Saturday, February 16, 2013

Crash and burn

This is what the final straw looks like.


Some of the new flyer rules must be for flamers, because that's the sound of the new Death from the Skies supplement (which is available as of today exclusively through the Games Workshop website) burning bridges at several independent retail stores.

Here's an open letter from Pat Fuge, CEO of the Gnome Games retail chain in Wisconsin:

"Dear Games Workshop. You have made it less than desirable to sell your games and allow our place space to be used for your exclusive sales to the customers we take care of. For that reason all content in your new Aerial Combat Book is banned for all of our events. The book will not be allowed in our stores and is considered contraband.

GW players if you want to trade in your armies for store credit for Warmachine we have an opportunity for you. Please email for details."

Gary Ray of Black Diamond Games posted a similar sentiment on his blog:

"Trade in your current edition Warhammer 40K or Warhammer Fantasy rulebook and you take 40% off a starter box or rulebook for Warmachine or Hordes. We've done this with role-playing before, notably D&D and Pathfinder, so we know there are likely a bunch of rulebooks gathering dust and the need for excuses to start a new game. Let this be your excuse."

Additionally, as of this posting several other independent retailers have pledged to ban the use of Death from the Skies in their stores.  The supplement represents a tipping point in the strained relationship between independent retailers and Games Workshop, which released several exclusive products through their official website recently, cutting out independent retailers and driving consumers directly to Games Workshop for their hobby fix.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

More than just a Heldrake

No, really, it's good!
It seems like everywhere I look Chaos Space Marines are being trashed.  Either they're not competitive or they're not exciting, right?


The Chaos Space Marine codex is one the most well-written sets of rules in Warhammer 40,000.  More than that, I think the codex is dynamic, challenging and fun -- aside from Grey Knights, Chaos Space Marines are the only marine army that doesn't restrict your troops choices solely to marines.  The designers made a clear effort both to reinvigorate outdated codex choices and to introduce new and flavorful alternatives that work both thematically and competitively.

Close combat Dreadnoughts are few and far between in the competitive game.  They're slow, and it's not unreasonable for a lucky lascannon shot to blow them up.  Rather than do something silly like create virtually indestructible long-range, high-strength shooting attacks for them (like the aforementioned Grey Knights), the Chaos Space Marine codex offers you two new options for close combat Dreads: Helbrutes and Maulerfiends.  Both are inexpensive and both are better than a standard Space Marine Dreadnought, but it's the Maulerfiend that really stands out: he moves 12 inches without being slowed by terrain, is immune to dangerous terrain checks (thanks to Move Through Cover), has a 5+ invulnerable save, ignores Shaken and Stunned effects on a 2+, can reroll as many charge dice as he chooses, and is one of the most efficient close combat anti-vehicle models in the game.  All of that for 125pts is a steal.

At this point the Heldrake is fairly self-explanatory: the combination of strength 7, AP3 vector strikes (which ignore cover) and a strength 6, AP3 Baleflamer (which also ignores cover, has a 360 degree arc of fire and can be thrown 12 inches from the Heldrake itself) makes this bad boy a top contender for best Fast Attack choice in the game.  The Heldrake never has to Evade because it has a 5+ invulnerable save, and it's rarely affected by Shaken or Stunned results due to its 2+ roll to ignore them.  This thing lives to eat marines, particularly those of the Ravenwing variety.

The finished product.
Here's one of the first lists I built for this codex after it was released:

  • Typhus
  • 2 Helbrutes, double power fists
  • 35 Plague Zombies
  • 35 Plague Zombies
  • 30 Plague Zombies
  • 3 Maulerfiends
  • 3 Heldrakes, Baleflamers
  • Aegis Defense Line, Quad Gun
  • Total Points: 1845

The concept behind this list is to park a big group of Plague Zombies behind the Aegis Defense Line and let Typhus man the Quad Gun.  The Maulerfiends are usually able to get a second turn charge (at worst -- it's not uncommon to make the charge on turn one), and the Helbrutes follow a turn or two behind.  The combination of AV12 saturation, the Maulerfiends' speed and the survivability their invulnerable save offers them tends to overwhelm any opponent whose army isn't built around thunder hammers and storm shields.  Two or three Heldrakes usually join the party by turn two, effectively pinning the opponent down in his deployment zone -- his choices are to fight what's in front of him to avoid being boarded, or to shoot at literally 100 troop models that have a 4+ save with Feel No Pain and are Fearless to the last man.  I'll start moving those Zombies up to the midfield around turn three, and by turn five there won't be enough of my opponent's army left to contest.

It's a fun, fast-moving and hard-hitting army, and it's the off-the-top-of-my-head build.  What do you think -- am I wrong?  Is the Chaos Space Marine codex boring or bad?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Spartan Steamroller

I snagged this Spartan photo from White Dwarf Daily.
I'm not super familiar with Forgeworld stuff, partially because I'm a relative newcomer to the game (I started playing the week the Dark Eldar codex released).  The wide push to integrate Forgeworld into grand tournaments this year motivated me to do some research into what's available, if only to help me learn what to expect from my opponents.  I haven't found much that merits inclusion in competitive armies, but a few gems stand out so far:
  • Hyperios Platforms cost the same as most devastators, and are better in almost every way.  In a standard marine army 140pts will buy you 4 platforms with a better chance to hit ground targets and flying targets than typical marines, with the additional benefit of toughness 6 and two wounds.
  • Predator Executioners seem to be pretty fantastic.  They're essentially a three-shot plasma cannon that doesn't get hot.  I'm not certain that they deserve sponsons, since they're not fast even in a Blood Angels army, but a couple of these should be able to hammer infantry units or bundled tanks pretty savagely.
  • The Spartan Assault Tank is incredibly good.  For 55pts more than a standard Land Raider you get two more twin-linked lascannons, an extra hull point and a 25 model capacity.  
I've always wanted to paint a Blood Angels army, and I figured this was a good chance to build something fun and competitive.  Here's the list I came up with:

This isn't my model, but I wish it was.
  • Librarian with Shield of Sanguinus, Unleash Rage
  • 24 Death Company, 5 power mauls
  • 5 Assault Marines, Razorback with twin-linked assault cannon
  • 5 Assault Marines, Razorback with twin-linked assault cannon
  • 5 Assault Marines, Razorback with twin-linked assault cannon
  • 5 Assault Marines, Razorback with twin-linked assault cannon
  • 5 Assault Marines, Razorback with twin-linked assault cannon
  • Spartan Assault Tank, no-melta-for-you-upgrade
The total cost on this list is only 1745pts.  I had a chance to test it out tonight against James, a Chaos Daemon player with the following list:

This actually is James' Nurgle Daemon Prince, as featured on BoLS.
  • Epidemius
  • Great Unclean One
  • 7 Plaguebearers
  • 7 Plaguebearers
  • 9 Flamers of Tzeentch
  • 9 Flamers of Tzeentch
  • CSM Daemon Prince of Nurgle, Power Armor, Wings, Black Mace, Psyker Mastery 3, Spell Familiar
  • 15 Cultists, Mark of Nurgle
  • Aegis Defense Line, Quad Gun
We played a Bay Area Open scenario with Purge the Alien as the primary mission (4pts) and the Scouring as the secondary (3pts) in Vanguard Strike deployment.  I deployed in a brick right up against the line with the Librarian and Death Company in the Spartan, two Assault Marine squads in Razorbacks and three more Assault Marine squads in reserve.  James stuck his Daemon Prince in a ruin for a 2+ cover save (since Daemon of Nurgle gives him Shrouded) and put his Cultists on the defense line.  

I went first and didn't accomplish much aside from putting a couple of wounds on the Daemon prince and one on the autocannon.  James got his preferred wave and ran right into my anti-Daemon spread of Razorbacks, scattering a squad of Flamers and Epidemius into mishaps.  He repositioned his prince as a counter-charge unit against my impending Death Company assault and it was my turn again.

Turn two I managed to immobilize my Spartan, but only after moving five of the six inches I was planning to.  I disembarked my twenty-five Angels, repositioned my Razorbacks, and proceeded to wipe James' poor Daemon Prince with the Spartan's quad lascannons.  The Death Company handled the Cultists with ease and officially cleared the opposing backfield for me, and at that point the game was pretty much finished.  James' Flamers couldn't get a great bead on my Death Company because I shielded them with Razorbacks, and even if he could've their Feel No Pain and the huge number of models I had on the board would've made for an uphill battle.  We called the game after he lost a squad of Flamers to a round of shooting and the other rolled a mishap and I placed them in the far corner of nowhere.

Overall I'm incredibly happy with the Spartan.  For 55pts more than I would've paid for a Land Raider I was able to transport a 25-man bomb unit across the board and throw four twin-linked lascannons at the Daemon Prince each turn.  The increased number of lascannon shots was a big deal, since moving the Land Raider 12 inches on turn one meant that I had to snap fire -- the two extra shots meant four more chances to roll a hit, and put a wound on that nasty Nurgle prince.  Sixth edition games tend to reward armies that can control the midfield and pressure the opponent's deployment zone, and the Spartan really delivers in that regard -- it's nearly impossible to destroy and delivers an absolutely beast close combat unit.  

Dr. Science and Sergeant Smarty Pants

One of my three Forgeworld Void Dragon Phoenix models, used as Voidraven Bombers.  This is a work in progress shot.
“Dark Eldar and Eldar?  I don’t get it,” said Dr. Science.

“Yeah, Eldar are meh and Dark Eldar are even more meh.  Together they’re terrible,” responded Sergeant Smarty Pants.
This exchange happened a foot away from me at the recent Emerald City Slaughter Grand Tournament in Seattle.  These two players seemed puzzled as to how in the world my army had landed on table three during the final round of the two-day tournament, and the weird thing for me is that this wasn’t a new development: people often seem surprised when Dark Eldar do well in tournament play.
In reality, though, the Dark Eldar/Eldar combination is one of the most vicious ally choices in the game today.  I finished the GT as Master Tactician, their title for best general, with only a single loss and the second highest battle score in the tournament (behind Best Overall).  Here’s the list that I ran (or the close approximation):
-Haemonculus, Liquifier
-3 Squads of 4 Trueborn with Blasters in Raiders, Night Shields
-5 squads of 3 Wracks in Venoms, Night Shields
-3 Voidraven Bombers, Night Shields, Flickerfields
-1 Farseer on Jetbike
-5 Guardians on Jetbikes
It doesn’t look like much, right?  The key here is the fact that the metagame is shifting toward rewarding players for putting boots on the ground rather than using minimum-sized squads as a tax for buying transports.  Venoms are the game’s most vicious answer to this trend, because they don’t care whether you’re playing marines or guardsmen or tyranids — toughness seven or three, Venoms don’t discriminate.  The more the metagame shifts toward infantry-heavy lists, the more decisive the power of the Venom becomes.  Are you thinking that your marines are no guardsmen and can stand up to my AP5 Venoms?  Sorry to break it to you, buddy, but your marines cost three times as much as those guardsmen and take exactly three wounds to kill, as opposed to the one it would’ve taken to down the guardsmen.  From my end there’s absolutely no difference between the squishy bodies at the other end of my barrel.
The most common criticism of Venoms I hear is that they’re AV10 with two hull points, which I guess makes people think they’re not worth playing.  Here’s the thing, though: that only matters if they’re getting shot at.  Being a fast skimmer means that they can move 12″ and still fire 12 shots at full ballistic skill; add to that the 36″ range of splinter cannons and they’re effective at up to 48″ away.  Assuming I’m looking at a squad of Long Fangs, that means that I have a six-inch bubble of impunity granted by my Night Shields where I can shoot but can’t be shot.  Once you’ve considered that, add night fighting to the mix and you’ll have a better idea about how survivable Venoms actually are.
The Voidravens are massively overcosted at 205pts each, but the remainder of my army is so points efficient that I can afford them.  They’re fantastic dogfighters since they don’t ever have to evade (go go Flickerfield!), and their missiles (large blast, strength seven, reroll to wound) really put the hammer on large squads of infantry.  The Voidravens can splinter even full squads of terminators, leaving little more than cleanup work for the Venoms.
The three squads of Trueborn in their Raiders do the majority of my tank-popping.  With the equivalent of fifteen Dark Lances altogether, I don’t often have trouble dealing with heavily armored lists.  Those that do resist the Dark Lances typically get acquainted with my Void Lances beginning on turn two.
The last little part of my army is my Eldar ally.  The Farseer carries Runes of Warding to protect me from irritating psykers, and he swaps out his two codex powers for Prescience and whatever else he rolls from Divination.  Twin-linking Dark Eldar firepower can get ridiculous, whether it’s blasters firing at flyers, Venoms firing at troops or large blasts that can reroll their scatter dice, twin-linking is something the Dark Eldar codex lacks and which makes their firepower absolutely overwhelming.  Additionally, the speed of Eldar jetbikes typically means that I don’t have to worry about scoring Linebreaker and often allows me to harass gunlines that lack effective counter-charge units, like Imperial Guard and Tau.
My list isn’t fantastically easy to play well, and it’s not the only Dark Eldar/Eldar list that can do well in competitive environments.  That’s kind of my point, though: since sixth edition hit I’ve seen competitive builds for almost every codex in the game.  We’re moving into a whole new era for Warhammer 40k, with the majority of the game still unexplored.  Those two guys who didn’t understand how I was doing well didn’t do very well themselves, and I think that’s probably because they write armies off as noncompetitive without bothering to actually look at lists and try to understand their focus.  With this new world out there, what are you going to win with?