Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Escalation League, Round 4: The Road Ahead

Now that I'm back on track with the whole "having fun" thing, modelling has reentered the picture! Let's take a look at what I have in store for me to finish:

First up is my new Hellhound. This thing has already earned it's place in the list a ton of times over (though it doesn't seem to want to come in from reserve...) and I'll definitely have to do a right up of how awesome it is at some point. For now though, he needs more than a base color. I need to come up with a paint scheme for him (something in between my Leman Russes and the Chimeras) as well as an appropriate name. If you have any Euchre or other card game names that would sound good, let me know!

Speaking of Russes, this one needs a small change. I want to saw off the lascannon and magnetize it and a heavy bolter so that I can switch them out.

The Astropath here has seen better days- the spade and club on his staff have fallen off and will need to be prepared. And Clubs-King Heinrich's command squad needs to be fully modeled and painted up... more meltaguns for me!

This is the model that I am going to be using as my Al'Rahem counts-as, Hearts-Queen Catherine "Kitty" Carde. She was a metal Imperial Guard model given to me by a friend, and her paint scheme matched mine quite nicely. She had a lasgun, though, instead of Al'Rahem's plasma pistol, so I filed and sawed away at it until it went bye-bye. She needs some new paint and some conversion work to get into shape.

Last but certainly not least is my Harker counts-as, Sam "Sandbagger" McCurt. This fellow came from Heresy Miniatures when I bought the Doctor and Master figs for my girlfriend. I swapped out the minigun for a heavy bolter and need to work on an ammo belt to reach to his backpack. I also need to model cloaks for his squad as I intend on using them as forward sentries vets as well as his Catachan Devils Fortunan Sandbaggers.

That's what I've got- stay tune to see how all of these projects turn out!

Monday, March 29, 2010

40k THOUGHT: Analysis of a Competitive-Casual Gamer

The past couple of weeks have not been terribly good ones for the hobby. My latest round of Escalation Leaguing left me with no need to model anything new and not a whole lot of enjoyment tactically either. It got to the point where I actually began to dread coming to the store as I simply disliked the list that I was stuck with. When this lead to me losing a game simply based on mental fatigue, I knew that a change was in store.

I had been trying to do "competitive" lists based on the most competitive things in my collection- my Valkyries, Chimeras and other tanks. But this MechVets approach didn't work with the things that I find most enjoyable about the game- namely, reserving everything and striking at you from all sides. And the lack of any modeling work to do sucked any impetus that I had built up to sit down with my supplies and create something.

Image used without permission from Wizards of the Coast

This necessitated a bit of self reflection as to why I play games at all. I'm what you might call a "casual-competitive" type of gamer. Back when I played Magic my friends and I actually believed that buying singles (or buying individual cards as opposed to simply buying packs of random cards) was a heinous sin- your collection, like it or not, was filled with all of the random things that you opened. This, combined with a healthy amount of trading, allowed us to have an artificial limitation on how good a deck could be, as we all had the same problem, namely limited selection. You might have a couple of copies of the super broken rare but having four of them (the maximum number of a single card in a deck) was almost unheard of. These powerful cards became legends in their own right, and we would dread the moment that the Super Card would rise to the top of the opponent's deck. And if you did somehow have four of them, you likely traded other equally powerful cards to get them, keeping the balance.

Now while these decks weren't as good as the decks being played in competitive magic, we were still trying our damnedest to beat the competition. The limited card pool forced us to adapt, find cool new synergies between cards of radically different sets and find the one broken combo that would grant us victory... at least until the other players cottoned on and adapted. Much like the trials of Hive Fleet Gorgon we had to adapt regularly to get around opponent's familiarity with our decks and pull out a win.

During college I received four of a kind of a powerful Soldier Lord (a card that benefits other Soldier creatures in my deck) as a birthday present and quickly added it into my Soldier deck. It wasn't the best deck in the world before, but I managed to pull out a regular win with it thanks to the rampant, at times tenuous synergy between the individually underpowered cards. With the addition of the Lords it became unbeatable- I smashed face with it again and again and again. Soon after I retired the Lords and went back to the old deck.

The reason I did that was because I now had an unfair advantage- a significant part of my deck was no longer out of the randomized chaos of packs and that, combined with the power of the Lords with the rest of my soldiers made it too good. Now of course if I had somehow managed to pull these Lords out of packs the same thing could have happened, but it would have felt different. I probably would have had to trade cards of similar power to get all four, ensuring that we all had relatively similar power levels in our card pools. And, because I wasn't having fun with this advantage, I decided to take out the cards that I had been pining over for months to restore balance and tactical enjoyment to the game

As you might have guessed, my feelings about the Air Cav style lists are similar. While I won't say that they were unbeatable super lists (I went 1-4 last round and 2-1-1 the round before) I felt terrible playing them. When I won, I felt like I was beating up on a little kid with all of my lascannons and cheaty super-fast transports. And when I lost, I felt like the dice gods had cheated me out of victory or that I was too wool-headed to see the obvious way that I could have won.

Now, I don't want to turn this into a listhammer rant or a decrying of the competitive sphere- I fully appreciate what those guys are doing and I can definitely see myself gearing up for something like that in the next couple of years. After all, I didn't have anything against netdeckers when I played Magic or against the tourney scene- that's just another arena with fewer unspoken rules. I just know that for me the joy in playing this or any other game is to take a step off the beaten path and play in a style that has me coming from an unexpected corner... which in the case of my Al'Rahem list is rather literal half the time :) I think that I kind of have the feel that the stalwart Silent Requiem over on B&C has for his Grey Knights- it's not the "best" list but it plays to what I know and love to do.

That's my idea of "competitive casual"- willing to throw plenty of tactical acumen into the field while still holding to the unspoken gentlemen's agreement of a fair chance at victory. Now, this is not to say that I will intentionally make bad lists- I'll just try to stay away from dark avenues of unfun power. I'm sure there will be a time when I head off to tourneys and have to tool up to do so, but for now I am fine with my friendly local metagame.

So, for round 3, it's back to my roots with a slight new twist thanks to some new toys that I have. There'll be a fair bit of conversion work for this round, but thankfully they've extended it to a third week, meaning that I'll hopefully have time to finish it all.

Next time, a look at the work that I have set before me. Until then, take a look at your recent games and think about what makes it fun for you.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Escalation League, Round 3: The List

Round 3 of the Escalation League is upon me, so I've worked up what I think is my final list. As I mentioned, the 3 Valkyries was a little back breaking so, despite my having gotten re-addicted to fast durable transports I have stripped out the Valkyrie and added some other stars to my list.

Instead of merely listing my... well, list, I'll go over my choices for each part. My goal for this list in comparison with my 750 was to increase overall durability. The Air Cav, while fast and very killy, required lucky rolls to pull off a victory and could easily be taken out of commission in one turn of good anti-tank shooting.


Company Command Squad, 3 meltaguns, carapace armor, power fist, meltabombs

This squad is designed to take out heavy armor or monstrous creatures. They'll be riding in a Vendetta and, if I get first turn, will try to alpha strike to eliminate a deadly target right off the bat. They will try for targets that they can at least try to best in CC or ones that will go up like tinder in front of the meltaguns. A particular one that I want to pit them against are Long Fangs, as a combination of Fire On My Target! and the powerfist should cream those Missile Launcher toting jerks.

A question I was wrestling with was whether or not to include an Astropath. In the end I decided that I would not be using reserves as much with this list, so the extra 30 pts went into beefing up the kill potential of the squad and the list.

Psyker Primaris, Vet Squad with Grenade Launchers, Autocannon, Chimera with HB/ML

I just love the Psyker too much to take him out right now. This unit will be light anti-tank and anti-infantry by pouring out a good number of shots at range and a truly punishing amount of fire at close quarters, all from the safety of front armor 12. I debated upgrading the Autocannon to a Missile Launcher, but decided that two shots would be better than the one better shot over all.

2 Vendettas with standard armament

I decided to take out the Valkyrie as the Vendettas are just too good to remove. A vet squad with flamers will hide out in one to perform counter charge while the command squad will be in the other, hopefully to use it as a 1st turn strike platform or as another anti-tank option when it gets shaken.

Taking out the Heavy Bolter sponsons was a measure I took to ensure that the list didn't completely collapse when I lost a Vendetta. It's still a serious setback, but not nearly as back breaking as it was with my 750 list.

Leman Russ Eradicator, Heavy Bolter

This is the decision that I have been struggling on all week, and one that I am still not sure on. It was either this or the standard Battle Tank with a Lascannon. The Eradicator has a Str 6 AP 4 cover ignoring large blast, great for taking out horde armies, while the Battle Tank has a Str 8 AP 3 large blast, great for taking out Marines and ID-ing Tyranid Warriors. In the end I decided that the Eradicator was the better of my choices as it grants dramatically increased effectiveness against the majority of my opponents. While it is not nearly as good vs Marines it will still wound them on 2s, so hopefully that will be good enough. We'll see if my choice proves fruitful.

The Heavy Bolter was chosen to go along with the range of the Eradicator Nova Cannon, and the fact that I don't want this thing anywhere NEAR close combat.

Veteran Squad with meltaguns, Chimera with ML and HF

To round out the list, some heavy anti-tank and a nice metal box to get them there. I voted these boys in the Chimera instead of the Command Squad because they can shoot at (relatively) maximum effectiveness from inside the Box while the CCS needs to get out to use orders on itself.


So, that's the list. Battles will begin happening on Saturday, but I may try to do some testing of the list tonight.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Escalation League, Round 2: Battle Report vs Space Wolves

Another 750 pt battle, this time against the Space Wolves. Enjoy!

As always, comments and criticisms are appreciated.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Escalation League, Round 2: Battle Report and Pics

We've got a 750 battle report of my IG Air Cav vs Warrior heavy Nids for you, as well as some pictures of my trio of finished Valkyries that you can see below my report. Enjoy!

The Inquisitorial J of the Black Jacks
I can differentiate between the Valkyries based on the color of the screens shining on the pilots:


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reserves Interference: A New Trend?

While I think about what to put in my 1k list for the tournament, my brain has been grabbed by all of the hooplah surrounding the Blood Angels rumors. Like many people I downloaded the now apparently fake 'dex that was hanging out on Scribd and read through it with a discerning eye. Some things looked really cool for weird reasons (devastators with Astartes Grenade Launchers? Yes please!) but some other things spoke to interesting new trends that I can see GW furthering in each new codex. In particular, Reserves Interference.

Having not played before 5th ed, I hear that in earlier editions of the game reserves were not a core part of the battlefield. Many missions did not include reserves as an option, so building your force to take advantage of reserves could be a dicey proposition depending on which mission you rolled up. But now in 5th ed, reserving all of one's forces has become a common tactic. I use this liberally, especially with my "I come at you from ALL sides!" IG lists featuring deep striking Stormtroopers, Outflanking infantry squads and Lumbering Behemoth'd Battle Tanks rumbling out from reserves, all thanks to the Astropath's chicanery. Even back when I was playing Eldar and still learning the system I played a lot with the reserves games, especially for a brutal series of introductory games at 2k vs Daemons (note: do NOT have new players play game after game against a Daemons player, especially when neither of you know the rules very well. Ow.)

But something from the "leaked" BA dex caught my eye- Dante's "Seen It All" ability. For those without the 'dex, it basically allows him to roll a d6 plus leadership against the enemy commander for each enemy unit held in reserve. For each one that Dante wins, the formerly reserved unit is forced to deploy on the field with the rest of the army. For armies that are built on reserving everything, this ability can be devastating... especially if your commander has a low Ld. stat.

But then I got to thinking about the other 5th ed codexes and realized that this was merely the latest part in a growing trend- ALL of the 5th ed 'dexes (except Space Marines, as always with these trends) have some form of reserves interference available to them. IG have the Master of the Fleet which adds 1 to the number needed to get enemy reserves onto the table, Wolves have (to some extent) the Rune Priest with Chooser of the Slain and Tempest's Wrath, and the Tyranids have the Parasite of Mortrex which impregnates outflanking models with Rippers.

I think that this is a good trend for the game, as as a user of the All Reserves tactic I can say that it can lead to degenerate situations. It also helps add some more "realistic" influence to the game, as the battlefield in 40k is supposed to be a skirmish rather than the full extent of the war. It only makes sense that armies would have some way of influencing the outcomes of battles this small. It also helps firmly plant armies in a 5th edition mind set- if reserves and Outflanking are part of the game, then by God everyone should have a hand in affecting them. An army that doesn't make use of every way to harry the enemy just doesn't make sense.

So, generals- what do you think of this trend, and how do you think it would be best extended to the non-5th ed armies in their inevitable updates?

Image on top taken without permission from

*EDIT* Switched from Reserves Denial to Reserves Interference- thanks sonsoftaurus!