Thursday, April 30, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Autilon Skorr and Delegatus Consul


This review is about the unique miniature released by Forge World in 2015 for their events. Autilon Skorr is a special (unique) character for the Alpha Legion. The rules for Skorr and for the Delegatus consul type can currently be found here. (I will update this should these rules appear in a future book in the Horus Heresy).


Background
Skorr's background is one of carrying out the dark compliance on behalf of the Alpha Legion and the heretics. Prior to this, he was known in the rolls of honour for the Great Crusade for many successes apparently. The shattered legions stopped short his compliance efforts in the Heresy, but otherwise Skorr is is highly heralded individual.

Strengths
Skorr introduces a new consul type for the Heresy as well: the Delegatus. This type of consul is a cheap way in which to access rites of war for any legion. In exchange, the Delegatus must be the warlord of a legion force. On top of this, he grants access to a unique rite of war entitled Chosen Duty.

This rite of war means that veterans are taken as troops, and indeed, two lots of them must be taken as troops to satisfy the requirements. On top of this there is a chance to score an additional VP if they survive (or suffer an additional VP to the enemy if they die above and beyond slay the warlord). This makes the Delegatus a risky prospect, but one that could work very well. It is especially powerful at lower points value games (i.e. 1500 and below). Indeed, I think that Skorr and a Delegatus is an excellent alternative for a praetor that provides access to rites of war for a legion.

See also the comments below about the Warlord trait for Skorr -- there are some really terrific combinations to be had here at low points levels. In short, let's say he grabs something from the reserve manipulation side of the warlord traits - this can readily be combined with other elements like a Damocles Command Tank to improve the chances of having everything on the board on turn 2!

Weaknesses
The weakness is obviously the giving away of VPs should he die … which should be taken in the same breath as his strength for an additional VP!

Other Equipment
Skorr comes with a master crafted power axe, artificer armour plus refractor field, and a side arm (bolt pistol). This makes Skorr reasonably adaptable as to which unit he accompanies - whether this is a veterans squad (which would be the obvious choice I would think), or a tactical squad, I think he is going to do well there.

Other builds with generic Delegatus builds have no restrictions on them. Hence a generic build could include jump packs, bikes, terminator armour, or the full range of upgrades that consuls can ordinarily have. I could therefore see the Delegatus being build and very tailored to a specific force, but particularly around veteran squad.

Overall
I regard the Delegatus and Skorr as a good selection at lower points value. The main issue for me is that he would have to be a warlord - there are superior choices to a Delegatus at higher points levels to be perfectly honest.  But what do I mean by low and high points values? The dividing line for me here is somewhere near the 1000 points level.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Alpharius


Background

If little has been recorded of Horus Lupercal's early years, then Alpharius is truly enigmatic by comparison. There are multiple accounts of his rediscovery, all of which may or may not be true in part or whole. Added to this is the existence of Omegon, and potentially others who could command the Alpha Legion and are its true master(s). All that said, I like the line in the background text of Alpharius' entry the states "when the time comes to cast off the cloak of misdirection, Alpharius is as awe-inspiring a being as any of the Primarchs of the Legions Astartes".

Strengths
Lets be clear from the outset. If you are wanting to play a primarch who exists just to beat other players or other primarchs up, then Alpharius is not who you are after. 

Alpharius' strengths are two-fold: firstly as an army wide booster (or force multiplier), and secondly for directly messing around with the enemy like no one else can. 

His major boost to his sons comes in the form of Preferred Enemy: Everything. This is truly spectacular. I cannot underscore enough what this has the potential to do for all of his sons. Given the first turn, and close enough range (which is very likely due to the Alpha Legion rule of Mutable Tactics), this is as close to an alpha-strike (no pun intended) as I can see being pulled off by any 30k army. And that's before a "win at all costs" player thinks about automatically exploding tanks out of nowhere. As a minor boost, out flankers can also add an extra bit of movement on the turn of arrival.

He messes around with the enemy in a number of ways. Seizing the initiative half the time can, in certain situations, be a game winning situation for the Legion. This could be added with other initiative seizing boosts for great effect. Further to his insidious mastermind rule, he can bring in his own units from reserve if the enemy successfully brings one in on their turn and Alpharius has a matching unit. The wording of this rule is that it must be of the exact same entry type. Hence legion terminators from the Alpha Legion can come in to play if the enemy is trying to deep strike their own legion terminators. It doesn't matter if they're armed differently, or if they have different numbers -- just the unit entry type has to match. This is important as it encourages the Alpha Legion player to think about taking certain units that might ordinarily go in to reserve in their army if they're playing Alpharius. As well as legion terminators, this would also include scouts coming in from outflanking, as well as drop pods (etc.). 

In addition to this, he can "hide" inside on of his own units at the outset of the game, only to reveal himself later on. This replaces a regular line trooper and can rally a squad at an opportune moment. However, given that his preferred enemy: everything cannot be active unless he is revealed, there is a temptation to have him revealed from the first turn. 

Weaknesses
Although he is clearly no slouch in close combat, he is also not in the same league as Angron, Vulkan or Horus. To be clear: he's probably going to die to all three of these primarchs in a fair fight, and to many of the others besides. But this is not the reason to play Alpharius. You should be playing him for his army force multiplier effects and messing with the enemies' mind. 

Equipment
Alpharius has an interesting combination of equipment. For armour, he is 2+/4++ and cannot be affected by poison or flesh bane (perhaps he just silently disliked Mortarion and the Death Guard?). Unlike a number of his brothers, he actually carries a ranged weapon in the form of a plasma blaster (master crafted, naturally). As well as venom spheres, he also has the pale spear which from the fluff appears like it might be some type of necron artefact -- its interesting for its combination of armour bane and instant death coupled with AP1 at Alpharius' own strength and initiative. He can clearly decimate enemy units with this, but his brothers will still wipe the floor with him most days of the week. He therefore shouldn't be fighting fair!

He also has some minor upgrades like cameloline and the combination of a nuncio vox and Cognis Signum. This suggests he should be placed with a shooting orientated squad -- perhaps even Lernaean terminators?

Overall
Alparius is an excellent addition to the Alpha Legion and the brotherhood of primarchs. He is unique in his combination of rules of messing with the enemy and being a force multiplier. But he's not powerful enough to go toe to toe with Horus et al. Since when did Alpharius fight fairly though? His sons should have already ripped apart an enemy force and opposing primarch before Alpharius gets close to finish the job if I'm honest. And Alpharius' rules beg to be utilised as part of an Alpha Strike decapitation effort. And he's actually moderately cheap compared to some of his brothers as well. Take him and/or Armillus Dynat to be complete (but remember that Dynat's hammer strike warlord trait is lost since Alpharius has to be the warlord of an Alpha Legion detachment). 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

How to Automatically Explode Tanks in the Horus Heresy

Okay - this is likely to be one of those combinations that game designers didn't think about during play-testing. I've only just come across it this week and wanted to post it here, as it is very relevant to the Alpha Legion that I'm currently in the midst of reviewing.

Ingredients
1 x Combat Augment Array (from Horus Heresy Book 4: Conquest)

Method
Here is how it works. The Alpha Legion Saboteur comes in to play via outflank (or even deep strike from Armillus Dynat) in the deployment zone of the enemy. When this character comes in to play, it automatically scores a penetrating hit on to an opposing unit - this could be a unit of infantry, or a tank. In this case, the saboteur is going to select a threatening looking tank. Like a Land Raider. Note - this doesn't work on a superheavy since superheavy tanks always ignore the damage table and just takes more hull points of damage. Hence the tank selection must be that of a regular tank. But choose an expensive one like a land raider. 

Ordinarily, an automatic penetrating hit will take one hull point off the target tank and, at best, score something like an immobilisation result on the vehicle damage table. 

Given that the saboteur gets to roll on the vehicle damage chart, he can then use the combat augment array that he's carrying as an optional upgrade to roll an automatic six on the vehicle damage chart. Of course, there may be some interpretation here about whether the saboteur can make the roll as I'm assuming that the damage roll is played like we play it -- i.e. the person causing the damage gets to roll. And there's the technical issue if the saboteur is doing the rolling, or whether its actually the tank. We're going to assume that its the saboteur for the moment, to illustrate how this all potentially works. 

So what? The saboteur rolls a six on the damage chart and immobilises the tank. But that's not all. If Armillus Dynat is on the table, then he grants a +1 to damage rolls on the vehicle damage table. Hence that immobilisation result is automatically upgraded to an explosion result!

Boom - automatic tank destroyed result! All thanks to a saboteur using a combat augment array. 

Of course, I don't like it one bit. Seriously! The very premise that a tank is just removed from play without anything that the enemy commander can do about it is bad news. Its rude if nothing else. And broken in extremis. I suspect that it will be FAQ'ed away very soon if the designers are not already aware of this combination. Hence, I'm not going to be playing this combination as its a big ball of no fun for opponents. But I felt it worth reporting here for others to be aware of it (particularly enemies of the Alpha Legion) so that they can see how the combination works. 

Naturally, the Saboteur might not survive this assault given the negative effects of the Combat Augment Array, but this in no way balances this combination. It is really powerful to say the least and in my opinion breaks the way that the game should be played out. (Although, equally, if someone pulls another broken list like Word Bearers plus certain daemons, then I'm going to play this one).

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Exodus

Background
Exodus is an assassin within the Alpha Legion. Much like Armillus Dynat, it is highly likely that more than one individual has had this name during the legion's history. Or it could just be a codename for one of many people who are truly skilled at ranged assassination within the legion. All that confusion aside, he is one person who would otherwise be in the Emperor's Assassinorum as a Vindicare if he wasn't within the Alpha Legion - that's how good he is. 

Strengths
Clearly, Exodus is meant to be set up as a ranged assassin. He comes with a special weapon to help him do just that - its called simply The Instrument, and it has two firing modes. The first is a salvo 2/4 that gives a S5 rending shot. The second is an execution shot that yields a S6 AP3 rending shot. This is also lethal and ignores cover. This weapon is therefore perfect at taking out a character model who has foolishly not upgraded to artificer armour, or anything that has a 3+ or worse saving throw. The Instrument is helped by Exodus' special rule that means half the time he can choose which models within a unit is hit. 

Exodus has a small treasure trove of other special equipment and rules to help him out. With melta bombs and power dagger, he can be a threat to almost anything in the game. Just for laughs (and unlike Dynat) he also has the good sense to carry a side arm - a bolt pistol - with him. And of course, no assassin would be complete without a Cameleoline. 

His special rules contain a number that might ordinarily be selected by Mutable Tactics such a infiltrate and scouts. This is a shame really, as it'll mean that he will usually not benefit from the legion's tactics unless tank hunters is selected. And that rule isn't so good for him overall probably. Interestingly, he also has "It Will Not Die" in addition to all of this, which is very entertaining.

On top of all this, he's actually rather cheap for what he does! Despite not being a compulsory selection for HQs, I think he will certainly see play in many Alpha Legion armies. 

Weaknesses
He's actually an all rounder who specialises in shooting from 36 inches or closer. In close combat, he can be a pain with 3 wounds and WS5. But critically, he only has a 3+ save as he only wanders around in regular power armour. He has the potential to do some damage with melta bombs, but may not get close enough to a tank to do this often.

Tactics
The obvious thing to do with Exodus is to place him in a building or ruins during set up with a good line of sight to the rest of the battle field. Or perhaps, if you're feeling confident of going first, infiltrate him, then use scouts to get him in to cover in a more central location of the battlefield. And then start the shooting. Use his lethal shot well though: taking two wounds off a character is an excellent way to go, but if they have more than that, can someone else finish the job? And then, being able to select a victim within a squad half the time means that special weapons upgrades and the like can readily be in trouble with Exodus having a line of sight to them.

Once he's run out of good targets for the lethal shots, I suspect that going on foot and using his melta bombs is not a bad idea either. His power dagger can also lend a hand to a melee in a pinch. But for the former, its probably best as a dreadnought deterrent, and the latter as a marine deterrent. He really isn't going to survive long against a full tactical squad, or staring down the barrel of a vindicator come what may. Hence staying put in a good location is a tremendous idea all round really. But which location? One at the back field, or one a bit further up reached with infiltrate and scouts? Either will work, but remember he is limited by the range of The Instrument. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Armillus Dynat

Background
As with much of the Alpha Legion, his past is somewhat shrouded to say the least. And it is rather likely that there have been several individuals to have carried this name over the history of the legion. What is known is that following the events of Isstvan, he became a bit more of a legend as his name became "known" for the first time. That's not to say he was unknown before - he had his differences with the Ultramarines over tactics for sure. But it is to say that he probably left few alive to tell the tale. He is characterised as being a fairly unorthodox commander. And he has intelligence alongside this that ensures he is able to tear apart enemies from intricate attack plans and integrated tactics before imparting the killing blow. He is also the only named HQ that can fill an ordinary HQ slot for the Alpha Legion -- Alpharius is a Lord of War, and Exodus can never be taken as a warlord or compulsory HQ choice. Hence Dynat is going to see a lot of use in Alpha Legion armies when the points cost are below 2000ish.

Strengths
There are a number of aspects to Dynat that set him aside from a regular praetor or other commander of similar rank. We'll start by looking at his special rules. Firstly is his warlord trait: hammer strike. This allows one infantry unit to gain deep strike. This could even be Dynat if desired. And they get to re-roll the deep striking dice on top of that - this is very handy for getting the right unit to the right place.

His prime special rule is the Harrowing. In the enemy deployment zone, all Alpha Legion marines and dreadnoughts gain a bonus to vehicle damage results, and can re-roll their sweeping advance rolls. This is huge and begs to be taken advantage of: pin the enemy in their zone and take advantage of them as quickly as possible! 

On top of this, he can split his attacks as he chooses. Speaking of which, he has a thunder hammer and power sword to select between. This is great really. High initiative with the power sword when required, and serious damage from the hammer if needed. On top of this, he has all the grenades you can think of (including phospex) as well as artificer armour and an iron halo. 

The best way to think about playing Dynat is to realise that he is a thunder hammer terminator in all but name. And one with four wounds. As such, he is a close combat character and one that will cause serious damage if allowed to go unchecked. But keeping him alive due to the Harrowing rule is also important.

Finally, remember that you can buy a power dagger for Dynat if you want (see Alpha Legion Rules). This is a truly cheap way to give him a bonus attack that could come in very handy! The simple advice here is: do it.

Weaknesses
There is one prime weakness that the Alpha Legion player needs to be aware of. Specifically, Dynat does not have any ranged weapons. To me, this seems odd. I would have at least expected some kind of side arm like a bolt pistol. Or archeotech pistol. Or something. At best, he will be lobbing grenades it seems. Speaking of which - don't forget that phospex bomb at a critical moment!

Tactics
There are a number of ways to play Dynat.

At a base level, one way to do this is to simply give the army infiltrate through Mutable Tactics and use that to push up in to the enemy deployment zone and reap the rewards of The Harrowing. Tank Hunters can also be employed to devastating effect to give the legion a solid chance against tank heavy armies if required. 

Alternatively, have Dynat take Pride of the Legion and give himself deep strike so that he can keep up with a terminator squad.

Orbital assault could work well as well. And you can deep strike a 20 strong legion tactical squad on to the board as desired with his special rule and team him up with a veteran squad in a drop pod. And those close combat dreadnoughts cannot be overlooked for this kind of army either.

There are some other combinations that would be good as well. Consider this: deep striking a legion tactical support squad armed with melta guns right next to an enemy tank in their deployment zone and simultaneously taking advantage of The Harrowing to melt away a predator or some other deadly tank that you just want gone. I think this is a really good tactic personally - and one that I'll be employing in the absence of some of the above. For maximum effect, have an alternative squad that could come in such as a plasma gun heavy squad, or a terminator squad to be fully flexible.

Now, in addition to this, he can shut down deep strikers nearby him due to his Cognis Signum. As a bonus, he can also give BS5 to a selected squad due to the same piece of equipment. Therefore his presence in a full legion tactical squad firing with fury of the legion could be amazing. Or maybe a heavy support squad too. But to some extent, unless the enemy is tank heavy, he's much better off with a tactical squad, or a terminator squad. Remember: Dynat is fundamentally a close combat terminator with 4 wounds and bonus pips in WS and BS, but this has tension with some of his rules.

Overall, Dynat can be the core of a powerful Alpha Legion build and in my opinion is well worth the points so long as the army is built around his abilities. I'll certainly be using him when I can.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Lernaean Terminator Squad

Background
Deep within the Alpha Legion, the lernaean terminator squad are all but a myth to outsiders. But to the Alpha Legion, they are the jaws of the hydra from which they take their icon. The supposed goal within the legion is to be the tip of the spearhead - to take and secure whatever objective they need to and hold on to it at all costs. For the Alpha Legion, they provide an alternative terminator team to the standard ones, but it is only barely above the baseline.

Strengths
Their first notable strength is an extra pip in WS compared to regular terminators, plus the stubborn special rule. They're kitted out with cataphractii armour coupled with power axes and volkite chargers as standard. This means that they're fundamentally a close range breed of terminators. They're also able to take some interesting options such as a venom sphere harness and conversion beamer that are clearly not available anywhere else.

Weaknesses
Continuing on the subject of the conversion beamer, its puzzling how to use it with this squad to be honest. The conversion beamer is a weapon that gets better at increasing range. And yet, the Lernaean are a close combat orientated squad that beg to be put on board a land raider and sent on their way. So there's a choice here. Should these terminators be a back-field objective defender with a conversion beamer, or should they forego it and do what they should and go forth and grab objectives and take on other units?

Secondly, they're slightly over-priced in my opinion. For example, legion terminators can get 10 regular terminators with volkite chargers for 395 points. Ten Lernaean terminators will cost 425 points instead (recall they have volkite chargers as their base weapons). Equally, this is arguably balanced by having stubborn on their side which is at a premium in 30k games.

Builds
There are a number of set ups to consider, even if the cost is slightly more than what we might be willing to pay. Let's just hope that the models are awesome enough to justify the points cost if they're ever released. 

5 Lernaean, 1 with Conversion Beamer (250 points)
The idea with this squad is to function as a back field objective squatter. Ideally the objective's location will provide a line of sight to the grater part of the battlefield and hence provide the conversion beamer with plentiful enemies to select between. If they're assaulted, they should be able to hold their own and/or win with time (but might plausibly need support against better close combat models). 

10 Lernaean, 2 with plasma blasters, Harrower with venom sphere harness (465 points)
This is a maximum squad kitted out with plasma blasters to provide good AP, and venom spheres for assaulting models in cover. Take a land raider with this squad and it will provide an excellent core to an army's tactics, particularly in concert with an appropriate HQ. Dynat for instance would be good to run along with these guys. 

5 Lernaean, 1 heavy flamer, 5 chainfists, Harrower with venom sphere harness (295 points)
This is a pseudo "terminator-cide" squad. The idea here is to deep strike them using Dynat's special rules (or a praetor's rite of war) and have them target vehicles or enemy squads as desired. The heavy flamer is more to deter a counter assault, but clearly has its uses as well. I think this set up is very thematic for the Alphas when teamed up with the right HQ choice.

Overall
Its tough to know how to best exploit them. The obvious strength is the access to venom sphere harness and conversion beamer. But how to build them is a challenge, but if the models look good (if they ever get produced by Forge World), I can see me purchasing some!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Headhunter Kill Teams

Background
If the legion seeker squads were the public invention of the Alpha Legion during the Great Crusade, then the Headhunter kill teams were its more secretive refinement taken to the next level up! For the Alpha Legion, they provide an excellent alternative to the seeker squad (if one was needed), but they pay for it in terms of the sheer points cost of this unit.

Strengths
I feel that the main strengths of the unit are in the anti-infantry role. Indeed, with preferred enemy against all infantry, this is almost going to ensure that they're going to carry out said role very well indeed. In some respects, they're probably overkill if I'm perfectly honest. 

At range, they are capable of dishing out bane strike rounds at BS5 - this is highly effective when combined with their natural infiltration skill. I'd suggest even taking scouts here as the legion's mutable tactics to allow for additional movement to make up for the changed range of the bane strike rounds of the bolters that they carry. This firepower can be complemented with some suspensor aided heavy bolters or combi-weapons. Note they also have precision shot as well (as per the FAQ). 

In melee, they're not shabby either. Each member comes with a power dagger as standard. Hence, even if they're striking at S3, they're still going at initiative and will have enough attacks to roll a couple of serious wounds against power armour opponents (but not terminators - take note!). This is aided with the venom spheres that provide hammer of wrath to the unit. 

Hence, they're going to whittle down any enemy space marine troop squads very quickly indeed. And this is where their strength truly lies. Keep them away from big tanks and terminators - such things are not their targets. 

Weaknesses
Fundamentally, they're still space marines with T4 and a 3+ save. Hence they're just as vulnerable as other space marines if they're not paid much attention to. Vindicator shells are going to wipe out entire squads potentially. Plasma guns massed against them will destroy them. And so forth.

On top of this, they're not really that fast -- for a fast attack choice. The only way to make them fast is to use infiltration in combination with scouts. As part of a bigger army that is built around infiltration or scouts (e.g., with lots of bikes), I think they could certainly perform well enough. Or if given a drop pod (they can take rhinos or dread claws as standard). Hence, I thoroughly recommend a dreadclaw drop pod if the army is not taking scouts as the mutable tactic. 

Builds
Here are a few builds to think about. Remember that I haven't included drop pods or rhinos here.

5 Headhunters, 1 heavy bolter with bane strike ammo (185 points)
This is a "light" version of the squad that focuses on firepower. Although not bad at close combat, they're much better at shooting and that should be taken advantage of.

10 Headhunters, headhunter prime with artificer armour, melta bombs, and power fist (335 points)
Destroy squads of space marines at close range, or in melee. Whichever you like really. Consider double power fists on the headhunter prime if you like as well!

8 Headhunters, each with combi-weapons and bane strike rounds, 1 heavy bolter, headhunter prime with artificer armour, melta bombs and power fist (325 points)
Similar points to the previous build, but a few less members. Shoot every space marine enemy you can. Give the squad a rhino or drop pod, and team up with a HQ for extra fun. 

Overall
A good addition that is very characterful for the Alpha Legion. That said, they are expensive and I wonder if a terminator squad might be more desirable for the points cost. 



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Saboteur

The Alpha Legion has many operatives, some of them mortal humans, and many of them their own. The Saboteur is a unique consul type available only to the Alpha Legion in the Age of Darkness and covers their own agents who are active on the battlefield.

Background Evaluation
From my point of view, I really like the background material for the Saboteur. He is supposed to be a master of assassination, covert operations and the destruction of enemy hardware. And as such, he is entirely fitting for the Alpha Legion to take in part of their army lists. Modelling wise, I'm not sure how I would approach these guys, but probably a "typical" Alpha Legion marine, but perhaps with cloaks and billowing robes to hide themselves inside of.

Rules Evaluation
The first thing to note is that the Saboteur is not a compulsory HQ choice. That means we will still need  a praetor, or named HQ like Armillus Dynat in preference to him. However, we could certainly have at least two saboteurs in addition to a compulsory HQ selection in a normal Age of Darkness force organisation chart. We'll take a look at whether two is enough in a moment. They are also hurt by never being able to join a unit - hence they might be an easy kill (and potentially contribute to a loss for the Alpha Legion through the Martial Hubris special rule). 

Equipment wise, the saboteur comes with melta bombs and a cameleoline as standard, and therefore this will immediately lend itself to being a unit who will be sneaky, and be able to inflict damage on both buildings and units with an AV value. That said, they also have limitations such as never being able to be fielded in terminator armour (presumably because that's just not sneaky enough for these guys! And I can totally see why this would be true as well!). Hence the majority of the equipment that they're able to take is the light weight stuff, and not the heavy equipment such as boarding shields and bikes. This is entirely fair and resonates with the background for these characters. 

Their main rules, however, are concerned with their deployment and how they enter play and their actions at the point of entry. Always starting in reserves, they arrive and then cause damage. When combined with some reserves manipulation, these guys could cause come serious damage when they come in to play at an opportune moment.

But let's look at that damage in a bit more detail.

There are two options. The first one is to cause an automatic penetrating hit. Now, unlike in previous editions, a tank is categorically not going to explode as a consequence of a single lucky hit. The best we can expect is an immobilisation, or, other kind of "lock down" for an enemy tank. That said, a lock down is a good result. Only being able to take snap shot, and potentially not being able to move is actually a really powerful result. But possibly, its simply not enough. Even if there are two saboteurs coming in to play for the Alpha Legion at some point during the game, the best that they might be able to do to a tank is to finish off the last Hull Point from the tank and thereby cause it to become a wreck. In this, it could be very useful. By that, I mean imagine that the enemy predator (or replace with whatever other tank you care to mention) has been reduced to their last hull point due to shooting in the previous turn. From this point of view, it would be a waste to use a full heavy support squad to shoot at it again in the next turn. The saboteur solves this problem in a very neat way -- an automatic hull point removed through a penetrating hit. This would free up the heavy support squad to target the next tank. In this way, the act of coming in from turn 2+ means that this is more likely to happen. Hence, it could be a good investment. That said, I would certainly prefer the option of the saboteur being able to kill a tank outright. Equally, I can see how that's simply not fun for the opponent. Yet, given the melta bombs, I could certainly envisage the saboteur outflanking on to the board and trying to finish the job that they started with the melta bombs. 

On the other hand, they could elect to inflict d6 S6 hits on an opponent. Ignore the AP of these hits since the "typical" enemy will be a legion army (arguably), how many wounds is this likely to cause?

The average roll of a d6 is 3.5. Hence we have 3.5 hits per saboteur. The chances of causing a wound against a legion enemy is 2+ (i.e. S6 vs T4). This results in 2.92 wounds per saboteur. Of these, only 0.97 will get through (i.e. a failed power armour save). Hence on average, each saboteur is causing only a single wound on a typical legion enemy target. This is really not too terrific. And hence, I don't regard this as a good enough reason to take him. Only if there was an enemy all alone on the table - such as a character model down to their last wound, or a unit down to their last man - it might be worth it. But for me, this just isn't sufficient.

Possible Builds
Below are a couple of possible builds for the saboteur. 

Saboteur, combi-melta, artificer armour, power weapon, refractor field (130 points)
This is one who arrives on the board, follows up his penetrating hit with a melta shot, and then gets stuck in with close combat if possible (or with the melta bombs to finish a vehicle off).

Saboteur, artificer armour, refractor field, pair of lightning claws (130 points)
A bit more of an odd set up, but potentially one to take advantage of hitting a non-legion army with d6 S6 hits (e.g., Orks, Eldar, and those that have a 4+ save or worse, etc.) and follow up with a rapid assault with lightning claws. This has the potential to shine against these kind of opponents, but suffers from being slow to move.

Overall
I'm not 100% sold on the saboteur. I really want to like the character, but their effects are just too weak to justify their cost. The only way I could see to run him is against non-legion armies. There they could have a terrific effect against open-topped vehicles and those with 4+ or worse saves. Otherwise, I'm sorry to say, the saboteur is going to be staying at home. To improve the rules, I would have liked to have seen something similar to Tau's marker lights employed by the saboteur. i.e. they'd tagged a vehicle or person in advance and provide a bonus to hit, or a bonus on the vehicle damage table - something like that would make me much more tempted to take the saboteur. As they are, I'm just not going to take them outside of a very fluffy list.

ADDENDUM:
See this combination for automatically blowing tanks up that involves the Saboteur. But don't expect it to not be FAQ'ed. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Alpha Legion Legion Rules

I know a lot of my readers have been waiting for me to publish this one, but here it is at last, my 30k Horus Heresy Review of the Alpha Legion rules.

Background material evaluation

The background material for the Alpha Legion in the era of the Horus Heresy is presented as one giant enigma wrapped around a mystery, tied up with uncertainty and a brightly coloured bow of misdirection. This contrasts strongly with the very earliest depictions of the Alpha Legion being twisted by chaos (and Slaanesh in particular). I'm very much a fan of how the Alpha Legion are depicted in Extermination, and in the wider books that have been published by the Black Library. Although some feel that the meme of surprise attack and counter-purpose has been over-done in those books, to my mind, it is exactly how the Alpha Legion should behave. Hence, beyond all the secretive activity, the Alpha Legion are depicted as being masters of combined arts warfare, of tearing enemies apart as they attack from multiple vectors unexpectedly, and of slaughtering all before them without much mercy in a killing blow, once they have pulled apart their critical elements.

Their training enforces this approach to warfare -- they are only permitted to "graduate" as a unit, and individual antics are frowned upon. Indeed, the mission and their contribution to group work is valued much more than heroic individuals. This means that every legionary within the Alpha Legion can carry out almost any battlefield role, should he be required to. All have some talent at being in an assault squad, a devastator squad, or wherever they are needed.

Legion Rules Review

Truly, there are only two rules that the Alpha Legion possesses in addition to the usual space marine rules. The first is that of Mutable Tactics. In short, the legion can select from between a number of special rules at the start of every battle. This comprise of scouts, infiltrate, tank hunters, counter-attack, move though cover, and adamantium will.

This rule alone is what makes the legion so very deadly. Should their opponent be tank heavy (Iron Warriors, Iron Hands), then they may well decide to choose tank hunters to improve their devastator squads. Should their opponent have a lot of melee units (World Eaters, Raven Guard, some Sons of Horus builds), then the counter-attack rule is going to look good instead. Lots of psykers in an enemy Thousand Sons build? Well, that's probably what Adamantium Will is going to help with. I cannot underscore enough what this rule is doing for the legion. It will give them a competitive edge in most (but maybe not all) situations. These three rules are probably not something to build an entire army around as they are situational, based on what the enemy is playing.

That said, some of these rules can be used as a build for the entire army. The classic one here is infiltrate. Having an infantry based legion list combine with this rule makes for an incredibly effective army. Indeed, this kind of build may also be necessary for the legion's rite of war. But the army must be built around it: it needs to bring infantry and hurt that can take advantage of infiltrate (e.g. plasma guns, melta guns, and the like) to complement it. Scouts works in similar ways, and would require plenty of fast moving squads to make it truly advantage (think: bikes and other similar units that are technically still marines -- this can also work as infiltrate as well, of course). I therefore regard both infiltrate and scouts as a way in which to build an entire army.

Move through cover is one rule that can be overlooked, and will depend on the board / terrain. Hence it will be entirely situational.

Overall therefore, I think that both scouts or infiltrate is the way to build an Alpha Legion army. And of the two, infiltrate is superior for its need in the legion's special rite of war, if nothing else. But as an Alpha Legion player, it is imperative to be flexible in this as well. Having a few units that can be strongly anti-tank and have synergy with tank hunters is a sound move, if its ever required. So, even when building an Alpha Legion army with infiltrate already pre-selected, I'd encourage the legion player to have sufficient units that are capable of exploiting the other rules where necessary.

The second special rule is Martial Hubris. This is to counter balance what a terrific advantage Mutable Tactics is. In short, the Alpha Legion think they're the best. They might not be wrong. But if they suffer more casualties than the enemy, then their enemy gets an additional VP in the battle. This can be devastating in a mission where rules like First Blood are in play and the Alpha Legion go second. The best way to build around this rule is to keep the unit number count low if possible. Its not always possible, but certainly having maximum sized squads will help, of course.

Special Units

The legion gains the Saboteur as a special legion centurion and consul type. I'll detail this one in a later post as a distinct unit, as I'm a bit torn on whether this guy is a good thing or not. I've heard cases both ways.

Wargear

The legion has access to some of the best and most unique war gear. One of these items is the power dagger. This is an S-1 AP3 melee weapon with rending that can be bought as an upgrade for a character for 5 points. This is truly a bargain! Why? Because it can give a character an extra attack for such a cheap amount of points. I've not seen such a good bargain elsewhere for this kind of price. Hence even if you're going to use another specialist weapon, its still worth taking in most cases.

The second one are the venom spheres which are available to certain units for a modest individual points cost, or as an upgrade for an entire unit. They're worth it on units like seeker squads and destroyer squads, but so long as those squads are maximally sized already. They grant hammer of wrath whilst retaining the assault grenade rules. Hence, they're fantastic for melee orientated squads. There is one variant of this, the venom sphere harness, for certain terminators as well. These are a neat upgrade for melee terminators, to be sure.

Banestrike ammo is made available to certain units in the legion as well. I think legion terminator squads that are at full size are really going to benefit from taking this upgrade, so long as the points cost is available.

Rite of War

A lot has already been written about the Coils of the Hydra rite of war, and much of it is well deserved. The first effect is Subterfuge -- which provide a bonus to go first, or seize the initiative. This is an excellent way of partially offsetting the negative effect of Martial Hubris and should not be overlooked for its effect. The Signal Corruption rule is a great way to mess around with enemies through imposing a negative modified to reserve rolls. It can certainly screw around with drop pod armies like Raven Guard and certain World Eater builds, or even terminator based deep striking enemies on the odd occasion (think of Abaddon-led Sons of Horus Justaerin terminators forces).

But the final part of this rite is the one that excites everyone. The Rewards of Treason means that the Alpha Legion player can field a unit from a different unit that it ordinarily could not. This includes even the Gal Vorbak (even though they do not have the Legion Astartes special rule).

I really adore this rule. Not only is it very fluffy, but it can provide the basis to build an army around. Would you take the Mor Deythan of the Raven Guard to provide a first turn deadly volley? Or the Gal Vorbak to provide a superior melee option? Or some Death Guard that might only otherwise be seen guarding Mortarion? There are a lot of choices, and many options to like. To my mind, the Gal Vorbak and Mor Deythan are excellent choices, but also Iron Havocs. I would probably veer toward the Mor Deythan myself as they are very complementary. But equally we have not seen every legion yet. I wonder if something from the Ultramarines or Dark Angels might be equally cool? Who knows.

There is a price to be paid though. The Alpha legion player must select an additional compulsory troops choice (meaning tactical squads, assault squads or breacher squads -- remember that the other choices cannot fulfil a compulsory choice). At low points levels, this is a headache and might be damaging. Remember Martial Hubris? Well, at low points values, this rite of war means more units. Somewhere between 1500 to 2000 points, it probably becomes a lot more viable. And those units must be able to deep strike, infiltrate, or be in transports. If you're not wanting more units like rhinos rocking around the board, then this is going to be satisfied by having infiltrate as the legion's mutable tactics. But it might be worth taking the rhinos to have the flexibility of mutable tactics still up the proverbial sleeve. And then I get in a circular argument about martial hubris again. Its a balancing act for sure - and which way to approach it is up to the player. I would personally favour having an infantry based infiltrating army for this, but perhaps a couple of transport tanks wouldn't hurt either.

The final thought here is that sometimes taking this rite of war could be done by default. If the player just happens to have the requisite 3 compulsory troops selection (and satisfies the other conditions for the rite by having the infiltrate mutable tactics), then it might as well be taken for just the subterfuge and signal corruption rules. There's nothing like messing with the enemy because you can -- and that's what the Alpha Legion does best. It trolls opponents. So, don't be afraid to take the rite of war even if you're not going to take one of the Rewards of Treason units. Its still worth it!

Summing Up

There are many ways to build an Alpha Legion force around their special rules. I personally favour an all-infiltrating force, with redundancy for tank hunters and counter-attack by having plenty of shooting heavy support or tactical support effort, and close assault units like assault squads and certain terminator squads. This gives me the option of Coils of the Hydra if I wanted to. Its a mixed arms force and one that can take on any opponent with a reasonable chance of success. Coupled with special rules in HQ selections (Alpharius and Armillus Dynat), they can be quite an awesome force.

I am personally going to build a force around Armillus Dynat and probably plump for infiltrate and keep the option of Rewards of Treason open. At higher points, Alpharius as well. Or Omegon perhaps. Or Sigmar. Ahem…

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Monowheel Space Marine Bike Conversion

Germination
This is one of those ideas that has been floating at the back of my head for a very long time. But it wasn't until I started thinking about my 30k Alpha Legion force that I decided it was high time to execute it. For those not following my Alpha Legion build, the general idea is to leave no model unconverted. In addition to that, I also have my Alpha Legion marines using many and varied weapons and accessories. The narrative is that they are well beyond the regular forge worlds that they can resupply at and have taken to salvaging what weapons they can and redeploying them - through some reverse engineering if necessary. This is exemplified by my heavy support squad with missile launchers. Instead of regular missile launchers, I decided that this squad would have Eldar Wraithlord missiles. Functionally, they look like missile launchers, but they are distinctly xenos, in spite of the purity seals, oaths of the moment, and veteran cruxes attached to them.

Parts
The first thing I'm going to say is that this is not a conversion for those who are just starting out with converting. Do some kit bashing before trying this one out to get a feel for things. Equally, its not hugely advanced either, so give it a go if you're feeling like it! The first image is the final product, so that you can get a feel for what I made. Its a converted space marine bike contained inside a plastic hoop - the mono wheel. 


The parts for the conversion are simple enough. Just a single space marine bike, some plasma guns (or bolters if you prefer) on the sides, and a plastic hoop. The plastic hoop is clearly not a games workshop / citadel miniatures part though! I sourced it from Claire's Accessories in the UK (pictured). Claire's Accessories is basically a chain store in most high streets that caters (mostly) to younger women and girls, selling mainly ear-rings, necklaces, and bangles. These plastic hoops were bought as a set of six bangles (plus some rings) for very young kids. The price was GBP4.50 - therefore very affordable, and gives me enough pieces to make six mono wheel bikes out of. For those in other countries without Claire's Accessories on their doorsteps, you're looking for bangles that have a 60mm diameter -- just like the larger citadel plastic bases. Indeed, I reckon you could attempt this conversion by gluing together two 60mm bases and making a few tweaks to what I'm going to write about below. But it'd be a lot harder as you'd have to cut out the centres of the bases to do anything like what I've done below. Not impossible, just a lot trickier. Hence, go for plastic bangles if at all possible. Hairband plastic might also work I think, but I never tried that.


Front Wheel
The first part of the conversion is simply enough: just detach the front wheel guard from the main body of the space marine bike. File down any rough ends as although they won't show so well in the final product, the will look ugly if seen from certain angles. Importantly, I've not assembled the wheel for this conversion -- put the wheels from the main sprue in your bits box for another model another day -- we're not using them here.


Once both sides have had this treatment done, glue them together and add the bottom plate of the bike to them (the bit with the foot rest for the space marine driver), and add the handle bars. 

At this point, you have a choice, depending on the radius of the bangle you're using. You might like to cut out a little rectangle from the back of the bike to make it appear like it allows the mono wheel to "spin" through. Or you might like to split the front part (the bit with the headlight) in to two sections completely, either side of the headlight. For this bike, I decided to keep just slice the headlight off and leave the front part as one whole bit, the same as the back part. This will mean it will look like the rear wheel axle is providing much of the "thrust" to the mono wheel. Admittedly, to be a bit more convincing, I'd have an extra wheel (one that looks as if it doesn't spin) alongside the spinning one. But hey, this is 30k (or 40k?!), so the technology is advanced and might use antigravitics to aid the spinning of the wheel, at least narratively speaking.


Wheelguards
The next stage is to slice down the front wheel guards that you chopped off the front of the bike in the first step. They need to have their axles removed, as well as some of the guard to permit a space marine's legs to still be in the right place once these pieces are glued in place. The picture above shows what I've done to the front headlight bit, as well as the two wheel guards so you can see what I'm talking about. The bits are a bit rough here and have been filed down to the right smoothness in the next shot.


I glue the windshield in to the normal place on the bike now, and leave it to dry. Once fully dried and secure in its position, I then attach the old wheel guards directly underneath it. Notice that the wheel guards are just the right height to span the gap between the bottom of the windshield and the top of the footrest part. Also in the picture is a set of space marine rider legs. I added these legs in to position just to ensure that I had the correct gap for them to rest on the footrest. This is absolutely essential to the final conversion. I thoroughly recommend that you do some dry fitting with the space marine legs in place before gluing the wheel guards in to position. It might be necessary to trim some more "fat" off the wheel guards to make them look convincing and ensure that the space marine can comfortably rest his feet in the required position. Of course, all this assumes that the space marine will be sitting - if you're going for a more dynamic conversion with the space marine leaning out of the side of the bike then this will not be strictly necessary! But its good to at least be clean about these kind of things, to my mind.


The Monowheel
The next step is probably the hardest -- fitting the mono wheel itself. I start by splitting the wheel in to two differently sized parts, as shown. This is necessary as I found that the 60mm diameter of the wheel is simply too large for the kind of conversion I was gunning for. The lower segment will be used as the bottom of the wheel, and the upper (larger) segment will be cut down a bit further and bent in to place to attach back to the lower (smaller) segment. Ensure at this stage that the cuts are flat - take the time to do the filing (or careful slicing with your modelling blade) at this point - its worth it later on.


I drilled a hole through the centre of the smaller segment next. This will provide not only a pin in to the base of the miniature, but will pin up to the bike itself, allowing for some positioning, and dynamism to be built in. The pin is inserted through the square looking block at the very bottom of the bike to attach to the mono wheel. 


Now, the final problem is to chop down the larger bangle segment to the correct size. The image above gives an idea and illustration of the problem present. The broad idea is to chop off enough of the larger bangle segment to make the overall curvature of the loop tighter and the radius smaller. The final diameter is closer to 50mm than 60mm, so if you can find smaller bangles, this would be a much better option. Equally, my experience of hunting for bangles in shops is that most of them seem to be about the same size (because everyone's wrists are the same size, right???!! One size fits all, and all that).

You'll need to add two more pins - one in either side of the smaller segment - to put the final loop in place. You will find that curving the larger segment of the bangle results in a bit of springy tension (the bangle wants to keep its original curvature!). Hence, once the pins are in place and the glue is applied, you will need to keep hold of the bangle in its new radius of curvature position to ensure that the final loop remains in place. I couldn't rubber band this new sized loop, as the glue got in the way and spoilt the bangle - but you're welcome to try that.

Weapons
The final step is to add some guns to either side of the bike. I used plasma guns, because this squad will be a speedy plasma gun suicide one - able to bring the lovely S7 plasma to where its needed and pose a threat to even terminators. The final image shows the bike with two chaos space marine plasma guns on each of the old wheel guard pieces. I've taken off the obviously chaotic bits, but left the spikes at the front, just to ensure the final bike looks at least a little bit more threatening! They needed to be filed down on one side to ensure that they were flush with the bike, but otherwise this was an easy step to do. I might add some oaths of the moment / purity seals, but otherwise, its job done at this point and we have a Monowheel Space Marine Bike to play around with!


I hope you've enjoyed this conversion tutorial and would be pleased to hear what you think. I intend on making several more of these for my Alpha Legion force, and I'll be posing some dynamic looking marines on them at a later point in time.




Thursday, April 9, 2015

Unboxing Armillus Dynat

Context
I was a bit naughty. When I saw that Armillus Dynat of the Alpha Legion had become available for pre-order on Forge World, I put my order in almost straight away. I may not survive the wrath of my wife, so I hope that this won't be my last post to Warpstone Flux, ever!!! (only half kidding, of course. But she was making lists of other things that money should be / should have been spent on. So maybe I'm in trouble this time. Please send any spare luck my way….).

Today, my model of Dynat finally arrived -- and I am certainly not disappointed! Fundamentally, it is a much better quality miniature than the conversion that I had done for my own version of Armillus Dynat earlier on. Details of that conversion can be found here. In brief, I combined a lot of different parts together from a range of sources such as space marines, chaos space marines, Dark Angels, grey knights and Anvil Industry. With a few arm and wrist rotations, I managed to create a miniature that was ideal for what I wanted out of the miniature -- and one that had a dynamic pose to boot. 

The Box
The box that the Forge World miniature came in is a high quality one. Being the first time that I have ordered anything from the Horus Heresy Character Series, I was impressed by the presentation. The first image shows the box in its shrink wrap. The anticipation built as I took off the shrink wrapping!

The next image displays what greeted me when I first opened the box. A small printed slip that pictured the miniature full assembled and painted on the front, and on the back of the image, a view of the fully assembled and painted miniature from the back! I kind of like that as it gives me some good queues about how to paint it when I get around to it. Also visible in the box is something that I've not had the pleasure of seeing in a long while in citadel miniatures: small rectangles of foam! I guess one has to be an old-timer to fully appreciate the small bundle of joy that these rectangles gave me! Or maybe I was just over excited.


The Base
Anyway, moving swiftly on to the bits themselves now. The next image shows the larger display base that comes with the miniature. Physically, it is a scene of destruction in what appears to be the remains of an urban city. My thinking here is that it must be a representation of Paramar as that is when Armillus Dynat first came to "fame", so to speak. Equally, Dynat must have been famous before then, but probably in a very different way within only the Alpha Legion as his prosecution of warfare left few to survive I'd guess. The image shows that the display base comes in two parts and has a honeycomb hexagon like arrangement where they join together. It looks simple to assemble at this stage. I think I might have preferred something more like Typhus' display base -- something a bit more industrial feeling, rather than just amongst the ruins of a city scape. But I understand why its been modelled this way if it is meant to be during the invasion of Paramar. 


Accessories
The next two images show the accessories, arms, power pack and playing base that Armillus Dynat comes with. The sculpting of these is really high quality. I'm very pleased. Although there are flashes and minor things to clean up, these parts are great overall. The only criticism I could make is some flexure of the ariel on the backpack has happened, so I'll need to soak some parts in hot water to bend them back. That said, I'm going to have to clean up the parts anyway as the feel of the parts tells me immediately there's still plenty of release agent on the bits that needs to be removed prior to assembling and painting. One interesting aspect here is that the playing base is not the regular size -- its a 32mm base and hence obviously larger than the marines Dynat will command. I like this, as a champion like Armillus Dynat totally should be made to stand out more. The arms and pose of the miniature is an interesting one: somewhere between arrogance and exceptional confidence in my opinion.



Torso
The final two images show the detail of the main body of Dynat himself. I'm totally delighted with the level of detail on them and I'm not sure my images do them justice. Particularly pleasing are the diamond shaped scales on the legs of the marine armour (artificer armour, naturally), as well as the detail on the chest plate. I'm not totally sold on the dragon head in the centre of the chest -- it looks a bit Salamanders to some extent to my eye (I would have preferred more heads!). The shoulder pad showing the legion symbol is also interesting - multiple heads coiled around a world. In some ways reminiscent of the World Eaters iconography and unusual to see perhaps. But I like it!


Final Thoughts
Overall, I'm very impressed with the quality of the miniature, and even the display box. I'll certainly be assembling this one as soon as I get some spare moments. …..and escape the potential consequences of my impulse purchase(!) Well, maybe impulse purchase is the wrong term - its certainly a well considered purchase as this guys will be my HQ choice of preference for my growing Alpha Legion army. I'm looking forward to Alpharius Omegon being released later on, but suspect that's going to quite a significant chunk of time away yet. Plus, even if I do purchase Alpharius, he's not going to get much play due to the typical points levels that I will be mostly likely to be playing at. He's more of a several thousand points cost army HQ or Apocalypse even. So, Armillus Dynat is my man of choice at this point in time and I'm certainly going to try to build an army around his army buffing abilities.







Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Is 30k better than 40k?

Is 30k better than 40k? The title for this editorial is purposefully a little bit provocative! I wanted to examine a number of facets of both games and give my own view on the state of the games before I even try to address the question posed in the title.

As my regular readers will be all too aware, I have been analysing the units from the Horus Heresy 30k books in depth for a long time now - the summary page of the Horus Heresy 30k unit reviews can be found here. I will freely confess that I was actually one of those people who ordered Book I: Betrayal the day it become available for pre-order. I was very excited to see Forge World release this one and I'd been waiting with anticipation for it for a long time since seeing the first hints of its existence.

Appeal
Why was I drawn to it? Well, I guess its because it deals with THE part of the Warhammer timeline that has intrigued me the most for a long long time. In the distant future of 40k, we know that everything is at war with everything else. The story is not progressing and its all a bit grim-dark. In 30k, though, we see a time of optimism and expansion of the human empire through the Great Crusade. Humanity is unified (once conquered!) and its space marine legions sweep (or attempt to sweep) all xenos before them. This is, of course, broken by the betrayal of Horus and his allies, leading to inter-legionary warfare for (maybe?) the first time. (maybe, because it has been teasingly hinted that the Space Wolves were released against either Legio II or XI at some point in the past). The prospect of building an army that could take part in the Great Crusade, Isstvan, and the wider Heresy, plus ultimately still be playable in 40k strongly appealed to me. Plus, I get to read in a humongous amount of detail never presented before what happened during those dark days of the Heresy in 30k. Originally I wanted to build a Death Guard legion, but eventually settled on Alpha Legion (as I've done Death Guard plenty in 40k, so wanted something entirely new).

Rogue Trader Days
But what about 40k? I was originally drawn to that because it was a new game when I was young -- yes I'm that old that I remember playing Rogue Trader rules battles. Everything we needed to know for those battles was contained in that single volume - no messing around with multiple codexes and expansions as we might have to do in this day and age. More of my opinions on the current state of the game versus earlier iterations can be found in my editorial from yesterday where I tackled the issue of Proliferation in 7th Edition 40k. But beyond the game mechanics, the heady days of Rogue Trader really appealed as the book covered such a wide variety of topics ranging from armies and terrain, right through to technology and background material. There really was such a huge scope - more than one could ever desire really. And although some bits were ignored in later versions and other bits were expanded upon, the system of comparing S against T has largely remained in place alongside the WS and BS mechanics to inflict wounds. Some aspects have been streamlined, others have been made more complex and its all in a state of flux overall.

List Building
One of the aspects that I've not yet discussed though, is how games of 30k play out and how folks go about building army lists. They're similar, but different to 40k in a number of ways. To take a random example, in 30k, the stubborn special rule is at a premium compared to 40k. That's not to say that a 30k army cannot take on a 40k army - far from it! Indeed, the Forge World FAQ makes quite clear that we can totally do this. But its important to note that 30k is INTERNALLY balanced, rather than balanced against 40k. Things are just a little bit different in 30k, that's all.

So what appeals to me about 30k rules and armies? Well, having been in both games since the "beginning", I think that 30k displays a much stronger tendency toward balance than 40k has ever done. That's not to say there are not strong and powerful rules in 30k, there most certainly are. Take for example the Iron Hands Legion rules -- they reduce the incoming S of any ranged weapon by 1. That's truly incredible as it makes them the 30k analogue of Plague Marines in terms of survivability due to the mechanics of comparing S to T of the weapons and miniatures involved. But in 30k, its balanced up. The Iron Hands must always stand and fight (Ferrus clearly didn't think much of his marines going to ground) and they have rigid tactics that severely limits the kinds of army that this legion can field (in a fluffy manner as well, I'd argue). This is not to say 40k does not possess some kinds of balance, it most certainly does (lower I for plague marines, and a higher points cost than basic marines to say the least).

Yet, I've personally found it hard to "break" the 30k army building rules to construct a win-at-all-costs army. Sure, I can think of a few Word Bearers legion lists that might combine with daemons and Be'Lakor / Fateweaver for some scary combinations with the likes of the Gal Vorbak, but that's the best I can do in terms of really fielding a uber army that is going to try to win with a death-star style unit. And that relies on 40k units and army codexes. I'm sure there probably exists other scary combinations without primarchs present, and I'd love to hear about them (leave a comment if you have something to equal or better Word Bearers + Be'Lakor / Fateweaver army lists!). But in 40k, we have all come across screamer-stars online or in person (or fielded them ourselves), and necron flying deathstar armies before that, leaf blower before that, etc. I just can't find too many 30k issues like that though. And it is for these reasons that I'm doubly attracted to 30k.

Summary
So, is 30k better than 40k? No. Neither is better than the other. They're the same game fundamentally, its just the armies are different. Its still early days for 30k as well. Once we get a more expanded picture beyond the legions, beyond the Solar Auxilla, beyond the mechanicum, we may see some horrendous armies come along. But for now, I really like seeing and playing 30k due to the potential it exhibits. And its kind of new, whilst at the same time feeling familiar. I think it is what 40k could have been with more attention to the game, rather than to the hobby and collection side of things. To emphasise my point: this is just a preference. It categorically does not mean 30k is better than 40k or the other way around. They both have very strong merits!


Monday, April 6, 2015

Proliferation in 7th Edition 40k

Context
A bit of an editorial from me today, on the topic of proliferation in 40k. Although the word "proliferation" is usually used in a biological context, today I'm using it to simply mean the growth and multiplication of things. Specifically units, codexes and the like.



Rogue Trader Era
To start the discussion, let's go way to the start: Rogue Trader and the like. In those times, all the possible units and creatures for 40k were contained inside a single rule book - the Rogue Trader rule book. It didn't particularly matter if one player forgot their rule book as the other player who brought it would be able to tell them everything that they needed to know (and maybe forgot) about the units and creatures they were playing. This was good at the time, as it meant that both players in a game automatically knew everything about their opponent's army and their own.

Fourth Edition
Fast forward a little bit in to the era of 4th edition and we see a large growth in codexes. One for Chaos Space Marines (that still included daemons!). One for space marines (as well as those for non-codex chapters). One for Orks. One for Eldar. And so forth. In this era, Most people knew about the core armies that they would be playing against. People knew that all regular space marines had T4, S4, 1 wound each, and so forth. They had a good feeling for Orks - unlikely to hit and kill much with their ranged weapons, but reasonably good in close combat. Eldar were known to be a bit fiddly and required finesse to master. Chaos were not the same as space marines (particularly in the Ld department) and often better in close combat.

In the 4th edition, I feel that people still knew all the armies and permutations of them. They knew how to set up their armies to counter them. And they knew how to conduct a good game regardless of circumstances. And they still knew their opponents and their likely tactics. Whether this was a rhino rush, or a static gun line.

Proliferation
Forward a bit further in the years and we see the introduction of a few new armies. The Necrons came along with a rather limited number of units and we all learnt that reanimation protocols needed some strong weapons to circumvent. Then the Tau - excellent gun lines with high strength weapons, but very vulnerable to close combat. Some armies waxed in their power with new iterations of their codex, some waned as other things got nerfed. Chaos Space Marines and Daemons got split it to two codexes. Yet, players still knew roughly what every army did. Imperial Guard still brought tanks for the most part. Space marines were still the most forgiving army to play due to their 3+ saves. And so forth.

But now, I feel the meta is utterly different due to three things:
(i) the ability to take allies
(ii) the idea of unbound armies outside of Apocalypse
(iii) the multitude of data slates (Be'Lakor, Eldar Ghost Warriors, Cypher, Butcher horde, to name but a few) and new (arguably smaller) codexes and codex supplements (Skitarii, Harlequins, Clan Raukaan, Khorne Daemonkin, etc.).

It has now reached a stage where I can no longer look at a tournament (or casual) army and automatically know what they are about. 

It perhaps was not so bad when allies were first introduced. Eldar plus Dark Eldar - yes, we all knew what they were going to do. Daemons with Chaos Space Marines made for good fluff and solid armies (especially Nurgle on my part). Tau and Eldar were a popular choice for a variety of reasons. And death star units were in the ascendancy - especially the screamers of Tzeentch in pure daemons lists.

But now, I sometimes feel that I'm playing a mini-apocalypse game due to the sheer proliferation I see. What are those Orks doing with Astra Militarum? Are those Grey Knights going to be summoning daemons or not? Remind me, because I can't remember, what does Be'Lakor do again? What are Skitarii good at and bad at - what are their weaknesses and how should I counter deploy on the board?

Discussion
Is this a bad thing? 

Yes and No. Yes in the sense that I no longer know exactly how to play and exactly how my opponents army operates. No in the sense it is really nice to see a multitude of possible armies with vastly different strengths and weaknesses. 

The former means that games tend to take longer. Both players often question a lot of rules and more time has to be spent explaining what things do. This has been a progressive thing since Rogue Trader I think (yes - I'm that old) and hence my experience of the game is that is now takes a lot longer. I think this kind of detracts form the game a little bit - at least for those of us who did experience much earlier editions. Equally, at least we got rid of the old 40k vehicles book with its OHP transparency for hits. And all those d1000 tables from Realms of Chaos that made the game very unbalanced -- not that balance is necessarily any better in the current era, but perhaps a bit less random (except for daemons, obviously!). The game is nice and streamlined now - and that can only be a good thing!

The latter is something that I actually love. All those new armies are terrific to see. Especially for old timers like me. They can still provide surprises! Even if the "expense" is longer games. And I get to learn some new rules about a data slate I don't own once in a while.

So on balance, the recent proliferation we're seeing in the game might be a good one. But I'll temper that by the "entry cost" to the game, and the not knowing what an enemy army is going to do for newer, and even older players like myself.


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