Monday, May 24, 2010

Arrogance of Youth VS Wisdom and Patience of the Aged

It has begun. I've finally laid down a plot outline for a Warhammer 40,000 novel. I fully intend to pull a 'Sandy Mitchell' if I receive a publishing offer. Space Marines are GW's bread and butter, and so the novel shall be about... Space Marines! I've taken an old chapter idea and really fleshed it out. It's great to be able to take a shabby old chapter and polish it into something special and intricate. It's great to reveal the underbelly of a chapter's inner workings.

Death is the gateway to life. The king is dead... long live the king.

My goal is to finish before the end of Summer.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Backwards Engineering

I used to work for a major game company several years ago. For all practical purposes the company has since folded. There's a vast conglomeration of reasons for why this happened, but the reason I mentioned my experience with this company is because of its marketing.

...or lack thereof. In 2005 there was a decision made to re-make an old game. The decision was made in great haste, over the course of a single weekend, and with thunderous applause. Many people working at the company loved this old game, and heavily supported its re-release. The decision was made to go ahead with its design, development and subsequent release.

Do Eskimos make a living selling ice to each other? Probably not... but maybe once upon a time there was an Eskimo who did, and chances are that he's no longer in business. My point is that when you decide to sell a product (and I'm no expert here by any means, so correct me if I'm wrong), you should probably do some demographics research to determine if anyone will show interest in buying it. No matter how much some folks just looooved the Studabaker, no one is going to re-release it to the general public because it's just not a profitable venture.

You get a general idea of what kind of product or service you're going to sell/provide, figure out if anyone wants it, create a version of it that will appeal to those people, and THEN you mass-produce it. I'm fairly sure that this is just rudimentary... but I'm getting to my point.

Do you see a parallel here? I see it every time I walk into my FLGS. There is some guy going "OMFG look at that awesome model, I will destroy everyone with it!" This guy goes home with his new models, builds them, paints them, puts them in his newest army configuration, and promptly gets utterly destroyed by a rather mundane, yet tried and true force. He begins the whole process with an impulsive decision, expecting his excitement and positive energy to pay him amazing in-game dividends. He is ultimately disappointed when his army is crushed, and he cries to his friends like a little bitch about how his new models "should have kicked SOOO much ass, and probably will next time!" This kind of rationalization is what sets a mediocre player apart from a good player.

So is it a bad thing to take cool models in a tabletop hobby-based miniatures game? Of course it isn't because creativity is at the core of Warhammer 40,000. What you want to do when you walk into your FLGS and exclaim "OMFG I will pown noobz!" when you see a new awesome model is to figure out a way to either 1) integrate the new model/unit into your existing army so that it doesn't detract from its current effectiveness level, or 2) take army construction to the next level by focusing your force on the new unit.

For example, I really love the new Sanguinary Guard. The models are awesome, and the price point is great - buy one unit in one box for around $35 and that is IT! Of course they are a kick-ass unit, but they have their drawbacks. If you're going to use them correctly, you must minimize their drawbacks and maximize your ability to utilize their strengths...

How does a jump pack equipped unit that is only five models in size survive as it's crossing the table to assault the enemy? Keep them in reserve, behind cover, keep LOS blocked, Feel No Pain, or put them inside a Stormraven Gunship. Can they get by on just their 2+ armor save? Did Terminators get by on just a 2+ save when 3rd Edition was released? NO. The safest thing to do is to either put them in reserve, in a Stormraven, or jump them up behind a fast-moving vehicle or two. This tells you that you need to be playing a semi-mechanized force.

You can see where this is going. Plan your army around a strategy, and pick your units based on how well they execute tactics that allow you to implement that strategy. Don't just say "OMFG these guys are awesome!" and expect to win.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

'Ard Boyz... finally

Yesterday was the third year for the annual GW 'Ard Boyz event. Until now I'd been unable to attend because I've always worked weekends... but being unemployed (for the moment) has its perks. The Inquisitive (of Rio Rancho, NM) held the event.

I'd been poring over old army lists and possible army configurations for about three weeks in an attempt to gain some unforseen edge. When going to a gaming competition, it's always good to bring something that no one expects - the secret 'tech' as SWCCG players used to say. Put someone on unsure footing, and nine times out of ten they will slip and fall. This is especially true for new army playstyles and strategies when it comes to Warhammer 40,000.

In my opinion there are two lists in 40K that can take all comers: Imperial Guard and Orks. 5th Edition 40K attempted to make the actual position of models on the game table much more important, and to ensure that this level of importance wasn't undercut by their subsequent elimination (through ranged attacks), the 4+ cover save was implemented. 4+ cover saves so drastically detract from ranged combat effectiveness that it's almost not worth paying the points to include long-range heavy firepower in your army (unless they have the 'ignore cover' rule). But I digress. My point is that Orks can field more than double the number of bodies that other armies can, and IG can pump out more than double the amount of firepower. These two armies over-compensate for the current climate of 4+ cover saves, so they are naturally the best choices for taking to the 'Ard Boyz events.

I own neither of these armies. I hate Orks. I hate their concept. I hate the way they play. Their models are fantastic, and somehow I am always lured into thinking that if I buy some small, elite force of them I can have a good time looking at some great models while they get shot off the table. I sold my IG army last year because I feel like they are a horrible, HORRIBLE developmental blunder on GW's part. No player should be able to field that many heavy weapons with that much ablative armor (and backed up by BS4 troops). I should NEVER be able to win games as easily as I did with my IG when their newest codex first released. Was it entertaining for me? Maybe for a game or two... but after that they just seemed like the equivalent of WHFB's Daemons of Chaos. Now that the Manticore is being released (no longer being limited to 'rich boyz tournaments), people will begin to see just how much of an uphill battle it is to play against that army. Anyways, I want to emphasize that to win in the 'Ard Boyz, you must be able to compete against both IG and Orks.

Since the Blood Angels have been released I feel like they are rather well suited to dealing with both IG and Orks, given the right army configuration. Lots of Rhinos, Baals, Vindicators and classic Predators (not to mention Immolators...I mean Razorbacks). They have the speed to run right up to the IG, press the smoke button, and then whip up a massive turn two barrage of charges and tank shocks/ramming attacks. Lots of Feel No Pain gives them survivability in close combat against Orks, and their vehicles protect them against massed Shoota fire. I figured that they are, at the very least, competitive.

...until the 'Ard Boyz scenarios were released. Scenarios one and two are pretty standard. Objectives. Victory Points. No big deal. Scenario three is ridiculously slanted against mechanized armies (and especially so against mechanized Space Marines and their AV11 Rhinos and Razorbacks, their open-topped and immobile Drop Pods, etc.). IG have always been somewhat deficient in kill point missions because they have to take large numbers of units...but scenario three puts them at a huge disadvantage. If they lose a single Chimera or Russ they have to kill three foot-slogging units to compensate. It's possible for mech IG to overcome that deficit, but unless their opponent is running a few mech units, it's probably not going to happen.

So if taking a mech SM army was too risky and taking IG or Orks wasn't possible, I had to figure out something else. I needed something with enough long-range firepower to kill tanks, enough anti-troop capability to hold off a horde, and enough mobility to control/contest objectives...and all without using more than one or two units that could move 12" or more.

A) black templars - 2500

1) emperor's champion - abhor the witch
2) reclusiarch w/bp+crozius
-terminator command squad (x4) w/2x assault cannon & tank hunters
3) reclusiarch w/bp+crozius
-terminator command squad (x4) w/2x assault cannon & tank hunters
4) sword brethren terminators (x5) w/2x assault cannon & tank hunters
5) sword brethren terminators (x5) w/2x assault cannon & tank hunters
6) sword brethren terminators (x5) w/2x assault cannon & tank hunters
7) crusader squad (x5) w/bp&ccw w/1x lascannon
8) crusader squad (x5) w/bp&ccw w/1x lascannon
9) crusader squad (x5) w/bp&ccw w/1x lascannon
10) crusader squad (x5) w/bp&ccw w/1x lascannon
11) crusader squad (x5) w/bp&ccw w/1x lascannon
12) crusader squad (x5) w/bp&ccw w/1x lascannon
13) predator annihilator w/twin-linked lascannon & 2x lascannon sponsons
14) predator annihilator w/twin-linked lascannon & 2x lascannon sponsons
15) predator annihilator w/twin-linked lascannon & 2x lascannon sponsons

This army has a ton of anti-troop capability, as well as a ton of anti-tank. Forty tank-hunting, rending shots a turn will get rid of a couple Rhinos, and the fifteen Lascannons are enough to pound any monstrous creatures and/or AV14 tanks into the dust. It doesn't necessarily solve the problem of a horde occupying objectives, and it also doesn't completely eliminate units with Feel No Pain. The Predators are somewhat risky to field, but I feel like they would be deployed far enough away from anything that could give them a serious scare (with the exception of Wolf Scouts, Snikrot, or other such outflanking nonsense. Most outflanking stuff moves 12" or more anyways, so as long as I destroyed whatever the outflanker was, I would make up the 3 point deficit easily. There's also a bit of a problem with mobility here. The Terminators are the most mobile units because they're moving and shooting...but they have relatively no resilience (2+/5+ isn't exactly the Hoover Dam in 40K terms). The Crusader squads would have to hoof it around the table in the late game to hold objectives in scenario one. And finally there is that huge drawback that the Templars have - if you cause even one casualty in their units, they must move towards you (most of the time), and can no longer charge with this move. Now, given that this is a consolidation move, the jury is out on whether they must move the full distance rolled or not, but I'm not willing to take that chance.

B) Tyranids.

1) hive tyrant w/lash whip&bonesword, old adversary, stranglethorn cannon, paroxysm, leech essence, armored shell
2) hive tyrant w/lash whip&bonesword, old adversary, stranglethorn cannon, paroxysm, leech essence, armored shell
3) zoanthrope (x3)
4) zoanthrope (x3)
5) venomthrope (x1)
6) tervigon w/catalyst, adrenal glands, toxin sacs, cluster spines
7) termagants (x25)
8) hormagaunts (x15) w/adrenal glands & toxin sacs
9) hormagaunts (x15) w/adrenal glands & toxin sacs
10) hormagaunts (x15) w/adrenal glands & toxin sacs
11) tyranid warriors (x9) w/scything talons, devourers, toxin sacs, 1 w/barbed strangler
12) gargoyles (x30) w/adrenal glands & toxin sacs
13) trygon prime

With cover being so important in 5th Edition, I figured that an army that overwhelms the table with models would be a great choice (just like Orks). Unlike Orks, however, this army has units that are amazing in close combat against EVERYTHING. When putting together this army, for this specific event, I made a list of pros: 1) T6 monstrous creatures are hard to kill, especially with 4 or more wounds, and even more so if they have cover saves, 2) a horde army with lethal, yet semi-disposable units (and the ability to make MORE disposable units) will control the flow of combat, and control my opponent's ability to move around the table, 3) mobility is not really an issue when you have 4 units with the Fleet rule. Any of them can move just as far as a unit of Assault Marines over the course of a turn (especially with the 3d6 & pick the highest for running). 4) Old Adversary ability is amazing. It's even better than being subject to the Black Templar vow that gives Preferred Enemy. Combine this with Adrenal Glands and Toxin Sacs and you are practically unbeatable in close combat.

There were a couple other ideas floating around in my head about what to play, but none ever really solidified in an actual list aside from a couple things I just didn't have the models to play. One was another Tyranid list involving 3 Trygons, 2 flying Hive Tyrants, and 60+ Gargoyles. One was a Ravenwing army meant to blitz gunlines. The last was a crazy mess that I won't talk about.

I ended up playing the Tyranid list because it seemed to have very few drawbacks. Scenario 1 was played against a Chaos Marine army:

1 khorne lord w/daemon weapon, icon
2 khorne berserker squads (x10) w/power weapon champion, icon
1 noise marine squad (x10) w/power weapon champion, doom siren, all sonic blasters, icon
1 plague marine squad (x10) w/power weapon champion, 2x plasma gun, icon
1 thousand sons squad (x10) w/icon, bolt of change
4 summoned lesser daemons (x10)
1 obliterator squad (x2)
1 obliterator squad (x1)
1 vindicator w/havoc launcher, daemonic possession

This list had me worried because summoned daemons showing up late game can really crush a gaunt squad or tie up a monstrous creature. I couldn't afford to lose a lot of my troops, even though I ran six units of them, and could make at least one more unit of termagants. I definitely ran the risk of losing an objective-based game against this list. Fortunately, three of his daemon units showed up on turn two and I was able to eliminate all of them that turn in addition to both squads of Berserkers and the Chaos Lord. By the bottom of turn four he had one Obliterator and a Plague Marine champion left. Massacre, 2100+ points, 23 battle points.

Scenario 2 was against a Flesh Tearers army (BA) for straight up victory points. His list was ENTIRELY composed of jump pack marines, so I had to be really careful to lure him in and wipe him out in one turn, otherwise I would be stuck fighting against 50 Marines with Feel No Pain.

Librarian, jump pack, blood lance, 5+ cover power
Honor Guard (x5) jump packs, 4x storm shield, 2x powerfist, 2x meltagun
Sanguinary Guard (x5) 2x infernus pistol, 1x powerfist
Sanguinary Guard (x5) 2x infernus pistol, 1x powerfist
Sanguinary Priest (x2) jump packs
Assault Squad (x10) jump packs, 2x meltagun, powerfist
Assault Squad (x10) jump packs, 2x meltagun, powerfist
Assault Squad (x10) jump packs, 2x meltagun, powerfist
Death Company (x10) jump packs, lemartes, thunderhammer, 2x power weapon, 6x bolter

I filled my entire deployment zone with models (since we were starting in opposite table quarters) because I didn't want any of the BA jump packers to Deep Strike in behind me and shoot my monstrous creatures up with all their meltaguns and pistols. I got the first turn, killed Assault Marines with a Stranglethorn Cannon shot, and that was it. His turn brought the Death Company within turn two charge range of my front line of Termagants, and the rest of his army jumped forward, cautious of getting to within charge range. My turn two I got really lucky and was able to break one of his Assault Squads, which promptly ran off the table. I mean...if you make an LD9 unit make enough morale/pin checks, they're going to eventually fail :)
His turn saw the Death Company run head-long into my Termagants, slaughtering them to a man and leaving them wide open for shooting and charging the next turn. The rest of his forces had moved up to within about 14" of my front line, which was just close enough for me to break out an smash them.
My turn three saw one Hormagaunt squad charge into his Assault Squad on my left flank, two Hive Tyrants, the Tervigon and another Hormagaunt squad charge the Death Company (which I whittled down to 8 after some shooting), my Trygon Prime charge into a squad of Sanguine Guard, and finally... Hormagaunt squad #3 and my Gargoyles charge into his Honor Guard on the right flank.
Now until this point, his Librarian had been canceling about 2/3 of my psychic powers... but LO AND BEHOLD I was able to use Paroxysm on the Death Company before charging them! The first combat to resolve was against the Death Company...which I wiped out to a man. The Assault Squad on the left was completely wiped out as well, followed by the Sanguinary Guard taking four casualties from the Trygon. Finally, the Honor Guard were butchered on the right by the Hormagaunts and Gargoyles.
After this turn, his only remaining forces charged what they could, knowing full well that if they didn't, they were sure to receive a charge the following turn. Dante took three wounds. The Librarian died. The Assault Squad they had joined were annihilated by the Hive Tyrant and Hormagaunts they charged into. The last Sanguinary Guard unit charged the remaining Hormagaunts on my right, smashing them, but taking 2 casualties in the process. The single Sanguinary Guard fighting my Trygon was easily cut up. At this point, my opponent conceded, knowing full well that his remaining six models would be annihilated on my following turn. I got the bonus points too. VP = 2500, Battle Points = 24, Massacre.

Scenario three I was put up against Chaos once again, only this time the list was a bit more finely tuned.

Kharne the Betrayer
Chaos Lord, mark of nurgle, daemon weapon
Summoned Greater Daemon
Chosen Squad (x8) champion, 2x plasma gun, lascannon
Obliterator Squad (x2)
Obliterator Squad (x2)
Obliterator Squad (x2)
Chaos Marine Squad (x10) chaos glory, 2x meltagun, powerfist, rhino
Chaos Marine Squad (x10) chaos glory, 2x meltagun, powerfist, rhino
Khorne Berserker Squad (x9) power weapon, rhino w/dozer blade
Plague Marine Squad (x9) powerfist, 2x plasmagun, rhino w/dozer blade
Thousand Sons Squad (x10) wind of chaos, rhino

This matchup was a dangerous one for me, but only for one reason - he had 3 units of Obliterators that could easily vape my Tyrants if I am forced to over-extend my lines. My main goal here was to destroy his rhinos. The game got a little dicey in the middle of turn three because he was able to get Kharne and his Berserker squad into a large ongoing combat involving the remains of his Plague Marines fighting my Warriors, Tervigon and one Tyrant. Unfortunately this left his entire center exposed to assault. By the bottom of turn four, he had 2 models left: Nurgle Lord w/2 wounds and Kharne. My kill point total was astronomically high (26) compared to his (2). Massacre, VP = 2150(?), Battle Points = 24

I finished out the event with 71 out of a possible 72 battle points, and around 6950 out of 7500 victory points. Total win. I took a Land Raider Redeemer for my box set, but refused my invite to round two. I'm definitely not up for trying to take a mid-June trip to Colorado when I'm at the complete whim of some terrible mission writers.