as I'm going to let the gratuitous montage do the talking.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tutorial: Tree Making

When I was first considering making some scenic trees, I realized that model railway enthusiasts had been doing this for years. At a train hobby exhibition, I picked up a number of modelling ingredients and set to work trying to learn and reproduce the techniques and outcomes that the model railway folks had long had under their collective belts.

So, something a little different today: this article presents a tutorial on how to make scenic trees like the model railway enthusiasts. I think the results should be achievable by almost anyone reading this (if you're young, though, I'd recommend getting a grown-ups help). Enjoy!

Ingredients & Tools List.
You'll need the following to follow this tutorial:
wire (florist's wire or necklace-making wire; here in Australia you should be able to find this in somewhere like lincraft);
hand pliers (probably 2 pairs unless you have large callouses on your fingertips already);
flock, clump foliage (I use woodland scenics);
glue (PVA / white wood glue will suffice);
filler (most types will do);
an old plastic tub that you don't want anymore (recycle those margarine or butter tubs);
paint (citadel or other acrylic / water-based);
40mm base, or larger (citadel, or cut from a cork table board);
wooden ice-lolly sticks (to be used for mixing and applying the filler; an old, large brush that you don't care too much about would also suffice).


Step 1. Grab yourself a whole bunch of wires. About 14 would be quite sufficient to make a decent sized tree with. (edit: I've used lengths of about 40cm in the pictures, different lengths will affect the height of the final tree). Feel free to experiment with larger numbers for different effects (e.g. thicker trunks). Straighten them out if you bought them curled up in packaging (e.g. from necklace making supplies).

Step 2. Fold your wires in half. The top of the loop will become the tree's branches, the ends will become roots. (Folding them in half is not strictly necessary, it simply creates a thicker trunk to work with. By not folding them in half, you'll have taller and thinner trees). We're now going to twist the wires together to define the trunk. You need to decide now how much root-work you want. I'm going to twist (using the pliers) about 1/3 of the way up from the non-loop end. If you want lots of roots to play with, choose a twisting point nearer to the centre. If you want more branches to play with, choose a twisting points further towards the (non-loop) end. Unless you're planting your tree in styrofoam, you'll want to have at least some roots to provide balance for your tree. You'll want in the region of at least 2cm of twisting for the main trunk.

Step 3. We're going to work on the branches now. If you look at real world trees, you'll notice that the trunk and branches usually split in two (or bifurcate) with increasing height for the most part. So, divide the loops above the trunk section in to two groups. These groupings don't have to be even numbers of wires at all - you can create some interesting trees by using (say) 8 in one group and 17 in another. For each of these two loops, twist once more. You've now made two main branches coming out from the main trunk.

Step 4. You should continue with this splitting in to groups and twisting process (as pictured) until you've run all the way up to the tip of the wire loops! (The tips will be holding the clump foliage later on, so you might want to push the branches in to a suitable holding shape now). If you find that your branches are getting too long and you want more spindly and smaller branches, then fold a single loop in half to create two loops and hence an extra branching.
At the tips of the branches, flatten the looped wire out in to a single point to finish the job.

Step 5. Back to those roots. We're going to follow a similar prescription to steps 3 and 4 for the roots. However, since they're the ends and don't have loops on already, I've looped them back on to the trunk in four groups. This serves to both thicken the lower trunk and give more stability to the tree. The roots don't have as many bifurcations (if at all) compared to the branches. Once you've twisted your roots in to place, you should stand your tree upright on the base that you're going to use. Does it balance? If not, you might like to re-arrange some of the branches and roots to alter the centre of gravity (unless you want some wind-swept trees, of course, which would be perfectly understandable).

Step 6. This is the messy part that also takes a while. Scoop a liberal amount of filler in to your tub. Add a small amount of water to it. Using your lollipop sticks, mix it up. You might want to add a few drops of paint to the mixture at this stage. But beware: since the mixture is white, you should add darker colours than you might initially think (In the pictures, I've used a combo of Catachan green, goblin green and black ink). The consistency you're after is slightly less thick than toothpaste (like viscous honey perhaps?), smooth and without lumps in it.

Using your wooden lolly poles, smear the mixture on to your tree's wire-frame. You want a relatively good coat (enough to hide the wire underneath), but you don't have to be too picky or coat it extremely evenly since the foliage will hide some of the less even portions later on, particularly toward the tips of the branches. Remember that real world trees come in all shapes and sizes and don't get too hung up about splodges here and there. You can always drybrush it later if you like.

Allow your filler to dry on the wire frame (probably a couple of hours). Then apply another coating. You can keep on applying coats if you want to thicken the trunk up further (etc.), but your batch of filler is also also drying at the same time, albeit at a slower rate. (You've got the time to make up further wire tree frames if you've made up too big a batch of filler for one tree!)

I'll also note here that the filler can be used as a temporary "glue" to fix the tree to its base. It is not a strong bond in the slightest, so you should use superglue instead later (or use green stuff) once the filler has dried.

Step 7. Once your coats are completely dry, we can apply the clump foliage. Since the filler is flexible, you should still be able to bend your branches in to new orientations. Use some white glue (PVA) and apply the clump foliage at the tops of the branches in whatever formation you like. Don't be afraid to "pinch" a pair of branch tips together to better hold a foliage clump in place.

Step 8. To complete the process, add some flock and scenic additions to the base and you're pretty much done. I've never created the same tree twice, so don't worry if your tree doesn't look like mine! You can also do several trees at once depending on how much filler you mix up ready to use.

In no time, you'll have whole forests growing up. My wife and sister-in-law have also been having a go at tree making. Truthfully, I can't tell their efforts apart from my own - so I reckon even beginners can obtain good results. Trees have gone from being a daunting challenge to something easy to produce for me. I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and are inspired to give it a go.

Further trees that resulted from using this method can be found here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Troublesome Bright Yellow: Warp Hornets Chapter

One colour that I've had a lot of problems in the past with is bright yellow. A while back (several years back in fact), I had this bright(!) idea that I'd field some chaos renegades whose primary colour was to be sunburst yellow. I called them the Warp Hornets and the idea was to have their colour scheme wasp-like: black and yellow. I even took them to GT2007.

The problem is that bright yellow is very annoying to shade correctly and highlight correctly. The picture displays a number of different thoughts that I had to paint the renegades, ranging from multiple drybrushing layers, highlighting in even brighter yellows and making various locations on the miniature a "muddier" yellow. I've never been wholly satisfied with any of the painting techniques that I explored to try to get the look right in my eyes. So, bright yellow remains an unsolved problem for me. The best chaos marine pictured is arguably the central aspiring champion where there is a line of black around the should plates before they meet a gold / bronze rim. It certainly helps it to stand out.

Speaking of standing out, these miniatures certainly stand out against the crowd on any battle field!, more so than the Imperial Fists even. The dominant bright yellow makes them look highly chaotic, but choosing a secondary colour (red, purple, blue, gold, black) was also difficult as the image above testifies. So, if you want your army to be noticed, bright yellow is the way to go from experience. To make them even brighter, try dipping them in gloss varnish; I did!

I'll post more pictures of the Warp Hornets at a later date, as well as some fluff perhaps. I've got a box of these chaos undivided minions sat around, alongside some terminators. These days, I usually only field them in apocalypse or at most, a single squad in an chaos undivided marine renegades army. I am thinking of starting a new chaos chapter that doesn't use bright yellow; I'm thinking blue is much easier to work with.

Random thoughts from a game of Daemons against Marines

Recently, I played a daemons army against a Space Marine army in a friendly clash. The battle was annihilation with pitched battle setup. I wanted to share a few thoughts and lessons learnt arising from the 1500 pts battle.

Rough Force Composition Overview:
I was playing a mixed daemons list (a few proxies were used and a few unpainted models), as follows:
Great Unclean One (Breath of Chaos, Cloud of Flies); Herald of Khorne (Juggernaut mounted, Death Strike); 14 Bloodletters; 10 Plaguebearers (Icon, Instrument); 12 Horrors (The Changeling, Icon, Instrument, Bolt of Tzeentch); 5 Screamers (Unholy Might); Daemon Prince (Iron Hide, Daemonic Flight); Daemon Prince (Iron Hide, Gaze); Daemon Prince (Iron Hide, Gaze).

My opponent was using the new Marine codex with approximately the following:
2 drop pods with sternguard veterans and marines, Lysander, Pedro, Scouts (snipers), predator (autocannon with heavy bolters), Iron-clad Dreadnought, and two large tactical squads (flamers, missile launchers).

Outcomes and thoughts:
The entire squad of bloodletters died from rapid fire before getting in to combat - apart from the herald. The herald was worth its weight in gold though (especially since the juggernaut grants iron hide regardless). Daemons need to be taken in large packs if they've only got a 5+ save! But also, I've come around to thinking that a large squad of bloodcrushers will be good. The only problem in reality is the cost of getting hold of so many - therefore that's going to remain a dream.

The plaguebearers weren't so good. With only 1 attack, they didn't do so well. But predictably, they hung around until the bitter end. I think I'm only ever going to take small squads of these guys again, perhaps with an icon in for summoning and drop them on top of objectives.

The horrors were great! But they need to be positioned wisely and avoid being charged. If you take them in large squads with all options and keep them away from close combat, you'll not be disappointed.

The screamers are incredible against armour. They're good in multiple small squads and similarly good in one large mob.

Great Unclean Ones with Breath of Chaos is an under-rated combo. It worked remarkably well! Aside, I probably had too many HQs in this particular army though. Just like the plaguebearers, the Great Unclean One stays around for a long time. The slow and purposeful rule is not a big drawback at all.

Daemon Princes are good, but I don't know whether I should be taking 3 of them again in the future. I'm reserving judgement on daemon princes versus soul grinders.

Overall, I'm slowly coming round to thinking that Khorne + Tzeentch might be an optimal and semi-fluffy stratagem if you're not playing a pure Epidemius list.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blue Horror from Pink

Blue horrors of Tzeentch come from pink horrors. What should the base of a blue horror have on it then? A pink horror! Or at least that was the idea that I set out with. I'm not sure whether this'll be my entry to FtW's basing contest, it was simply a thought and and experiment given form to add variety to my Tzeentchian horror pack.

The blue horror is a standard metal horror straight out of the box and assembled in the usual fashion. The base is a combination of milliput, metal horror arms and a bit of scatter. I wanted to create the image of a blue horror stepping out of the mouth of a pink one. The photographs don't quite capture this entirely, but one of the legs of the blue horror is still inside the maw of the pink horror on the ground (locate the pink horror's tongue at the front, near the eye).

This pose was remarkably straight forward to accomplish. The blue horror was glued in to the slottabase in the first instance and allowed to dry before even a blob of milliput was applied. The first thing was creating a maw. This was done by just pushing a two long cylinders of milliput around one of the blue horror's legs to create some "lips" and then sculpting it a bit further to create the maw. Using further rolled cylinders, the flowing tentacle(?) things were laid down around this maw, flowing backward to the rear. A small cylinder was used for the tongue and small depressions in the milliput were created for the eyes whilst it was still malleable. The extra metal arms (that come with the horror boxes) were then placed in. One of them is posed to look like it is trying to claw the blue horror back in, but the blue horror is pushing it back down.

I like the pose of this particular blue horror, it looks like it is screaming at the sky; somewhat annoyed that it has lost its pink outer "shell"! The painting was done in the same manner as outlined previously. The last step was to add a small amount of green scatter where the milliput pink horror was not completely covering the entire base. I'm satisfied overall, but the piece is not exceptional.

I'll need some better images of this model & some touching up of the paintwork if it's going to be entering the FtW basing contest. Regardless, I think that this type of base - one that is interacting with the miniature on top of it - is the way that I'll go.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Verdus Prime Necron Warrior

On a semi-whim, I purchased a box of necron warriors a little while ago. I intend to use necron parts for conversion work on chaos space marines to represent bionic replacements - it'll work out cheaper than using the Iron Hands box set. But having bought the box of necron warriors, I then found myself wanting to make some of them up and paint them, just to see how they'd work out.

Aims and Model.
I do like the "metallic undead" feel of the necron warriors, but wanted something other than the usual silver / chrome / rust looks that I've seen on many playing tables. So, my inspiration for this necron paint scheme comes from Dawn of War in the main part: Verdus Prime.

The six images above show the various stages that I went through to achieve the final look. The first two (gluing the miniature together and undercoating in black) are straight forward. After letting the undercoat dry, I drybrushed the weaponry, recessed areas and primary joints (knees, elbows, etc.) in silver (image 3). I wasn't too careful here as any excess silver on other areas can readily be corrected later on. Pure skull white was then applied to the armoured surfaces (image 4). A combination of gold paint, chestnut ink and black ink was then painted on in rivulets to simulate the appearance of leaking fluids coming out from the internal workings of the necron (image 5). Additionally, the eyes were painted red and some green paint and ink was applied to the recessed areas of the weaponry and one of the tubes coming out from the gauss barrel. The bits sticking out from the base were also painted in brass. In the final step, the gauss barrel was glued in to place and given some streaks of dark green and the stone gravel on the base was drybrushed (image 6).

The image at the top of this article displays the final product in 3 orientations with the inclusion of some green scatter glued on to the base.

I'm pleased with this miniature overall, especially considering this is the first necron that I've ever worked on. I like the feel of the leaking joints, perhaps sustained from battle damage. In hindsight, I think I could have added some lowlights around the rim of the white armoured portions and some chipped paint work to show darker metal underneath. Next time, I might basecoat in space wolf grey and highlight or drybrush with pure skull white. I was also sorely tempted to paint the gauss barrel in flaming reds and oranges akin to the hellblades on my bloodletters, but I was glad to have resisted.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

GT2007 list

Below is my entry to Grand Tournament 2007 (Queensland) that I'm posting here principally for posterity. It uses the old chaos codex (the one that had triple columns of wargear...) along with 4th edition rules and 1500 points value limit. The army performed at an "average" level (i.e. it ranked about half-way up the final results table), but I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and meeting a bunch of great people there!

Army List.

Chaos Lieutenant: Mark of Chaos Undivided; Dark Blade daemon weapon; Terminator Armour; Combi-Bolter.

Terminator Squad: Chosen Terminator Champion: Daemonic Mutation; Daemonic Visage; power weapon and combi-bolter; Mark of Chaos Undivided. Squad of 4 Chosen Chaos Terminators: power weapons and combi-bolters except for: 1 heavy flamer and 2 chainfists; all with Mark of Chaos Undivided; 1 unit icon.

Khorne Berzerkers: Aspiring Champion; Mark of Khorne; Talisman of Burning Blood; bolt pistol and Power Fist; Frag grenades. Seven further berzerkers: all with Mark of Khorne, blot pistols & close combat weapons and frag grenades; 1 unit icon.

Chaos Space Marines: Aspiring Champion; Mark of Chaos Undivided; bolt pistol; power fist; infiltrate; frag grenades; teleport homer. Together with 9 further Chaos Space Marines; all with Mark of Chaos Undivided; Infiltrate; frag grenades; all have bolt pistols and close combat weapons; special weapon upgrades: 1 with a Melta Gun; 1 heavy bolter; unit icon.

Chaos Space Marines: Aspiring Champion; Mark of Chaos Undivided; Combi-bolter; close combat weapon; unit icon. Together with 6 further Chaos Space Marines; all with Mark of Chaos Undivided; bolters and close combat weapons; special weapon upgrade: 1 with a Missile Launcher.

Chaos Space Marines: 6 Chaos Space Marines; all with Mark of Chaos Undivided; tank hunters; bolters and close combat weapons; special weapon upgrades: 1 lascannon and 1 plasma gun; 1 unit icon.

Bloodletters: 8, with hellblades.

Plaguebearers: 8, with Daemonic venom and Nurgle’s rot.

Heavy Support:
Chaos Predator with autocannon; lascannon sponsons; smoke launcher.

(1) Mixing special and heavy weapons doesn't work - there's always one weapon going to waste in such troops squads. I should have resisted that temptation but the miniatures looked good (1980's era), which to me was sufficient reason.
(2) Singular vehicles always get targeted and destroyed first. This list should have been 100 per cent infantry with no vehicles present, but I couldn't resist the predator!
(3) Very enjoyable to play with. I'd recommend building 100% troops chaos space marine armies to others. The sheer number of power (or terminator) armoured bodies can be intimidating. Chaos marine hordes are under-rated.

Monday, November 17, 2008

FtW November Challenge: Gauntlet Scenario, Final Version

Following on from my previous postings (1, 2), here I present the Gauntlet scenario in full. Thanks to everyone who commented on Gauntlet as it progressed through its various stages of development! Publically showing a work in progress is sometimes risky, but I personally find the feedback useful and helpful (cf. Mark of the Raptors). In this case, it has made my thoughts more concrete - this is one beauty of having a group like FtW (cheers to Ron for your hard work in making FtW a success!). If you run this scenario in your local group, or at a store (etc.), then I'd love to hear how it went. So, without further ado...


In an audacious lightning raid, the forces of Calixtus the Stone-Hearted* have {stolen / liberated}** the {keycodes to the orbital defence lasers / lost stave of Pir’ex / Gemstone of doom / Jokero’s digital weapon blueprints}** from the fortified enclave of Raxa*. Forces from the {local militia / genestealer hybrid cult council / residential space marines}** that were in the immediate vicinity have been dispatched with all due haste to intercept these {thieves / marauders / mutants}**.

* Insert other names of your choosing if you wish
** Delete as appropriate

This game is intended to be a small and quick game suitable for all gamers, from introductory level players to beyond.

There are two players in this scenario: the raiders and the interceptors. Both players are limited to 1000 points – this represents a small raiding party (the raiders) that has got hold of some item that is precious to the locals (the interceptors) who haven’t had much chance to react. The scenario then asks the question: do the raiders get away with their stolen loot?

Gauntlet is not a standard mission.
For the raiders, the controlling player is obliged to choose 1 HQ (not a named character), 1 Fast Attack and 1 Troops choice. Further points can only be spent on more troops, or more fast attack selections. No heavy support choices are permitted: this is a small lightning-fast raiding force that would be slowed down by these choices. No elites are permitted either: these squads are presumed to be on other important duties, or have perished in the original raid!

For the interceptors, the 1000 points are divided in to two lots of 500 points, each with their own force organization. In each 500 points lot, the interceptors player is obliged to choose 1 HQ (not a named character) and 1 Troops choice. Further points from each of the 500 lots can be spent on up to any other 4 selections from any section of the standard force organization chart. This represents whatever local forces the commander on the ground could muster and get there in good time.

Gauntlet Setup.
Gauntlet is recommended to be played on a square 4 x 4 ft board, as shown below.

The raiders must place every model of their force within an imaginary triangle whose corners are one corner of the board and 12 inches away from that corner, along the board edges. Their aim is to move their squads off the board at the opposite edges.
Meanwhile, the interceptors must place one 500 points lot in an adjacent imaginary triangle, again measured 12 inches from the corner.

The second 500 points lot of interceptors will be moved on to the board at the start of turn 2 from the edges shown on the setup diagram.

The terrain for gauntlet is unrestricted since the action could take place anywhere; ranging from dense death world forest areas, to urban jungle waste-lands. The players are free to choose how much, or how little, scenic terrain they want and should set it up in an amicable fashion by taking it in turns to place down items of scenery.

Gauntlet Special Rules.
Deep striking, infiltration, scouting and all other special rules that affect setup are not permitted in gauntlet – all models must be deployed according to the gauntlet setup rules, and not moved from their setup positions until turn 1.

Roll randomly for the first turn as usual.

As the last setup step, the raiders player must designate one of his models as the “loot carrier”. This model must be the HQ selection for the raiders force, a squad leader (e.g. an aspiring champion or a space marine sergeant), or special character upgrade (e.g. the changeling). Regardless, the loot carrier model must be distinct from the rest of its squad; but the loot need not be modeled on the miniature (it is presumed to be small and not noticeable).

The raiders player must note down in secret which miniature the loot carrier is and not reveal it until the end of the game.

Finally, the raiders player’s objective is to move his or her troops to the opposite side of the board (see the setup diagram).

If at the start of the raider’s turn, one of the raider’s models is touching these move-off edges, that model is taken off the board and takes no further part in the game. It is presumed that the model has reached safety (an awaiting airship?) and escaped the clutches of the interceptors player.

The game ends when there are no models belonging to the raiders player remaining on the board. At this point, the raiders player reveals which model was the loot-carrier and the winner is evaluated.

Gauntlet Win Conditions.
The raiders player scores a major victory if they move off the loot-carrier and inflict a higher number of kill points than their opponent.

The raiders score a minor victory if they move off the loot-carrier. The heavy toll in getting the loot-carrier to his or her destination demands a good dressing down from the senior military staff!

The interceptors score a minor victory if they kill the loot-carrier. Some of the fleeing raiders can recall segments of the keycodes to the orbital defence lasers which still leaves the interceptors senior command worried.

The interceptors player scores a major victory if they kill the loot-carrier and inflict a higher number of kill points than their opponent.

NB: There are no draw conditions. This mission and its objectives are considered to be vital to both sides. There is no half-way house. There is only victory or defeat.

Clearly the board and the points values of both sides can readily be varied for different games and themes. Also, the points values of the miniatures can readily be substituted for kill points.

One alternative to the win conditions spelled out above is to assign some kill points, or bonus points value to the loot-carrier. About 2 kill points or 100 to 200 additional points seems about right for removing this miniature.

Additional rules such as night fighting can also be introduced for variety. After all, it is likely that the raiders would be using the cover of night to get away with their loot.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Count the VII: A Plague Marine Squad

As you're aware by now, I'm fond of fielding chaos space marine armies, amongst others. Sometimes they're chaos undivided, other times Death Guard. Even within undivided armies, I find myself fielding plague marine squads. So, in response to FtW's Round Table for November 15th, my go-to squad of choice are plague marines of Nurgle.

Why this choice? Well, firstly there is the plague marine survivability factor. These marines just don't want to leave the battlefield with their feel no pain special rule. This makes them a wonderful troops choice for capturing strategic objectives in various scenarios. In 5th edition, this got even better since every single one of them must be removed in order to eliminate their scoring unit status; unlike in 4th edition when they had to be reduced to under half strength. For a unit of 7 as pictured here, it'll take a statistical mean of 189 standard bolter shots fired by BS4 troops to get rid of them. Let me repeat that: 189 bolter rounds are needed to eliminate these troops! You only need a mean of 63 standard shots for 7 ordinary marines. Significantly, even for 7 terminators you'd only need a mean of 126 standard shots!

Given that, they're not exactly bothered by the prospect of being rapid fired at with bolters. They're also fearless. They do, however, lose out to weapons that deny them their save (ordnance, power fists and the like), so they have to be carefully managed. They're not really designed to take on terminators unless massed in large numbers. Further, they're expensive as well at 23 points per miniature. But I strongly believe that these points are well invested.

Pictured, I've kitted this squad out with a power fist on the plague champion, a melta gun, a flamer and an icon. This makes the squad a dangerous and flexible one. Each model is also a conversion to a greater or lesser extent, which is another prime reason that I like to field them. Lastly, I sometimes mount them in a rhino equipped with a havoc launcher (also pictured) to improve their maneuverability and add some more shooting power. I'll post about this particular rhino at a later date since it is an interesting conversion. The total points value of the pictured squad comes out at 271 -- yes, they're rather expensive. Other configurations that I favour include simply going for two plasma guns in a squad of seven; a kind of static pseudo-havoc squad.

In GT2008, these troops were worth their points value in gold. There was hardly a single game where they were eliminated to a man. It's a rare battle that I leave home without including them in a chaos space marine army. The only reason for doing so is to have more bodies (and therefore more shooting models) in an army. But more bodies doesn't necessarily improve survivability.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Daemons of Lesser Powers - Part I: Heralds

Codex: Daemons is an excellent codex. I rate it very highly and it compares very well to the older Realms of Chaos publications (Slaves to Darkness and Lost and the Damned). My singular, nearly insignificant gripe is that it didn't present any daemons of lesser powers; apart from furies.

Furies are described as lost souls who didn't dedicate themselves to any particular power. Fair enough. But what about powers beyond the big four (Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle and Slaanesh)? Dare I mention the names Malal or Kweethul Gristlegut? Indeed, the Lost and the Damned Realms of Chaos supplement has an entire section devoted to the nascent lesser powers of chaos and independent daemons.

In this series of articles, I'm going to present some experimental house rules for daemons of lesser powers. Eventually, I hope to gather them all together in one place as a mindex or equivalent. Here, the rules for a herald of a lesser power will be presented. In creating these rules, I'm guided by both the daemons codex and the chaos space marines one, but I also want to keep these rules in the spirit of the Lost and the Damned. Looking at the final product, it does not pack as much of a punch as heralds of the Big Four do. Moreover, the points values are also slightly on the more expensive side perhaps. To compensate, they get more wargear options than heralds of the big four, but are restricted to only two choices (lesser powers should have, um, less power afterall). Here we go:

Herald of a Lesser Power (HQ Choice - may take 2 heralds as one HQ slot). Cost: 50 points.
4 4 4 4 2 4 3 10 -/5+
Unit Type: Infantry
Number per squad: 1

Special Rules: Daemon, Independent Character
May have two of the following:Iron Hide (+15 pts), Daemonic Flight (+30 pts), Unholy Might (+10 pts), Chaos Icon (+25 pts), Power weapon (+15 pts), Preferred enemy: mortals (+25 pts), Preferred enemy: daemons and non-mortals (+15 pts), Daemonic Gaze (+15 pts); Breath of Chaos (+30 pts); Boon of Mutation (+30 pts)

In addition, the herald may have one of the following:
Daemonic Steed (+15 pts), Daemonic Chariot (+30 pts).

A daemonic steed alters the herald's profile to:
4 4 4 5 2 4 4 10 -/5+
and changes its unit type from infantry to cavalry.

A daemonic chariot alters the herald's profile to:
4 4 4 5 3 4 5 10 4+/5+
In addition the herald replaces the Independent Character rule with Furious Charge and changes its unit type from infantry to cavalry.

As an example, I recently posted an article about a chaos champion in bone armour. Using this system, the miniature could be a herald costing 80 points: 50 points base, +15 points for a power weapon (representing the stolen bloodletter hellblade), and +15 points for iron hide (being the bone armour). This daemon is then nearly akin to a chaos space marine aspiring champion wielding a power weapon, but costs more. This feels about right to me since the model has an extra wound and an invulnerable save compared to an aspiring champion.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Daemons against Vanguard - Statistics

Inspired by CrusherJoe's posting on Vanguard Veterans, I thought I'd run a few numbers to see how daemonettes and bloodletters would fare against them. I do like a bit of mathematics...

I'm going to go with the squad that CrusherJoe outlined: 10 veterans, of whom 5 (including the sergeant) have power weapons. They cost 285 points.

For that amount of points, we can purchase 20.4 daemonettes, or 17.8 bloodletters. For the sake of argument (and my head), let's round that to 20 and 18 respectively.

Let's consider a small number of scenarios including both sides doing the charging and the daemons getting fired at before charging.

Case 1. Daemonettes charge the Veterans.
The first point to make with this case is that the daemonettes have fleet. That gives them a little more maneuverability and makes it more likely that they'll achieve a charge early on in a game.

Assuming they've charged in, the daemonettes will go first at initiative 6. On the charge, they get 4 rending attacks each. That's a shocking total of 80. Half will hit: 40. One third of them (13.333) will wound, of which 6.667 are rending hits. Of the non-rending wounds, a mean of 2.222 will not be saved. That makes a whopping 8.889 wounds.

The remaining 1.111 veterans will then strike back, inflicting 1.667 hits and 1.111 wound. The daemonettes invulnerable save translates that in to 0.741 unsaved wounds. Hence, dW=8.148 in favour of the daemonettes. The veterans didn't work out too well here.

Case 2. Veterans charge the Daemonettes.
The Veterans are getting 40 attacks on the charge with 20 being power weapons. The only problem is that the daemonettes are still going first. They're unnaturally fast! So, the daemonettes raise their claws to take the charge and strike with 60 attacks. Following the above logic, 30 will hit and the veterans are taking 6.667 wounds.

But it gets worse. The veterans don't actually get their bonus attack thanks to the mind altering beauty of the daemonettes and their musky, scented aura of acquiescence that they're falling head over heels for. So, the 3.333 veterans are getting 3 attacks each, half of which are power weapons and all at a furious strength 5. So, rounding up: 10 attacks, of which 5 hit and 4.167 cause wounds. Using their invulnerable save, they take 2.778 wounds. Hence dW=3.889 in favour of the daemonettes. The pendulum is still swinging away from the veterans.

Case 3. Bloodletters charge the Veterans.
Bloodletters wield hellblades (power weapons) and have furious charge. Charging, they will strike first with a considerable (18*3=)54 attacks. They'll cause 36 hits and 24 unsavable wounds. Game over. Blood for the blood god. Ten more skulls for the skull throne.

Really, the bloodletters didn't need to cause 24 wounds. Ten would have been ample! It was overkill. So, how many bloodletters are required to cause 10 wounds? Ten wounds would require 15 hits. Fifteen hits needs 22.5 attacks. Rounding up, a mere 6 bloodletters could have got the job done on the charge. Scarily, that's less than 100 points worth of bloodletters.

Case 4. Veterans charge the Bloodletters.
The brave veterans charge for the bloodletters without hesitation, but is it a wise course of action? With their furious charge, they're actually striking first here. They get 40 attacks of which 20 are power weapons (not that that makes much difference to our invulnerable daemons). Of the 40 attacks, 20 hit. Of those 20, 13.333 will wound. A considerable 8.888 daemons flee back to the warp to lick their wounds and plot their vengeance.

More immediately, there are still 9.111 bloodletters left. That makes 18.222 attacks, of which 12.148 hit. Half will wound for a total of 6.074 unsavable wounds.

The veterans have won! (dW=2.814) But at a significant cost: 6 of them are gone. They'll be lucky to get past the next round of combat without their furious charge.

The daemons are rather likely to get shot at prior to either side doing the charging. Let's suppose that 10 bolt shots are fired their way by the 10 marines. There will be 6.667 hits. Against the bloodletters, 3.333 will wound and 2.222 will fail their saves. Against the daemonettes, 4.444 will wound and 2.963 will perish.

Summarizing: charge those bloodletters before they charge you and rapid fire those daemonettes. Or from the other stand point: take large daemon packs to go toe-to-toe with veterans.

As usual folks, I do make mistakes (that's how I learn!), so let me know if you spot a flaw in the mathematics! Thanks again to CrusherJoe for making me think.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vintage Chaos Champion in Bone Armour in w40k

Another comparatively old citadel miniature provides the basis for a chaos champion. In 40k, it is perhaps a unique lesser daemon or feral world leader.

Aims & Model.
Despite being an old model, this one is a relatively new additional to my collection. It was bought on the basis that it was one that I had wanted when I was much younger in age, but could never get hold of. Its utility to Warhammer fantasy battle is straight-forward in the guise of a chaos sorcerer or champion. But what use can it be put to in the Warhammer 40,000 setting? I have a number of ideas in mind. Firstly, it can be used in a lost & the damned army as a mutant leader. It may also have a role in some traitor imperial guard armies. Neither of those options are the ones that I have specifically in mind for this model's future. To me, it has three prime uses. Firstly, as a character model (psyker perhaps) in a feral world setting, perhaps helping to lead local resistance to invasion from imperial forces. Secondly, and potentially more interestingly, I see this model as a unique lesser daemon for use in exploring an idea that has been brewing at the back of my mind for some while: a Daemon Worlds supplement / minidex. More on that specific idea at a later date. Lastly, I'm considering using this model as The Changeling from Codex: Daemons. (Edit: Surely any model could be used for The Changeling?!)

The general aim for this model was to attempt to make it look slightly other-worldly, but still suitable for use as a feral world model. Therefore, I wanted to make it look like it had a sword that was similar in style and appearance to the hellblades that I've painted on my modern bloodletters. I chose blue as the general colour theme for the vestment, and an aged looking bone colour for the armoured parts.

The robes were tackled first, using a deep blue basecoat on top of a black undercoat. After inking with a mix of 1 part black to 4 parts blue, the robe was drybrushed to progressively lighter shades of blue. Highlighting of the robe was accomplished with small, delicate lines of light blue and white along the raised portions to give the illusion of a flowing, once-silken vestment.

For the armoured portions, a cream basecoat was applied and inked in a wash of brown. These parts were progressively highlighted, primarily through drybrushing, to lighter shades of bone.

The blade was painted in the colours that I use on my bloodletters. This is done by starting with a dark red toward the hilt of the blade and mixing it with bolder reds, through orange and yellow to white at the very tip. The blending of the colours doesn't have to be precise - the aim was for was a heated lava-like blade. Specks of yellow in an odd place are therefore locally hotter parts of the blade. I also like the idea of the sword's tip being the hottest part, rather than nearer to the hilt as suggested in some of the painting to be found in codex: daemons.

To finish the painting off, final detailing was made on the hilt and handle of the blade, the side satchel, rivets in the bone armour and green gemstones embedded in the hilt of the blade. Basing was done in a very simplistic manner using green scatter and no additional detail to detract from the model.

Positives: Unlike other models where the general aim might be to draw attention to the facial region, this model's face is hidden inside an imposing bone mask. The real highlight and attention grabber is therefore the bright blade that the miniature is holding. The colours of the blade are in stark contrast to the blue robes which make the model stand out very well. In my mind, the narrative is that this character has stolen a hellblade from a bloodletter - no mean feat and one that is bound to have grave repercussions at a later date.
Negatives: The robe was likely sculpted to look old and moth-eaten. This really has not come across very well for me since the robes look relatively fresh. To achieve a more worn look, I should have painted the lower part of the robes in a more dirty shade to represent mud (etc.) staining the parts that are dragging along the floor and hence picking up the muck.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Screamer made from Magma and Lava

Screamers of Tzeentch can be painted in multiple styles and present an appealing look. The typical style and paint scheme is orientated toward a manta-ray. As usual, I wanted something a bit different. This screamer was therefore chosen to be painted in a lava or magma style and will complement the previous water-like one.

Aims and Model.
Why bother painting a screamer in this style? I had a couple of reasons including (1) wanting a screamer that stands out from the crowd so that within a game I can assign it a strength bonus (unholy might) and I don't have to look carefully to figure out which screamer has the bonus; (2) exploring different painting approaches on large "blank canvas" areas of miniatures; (3) I simply thought it'd look cool if I could pull it off. As with other deamons, the rationale behind such a manifestation might be that the screamer made itself from lava (perhaps the only abundant nearby form of matter?) when breaking through to the material plane. Or it could be as simple a reason as Tzeentch being fickle and changing its creations for the hell of it. I guess that is the beauty of working with Tzeentch miniatures: almost any paint scheme, and oftentimes conversion work, can be justified in that manner.

The model is a standard screamer of Tzeentch with only one item of conversion work applied: I turned it upside-down! This may seem completely superfluous. I did this to give the miniature a different flowing shape since screamers are only produced in a few different poses. This simple change makes it look like there are more sculpts in use than there really are. On an assembly note, I personally found the tail a little fiddly to glue into place and I had to work around the seam with a little milliput (green stuff) as a consequence.

Here, I wasn't sure which way to go: black undercoat or white undercoat? I have a maxim that is something along the lines of: if in doubt, work the colours of a miniature up from darker shades to lighter shades. Sometimes this isn't always appropriate (e.g. the burnt-out Herald of Tzeentch), but I could come up with no good reason to start from a white undercoat in this instance.

The basecoat for the miniature was a solid red. I reasoned that if I started from a "central" colour, I could work lighter in some regions and go darker in others. At least that was the plan that I used and sticked to. Looking at a blank canvas (the "wings" of the screamer) I got a little stuck for what to do next. In the end, I choose a bright, livid orange colour and started to gently outline small, irregular circles on the wings. This was to prove the decisive move! With the circular features sketched in place, it was much easier to identify where other colours must necessarily follow and what shades to use. In areas away from the sketched lines, darker colours were applied and blended: orange through red, and down to black. The lines themselves were thickened up and yellows & whites were added to the mixture to create local hot-spots. Only some of the sketched outlines were heated up in this manner since I wanted an irregular pattern on the surface suggestive of molten rocks.

With the magma effect looking good, I finished the model off by applying some highlights to the raised portions of the body. The raised areas toward the front were painted in cream with a dark centre to attempt to resemble condensing and cooling rocks on its surface. The tusks and spikes along the body were painted in solid black given that they stand out from the screamer's main body and logically might have cooled off quicker.

Positives: I am very pleased with the outcome here! I wasn't certain that the idea could work, but I think the paint scheme is enough to convey the idea I had in mind at the outset.
Negatives: The miniature took a comparatively long time to paint. I was repeatedly touching up small portions of the wings to get the look as I'd intended it. I'm also thinking that pure black for the tusks and spikes might not have been the best option, but they do stand out from the miniature without detracting from the main scene: the body.

I still need to get the third screamer finished so I can place it alongside this one and the previous one to see how they look in a pack / shoal.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nurglesque Rhino Number One

Here is the first of two rhinos that went to GT2008 with me.

Aims and Model.
The idea with this model was simply to make it look more nurgly than a standard rhino. The conversion work was not major: it mainly consisted of subtle additions of milliput to the surfaces to create some fungoid-looking growths and pustules.

In addition, bits and parts from the plastic Warhammer zombie boxed set were added in a couple of places around the model including the gunner, and even an entire zombie was inserted inside the starboard side door, leering outward. The only game-affecting upgrade to be modelled was the havoc launcher.

For the paint scheme, I followed the overall trend started with the dreadnought: a rusty and old feeling, using a mottled undercoat. For the obviously rusted areas (frontal area), I used a bleached bone coat followed by an application of chestnut ink to create the streaked, water damaged look.

The green fungi was basecoated in goblin green and inked dark green. Drybrushing progressively lighter greens gives it the decaying appearance. Other milliput pieces were basecoated in read and worked up from red, through orange to a yellow to be reminiscent of pustules bursting (or about to be bursting).
Positives: The model got a good reception, at least as good as its other rhino counterpart that was modelled to have an open maw at the front (yet to be posted). The zombie parts really helped accentuate the Nurglesque appearance.
Negatives: some of the inking work meant that this model was very hard to photograph well! Indeed, the bottom photo looks very reflective on the front.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Khorne Berzerkers: Dante Darkheart and Squad

To round off the previous posting on painting Khorne Berzerkers in a rush, I thought I'd share with you the final squad as fielded in Grand Tournament 2007 (Australia).

I won't go over the painting style again, but I will note that the squad has a skull champion (who goes by the name of Dante Darkheart) equipped with a power fist, one member carries an icon (Khorne symbol from a chaos vehicle sprue atop a wooden pole), and two squad members are lead from the 1980's Realm of Chaos era.

To be honest, they didn't perform very well in GT2007. They were typically the first troop unit to get targeted and hence they didn't last long or get in to melee often. Not surprising given the lack of rhino transportation and their reputation for destroying other troop units in close combat!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Khorne Berzerkers in a Rush

When GT2007 was quickly approaching, I needed to come up with a painted unit of Khorne Berzerkers in a rush. This posting details the quick and dirty method that I employed to achieve a tabletop ready quality on my berzerkers. It's most certainly not award-winning stuff - it uses as few colours as possible with the prime directive being to get them ready as soon as possible!

Aims and Model.
The aim here is clear: get a world eaters squad painted up in a rush! The models are standard Khorne Berzerkers with no conversion work applied.

Khorne miniatures have a very well-known colour combination: red, black and brass. These three colours were therefore selected to be the most prominent on the miniatures. In addition, white was used for highlights and silver on some weaponry and recessed areas. That's a paltry five colours.

Here's the run down on the rushed paintwork.
Step 1. Apply a solid black undercoat and make sure that it dries before moving on.
Step 2. Drybrush the joints and weaponry in silver -- paying particular attention to the recessed areas.
Step 3. Select red next. Paint the legs, chest, gloves, and shoulder pads. The only trick to the red stage is to leave a small black boarder showing between the edge of the red and the outer (raised) portion of the shoulder pads.
Step 4. Brass. Paint the raised areas of the shoulder pads and other rimmed areas.
Step 5. White. Use for highlights and anything that requires the Khorne symbol, skulls and so forth. The work is now done. Repeat these steps on the next world eater!

For variation within the squad, I choose brass or black as the prime colour (rather than red) in various locations as can be seen from examining the differences between the two miniatures shown.

These are table ready Khorne berzerkers painted up in a short amount of time: objective fulfilled! They look acceptable on the tabletop with the bold, solid regions of colour being very noticeable. They are certainly Khorne's minions. On closer inspection they clearly lack details that other miniatures in my collection have.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

FtW November Challenge Development

An update concerning where I'm up to in creating a scenario for the FtW group's November challenge.

In the previous posting, I outlined that I wanted my creation to represent a small scale action that was a significant part of a larger scale campaign. It basically amounts to a small strike team trying to get away with some vital artifact or piece of information.

From the start, I'll say that this idea is not a rare or unusual one: Ranillon's most excellent discourse on how hard it is to come up with something truly original without changing the fundamental rules is spot on and resonates with me as an old-timer. This idea has been done before and will be done again no doubt.

After talking with Gamers World and reading his posts on an idea similar to this one (see Within Enemy Lines), I wanted to differentiate my Gauntlet idea significantly in order to create something relatively new that people may not have seen before and something that attempts to be balanced, general and accessible.

So, what are the twists that this scenario will have on this classic idea?
(1) The loot will be carried by one miniature that the protagonist's player will choose in secret. The identity of this loot-carrying miniature will only be revealed at the end of the game. This'll add a tactical aspect: do the interceptors think that the fast attack squad has the loot, or is that far too obvious?
(2) Gauntlet will have no option to be drawn: there will be two shades of win and two shades of loss, depending on whether the loot carrier got away or not and the degree of survival of each side.
(3) The mission will be non-standard. It makes little sense to have heavy support choices among a team of lightning fast raiders: they should concentrate on fast attack and troops choices. On the other hand, the interceptors player will effectively control two lots of force organization charts. This is to represent two disparate aspects of the local militia reacting to news of the theft. They'll enter play at different points.
(4) The game will only end once there are no miniatures belonging to the raiders player left on the board.
(5) Miniatures can only be moved off the board at the start of the protagonist's turn. This means they have to move into contact the board edge in their previous turn, hence the opposition gets at least one last chance to engage them.

The final bit of progress that I've made is in sketching up the map for this scenario. As can be seen, it'll be played on a (relatively) small board. This implies that a small(ish) points value should be used by both players. A small points value will also mean that this scenario is accessible to starting players and more experienced players alike. As well, it should give the feeling that the Gauntlet scenario is a small-scale skirmish between the lighting fast raiders player and the interceptors player. The scenario is sufficiently general that I reckon that any faction / codex could take on the role of the raiders or the interceptors - this was an important consideration for my selecting this scenario over more precise / narrow scenarios I considered. Lastly, I hope it is obvious why I'm calling this one Gauntlet: the raiders are having to dash between two lots of interceptors down a narrow corridor across the board.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mark of the Raptors: Part II

This is the second and (probably) final part to the Mark of the Raptors series and follows directly on from part one.

Today we're going to get to the heart of the matter: how does dW change for different icons (in 5th ed.)?

Firstly, the near-trivial case of an icon of chaos glory. This one has no bearing on the outcome of a round of close combat -- it simply gives the raptors (a sometime very precious) second roll of the dice against fleeing. Let's have a look at the others.

This icon will ensure that the raptors strike before their imperial brothers (apart from the power fist equipped aspiring champion who'll still strike last).

Slaanesh Case 1: Baseline raptors.
Here, we have 10 raptors all hitting before the imperials. They'll cause 2.583 unsaved wounds on the imperials. So, we'll assume that the imperial sergeant is still around (worst luck!) after the raptors strike, but there are now only him and 6.417 ordinary marines left over. The total number of attacks from the imperials is therefore reduced to (2x6.417)+3 = 15.834. These will be expected to cause 1.320 unsaved wounds. Hence dW is increased from 0.833 to 1.218 (an increase of some 46%)

Slaanesh Case 2: Power fist.
This case reduces to 9 ordinary raptors hitting first on the charge, the imperials striking back, and then the power fist. The 9 raptors will inflict an average of 2.250 unsaved wounds on the imperials. Striking back (again, with the sergeant still alive), the imperials then inflict (2x6.75)+3 = 16.5 attacks that cause 1.375 wounds. The aspiring champion (whom we'll assume is still alive) causes an additional 1.250 unsaved wounds. The value of dW increases from 1.750 to 2.125 (21% increase) simply by having this icon.

Slaanesh Case 3: Lightning claws.
The 9 ordinary raptors are still striking first and causing 2.250 unsaved wounds. The aspiring champion also gets in on the act early here, causing an additional 1.500 unsaved wounds for a total of 3.75. The slightly bewildered looking marines then take their turn, with (2x5.25)+3 attacks that only cause 1.125 unsaved wounds. So, dW changes from 2.000 to 2.625 (a 31% increase).

Conclusion: The Slaaneshi icon works best with lightning claws.

More attacks must mean more damage! But how much more?

Khorne Case 1: Baseline raptors.
Here, all the combatants strike simultaneously. The imperials are still therefore inflicting 1.750 unsaved wounds after being charged. But now, the raptors are getting an impressive (9x4)+5 = 41 attacks. These will cause 10.25 wounds, of which 3.417 will go unsaved. Hence dW increases from 0.833 to 1.667 (a 100% increase and much better than with the Slaanesh icon.

Khorne Case 2: Power fist.
Again, 1.750 wounds from the imperials. The 9 ordinary raptors have 9x4 attacks on the charge enables them to cause 3 unsaved wounds. The aspiring champion then hits 2.0 times, causing 1.667 unsavable wounds. That makes dW increase from 1.750 to 2.917 (67% increase).

Khorne Case 3: Lightning claws.
All striking at the same time, the poor imperials are still only causing 1.750 unsaved wounds on the charging raptors. The ordinary raptors still give 3 unsaved wounds. But now, the lightning clawed aspiring champion dishes out 5 attack, of which 2.5 hit. That means 1.875 more unsaved wounds for a total of 4.875. Here, dW increases from 2.000 to 3.125 (or, 56%).

Conclusion: The Khornate icon works marginally better with lightning claws.

The action of a Nurgle icon is more subtle and changes the dynamics of the melee: the imperials find it tougher to wound the raptors -- from 50% probability to 33%.

Nurgle Case 1: Baseline raptors.
The Nurgle icon does nothing to affect the raptors wounding ability -- they still cause 2.583 unsaved wounds on the charge. But now, the imperials with 21 attacks will only be expected to cause 1.167 unsaved wounds in return. Hence dW goes up from 0.833 to 1.416 (70%).

Nurgle Case 2: Power fist.
Again, our raptors are causing 3.500 unsaved wounds and their opposition are inflicting 1.167 in exchange. So here, dW goes up from 1.750 to 2.333 (33%), making the Nurgle icon better than a Slaanesh icon.

Nurgle Case 3: Lightning claws.
Another simple case: the raptors cause 3.750 unsaved wounds in exchange of 1.167 from their counterparts. That increases dW from 2.00 to 2.583 (29%). That is almost as good as a Slaanesh icon!

Conclusion: The Nurgle icon works best with lightning claws. However, this really is not the reason that we'd want the nurgle icon: it is to increase the overall survivability of the raptors over the whole game, rather than just in close combat. So this analysis is only a small snippet of what this squad would be capable of enduring. In close combat it is the equal of a Slaanesh icon - this is perhaps the most surprising and over-looked consequence of this icon.

We have only considered a basic opposition whose aspiring champion loyalist counterpart is not equipped with anything fancy. The Tzeentch icon comes in to its own when trying to fend off attacks from such weaponry and other ranged ordnance that typically voids the power armour's save. As such, in this incomplete example, the Tzeentch icon will do nothing over and above the baseline.

Conclusion: a Tzeentch icon should be used with a purpose other than close combat in mind for the raptors, or in a pure Tzeentch army.

Summary and Final Thoughts.
I hope that you've followed most of the above and that I've got my sums correct. Let me know of any glaring errors - I'll be the first to admit that I do get things wrong and I'd like this posting to be accurate.

Clearly this analysis has been superficial and much more could have been done (e.g. considering upgrading the opposition's armaments; having smaller numbers of raptors against larger opposition numbers and generally tweaking my assumptions; thinking about what happens if the squad shoots before charging; or if the opposition rapid fires on them in the previous turn; and so on). There wasn't any real surprises in testing out my pre-conceived ideas that a Slaanesh icon goes with lightning claws and a Khorne one goes with either in general. But the real surprise to me was just how good the Nurgle icon is: it is almost the equal of the Slaanesh icon in close combat. On top of that, the Nurgle icon offers so much more in terms of survivability: that extra point of toughness is wonderful all through the game and not just in rounds of close combat; hence the points value.

I'll be modelling a Khorne icon on my raptor squad given that the aspiring champion is armed with a power fist.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mark of the Raptors: Part I

Which chaos icon is statistically the best? Following on from my Lord of the Raptors posting, I now want to know which chaos mark (i.e. icon) would be optimal to give to my unit of chaos raptors? More generally, I'd also like to know which icon would work best as the armament of the aspiring champion varies? In this series of two postings, I'll be looking at some mathematical analysis!

In passing, it's worth noting that much of this article can be mathematically translated to ordinary troop selections, but I wanted to know especially about raptors as they can be a significant investment of points in a chaos space marine army and I don't want them to go to waste. I'll also point out that this text was written down in note format over 6 months ago when 4th edition was current, but the conclusions are still valid.

We need to start somewhere, so let's assume that we've got a 10 strong squad of raptors. In this article, I want to consider the differences between equipping this squad with the various icons (Chaos Glory, Slaanesh, Khorne, Tzeentch & Nurgle) and arming the aspiring champion with no upgrades, a power fist, and a pair of lightning claws. My naive assumption is that a power fist should be paired with a Khornate icon and lightning claws with a Slanneshi one.

To evaluate the impact of this squad, let's have it go up against some Imperial counterparts: a 10 man assault squad with a sergeant who has two close combat weapons. I'll state from the outset that these assumptions are limited in scope and concentrate only on the close combat phase.

The first lesson is to make sure that our raptors are the ones doing the charging. This should be readily engineered against a pure tactical squad who move slower than the raptors, but some thought might want to be applied when looking to charge an assault squad with jet packs.

Let's look at what happens when the raptors charge their Imperial cousins. Without any upgrades, all marines will strike simultaneously and will hit 50% of the time and wound 50% of the time -- this means we have an expectation of 0.25 wounds being caused for every attack. On the charge, our squad of 10 raptors has 31 attacks (9 lots of 2+1 attacks and 1 lot of 3+1 attack from the champion -- the +1 representing the charge and the base 2 attacks sourced from using two close combat weapons). This means it'll cause 7.750 wounds on average. With power armour, the opposition will save two thirds of those wounds, resulting in an average 2.583 unsaved wounds.

If they don't get the charge, then the raptors will be reduced to 21 attacks, which we expect to cause an average of 5.250 wounds, of which 1.750 will remain unsaved. Therefore by charging, the 10 strong squad of raptors stand to cause just under 1 extra unsaved wound. The self-same argument can be applied to Imperial Assault Marines and the lesson is the same: be the one charging!

Power Fist.
How many more unsaved wounds above 2.583 on the charge will our raptors inflict if the aspiring champion is equipped with a power fist?

The only change in the dynamic now is that the power fist champion attacks last (and must avoid being removed when all other combatants strike) and now causes unsavable instant-kill wounds on 2+.

Of the 31 attacks on the charge, 27 will take place with "normal" weapons. They inflict an average of 6.750 wounds which we expect 2.250 will go unsaved. The four attacks from the champion will be expected to have 2 hits and inflict 1.667 unsaved wounds. That adds up to 3.917 unsaved wounds -- an increase of 1.334 compared to without the power fist.

Following similar logic, but without the charge, they're causing 2.750 unsaved wounds (an increase of 1.000 compared to without the power fist).

Lightning Claws.
No save and re-roll failing to-wound rolls -- not a bad prospect! But how does it pan out in game terms?

On the charge, the 9 ordinary members of the squad are still inflicting 2.250 unsaved wounds. The aspiring champion with 4 attacks will hit twice on average. One of those two hits will wound (no save). The second is expected to miss, but be successfully re-rolled half of the time. So the expectation is that the aspiring champion will cause 1.500 unsaved wounds. That adds up to a total of 3.750 unsaved wounds -- an increase of 1.167 compared to the baseline. Not quite as good as a power fist (by 0.167 unsaved wounds), but that shouldn't be surprising.

Following similar logic, but without the charge, they're causing 2.625 unsaved wounds (an increase of 0.875 compared to without the lightning claws).

The first conclusion to be drawn is that points could be saved on a power fist by purchasing lightning claws if our raptors are purely an anti-infantry unit. Take the power fist for a dual anti-armour role.

We'll now define the margin of victory as the difference in the number of wounds caused. This'll be referred to as dW herein.

Let's summarize what we have so far:
dW=0.000 for baseline raptors vs. baseline assault marines (or indeed, for similarly equipped units against each other).
dW=0.833 for baseline raptors charging baseline assault marines (the inverse is also true).
dW=2.167 for power fist aspiring champion raptor charging baseline assault marines.
dW=2.000 for lightning claws aspiring champion raptor charging baseline assault marines.

In Part II, coming soon, we'll get to the heart of the matter: how does dW change for different icons?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

FtW November Challenge Idea

The challenge for the FtW blogger group this month is to come up with a scenario for a 40k game. I've been toying with a few ideas at the back of my mind and have decided on one that I think has the most mileage and is more readily turned in to an enjoyable scenario for the players concerned: I call it Gauntlet.

The idea is that the Gauntlet scenario is a small part of a much larger narrative campaign. Some action in the campaign has already taken place: a lightning raid by the protagonists to steal (or liberate?) an important artifact, or the keycodes to the planetary defence lasers (etc.); all in preparation for a key assault on another part of the planet.

The Gauntlet scenario catches up with the action as the protagonists try to make good on their escape with the artifact in hand. Word of their raid, however, has reached the local authorities who have dispatched what little forces they have in the area to try to take down the band of thieves. Do the protagonists escape with the loot? Or do the local militia manage to catch up with them? The race is on. Either way, there's bound to be repercussions that will determine future action.

As I'm still out of town (with intermittent net access), that's all for today; but stay tuned as I've scheduled a few posts to occur over the coming days in my absence. I'll be developing this idea in to a full scenario, as time permits, in the next week or so and will post it here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Lord of the Raptors

In the previous version of the chaos space marine codex, raptors were defined as having daemonic flight and daemonic visage. This got me thinking about a couple of conversion ideas to use in place of (under the counts as rule) regular raptors.

Aims & Model.
Basically, I wanted to build a unit of raptors that weren't the same as the metal models. I wanted them to have wings. I wanted them to have leering daemonic faces. I wanted to to look suitably chaotic and mutated. Before this model, I did create another one as an HQ experiment, but it doesn't look as good as this model.

This model consists of a number of parts sourced from several sprues. The base is a regular plastic base with a rhino door stuck in to some green stuff. The legs are a from a standard space marine. The right arm is a chaos space marine bolt pistol, but the shoulder pad is a veteran space marines studded variety. For the left arm, I used a chaos terminator power fist and a loyalist (blank) shoulder pad. The wings are metal and from a warhammer fantasy harpy. The accessories (krak & frag grenades) are from loyalist marines. The head is taken from the plastic chaos mutations sprue and suitably filed down and angled to fit in to the head groove. The model uses no back piece -- the wings are directly stuck in to the rear of the front chaos space marine chest plate with green stuff. Although fiddly in parts, the assembly was straight forward and done from the base up in order to make sure that the miniature balanced evenly without falling over.

When creating a new unit that doesn't have a pre-defined colour scheme, I'm always torn between several different concepts that I think might work well. For this one, I went with a purple scheme.

The first bits to be painted on top of the black undercoat were the recessed metallic areas (arm joints and the like) which received a silver drybrushing. The purple power armour was the next phase. Carefully, the purple was applied such that it didn't cover the entirety of every surface: if you look closely, you'll see that I've left some of the black undercoat showing through (e.g. on the power fist there is a black edging or buffer around the purple before it hits the bleached bone). The purple was inked and then highlighted appropriately.

For the wings and head, a goblin green basecoat was applied, inked in dark green and highlighted. The next phase was with the bleached bone detailing around the edges of the power fist and bolt pistol arm (etc.). In some areas, this takes a steady hand as the raised portions can tend to get very thin. The bolt pistol and the head were finished off next using reds and whites.

In the final touches, the grenades were painted almost entirely silver and a decal featuring a single skull was applied to the terminator shoulder pad. To make it look more like an ex-loyalist marine, four arrows were painted around the skull to imitate an assault squad symbol.

Positives: Effectively being created out of bits and spare parts, this model cost much less than the metal variety of raptor, and (I think) it looks better. I note in passing that this figure could also be used as an HQ choice. But as can be seen below from the teaser, I've started on the rest of the squad of raptors to which this figure will be an aspiring champion...
Negatives: The use of the terminator power fist makes the model look like his arms are ill proportioned with one another; then again this is a chaos model, so I'm not bothered. I now just need to come up with a name for this fellow and his squad.

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