Quick thoughts on Warhammer; Age of Sigmar

After seeing two photos of the new miniatures for Age of Sigmar, dubbed #AgeOfCygnar on Twitter due to their aesthetics, I feel I’m 100% capable of giving a review of the entire range of new miniatures.



On a serious note, I think the warmongers Twitterati are correct; the aesthetics are very similar to WarmaHordes. I thought the Kastelans for #wh40k AdMech looked like a cross between Big Daddy from BioShock and Cygnar. I’m not a huge fan of the WarmaHordes aesthetic (too steam punk for me), but at least it’s not the Space Wolves’ flyer which looks like a certain car from Dumb & Dumber.


However, they did not have the Warhammer feel to them at all. Warhammer was grim and brutal, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek hilarity thrown in. These new miniatures, while in no way bad, doesn’t encapsulate that feeling. They look more Diablo 3 than Altdorf, more Cygnar than Ulthuan.

However, I think they might make good miniatures for wh40k; the humans look like Blood Angels conversions waiting to happen, and the Chaos guys look like they’d make good Cultists, Chaos Space Marines, and Renegade Guard.

I don’t mind the round bases though, as hopefully that signals the return of a much needed Warhammer Fantasy skirmish game.

All on all, I don’t mind the miniatures, but it doesn’t look like Warhammer.

Edit – I believe it was Fred Boogaerts who came up with the Age of Cygnar idea, and here’s Vidpui’s photoshopped picture


What have I been up to? #1

I’ve recently been keen on painting some of my old miniatures from the 90’s. Sadly, most of them have been given away to flea markets while I was abroad, but I’ve still a lot of Dark Elves, a fair amount of Orcs, High Elves, some Bretonnians, and some Lizardmen. I’ve also wanted to repaint my first CSM squad – their colour scheme for my Alpha Legion has changed, so they look out of place in addition to being poorly painted. I also received a limited edition metal Dark Angel from Wartrader, and as he was clotted with so much white paint all detail was lost, I dug out the paint stripper and and stuffed them all in the jar!

Fabius Bile’s scrub tank

I’ve included a few photos of the pre-scrub and post-scrub miniatures as well!

90’s Orc Shaman, Skink Champion, and High Elf Swordmaster.

The two that have been repainted so far, two more plasma gunners incoming.

I haven’t decided any painting schemes yet, but I’m wondering if I’ll paint my High Elves and Dark Elves the same colour. Lizardmen will be vibrant, and the Orcs… No idea yet, though I kinda want to build a Savage Orc/Forest Goblin army, so likely to be colourful as well.

I’ve also done a bit of work on my Lost and the Damned force; here’s almost a full squad of Renegade Guardsmen and their Rogue Psyker (who still needs based)! This force also includes my first attempt at painting black skin tones (Mournfang Brown, Nuln Oil, highlight with Skrag Brown)!

This weekend I’m going to see if I can get some headway on my next 5 Alpha Legionnaires from the MKIV FW minis I have. I somehow lost two metal GW Alpha Legion shoulder pads, leaving me two short for the 10-man squad, but they’re sold out. I’m currently trying to get my American cousin to ship me a bunch, because they’re not sold out in the US for some reason.

I’m also trying to get some more of my CSA-inspired Imperial Guard done, but I’m more keen on completing more Alpha Legionnaires and Lost and the Damned Guardsmen for now!

Premature release

I have become increasingly pessimistic and picky in my old age (I’m 27) when it comes to games on PC. Many of newer games tend to suffer from what the PC Master Race has long complained about; God-awful UI clearly not designed for PC, graphic problems ranging from poor FPS to just plain worse graphics, glitches and bugs, DLC on release and an ever growing amount of expansions. I rarely buy games on release, and the few I have bought have generally been massive mistakes. Pre-ordering… Cartman said it best.

Cartman likes Steam sales and GotY editions.

The UI for many games really hurt the experience. I recently played through Morrowind, which after a few graphic updates was really enjoyable, suffered from a very dated UI, yet when I played Skyrim… Skyrim was, honest to Emperor, worse. It was released 9 years after Morrowind. Until I downloaded SkyUI, I was considering giving up because of the clunky controls. I had a look at the patch notes of a more recent game, Witcher III, and realised the patch was basically saying “we done goofed on the mouse UI” However, the worst offender has to be Fable 1: Anniversary edition for Steam. It didn’t have mouse support in the menu.

Some games are essentially PC exclusives, like the Total War series. I haven’t bought a Total War title since Empire due to their awful releases, buggy gameplay, and the AI being short a few sandwiches, a basket, sunny weather, and ants of a picnic. From what I gather, Rome II is still buggy as Hell. When it comes to Elder Scrolls games, I always wait for the Game of the Year edition. Skyrim was unplayable and required command prompting to even finish on release, and while Oblivion was boring, at least it worked. Civilization V, while awesome now, was nigh-unplayable on release. The game I usually put the most hours into every year, Football Manager, I never buy until after January, and always on sale, due to the game being particularly error-prone until the 1.3 patch is released. That XCOM 2 has been announced as a PC exclusive, while probably made from a financial point of view, seems to me a good design decision as well, which will hopefully result in a good UI (the reboot’s greatest strength was maybe the UI boost), less issues to contend with, without impacting sales too much.

How do you do?

MMORPGs are even worse. Too mention a few, Age of Conan, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls Online… The developers made a nice single player for the first few hours and then said “you’re on your own.” WoW was pretty raw when it got released, but it did get patched pretty damn fast.

Many of the aforementioned games are pretty much tailored to the PC market, so you can’t really blame the console mud farmers.

Though I think the most recent winner of the “premature release” prize has got to be Civilization: Beyond Earth. I have played Civilization games since Civilization 2, and I crossed all my appendages hoping for a new version of Alpha Centauri. What I got was a reskin of Civilization V, to the extent the developers didn’t even bother to change the diplomacy dialogue. Civilization: Beyond Earth warranting a full game price is pretty outrageous.

This criticism isn’t reserved for newer games either. Vampire; The Masquerade: Bloodlines, released 11 years ago, while one of the best RPGs you’ll ever play, is still a buggy game. They have a partial excuse in that they went bankrupt before they could patch the game entirely, mind.

Another problem I shall touch upon is DLC and expansions. I remember the day when I was so happy I got my paws on the Conquerors expansion for Age of Empires 2. That game had a few patches and one expansion (well, until recently!). I compare that to Crusader Kings 2. While it’s a fantastic game and I own most of the DLC and expansions, I sometimes feel I’ve been cheated on this. Sure, I buy most of the stuff on Steam sale, but if you wanted the entire game (that is, with all DLC and expansions), you’d be looking at well over 100£. That is a pretty steep price. While I understand this pays for more expansions and DLC, I can’t but help think the exorbitant cost of being able to start at an earlier date with the Muslim factions seems very expensive. This has led to general fatigue of playing some Paradox titles (not Victoria 2 mind, 2 expansions and some unit DLC is the right amount!), as I feel I’m missing out on a significant part of the game if I don’t buy all the DLC.

Things quickly got interesting for Sverre of Norway. 

Another grievance I have is DLC on release. It’s a cheap cash grab; while I get the idea, and that obviously people pay for it, it does stop people from buying the game immediately, especially more economically-minded gamers who’d rather wait for a Steam sale.

I don’t doubt that unfinished games was a problem before, but I feel (and being a scientist, I loathe saying this, but I don’t have statistics to back this) games are being released less finished than they were, possibly due to the knowledge that they can patch their games after release due to the internet. Another problem is that games are, from a coding perspective, much more difficult to the complexity, which compounds bugs, and also makes AI pretty difficult to get right.

All in all, I don’t see any reason to pre-order or buy a game on release. I will keep waiting a year or two until I buy until the developers give me reason not to.

BBEG design and their motivations

First of all, it took me a while to figure out what BBEG was an abbreviation for. Big, Bad, Evil Guy. Aka the Boss. So, when I was gathering tips on how to make memorable villains I used my google-fu extensively, finding mostly unhelpful, but a few helpful, tips on how to design villains and decided to compile a few of the ones I found and add my some from my own experience as a DM, but the best advice came from my old history teacher who would ask “why?” after every answer.

Teacher – Why did the Roman Empire collapse?

Me – Barbarian invasions.

Teacher – Why did they occur and why were they successful?

Me – Because the barbarians were being driven west by other barbarians and Rome’s military was overextended.

Teacher – Why was Rome’s military overextended?

Me – Because of problems with the Marian Reforms leading to loyalty to the generals and not Rome and the unsustainability of multiple wars.

Teacher – Why did the Marian Reforms occur and why were the Romans involved in unsustainable wars? Etc. etc.

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North. 

When first designing villains (not just BBEGs, it can also be done for evil PCs), it is important to figure out what they want, why they want it, how they plan to achieve this, and what in the Nine Hells is wrong with the guy. The Players will invest more emotionally if the BBEG seems more human and has a personality deeper than the character sheet he is written on. The person who wrote out the most concise way of doing this is Rhynn from the Giantitp forums:

1. Pick something for the character to want (money, power, love, respect, control). 1b. Decide why. 1c. Make both short- and long-term goals. 2. Give the character personality flaws serious enough that his pursuit of this will involve doing evil acts.


​The orc warlord wants to slaughter all the halflings in the vicinity. Okay, he’s got a goal. What’s his motivation? He’s out for revenge; his parents were killed by vicious halfling pirates. He is going to scout the region, then attack. He is consumed by hatred and thus ruthless; he does not care about the consequences, whether for innocents or his own men.

A vengeful, hateful, ruthless orc with an actual reason behind is actions? Well, I never!  Essentially, when designing a villain, ask yourself why. A lot.

There are of course loads of motivations and goals, most of which overlap with each other, but I’ve tried to find a few key motivations that illustrate the particular aspect of either motivation or goal.

Here is a list of some BBEG motivations with illustrative villains and hopefully some inspiration! Some of these motivations overlap somewhat, but I’ve tried to do as well as I can! I have also tried to avoid real world examples to avoid controversy.

Common motivations

Greater Good

Do it? Dan, I’m not a Republic Serial villain. Do you seriously think I’d explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago. – Ozymandias.

An extremely common goal, the “for the greater good” personifies how many people is world peace worth? From Ozymandias of Watchmen to Darth Sidious (whose goals are multifaceted), these guys, similar to villains who once had good intentions, are great ways of exploring the grey shades of morality. These villains realise their methods are evil, but they simple believe it is worth it.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair


Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good. – Gordon Gekko.

Hans and Simon Gruber, from the Die Hard franchise, are two of the most iconic villains out there. From Hans Gruber’s “Who said we were terrorists?” to Simon’s cold chuckle and “I didn’t say ‘Simon says'” in reference to why a bomb didn’t blow up. Out of all the great villains, these two personify, along with Gordon Gekko, personify greed. They are all willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get rich.

I didn’t say “Simon says.”

Good intentions

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. – Proverb.

Many villains have lofty and noble intentions, which is illustrated well with Arthas Menethil of Warcraft fame. Arthas originally sets out to save Azeroth, but to prevent the spread of the plague turning into zombies, he has to cull an entire town. To defeat the original source of that plague, he searches for the evil runeblade Frostmourne, hellbent on killing Mal’Ganis, the demon responsible. Hell, even Sauron only turned to Morgoth’s darkness to make the world, what he believed, a better place.


Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil. – Niccolo Machiavelli.

Hatred is actually a rarer “pure” motivation; hatred is more commonly brought on by something else. Revenge, Ideology and Fear are much more common in bringing about Hatred than what for example tanar’ri feel for baatezu and vice versa. An example of it in literature is found in the works of Roald Dahl and the pathological hatred the Witches feel for children. To D&D this is most used by demons, baatezu etc.


To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. – Che Guevara.

Humans are capable of truly despicable acts when you get the us vs. them mentality. From peasants vs. nobility to orcs vs. elves, if someone is made to believe that “those guys are different,” anybody can do pretty nasty things to each other. Remove somebody’s humanity through an Ideology and humans will do pretty much anything to them


Jealousy is both reasonable and belongs to reasonable men, while envy is base and belongs to the base, for the one makes himself get good things by jealousy, while the other does not allow his neighbour to have them through envy. – Artistotle

The villains that need to go to jelly school. A great example of Jealousy is the Queen from Snow White. She is a vindictive queen obsessed with being “fairest in the land,” and is willing to kill to maintain this. Most people harbour some form of jealousy, be it love, fame or material wealth.

She’s one step from giving children poisoned apples. 


Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends. – Gandalf.

Many villains turn to evil only because they have been victims of a grave injustice. A fantastic example is General Francis X. Hummel (the Rock), who threatens to destroy San Francisco unless his men, who were left to die in Iraq, are given compensation. In the end, he’s an honourable man who was bluffing about destroying the city; he was never going to fire the rockets. These guys make great complicated characters that can even be turned back to the light.

Patriotism and loyalty

You know, it’s an ugly business doing one’s duty… but just occasionally it’s a real pleasure. – Col. Tavington. 

Blind loyalty and patriotism doesn’t make anyone a bad person on their own, but loyal and patriotic people can easily be manipulated into a doing a lot of very bad things and is one of the things most people can truly relate to. William Tavington from the Patriot is a great patriot in his own way, though he derives a sadistic pleasure from killing the enemies of the Crown.

#swag #yolo #teatime #crumpets

Pragmatists and the easy way out. 

Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven. – John Milton.

Sometimes, the path of least resistance is just that much easier. You are not a believer in the cause, but it is easier to play along. The bonus is you’ll be on the winning side. Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds is a fantastic character. He is equally part evil, ruthless, intelligent, egotistical and ambitious, yet doesn’t hold any hatred for the Jews, nor does he believe in the Nazi cause, and readily switches sides if the situation changes. Saren from Mass Effect just wanted to live. Another great example is Saruman. A wizard aligned with good for thousands of years finally switches, as he sees no hope for Middle Earth and his sense of self-preservation kicks in.


Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. – Yoda.

Anakin Skywalker, the one destined to bring balance to the force, fears his love will die in childbirth, and thus turns to the Dark Side to save her. From Ravenloft’s Strahd to the Forgotten Realms’ Sammaster, Love is a commonly used motivation. Love can make the most noble hero commit horrible deeds. Use Potions of Love with care.


Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. – Lord Acton.

Power is not only a great motivating force for villains, such as the cases of Darth Sidious, Scar, Jafar, but it can also be a corrupting influence on even the noblest man. Al Pacino’s portrayal of Michael Corleone shows how a war hero can become a ruthless mob boss when granted power. Power is a great way to have heroes fall to new depths. It can also be used as a plot tool to explore the shades of PCs.

Recognition of your peers

It looks like your Pokemon aren’t dead. I can at least make them faint! – Gary Oak.

Some people simply want to be the best. From Gary Oak to Predator, they want to prove themselves the best, or at least worthy, be it “being the very best,” or passing your adulthood test. This can easily be used for a rival party or a wizard attempting to summon demons because “that’ll show all those people who laughed at me!” Obviously a certain level of lack conscience or lack of regard for others is required.


We’re both orphans, James. But while your parents had the luxury of dying in a climbing accident, mine survived the British betrayal and Stalin’s execution squads. My father couldn’t let himself or my mother live with the shame. MI6 figured I was too young to remember. – Alec Trevelyan.

In what may be his best on-screen performance, Sean Bean plays the vengeful agent 006 Alec Trevelyan, aka Janus. Seeking revenge on the British, he decides to crash the world’s financial system and get rich in the process.


Everyone is mine to torment! You’d do well to remember that, you little monster. – Joffrey Baratheon.

Some people are just in it to inflict pain and suffering. Staff Sergeant Bob Barnes (Platoon) may have become a soldier because he was a mean son of a bitch, or his sadistic streak might have developed later. Either way, he simply enjoyed killing and murdering. Joffrey Baratheon’s (Game of Thrones) motivation behind much of what he does is a mix of fear, cowardice and sadistic glee. This motivation is best as a side trait rather than a driving force behind a character, though it lends itself well to why certain villains joined the BBEG.

Uncommon motivations

Alien and incomprehensible
Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn – The Call of Cthulhu

A truly terrifying villain may have absolutely incomprehensible goals. Similar to mindless or singleminded villains, they can’t be reasoned with. Their plans are on a completely different level. These do not always make good enemies, especially for newbie DMs, and should be used sparingly to spice up a campaign!

Some men just want to watch the world burn. – Alfred Pennyworth

The Joker. Patrick Bateman (arguably not). These are two very well-known villains who are simply in it for the Hell of it. They know what they’re doing is bad, but they don’t really care. This motivation is best used sparingly as to not lose the novelty or make it commonplace.


Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. – Kyle Reese

This is a theme that works best for villains and not BBEGs (though exceptions exist, such as the Reapers of Mass Effect), these creatures, as Kyle Reese puts it, can’t be bargained or reasoned with. One of you will die. In D&D this works well for cursts and other spirits seeking vengeance, or a la the Terminator, a golem.

Drizzt had no chance.

Or even several of these motivations!

I could have done it, Father! I could have done it! For you! For all of us! – Loki

Most villains will of course harbour a mixture of all these motivations as many of them are overlapping. Loki of Marvel fame is a great example of a BBEG with several motivations. He is jealous of Thor and wants to be his equal, he (correctly) believes Thor to be unsuited to rule (Greater Good), wants to rule himself (Power), then when defeated, wants revenge, before eventually siding with Thor in Thor II (with a few plot twists along the way).

In conclusion, I hope these pointers will help you in your future BBEG design. This list is in no way fully comprehensive or complete, but I think it is a great starting point with a few easy steps outlined to make it easier for both new and old DMs to create more three-dimensional BBEGs. You obviously do not need to use any of the specific motivations, but I think most other motivations would be synonymous to the ones I have listed.

Steam summer sale!

Oh, it’s that time of the year again, when money flies out the wallet and into Gaben’s pockets. This year I haven’t bought anything, mostly because I’ve got the games I want, and the few games I do want haven’t reached my 66% sale threshold (Witcher III, Shadow of Mordor) or they’re not out yet (XCOM 2). I won’t do a review of the games; there are hundreds of reviews out there, but I’ll give them a short recommendation!

Remembrancer depiction of Saint Gaben.

However, I thought I’d compile a wee list of games, that while well-known to more interested gamers, aren’t as well known to more casual gamers due to their age.

Victoria 2: Fantastic epic strategy game from Paradox. It starts in 1836 and lasts until 1935. The game Empire: TW wishes it was. While Victoria 2 does have multiplayer issues, there is a massive mod support there for this game. While the game may seem daunting at first, it is not as difficult as you’d think! If you feel like it’s time Norway conquers parts of Morocco, Colombia, the Middle East, and Siam before intervening on the side of the CSA in the American Civil War on their way to world domination, this game is for what-if historians!

For people who enjoy Total War games, grand strategy.

‘Murrica is a real country now! Oh, and Pennsylvania is Confederate.

Mount & Blade: Warband: A great mediaeval sandbox RPG from TaleWorlds, published by Paradox. You gather a warband, consisting first of a few conscripts, then gradually work your way up in the world through trading, mercenary work and personal combat. Its combat is very similar to Skyrim, but a million times better.The graphics are dated, but still very enjoyable. Huge mod support for it extends its shelf life.

For people who enjoy Elder Scrolls games, RPGs, sandboxes.

Arrow to the knee? Try axe to head!

Vampire; The Masquerade: Bloodlines: This RPG gem from White Wolf’s World of Darkness setting is still amazingly fun! Fantastic characters, voices in your head whispering advice, good gameplay (if buggy), great atmosphere, very entertaining story, and awarding-winning levels (once you go to the hotel basement, you’ll get it)! Not often I’ll say it, but the game actually deals with more mature topics in a surprisingly good way!

For people who like RPGs, vampires, dark games.

This appeals to the velvet-clad philistine in me.

XCOM: The newest game on my list, the remake of the early 90’s classic retains the feel, the turn-based strategy and base-building of the old one! Get it with the expansion pack Enemy Within, and you’ll have hours and hours of frustratingly good fun! There’s also a fantastic mod out there for it, the Long War mod.

For people who like strategy games, squad-based games like Republic commando.

Right in the feels…

Thought of the day: I wish my power armour helmet had a nose scratcher.

Character Creation in an RPG part 1 – The Basics

To start the off the roleplaying section of my blog, Character Creation seems a good a place to start as I will get! I will use Dungeons and Dragons 3.5rd edition and the Forgotten Realms for this blog, but this can be applied to any RPG system or setting!

So let’s get started!

The last thing Frank the orc ever saw

Character creation is way more than rolling picking a race, choosing a deity, and rolling a few dice to for your starting abilities and gold to buy equipment with! So it is no surprise many DMs want a brief synopsis of your character, but it is not always that easy for players to know where to start.

Players often have an idea of what they want to play, but not much beyond that, e.g. a valiant knight or a pyromaniac wizard. Coming up with a solid backstory takes time, and if you might not be entirely sure in what direction you want to take your knight, you are going to be apprehensive of penning his childhood memoirs at this point. Not describing all of your PC’s previous relationships and stories grants you and your DM much more leeway in adding in new characters from your past which can lead to fun storylines – especially when what you currently want to do is start the game and bring the flames of genocide crashing down upon the local kobold population in the name of Larethian!

Then one day, the kobolds fought back.

So to this end I tried figuring out a happy medium – Something that can be done quickly, but still gives you a solid idea of who the character is. You can work out what his favourite colour is and who his fave boyband was when growing up later!
Character concept:
Classes (or equivalent):
Player goal:
Character motivation:
Character personality:
Campaign tags:
Plot hooks:
The character concept is the character summed up in one or two sentences. Classes is what starting class he has and which ones you think you want him to take later. In other RPGs, like Fantasy Flight Games’ Dark Heresy, this can easily be changed to career. In nWoD this can be changed to what you feel would best describe the character’s skill-set.

Player goal is what you, the player, want to get out of the campaign. Character motivation is also self-explanatory, but it really helps GMs with giving your character a plausible reason for doing whatever he will be doing. If your character’s motivation is patriotism, maybe the GM will create a situation where you can choose between doing the “right” thing or aiding your town!

Character personality is important for being able to reference this will remind you how your character is supposed to be played so you can have a certain consistency in how you play him. Campaign tags is something I have included to show what campaign theme the character would be best suited for, like Evil campaigns, ECL adjusted, Nature, Fey, Exalted etc. Plot hooks are a way for the Player to give the GM ideas for potential adventures. Below is one I did for a Sun Elf Wizard in the Forgotten Realms.

Character concept: Sun Elf wizard dedicated to redeeming Auril.
Classes: Wizard/Arcane Devotee/Archmage/High Mage
Player goal: Excessively powerful mage, create a demiplane, redeem Auril.
Character motivation: Redeem Auril, spreading the heresy, arcane knowledge, destroying evil in all its forms.
Character personality: Kind, generous, serene, tranquil.
Campaign tags: Good, Fey, Elf, Exalted.
Plot hooks: Retrieve the Codicil of White, Encounters with Fey, Ally with Aurilians against lycanthropes/People of the Black Blood
Just a wee note on some of the things here, Auril is an evil fey goddess who was turned to evil by Lolth, the Codicil of White is one of her holy scriptures, and the People of the Black Blood are vicious were-creatures who worship the evil beast-god Malar.

Ends N’ Means on personality

So now you know how to make a three-dimensional character with a personality and goals, and the character is now ready to play! In my next blog post on character creation I’ll write about characters not to play!

Thought of the day: Blue really wasn’t Guilliman’s colour.

Choosing and starting a Warhammer 40k army

If you are completely new to wh40k and have yet to pick your army, I hope this will spare forums and yourself some hassle while helping you pick an army which will stand the test of time. I have split this blog post into two parts, choosing your new army and starting the army you picked.

In picking your force, I’d consider 4 main topics. Fluff, aesthetics, playstyle and other. These four topics are of different importance to different players – some are fluffier, some are more keen on tournament play. Neither of these priorities are wrong, and hopefully my approach will allow you to get a much better idea of what you want to play!


To start off with, the fluff, or lore, behind an army can be very important to both aesthetics and playstyle. I strongly suggest you go onto either lexicanum or warhammer wiki to research the armies that appeal to you. For example, you might find the Blood Angels to be too reminiscent of a certain Romanian of the Transylvanian persuasion, but you really enjoy some of their descendants’ stories, like the Flesh Tearers’ (probably) doomed fight against the Black Rage yet fierce loyalty, or the Lamenters’ staunch resilience in the face of total annihilation. I favourited all the pages of the armies whose lore I liked and put them in a folder in my browser until I finally decided on the Alpha Legion, yet I considered everyone from the Night Lords to Orks to Eldar Corsairs.

Rogue Trader-era Blood Angels

Rogue Trader-era Blood Angel

In wh40k, there are certain armies that have clear real world inspirations behind them which might also appeal to you, be it the Catachan Jungle Fighters (Vietnam War), Praetorians (Colonial Britain), Death Korps of Krieg (WWI Imperial Germany) or Space Wolves (Vikings).

As a last note on fluff, remember you can always make up your entirely own fluff! Here’s a link to creating your own Space Marine Chapter or Warband, without creating something that doesn’t fit the background setting. A further link for Warband and Chapter creation is here.


Colour scheme, models, and room for conversions are all aesthetic reasons that might make an army appeal to a player. Maybe you really like the Space Marine models and the want purple and gold marines, but you do not feel confident in your converting skills, especially if you are a newbie, so you pick the Soul Drinkers. Or maybe you feel like painting a variety of different colour schemes, so you pick Biel-Tan Eldar with loads of Aspect Warriors, or even you feel like doing some minor conversion work and decide to pick Eldar Corsairs and glue on their wings and pick your own scheme! Whatever appeals to you and you feel you can do justice is what you should pick. When picking my first army I decided to not overestimate my converting skills nor my painting skills.


When considering how you want to play, you really want to think how you want your tactics to be. Does a fast, small, hard-hitting army appeal to you? Then Eldar or Dark Eldar, or maybe Tau, might appeal. Do you want to overwhelm your opponents in close combat? Then your first choices might be Tyranids or Orks. Even within the different codices there is a plethora of playstyles available; the different regiments of the Imperial Guard is a great example of this. The Elysian droptroopers, the mechanised Armageddon Steel Legion, the Catachan Jungle Fighters etc. all offer a great variety of playstyles. Bear in mind a lot of people enjoy fluffy playstyles; if you play Thousand Sons you are likely to want to take Rubric Marines and Sorcerers, regardless of whether Thousand Sons are considered a good choice from a play-to-win mentality. Fritz (see below) put it this way: I don’t care how it plays, I love the Changer of Ways.

It is also worth bearing in mind with Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines you can use a variety of codices to represent your army. As an example, the Alpha Legion players use codices as varied as Sentinels of Terra, Chaos Space Marines, the Lost and the Damned, Space Marines and Imperial Guard represent their, in addition to the various dataslates available. As long as your miniatures are What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWG), your codex does not matter and it will be tournament legal.

Ork bomma, which according to the rules, never has enough dakka, so it’s WYSIWIG!

The very clever guy behind the bomma!

It is obvious, but you do not need to stick to the fluffy style of play most typical of your force. There is nothing stopping you from playing a foot-slogging White Scar Terminator army, or a Biel-Tan force without Aspect Warriors!

Other issues

There are a few other issues to consider when picking an army. Not everyone wants to play Ultramarines, contrary to Matt Ward’s beliefs, so maybe you want to rock up at your local GW or LFGS with an obscure (or homebrew) Space Marine Chapter or a lesser-known Craftworld, or maybe even just make your own Chapter, Chaos Warband, Eldar Corsairs etc. This is also known as homebrew. There are a few pitfalls here; certain things have become clichéd, like Loyalists from Traitor Legions etc., which is thus worth looking out for.

Let us be honest; wh40k is not the cheapest hobby around, but I do not think price should deter you from choosing an army, even if it is a ForgeWorld or a horde army. There is always eBay as well, so you can often get people’s unwanted miniatures significantly lower than RRP! If your army’s cost per unit is expensive relative to your economic situation, this should encourage you to take even more care with painting them to ensure they are painted to the highest possible standard. This will ensure longer time between each purchase, making it less expensive, and making them look even better!

As you are starting out, I would also suggest playing Kill Team until you get a decent grip on the rules. Kill Team is probably the best way to learn the rules, as there are fewer models on the field (less mistakes), it takes less time to play a game (learn to use your models faster), you get to use the ones you have painted rather than the more frowned-upon grey plastic armies, and gives you more time to paint up a full army while still giving you a nice mix of both playing the game and painting. Trust me, a fully painted army looks a lot better than just the grey plastic soldiers.

I would strongly suggest not picking the “best” army from the current tournament netlists; armies drop and rise through the tiers rapidly, even more so with GW’s release schedule. It is much better being happy with your army’s playstyle (which you can control) than harbouring a Win At All Costs-mentality (WAAC). A good example is when flyers were being introduced and not all codices had anti-air or flyers themselves, giving them a handicap against armies with flyers. This updates constantly with the release of each codex and edition. Whether your army is “good” or not does not matter one whit in the long term. At the time of writing this, Chaos Space Marines have gone from being powerful due to receiving the first flyer early on in 6th edition, but are now arguably the weakest codex.

Just a quick note on WAAC; if you only want to win and you are willing to spend considerable amounts of money, who I am to judge? Do what you enjoy, not what anyone says is the “right” way to play. However, my humble opinion is that most armies will go through good and bad periods, and the more you play, the better you will get. More on this in the starting your army section. If your goal is to win tournaments you shouldn’t try playing

Building Your Army

So once you have picked your army, I have a few suggestions for choosing units. Some older and more experienced readers will recognise a fair bit of Stillmania, named after Nigel Stillman (see below). Now you have an idea of how you want to play, you pick the units. Pick units you like and feel are suitable for your style of play, then build an army list of 1000, 1500, and 2000 points. Build up your forces to 1000 points, and then buy the next 250/500 points or unit, and keep going. Also, never, ever, buy 2000 points worth in one go. The amount of plastic sitting there is going to be overwhelming and kill your paint buzz. Wargamer Fritz did a good vlog on this.

You also need to construct squads of the “correct” size and load out. What do I mean by this? Currently, specialisation and synergy is the name of the game. Each unit should perform one duty, such as anti-tank, anti-TEQ, anti-MEQ, anti-horde, Securing Objectives etc. While some units’ role will overlap somewhat; a plasma gun is best within 12″ against Terminators, while a meltagun is optimally used at 6″ away from tanks before charging in with meltabombs if it survived. However, the meltagun will also take out Terminators, but at a lesser rate. To this end, MSU (Multiple Small Units) is often used with a high degree of specialisation. I tend to lean more on the Stillman School of Thought, with larger units with a slightly wider range of uses.

Certain equipment synergises better as well – e.g. a Lightning Claw and a Chain Fist/Power Fist are both Specialist Weapons (You only gain an extra Attack if both CCWs are Specialist Weapons), thus it grants you anti-MEQ, anti-TEQ, and potentially anti-tank abilities.

Then you have saturation. Essentially, saturation is bringing enough of one type of units, e.g. MEQs or AV12, to prevent the enemy from utilising most of their weapons. If the enemy has paid points for lascannons and you bring an army of footslogging Imperial Guard, those expensive lascannons are going to be killing 5-point Imperial Guardsmen. If your entire army is sitting in AV12, the enemies small arms are universally useless (until you step out at least).

Nigel Stillmann, a very wise man!
Nigel Stillman is known for his wisdom

Remember, this is not the end-all of building and choosing an army. This is compiled from my experience and tips and tricks I’ve read on the internet, and should not be taken as anything more than guidelines.

Good luck with building your force!

Other sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PXaEUwAZSc – MiniWarGaming’s “Where to start with Warhammer 40k”

I’d also like to recommend a few pages to follow

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGUiN6uLh5r_KQfHrGutjtg – Fritz 40k vlogs about wh40k, D&D and some X-Wing.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2mQ7x6K74NBfmxBoMwZCnw – Miniwargaming do fun Battle Reports and guides to various things.

http://givemlead.blogspot.no/2014/09/a-quest-for-stillmania_5.html – Nigel Stillmann is a legend in the wargaming community due to his unique approach to gaming.