Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Busy Month!


The old GW's Strategy for Improving Revenue 


Posts have been sparse here recently but games are still happening. I'm just choosing to prep and play them more than  write about them.

First, over the weekend I managed to run the second session of my 5th Edition "Greatest Hits" campaign. One prior player couldn't make it but Apprentice Blaster and Apprentice Red were both there so the assault on the Caves of Chaos continued. They've just about wiped out one of the orc lairs and there is an amazing amount of in-character strategy discussion so they're actually acting like Professional Treasure Hunters and it reminds me a lot of how my friends and I used to handle it.

I also continue to be happy with how the game handles ... well everything. It has a really strong element of playability, and it feels as if that was a conscious design choice rather than a happy accident. I saw some of this back when we were playing Next and it is even more evident in the final product. It fits really well with what I want as a DM right now.  Just as important, my players seem to be enjoying the different approach after 3-4 years of Pathfinder. I think we spent time looking up one rule the entire session, and that was only because it had come up a few times and we wanted to get consistent with it. That's a strong contrast to PF where we look up stuff every session, even after years of playing it. Pathfinder's detailed rules is a feature, not a bug, most of the time but I'm in a mood for a different approach right now and 5E is giving me that.



We also managed to get in more games of 8th edition 40K with the official release on Saturday. For me this mainly involved my first time to field the Dark Eldar as a full army. It also involved me getting blown off the table for the first time as a Dark Eldar commander. Different rules and a new army apparently means a big learning curve here. I'm not going to make a full report out of it, just some conclusions:

  • The land raider crusader is tailor-made to kill dark eldar. That's 24 bolter shots for your warriors, a multi-melta shot for your flying boats, and 12 assault cannon shots for whatever is left standing is just hell on the boys from Commorragh.
  • Splinter weapons are still cool but that only-wounds-vehicles-on-a-6 rule has a pretty big impact now. Bolters and shootas are wounding most vehicles on a 5+. It's the price you pay for wounding everything else on a 4+ but I'm starting to think dark lances in every warrior squad instead of splinter cannons is a better choice. With the new split fire rules it's usable, and while you lose up to 6 splinter shots you add a chance for some serious threat against the big stuff in the game. 
  • It's still a very fragile army. Most of your troops are still Toughness 3 with a 5+ save and one wound. Power for Pain is cool now but a 6+ wound nullification doesn't save many warriors. The boats are much improved but even those are Toughness 5 and 10 wounds with a 4+ save and a 5+ invulnerable (vs shooting only). Assault cannons hurt them bad. 

I like the army and I'm adding some options to what I have so expect more Dark Eldar batreps in the future.





Wednesday, June 7, 2017

First game of 8th Edition 40k!




Using some "preview" copies of the rules we managed to put together a 1500 point game of 8th edition 40K last night. I took Eldar and Blaster took his Space Wolves in the basic mission "Only War".

I took a Battlion detachment:


HQ: Farseer, Prince Yriel

Troops: 10x Dire Avengers, 10x Dire Avengers, 5 Rangers

Elites: 10x Striking Scorpions (scorpions claw on the exarch)

Fast Attack: 3x Jetbikes (no upgrades)

Heavy Support: Wraithlord with two starcannons & two shuriken catapults

Dedicated Transports: 2x Wave Serpents - one with twin bright lances, one with twin starcannons


Yes, Prince Yriel actually took the field! One of the worst characters in the game for several editions now! What can I say? I was feeling optimistic.


 Blaster took a Vanguard detachment:


HQ: Wolf Priest

Troops: 10x Blood Claws

Elites: 5x hammer Terminators, 5x shooty Terminators. Dreadnought with an assault cannon

Heavy Support: 5x Long Fangs with missile launchers, Land Raider Crusader

Dedicated Transports: Razorback with twin lascannons

The mission is basically set up 4 objectives, they're worth 2 VP each at the end of the game (like older editions) and if you can kill the enemy warlord he's worth 1d3 VPs too.

Our narrative here was that a farseer had come to some remote world to let Yriel know it was time to come home and lead the fight. He had been tangling with some imperial forces and the Space Wolves led by Wolf Priest Odysseus had finally been dispatched to put an end to his raids. The prince wanted to tweak the humans by taking out their commander while the priest wanted to prove himself as a commander by taking out the annoying eldar legend.


 The deployment map we used goes back to the old table quarters format but it also has a "hole in the middle" with a 9" radius. So not every map goes with the old rule of 24" of separation. I started in the bottom right corner and Blaster started in the top left.


Deployment is now alternating - I place a unit then you place a unit. Other games do this and it is much much better than sitting for 30 minutes while your opponent sets up. Also, whoever finishes first gets first turn so there's an incentive to take fewer units there.

The dire avengers and the HQ's started inside the serpents. The scorpions and scouts started in reserve.

For the Wolves the priest and the Blood Claws started in the land raider while the two terminator units started in reserve. The razorback was strictly a gun platform for this fight.

I ended up with first turn.


I admit I had no real plan here. It's been a long time since we played the old "get the objectives at the end of the game" style missions as I burned out on those in 5th and 6th edition and played only maelstrom missions in 7th. Also not knowing how the game is really going to work makes it tough to have a detailed plan as I have no solid expectations of how these units will interact. I had tons of mobility and some decent firepower and figured that would have to see me through. I did some damage to the razorback and the dreadnought (shot in the back by snipers!) and moved around a little bit.

The most notable thing on turn 1 was that I ran the wraithlord right up the middle, unloaded all of my guns into the land raider, then charged him, made it, and pounded on him with my "wraithbone fists". The shooting did some damage but the melee did not and the overwatch from the approximately 1000 guns on the thing took a couple of wounds off of me!

Note 1: For the Eldar, the Starcannon is pretty nasty now. It's still 36" range at Strength 6 with 2 shots but it's AP -3 which means marines and most vehicles only get a 6+ save and it does a flat 3 wounds! Having two of them on the wraithlord and on one of the serpents made them a serious threat to everything on the board. I'll be using more of them this edition.

Note 2: The interaction of Strength versus Toughness became very clear here. The Wraithlord's fists are now strength 7. The land raider is toughness 8, so I was fighting uphill needing a 5+ to wound. The Wraithlord has the option to take a sword but since my old metal guy doesn't have one I didn't take it. For 10 points the "ghostglaive" bumps him up to strength 9, meaning I would have been wounding on 3's. It also bumps him up to a -4 AP from a -3, and bumps the damage from a flat 3 to 1d6. I'd say it's worth it, so I may modify the old dread to have something swordlike in one hand.


On the Wolves first turn, well, the land raider backed off from being stuck in melee with the Wraithlord and the Dreadnought tagged in to the fight. As you can see, it didn't last long. Dreadnought power fists still double their strength and the cap isn't 10 anymore, so he was taking 4 swings at strength 12 against my toughness 7. He put the wraithlord down hard. With two fairly evenly matched combatants swinging first matters a lot.


Also, both terminator squads came down and beat on my two wave serpents. That's two 9 inch charges after a deep strike by the way. The farseer's ride stayed intact but Yriel's serpent was wrecked, killing 2 dire avengers, and the rest spilled out. My original thinking was to back into the woods, slowing down his charges (-2" for charging through woods) while shooting him and bringing in the Striking Scorpions to engage them directly.



Theeeeen I said, hey! Why not charge them with both? Yriel's a vicious melee fighter so why not use him too? So I tried to charge them and failed because of the minus from the woods! In addition overwatch killed one of my avengers. I used command points to re-roll a die and made it, but that meant my scorpions would have to make a long charge on their own with nor chance of a re-roll and of course they failed it. At this point it really looks like I have no idea what I am doing.



Over the next few turns other stuff does happen  - the bikes fly over the hill and kill the dreadnought but are then gunned down by the land raider as the long fangs frag the rangers off of the board - but this is really the decisive part of the fight.

Yriel and the avengers wipe out the shooty terminators  - at the cost of all of the avengers. See above.

The scorpions, betrayed by the dice, get charged by Blaster's favorite combo of Blood Claws and a Wold Priest charging out of a Land Raider Crusader and it is a really nasty piece of work in this edition. The claws' weapon skill went up to 3+ (guns are still a 4+), they get an extra attack on the charge (which is not a normal thing anymore) and then the priest lets wolf units within 6" re-roll failed hit rolls in the fight phase. So yes - they gunned down 5 of the 10 scorpions, charged them, and then wiped them out in one round.



The Blood Claws fail their next charge but Odysseus charges in solo, determined to bring down Yriel, now wounded and alone. There is a ferocious fight dominated by life-ending weapon strikes followed by miraculous invulnerable saves!



All this happens as the Farseer and his Dire Avenger bodyguard look on in horror.



Quickly, Yriel begins to take the measure of his foe...



Finally, using the Eye of Wrath he surprises the Wolf Chaplain and brings him down! It's a one-use weapon with a 3" range and I had hoped to never need to use it but it won us this fight! The Spear of Twilight and his natural skill means that in melee he's hitting on 2's, re-rolling 1's, then wounding on 2's, with a -2 to saves. He had a Warlord trait that gave him +1 attack on the charge so he was swinging 5 times with that thing in the first round.


Of course, a personal victory is not always the end of the larger fight.





Dakka-dakka-dakka from the wolves and suddenly we're down to a party of two.




...and then the land raider charges Prince Yriel, taking him down. It's a far less poetic end then "defeated in honorable one on one combat" but "run over by a giant space marine tank" is still an end.

Clearly, Craftworld Iyanden will need to send a rescue party to free him from captivity!


Post-Game Notes


  • Blaster and I were both really happy with the way the game played. 
  • We spent very little time looking up rules compared to our 7th edition games as all of the information you need is on the datasheet for each unit. I printed out a sheet for each unit to have them handy and so I could make notes as the game went on and it was remarkable how much better the game flowed. We didn't have to spend a bunch of time working through a process flow of passengers disembarking from an exploded vehicle which was multi-charged by two units and a bunch of other cruft. 
  • Psychic powers are cool and impactful without dominating the game. My farseer "doomed" the dreadnought before ducking around the corner and guided the Dire Avengers. This allowed them plus the jetbikes to just destroy it in one shooting phase. The limits on powers - mainly that you can only cast them once per turn - means that it's pointless to take more than about two psykers. I expect they will open this up some more down the road but right now it's in a great place. 
  • We took a while to play it but it was not just because the rules were new. We spent a fair anount of time looking at our options during the game. "OK I have this guy who gives a +1 on this thing to units within 6 inches and then I have a squad who gets this bonus in this case  - what can I do if I put them together"? It was a much more interesting use of time than "what does that special rule mean again?
  • Command Points are great - they do all of the good things that Fate/Force/Luck points do in RPG's, rescuing you from that badly-timed bad roll, or letting you pull of something you probably couldn't do under normal circumstances. An excellent addition to the game!
  • With all of the details tied to the units themselves I think this edition is really going to reward the player who seriously digs down into his army and learns all about each individual unit and how they work in groups. Those of us who like to jump around to different armies are never going to know our force as well as the die-hard player who focuses on that one single army. That's probably how it should be. 
There's a ton more for us to learn so I'm going to leave it right there for now. I will definitely have more to post on this over the coming months!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Throwback Run - 5th Edition Keep on the Borderlands



Over the weekend - in a break from the 40K mania - I ran my first game of 5th edition D&D. I've played it - once - but I have not run it and after talking to some of my group I've been feeling like I should give it another chance. We decided to keep it simple: first level, basic dungeon crawl type situation.

Now this all came about in less than a week so I did not go off and hand-craft something. I went full retro: Keep on the Borderlands. This is the first adventure I ever ran for other people, 30-something years ago, and it's been a few years since I last touched it. We tried it during the Next playtest and the Apprentices gave up on it after some lethal encounters and went back to 4E & Pathfinder. I hoped this time would be different.

I was serious about the retro - we used old-school character sheets, rolled for ability scores instead of using points, and made them by hand - no Hero Lab or other tool here. Pencils, paper, and dice only!


Character generation took a while even with the simpler system. First, only one player has really spent time playing 5th (with another group) so it was all new. Second everyone made two characters - with 3 players and a new system I figured it would give us a better feel for the game once we got going. The good news is that it wasn't mechanical complexity, nor was it resource scarcity as we had 3 copies of the PHB at the table, plus the Basic PDFs on everyone's phones. It was trying to decide what cool option they wanted to try, which is one of the best reasons for taking extra time to create characters.

We ended up with 2 fighters, a barbarian, a cleric, a wizard, and a rogue. All human except for one dragonborn fighter and the half-orc barbarian.

We ended up running through a chunk of the goblin and hobgoblin caves which is kind of funny as that's where the Apprentices went first a few years back when they played it. No one died this time! The game played quick enough that I am optimistic we could accomplish quite a bit once we have some more experience. I temper that a bit though as 3E, 4E, and Pathfinder all play fast at low levels too. Time will tell. Everyone seemed pretty happy with it and I expect we will be continuing our explorations in the near future.

I'll put together some notes on what I'm doing later. I'm pretty much running it straight up as written so the encounters care nothing for CR or "balance". I may moderate that a bit later but I want to see how it works as-is for now.


Setting note: I agonized over the setting for a day or two and finally settled on Greyhawk. I figured that would complete the "old school" vibe I wanted and it's not like I don't have the material. The last time we played in Greyhawk was back in 3rd edition with Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil so it's had time to settle. I have high hopes that if this takes off we might end up with several parties running around doing the classic AD&D adventures and if so this is where I want to put them. I've placed several other low-level D&D and AD&D adventures in the area near the keep so I have a lot of places the PC's could go while still basing out of the keep. That should make it easier to mix and match characters regardless of who can play.

Yep, that one too

One of the reasons I took this approach is that there are some interesting coincidences happening right now.  It's the 40th anniversary of Star Wars. This year is the 30th anniversary of the original publication of Warhammer 40,000.  I am re-watching Star Trek the Next Generation with Apprentice Blaster, 30 years after it first aired. That's also the year I graduated high school, so there's another anniversary,  and he graduates this coming weekend.

All of the stuff that goes along with a kid finishing high school now had me thinking about my own end of high school & beginning of college that year and mixed in with that are some of those other hobby things. In 1987 we were playing AD&D like veteran pros along with a bunch of other RPG's and besides  ASL, Battletech, and Star Fleet Battles we were just getting started with this awesome new Warhammer spin-off with space marines and orks with guns!

Maybe even that one as well

With all of the excitement going on with the new 40K that releases in a few weeks I've spent a fair amount of time looking at a lot of my old stuff from rulebooks to campaign notes to armies. With a growing interest in 5th edition I've been looking through that old stuff and considering what I have not done.There are a lot of old adventures that I've never run for my regular players, core touchstones for older players like me (and like some of them), stuff I have probably been through 5 or 10 or 20 times and I feel like that's a miss on my part. Instead of running a bunch of newer stuff why not run the old stuff in a modern system that is retro-friendly?

Deadlands and M&M are still part of the plan but there may be room for a 3rd game on a "whenever we can get at least 2-3 people together" type schedule and this is it.

More to come!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Brief RPG Interlude Amongst All the 40K: A Less Interruptible Campaign




With May's usual schedule chaos wreaking havoc on my plans I've been trying to come up with a plan for another game that's not dependent on a specific set of players being available. Originally that was supposed to be the Freedom City M&M campaign but I optimistically started it off with a specific set of players in a set adventure with a defined and ongoing plot and then half of my players promptly became unavailable for 3 months! It's really not that long of an adventure but it's going to feel like it by the time we're done with it!

When you have a matrix of games to play based on who is available it's all good for a while but what do you do when none of those combinations are available for an extended period of time? Every single one of my players has had to cancel at least once in April and May! Well first you get frustrated, at least I do, vent about it to the wife and some friends, then you start figuring out Plans J thru M. Then I realized I might need to take a different approach.

A better answer here may be to set one of the games to "no specific players". That means any combination of players can show up and we can still run. It's not strictly open table as I am not really advertising it online or anything but it means I am not really looking to make sure players A, B, and C, are there before I can run. It's not heavily plotted  and it doesn't have big important story stuff tied to any one player character.  This is kind of what I originally envisioned the M&M game to be  but I had to go and complicate that by beginning with Time of Crisis instead of just running short adventures/encounters/episodes.

So what am I contemplating?

  • Set that first weekend back up as the "M&M Open Campaign" set in Freedom City. Sure, we have a group of characters stuck in another dimension averting a universal crisis but this is like when the Justice League is off fighting on some other planet but the same month's issue of Superman has him stopping a bank robbery in Metropolis. Comic time is fluid, right? The plot or story here is a group of heroes doing stuff in a comic book city, not the story of any one individual.
  • Same concept as above but go even simpler and use something like ICONS, BASH, or Supers so people can jump right in even if they have to make a new hero on the spot. 
  • Set a 5th edition D&D game in a ruined city of some kind and let the PC's form their own adventuring bands each session. This would look something like my 4E Ruins of Adventure campaign where I tried to keep individual adventures short enough to only last one session. It didn't always work but it might be easier to pull off with the shorter combat in the new edition.  Frostgrave is a concept I am interested in, or the classic ruined jungle city infested with snakemen - there are a lot of ways this could go. The "story" in this case is the exploration and possible plundering/conquest of the area.

The key thing here, regardless of the actual game, is to try and keep things episodic and not end sessions in the middle of a fight or a plot complication. This does limit some of what I can do but not as much as you might think. Longer plots or adventures just get broken up into separate chunks that are not tied to specific characters. if there is a group identity like the Justice League or the crew of the Enterprise or the Company of the Black Mace then it gets pretty east to stick factional reputations and grudges to the group and not to a character so things still feel personal while not being dependent on Captain Zoom being present for every session. 

There will also be no big adventure path type scenarios used - this will all be shorter stuff. They have a place for sure, but I am tired of trying to make them fit our group with all of our scheduling issues. 

Anyway that's the new plan for the summer. I'm hoping to get together with at least some of the group this weekend and nail some of this down - and maybe even get in a game.

Friday, May 19, 2017

40k Friday - Orks 8th Edition Prep




With 8th edition about a month away and the radical changes it seems to be bringing I am scrambling to get some of the armies updated/expanded/finished. I'm making this post to mark where the army is right now and what I am thinking as I work on it - partly to force myself to think through it as I put it down and partly as a historical document so a year from now I can come back and either  rejoice in my amazing foresight or wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Today - Orks!

Now I haven't played my orks in quite a while and there are a few reasons for that. I dove into the Eldar, Chaos, and Blood Angels for the past couple of years, Apprentice Red plays orks quite a bit so I try not to step on his toes, and frankly, that last codex (2014) just didn't seem to really fit how orks have played for most of the history of the game. The rules seemed like a bad fit and ork lists full of boyz became about as common as chaos marine lists full of Chaos Space Marines. Plus it was just less fun to play with changes to mob rule and deffrollas and how instead of breaking the "must have bikes" and "must have lootas" meta that had been around for years the last codex amped it up and added "must have tankbustas" to the list. There was a brief period where the very orky green tide formation was a hit but that disappeared too.

With a new edition and a complete reboot coming though, that should change! So what do I need to do? Let me run down what I already have and then talk about what I want to add or modify for 8th edition.



The core of my force is 100 Goff Slugga Boyz in 5 units of 20 orks each plus a nob for each one of those mobs. Typically these are mounted in Battlewagons. These are led by a mob of 10 Nobz and a Warboss in another Battlewagon or a Trukk depending on points and force org slots. This is the heart of the army.

Backing this up is a unit of 3 lobbas, a mob of 20-something grots, a mob of 20 Kommandos (who often end up playing as Shoota Boyz), a unit of 3 rokkit buggies, a unit of big shoota buggies, and various HQ units like painboyz and weridboyz and the like.

This is usually enough for most games. I like having a bunch of orks charging forward in armored vehicles then bailing out to assault the enemy. I can (and have) played it as a foot list too so there are some options even with just this chunk of the force.

When I first put these guys together years ago my concept was a Goff warband accompanied by some Evil Sunz / Kult of Speed types for the fun of it. The easiest way to tell which was which is the paint job - black stuff is Goff, red stuff is Kult of Speed. As I rework this for 8th I want to get back into a structure where this makes sense.

Goffs

  • 100 boyz (2E starter set goff boyz)
  • 10 nobz (2E metal skarboyz)
  • 10 meganobz (RT/2E orks in power armor)
  • 5 battlewagons (4 custom conversions + 1 different custom conversion)
  • 25 grots (2E starter set gretchin)
  • 2 trukks (old Gorka-Morka style trukks upgraded in various ways)
  • 20 shoota boyz (2E metal Blood Axe boys)
  • 3 wartrakks (that same plastic kit that's been around since Gorka-Morka but with custom crew)
  • 3 lobbas (2E Pulsa-Rokkits)
  • 20 kommandos (2E Blood Axe Kommandos)
  • 10 tankbustas (2E metal Snake Bite Boyz + 2E metal Death Skull Boyz)
  • 10 lootas (2E metal Goff boyz w/old metal Deffguns and RT/2E plastic plasma cannons) 
Kult of Speed
  • Battlewagon (old Armorcast Battlewagon)
  • 20 shoota boyz (2E metal Evil Sunz boyz)
  • 6 warbuggies (RT metal buggies)
  • 2 skorchas (RT metal skorchas)
  • Mek in mega armor (2E mega armor nob)
  • Mek with shokk attack gun (RT shokk attack gun)
  • Dakkajet (current kit)
  • Bommer (current kit)

The idea is that the red force is mostly lighter faster units that can be taken when I feel the need. Plus it lets me paint something besides black for a change. Collecting orks for as long as I have also means that I have a pretty big pile of un-allocated and un-painted stuff too. At least another 60+ of the old plastic grots, a bunch of metal grots, 20 more plastic RT orks, a mob of madboyz,  a squad of boarboyz, a half-converted trukk, another 20 goff boyz - just a lot of stuff in the ork box that says "hey do something interesting with me" whenever I look in there.  Top of the list is converting some old plastic terminators into mega-nobz.


The biggest "uncommitted" unit I have is a group of ten killa kans and a pair of deff dreads. None of them are the current kit of course. I have 3 built from scratch years ago and used in many battles since, 6 RT ork dreadnoughts, and one 2E ork dreadnought. The dreads are Org Atrocitors from Demonblade which at the time were really big and beefy but they look a little small next to the current monster that is the plastic ork dread. I'm thinking about putting Goff bosspoles on all of them and just making them part of that force. They're a mish-mash of paint jobs so it's not like they look like a unified unit anyway. I need to finish these guys up for 8th for sure.

Now you would think a big pile of goff orks plus a smaller extra force would be plenty but you might also note that a lot of that stuff is pretty old. I'm kind of missing the chance to play with the current ork range. I don't really want to mix styles too much so I am thinking about adding a third element here of all new stuff and painting it as Bad Moonz. It's not like I don't know yellow! I don't have a particular plan for this group other than picking an choosing the current stuff I like the best - a battlewagon, a dread, maybe some big gunz, all alongside some of the newer style boyz. Like my Iyanden Eldar this would be a fresh start/new style units only force - the older stuff can stay with the first two groups.



Future Plans

  • Stormboyz! The one ork infantry unit I really do not have and the one I really want to add on. "Jump pack orks" is a recipe for fun in games and I do need to add some soon.
  • I do like the current ork dread and I am hoping the new rules will make it worthy of its ferocious look. Need to get one.
  • One more jet painted up in Goff colors. Mine are not and that's why they're in with team red but I would like one for the boyz in black.
  • I should probably look at Ghazgkull at some point too - Goffs and all that.
  • Gorkanaut/Morkanaut! I thought the models were great and then I saw the rules and they were terrible. With the new edition hope is renewed and a big centerpiece model is definitely something I "need". In fact I may "need" 2 or 3 of them before I am done.
  • Stompa! If we're talking about big centerpiece models, well, this is the big one for the orks. It's definitely on the list.
I definitely feel like I have enough of the regular ork units  - I am really only looking for the big centerpiece type models at this point. I'd like to spend the rest of this year finishing up the two forces I have and save the Bad Moonz expansion for next year's ork project. Even that's true to the fluff, right? As the Waagh grows more and more clans and units join in!

One obvious thing that's missing here is bikes. Everybody takes bikes in their ork army, mainly because they're one of the few units that's actually been effective for the last few editions and codexes. I don't hate them or anything but I don't think every single ork army should be centered around them so I do my part to even that out. I may add some someday but they're not even on the list right now. 

Unlike my Marine and Eldar armies I'm not feeling the need to add a bunch of character types. There are not that many named ork special characters anyway and they don't have those unusual types like the Avatar or the Sanguinor either.



Looking at 8th

When the edition comes out there are some specific things I want to try. A whole bunch of boyz on foot - does it work? How about boyz in Battlewagons? Trukk mobz? How are the psykers? How about a kan wall type list? With Apprentice Red also playing orks we should have the opportunity to try out a multitude of possible combinations and I am really looking forward to it.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

40k Thursday - Blood Angels 8th Edition Prep




With 8th edition about a month away and the radical changes it seems to be bringing I am scrambling to get some of the armies updated/expanded/finished. I'm making this post to mark where the army is right now and what I am thinking as I work on it - partly to force myself to think through it as I put it down and partly as a historical document so a year from now I can come back and either  rejoice in my amazing foresight or wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Today: The Blood Angels

I've been working on these guys a fair amount since the Holiday Battles and I've made some tweaks to my initial plan for them. The general plan before was to  have everything pretty much in either a drop pod or wearing a jump pack - this was going to be the high-mobility rapid strike army. It still is, only moreso.

With the change to the twin-link rule Razorbacks got a lot more attractive. Blood Angels have had the "overcharged engines" rule for a few editions now which makes them fast vehicles. I'm assuming some form of this will carry over to the new edition. Combine this with my belief that BA tactical squads sitting still or hoofing it across the board on foot is just not how they should operate. Mix in the freeing up of 3 Razorbacks from the Dark Angel shutdown and you have my new approach.

That rule change also made Baal predators quite a bit more interesting so ... I picked up two more of those over the weekend. They're covered by the "overcharged" rule too. I didn't intend to make the BA's a tank army but they are looking a little tanky these days. If I go with the twin-linked assault canon option on the Razorbacks that would let me put 12 assault cannons on the field with just this part of the force!

I may add two more drop pods too, taking those up to seven. MSU man!




So the revised force looks something like this:

  • HQ: Mephiston, another librarian, various Priests and chaplains as needed. Dante when it's time to get really mean.
  • Troops: 3 tactical squads in Razorbacks. My thinking right now is 5-man squads with a multi-melta, maybe one with a heavy bolter.  One big tac squad with maximum flamers in a drop pod. Also a pair of 5-man melee scout squads infiltrated up somewhere interesting. 
  • Elite: 20 Death Company, Lemartes, and a bunch of Dreadnoughts, two of which should be in pods. A Command squad for Mephiston, and a Sternguard squad for another drop pod. 
  • Fast Attack: 2x Grav bike squads, 3 speeders, and a bunch of assault squads
  • Heavy Support: 2x Baal Predators, 3x Devastator squads
So on the ground we would have 3 Razorbacks w/Tacs, 3 Baal Preds, a pair of Scout squads, and maybe some Devastator marines.  Maybe a Dreadnought too. Oh and 20+ Death company led by Dante and Lemartes, along with however many Assault squads I can fit in.

From the skies we would have Mephiston and the Command squad, a Sternguard squad, two Furioso dreads, and either my Maximum Melta Assult squad or a Maximum Flamer Tac squad. 

There's just a lot of fun ways to build and use this force so I am really looking forward to it. Meph and his bodyguard could go in a Razorback. The devastators could go in one too - or in a drop pod! Adding the Razorbacks makes my tac marines more interesting to play and puts more threats on the board which should make life easier for the drop pod troops.  



Future Acquisitions? Well I'm not feeling too much of a lack here but there are a couple of things on the list:
  • Finish the Terminators. I have a shooty squad and an assault squad. At some point I will want to field them.
  • Sanguinary Guard - someday! Just not right now as I have plenty to do here.
  • 10 more Death Company troops - because why not? There may be some kind of bonus for bigger unit sizes and that's only going to make them nastier.
  • "Fast Vindicators" - Again, I don't really need a tank army here but these would be cool.
  • With the new edition I am even looking at The Sanguinor! Why not see if he can do something here.

That's it for the Blood Angels! More to come later! 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

40k Wednesday - Iyanden Eldar 8th Edition Prep




With 8th edition about a month away and the radical changes it seems to be bringing I am scrambling to get some of the armies updated/expanded/finished. I'm making this post to mark where the army is right now and what I am thinking as I work on it - partly to force myself to think through it as I put it down and partly as a historical document so a year from now I can come back and either  rejoice in my amazing foresight or wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Today, let's talk Eldar.

There's not much left to add to the Wraith Force after the Year of the Eldar wrap-up. I mean, there are plenty of things I could add but I am not feeling like there are big gaps here.That said, a new edition is a new reason to look at some new options.

The core of the army is as follows:

  • Wraith Host - Wraithknight, 3x Wraithguard squads, 1 Wraithblade squad, 2x Wraithlords, Spiritseer
  • Dire Avengers - 3x ten-man squads with exarchs
  • Dark Reapers - 3x six-man squads with exarchs 
  • Vaul's Wrath 3-gun battery 

There are other pieces available but those are the things I tend to build an army around. Options:

  • Wave Serpents - I have two painted and two waiting. I'd like to mobilize my Dire Avengers so I ordered one more of the flying tanks and plan to paint the three unfinished ones to look like a squadron. I figure the other two may be hauling wraithguard or some other squad as needed. Also, wave serpents got a lot nastier with the change to twin-linked weapons. You mean my armored transport vehicle gets two bright lance shots now? Or 8 scatter laser shots? OK!
  • I have 3 squads of Reapers - why not get their Phoenix Lord? I mean, we've been promised they will be good, and with the new way characters work I suspect there will be a lot of interesting options with these guys. I found one online with a paint job I can work with and now Maugan Ra's on the way. 
  • Assuming most of my wraiths are advancing on foot, what's another unit that would complement them ... tough ... walking ... how about an Avatar? Found a metal one still in a blister and it's on the way now too. 
  • Finally, what's a fluffy character choice for an Iyanden army? Pretty much the only named Iyanden character in the codex? One so terrible I've never seen him on a tabletop in person or online ever? Why yes it's ... Prince Yriel of Iyanden! Found a nicely painted one and ordered him as well. I'm doing some bargain-hunting right now looking for character models in particular that have been terrible and adding them to my armies on the assumption that they will not be terrible with the reboot. 
I didn't totally miss adding to the backlog here - one of the goals - but one avatar and one more wave serpent is not too much work. Considering what they may add to the army I will take the risk. I'm not going to go overboard on the avatar's paint as I suspect he's due for a replacement in the next wave of eldar model updates - maybe next year? We will see. 



Top Remaining Opportunities:
  • I also have 3 units of Dire Avengers so Asurmen seems like an obvious pick-up. I'm looking, it's just tricky to find one that hasn't been mangled somehow that the owner doesn't consider a family heirloom - based on the price anyway. I'm sure one will come along.
  • Howling Banshees - I'd like to add 5 or 10 but I'm not seeing painted ones that I like at a price I also like and I'm hesitant to add another unpainted squad. 
  • Warp Spiders - I think that for me these are now on the "wait and hope there's an Eldar model update in the near future" list. I've never been a huge fan of the models even when they were new so I think I will skip them for now. 
  • Flyers - keeping an eye open. The Wraithfighter is very much an Iyanden thing so I will get one eventually. I'm just not sure it will be before the new edition drops. I'd kind of like to see the rules too. 
  • A second Wraithknight? Maybe. I'd like to finish more of the in-progress stuff here first but if I find a painted one then things might change.

Stuff already in the backlog:
  • I picked up a painted 3-man jetbike unit a while back. I just need to add the shuriken cannon to them and they should be good to go.
  • I am also working on the Wraithseer as well - finally! Forgeworld stuff is all supposed to have updated specs as well right from launch so why not?
  • War Walkers - they sit half-painted and waiting
  • Vypers - they also sit partly painted and waiting
  • Guardians - 30+ guardians and the associated weapon platforms and Warlocks. This is probably next year's Eldar project. 



Future Plans:
  • I love the concept of Shining Spears but the rules haven't matched up in a long time and I suspect the models are due for replacement here too. On that same list as the Warp Spiders. 
  • I would like to add two more Falcon tanks at some point and have a squadron of three as an option. With a 2-3 Serpent backlog though it just does not seem like the best time to make this move. 
  • Fire Prisms - probably, but not right now.


There's the thinking for the Eldar army right now. More to come!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

40K Tuesday - Crimson Fists 8th Edition Prep



With 8th edition about a month away and the radical changes it seems to be bringing I am scrambling to get some of the armies updated/expanded/finished. I'm making this post to mark where the army is right now and what I am thinking as I work on it - partly to force myself to think through it as I put it down and partly as a historical document so a year from now I can come back and either  rejoice in my amazing foresight or wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Today: The Crimson Fists

I haven't posted about these guys in a long time - looks like 3 years! I may have only fielded them one time since then too, so they've been idle a lot. That will be changing soon! Current force:

  • HQ: Chapter Master Pedro Kantor, various chaplians, librarians, and captains (usually in a Razorback)
  • Troops: 3 Tactical squads in Rhinos
  • Elites: Dreadnought
  • Fast Attack: Land Speeder
  • Heavy Support: 3x Predator tanks, Vindicator, Whirlwind
OK that's the finished stuff. 

In the backlog and adopted from the Dark Angels division shutdown:
  • 3-4 Dreadnoughts
  • 5-15 Terminators
  • 3 Land Speeder typhoons
  • 10 Sternguard marines
  • Missile Launcher Devastators, Plasma Cannon Devastators, Heavy Bolter Devastators
  • 3 Attack Bikes
  • A 5-man Assault squad
  • 2x 5-man Scout squads
  • A ten-man Tac squad
  • 3x Drop Pods
  • Land Raider Crusader

Some of these are more "done" than others and many are put-together enough to use in a battle but they are not finished yet.



Let's talk army approach here. My wish is for this to be a mechanized army where nobody walks but the dreadnoughts. The basic theory is that it's an armored column of space marines. They advance to contact, spread out, and call in drop pod support. The idea is to crush the enemy between the two elements.  The Rhinos and tanks are the core with the scouts and bikes doing recon as the speeders patrol around the column and the dreadnoughts are a walking close escort.

Structure-wise 3 full tac squads and two scout squads is 5 troop units. The new extra squad needs a ride of some kind - probably a Razorback - and presto! Six troop elements! That means I have the core for a really big force.

I already have all of this stuff, so what else did I need to pick up?

  • I grabbed more sternguard. I will have 20 altogether and I am planning for them to take two of the three drop pods. I'm not sure just yet how I will divide them up. I may have 5 of them escort Kantor in the Razorback or that might be a Command squad. Regardless that gives me 2-4 squads of them to field. 
  • I picked up multi-meltas for the attack bikes. I'm thinking about magnetizing these to have both the MM and Heavy Bolter options.
That's really it. I didn't need much to finish out the "acquisitions phase" for this army. For the future I'd like to add another Razorback or two, another Vindicator or two, and a flyer.



If you read the other post this week about the Iron Warriors you may notice some similarities.  That's not entirely by accident. I like tanks and vehicles so I tend to pick them up for whatever army. My thinking here is that the core of both forces is similar - Rhinos, Predators, grunt marines, and dreadnoughts. The IW's have that plus the "Chaos Stuff - Daemon princes, Spawn, Possessed, etc. The Fists will have Sternguard, Drop Pods, Speeders, and Scouts. So while the core is the same, the "Extra" is different for both. Hopefully I can learn about those core elements using either army. 

I am really looking forward to getting these guys back in to action. More to come!

Monday, May 15, 2017

40K Monday - Iron Warriors 8th Edition Prep



With 8th edition about a month away and the radical changes it seems to be bringing I am scrambling to get some of the armies updated/expanded/finished. I'm making this post to mark where the army is right now and what I am thinking as I work on it - partly to force myself to think through it as I put it down and partly as a historical document so a year from now I can come back and either  rejoice in my amazing foresight or wonder what the hell I was thinking.

On to the Iron Warriors! I expect this to be my main chaos army for the beginning of 8th. I do have a Death Guard force I've been building for years but I've put them on the back burner in the run-up to the launch. I want the IW's to have a lot of flexibility so I'm not locked in to playing the same force over and over. It started out as CSM's in Rhinos with the dreadnought drop team as a fun extra element. Now it's turning into a pretty sizable force. First, the concept:

The theme for this army is that of an Iron Warriors Company where the original commander has ascended to daemonhood but still wants to run his company and fight his war. He has a command staff (see below) that have responsibilities to the unit but it is still "his" company and he still runs it like a military unit for the most part. His basic approach is to pound things with the big guns from range as the troops close in and then finish the job in close assault with bolt pistols, chainswords, and flamers. Surprise deep-striking elements will ensure the transports reach their destination. 

I still need to give the prince a name. The terminators will have a named leader and will be a sub-group called the "Iron Knights". The bikers may get an identity of their own as well. Yes, this is all fluff stuff but it helps me give the army an identity beyond "the force I put together for this battle" and it helps us come up with little stories as a fight develops and rivalries emerge.

On to the army:

  • HQ
    • Daemon Prince (done)
    • Warpsmith (done)
    • Bike Hero (in progress)
    • Power armor double power fist Hero (done)
    • Dark Vengeance Chaos Lord (in progress)
I figure that's enough for now. The bike hero was originally intended to be a sorcerer on  a bike integrated with a CSM biker squad. I'll probably still go that direction but make him generic enough that he could be used as a non-psyker too. The power armor guy I've used as a lord in several battles. he has two of those pointy chaos power fists so I treated him as a fist + claw guy. Claw = open hand sweep, Fist = closed fist punch. That's how it works in my head anyway. he's done but I should really give him a cape or something to make him stand out a little more. I have no idea if that whole specialist weapon rule will show up in 8th but regardless he looks cool so I'm keeping him.


  • Troops
    • 3x ten-man Chaos Space Marine squads in Rhinos (done)
I am considering a fourth squad as three troop units is potentially a limiting factor. Right now three is the minimum for a "battalion" sized formation in the new game and to get to a "brigade" you need six! I am not taking cultists in this army so unless something new shows up it's going to be CSM's all the way. I could break some of them into smaller units to make six but right now I like the resilience of a ten man squad for my core units. I have options to give these squads either double flamer or double plasma. If they get new options I'll look at those too but their main job is to kill other infantry.


  • Elites
    • Helbrute with Plasma Cannon and Power Claw (done)
    • 3x Helbrutes with Multi-Melta's and Power Fists (done)
    • 5-man Chosen squad with Melta Guns in a Rhino (in progress)
    • Ten-man Possessed squad in a Rhino (in progress)
    • 2x five-man Chaos Terminator squads in a Land Raider (in progress) 
The brutes are all ready to go - hopefully there will be a way to drop them on people's heads in this version too. 

The chosen are pretty close to finished as of today as is their ride. 

The possessed ... well ... while they are not highly regarded in a typical CSM army today I am hoping they become something useful in the new edition. They are cool models and a cool concept that have been gathering dust for most players for 2-3 editions at least. I like to think of them as the CSM version of the Death Company - too far gone to act normally so they get locked up somewhere until the next battle when they can be unleashed on an enemy to benefit the legion - and hopefully die in the process. 

The big change here is terminators + land raider. With the news on the change to twin-linked weapons I got a whole lot more interested in the traditional "godhammer" land raider so I ordered one for the IW's. Then the question is "what to put in it"? At first I was just going to go put the possessed here but I got to looking at my old metal chaos terminators and decided the IW's needed some terminators too. One squad can ride in the Raider and one can deep strike, or both could deep strike and the possessed could still ride in it. It's good to have options.

  • Fast Attack
    • Heldrake (done)
    • Six-man Chaos Marine Bike squad (in progress)
    • Five-beast Chaos Spawn squad (done)

  Nothing new here - this has been the plan for some time now.  The Spawn are an expendible fast assault unit, the bikes will target something important and remove it, and the heldrake flames whatever needs to die. I just need to finish the bikes.


  • Heavy Support
    • Havoc squad with 4 Autocannons (done)
    • Havoc squad with 4 Missile Launchers (in progress)
    • 3x Chaos Predators (just about done!)
    • 8x Obliterators (5 done, 3 in progress)
Not too many changes here but I did bump the Predators up to a 3-tank platoon. That's one triple-lascannon predator (is that technically a quad-las now?) and two autocannon/lascannon tanks. I worked on these over the weekend and they should be finished tonight if I get a little time to wrap them up. I'm pretty happy with the way they came out and I'll show them off with the rest of the army in a week or two. 

Note on Transports: I'm painting six Rhinos for the Iron Warriors and I have plans for five. I'm not sure who will be riding in the sixth. If I do build that 4th CSM squad it will be them. I'm considering a 2nd Chosen squad so it could be them. I could split the possessed into two 5-man squads and give them both rides. Regardless, I have some flexibility here. 


Future Plans
  • Add 3 more CSM squads and transports for them to use - bump things up to maximum size! I have all of the other requirements already. Might use some MkIII/MkIV Heresy models.
  • Add 3 Vindicators - I am trying to make it my tank army so ...
  • Add a second Land Raider  - hey, if they're good why not?
  • Add a second Heldrake - all the formations show two flyer slots so why not have two?
That's where the Chaos Marine army stands for now. More to come.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Writing Games Without Playing Games




I was listening to a podcast the other day. One that I like and listen to regularly which has a recurring cast for most discussions along with a guest or two. The guests are often on to talk about a new product they have created. That was the case here and it was all fine until the crew asked the guest if he would return to run a session of the new game he was promoting. Suddenly it got all awkward and he sort of laughed and said no, because he hadn't run a game in at least ten years!

A guy ... writing an RPG and promoting it on a podcast ... who hasn't run a game in a decade?

He actually said "We get too busy writing to play" - No. That's not acceptable. Why on earth would I buy a game from someone who can't even be bothered to run it themselves?!

Apparently he's working with other people to make the game which is based on a book series he's writing which is inspired by his love of superhero tabletop RPG's - presumably from before he started writing books.

Now it's acknowledged on the show that it's a common problem with game writers and I have heard that before. "Oh we're so busy" - bullshit. I have 4 kids with all of the usual activities , a full time job that shoots significantly over the 40 hour per week standard, a wife with the same kind of work scenario, and all of the usual adult responsibilities. We still manage to find time to play boardgames, RPG's, miniatures, go to movies and concerts, watch a little TV, and enjoy a few other hobbies as well. Maybe not as much as we like  but we still somehow manage to do these things. I'm not one of those "oh I'm so busy" martyr types that love to humble brag and that's why I don't talk about it much here - I assume everyone is fairly busy. If you're going to throw it out there as this kind of excuse, well, it's B.S. as I said above.

So no, if you wanted to find time to play games, even as a busy game designer, you would find the time.

You know what I think it is? I think you've turned "game night" into "work" and so ruined one of your hobbies. You have a hard time playing for fun now because it starts to feel like work. That's a shame.

I think they should put a warning label on games like this:

"This game was a 'labor of love' by the writer. This means it soaked up all of his free time and thus was not playtested at all."

Even playing it during "work" counts - at least you were playing it and presumably someone else was too.

Writers need editors. Game Writers need editors and they also need players - players beating on their design to see if it makes sense to someone living outside the author's head! I've had some problems with Paizo these last few months but at least I hear them talking about their lunchtime games and other games where they are playing the stuff they're working on! I may have questions about how much playtesting those Pathfinder AP's get but they do get something and the people working there do seem to play Pathfinder and other games. The Savage Rifts guys were going around playing test games at cons and in private before finalizing the design. WOTC's podcasts and articles tell us what they are playing as well.

How much is enough? I don't know exactly, but for a typical adventure I'd like to see at least three different groups try them out. Not a bunch of people that all know each other either - one in New York, one in Texas, and one in California would do quite nicely. Europe, Asia, and members of the military would be great too. I would think that three would find the worst misses and loopholes and unanswered questions. For a game system I think a lot more would be needed - Pathfinder and 5E both went with the open playtest and I think it yielded incredibly strong results, both in actual mechanical results and in setting expectations. Hopefully the new Trek game is benefiting from their big playtest too.

Additionally, I'd like to see game writers and designers playing games other than their own. It's amazing how narrow a perspective can develop from only playing one game. I see it on message boards all the time and have for years. People asking a question about a new game that clearly indicates all they've ever played is a particular game, likely a specific edition of a particular game. The fun part is when they realize that not every RPG has classes and levels. Or a percentile skill system. or uses a dice pool. Or that cards may be involved in some way. That "oh" moment is a great one. It's good to know there is more than one way to do something. It's not just an RPG thing. You see it a lot in the miniatures scene too, usually when a 40K player encounters a different style of miniatures game.

To wrap up - if you write games but do not play or run games, and I know this, I am automatically less interested in your stuff than I was. Are you writing a book or are you writing a game? If you're writing a game that is meant to be played by a group of humans then you need to be playing it. Having a good idea isn't enough. Play it! Run it! Polish it! Refine it! Make it something we can actually use and not just read. Because if you can't be bothered to play it, why should I?