The Grey Realms – The Zhentarim

I often find baddies in the Forgotten Realms be portrayed as rather cartoonish or unbelievable. If you were conclusively shown your are working for evil, would you continue? I mean, why would anyone join the Zhentarim? Imagine an EU if it were run by evil wizards… then mixed with a CIA where every conspiracy theory were true and a good dose of religious zealotry. That’s the Zhentarim.  Your leaders are the Pope of Tyranny and Strife and an evil wizard lord who makes clones for fun. And you don’t even have a nametag! So what kind of possible motivation can you, a Zhent (someone born in Zhentil Keep), have for following these cartoon serial villains?

mike-myers-austin-powers-the-spy-who-shagged-me-2Manshoon and one of his clone during their time at the Citadel of the Raven

The first thing that jumps out at me, is that nobody in the region likes the Zhentarim. The Moonsea is a collection of city states that fight proxy wars or outright wars with each other, while they constantly try economic warfare against each other. There’s also religion – Mulmaster is the site of the heretical orthodox banite worship in the Realms! Everyone knows the real head of the religion is High Priest Fzoul Chembryl, not the High Imperceptor!

From the Zhents’ perspective, most of the other people in the area are decidedly untrustworthy when compared to the Zhents! When the brave Zhentilar (military branch of Zhentil Keep) were fending off the uncivilised, loutish ogres of Thar, Melvaunt abandoned their Zhentilar allies in Phlan, leading to the death of lots of Zhentilars and the destruction of Phlan. When most of Zhentil Keep was destroyed by one of Cyric’s hare-brained schemes, nobody came to their aid. The “heroes” messed up Cyric’s plans, then left Zhentil Keep at the mercy of frost elementals, gnolls, and white dragons.

In the Moonsea Wars, Zhentil Keep supported Sembia, Hillsfar, Phlan and Melvaunt against the imperialistic Mulmaster, only to have Sembia stab them in the back and send vagrants and sell-swords to support Hillsfar when Yûlash requested the aid of the Keep against said city’s aggression! Then you have Cormyr, supporting separatist forces that keep throwing the Dales into chaos and anarchy.  Their lies and slander about upstanding Zhents has even made it necessary for the Zhents to hide their origin when our peaceful Zhent caravans bring much needed goods to the peoples of Faerûn, as many nations and cities enforce embargoes against the people of Zhentil Keep!

And who else than the Zhentarim could seize Darkhold from the lich-queen Varalla and made the area safe from brigands and bandits, like the Harpers? Harpers are vile, unpatriotic murders funded by the likes Cormyr and Waterdeep to kill innocent Zhents and destroy their peaceful trade. No, my friend – it is the Zhentarim, Zhents, and Zhentilar that are the true friends of order and trade!

New_Zhentarim_SymbolPretty damn cool symbol though!

The overt worship of evil gods is different in the Realms. You would pray to Umberlee to avoid a bad storm when out sailing, or for an old, ailing family member, you might pray to Myrkul. You might pray to Bane both to have the city’s authorities overlook you, or that they won’t overlook these tax-dodging merchants storing their cash on some island in the Moonsea. However, truly devoting yourself to Bane or Cyric requires more than just a small prayer. The following excerpt is from page 48 of Mysteries of the Moonsea:

With the return of Bane, the Zhents are more organized and rational, and probably could overwhelm Hillsfar with one big push if they chose to (at significant cost); fortunately for Maalthiir, the Banites have other factors keeping them from such an attack, and he has toned down his aggression while he works on a new plan of conquest.”

For the Zhentarim, Bane (and Cyric, to a lesser degree and depending on time point), has been tied to Zhentil Keep’s fate. When Bane’s power wanes, so does the power of Zhentil Keep. Bane keeps Zhentil Keep safe from foreign powers, which is imperative.

This is touched upon in the Ruins of Zhentil Keep – people blame Cyric and Bane for the city’s woes. Cyric for obvious reasons, and Bane (or Xvim) for not coming to their aid in their time of need.

ZhentarimSymbolZorro they ain’t.

Others might criticise the Zhents for the tyranny of whatever dictator that rules Zhentil Keep, but what if said tyrant keeps your belly full and your head prideful? Doesn’t that system work, as far as you’re concerned? And how does that differ in principle from the absolute monarchy of Azoun IV in Cormyr? For all his benevolence, he couldn’t save Tilverton. Maybe, sometimes, a strong leader is better than a benevolent leader.

This alternate take on what the world would look like from the Zhents’ viewpoint. I hope it fleshes them out, gives them depth, and makes them seem more reasonable, and shows how it is possible to imagine how a rational, kind person would fall in the with Zhentarim or Zhentilar.

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The Long War Continues

Abaddon strode triumphantly in the darkly lit room, flanked by Ahriman, whose robes swished and swooshed as they walked. A red-clad Chaos Lord brandishing crayons and a some dirty sheets of paper trailed them.

“I have made some fantastic strategic changes to the Black Legion,” Abaddon announced.
Fabius looked up, the rat he had been torturing skittering away.
“What, you have more Cities of Death stratagems?” Fabius remarked snidely.
Abaddon ignored the Chirugeon’s comment.
“Together with Ahriman, my Sorcerers have come up with a new spell for our Sorcerers! It allows three of sorcerers working in concert to seize control of our enemies’ and have them fire at their friends’ backs! Sure, we don’t have that… Tau Stormsurge, but we can at least use its weapons against the Tau!”
All but Kharn seemed rather intrigued, who sat moping at the side of the table of rich mahogany they were sat around.
“Stop sulking, Kharn! It won’t change the fact you are not part of the Khorne Daemonkin! However, that is not all! I have organised us into army formations! First the Black Legion Warband, which is my own combined arms detachment!”
The gathered warlords looked up expectantly, though the red-clad warrior who had entered with the rest was eating glue.
“It allows you to take up to six squads of Chaos Space Marines or Chosen, up to three squads of Possessed or Terminators, up to three squads of Warp Talons, Raptors, or Bikes, and up to three squads of Havocs or Helbrutes, in addition to a few Chaos Lords and maybe a Sorcerer if you feel like it! Now I know many of you complain about… well, all of the aforementioned bar Bikes and Havocs, but they have my blessing, and will gain double the amount of boons and will have a slightly bigger chance of killing if they already killed something!”

The silence was palpable. The gathering had not been this unimpressed since Abaddon had mysteriously lost the 13th Black Crusade after winning most of the battles.
“And if that wasn’t enough,” Abaddon continued, “I’ve also come up with an idea so that you can take up to four Chaos Lords or Sorcerers, which must be accompanied by either Chosen or Possessed, but they will be Fearless!”
Abaddon stood with his arms aloft, expectant. Cypher sat with his head in his palms.
“Chaos Lords fear nothing already, my lord. And please don’t make me take more Chosen or Terminators,” the Fallen Angel muttered.
“Wait, you are complaining about Chosen? Yours can’t even hitch a transport or take Marks!” Lucius replied gleefully. Cypher glared at him.
“Okay then! You can take an additional Daemon Prince -,” The gathered crowd looked up from their collective palms expectantly, “and at least 2 extra squads of Possessed!”
The gathering let out a collective groan, but the red-clad warrior squealed with glee, a crayon sticking out his nose.

“I can tell you are less than impressed,” Abaddon said with a smirk.
“Which is why I have invited Krayon!”
The red-clad warrior stirred and rose to Abaddon side, the crayon finally falling out of his nose, clattering as it hit the steel floor.
“My name is Kranon,” the warlord mewled petulantly.
The warriors of Chaos looked at each other, all shrugging. Nobody had heard of the newcomer. Holding up his childlike drawings of red-armoured Chaos Space Marines with extra appendages, he declared in a shrill voice: “I have  come up with a strategy that allows you to take a squad of Chosen and Possessed! Another one includes a Sorcerer and Possessed, and my Lords of Slaughter include Terminators, more Possessed, and…”
Kranon was cut off by Huron.
“Lord, with all due respect, this is a waste of time. I was expecting something from our ForgeWorld, like recovering our Fire Raptors or Sicarans,” Huron replied curtly.
“I mean, we all know how much the Eldar and Dark Angels love those accelerator autocannons! No jinking around for them!”
The rest nodded in agreement as Abaddon patted Kranon paternally on the head. Kranon was still clutching his red and yellow crayon in a power armoured fist.
“You did well, Krayon! I’m sure the Word Bearers appreciate your… enthusiasm for the Possessed,” he said before wiping some snot from the Lord of the Crimson Slaughter’s nose and turning to the others.
“Don’t give me that look! Possessed are basically the same as the Gal Vorbak!”
This time it was Typhus who hid his face in palms.

The awkward silence was broken as a Cultist ran into the dank room, panting.
“Masters, our spies report the Loyalists have reorganised into new formations, applied their Chapter Tactics to their vehicles, and developed a whole slew of new Psychic Disciplines!”
Ahriman made a strangled sound.
“New Psychic Disciplines?!” Ahriman was near tears.
“Yes, masters! They reduce invulnerable saves, create bubbles impenetrable to witchfire…” another strangled sound materialised in everyone’s minds as Be’lakor made his presence known, “and they can move battlefield terrain around!”

Huron skewered the messenger on Tyrant’s Claw.
“Did you really need to do that, Mr. D3 Infiltrate?” Fabius seemed annoyed.
“What now, great leader?” Huron eyed Abaddon, setting the Cultist down so it would not stain the mahogany table.
Abaddon looked out from behind his position at the head of the table, the Talon of Horus drumming against the table. With grim determination in his eyes, he rose and looked at his gathered lieutenants.

“We do what we have always done. We continue the Long War.” And with that he turned to leave the room, the rest filing in behind him, leaving only the dead Cultist bleeding out on the cold floor…

Dedicated to all the CSM players out there. Your tenacity and endurance is something the Loyalists will never achieve. Death to the False Emperor!

CSM Power Fists vs Power Weapons

I’ve seen a few people debate which weapon to pick out of the power weapons, so I thought I should write up a quick CSM tactica for Power Weapons, Power Fists, Lightning Claws, Chainfists, and Melta Bombs.I’d also like to apologise immediately for the inconsistencies with GW writing Chainfist as one word and Power Fist as two.

 

There are three main things to consider when arming your men. The unit’s role, Initiative order, and point cost, and a minor point is paying special attention to little rules, like Unwieldy, Armourbane, and especially Specialist Weapon. Are you hunting vehicles, MEQs, or TEQs? Or are you opting for maybe a bit more utility? Are you fighting Eldar with excessively good Initiative? Or are you maybe pressed for points?

As far as roles are concerned, against vehicles Melta Bombs are better than Power Fists/Chainfists per hit due to AP1, but you only get one hit with the Melta Bomb, whereas the two latter have several more, especially if paired with another Specialist Weapon. The fists also benefit from MoK in the form of Furious Charge, and while each hit is still less likely to get a penetrating hit, you should have a lot more attacks to get hits with. This works out that you’re less likely to explode vehicles due to AP2, and thus less likely to kill your own guys. On the plus side Melta Bombs are MUCH cheaper, though can’t be used against Infantry as opposed to the Chainfist. The Chainfist can also be combined with the Lightning Claw for an extra attack, allowing you to make attacks, albeit at a much higher point cost.

Now let’s take a look at the Power Weapons. The Power Axe is +1S, AP 2 and Unwieldy, so it goes at I1, same as the Power Fist, so it’s simply a weaker variant of the Power Fist. It does have a role in taking out TEQs, as the double strength you get from the fists is required if you’re already wounding on 2+. The Power Maul has +2S and Concussive, but only AP4, so unless you’re fighting IG, Orks, or wanna wade through Necron Warriors, I don’t see why you’d take it. The Power Sword is the gold standard as far as I’m concerned – Sure, no S bonus, but it has AP3. Lightning Claws are Power Swords with Shred and Specialist Weapon, so for the sake of utility, the Lightning Claw/Chain/Power fist combo isn’t bad as it gives you the option of going risky with a S8 AP2 weapon at I1, or going at I4 (5 with MoS) with S4 Shred AP3, allows you to hunt vehicles with loads of S8 AP2 Armourbane attacks, and as all have the Specialist Weapon special rule you still get +1A for fighting with two weapons.

So in summary:

Melta Bombs
Role: Vehicle busting and killing MCs.
Pros: Cheap.
Cons: Can’t be used against Infantry, only one attack, risk of explosions, Unwieldy.

Chainfist
Role: Vehicle busting, killing MCs, TEQs.
Pros: Armourbane, AP2, several attacks.
Cons: Expensive, Unwieldy, Specialist Weapon.

Power Fist
Role: Killing TEQs, light vehicles
Pros: Can be used to threaten characters without Eternal Warrior wielding Unwieldy weapons.
Cons: Expensive, Unwieldy, Specialist Weapon.

Power Axe
Role: Killing TEQs.
Pros: Cheaper than Power Fists, not a Specialist Weapon, +1 S.
Cons: Unwieldy.

Power Sword
Role: Killing MEQs.
Pros: Perfect for killing MEQs, +2 S.
Cons: Expensive.

Power Maul
Role: Niche vs. Necrons, potentially combined with a Power Fist in a challenge.
Pros: Concussive, AP4
Cons: Expensive

Lightning Claw
Role: Partner for Power Fists and Chainfists for an extra attack and anti-MEQ utility.
Pros: Shred, AP3
Cons: Expensive, especially net when combined with a Power Fist or Chainfist.

Then we’re talking about which units should perform which roles.

Melta Bombs and Power Swords > Power Fist for Aspiring Champions every day of the week. The combination costs less and has more utility. If your Aspiring Champion is in a challenge with something in artificer armour, you’ll be dead before your Unwieldy, Specialist Weapon gets to strike anyway. You’ve got a decent shot at winning a challenge against a SM Sergeant if you’re armed with a Power Sword, especially if you go at I5 (MoS) and re-rolling missed To-Hit rolls from Hatred (SM) (VotLW). You could bring the Power Fist if your enemy is also bringing them, as if their Independent Characters don’t have Eternal Warrior you have a decent chance of killing them. Something that was pointed out to me in the comments by Castigator was taking MoN and a Power Axe. You go last, but +1T and FnP might just see you through.

Chosen… A Chosen with a Power Sword costs more than a bloody Terminator, which has TDA, can Deep Strike, and has a Power Weapon included to boot. Seriously, it’s a wonder Phil Kelly is still alive after the insane substance abuse he endured while writing the CSM codex. Disclaimer: In my own games (I try to play semi-competitively in a semi-competitive meta) I run Cypher with friends, which tend to be 10 Chosen with 2x Meltaguns, 3x Power Swords, and Melta Bombs and Power Sword on the Champion. While they rarely make their points back (roughly 500pt), Gladius Strike Forces don’t like Hit & Run at I8, Power Sword-wielding Chosen with 2+ Cover saves that once in a while become Invisible.

Terminators are too expensive, don’t have the options Loyalist Terminators have, and lack a reasonable delivery method to  really be a deathstar, and have thus been competitively relegated to Termicide squads (Take with Combi-Meltas, melt something, then go into distraction-Carnifex mode). You’ll thus want them as cheap as possible, so don’t bother with upgrades. If you really wanna go tank busting you could consider Melta Bombs on the champion and Chainfists on the rest. I’m not convinced you’re getting value for points though.

Sorcerers? Maybe consider a Power Fist or Chainfist if he’s sporting TDA and Biomancy. Still better to have Melta Bombs and a Force Sword or Force Axe (Insant Death from Force) unless your S improves through Biomancy.

What about Chaos Lords then? Maybe, but what are you using him for? I’d take the Axe of Blind Fury and make him a Juggerlord. Murder Sword if you’re hunting anyone specific or want a specific enemy character to stay away from your Murder Sword-wielding maniac, and then you can take Melta Bombs as well. The Lightning Claw/Chainfist combo isn’t too bad though.

Daemon Prince? Black Mace, wings, MoN all the way, though Axe of Blind Fury ain’t bad if you go MoK.

What Power Swords wish they were

These are what I see as the most optimised ways, and Power Fists, with high costs and bad utility, are awful. There’s a reason Power Fists are cheaper in 30k, and my Alpha Legion Sergeants take Artificer Armour, Melta Bombs, a Power Fist, and a Power Dagger (Specialist Weapon for 5 pt!) for a 2+ save, 4 S8 AP2 As on the charge, possibly with Furious Charge. Last game he got sniped by SM Scouts – 6 to hit, 6 to wound though, but 30k is a story for/from another time…

Chaz goes to the Norwegian Masters!

The 15th of January saw the Norwegian Toy Soldier Masters kick off, with X-Wing, Warmachine, Kings of War, Infinity, and of course, Age of Sigmar and wh40k! What I noticed was Kings of War had twice the number of players Age of Sigmar, and Warmachine had a few more than wh40k. I couldn’t help but feel GW is missing out on the tournament scene with the lack of any official measure of balance between armies in Age of Sigmar, though it could be just here – let me know if it’s not! But that’s not what I’m here to talk about – it’s my first tournament!

The 1650pt tournament itself was well organised – comp rules were clear, everything was ready and pairings went quickly etc. Most armies were painted to a very high standard and they sold beer!

My goal for the tournament was try to avoid being tabled every game and win a single game! So, my list was as follows:

HQ
Sorcerer
Lvl3, Sigil of Corruption, Spell Familiar, plasma pistol
Sorcerer
Lvl3, Sigil of Corruption, Spell Familiar

Troops
22 Cultists
9xautoguns, 2x heavy stubber, shotgun
20 CSMs
2x plasma guns, CCWs, power fist, melta bombs, Mark of Slaanesh, Icon of Excess, VotLW, Gift of Mutation

Heavy Support
7 Havocs
4x Autocannons, VotLW

Formations
Helcult
35 Cultists
Autoguns, 2x flamer
35 Cultists
MoS, 3x flamer
Dreadnought
Missile launcher, Reaper autocannon

Fortifications:
Aegis Defence Line
Quad Gun

I was gonna give my CSMs a last hurrah before sending them into hibernation as I start a 30k Escalation League, and I’m aware my list is not very competitive, but it is fun! 😉

Round 1

My first game was against the player who has won the last two NMs. He turned up with:
Farseer, jetbike
Warlock, jetbike
Vyper
3 Scatter laser bikes
3 Scatter laser bikes
3 Scatter laser bikes

Aspect Host
5 Warp Spiders, exach
5 Warp Spiders, exach
5 Warp Spiders, exach

Aspect Host
5 Warp Spiders, exach
5 Warp Spiders, exach
6 Swooping Hawks, exarch

Riptide Wing
1 Riptide, Twin linked Smart Missile System, early warning override, ion accelarator
1 Riptide, Twin linked Smart Missile System, early warning override, ion accelarator
1 Riptide, Twin linked Smart Missile System, early warning override, ion accelarator

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I’m not gonna write up a battle report – one already exists in Norwegian, but I was always going to struggle against a very good player with a very strong list. Yours truly was also featured briefly in a TableTopBattle report from the NM during this game!

I roll my Warlord trait (get the shitty pinning one), then roll my psychic powers, getting Shrouding on one and Invisibility on the other. So far, so good. My deployment is where I went wrong. I deploy my Invisibility Sorcerer with my CCW Cultists and my Shrouding Warlord with my CSMs. This should’ve been reversed. I should also have put my ranged Cultists and Dreadnought where my CSMs are, and put the Shrouding Sorcerer with them, granting 2+ cover saves all round. My CCW Cultists should’ve gone on my right to seize objectives and be expendable, while my CSMs should’ve been on my far left with my Invisibility Sorcerer.

Either way, I start the game with moving my CCW Cultists up, then this is my first dice roll of the tournament. My Invisibility goes through, but…

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…Perils. I roll Perils as my first throw of the tournament. My Sorcerer takes a wound and has an acute case of Alzheimer’s, forgetting a power. We’re off to a bright start! However, I quickly get my act together, Dreadnought wounds a Riptide, I hold the objective my Cultists are sitting on and one more to get Supremacy and roll a six. 4-0 to the Eight-Pointed Star!

The Eldar seize two objectives they’re to hold and kill a bunch of ranged Cultists. His cowardly Eldar may not be hiding in METUHL BAWKSES, but they use the big hill in the middle to protect themselves from anything I can lay down.

Chaos T2, I seize another objective I need, but more importantly, he fails 4/7 2+ saves on his Riptide! First Blood to the Alpha Legion! Hydra Dominatus! However, I have catastrophically failed my Invisibility after my first roll, leaving my Cultists as the mercy of a helluva lot of Eldar firepower. I’m instantly regretting sitting up to 2 AM to finish painting the failure of a Sorcerer, and I’m getting flashbacks to Cypher failing a 4″ charge in front of an Eldar army…

Bilde

And sure enough, the Eldar wipe out the squad and Sorcerer with wounds to spare. His Warp Spiders then begin using the hill in the middle to flicker back and forth whenever I shoot them. I’m fenced in, and eventually his Warp Spiders get around and slaughter me. I try to hold out and prevent him from tabling me, which gives him an additional 10 VPs. I get tabled, and lose 29-7.

Round 2

My next game is against AdMech, where I don’t get Shrouding OR Invisibility. In dire straits, I hold out, I’m not tabled, and end up losing 8-6 or so which could have been VERY different if I’d had Invisibility. In the end, my hilltop fortified with an Aegis Defence Line, Havocs, and Cultists saved the day!

Round 3

My last game on Saturday is against a SM/IG army. The opponent was unsure on how to deal with Invisible SMs, so outside my one failed roll which resulted in 15 dead CSMs from Leman Russ and Pask fire, everything works smoothly and I win 9-6 or so. One round more and I would’ve got a lot more points from hunting down Pask with an Invisible Aspiring Champion with a powerfist and meltabombs, as killing my opponent’s Warlord was one of my objectives!

Round 4

My first game on the Sunday is against Tyranids. Having never played against Tyranids, I didn’t know what to expect. I line up my boys, but keen to avoid previous mistakes, my Sorcerer who rolled Invisibility goes with the CSMs. My other Sorcerer rolled Terrify and Dominate, which can be good against the ‘Nids’ low Leadership. Our objectives are secret, which turns out actually mattered!

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The game kicks off with his Flyrant Warlord moving up in his turn, then it’s mine. My Cultists march forward, and armed with 32 pistols, cause a wound on him, then ground him! Great success!

Next round things start happening. A Dimachaeron turns up to the party! Most of my army gets away without much damage, and it’s time to return fire!

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My Cultists once again wound the enemy Warlord, and my CSMs bring it down. My Cultists have at this point caused 3 wounds on a Flyrant with pistols, and as they took down most wounds, have added a Flyrant skull to the their pile, which already contains a Daemon Prince and Marneus Calgar! They grant me 3 VPs from First Blood, Slay the Warlord, and for an objective to kill a Monstrous Creature!

The game then spirals into desperate close combat fighting as synapses are failed, Havocs get slaughtered by Tyranid bomb-creatures, Dimachaeron hiding from the 20 Invisible CSMs, my Sorcerer and his autogun boys slaughtering the left flank until eventually being eviscerated by another Flyrant, Carnifex etc., and my CCW Cultists milling around and terrifying Tyranids wherever they go – which isn’t far due to some 1s and 2s rolled on run checks! They must’ve been basking in the glory they had brought to the Chaos Gods so far!

After being in the lead for almost the entire game, he eventually swings it in his last turn – he gets Supremacy, as his Dimachaeron survives long enough to hold the objective and my objective-holding ranged Cultists were wiped out in the end. Probably my most enjoyable and balanced game of the entire tournament is at an end!

My final battle is against a Gladius Strike Force with a monstrous biker command squad. I’ll be short – He absolutely curb stomps me. I’m without Invisibility and he’s over my Aegis Defence Line in T2 and charges my Sorcerer Warlord and 470pt CSM unit off the board after I fail to even cause a single wound (38 attacks with Hatred couldn’t get through a bloody 3+ and 5+ FnP!?). The rest of the game I played a game called survival, and avoided being tabled by virtue of my Dreadnought surviving.

My List

Again, I was aware it wasn’t very competitive! The reasoning behind my list was board control and try to make things difficult for my opponent by having some support Cultists and Havocs behind an Aegis Defence Line with Shrouding, and a wannabe Deathstar unit of Invisible CSMs with FnP, VotLW, and +I from MoS – perfect for nasty SMs.

In retrospect, I would’ve been better off with Cypher’s formation – it would’ve given me more of a punch and Hit & Run, but the boards had very little cover (lots of LoS-blockers though), so I would potentially be hard-pressed without Invisibility. I would also have benefited from more Havocs, so as to give me a bit more firepower and leverage the Aegis Defence Line and Quad Gun. And aye, I’m not bringing Heldrakes, MoN Bikers, MoN Obliterators, MoN Spawn, and MoN Winged DPs with Black Mace cause I don’t have the models and I they don’t fit a fluffy Alpha Legion force. I also don’t have much in the way of mobility, and often ended up bogged down in my own deployment zone.

In summary

In summary, I really enjoyed the NM. The people were really nice, and you can’t blame people for bringing really strong lists to a tournament – the goal has to be to win! Playing against really good players also helped my get better, while showing me what other forces could do.

The atmosphere was really nice and everyone would sit after their games and chat, always in a really amicable tone.

Having learned from the experience, I’m gonna return next year with something more competitive – Probably an Alpha Legion 30k force utilising Armillus Dynat, a Saboteur, a Sicaran, and a Fire Raptor.

Hydra dominatus!

8 beginner tips to bear in mind to learn wh40k faster and smarter!

I’m now firmly on the path to mastering my own force, and I feel I can actually share some experience and advice on how to make your introduction to wh40k more enjoyable and shorten the learning curve!

Chaos has much to teach.

1 – You will get mauled

Everyone loves puns.

You will get crushed. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Necron decurion detachment or a fluffy Thousand Sons Chaos list, these guys have played wh40k much longer than you and are familiar with not only their own codex and units, but yours as well.

2 – Set realistic goals

The Romans set unrealistic goals with the Antonine Wall. 

Leading on from point 1, you should set realistic goals for what you determine as success. Winning a game isn’t the only measure of success – Improvement is. My first goals simply not being tabled, then to score a few points, then to make it an even game, but enjoying myself throughout. After a good streak (relatively speaking) where I didn’t get tabled and played a series of very even games, and even won one (against another beginner), I started getting tabled again. I’ve now gone back to basics after experimenting with a few tactics.

3 – Don’t take things personally

Bear in mind you are maneuvering toy soldiers with imagined personalities on a board with plastic trees and hills. There is absolutely no reason to get annoyed. If someone is gloating about his intelligence and superiority because of winning a game it says a lot about him.

4 – Learning about codices and units

Essentially, you don’t know how to best utilise your own units, never mind counter your opponent’s units. For example, the first time I played against Grav, I tried charging them down with Chosen. As Grav weapons wound on my armour save (3+), I got destroyed. Or the time my Chosen got ruined when playing AdMech/Skitarii, where they had a formation where, if one unit causes an unsaved wound on my unit, the unit loses its cover save against the rest of the unit in the formation. My Chosen (who were run with Cypher and were camping a ruin for a 2+ cover save) got wiped in T1.

You are at a handicap, as your opponent will immediately know his target priority, whereas you’re fumbling in the dark and will need to respond immediately to threats rather than having a general overview of which of his units you need to take out. Maybe you don’t know how dangerous his Wyverns can be against light infantry and that you should rain down some S7 shots on them ASAP, hoping that one pen goes through, thus preventing their blast weapons from firing due to only being able to fire Snap Shots due to being shaken or stunned. However, because you’ve never played against Wyverns, suddenly you lost an entire squad of infantry turn 1. Turn 2 you will focus on the Wyverns, because you have more infantry, but you’ve already lost a squad.

This is probably where you will have the biggest issue. Due to the variety of codices and types of lists, this can be quite overwhelming, and even if you did well against one Imperial Guard opponent you’ve played against 20 times that means nothing when coming up against Orks for the first time.

5 – Note down your experiences

After every game, I note down my army list, what I faced, the mission and score, what went wrong, and what went well. Talk to your opponent and ask him what caused him problems and what you did wrong. Be humble, don’t complain, and people will help you improve your game quickly. This will help you identify weaknesses in your army list, tactics, and strategy.

6 – Don’t blame your codex

Don’t bother blaming anything else but yourself, and keep in mind point #3. I’m not saying to ignore the fact, but it isn’t a source of complaint. Your codex, like my CSM codex, may be scrub-tier at the moment, but this’ll change sooner or later. It is better to learn how to use these units and wait for their costs to drop or their power levels to increase.

7 – You can learn from anyone

If someone turns up with a tournament list vastly stronger than yours or whether they’ve brought a themed list, you will learn from it. If they are merciless in the execution of the rules, e.g. if you forget your psychic phase after having shot once, or forgot to roll for reserves, this will all help improve your level of play. For a lack of a better word, the emotional pain will be a sharp reminder.

8 – Don’t worry about the rules

You will make mistakes due to wrong interpretations of the rules – I recently though I could shoot through my own units without giving my opponent a cover save, but it’s only my own squad for example. An opponent pointed this out, and now I’m not going to make that mistake again – I think. Everyone makes mistakes!

Here’s a great cheat sheet that I suggest bringing to your games

I think that about wraps it up for now!

Ideas on how to improve wh40k tournament play

I play both Magic; The Gathering and wh40k casually, and I’ve been considering writing a post about how MtG’s tournament/format/restrictions on rules could and should inspire official wh40k tournament rules. Then I saw this week’s Sit and Talk from MiniWarGaming (IMHO, the best wargaming site there is for casual wh40k) where the exact same thing is touched upon, and I’m playing a casual tournament in 6 weeks, so I thought it would be a good time to touch upon the topic.

Grand Prix Richmond Crack Style

The tournament organiser came up with a set of restrictions to balance things. No more than 2 formations, no super heavy vehicles, Battleforged, maximum 3 dice for casting Invisibility etc. It tries to address the main issues without overreaching such as unit point costs etc. Sure, if someone wants they can bring the Wind Rider host or the Decurion detachment, but at a glance it seems much more balanced than “normal” wh40k. Tournaments require more balancing than friendly games and campaigns, because the goal for each player isn’t to ensure a close game, but rather to win. That they’re between players who don’t necessarily know each other so they can balance internally doesn’t help either.

MtG has worked around this by having several official formats, originally introduced to reduce price increase in the barrier to entry. From Modern, which is the current “blocks” or released cards, to EDH/Commander (Elder Dragon Hill), which is centred around each player having a Legendary commander (Separate from the draw deck) determining the colour(s) their remaining cards may have, with 1 of each card with as opposed to Modern’s maximum of 4 of each card, to Legacy, which allows 4 of each card ever printed, but with restrictions on what cards are legal. You have many more formats as well.

Not only are the power levels and combinations available radically different in each format, the general strategies and usefulness of each card changes. In the standard 60 card deck of Modern, you can put in 4 of each card, centering the strategies around a few core tactics and combinations as the predictability allows this. This isn’t possible in EDH, as the deck consists of 100 cards, with only 1 of each. You can of course include “tutor” cards – cards that allow you to draw specific cards from your deck – but these still need to be drawn. So rather than organising your play around a few combinations, you arrange it around several win conditions and possibilities where your predictable Commander maximises a variety of different cards. I know there are many more differences to the formats, but for those unfamiliar with MtG this should suffice, so don’t crucify me!


Woe to the Conquered.

GW used to do something similar with their Grand Tournaments, and with Battleforged you have a way of organising a list in somewhat restricted manner by following the CAD, and obviously the Apocalypse format suited for much larger games. However, GW could, with a lot of thought, create a set of much more balanced rules in tandem with tournaments, making it easier for their players to organise balanced lists in friendly games. Depending on the points involved, you could prevent the amount of the flyers, super heavy vehicles, Lords of War etc in a similar way to the restricted and banned card lists in Magic. Nobody wants to play a 1000pt pick-up game in your local GW where your opponent turns up with an Unbound Imperial Knight and semi-Smashfucker list with a single painted model (this happened to me). I was thoroughly disappointed with my match up, especially when I was then told miniatures following FW rules wasn’t allowed – this was more due to the hypocrisy than that me actually using any. I’ve been somewhat vocal about being tabled the last 4 of 5 games, but I enjoyed those games – I didn’t enjoy that game though the game wasn’t finished due to time constraints; admittedly, my Endurance-boosted CCW MoS Cultists had just taken out an Iron Hands biker command squad, complete with Smashfucker.

Naturally, this is more of a tournament problem than a casual problem. Most LFGS/GWs have some way of putting players in touch before the game, allowing them to agree on an even match-up. Most normal, well-adjusted beings are capable of saying no to WAAC players and TFG as well, but in a tournament setting you have to play them.

I’m also aware this is the problem many people had with the introduction of heavier tanks in common play, such as the Land Raider. This was addressed gradually by making high S anti-tank more available, and nowadays the Land Raider is often considered an overcosted Rhino with extra space. Then you had the arrival of flyers, which lead to AA. The appearance of things like the Accelerator Cannon has led to an increased importance for cover. Then Jink led to a much higher incidence of cover-ignoring weapons, such as the Sicarans and Markerlights. Back in 3rd edition, Power Armour was good, but with the advent of ubiquitous anti-MEQ weaponry, is no longer worth the points.The current edition, and the previous, definitely favoured shooty armies, leading to a higher amount of ranged units.

However, the meta is constantly changing, but that’s not a problem – the meta should be changing. In a game as wide and vast as wh40k, this is expected. Problems do arise when players can’t counter things fast enough, as in video games, all you need to do is change your tactics or get a new weapon. In wh40k this process is a lot slower as you’ll need entirely new miniatures, and then paint new miniatures, just to generally test a new tactic or strategy (You can of course proxy). Extra Credits did an absolutely amazing piece on game balance and design which I recommend you check out.

The problem is the wide range of combinations available which aren’t balanced against each other. This creates issues in balancing armies as there are so many combinations available. Sure, it might seem somewhat balanced on paper, but in effect it’s not. That’s why having formats that would limit flyers, heavy vehicles (Land Raiders etc), super heavy vehicles, LoWs, psyker levels etc. while at the same time adjusting the balance of the codices, while still flawed, would make things a lot easier and give different units different uses at different points.

As an example, you could have these formats:
Skirmish (Best suited for <1001): Restrictions are 0-1; lvl3 Psyker or Heavy Vehicle, no flyers, SHVs, LoWs etc.

Armed Engagement (Best Suited for 1001-1999): Restrictions are 0-3; lvl3 Psyker, HV, flyers. No SHVs or LoWs.

Additionally, you could limit Formations, 0-2 of any given non-Troop unit, and SCs, and even mess around with scoring. These could be separate from Battleforged and Unbound as well. These are just examples as to how wh40k could take a few steps toward a more balanced and easy approach for most players.

This’ll be completely balanced and ensures everyone has a great time, right?

When I was starting out I would ask my opponents to leave out flyers, and they’ve never really had a problem doing that, as I just didn’t have any sort of counter. People are okay with this, but that’s a casual format, not a tournament tournament (Captain Obvious is a good friend of mine).

Having better and tighter rules would not just improve tournament play – it would ensure less time spent on making sure lists are balanced against each other and more game painting, buying toy soldiers, and playing with toy soldiers.

What have I been up to? #2

It’s been a long while since I updated this blog; I’ve been busy in my personal life, so just not had that much time to blog!

However, I’ve not been lazy on the hobby side of things! On the painting side of things I’ve been repainting what was in Fabius Bile’s scrub tank, mostly CSMs (while deciding to repaint my 70 Cultists, so they’ve been chucked in a few at a time), my FW CSMs, and working my way through my 37 Lost and the Damned Guardsmen. Sadly, my Confederate IG haven’t got any love.


Before the Scrub Tank of the Mad Doctor…


Post repaint (No Machine Spirits were offended by repainting)


The first 5 CCW Cultists have been done – 30 to go!

I’m getting happier with my painting – while my my highlighting isn’t perfect, it’s at least being done! What really needs improving is my picture taking, especially lighting. I’m considering a lightbox. I also really need to fix my lens as there’s a few scratches on it.

I’ve also scrubbed down some metal witch elves for EvilKipper. Follow him on Twitter if you’re on there; he’s great for figuring out who to follow in any wargaming community!

I’ve also busied myself with some games. I’ve now lost 4 of my last 5 games, being tabled each time. After playing a Relic scenario against Tau, where the cow-fish simply couldn’t kill my Cultists quickly enough, they devastated me in the next game. However, these games taught me I had to change parts of my tactics. I’m learning that 3+ isn’t what it used to be in 3rd edition, with the massive amount of AP2/AP3 weapons now available in 7th decimating my marines before they even get anywhere.

I’ve decided to start running a fluffy Alpha Legion mechanised force; a Rhino Rush with a Spartan Assault Tank full of Terminators and a Terminator Lord leading the charge, with heavy lascannon support from Predators, 2 of which I’m gonna get from Colin Graham – he also runs a fun gaming podcast called Gibberpish!

Essentially, I found my 3+ save isn’t what it used to be, so footslogging is increasingly dangerous in my local meta, and Rhinos with Daemonic Possession and Havoc Launchers are arguably the best value for point Dedicated Transports in the game.

I also played a recent game of 2000 points vs. the new DA. It was a Maelstrom of War mission where I lost 8-4 (I think), but due to some bad tactics on my part, I got tabled for the 4th time in 5 games. Things that went surprisingly well was my lvl3 Sorcerer being an Endurance-dispenser for my various units, his 34 strong Cultist autogun bodyguard keeping him alive way longer than he by rights should have while soaking up shots that would otherwise have decimated my CSMs. Cultists, ironically, are the strongest unit in the CSM codex. Cast Endurance on a bunch of Helcult Cultists and you have Fearless Cultists with Eternal Warrior, 4+ FNP, and Relentless with an option to go Zealot if the Dreadnought dies. My Dreadnought with Reaper Autocannons and Missile Launcher scratched a Razorback T1, getting me first blood was also a highlight.

Things that went particularly bad was Cypher and his 10 man Chosen squad (with five power swords) getting wiped in exchange for 1 SM tactical marine. Infiltrate only means you can get within half range of rapid fire to ease the pain of having your unit eviscerated. They have now failed 3/3 charges in the last few games, meaning they are a nice, big, juicy target. At 33pts per pop, the power sword Chosen are way too expensive for a CSM with +1 LD, ATSKNF, +1A and AP3 in close combat. That’s 20 points for that.

Cypher et al commence their walk of death. 

Coming in second in the uselessness league was my Mayhem Pack. 3 Deep Striking Dreadnoughts with It Won’t Die landed in front of a Land Raider, opened fire with three Multi-Meltas and missed with every shot. Fully aware of the 5 Deathwing Knights within, I cast Endurance on them. Next turn they got assaulted and were wiped out before they could even land a single hit. 300 points wasted on literally nothing.

My squad of Chosen with Meltas did slightly better this time; they got to butcher some Deathwing and take out a Librarian. However, I may just change them to Havocs and give them a Rhino in the future. I’ve yet to be able to use the Melta on a vehicle this year as 3+ costs too much in the current meta.

The Deathwing Deep Strikes behind the melta squad and the Sorcerer. 

Lessons I learnt was without Rhinos, CSMs with plasma guns stay behind and watch for Deep Striking units, Grav weapons should be taken out with Cultists, and dominating the Psychic phase can be a lot of fun! Giving my Psykers cheap blobs of bodyguards (read: Cultists) is also important for maximising Endurance and Look Out, Sir!

I think a lot of what I’m learning is actually what opposing armies can do, especially Deathwing Knights and Grav Weapons. As I’ve just recently started getting games under my belt, 4/5 of my last battles have been against sides I’ve never played, so the learning curve has been steep! That I know what my army does doesn’t really matter if I don’t know what the opposition can beat me with!

I’ve also made my first EDH deck for MtG! Based around Vorel of the Hull Clade, I’m going to try to overwhelm my opponent with counter-dependent abilities. This deck is currently very WiP, as I still don’t have all the cards I want for my final deck – link here.

I’ve also begun making my own battle board. I got MDF boards cut, but they were all the wrong size by half an inch going either way, so I need another trip to the hardware shop. I’ve also ordered a bunch of aquarium plants to create a camp Death World jungle board, and they’ve arrived now. Gotta admit, can’t beat them for value for money!


The Death World of Acyd Tripz was feared mostly for its hallucinogenic plants.

Terra demands terrain!

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of making my own terrain since I read an article about making lily pads from bottle caps in White Dwarf years ago. However, most of my projects then consisted of corrugated cardboard (without tape to cover it…) layered on top of each other to make hills. Very poor hills, I might add.

Said article!

However, yesterday I made a trip to the hardware store to get materials for my own battle boards. GW’s prices for battle boards are a little too high to my liking, so being a stingy Scot, I decided I needed to make my own! Admittedly, I also thought it’d be fun, so price isn’t everything here!

However, as part of building my own battle board I want to build my own terrain. I’ve visited dozens of blogs, guides, webstores, and forum posts for inspiration, materials, how-to’s and the like for building terrain. I favourited the sites, and thought I’d share it with those who are in a similar situation!

First, some inspiration for everyone! Some fantastic pieces of terrain!

Now that you have some ideas, I compiled a list of a few guides!

Craters

Hills

More hills

Trenches

Ruined buildings

Buildings from papier macher

Pipe piles

MiniWarGaming’s PDF on making terrain

Rivers

For trees I found 1, 2, 3 different ways of making them!

Figure_019

As far as materials are concerned, I think most of this  this is more to just give you an idea, because you can find this is most hobby stores. What isn’t there you can get on eBay or Amazon.

You an also order How to Make Wargames Terrain or Terrain Modelling Masterclass of Amazon for more professional help with building your own terrain.

Further reading would be a few blogs I’ve found that I really enjoy!

The Lost and the Damned

Sho3box

Dagger and Brush

Classic 40k

There’s also a few people on Twitter worth following specifically for terrain!

Zaboobadidoo

ModTerrain

Christian Templin

Bishmeister

Robert Sedgeman

Chris Foreman

Here’s some YouTube channels to follow

The Terrain Tutor

I’ll keep updating this post whenever I see something that should be on the lists here!

Welcome to the Jungle

Always love jungle terrain!

The Lost and the Damned

Everyone who’s played Warhammer 40k in the ’90s will remember the green death world cacti with the red spikes made out of styrofoam and toothpicks. I built a few of them myself back then, but unsurprisingly they didn’t survive the dawn of the new millennium. More recently Jonas over at the Oldhammer Forum put together a whole bunch of these which are looking great.

Inspired by Cheetor’s excellent Alien Flora & Fauna series I’ve been meaning to extend my own collection of terrifying terrain for a while now but most things haven’t progressed past initial assembly.

During one of my hunts for source materials I came across an item that immediately jumped out at me as a modern version of the cacti of death though – a rubber massage ball from Tiger, available also in bright green.

Warhammer 40k death world jungle terrain Dark Angels livery makes for surprisingly effective camouflage on many jungle worlds

A dark green wash and far too many…

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