Sunday, May 9, 2010

REVIEW: The Dornian Heresy, Volume 1

 I'm a big fan of alternate histories. Whether it be If the South Had Won the Civil War, What If Hitler Had Died Before Invading Russia, What If Persia Had Conquered Greece and a thousand other scenarios, I've read them all and loved them. The question of What If... has always sparked the tiny historian in me, as it mixes two of my favorite topics- ripple effects and fantasy.

 Dorn, The Arch-Betrayer

So that's why I was excited to hear that Bolter and Chainsword just released their first e-document, and it's focused on a really cool and interesting topic: the Alternate Heresy. Their premise is simple- what would have happened if the loyalist and traitor legions had switched places? From this simple question the writers have created a series of Index Astartes articles on the whys, wheres and hows of this alternate reality... and it's both very different and very familiar to the Grim Darkness that we are used to.

First, the production values on the 82 page document are top notch. If you've already read the IA articles on some of the alternate legions you're still in for a treat with amazing artwork, extra quotes and more information about the legions spoiled already. The artwork stretches across a variety of styles, from cartoony to line drawings to frankly spectacular works of art that easily rival anything that Games Workshop has produced.

As for the storyline, I would compare it to the works of Harry Turtledove. Now, I'm a huge Turtledove fan, but he's got a few key memes running in his alternate worlds. While the names and tools used to create the history are different, oftentimes the exact same scenarios play out as they did in our history, just with different means and sometimes different ends. This is often the case in the Alternate Heresy. Certain key events replay themselves almost word for word- the Istvaan Drop-Site Massacre and the Burning of Prospero being the two primary events guilty of this sin. Even then, though, they lead to widely different outcomes and are engaged for interestingly changed reasons, making them fun to read about.

There is also the case that names that we have in our continuity seemingly force their way into the alternate history, often rather clumsily. I would have personally wished that ideas like the Black Legion and Black Templars had stayed out of it and new names taken their place, but that might just be me. And of course there are the seemingly necessary asides where the primarchs, marines and other characters wonder what would have happened had they not made such-and-such a choice... but really, in an alternate history work these memes are to be expected and chuckled with rather than at.

Each Legion gets a picture of its version of marine... sometimes VERY different from what we see in the Codex: Astartes

Each of the different legions get their own article, and each article is written mostly from their point of view by a limited omniscient 3rd person narrator. This is key, as it allows the reader to better understand why the legion made the choices that it did. Often the catalyzing change from "real" history is slight- the primarch grows up in a different population or makes a different choice than in our continuity. The great thing is that most of the time this change makes sense given the circumstances. They also often follow many of the arguments that people have made to show how the Emperor could have stopped the Heresy... and often lead to the other legions turning traitor instead. There is a clunker or two that have little justification given what we know about the primarch (*cough* WORLD EATERS *cough*), but overall I like how they handled things. To add some depth to the legions there are numerous quotes and asides in each article from simple marines, the primarchs themselves, and others who offer useful insights to private moments, the legion's attitudes and other fluffy tidbits.

There are still many questions left unanswered, such as the specific reasons that Dorn turned to chaos, why Horus is such a chump in this reality, and really anything about the Death Guard and a few other legions as they seem to be mostly missing from history... but I hope that's just because this is only the first half and that these questions will answer themselves when the other legions get their IA articles.

Overall I would definitely recommend downloading the pdf and giving it a read. I personally read straight through once I got it and loved most of it. If nothing else it will give you some great conversion ideas, like Slaaneshi White Scars or the faceless loyalist Thousand Sons. Hats off to all who helped put the articles together- it's definitely a good one, so go and download it today!

All images belong to Bolter and Chainsword and are used without permission.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

BATTLE REPORT: 1500 vs Tyranids

A little while ago I had a battle against the other DH on this site and his vile gribblies. This is my first report using Vassal, so I hope you enjoy!

My list:
CCS, 2 plasmaguns, 1 meltagun, plasma pistol, medic, astropath, Chimera with HF/ML
Veteran Squad, Sgt. Harker, 3 Grenade Launchers, Autocannon
PCS, Al'Rahem, 4 meltaguns, Chimera with HF/ML
Infantry Squad, flamer, power sword, Commissar with power sword
Infantry Squad, flamer, power sword, meltabomb
Infantry Squad, flamer, power sword, meltabomb
Special Weapon Squad, 3 flamers
Special Weapon Squad, 1 flamer, 2 demo charges
Hellhound, Multimelta
Leman Russ Battle Tank, Heavy Bolter

His list:
Tyranid Prime, Bone swords, Death spitter
3 Warriors, 2 death spitters, 1 barbed strangler
3 Warriors, 2 death spitters, 1 barbed strangler
8 Genestealers
8 Genestealers, broodlord
2 Zoanthropes, mycetic spore
2 Hive Guard
2 Hive Guard
Dakkafex, mycetic spore

Our mission was from the Dice Like Thunder standard missions. Basically there were three objectives, but only one of them was the "real" objective. When a scoring unit got within 3" of one of them, roll a die at the end of the movement phase. On a 5+ it is the "real" objective and the unit picks it up. Whoever controls the objective at the end of the game wins.

Deployment was also weird- basically we each got half the battlefield but split along the diagonal line. He got first turn, and we set up thusly:

I just became aware of INAT FAQs existence a few weeks ago, and although I find its ruling on the astropath needing to be on the board to improve reserves completely bull I decided to play along this game. I deployed the command chimera, Harker's squad and the Russ. He deployed everything except for the outflankers and deep strikers.

Turn 1a:
Warriors open up on Harker's squad, pinning the poor boys. His T-Fex fails to do anything... a hallmark of its time on the board. The bottom group of Warriors discover the real objective and huddle near it.

Turn 1b:
My commander yells at Harker's boys to Get Back In The Fight! Fire on the Warrior squad downs one and wounds a Hive Guard.

Turn 2a: Warriors fall back towards their fellows, the T-Fex moves into a better firing position, and the DS'ers DS near my boys. The Dakkafex guns down some more of Harker's boys, who go to ground. The Thropes shoot my chimera but one of them Perils and the other only manages to get a glance and shake it. His Broodlord led Stealers make an entrance stage left as well.

Turn 2b: The platoon, the Hellhound and one of my Vendettas come in. I flame the Stealers down to the broodlord while my CCS fries a Zoanthrope. I kill off one group of Hive Guard and continue to whittle down the Warrior squad's numbers.

Now, the astute among you might notice something here that is a bit... unusual. Here's an actual pic of the game for reference:

I have a platoon outflank and completely cover the board edge. The gribblies have some Genestealers that are outflanking. If he rolls for them to outflank on that board edge, can he? There is no room for him to place his models without being within 1" of the board edge. One of the store employees ruled that they would have to come on from the other side if they couldn't come on that side, as the only other option would be to have them destroyed. This is kind of a dick move on my part, but my opponent insisted that I do it because "it was awesome." Not sure what the answer is, so what do you think?

Anyway, turn 3a: The warriors continue to huddle/run while the Hive Guard tries to shoot the Vendetta (they fail). T-Fex tries to open Al'Rahem's Chimera, but is stymied by poor shooting and smoke. Fire from one of the Warrior squads manages to pin my platoon in place due to a single soldier's death. The broodlord took advantage of this distraction to try to hit Al'Rahem's Chimera, but it was driving too fast for him to do anything. The Thropes blow the Battle Cannon off of my Russ while the Dakkafex fails his Instinctive Behavior test and charges Harker's squad... but fails to kill anything, resulting in tied combat. His second group of 'Stealers is forced to come on from the right edge due to my outflanking picket line, and proceed to vent their frustration by slaughtering my command squad to a man.

Turn 3b: My second Vendetta makes its entrance, and fire from both of them and Al'Rahem pour into the Hive Guard and Warriors. The little gribblies stuck to what cover they could and, combined with the Guard's legendary ability to miss, managed to make it out relatively unscathed. My chimera on the right flank tried to flame the 'Stealers to death in retribution for my commander's demise, but somehow failed to wound 9 times. Maybe these gribblies were flame retardant?

Turn 4a: Fearful of my onslaught and determined not to let their prize fall into my clutches, the Nids charged forwards. The Broodlord, Warrior squad and the T-Fex all shot at and charged Al'Rahem's chimera, but only managed to immobilize it and rip off the heavy flamer while shaking it all around. The one remaining Warrior with the Tyranid Prime charged my platoon, who managed to down the Warrior but failed to touch the Prime, despite the fact that they each only had 1 wound left. The Zoanthrope finally managed to down my Leman Russ, while the Dakkafex moved to have some impact on the left flank.

Turn 4b: Al'Rahem and her squad disembarked and, with the Vendettas, managed to kill a pair of Warriors. The platoon managed to down the Prime due to sheer weight of power weapon attacks and consolidated towards the objective holding Warrior.

Turn 5a: The Nids strike back with vengeance! My Hellhound is immobilized (or, at least I think it was this turn...) and one of my Vendettas is shaken by... Tyrannofex fire? Maybe? Sure. The Broodlord charges Al'Rahem and takes down 3 meltagunners. Al'Rahem swings her sword... and misses. But the lone remaining meltagunner heaves his weapon at the foul beast... and kills it! I guess it had been wounded by the flamers, as it only had one wound left.

Turn 5b: I charge forwards and slaughter the remaining Warrior and Hive Guard. But I fail to get within 3" of the objective in my movement phase, but fortunately the game continues!

Turn 6a: The T-Fex moves onto the objective in a desperate bid to keep me from taking it. He kills Al'Rahem for good measure.

Turn 6b: I shoot at the T-Fex with everything I have, but fail to kill it. I forget to not use my lasguns and assault the beast... and the game ends. Tie game.

This game was a lot of fun to play, and it was a lot of fun playing around with Vassal's special effects. The scale was a bit off throughout the game which was annoying, but oh well. Hope you enjoyed, and as always hope to hear your comments and criticisms.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


For my 100th post I thought that it would be appropriate to talk about theming an army... as if my army has anything, it's that. Now there are a couple of obvious ways to do this- choose an existing force, give them all the same paint job and intimidate your opponent through your conformity. There are a couple of benefits to this approach- people can guess what your army is easily if it's a canon approved force, and giving them all the same scheme makes it easy to tell which guys belong on which side of the field.

Unfortunately, I've got a bit of ADD kicking through my system and sticking to one scheme just won't do. But I want to make my army cohesive, so it needs to have something else sticking it together.

For me, it's my card theme. I absolutely love card playing and can be found most of the time with a deck of cards on my person or close at hand. So when I started this hobby just over a year ago I decided to go to one of my favorite card games for my inspiration for my new game. Each of my units would belong to a different suit of cards and have their number be their rank. Since I chose Euchre as my game of choice the numbering system became a bit easier, 9-Ace.

Squad/Platoon markings are on the left shoulder- Squad #, Suit, Rank

Now, I've talked about and shown my themes before, so I won't bore you with repeating it. What I want to talk about are the advantages, disadvantages and quirks of this particular method of theming. I won't say it's better or worse than any other theming system, just different. Which is what I like.

We'll start with the good. First of all, you will almost never be bored with your schemes, as you will always have another one to jump to. I began with Clubs, grew bored with the black and moved to Hearts. Then when I got bored with that I started kitbashing Cadians and Catachans into Diamonds and Spades, and they in turn demanded another paint scheme. Then my commanders needed their own, and the tanks couldn't follow suit that easily... at which point I was ready to paint some Clubs again.

 All of the suits together in my command squad. A different base rim color sets them apart and above.

Another good point is that it becomes very easy for you and your opponent to tell which unit does what without having to squint at what WYSIWYG weapon is on this or that squad. I can also do silly tricks like intermixing my squads to get communal cover saves and still be very easily able to tell which model belongs to which squad. And if there's no confusion, there's no arguments. And if there're no arguments, then you get to have fun!

Finally, it gives the army a very distinctive look. Most people go for variations on the same thing- different colored pants to differentiate squads but all have the same helmets/shoulderpads/carapace/etc. My force, with it's radically different paint schemes but completely focused theme, looks hodge podge at first but quickly makes sense as the import of the different suits sinks in. Plus the card theme (or whatever theme you choose, be it seasons, elements, etc.) gets people talking and makes sure that they remember it.

Now, there are some downsides. One thing that I've run into again and again is having troopers of the wrong suit sub into squads in order to make them WYSIWYG, or even be used for roles that I didn't intend for them. It's not that I don't have painted and assembled models... I just don't want to have a lone Hearts meltagunner slumming it with all of my Clubs troopers or a platoon squad acting like a Veteran when he knows that he can't shoot worth a damn. It doesn't look as pretty, which is really half the point of the theme.

I've run into this problem also with my intra-suit markings. Sometimes I really want the plasmagunner from a command squad to join his suit, but the gold band on his base spoils the image. I often just go through it anyway, but it still bugs me. A lot of this is simply due to the evolution of my list- my original markings just don't follow my current thought process. Fixable with a coat of paint or a less OCD viewpoint, but still harder to do than with a similarly painted force.

There has also been a cool, quirky result of this process: my army has developed back story and more depth to its theming. For example, the first models that I painted were in the Clubs paint scheme and happened to include a few heavy weapons teams. From this point they became the Heavy Weapons platoon, tasked with defending important locations and utilizing all of the hallmarks of Guard warfare- trenches, foxholes, and generally blasting away in the hope that the enemy will be dead before he reaches our lines.

But then I learned about Al'Rahem, and I happened to be painting Hearts at the time. They became the outflanking Recon Platoon, equipped for rapid warfare with their high level of special weapons and lack of heavy weapons. The theme then took another leap as I rationalized that they must have some kind of precognitive ability to know when and where to show up, leading to them becoming a suit known for its psykers. This led to my Psyker Primaris becoming the King of Hearts and my planned Psyker Battle Squad being the Jacks of the suit.

Diamonds and Spades started out on equal footing, but when I painted the Stormtroopers in Spades colors I knew that there would have to be a divergence. Spades are now either Stormies or stormies in training, while Diamonds have become devotees of the machine god. Now the army is neatly split in four- none of them can operate independently and require the specialties of the others to form a winning force... which is what the Guard is supposed to do anyway.

The theme bit continues with my basing. I don't do flocking or scenic basing because my Guardsmen are supposed to be expendable pawns. Giving them just a coat of paint and a suit symbol on their base reinforces the idea that they are game pieces, both in fluff and in life. No one will care if they die, or miss them when they are gone.

All of these choices and backstories were definitely not in mind when I started the army. It was simply the theme and my painting whims that built up the fluff and let it run free throughout my force.

So try this method out if you want a bit of an unusual theming method, as sometimes forcing a rigid theme can allow for some interesting, organic results both on and off the field.