Monday, 12 December 2011


Shhhh! You might spook it! Can you hear that skittering sound? Yes folks, that's right, it's the hobby bug. It's crawling out of it's hole for the first time in a few months. Maybe it's been hibernating? Maybe it's just been busy with it's little projects? Who knows? But frankly who cares, it's poking its head out into the world again and it's eager folks, it's eager to FEED.

That's kindof where I am at the moment with the whole GW hobby thing. For those not in a position to know, having a kid really takes it out of you, and when you combine that with a 60+hour week most weeks, it doesn't leave a lot of time for painting and modeling which makes me sad.

But Christmas is coming! And I'm assured of some nice new plastic crack to mess around with over the holiday season, so the bug is returning...

There are plenty of possible projects at the moment. I have an imperial city to finish as the folks over at Warseer keep reminding me, Dark Eldar and Blood Angels forces to work on, plenty of stuff for Force on Forcce and Napoleonics to keep me busy, and an Empire Army to put together.

I've been kept pretty busy this year away from GW - I worked out recently that I'd spent a little under £50 on GW stuff - that's at least ten times less than I normally would in a year. However, the lure of citadel models is just too great sometimes.

Sure, you can spend the same amount you would on a GW army on some other system and buy up pretty much everything for every possible army for that system, but GW models are just a league apart.

To this end, I should have some new GW stuff to show you soon.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A rant I just posted on Warseer

I'm not big on rants, and this wasn't meant to be one, but I guess it kindof just turned into one. Anyway, here it is in all it's glory. Perhaps it helps to explain why there has not been much 40k content here of late, although I expect I'll roll round to it again as time goes by.


I just finished adding up my total GW spending this year - it's showing some interesting trends, and I think it says something about GW's current business model - particularly the "lets keep upping the prices" and "lets not tell anyone what's coming" facets of what they've done recently.

Just to put you in the picture, I'm a GW "heavy user" to use the Mcdonalds term. For pretty much the last seven years I've purchased at least one new army each year, sometimes several. I have at least 2500 pts of each of the following:

Space Wolves
Blood Angels
Flesh Tearers
Black Templars
Dark Angels
Crimson Fists
Dark Eldar
Imperial Guard (4 distinct infantry-based forces, three of approx 2500 pts, and one of 6000, plus an Armoured Company with two Baneblades).

I also have a large Empire army (about 5000pts), and about 1500 pts each of Vampire Counts and High elves, and about 3000 pts each of Dwarves and Orcs+Gobbos.

Then there's the specialist games - I have a ton of stuff for each - plus loads of oop games stretching right back to the 1980s. In my loft I have an old Ultramarines army made up of RTB01 marines and original rhinos and Land Raiders. And Squats. Hell, I even have two box's worth of the original plastic citadel Daleks and Cybermen. I dread to think what my collection is worth.

To cut a long story short, it is not unusual for me to drop something close to a grand on GW products per year, when you add it all up, and I've been doing that year on year for at least the last seven, with plenty of (more sporadic) spending before that.

So what have I spent this year?

£25. The whole year.

Have I got tired of gaming? No. Hell no. Actually I've probably done more modelling and building this year than I have most years, one way or another. So where has my hard-earned been going?

Other games.

It's not that I've had a big strop at GW - quite the opposite. I'm still playing as much as I ever did - 40k mostly - and I've certainly not been ranting to anyone about how I'm giving up GW games for good or anything stupid like that. But I've hardly spent a penny this year on GW stuff, and until I sat down and thought about it for a few moments today, I didn't actually realise that had been the case.

So the question I'm asking myself now is: "Why?"

Like I said, I've got no axe to grind against GW - I love their games. But this year, I've just been more excited by other things.

I must confess I got a bit burned out on Dark Eldar around Christmas time (my last major GW purchases were a bunch of Dark Eldar just before Christmas) and then I had an extraordinarly busy spring work-wise, but then Salute rolled round.

I love Salute-  if you don't know it it's a big trade-show/gaming fair type thing at the Excel Centre in London every year. I usually go and I enjoy looking at all the cool models.

Well this year, I lingered around a bunch of 28mm plastic napoleonics for too long and got hooked. Before I knew it, I had somehow acquired a MASSIVE army of French and British, and it took me pretty much until the end of the Summer to get through painting them - in fact I still have a ton to paint, but I'm giving myself a break.

Then, in the autumn, I toyed with the idea of leaping back into bed with GW, but rumour-wise not a lot was going on with 40k (my main system) and the Fantasy re-boot had failed to grab me, so my eye roved elsewhere, and again before I knew what was happening I had a shiny new copy of "Force on Force", and a crap-ton of modern US Marines, British army and Afgan Taliban to paint, along with associated tanks, IFVs, soft-skins and helos.

So this year, rather than spend my hard-earned on two new GW armies, I've instead bought into two whole new games, and basically bought pretty much all the models I will ever need or want to play those games with, from the perspective of several different new armies.

And here's where it gets interesting (for me at least). All of that has cost me LESS that two new armies from GW would have done. I have basically bought two entire games systems with near-complete model ranges for more than one army in each, and the whole thing has cost me LESS than I would usually spend on GW models in a year.

So if I were GW what would I learn from this?

Lesson No.1: GW prides itself that they "make the best model soldiers in the world". If they are going to survive as a business they need to amend that. It ought to read that they "SELL the best model soldiers in the world". They can't do that, if people can't afford to buy them. End of.

If other manufacturers are SELLING their models so significantly cheaper that people can afford to buy a complete game system elsewhere for the same price as a single GW army, then GW will lose customers to other companies. Space Marines or no.

Lesson No.2: GW needs to excite their customers about their products in order to maintain their interest. I was mildly excited about Grey Knights, but I still had too many Dark Eldar unbuilt and unpainted to think about starting up with them. I'm not at all excited about Necrons, because I know next-to-nothing about what is coming. Had I know a good deal a month ago, I might have saved my purchasing for the Necron release. As it happens, I've gone elsewhere.

Lesson No. 3: 40k needs more love. Two army-remakes a year is not enough. I realise it's getting a new edition next year, which means more love, but it's their main system now and it doesn't have enough armies anymore. I've already bought a crap-ton of models for the armies that interest me - the others don't. Unless they bring out some NEW armies that interest me, I can get by with only a few purchases a year, assuming they're only going to release a few new models for my forces per year.

Lesson No. 4: Don't take your customers for granted. Sure, 40k is great universe to play in - so is Warhammer, but there are OTHER PLACES WE CAN PLAY. And they don't cost anything like as much. We all love 40k, but there comes a point where us "heavy users" can just shrug and say "I don't need to buy anything new to keep playing this. How do you like them apples GW?"
It feels real good to drop the sort of cash you'd usually spend on a new GW army and buy enough models for ALL THE ARMIES IN THE ENTIRE SYSTEM in one go. And still have some change.

And for those of you still reading (have a chocolate) you want to know what it was that cost me £25?

Draigo and Coateaz. In Finecast.

They are still unopened in the bag I brought them home in three weeks ago.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Modern Skirmishes

They got me
So I've been away for a while. Pretty much the whole of July and August actually. Very busy with work. However, I'm now back and gaming and blogging again.

In fact, just recently I picked up a copy of Force on Force by Ambush Alley games. Very impressed so far. I've heard some rumours about 6th edition 40k and how it may work, and if the new innovations work anything as well as Force on Force looks like it does, I'll be very impressed.

It also set me thinking in a new way about narrative gaming. Force on Force simulates modern-era engagements in two ways - symetric warfare (roughly equally matched regular-vs-regular force games), and asymmetric warfare (regular forces verses "insurgents").
beware genestealer insurgents
In 40k we mostly play out symetric battles - even when facing "horde" armies (such as orks and nids) both player's forces are finite, balanced and regarded as capable troops - even if the points values reflect a difference in quality.

Force on Force provides mechanisms for playing grossly unbalanced games whilst still keeping them fun and challenging for both sides. For a long time I've been weary of 40k's points-value-oriented play finding that it stifles innovation and the sort of narrative games I want to play. However, my (so far limited) experience of Force on Force has got me thinking about how one might simulate assymmetric warfare in a 40k environment outside of the tradition points value structure.

orky kill team ftw
The 4th edition version of Kill Team is probably the closest GW designers have come to doing this themselves (the version in the 4th edition rulebook, not the castrated version in Battle Missions), but it really only focussed on very small units, and made more logical sense for some races than others. I'm proposing to come up with a scenario that allows for assymetric warfare in the 41st millenium on a slightly larger scale.

Watch this space!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Napoleonic Conversion possibilities

It's amazing how quickly a new fad can take over.

Last time I posted I had just picked up my first boxes of plastic 28mm Napoleonics at Salute. Now, as I type, I'm about to go and paint another battalion of French light infantry, having amassed in the last month 8 battalions of French Light, 3 of French Line, 2 of French Dragoons... and that's just the French - I also have 4 battalions of British Line, 3 Highland Battalions, and a Battery of Artillery, plus two companies of Riflemen and one company of Brunswick Oels Jagers. I've also moved beyond Sharpe Practice to Black Powder, great game that it is.

Anyway, this being a 40k blog, I thought I'd share with you some of the conversion potential of these excellent plastic models made by three different manufacturers, and how they might slot into the grim darkness of the far future.

First a word about the manufacturers. The three companies that I've bought from are Hat, Perry Miniatures, and Victrix - all of whom have websites where you can check out their stuff (for Hat, google Hat industrie)

The first thing to notice about these models is that they are much closer to true-scale and further from the 40k heroic scale that exaggerates the sizes of hands, limbs, weapons and heads. However, some are more truescale than others.
Perry Miniatures British Line infantry
On balance, my favourites are the Perry miniatures models - aside from being finely detailed they feel sturdy and are easy to assemble whilst also being sufficiently complex to support a wide variety of poses. They also rank up easily. Of course, there is also something familiar about the style, and I guess its hardly surprising that quality models will come from such talented and experienced GW sculptors.

Coming a close second are the Victrix sculpts which are extremely detailed - if anything perhaps moreso than the Perry models. However, the plastic quality doesn't seem to be quite as good - they are significantly more brittle (I broke several bayonets in handling - not so with the Perry sculpts) and there are many more assembly options - some with very fiddly parts which can make assembly a headache. However, the superfluity of parts might suit GW gamers looking for conversion opportunities, so this is also a plus.

Finally there are the Hat models. I have to say I am underwhelmed by their offerings. Of the three manufacturers they are probably the most 'truescale', but this turns out not to be a great thing. Aside from being a bit slighter than the other manufacterers models, the detail is also not as crisp and easily obscured in painting. Also, the plastic quality is TERRIBLE. check out the sample below.

Hat French light infantry

 Their one saving grace is that they are cheap (roughly £10 for a box of 30-odd). They also do some units that other manufacturers don't, which is also a bonus, and they are quick to put together (most models are two-piece man and backpack affairs). If you're looking for conversion bits though, don't bother with these, you won't get any, and they will look diddy-small alongside 40k models.

For a size comparison see below.

Perry on the Left, Hat in the middle, Victrix on the right.
 Victrix and Perry models are fine to mix in the same unit, but the Hat guys are a little to slight for that, although they look ok on the tabletop in their own units alongside the other two manufacterers. The photo above, in my opinion, really makes the Hat model look bad. I thought it was the blue plastic doing it, so I sprayed the hat model with primer and retook it.

This makes it look a lot better somehow, and I'm pleased to say that some of the boxes of Hat models I bought had grey plastic sprues instead. You can see the detail on the Hat model a bit better here. It is there, but as I said before easily obscured in painting. While I'm clearly not a fan of Hat's offerings in comparison to those of Perry and Victrix, I did go ahead and buy about 8 boxes, so I was content enough to want to field several Battalions of Hat models alongside those of other manufacterers.

So how does this all mash-up with 40k? Well I'm a keen guard player, and I like the idea of having a guard army with napoleonic-style uniforms. Perhaps led by a flashy looking Rogue Trader? Sort of like the East India company in space. So can you mix these parts with 40k models?

Well, not easily. The Truescale vs Heroic scale thing screws you at every turn. Arms won't swap without looking stupid, bodyshapes look all wrong, weapons are too large/small, the list goes on. I'll spare you photos of these horrific abortions, but you can see them other places on the internet if your google-fu is good.

Basically there are only two realistic ways of making things work

1) Use these models pretty much as-is, with perhaps some slight and basic conversion work on the weapons to make muskets look more like Lasguns.

2) Stick the heads on your guardsmen. They'll look at bit small, but the huge Cadian shoulderpads will cover that up somewhat.

That's basically your choices right there as far as I see them. If anyone comes up with anything better, be sure to let me know.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Salute 2011 review

Imperial Stormtroopers patrol on one of the GW tables
As I mentioned in my last post, I recently went to Salute - a huge wargaming convention that takes place every year in Central London, run by the wargaming group the South London Warlords.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, Salute is massive - it's one of the biggest, if not the biggest annual wargames shows in the whole of the UK, and I've been a regular attender for the last few years.

In fact, Salute has been going for years, and was the very first wargames show I ever attended back in the day (aged about 14 or 15)

and Ultramarines exiting a drop pod - also a GW table
It was Salute that first introduced me properly to historical wargaming, having previously been solely a 40k gamer - and it was at Salute many moons ago that I bought my first 6mm Napoleonic models from a little company called Adler (still going strong) along with Sapherson's book Peninsular Armies, which has been a goldmine of information for painting napoleonics ever since. Back then "In the Grand Manner" was the flavour of the month rules-wise, but I digress.
A refight of Pearl Harbour - from the air. Homebrew rules I think.
 I took an extended hobby break in the late 90s/early noughties, which ended a few years back with the advent of 4th edition 40k and a box of Cadians, soon to be followed by a return to historical gaming in the form of the excellent Flames of War, but it wasn't till this year's Salute that I took the plung back into Napoleonic wargaming again, this time in the form of 28mm plastic from the Perry twins and Victrix. More about them in a bit.

The same Pearl Harbour board from a different angle
 Salute is always an excellent show, but this year's offering was particularly superb. It's a wonderful showcase for innovative games, tables and models, like this beautiful weird-history Pearl Harbour refight - and I always come away inspired to try something new, either new models or new table inspiration - there's plenty of stuff to stir the hobby juices, and mine really needed stirring this year. In addition, I had a beautiful new camera to try out - hence all the awesome pics.

The harbour itself.
 There's always so much to see at Salute that it always manages to make the all-day event seem short. My usual thing is to go once right round the whole hall and take in everything at a glance, to get a feel for where the stalls are with the bargains, and to make sure I've seen all the gaming tables at least once. Then I make some decisions about what I want to buy and go back to the vendors with the best deals. With the best will in the world, that pretty much takes the whole day.

An awesome looking modern-warfare game
 It's also a real effort not to spend a ton of cash, since it's pretty much the only time in the year that I get to browse the wares of some of the small vendors that get stalls there, and there's always so much cool stuff to see. Of course, you can always buy from them online, but nothing beats seeing the models up-close and personal rather than in an image on a screen.

As usual there was a ton of tempting stuff, and I was looking for something to give me a break from all the 40k modelling I've been doing of late.

The Evil Mastermind HQ complete with shark tank.
This year there were plenty of games that hooked my attention. For a start there was the game pictured opposite - I forget the title but it was a cult-tv themed skirmish game that looked a lot of fun, with enough leeway in the rules to allow you to recreate situations from pretty much any cult tv show. The table they featured though seemed to owe a lot to James Bond films.

Is that a missile in your silo or are you just pleased to see me?
This got me thinking about skirmish games, which I love but haven't played for quite a while - my last outing being the Wild West rules produced by Warhammer Historical. Then I came across the actor who played Harris in the excellent TV Series Sharpe (he had a stall there) and that sent me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

I started hunting around for some decent Napoleonic Skirmish rules. Having done this online once, but not taken the plunge, I had a fair idea of what I was looking for, and it didn't take me long to find Sharpe Practice - by TooFatLardies, a very well-regarded set of Napoleonic Skirmish rules with a distinct Sharpe flavour.

One of the Perry Brothers manning his stall in person.
My only task then was to find some models to go with the rules. 

I'd read a fair bit about the new(ish) 28mm plastics for the napoleonic era back when they first came out, and was impressed by both the Perry Twins offerings and the Victrix models so I decided to take the plunge and got a set of both. I've been beavering away painting so I'll probably post some pics soon - but in turn that got me thinking.

A Cestus Assault Ram at the Forge World stand

While I love historical wargaming I'll always been primarily a 40k gamer, and the 28mm models produced by the Perrys and Victrix are pretty close to GW's "Heroic" scale models. Being an avid guard collector, what were the conversion possibilites of these new napoleonic models? Guardsmen with Shakos maybe? Yes please.

Can't remember the name of this vehicle, but it's a troop transport.
I'm still enjoying my hobby break at the moment, painting up some napoleonic figures and playing "Sharpe Practice", but when I'm done with that you can be sure I'll be crawling back to 40k again, and when I do expect to see some interesting conversions. I'm already thinking through my long-held dream of building a proper Rogue Trader army (probably counts-as IG) with a Napoleonic flavour - Rogue Traders in sashes and bicorns anyone? We'll see.

A special forces themed modern game in progress
After making my purchases I went back to take another look at some of the more interesting stalls and tables. Some interesting things I noticed: -

 GW's presence was pretty thin this year. Last year they had a proper GW stand with plenty of tables and stock - pretty much none of which sold because of the presence of other retailers selling their products at a hefty discount. This year their approach seemed to be to only bring stuff that other people couldn't sell - in practice this meant Forgeworld and the Black Library with new releases.

A fairground! Awesome.
Several other products seemed to be enjoying a significant increase in popularity. Dystopian Wars seemed to be everywhere, as did Infinity. There was an absolutely stunning futuristic table which was present last year and made a return this year which I took about a million photos of. It was so stunning I'm going to do a seperate post about it at some point in the future. Seeing it tempted me seriously towards trying Infinity, but on reflection I realised I mainly wanted to play on that board and, not owning it or having the time/resources to build something similar, I was better off taking my hobby break elsewhere.

Hey, this table uses the same base-boards as me! I think mine looks better though.
 Finally this year caused me to reflect on how far my own hobby skills have come. Previously at Salute I was always wowed by the tables there and wished I could do something similar. This year for the first time I honestly felt my recent efforts at city-building wouldn't have looked out of place amongst some of the other tables at the show - a nice warm-glow-creating realisation if ever there was one.

Congratulations folks for making it to the end. Sorry it's been a bit of a ramble - hope you've enjoyed the pics though. If you're UK-based and have not been to Salute before, seriously consider it for next year. I think the provisional date is April 12th... put it in your diary just in case!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Macro Madness

I've recently invested in a new DSLR (a Canon 7d for those interested) and one of my first purchases for it has been a macro lens so that I can take some nicer pictures of my models.

 A flesh tearers death company dread, advancing up the street
A building complete with poster

An Arvus Lighter flying high above the city. 

 These are just some test shots I took a while back. I'm still getting used to the camera, so please forgive any dodgy shots. I also took it to Salute the other week and took a whole bunch of pics of all the cool tables there. When I've had a chance to sift through the shots I'll post some.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Grey Knights

Sorry about the lack of updates the last month - work has kept me extremely busy. I've had a little time for hobby, but not loads - mostly been spent painting and building Dark Eldar, but more on that another time.
Codex Grey Knights, in all it's glory

Today I wanted to take a look at the new Grey Knight codex from a fluff-oriented gamer's perspective. We've heard a lot about the various strengths and weaknesses of the codex, and plenty of speculation on what might make good competitive builds, as one might expect, but the Codex GKs also has some interesting options for more fluffy players like myself.

Firstly, it's a great counts-as codex. And I'm not thinking about this from 'how do I squeeze more l33t out of my chaos models' perspective, but rather from a 'what cool looking force can I build that isn't covered by other dexes' point of view.

Many people were bemoaning the shift from an =I= focus in this new codex - the fear being that the =I= would take a back seat at best, but I've actually been quite impressed with the implementation so far. Sure, you can no longer abuse the allies system to make an uber-build of doom, but I find the inquisition sections open up plenty of possibilities for characterful armies using the henchman warband and Coateaz.

Orange furry alien Oblits, basically
There are so many options here, you could pretty much build an army just using Coateaz and this one force org entry. Crusaders to hold the line, Warrior Acolytes for some cheap firepower (I'm thinking of using my Necromunda Enforcer models as Arbite Acolytes), some Jokaero's for Heavy Weapon support, and a unit of Arco Flagellants for counter assault. Sure, there are more competitive lists out there, but the option to build an ad-hoc militia force is finally here - something I've been wanting for a long time.

In a week or so I'll be playing a scenario with a friend of mine based around the defence of a world caught unawares. I'll be using a small force of Dark Eldar, against a large civilian militia. We were struggling to find rules to represent the militia, but these will work great.

The other thing I love about this codex is the option for armies with a really tiny model-count. 2 wound 2++ terminators with feel no pain that count as troops mean you can risk a really small force and still have a decent chance of success. When I finally get around to actually getting some Grey Knights, this is probably the way I will go. 12 man army anyone?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Fluff gamers vs Competitive gamers - a BOLS editorial response

A nearly-finished Dark Angels Dread
that was sitting on my desk.

BigRed just posted an editorial on BOLS which makes interesting reading - you can get to it here:

It makes interesting reading, and the message seems to be 'lets all just get along' which I heartily endorse, but I do feel the analysis is somewhat lacking. Interestingly, I was in the middle of writing a piece for this blog about the same subject, so I've folded that material into my response which I'm posting here for your perusal.

I'd be interested to hear what people think on the matter...


Dreamwarder's Response.

I strongly agree with the sentiment, but strongly disagree with the analysis. I would guess Kahoolin is a 'strategist' from reading this, since he doesn't really adequately represent the thought processes of the 're-enactor' (terrible name), at least not as I understand it.

Firstly, calling fluffy gamers 're-enactors' only serves to make them seem more stupid. How can you 're-enact' in a science fiction wargame? Or a fantasy wargame for that matter?

A better term would be 'storytellers' - as it's the story of the game that is more important to fluffy gamers. This doesn't mean they are any more or less strategically adept in their playing than a 'strategist', it just means that telling a good story is more important to them than winning.

My 1st Edition hardback Rogue Trader.
Hands off. 
You can try and make a link with RPG gaming if you like, but that would be as fatuous as saying that all 'strategy' gamers take their inspiration from CCG gaming. Sure, some might, but it is by no means the sole influence. Local play style is probably just as important, as is the context in which one was introduced to the game in the first place.

I played Rogue Trader when it first came out and loved it, but not because of any percieved RPG elements, but rather because it was a wacky skirmish game with good battle-simulation rules. The detail was impressive, and allowed for a style of cinematic storytelling through wargaming that was reminiscent of playing with star wars figures, only with RULES and DICE (bear in mind I was 11 at the time).

As 40k has matured, it's scale has grown and with it the rules have streamlined. It's now a fully fleged wargame rather than a skirmish game, and with that some of the detail has eroded, but it has still retained its 'cinematic' feel for me, and when I play some part of me that is still 11 years old rejoices.

The Realm of Chaos books owed a lot to
RPGs (and John Blanche's odd mind)
When you look at how 40k is played by the designers and their mates you can still see this strong influence of narrative gaming which has very little to do with RPGs but a lot to do with enjoying the story told by beautifully painted models and scenery - it enables the gamer to fully visualise their fantasy world and immerse themselves in it. As I've grown older my painting and modelling skills have improved along with my terrain making. My friends and I are now in our thirties so we don't have the overactive imaginations our 11 year old selves had, but we have awesome looking models and terrain to help get us back to that place of creating great stories with our games.

Contrast this with what seems to be the norm on the American wargaming scene where you see a very different sort of play-style. Lots of in-store gaming with frankly pretty basic terrain and a focus on 'net-list' driven min-max style gaming that takes its cue from games such as Magic the Gathering. The focus is on beating the other player rather than enjoying the ride, and who can argue with that since the ride is nowhere near as pretty, at least when compared with the gaming tables of the Perry Twins where Jervis gets to play most of his games.

The 40k Compendium. Arguably the first step
on the road to codex books, army lists and
'game balance' - such as it is.
When I started in the hobby, I was still at school, and GW's in the UK didn't have great facilities for in-store gaming, plus they discouraged kids my age. Then the 90s came along and kids were actively encouraged, but I still played most of my games with friends at their houses. We weren't great with the rules and 40k and Fantasy were the first wargames we had ever played, but we loved fighting battles with our spess mahrines.

Contrast this with the introduction to the hobby of most American gamers, the bulk of whom seem to have got into the games in adulthood, and have transferred from other games (such as Magic-the-Gathering-type CCGs) As Kids growing up in the UK there was a strong element of 'playing with star wars figures' in how we shaped our battles, we just got to roll dice to decide who died. For US gamers coming to 40k fresh from CCGs, competition is everything, and finding a kickass combo of units that no-one else has spotted is the heart and soul of the game.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I can understand how these two very different styles of play have polarised, and why a highly competitive style of play is more dominant 'across the pond', or why a more fluffy style is more dominant in the UK (particularly amongst GW designers) but I don't think you can break down the difference in play-styles to the lone factor of 'some wargamers like to RPG it a bit' - there are many factors that have influenced the way the game is played, and I think the trans-atlantic divide has created a disproportionate focus in the states (and consequently online) on the competitive side of the game, which has led many US-based critics to lambast the GW designers for not playing (and designing) the game 'their way'.

Personally, I hope the GW designers never change. If you want a well-balanced, tightly written competitive wargame then go for warmachine or hordes, but if your inner 11 year-old wants to play at star-wars figures again, then the privateer games just won't cut the mustard. You'll need to go to good ole' 40k.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Cities of Death Closeups #2: The Promethium Refinery

 The Promethium Refinery was one of the first ruins I constructed for the city. The inspiration was quite simple - I'd picked up a chemical plant kit from the platformer range, and I was looking for an opportunity to use some of the bits. They mix very well with the GW building kits - particularly the AdMech building, as you can see below.

Again, this ruin could be used to represent a standard Cities of Death Strategem (fuel dump would be the obvious choice) but there are many more interesting ways to use it in spicing up a game.

For a start, fuel is pretty explosive as we all know, and anyone who was anywhere near the Buncefield fuel depot in North London when it blew up in 2005 will remember the magnitude of the explosion. Perhaps centering a massive explosion on the ruin when it gets turned to rubble by siege shells and the like might provide some fun? Particularly if one were to combine such a dangerous possibility with making the ruin a key objective, or perhaps placing a retrievable objective inside it (think capture the flag). For a suitable sized explosion, the apocalypse rules might provide something, or failing that the deathstrike missile explosion rules could be used.

One could also make the ruin particulary volatile, giving any weapons fire of any magnitude that traces its LOS through the ruin the possibility of touching off a big bang (any to hit roll of 1 on a shot that passes through the ruin causes a bang might be one way).

Indeed, an entire scenario can be built around the Promethium refinery which can provide for some interesting gaming opportunities. For example:

Battle for the Refinery

Agree points value and choose forces as normal - this could be a Cities of Death battle (using terrain similar to the above) or the refinery could be in a rural or other remote area. Regardless, set up the terrain as you see fit with the refinery in the middle.

Roll off. The winner places a single objective marker somewhere within the building footprint of the refinery. This could be a simple 40k green plastic flag, or a specially modelled objective marker (an injured soldier would work well), or whatever you commonly use to mark objectives.

Choose deployment type and deploy accordingly.
This is an objective mission with a twist. The winner is the player holding the objective at the end of the game, but the objective can be moved by any unit that is able to claim it (ie a scoring unit in range with no enemy units contesting). In order to pick up the objective, the player declares that he is doing so, and places the objective on a model in the claiming unit (assuming they meet the conditions to claim it). From that point on the unit is considered to be carrying the objective and it will travel with the model that is carrying it until the controlling player declares he is putting it down. A unit carrying a objective can behave normally in every way except one - they are unable to initiate assaults (although they can fight as normal if assaulted). All models in the unit behave as normal except the model carrying the objective who is unable to shoot and in close combat will only fight with one attack at the strength on his profile. If the model carrying the objective is killed he drops it where he fell, although if the unit is not locked in combat or falling back another model may immediately pick up the objective (just transfer it to that model). The unit will also drop the objective if they break and fall back at any time.

The game lasts 5 turns. Whoever controls the objective at the end of the game is the winner. If it is contested at the end of the fifth turn, another turn must be fought. If it is still contested at the end of the 6th turn, another turn must be fought. This continues until the turn ends with the objective uncontested, or one player's forces are completely eliminated.

In addition, any shot that traces its LOS through any part of the promethium refinery risks triggering an explosion. If any shot tracing it's LOS throug any part of the refinery rolls a 1 to hit, the refinery explodes. Resolve the explosion as though a Deathstrike missile had landed on the centre of the refinery. This can only happen once. After the refinery has exploded, replace it with suitably modelled rubble. If the objective was caught in the explosion, it scatters 2D6 inches in a random direction (use the scatter dice - in the event of a hit, use the direction of the tiny black arrow on the hit symbol).

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Cities of Death Closeups #1: The Broadcast Station

Ok so in the previous post you will have seen some shots of my new City of Death in action. This was probably the single biggest terrain project I've ever undertaken, and I'm really only half way through - so far it's taken about three months, with several weeks of holiday consumed by working on it pretty much round the clock. Thankfully the first 'phase' is pretty much done so I'm taking a break and enjoying what I've finished so far before moving onto phase 2.

Phase 1 was all about getting the ruins built and the street sections finished. Phase 2 will be about building a rubble version of each ruin (so that the ruins can be destroyed by siege shells etc), and sorting out some scatter terrain.

 I thought it might be nice to look at some of the ruin pieces in more detail over a series of posts, and maybe look at ways they could be used to spice up games by introducing a few house rules.

First up, the Broadcast station.

 The idea behind this piece was to come up with something that had a lot of height and was also largely an intact building. I wanted it to be useable as an objective in its own right, and a huge fricken radio mast seemed like as good an objective as any. Below you can see a wide shot of it fully painted, with nearly the whole mast in frame.

The mast itself is not climable, meaning that most of the height is merely decorative, but it does serve to give the board a 'skyline' which looks pretty nice.

Game-wise, there are numerous ways you can use such a piece. Obviously it could be used to represent a COD stratagem, such as the command centre, but beyond that it can be used to create a characterful scenario - for example recapturing a broadcast tower that is being used by the enemy for their own ends. In an apocalypse game it could be used to represent a vital objective (being worth two or three regular objectives) and it may be fun to introduce some unusual benefits for those posessing the tower - for example, if one player is holding the tower uncontested at the end of his turn, then he could be allowed to reroll any leadership tests his men have to take in his following turn. Or he may be allowed to force his opponent to reroll his leadership tests. Or both. A titanic battle over a vital objective such as this broadcast tower could serve to create a very characterful game...

Friday, 28 January 2011

 I've recently been working on some "Cities of Death" terrain, and in the coming days I plan on posting some suggestions for gaming in a city that go a bit beyond the 40k rulebook and Cities of Death supplement, but for now here are some pictures of what I've been working on. The game in progress is a battle between my Crimson Fists and my friend's Tyranid horde.
 The Tyranids advance through the ruins of a cathedral...
 A Trygon Prime emerges at the end of the street...
 The defenders hurry to bolster their defences...
An armoured column advances to meet the threat.

Blog premise

Greetings Imperial Citizen.

This blog is dedicated to the fluff-driven 40k gamer for whom winning is not as important as participating in a game that tells a strong story. That's not to say we don't like winning,  neither does it mean we don't think 40k should be played competitively, but we recognise that tournament-focused competitive play is not the only way to play the game, but it is the most commonly talked-about approach to 40k on teh internetz.

This blog seeks to correct that imbalance somewhat.

Here you will find regularly posted articles and suggestions for playing 40k that emphasise using the game to create a compelling narrative without worrying too much about how many objectives you've captured or how many kill points you've racked up. We'll be posting scenarios and inspirational ideas to help steer your games away from competitve tournament-style play, and towards creating fun stories through your games, set in the 40k universe. Also expect to see battle reports, house rule suggestions and inspirational pics of armies, terrain and battles in progress.

In short, watch this space.